NASCAR Sprint Cup Series

       === The Inside Line: Keselowski happy to survive Martinsville ===
 By Chris Symeon, Motorsports Editor
 Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - Despite losing the Chase for the Sprint
 Cup points lead to Jimmie Johnson, Brad Keselowski is pleased with the outcome
 of Sunday's race at Martinsville (Va.) Speedway.
 Keselowski had struggled at Martinsville in the past, but after qualifying
 32nd there last Friday, Keselowski knew he was facing his biggest test at this
 0.526-mile track. He entered this race with a seven-point lead over Johnson in
 the Chase championship..
 Johnson won at Martinsville and earned a total of five bonus points, including
 two for leading the most laps (193). He now holds a two-point advantage over
 Keselowski, as three races remain -- Texas (next Sunday), Phoenix (Nov. 11)
 and Homestead (Nov. 18).
 Keselowski methodically made his way through the field before grabbing the
 lead for the first time with less than 25 laps remaining in the 500-lap race
 at Martinsville. Johnson had pitted from the lead during a caution, while
 Keselowski elected to stay on the track and take over the top spot. He
 collected one bonus point for leading a lap.
 But Johnson quickly passed Keselowski for the lead after the restart and then
 held off Kyle Busch in the closing laps to take the checkered flag. With older
 tires, Keselowski faded in the end to finish sixth.
 Once again, Keselowski dodged a bullet to keep his championship hopes very
 much alive.
 "It just feels like you live another day," Keselowski said. "It's like being
 in a war and surviving a battle. It's not necessarily a win, but you're just
 happy to still be living."
 Keselowski's qualifying result at Martinsville was his worst one of the
 "All year long, we've qualified terribly," he said. "I think our best
 qualifying effort has been a fourth or a fifth, except for the rain at
 Bristol. It hasn't been our strong suit, and I know that. If I had an answer
 for it, I'd fix it."
 Last week, Keselowski and Johnson survived a wild race at Kansas, which had
 recently been repaved. Keselowski avoided one crash after another to finish
 eighth, while Johnson miraculously bounced back from a wreck midway through
 the race to place ninth.
 Johnson was not as fortunate earlier this month at Talladega, where he
 finished 17th after being involved in the 25-car crash on the final lap. He
 bounced back with a third-place run at Charlotte. Keselowski finished seventh
 at Talladega and then 11th at Charlotte.
 "We need to do more than survive to win the championship," Keselowski said.
 "We've done that the last two weeks, but we know we need to win. I'm not
 surprised at all that Jimmie won (at Martinsville). He had the fastest car all
 weekend, so we need to take the weekends where we're not the fastest and
 execute, get solid finishes. We did that this week and last week. Now, over
 the next three weeks, we need to make sure that we have the speed to match the
 execution. And if we can do that, then we can win this thing."
 Right now, Johnson and Keselowski appear to be the front runners for the
 championship. Johnson is attempting to win his sixth Sprint Cup title in seven
 In 2010, Johnson was in a hotly contested battle with Hamlin for the
 championship. Hamlin held the points lead heading into the season finale at
 Homestead but ended up losing the title to Johnson.
 "The championships I've won, I saw a lot of amazing things out of my
 competition," Johnson said. "I'm certainly seeing that with Brad. So it's just
 that familiar space where you can't count him out. That's the reason I had
 that tone in my voice in (Friday's) qualifying. I knew they had a poor
 qualifying effort, but they would be there when the checkered fell. They're a
 good team. I have to expect that. We all do. That goes for the rest of the
 With Talladega, Kansas and Martinsville now out of the way, Keselowski has an
 upbeat feeling about the final three races. Texas and Homestead are both 1.5-
 mile tracks, while Phoenix is one mile in length. His two wins in this year's
 Chase have come at Chicagoland, which is a mile and a half, and Phoenix, a
 "I feel really confident going into Texas and Homestead," he said. "I feel
 like those are two races that we can race the 48 car (Johnson) heads up in
 speed and maybe even a little bit better than them. I'm not quite so sure
 about Phoenix, but you know the execution we have in this team right now is
 second to none. If we'd have had just a little bit more speed this week and
 last week, I think we could have been in victory lane."
 10/29 16:54:38 ET

Powered by The Sports Network.