Gonna stand my ground, won’t be turned around
And I’ll keep this world from draggin’ me down
Gonna stand my ground and I won’t back down
The words from “Won’t Back Down” describe well the mentality of the young driver hanging tough with five time champion and points leader Jimmie Johnson. Did you see those little exchanges between the 2 and the 48 last Sunday? If Bad Brad Keselowski is nervous, he’s not letting it show.
Keselowski will need that mettle going into the race at Phoenix. to hear some of the pundits talk, Johnson has the race- and perhaps the championship- in the bag. The winner of 60 NASCAR Sprint Cup races has four of them in the desert. He’s got the wind at his back with consecutive poles and consecutive wins, holding at bay any notions of vulnerability.
Does this mean Johnson will be playing safe? Don’t bet on it. The way Keselowski has raced in this Chase, and his entire career, he’s not going away without a fight. There’s no reason to think that just because Roger Penske’s golden boy fell five points further behind, that he’s rattled. There’s something of a swagger, a certain badass quality about him that has to make you feel a little unsettled if you’re running front of him. He’s used his bumper before; can you be sure he wouldn’t do it again? You had better believe both of these drivers, with their intense will to win have thought about it.
Tom Brady said it about the NFL, the same is true of NASCAR; winning is hard. Preparation, mental combat, seamless pit stops and good equipment are just important as driver skill.
The seven point deficit aside, Brad Keselowski sits in an excellent position to dethrone Jimmie Johnson as king of the hill. The fact that Brad may be thought of s Crazy Keselowski in some circles may work to his advantage.
It’s good to be in Keselowski’s racing shoes right now. Race fans like aggressiveness, provided it’s handled in the right way. If Jimmie Johnson wins his sixth championship, so be it. He’s earned it. but what a thrill it will be if Keselowski can keep the pressure on him. Don’t bet against it.