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'The best is yet to come', promises Keselowski

Keselowski added that he's taken no pleasure from seeing Johnson's early exit from the Sunday afternoon race which had taken the pressure off him for the remaining 40 laps.

"I don't really enjoy watching hardships happen to my competitors," he said. "In fact, I hate that. I want to beat them on the racetrack. I want to beat them by being the best that we can be and out-executing them and winning on the racetrack. I don't enjoy at all watching things happen to my competitors that take them out like that. I can tell you that I wasn't cheering; how about that?"

The high point of the Chase duel between Keselowski and Johnson had come in a series of late race restarts at Texas at the start of November, which included the two of them making contact a number of times as they battled for the lead. It had been hard, no-holds-barred racing; but also fair, with even Johnson admitting that Keselowski had pushed right up to the line - but at the same time, not gone over it.

It was a remark showing a growing respect for Keselowski in the NASCAR paddock, after a bumpy start for the Michigan-born driver when he first graduated to Cup racing and seemed to make a point of rubbing people up the wrong way.

"I think I suffered from some serious confidence issues when I first came into Cup that were a result of, you know, a lot of things, mostly just not having the speed to be successful and trying to do too much," Keselowski admitted. "I was trying too hard to be the I in team, and there is none, and that's pretty obvious looking back now. But I didn't know that. I do now."

That left him lacking any allies out on the track, and it's hard to have a successful season in NASCAR Sprint Cup racing if there's no one out on track that a driver knows has his back and can be relied upon at crucial moments.

2011 proved a pivotal year for Keselowski. A serious mid-season accident in testing at Road America saw him airlifted to hospital with a broken ankle, and it seemed that his already fading hopes of making the Chase that season were well and truly over especially if he was going to miss out. Instead, he went racing four days later at Pocono - and won. It was the start of a purple patch of the season for him, one that put him in the Chase on a most-wins wildcard.

To Keselowski, that success proved to everyone and most of all himself that he belonged in Cup racing. He was finally able to shake off the chip that had been on his shoulder and allowed the quirky guy with the social media addiction to shine through in 2012. And the more he let 'Keselowski be Keselowski', the better the season went: no wild card was necessary for the Chase this time. Just 12 months before, Keselowski had been touted as a 'star of the future' but no one had ever thought that the future would arrive quite as quickly as it actually did. Even Keselowski admitted it had been a roller coaster few years for him, ever since that handshake with Penske led to a Cup seat.

"I can't believe how everything just came together over the last - what's it been, three years?," he said. "Has it been three years we've been together? Three years Paul and I have been together. We're two for three, Paul!"

Wolfe picked up the reminiscence: "When Brad and I first got together, part of the reason I was excited about working with Brad is because I had seen him win races in cars that I thought weren't as good as maybe cars I was putting on the racetrack at the time," he said. "As a crew chief or a team, that's always what you want, you want a guy that you know can win races when you might not have the best race car out there. I saw that in Brad.




Related Pictures

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Brad Keselowski, driver of the #2 Miller Lite Dodge, and team owner Roger Penske celebrate in Champions Victory Lane after winning the series championship and finishing in fifteenth place for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 18, 2012 in Homestead, Florida. (Photo Credit: Tom Pennington/Getty Images for NASCAR)
Brad Keselowski, driver of the #2 Miller Lite Dodge, shakes hands with NASCAR chairman and CEO Brian France in Champions Victory Lane after winning the series championship and finishing in fifteenth place for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 18, 2012 in Homestead, Florida. (Photo Credit: Tom Pennington/Getty Images)
Chad Knaus (R), crew chief of the #48 Lowe`s Chevrolet, congratulates Paul Wolfe (L), crew chief of the #2 Miller Lite Dodge, after winning the series championship and finishing in fifteenth place for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 18, 2012 in Homestead, Florida. (Photo Credit: Todd Warshaw/Getty Images for NASCAR)
Brad Keselowski, driver of the #2 Miller Lite Dodge, and team owner Roger Penske celebrate in Champions Victory Lane after winning the series championship and finishing in fifteenth place for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway on November 18, 2012 in Homestead, Florida. (Photo Credit: Tom Pennington/Getty Images for NASCAR)
Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 Axalta Chevrolet SS, races to win Sunday, August 17, 2014 in the Pure Michigan 400 NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn, Michigan. Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Jimmy Johns Chevrolet SS finished second. This was Gordon`s third win of the season. (Photo by Alan Marler/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 Axalta Chevrolet SS, celebrates with a burnout after winning the Pure Michigan 400 NASCAR Sprint Cup race Sunday, August 17, 2014 at Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn, Michigan. This was Gordon`s third win of the season. (Photo by Garry Eller/HHP for Chevy Racing)
With General Motors CEO Mary Barra, Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 Axalta Chevrolet SS, holds the Michigan Heritage Trophy after winning the Pure Michigan 400 NASCAR Sprint Cup race Sunday, August 17, 2014 at Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn, Michigan. This was Gordon`s third win of the season. In 2013, MIS began awarding the Michigan Heritage Trophy as a recognition and celebration of the automobile and it`s importance to the race track and the manufacturers competing in NASCAR. (Photo by Harold Hinson/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 Axalta Chevrolet SS, celebrates with his crew after winning the Pure Michigan 400 NASCAR Sprint Cup race Sunday, August 17, 2014 at Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn, Michigan. This was Gordon`s third win of the season. (Photo by Harold Hinson/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Joey Logano, driver of the #22 Shell-Pennzoil Ford, races Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 Axalta Chevrolet, during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Pure Michigan 400 at Michigan International Speedway on August 17, 2014 in Brooklyn, Michigan. (Photo Credit: Jerry Markland/Getty Images)
Paul Menard, driver of the #27 CertainTeed/Menards Chevrolet SS, qualified seventh Friday, August 15, 2014 for Sunday`s Pure Michigan 400 NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn, Michigan. Menard is 17th in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS) standings. (Photo by Alan Marler/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Jimmy Johns Chevrolet SS, qualified sixth Friday, August 15, 2014 for Sunday`s Pure Michigan 400 NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn, Michigan. Harvick is 8th in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS) standings. (Photo by Alan Marler/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 Axalta Chevrolet SS, captured the pole position Friday, August 15, 2014 for Sunday`s Pure Michigan NASCAR Sprint Cup 400 race at Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn, Michigan. The was Gordon`s second pole position this season. He set a new track record in the final round of qualifying with a lap of 206.558 mph. Gordon is second in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS) standings. (Photo by Harold Hinson/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 Axalta Chevrolet SS, celebrates capturing the pole position Friday, August 15, 2014 for Sunday`s Pure Michigan 400 NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn, Michigan. The was Gordon`s second pole position this season. He set a new track record in the final round of qualifying with a lap of 206.558 mph. Gordon is second in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS) standings. (Photo by Harold Hinson/HHP for Chevy Racing)
AJ Allmendinger, driver of the #47 Scott Products Chevrolet SS, races to win Sunday, August 10, 2014 in the Nascar Sprint Cup race at Watkins Glen International in Watkins Glen, New York. (Photo by Christa L. Thomas/HHP for Chevy Racing)
AJ Allmendinger, driver of the #47 Scott Products Chevrolet SS, celebrates his first Sprint Cup win Sunday, August 10, 2014 in the Cheez-It 355 race at Watkins Glen International in Watkins Glen, New York. (Photo by Christa L. Thomas/HHP for Chevy Racing)
AJ Allmendinger, driver of the #47 Scott Products Chevrolet SS, celebrates his win Sunday, August 10, 2014 in the Nascar Sprint Cup race at Watkins Glen International in Watkins Glen, New York.  (Photo by Alan Marler/HHP for Chevy Racing)
AJ Allmendinger, driver of the #47 Scott Products Chevrolet SS, celebrates his first Sprint Cup win Sunday, August 10, 2014 in the Cheez-It 355 race at Watkins Glen International in Watkins Glen, New York. (Photo by Christa L. Thomas/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Brad Keselowski, driver of the #22 Hertz Ford, and Joey Logano, driver of the #12 Snap-On Ford, lead the field to the green flag for the running of the NASCAR Nationwide Zippo 200 at Watkins Glen International on August 9, 2014 in Watkins Glen, New York. (Photo Credit: Robert Laberge/NASCAR via Getty Images)

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