After Brad Keselowski won the Alabama 500 at the Talladega Superspeedway a few weeks ago, he declared that the opening race of the Round of 8 at the Martinsville Speedway was a “must-win” situation for him. The reason he thinks that, is all due to the speed of the Toyota’s on downforce tracks. He doesn’t think he has much of a shot to win at Texas and he doesn’t want to be facing a win or go home scenario at Phoenix in the closing race of the third round.
So, in turn, that makes Sunday’s First Data 500 (3 p.m. ET/NBCSN/MRN) a quote on quote “must-win.” That’s okay too though. The typical heavy hitters have struggled there lately.
Martin Truex Jr. hasn’t had a top five at Martinsville since 2012. Kyle Larson, is now eliminated. Kevin Harvick hasn’t had a top five there since 2011. Jimmie Johnson may be strong there, and have won just a year ago, but he’s had four finishes outside the top 10 in his last six Martinsville starts.
That has opened the door for Keselowski to shine at the Virginia paperclip, and he has too.
Over his last five starts, Keselowski has four top five finishes, including a win in April. He also finished second in the playoff race at Martinsville in 2016 too. In fact, three of those four top five finishes were top two results.
He led 116 laps there in the spring and has eight top 10’s over his last 11 overall Martinsville starts.
I’d say his No. 2 Ford will be dialed in on Sunday. With what’s at stake and he and his team treating this weekend as a “must-win” I’d say watch out.