While many fans and pundits are already sizing up the prospects for what could be a wildly entertaining NASCAR Cup Playoffs starting next month and featuring three drivers who have combined to win 12 races, Brad Keselowski sees a bigger foe lurking in the shadows.
It's not the other members of NASCAR's Big 3 —points leader Kevin Harvick (four wins) or Denny Hamlin (five wins)—that put a fright into three-time winner Keselowski, the driver of the No. 2 Discount Tire Ford Mustang for Team Penske.
Instead, it's COVID-19 that Keselowski knows could change the face of the entire season.
"The testing scares me," Keselowski told a small group of Michigan reporters that included Autoweek ahead of the NASCAR Cup Series doubleheader weekend at Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn, Mich. "I read the thing about Matt Stafford yesterday and I think a lot of us has their eyes on that."
Stafford, quarterback for Keselowski's hometown Detroit Lions of the NFL, was sidelined for a few days by what turned out to be a false positive test result for COVID-19. NASCAR has already had one virus scare when Jimmie Johnson missed a race at Indianapolis last month after a positive test. Johnson't missed race could cost him dearly in the championship, as he's without a race win and 50 points shy of the final playoff spot.
"I don't know if that's the same situation that Jimmie (Johnson) went through, but I would say that it's enough to scare you half to death as an athlete that a false positive could happen to you right before a race and take away your chance at a championship," Keselowski said. "All those things said, it's a unique time in our world right now and we're all just trying to make it through it. So far, NASCAR has done an incredible job at doing just that."
Keselowski, said he's doing everything he can to stay out of the way of the virus.
"It's tough." he said. "I take wearing a mask very seriously. Right now, I'm quarantined to my office, so I don't have to (wear one). In any other setting, I take it very seriously. That's probably the biggest change. I feel a little bit like a bank robber sometiems, but that's another story for another day.
"I think there's a lot of concern over getting sick in the middle of the season and especially before the playoffs—or in the playoffs and how that would work. All we can really do is try and not put ourselves in that kind of position to risk getting sick. There's no 100 percent certainty in life. I understand we can lower our risk, and there's a number of ways we can do that. I get to the race track, and I quarantine in my motor home so I'm not around team members or honestly even family and friends. That's one of the many strategies that we've employed and we've been successful."
Keselowski and the Cup Series race in the Firekeepers Casino 400 at 4 p.m. Saturday (NBCSN) and the Consumers Energy 400 at 4:30 p.m. on Sunday (NBCSN). Both races a 156 laps, 312 miles. Apparently the logos were already made before the race distance and doubleheader format were announced.