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And you thought Brad Keselowski’s championship year was stellar. He’s wasted no time fashioning a follow-up season that has the potential to be even better.
Four races down, the reigning NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion has assumed the standings lead. He heads Dale Earnhardt Jr. by nine points entering Sunday’s Auto Club 400 at Auto Club Speedway near Los Angeles.
Fear the Keselowski? It appears so.
The 29-year-old Keselowski hasn’t won – yet.
But he’s done the next best thing, recognizing that putting yourself in position to win is the next best thing. He’s certainly done that so far.
Keselowski is the only driver to have finished among the top five in each of the season’s four opening races. A third-place finish in Sunday’s Food City 500 follows a similar placing in Las Vegas and fourths at Phoenix and in the Daytona 500.
He’s also the only leader of all four races.
Keselowski’s start is the best in the series since Jimmie Johnson performed similarly in 2005. A fifth consecutive top five would be the first time that feat has been accomplished since NASCAR Hall of Famer Rusty Wallace’s 1998 start, which also came in a No. 2 Miller Ford. Fellow Hall of Famer Cale Yarborough holds the all-time season start mark of nine in 1974.
“Obviously, we’re off to my best start ever. That’s really cool. I’m happy for my team and all that stuff,” said Keselowski, who stood 14th in last year’s standings after four races. “We can’t keep our feet still. We know that Kyle [Busch] and Jimmie [Johnson] are going to continue to make their cars better. We have to keep digging and push on our stuff, too. I think we got a pretty good feel on the 2 team.”
Daytona 500 winner Johnson had been the points leader until Sunday, when an accident relegated him to a finish of 22nd. Busch has top-five finishes in each of the past two races.
For Keselowski, Auto Club Speedway remains a question mark. His best career finish – although in just four races – is 18th in last year’s weather-shortened event.
Keselowski, however, has been on a tear when it comes to erasing poor finishes. He logged career track-best or matching performances at 16 different tracks in 2012, a season in which he won five times. Three of those victories – Chicagoland, Dover and Kentucky – cameat tracks where Keselowski had not previously won.