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Coca-Cola 600: Defending champ Keselowski tries to build on title
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Concord, N.C. • Defending series champion Brad Keselowski believes he's still the fastest in Sprint Cup, even if his results four months into the season don't bear that out.

Keselowski is winless and seventh in points heading into the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway on Sunday night. He opened the season with four straight top-four finishes and seven top 10s in the first eight races.

Recently, he's struggled to stay near the top with a 33rd -place finish at Richmond, an 11th at Talladega and a 32nd at Darlington.

It's left Keselowski shaking his head because he knows the speed for the No. 2 Penske Racing Ford is as strong as ever.

"If there were a right-side seat and you rode with me through the last two or three mile-and-half [tracks], you'd go, 'Damn, we're the fastest car here,'" Keselowski said. "Unfortunately, we haven't produced those results and that's on us to get right."

While Keselowski knows speed is the foundation for success, you still must execute on the racetrack and have that lucky streak that keeps you from getting caught up in wrecks. The team had that in abundance last season to win Keselowski's first title.

"We haven't put two or three together to really build the house that it takes to win," he said. "I feel like this weekend, along with any other weekend, could be that chance and that opportunity."

Keselowski's chances didn't get the strongest start at Charlotte. He qualified 20th fastest for NASCAR's longest event — nearly 4 mph behind pole-sitter Denny Hamlin — and will start outside the top 10 for the sixth straight race.

It's not the sort of follow-up season Keselowski envisioned. He won't have crew chief Paul Wolfe this weekend as he serves his two-race suspension for unapproved parts at the race in Texas. Keselowski has also dealt with situations of his own making, like his Twitter rant criticizing David Ragan's final restart position at Talladega — an opinion Keselowski later apologized for after learning that NASCAR told Ragan to switch positions.

Ragan was victorious at Talladega. —

Coca-Cola 600

O Sunday, 4 p.m.

TV • Ch. 13

Auto racing • After stellar start to the season, Brad Keselowski has been struggling.
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