Brad Keselowski‘s win last April at Martinsville Speedway was a big deal, not just for the Team Penske driver, but for team’s manufacturer.
The victory was Keselowski’s first at the oldest track on the NASCAR circuit in 15 starts. But it was the first for Ford at the short track in 28 races.
Ford hadn’t celebrated a win at the half-mile track since Kurt Busch won in 2002.
Keselowski’s triumph also made him the first repeat Cup winner of the season after his victory at Atlanta Motor Speedway. Both were his first win at each track.
In Sunday’s First Date 500 at Martinsville (3 p.m. ET on NBCSN), Keselowski, who is one of the eight remaining drivers in the Cup playoffs, will try do something only Kyle Larson has done this year.
A win by Keselowski would make him and Larson the only drivers to sweep Cup races at a track. Larson accomplished the feat with his victories at Michigan in June and August.
But in his eight full-time Cup seasons, Keselowski has yet to complete a sweep at a track.
Keselowski’s recent stats at Martinsville have been favorable. In his last five starts, the No. 2 Ford has four top fives and three finishes in the top two. The only outlier is a 32nd-place finish in the fall 2015 race.
But in the last four races of the year, Keselowski’s win at Talladega Superspeedway on Oct. 15 is his only result better than 10th.
The N0. 2 team views Martinsville as a must-win situation in its quest to advance to the championship four at Homestead-Miami Speedway, which would be a first for Keselowski.
“I think I’ve told my team that,” crew chief Paul Wolfe said after Keselowski’s victory at Talladega. “We’ve looked at it. You’ve got to be realistic about where you’re at right now, where our cars are at speed‑wise, what our strengths and weaknesses are, and you’ve got to do your best to capitalize when you can. Absolutely, I look at Martinsville as we need to go there and win, and if we can do that, we’ll race for a championship.”
Should Keselowski make a return trip to Martinsville’s victory lane on its start-finish line, it would be his fifth on a short track. It would tie Dale Earnhardt Jr. with for seventh among active drivers.
|Active Short Track Winners||Wins|
|Jimmie Johnson||14 (9 at Martinsville)|
|Kyle Busch||11 (1)|
|Denny Hamlin||9 (5)|
|Kurt Busch||9 (2)|
|Kevin Harvick||6 (1)|
|Dale Earnhardt Jr||5 (1)|
|Brad Keselowski||4 (1)|
|Ryan Newman||2 (1)|