Brad Keselowski is 20 points up on Jimmie Johnson heading into the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway on Sunday, November 18, and the dedicated and determined driver has a crew chief that has backed him up since their days in the Nationwide Series. Paul Wolfe, who was Keselowski's crew chief in 2010 for the Nationwide Series title chase, is now calling the shots as the duo tries to take the 2012 Chase for the Sprint Cup from "Five-Time." Even with a 20-point lead, Wolfe knows the title is theirs to lose.
"We've always got to be prepared for the worst," said Wolfe in a recent NASCAR teleconference. "We've done the best job we can preparing for this weekend's event. It's something that this team's done really well is being able to overcome adversity I feel like over the last couple of years. We do that really well. So we're going to just do the best job at controlling the things we can, and we'll do the best we can at dealing with any situation that may come up. But we definitely don't want to change our thought process going into the weekend. We want to go down there and contend for the win. We know we're capable of that. We've shown we've got the speed in our race cars and all the guys on the team are capable of that."
Wolfe said the team's mindset won't change going into the last race of the Chase. "Our mindset going into this weekend is not a whole lot different than what we've done the first nine races of the Chase," said Wolfe. "We just want to continue doing the things we've done up to this point, and we feel like if we do that, we should have a shot to close this deal out on Sunday. The guys have done a great job to this point on the Miller Lite Dodge, and, they're preparing the car as we would any other week and just trying to stay in our normal routine. The last thing we need to do is try to do something we've been doing different all season. I think that's how mistakes are possibly made."
Wolfe believes that his driver is a total package: dedicated, motivated, hard-working and driven. "His dedication and drive to be a champion, all the hard work he puts in…He's a great leader to this Miller Lite team," said Wolfe of the 28-year-old driver. "He's a great motivator, and he's a guy that I see is not willing to give up. He'll do whatever it takes to find success. There is something about when Brad's around, he finds a way to be able to motivate everyone around him. I think that's obviously important in running for a championship. Having a guy like him around that doesn't necessarily have to always say certain things to motivate you, but just the sense in how he carries himself. Like I said, all the time and dedication that he puts into the race team and, obviously, everybody's getting rewarded for that."
Someone else that will be rewarded if the Miller Lite team wins the championship: Roger Penske, team owner and motorsports mastermind. Penske Racing's legacy includes 15 Indy 500 championships and 12 open-wheel championships (USAC and IndyCar), but just one NASCAR title - Keselowski's 2010 Nationwide Series championship. "Obviously, it (a championship) will be huge, huge for Penske Racing and everyone involved," said Wolfe. "But to be honest with you, like I've said, I tried not to let my mind go there right now and stay focused on trying to go to Homestead and contend for the win."
Wolfe continued, "When you look at all the success Penske Racing has had in motorsports, not just on the NASCAR side, but all the different series and success and championships, things they've accomplished, it sets quite a standard. I think everybody respects what they've been able to accomplish here. If we could go on to win the Sprint Cup championship, that would be really great. I feel like we've got as good a chance as anybody as we go into this weekend."
Source: "Transcript: NASCAR Teleconference with Paul Wolfe," NASCAR Media, November 13, 2012
Paula is a long-time NASCAR fan who also covers the sport at Examiner.com and Skirts & Scuffs.