SPARTA, Ky. — No looking back for Brad Keselowski.
Hes only looking forward now, and despite some distractions, the view isnt too bad.
Keselowski, the reigning Sprint Cup Series champion, doesnt have a victory yet in the 2013 season and has tumbled from third to ninth in the series standings over the past eight races.
But he still finds himself ranked higher in points entering Saturday nights Quaker State 400 at Kentucky Speedway than a year ago, when he ended up in Victory Lane with his third win of the season.
And a year ago, he went on to win his first series championship.
If a couple of those things fall differently we are sitting here with two or three wins and in the exact same spot as this time last year. I think that is why I am not as panicked as some others might be, said Keselowski, who will start eighth in Saturday nights race.
I dont feel that panic within our team. I think there is a burning passion and desire to execute at a much higher level than we have and certainly that can be frustrating but I know it is there.
I think the run we put on last year starting this weekend shows it can be done at any time.
While his position in the series standings is almost the same, much has changed for Keselowski and his No. 2 Penske Racing team in a year.
Penske moved from the Dodge camp to Ford in the offseason, and manufacturer changes typically cause disruption.
In April, NASCAR slapped the teams of Keselowski and teammate Joey Logano with stiff penalties for having unapproved parts at Texas.
While the penalties were reduced on appeal, Keselowski and Logano both lost their crew chiefs and other critical team members for two points races.
Some of Keselowskis worst performances of the season coincided with his loss of crew chief, Paul Wolfe, but he declines to think about what might have been.
I havent spent a lot of time looking in the mirror. I have been looking forward and know we have to continue to push and develop this car and find those next pieces of speed to be that little bit more competitive, Keselowski said. I think we have some stuff coming to do that.
Hopefully, we can get that implemented on our cars and get it all through tech (inspection) and then we will be just as good as we have ever been, if not better.
Keselowski and Kyle Busch are the only drivers to win a Cup race at Kentucky and Keselowski also holds a Nationwide Series win at the track.
Kentuckys recent addition to the Cup schedule puts Keselowski now in his fourth full season in the series on more equal footing with his competitors. Its something he believes works to his advantage.
When you go to tracks like Texas and Atlanta and places like that where there are a fair amount of drivers with more experience than I do, I always feel like I am that one little step behind, he said.
Here at Kentucky there is no driver that has more experience than me. We are on an even footing all the way. In fact, if anything, I feel like I might be slightly up because I have a couple more Nationwide starts and so forth.
Being in the top 10 in points guarantees a berth in the 12-driver Chase, but wins cement a drivers chance to compete for a championship. Keselowski doesnt have any.
Realistically, if you have two or three wins you are in a good spot. We dont have those, but we have had solid runs where we have been close to winning and have a lot of coulda, shoulda, wouldas.
Those dont count for anything. Now is our time to really shine.
Utter: 704-358-5113; Twitter: @jim_utter