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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)
Kasey Kahne, driver of the #5 Farmer`s Insurance Chevrolet SS, races to win with Kyle Larson, driver of the 42 Target Chevrolet SS beside him finishing in eighth place Sunday, August 31, 2014 in the Nascar Sprint Cup race at Atlanta Motor Speedway in Hampton, Georgia. With this win, Kahne, a Hendrick Motorsports driver, is in the Chase. (Photo by Alan Marler/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Kasey Kahne, driver of the #5 Farmer`s Insurance Chevrolet SS, celebrates his win with a burnout Sunday, August 31, 2014 in the Nascar Sprint Cup race at Atlanta Motor Speedway in Hampton, Georgia. With this win, Kahne, a Hendrick Motorsports driver, is in the Chase. (Photo by Christa L. Thomas/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Kasey Kahne, driver of the #5 Farmer`s Insurance Chevrolet SS, is congratulated by his Hendrik Motor Sports teammates Jeff Gordon, driver of the #24 Panasonic Toughbook Chevrolet SS (left), Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe’s/Kobalt Tools Chevrolet SS (center) and Dale Earnhardt, Jr., driver of the #88 National Guard Chevrolet SS (right) after his victory Sunday, August 31, 2014 in the Nascar Sprint Cup race at Atlanta Motor Speedway in Hampton, Georgia. With this win, Kahne joins Gordon, Johnson, and Earnhardt Jr. in the Chase. (Photo by Harold Hinson/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Kasey Kahne, driver of the #5 Farmer`s Insurance Chevrolet SS, celebrates his victory Sunday, August 31, 2014 in the Nascar Sprint Cup race at Atlanta Motor Speedway in Hampton, Georgia. With this win, Kahne, a Hendrick Motorsports driver, is in the Chase.  (Photo by Christa L. Thomas/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Ryan Blaney, driver of the #29 Cooper Standard Ford, races during the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Chevrolet Silverado 250 on August 31, 2014 in Bowmanville, Ontario, Canada.  (Photo Credit: Rainier Ehrhardt/NASCAR via Getty Images)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #5 Bad Boy Buggies Chevrolet, races Chris Buescher, driver of the #60 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Ford, during the NASCAR Nationwide Series Great Clips 300 at Atlanta Motor Speedway on August 30, 2014 in Hampton, Georgia. (Photo Credit: Jeff Curry/Getty Images)
Tony Stewart, driver of the #14 Bass Pro Shops/Mobil 1 Chevrolet SS, qualified for twelfth position Friday, August 29, 2014 for Sunday`s Nascar Sprint Cup race at Atlanta Motor Speedway in Hampton, Georgia. After a three-race absence, Tony Stewart has returned to the track at Atlanta. (Photo by Harold Hinson/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Ryan Newman, driver of the #31 Caterpillar Chevrolet SS, qualified for fourth position Friday, August 29, 2014 for Sunday`s Nascar Sprint Cup race at Atlanta Motor Speedway in Hampton, Georgia. Newman is 9th in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS) standings. (Photo by Harold Hinson/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Kyle Larson, driver of the #42 Target Chevrolet SS, qualified for third position Friday, August 29, 2014 for Sunday`s Nascar Sprint Cup race at Atlanta Motor Speedway in Hampton, Georgia. Larson is 12th in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS) standings. (Photo by Christa L. Thomas/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Kevin Harvick, driver of the #4 Jimmy John’s Chevrolet SS, won the Pole position Friday, August 29, 2014 for Sunday`s Nascar Sprint Cup race at Atlanta Motor Speedway in Hampton, Georgia. It was Harvick`s sixth pole win of the 2014 season. He is 7th in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS) standings. (Photo by Harold Hinson/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Paul Menard, driver of the #27 Serta/Menards Chevrolet SS, finished ninth and Austin Dillon, driver of the #3 Dow Great Stuff Chevrolet SS, finished 28th Saturday, August 23, 2014 in the Nascar Sprint Cup race at Bristol Motor Speedway in Bristol, Tennessee. (Photo by Alan Marler/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Jamie McMurray, driver of the #1 McDonald’s Chevrolet SS, finished eighth and Kasey Kahne, driver of the #5 Great Clips Chevrolet SS, finished 35th Saturday, August 23, 2014 in the Nascar Sprint Cup race at Bristol Motor Speedway in Bristol, Tennessee. (Photo by Rusty Jarrett/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Kurt Busch, driver of the #41 Haas Automation Chevrolet SS, finished fifth Saturday, August 23, 2014 in the Nascar Sprint Cup race at Bristol Motor Speedway in Bristol, Tennessee. (Photo by Harold Hinson/HHP for Chevy Racing)
Jimmie Johnson, driver of the #48 Lowe`s Chevrolet SS, finished fourth and Kyle Larson, driver of the #42 Target Chevrolet SS, finished twelfth Saturday, August 23, 2014 in the Nascar Sprint Cup race at Bristol Motor Speedway in Bristol, Tennessee. (Photo by Rusty Jarrett/HHP for Chevy Racing)

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