Pressing was how Keselowski was going to handle the coming restart, an unofficial green-white-checkered finish that may or may not be the final laps of Sunday's race. Keselowski was staring at the yellow rear of Kyle Busch's leading No. 18 Toyota.
He had made it around Busch just last year in the mesmerizing final laps at Watkins Glen on a track slickened by apparent dropped oil. But the move wasn't clean in two respects: First, he had turned Busch in the process, sending the driver into a mode that promised payback, and second, Keselowski couldn't hold his position on the slick track and Marcos Ambrose passed him in the final corners for the win.
Keselowski had a decision to make, and it was a tough one. He had the decided disadvantage on even third-place Martin Truex Jr. as the outside car when the field grabbed the green flag and stormed toward the 90-degree right hand Turn 1. Should he beat Truex out the first corner, Keselowski may have a shot to to catch Busch in a braking zone.
But then what? Should he apply similar tactics as 2012 and push Busch from the lead? Or should he play it safe, hope for a mistake from the No. 18 and steal a win? And what about Truex? Would a previous race incident that left Truex miffed at Busch re-hash itself out of Keselowski's control and take him out in the process?
The decision hinged in two places. First, could Keselowski actually execute a chosen plan? And second, what's the best course of action for a driver hanging on the edge of Chase for the Sprint Cup qualification?
Undoubtedly, it was the second question that rang most important. A win would be huge for Keselowski in the final five-race span before the Chase field gets set. He hadn't scored one in Sprint Cup competition this season, and before Watkins Glen sat 12th in points. That wasn't good enough.
But Keselowski likely knew that several competitors in a similar Chase position had suffered troubles during the day and would be falling the point standings. A solid finish would probably be good enough to move him inside the point standings' top 10 and tentatively in the Chase. Aggression, meanwhile, could mean a win and even better stature for Chase qualification.
It could also mean unintended consequences later this season when it may really matter for Keselowski, rearing an ugly head in the form of a vengeful Busch.
Keselowski, as you know by now, played it safe. He nudged Busch some, but not enough to ever get the No. 18 out of shape. Keselowski wound up second at Watkins Glen once again. He moved to eighth in points.
Over the next four races, seeing if Keselowski made a sage move or if his aggression was too soft will be plenty interesting. A win wipes the questions away. A missed Chase only emboldens them.
HOT: Sunday's road course race wasn't the best in the sport's history. But it was engaging to watch throughout – something that's always the case on ovals.
NOT: If you thought Jeff Gordon faced some post-race despair last week after blowing the win at Pocono Raceway, just imagine how he feels this week after wrecking a manner totally inconsistent with his driving ability. That said, his car handled poorly the entire weekend. Gordon's frustration with his team was plenty noticeable.
HOT: AJ Allmendinger's 10th-place finish was his highest of the Sprint Cup season.
NOT: Marcos Ambrose knew he had an issue with his car before the late restart in which he wrecked. He should have stopped, despite his team telling him to continue.
HOT: Max Papis fared about well as you'd think in his first start in a winning-quality cup series car. His 15th-place finish wasn't indicative of how good he was, thanks to a tap from Greg Biffle.
NOT: It's just weird not having Tony Stewart in the field. NASCAR needs him back as soon as possible.
NEUTRAL: NASCAR was quite expeditious in cleaning up the final two incidents of the race in terms of total laps lost to caution. Still, you have to wonder why the red flag never came out at that juncture.
The Stenica Showdown Cup!
We're keeping track each week of how NASCAR's most important (only?) competitive couple performs against one another. The highest-finishing Sprint Cup result between Danica Patrick and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. each week earns a point. Each driver can earn a bonus for doing just about anything else, racing related or not.
NASCAR's power couple shared a hike on the trails of a nearby park on Saturday and then smooched their way into television sets across the country following the national anthem on Sunday. Otherwise, Watkins Glen wasn't much of a weekend to remember.
1st - Ricky Stenhouse Jr., 21 points (18th at Watkins Glen)
2nd - Danica Patrick., 12 points (20th at Watkins Glen)
- Motor Racing
- Sports & Recreation
- Brad Keselowski
- Kyle Busch