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2013: A season of change for Brad Keselowski

New car, teammate give champion something to prove in 2013

- jutter@charlotteobserver.com
Thursday, Dec. 13, 2012

It’s been less than two weeks since Brad Keselowski was officially crowned the 2012 Sprint Cup Series champion, and his NASCAR world has changed in many ways.

The No. 2 Penske Racing car he used Tuesday at testing at Charlotte Motor Speedway is a Ford instead of a Dodge.

He’s working with a new teammate, Joey Logano, who will drive the No. 22 Ford for Penske in 2013.

And he was a sporting a new driver’s suit, one he called “a work in progress.”

One thing that hasn’t changed is his commitment to success.

“I think all the signs are there that we have the potential to be just as strong, if not stronger, than we were last year, which is very, very encouraging,” said Keselowski who was one of 16 drivers testing the 2013 model Cup cars at CMS. 

“We still have to work for it and make it happen, but the signs are there. It’s been a lot of fun having the first day working with Joey, which I think has been probably more of an adjusting process than the actual car itself.

“We’ve got a lot of work to do. (These are) two really important days, not only for Penske Racing but for the sport itself.”

Testing continues Wednesday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Fans can watch for free by entering through Gate 5B at the track.

NASCAR is pinning its hopes on the 2013 car, both for its greater manufacturer identity and the hope the cars will improve the quality of racing.

The transformation to the new cars has been slow. Teams are still getting technical bulletins with the final rules and guidelines.

How quickly teams get a handle on the new car could determine who will contend for the championship in 2013.

Already Tuesday, NASCAR vice president for competition Robin Pemberton announced extra practice time for the Cup series during race weekends at Las Vegas, Texas and Fontana, Calif.

“Speed is the backbone of this sport and any team’s success,” Keselowski said. “Anyone who comes out of the gate with the most speed has the potential, so it tends to be an area where we all go first, naturally.

“You can’t get too carried away and sacrifice everything else to just get speed ... but we’re certainly going to work there first.”

Keselowski says Toyota may have a little bit better handle on the 2013 car than some of the other manufacturers.

“I think the Toyotas have shown that they’re going to be really, really tough to beat with this new car,” he said.

“I really like the way they finished last year, and, for them, I think they have the capability of starting out next year even stronger than the (rest of the) field, so that will be interesting to watch.

“But there’s still a lot of testing and a lot of development left to be done.”

Penske Racing will be in a unique situation, having run Dodges in 2012 while winning the championship and now moving to Ford, as all manufacturers switch over to the 2013 cars.

Penske helped a lot with the evolution of Dodge’s 2013 Cup entry, which now won’t be on the track since the manufacturer has elected to end its NASCAR program.

“One of the best advantages of switching to Ford is it gives us something to prove all over again – that we can continue to be successful no matter what the manufacturer or no matter what the circumstance is,” Keselowski said.

“I think that’s very healthy.”

Utter: 704-358-5113; Twitter: @jim_utter
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