Keselowski reminiscent of former teammate

July, 3, 2012
07/03/12
7:11
PM ET

Since it's my blog, I'm going to imagine that you asked why I thought Brad Keselowski's win on Saturday was so impressive. Let me tell you.

Keselowski has won on a short track, a restrictor-plate track and a superspeedway this season. That's just about all of them.

Let's not forget how down of a season Brad K. had in his first full season with Penske in 2010. He finished 25th in points, with just two top-10 finishes, both 10th. Since then, he's won six races, three last year and now three in 2012.

How can we put Keselowski's performance in perspective and try to find a driver whom he resembles?

Well, let's sort out all the drivers who had a sub-par first season but rebounded nicely who didn't run the full schedule the previous year, or drivers like Tony Stewart and Jimmie Johnson who won three-plus times each of their first two full seasons.

Five drivers who've pulled that off. Mark Martin, Kevin Harvick and Terry Labonte did it well into their careers -- not early like Keselowski.

That leaves Carl Edwards and Kurt Busch, and the parallels between Keselowski and Busch are uncanny. Busch went winless his first full season, like Keselowski, and then won four races in 2002 and 2003. In 2004, he was the champion.

So, you can call Keselowski "Kurt Busch without the baggage," and I'm sure lots of owners would like a driver with that combo.

Trivia break: Keselowski now has seven career Cup wins. Who is the only driver with exactly eight in his career?

Chase Countdown

This is the time of year when I start thinking Chase. And I'm sure the drivers are, too.

In every year of the Chase, there's been a driver in the field with both nine and 10 races to go to move into the Chase field after being out at that time.

So, who could move in and who could move out? Kasey Kahne moved into the field with his second-place run at Kentucky, taking the second wild-card spot. But that's an obvious one.

Off the radar, watch out for Marcos Ambrose. In the past five races, only five drivers have more points than the Aussie. If he can steal a win at Sonoma, he could be racing for a title.

On the other end is Ryan Newman. Newman's falling out of the second wild-card spot, and since his Martinsville win, he's been terrible without a finish better than 12th in 11 races. That after having a win and three top-10s in the first six races.

Trivia break: Who is the only driver to make the Chase after being outside the top 20 with 10 races to go?

First Time Dominance

Austin Dillon, welcome to the club.

Dillon picked up his first Nationwide Series win Friday night at Kentucky, and it was never really in doubt.

Dillon led all but eight laps in the victory, the fourth-most dominant first win in series history, according to our friends over at Racing Resources.

Ryan Newman led all but six laps in his first win, Morgan Shepherd all but two and Dale Jarrett went wire-to-wire in his first win.

Trivia break: Dillon's victory followed Nelson Piquet Jr.'s first win. Who were the last drivers to get their first Nationwide Series victories back-to-back?

Trivia Break Answers

1. Kyle Petty is the only driver to finish his career with exactly eight Cup wins.

2. Brad Keselowski was 22nd with 10 races to go last year before getting a wild card.

3. Trevor Bayne and Sam Hornish Jr. pulled it off last year.

Matt Willis has been a studio researcher at ESPN since 2006, working on "NASCAR Now" and "SportsCenter," among other shows. He graduated from Ithaca College in 2006 with a degree in journalism. While there, he worked on ICTV, on shows such as "Ya Think You Know Sports?" and "Sports Final." He also was a member of the IC Comedy Club and figures about half of the jokes he makes in his column are actually funny.

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