Sep 7, 2013, 7:20 PM EST
If there is a game plan for reigning Sprint Cup champion Brad Keselowski tonight at Richmond International Raceway, it probably consists of four words.
Win. And then hope.
Keselowski’s chances to make the Chase for the Sprint Cup took a potentially fatal blow last weekend with an engine failure in the closing stages at Atlanta Motor Speedway.
Now, he must pull off a victory in Richmond and get some help in order to make it into the post-season.
“I haven’t put too much thought into the actual race other than just going out to win it because that’s probably the only thing that’s going to matter for us,” he said Thursday at RIR. “Even that might not be enough. If you win it, you’ve done all you can do.”
Should Keselowski fail to make the Chase, talk will naturally gravitate to the 25-point penalty he suffered back in April at Texas Motor Speedway, where NASCAR confiscated parts from his and Penske teammate Joey Logano‘s cars.
But the champion believes that much more than 25 points have been left on the table by himself and his No. 2 Penske team – a group that he still has deep faith in.
“I feel like we’re a great team,” he said. “I feel like in the sports world, especially racing, you can only really control how fast you are and how well you execute. You can’t control the luck side. We’ve had a lot of bad luck. There’s been some times where we haven’t executed.
“…I said this last week at Atlanta, we could turn a corner tomorrow and win the next five or six races. That’s where we’re at as a team. Obviously, that hasn’t happened, it hasn’t clicked that way. That doesn’t mean we’re not capable of it.
“What’s happened to us this year could quite honestly happen to any team.”
Indeed, racing is a sport that can take drivers and teams from peaks to valleys and valleys to peaks in a short time.
Ask Tony Stewart, who after winning his second Sprint Cup title in 2005, failed to qualify for the Chase in 2006 – and then rattled off three victories (Kansas, Atlanta, and Texas) in the final 10 races that year.
Win or lose tonight, Keselowski feels confident that he and his team can get back on the right track.
“Whether I make the Chase or we miss the Chase, I still plan on going out and trying to win the next 10 races,” he said. “I think that we can have a shot at doing that.”
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