MARTINSVILLE, Va. — It has been a ho-hum year for Brad Keselowski, who has been overshadowed all season by teammate Joey Logano.
As Logano reeled off three consecutive wins to thrust himself into the role of Sprint Cup title favorite, Keselowski quietly slipped through to the third round of NASCAR's playoffs without much fanfare.
But as the third phase of the Chase for the Championship starts with today's Goody's Headache Relief Shot 500 at Martinsville Speedway, Keselowski feels he has as good a shot as anyone to win the championship.
"I think this bracket, knock on wood over here, I think it's going to be our best bracket yet," Keselowski said. "It feels like the season has started over. I feel literally coming into Martinsville like I'm going to Daytona for the 500, because nothing else that's happened before now really matters.
"To me, there is no momentum. It's what you make out of these next three or four races."
The bracket begins on the short track in Virginia, where Keselowski was second fastest in Saturday's final practice. Jimmie Johnson, who was eliminated in the first round of the Chase, topped the chart. Keselowski and reigning Sprint Cup champion Kevin Harvick were second fastest.
Keselowski liked the speed in his No. 2 Ford, but wasn't sure what today will bring.
"It's practice and not racing, and it's a big difference," he said. "This practice session is always really hard to get a great read for what your car is going to be in the race. You've got cars coming in and out and the track always has those marbles at the end. It's just really, really tough to get a read for what you're going to have come race time, but it's still fun to be fast."
From Martinsville the series shifts to Texas Motor Speedway on Nov. 8, then Phoenix International Raceway on Nov. 15, when the Chase field will be whittled to four drivers for the championship finale. A win in any of the next three races earns an automatic berth to the title decider Nov. 22 at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
Keselowski was second at Martinsville in the spring and has three consecutive top-six finishes at Phoenix.
At Texas, he knows he'll need to be faster.
Though he was fifth in the spring and third last year, he's not sure if that will be good enough to compete against Penske Racing teammate Logano.
"I look at Texas as a track where we haven't been where we want to be with the No. 2 car, but my teammate, Joey Logano, has been really fast," Keselowski said. "So we know we have the potential, so we've just got to find it, and we're going to do that by going to work."