It’s exactly the kind of unmistakable momentum you want with one race remaining before the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series Playoffs begin. And so in that sense, perhaps the timing of Brad Keselowski’s first win of the season Sunday night at Darlington Raceway makes up for the near-misses he’s had earlier in the year.
What a positive statement it was for Keselowski, who swept the weekend’s races at the historic track – hoisting not only the Cup trophy on Sunday but the NASCAR Xfinity Series hardware a day earlier. They were the first wins for the former Cup champion ever at the race track, which is considered one of the sport’s crown jewels.
And it was the first win for his legendary team owner Roger Penske at the track since 1975, when he fielded a car for Bobby Allison. In the hour or so after Sunday’s race, when asked about the impact of his stellar weekend, Keselowski conceded, “Man, I’m kind of in the moment right now.
“But I would say it’s pretty damned cool. This is such a special racetrack. It always has been, and I think it always will be.”
As great as the moment was for Keselowski and his No. 2 Team Penske Ford Sunday night, it was a strong message for his competition that the team is peaking at the right time. Although Keselowski had already secured a NASCAR Playoff berth based on points earned, having this victory is exactly the kind of positive momentum a driver wants as the postseason begins.
He has now won at least one race for eight consecutive seasons — and he has won at least one race in nine of the past 10 years.
Keselowski had two runner-up finishes before Sunday’s win, including a second place just two weeks ago on the Watkins Glen road course. In 2018, he had six top-fives and 12 top-10s before the Darlington race.
As the playoffs begin, Keselowki knows he’s turned in promising numbers. Six of his 25 career Monster Energy Series wins have come during the playoff portion of the schedule. More than anything, earning that win Sunday night after overcoming a tremendously dominant performance by Kyle Larson, who led 284 of the 367 laps, provides a huge boost of confidence to Keselowski, his team and the whole Penske operation.
And it comes at such a clutch time. This week the team is hoping to earn their team owner Penske his first NASCAR win at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, where he is the all-time Indy 500-winning car owner, taking his 17th trophy just this May.
On top of that, two more wins within Penske’s multi-series operation would get the owner to 500 victories all-time — a feat attainable with the Monster Energy Series and Xfinity Series racing at Indianapolis next weekend.
Motivation is not lacking and for Keselowski, Sunday’s win was exactly the kind of positive reset he’s confident could be a game-changer.
“Moments like today are just so refreshing,” Keselowski said. “They recharge your batteries so much because the season is such a death march, especially when things aren’t going well, and this is a complete battery recharge for myself and for our team.
“It makes going to the racetrack fun knowing that you’ve won and you can win.”