Brad Keselowski called this weekend’s First Data 500 at Martinsville Speedway a must-win if he wants to advance past the Round of 8 to compete for his second Monster Energy Cup Series championship.
Of the three Round of 8 tracks, Brad sees The Paperclip as his best shot at victory. He’ll return to the Virginia short track as the defending winner, having captured his first Grandfather Clock at the Cup level this spring.
“Martinsville at this moment I would say is a must-win for us, and we know that going in,” Brad said after his Talladega win. “We tested there, and we feel like that’s the type of track that we have a lot of strength for.”
BK will ride a string of three straight Top 5 finishes at Martinsville into his 16th start at the 0.526-mile oval, and he knows that surface tips the odds in his favor. The Ford Performance stable simply hasn’t found the speed to contend with the Toyotas at 1.5-mile tracks, making Martinsville a crucial track on the road to a title.
“Well, the good thing about Martinsville is you spin the tires there, so the engine from a horsepower standpoint is not as critical when you can’t put the gas pedal down. I think that’s why we run so well there,” BK said. “If you look at the tracks where the Fords have won this year, it’s been the tracks where you have very little rear tire grip, a lot of wheel spin; Sonoma, Martinsville, and it’s been at the restrictor plate tracks, so I don’t think that’s a mistake by any means.”
Brad ran incredibly well at Martinsville earlier this season. The Rochester Hills, Michigan, native outdueled Kyle Busch late in the race to earn the coveted Martinsville win—one of the most special victories of his career.
“It felt like we were due with the Miller Lite Ford, and if you ever can be, this is probably one of those tracks, and today was one of those days where we persevered in a special way with the battle there with Kyle at the end I thought was a lot of fun to be a part of,” Brad said. “Hopefully it was a lot of fun to watch and kind of harkens back to the legacy of this sport on short tracks and why this track has been around for 70 some years because of battles like that.”
If Brad can replicate that performance, he’ll punch his ticket to Homestead-Miami Speedway where he’ll race for his second Cup title.
The No. 2 Alliance Truck Parts Ford will roll out for two practice sessions Saturday at 11:30 a.m. and 4 p.m. Qualifying will take place on race Sunday at 12:05 p.m. ET. The First Data 500 will go green shortly after 3 p.m. ET on NBCSN.