AUTO PACKAGE: Keselowski believes best is yet to come for Penske team beginning with Kentucky

  • Article by: JENNA FRYER , AP Auto Racing Writer
  • Updated: June 26, 2013 - 1:00 PM

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — The defending Sprint Cup champion is winless through the first 16 races of the season, and he's clinging to a spot inside the top-10 in points.

But Brad Keselowski isn't concerned about the fate of the No. 2 Penske Racing team.

"It's human nature to worry when you don't have all the facts," Keselowski said. "I know where we're at as a team, that we could flip a light switch here and be just as strong, if not stronger than ever."

He could be proven right this weekend at Kentucky Speedway, where Keselowski is scheduled to run in all three national series events. He'll race in the Truck Series, Nationwide event and then attempt to defend last year's Sprint Cup Series win.

Keselowski's victory at Kentucky last year was his third of the season, but it opened the gates on a run of 17 top-10 finishes in the final 20 races. In 2011, Keselowski finished seventh at Kentucky in a string of nine top-10 finishes in 11 races that helped him make the Chase for the Sprint Cup championship for the first time in his career.

So Keselowski thinks Kentucky could again be the catapult to his season.

"I think we have some strong tracks for us," he said. "We've got a really good package for (Watkins) Glen, really good package for Kentucky, there's Bristol in August. Indy, I think we're going to be great at."

He's also quick to point there's been a drop-off in performance since NASCAR seized suspension parts from the Penske Racing entries at Texas in April. Before that race, Keselowski was second in points with four top-four finishes in the first six races.

NASCAR docked the team 25 points, took the parts in question, and suspended seven team members for three races. In the time since the Texas infraction, Keselowski has three finishes in the 30s, and seven of nine finishes outside the top-13.

"We haven't executed and I could sit here and bitch and moan about it, that last year this time we had two wins," Keselowski said. "Yes, but we weren't any higher in the standings. I think if you look at our race team's history, July and August are our strong months and we seem to really perform then. We need to keep that trend going."

___

RAHAL RECOVERS: Graham Rahal had quite the eventful weekend in Iowa.

After irking the owners of the Iowa Speedway by bringing up supposed rumors that IndyCar wouldn't return there in 2014, Rahal nearly earned his second podium finish of the season.

Rahal stormed to the front to win a qualifying heat race on Saturday, then earned a starting spot of sixth through the final heat event. He pushed and even momentarily overtook eventual winner James Hinchcliffe two-thirds of the way through Sunday's race before salvaging a fifth-place finish.

Though Rahal lost some grip at the end of the race to fall shy of the podium, it was nonetheless a satisfying effort after a string of disappointing finishes.

Rahal was 16th or worse in four of his last six races prior to Iowa.

"I'm really proud of the engineering staff and everyone. For everybody to keep coming back week after week with their chins up means a lot to me. I felt like I could have won the race," Rahal said.

About the only thing Rahal got wrong in Iowa was his belief that IndyCar and Iowa are parting ways.

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