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Keselowski cites Senna as inspiration

But everything that happened at Phoenix is now in the rear view mirror and all the focus is on this weekend's events, which start with qualifying on Friday evening and the race itself at 2pm local time on Sunday. Ironically given Keselowski's Senna reference, that puts it head-to-head with the return of F1 to the United States at the Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas, after five years' absence from the race calendar.

In the mental stakes, it would appear that Jimmie Johnson should have the upper hand: he's been here before and won the title five times already. Knowing he's been there and done that successfully must surely be a help in his war of nerves with Keselowski this weekend?

"One thing I've learned is that regardless of how experienced anyone is in this championship battle, at some point the magnitude of it hits you," he said. "At some point, [Brad] may be very comfortable and calm now, it may not happen until he's in the car, but at some point that magnitude hits, and I've lived through it five times. That's a turning moment, and we'll see how he responds."

Johnson was certainly keeping up the fighting talk: "I definitely think it's possible. You look at our bad luck last weekend, there's still a race here, and there's still tyres on these race cars, and something can happen there.

"This just isn't any other race; this is the championship race, and there's a lot that comes with that,' he stressed. "I'm very optimistic. I think that we'll have a very fast race car, and we'll go out onto the race track and do all that we can each and every lap of every practice session qualifying and race, and see how things play out."

If Johnson were to claim pole, win and race and lead most laps, he would still need Keselowski to finish outside the top 15 for him to claim his sixth title over the youngster. But with the IndyCar finale once more in mind - where Will Power crashed out of the race early on to give Hunter-Reay his chance - Johnson was quick to point out that it was far from in the bag for Keselowski this weekend.

"To think that a top 15 finish is a lay‑up is tough, " he insisted. "This garage area is tough, the weight of this race, I don't care who you are, it'll show up at some point in time and thoughts will run through your head.

"With all that being said, a 15th place finish is not a lay‑up for these guys," he repeated. "So I have a little bit of stock in that, and we'll see how they respond. Their trends this year have been strong, but this is a different race."

Keselowski knows that all too well, and is taking nothing for granted. In fact, he said that he be happier if the championship battle was a lot closer than the current 20pt difference between him and Johnson going into this weekend's decider.

"Ask me how I felt when he blew a tyre out at Phoenix and I think they're expecting me to, you know, rah-rah about it," he said. "No, it's quite the opposite of that. I was really disappointed because I want the pressure. I wanted the pressure.




Related Pictures

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Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe`s/Kobalt Tools Chevrolet speaks with members of the media during the NASCAR Championship Contenders Press Conference at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 15, 2012 in Homestead, Florida. (Photo Credit: Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images for NASCAR)
Brad Keselowski driver of the #2 Miller Lite Dodge speaks with members of the media during the NASCAR Championship Contenders Press Conference at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 15, 2012 in Homestead, Florida. (Photo Credit: Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images for NASCAR)
Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe`s/Kobalt Tools Chevrolet speaks with members of the media during the NASCAR Championship Contenders Press Conference at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 15, 2012 in Homestead, Florida. (Photo Credit: Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images for NASCAR)
Brad Keselowski driver of the #2 Miller Lite Dodge and Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe`s/Kobalt Tools Chevrolet speak with members of the media during the NASCAR Championship Contenders Press Conference at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 15, 2012 in Homestead, Florida. (Photo Credit: Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images for NASCAR)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Chevrolet, celebrates with a burnout after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 16, 2014 in Homestead, Florida. (Photo Credit: Chris Trotman/Getty Images for NASCAR)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Chevrolet, and Ryan Newman, driver of the #31 Caterpillar Chevrolet, lead a pack of cars during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 16, 2014 in Homestead, Florida.  (Photo Credit: Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
Denny Hamlin, driver of the #11 FedEx Express Toyota, practices for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 14, 2014 in Homestead, Florida.  (Photo Credit: Todd Warshaw/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Chevrolet, passes Denny Hamlin, driver of the #11 FedEx Express Toyota, to take the lead and win the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 16, 2014 in Homestead, Florida. (Photo Credit: Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
Joey Logano, driver of the #22 Shell-Pennzoil Ford, pits during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 16, 2014 in Homestead, Florida. (Photo Credit: Jerry Markland/Getty Images)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Chevrolet, and team owner Tony Stewart celebrate winning in Victory Lane after the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 16, 2014 in Homestead, Florida. (Photo Credit: Todd Warshaw/Getty Images for NASCAR)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Chevrolet, celebrates with his wife DeLana and son Keelan in victory lane after winning during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 16, 2014 in Homestead, Florida. (Photo Credit: Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Chevrolet, celebrates with the trophy in Victory Lane after winning the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 16, 2014 in Homestead, Florida. (Photo Credit: Sean Gardner/Getty Images)
Marcos Ambrose, driver of the #9 Stanley Ford, poses with his team before his last race, the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 16, 2014 in Homestead, Florida.  (Photo Credit: Jerry Markland/Getty Images)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Chevrolet SS, celebrates his victory and the 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Championship Sunday, November 16, 2014 winning the final NASCAR Sprint Cup race of the season at Homestead-Miami Speedway in Homestead, Florida. Ryan Newman, driver of the #31 Caterpillar Chevrolet SS finishes 2nd. (Photo by Harold Hinson/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Chevrolet SS, celebrates his victory and the 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Championship Sunday, November 16, 2014 winning the final NASCAR Sprint Cup race of the season at Homestead-Miami Speedway in Homestead, Florida. Ryan Newman, driver of the #31 Caterpillar Chevrolet SS finishes 2nd. (Photo by Harold Hinson/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Chevrolet SS, celebrates his victory and the 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Championship Sunday, November 16, 2014 winning the final NASCAR Sprint Cup race of the season at Homestead-Miami Speedway in Homestead, Florida. Ryan Newman, driver of the #31 Caterpillar Chevrolet SS finishes 2nd. (Photo by Harold Hinson/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Chevrolet SS, celebrates his victory and the 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Championship Sunday, November 16, 2014 winning the final NASCAR Sprint Cup race of the season at Homestead-Miami Speedway in Homestead, Florida. Ryan Newman, driver of the #31 Caterpillar Chevrolet SS finishes 2nd. (Photo by Christa L Thomas/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Budweiser Chevrolet SS, celebrates his victory and the 2014 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Championship Sunday, November 16, 2014 winning the final NASCAR Sprint Cup race of the season at Homestead-Miami Speedway in Homestead, Florida. Ryan Newman, driver of the #31 Caterpillar Chevrolet SS finishes 2nd. (Photo by Garry Eller/HHP for Chevy Racing)

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