Keselowski Shakes Up Wild Card Race

Brad Keselowski celebrates his fifth career NASCAR Sprint Cup Series victory at Bristol Motor Speedway. (HHP/Harold Hinson photo)
Brad Keselowski celebrates his fifth career NASCAR Sprint Cup Series victory at Bristol Motor Speedway. (HHP/Harold Hinson photo)

BROOKLYN, Mich. – Brad Keselowski knows how to make an entrance. And an impact.

The Rochester Hills, Mich., driver ranks among the top 10 for the first time in the regular NASCAR Sprint Cup Series standings entering Sunday’s “home” race at Michigan International Speedway.

Keselowski finished fifth in points a year ago but qualified for the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup as the first Wild Card.

A two-time winner in 2012 – and the best ranked among Wild Card aspirants entering last weekend’s Pocono race – Keselowski’s ascension into 10th place shook up the 11th through 20th segment of the standings.

Wild should describe the standings swings before this year’s Chase lineup is set Sept. 8 at Richmond Int’l Raceway.

With six points separating positions 10 through 12 entering Sunday’s Quicken Loans 400, Keselowski’s hold on a Chase berth is precarious. Carl Edwards, a non-winner, is three points behind in 11th.

In and out of the top 10 in 2012, Edwards last won at Las Vegas Motor Speedway more than a year ago and has struggled after losing last year’s NASCAR Sprint Cup title to Tony Stewart on a most victories tie-breaker.

Three points further back in 12th is Kyle Busch, whose April Richmond victory gives him present title to the No. 1 Wild Card position. Engine failure at Pocono – his second in two weeks – dropped Busch from ninth and factored into Keselowski’s rise into the top 10.

Ryan Newman currently holds the second and final Wild Card despite counting the same number of points – 398 – as Pocono winner Joey Logano. There are no ties in NASCAR. Deadlocks are broken by comparing drivers’ next-best finish (number of seconds, thirds, etc.). Newman, who won at Martinsville, has a second-best finish of fourth vs. Logano’s eighth (Dover).

Kasey Kahne’s momentum – seven consecutive top 10s and a Coca-Cola 600 victory – was broken at Pocono, where an accident relegated him to a finish of 29th. Kahne, however, is only 18 points behind Newman and Logano. Another victory – Kahne won at Michigan in 2006 – could give him the No. 1 Wild Card slot.

Marcos Ambrose is the remaining 2011 winner whose top-20 points position provides Wild Card eligibility. He’s obviously looking forward to the season’s two road races, the first of which comes June 24 in Sonoma, Calif.

Four-time NASCAR Sprint Cup champion Jeff Gordon is 22nd, nine points outside the top 20. Gordon likely needs two wins at minimum to qualify for his seventh consecutive Chase and eighth overall.

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