TALLADEGA, Ala. – Everything appears to be breaking right for Brad Keselowski.
With his victory at Dover (Del.) Int’l Speedway on Sunday, the driver of Penske Racing’s No. 2 Dodge has won twice in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup and five times overall in 2012.
Keselowski reclaimed the top spot in the standings by five points over Jimmie Johnson. New Hampshire winner Denny Hamlin is third, 16 points behind Keselowski.
The points leader after the third race of the post season has gone on to win the championship five of eight times in the Chase era. The Dover Chase winner has been crowned champion twice – Johnson in 2009-10.
Keselowski now heads to one of his favorite tracks, Talladega Superspeedway, bidding to become the first driver since Jeff Gordon in 2007 to sweep at the 2.66-mile track. May’s victory was the 28-year-old Michigan native’s second at ’Dega, where he collected his first NASCAR Sprint Cup win in 2009.
Keselowski’s average finish of 13.0 is Talladega’s best among active drivers.
The season champion has yet to win the Good Sam Roadside Assistance 500 under the Chase format. But only one – Johnson, 26th in 2006 – has finished outside the top 10 in Talladega’s fall race.
Recently, the points leader has thrived in Alabama. In the last four Chases, the points lead – held by Johnson from 2008-10 and Carl Edwards in 2011 – has grown after the Talladega race.
But prior to that, trouble. The breakdown:
– In 2004, Gordon lost the points lead after a 19th-place finish. Kurt Busch took over, and held on for the remainder of the season. Talladega was the third race of the Chase.
– In 2005, Johnson entered Talladega with a seven-point advantage over Rusty Wallace. After the race, in which he finished 31st, he trailed eventual champion Tony Stewart by 82 points.
– In 2006, Jeff Burton’s points lead shrank from 69 before Talladega to just six leaving it.
– In 2007, Johnson again lost a points lead at Talladega. He went into the race with a six-point advantage over Gordon and left trailing his teammate by nine.
Keselowski, now a nine-time winner in 118 NASCAR Sprint Cup starts, is the third Penske driver to win five or more races in a single season.
The 2010 NASCAR Nationwide Series champion joins NASCAR Hall of Fame inductee Rusty Wallace, who won 10 times in 1993, eight in 1994 and five in 1996; and Ryan Newman, an eight-time winner in 2003.