In the end, that’s pretty much what Brad Keselowski was able to take away from Sunday’s Quicken Loans 400 at Michigan International Speedway, where he finished third behind race-winner Jimmie Johnson and runner-up Kevin Harvick.
On a day when Hendrick Motorsports engines swept the top two finishing positions, three of the top five and six of the top eight, the performance of Keselowski and Team Penske suddenly didn’t look so bad.
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Especially when you consider that the other big Ford team besides Penske, Roush Fenway Racing, placed only one car in the top 20 at a track where it has won 13 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races.
For his part, Keselowski came away with his third consecutive top-three finish, tied his career-best finish at MIS and earned his seventh top-five finish of the season, which ties him with Dale Earnhardt Jr. for most in the series so far this year.
Afterwards, Keselowski acknowledged the Penske Fords aren’t quite where they need to be right now.
"We all have a little bit of work to do because it’s pretty obvious the Hendrick engines are way ahead of everyone else," said the 2012 Sprint Cup champion. "Usually, that’s not something you catch up with in one season as far ahead as they are right now. They’re probably a full season ahead of everyone, so we’ve got work to do to get there. Thankfully, we’ve got 12-13 weeks until the Chase starts. I know we’ve got some stuff coming up for that."
Keselowski did say the gap might not be as large as some people assume it is.
"I think we’re right there," he said. "Maybe just half-a-nose behind Hendrick-powered cars. We need just a little bit more and if we can do that, I really feel like we can have a strong march over the fall and have a shot at running for the championship."
And don’t expect the balance of power to change in the next few weeks, he said.
"I don’t really think there is anybody in the wings," he said. "I think the way this year’s package has kind of come together, where we’re at now is where we’re gonna be for the remainder of the year. You might see some small gains from some teams, but I don’t see anything significant coming.
"I think right now the Penske cars are probably the best when it comes to balance track-to-track," said Keselowski. "The Hendrick cars are probably the best anywhere it takes power to run and these tracks are certainly one of those, and Kevin Harvick, his team is probably the fastest week-in and week-out, so I don’t really see that changing for the duration of the season. I think what you’re going to find in the development cycle has been kind of found by this time in the year."
The #2crew is Almost in championship form…
Just need a bit more. Solid 2,2,3 finishes the last few weeks.