Brad Keselowski remembers all too well what it was like coming into last November’s race at Phoenix International Raceway.
“Of the eight drivers that had a chance of winning a championship, all eight had to run well here to have a shot to go to the next round,” Keselowski said Wednesday during a break in a test session at Phoenix. “No one was locked in coming in here (last year), and I would expect that could happen again (this year).”
Keselowski was one of the four drivers eliminated at Phoenix from reaching the final round. That’s why he’s glad he spent Wednesday at PIR, working on setups.
“This is an important track, and that’s why we’re here,” he said. “You’re going to need to have a great race here at Phoenix to have a shot at Homestead and bid for the championship.”
The Nov. 15 race at Phoenix ultimately will determine the four drivers who will race for the championship the following week at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
But Keselowski said there’s a lot of ground still to cover between now and then, starting with Sunday’s race at Kansas Speedway.
“We’re not in a great spot, but we’re not in a bad spot, we’re just kind of OK,” said Keselowski, who heads to Kansas ranked eighth in the Chase standings, 13 points behind teammate and points leader Joey Logano. “We need to have a very strong run at Kansas to feel good about Talladega, and that’s our goal.
“One race at a time. We have to get through Kansas and then Talladega. I’m ready to go, and hopefully we can have that solid run we need.”
Keselowski conceded that Kevin Harvick has been outstanding at PIR of late, having won the last four Sprint Cup races at the 1-mile flat oval, five of the last six and seven overall.
“All reigns come to an end,” Keselowski said said. “Every driver has had a track that he dominates on, and it changes. Jimmie (Johnson) dominated here for a long time, and obviously that’s not been the case of late.
“The way you beat somebody or break that domination is you go out, go to work and try to be better. That’s why it’s so important for us to be here today.
“The 4 car (Harvick) has dominated the last (four) races and we have to step up our game if we’re going to beat him … and see how it all plays out about a month from now.”
As for the lower downforce rules package announced Wednesday by NASCAR for the 2016 season, the 2012 Sprint Cup champion is generally in favor of it.
“We’ve tested a little bit here what we thought it was going to be, and it looks like we were pretty spot-on about that,” he said. “In general, from the technical side, I think it probably makes the race cars more in the drivers’ hands. I’m a fan of that, and I feel like that suits my style.”