Race Weekend Central

Full Throttle: Brad Keselowski, You’re Not Sliced Bread

OK, OK, OK, so Brad Keselowski won a Cup race a few weeks ago when Carl Edwards decided to do his best UFO impersonation into the catchfence at Talladega. Everyone knows that was restrictor-plate racing, and anything can happen at a plate race. (Don’t forget that Greg Biffle’s first win was a plate race and half of Jamie McMurray’s two wins have been on plate tracks.) So just because BK won a race that is a total wildcard does not make him ready to jump into the seat of a Cup car, contrary to what he believes himself.

In 2008, Keselowski qualified for two Cup races, Texas and Homestead. He finished 19th and 23rd respectively and did not finish on the lead lap in either event. He did, however, finish, which is a feat that some first-time drivers are unable to claim after their first two starts in the big leagues. This year he has qualified for four Cup races, finishing 38th at Vegas, 23rd at Texas and an impressive seventh at Darlington. Those three races were all in Hendrick equipment, not the James Finch ride that he scored his victory driving. Not exactly the kind of storybook finishes that are screaming to put the young phenom into a Cup ride.

Apparently, though, Keselowski has been meeting with Rick Hendrick to discuss his future in the Cup series in 2010 and is pushing for a ride in the Hendrick “family,” if not in a Hendrick car. Mr. H. has said that they have discussed putting Keselowski in a third Stewart-Haas entry or keeping him with JR Motorsports if that team moves up to the Cup level next year, since GM sponsorship dollars are moving away from the Nationwide Series. The unspoken insinuation from all of this is that Mr. Keselowski is going to shop his wares elsewhere if he doesn’t get the cream of the crop ride he feels he deserves.

Keselowski is a good driver, there is no question about it, but he’s not that good a driver. As a little bit of comparison, Kes has run 84 Nationwide races in his career. He’s scored three victories and 19 top-five finishes. By contrast, in just over a third as many races (31) Joey Logano, the most notable young phenom to come along in the last year, has scored the same number of wins, three, and posted 12 top-five finishes.

The place where things are really glaring is in the top-10 department. Keselowski has scored top-10 finishes in 35 of the 84 races. That is 42% for those of you who do not have a calculator handy. Logano has scored top 10s in 23 races out of 31. That is just a couple of tenths of a percent away from 75% of the races he’s run. Purely based on numbers, and there’s no better way to compare these two, Logano is a better driver.

Logano is used for comparison primarily because he’s supposed to be a phenomenal young talent, but also because, were it not for Tony Stewart leaving JGR to take on his own team, Logano would be running seven Cup races this year. Everyone, from his parents to the Gibbs to Joey himself, said they’d have rather him run another year in the Nationwide Series. However, circumstances conspired in such a way that he was thrust into Cup.

So wouldn’t it make sense that Keselowski take the time to sit back and season for another year? Why not make a run at a Nationwide title against the likes of Kyle Busch and Edwards, who are head and shoulders above him at this point, before leaping into a Cup ride?

Especially if it isn’t a Hendrick car?

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