With three wins this season -- and a near-victory a week ago -- Brad Keselowski has established himself as one of NASCAR's top drivers.
Now, he just needs to reverse an unpleasant trend at a place near and dear to his heart.
Keselowski is from Rochester Hills, about 90 miles from Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn, but he has never won in six Sprint Cup starts at the track -- and he has only one top-10 finish.
"If you don't want it enough you won't be successful and if you want it too badly it seems like you force things and they don't come naturally," Keselowski said. "That's something I try not to do but I would probably say that I'm guilty of it when I come here at least on the Cup side, because when anything goes wrong I get madder than hell about it."
Keselowski has won this year at Bristol, Talladega and Kentucky, but he was 13th at MIS in June. That's actually his second-best finish at the track. He was third in August a year ago after ending up out of the top 20 in his other four starts.
Keselowski, 28, is fifth in the points standings, and with three victories, he's in great shape for the Chase for the Sprint Cup, which starts next month. Drivers can earn bonus points for "regular-season" victories. Points leader Jimmie Johnson and Tony Stewart are the only others with three wins.
"I'm looking at it off of wins and I think that's the common-sense way to look at it. It doesn't matter when the Chase starts what points you had," Keselowski said. "As far as I'm concerned, by those calculations, we are the points leader, maybe tied for it, but we are the points leader in that sense and I think that's great. I think that's what this sport should be about. It should be about winning."
Victory No. 4 nearly came last week at Watkins Glen, N.Y. Kyle Busch was leading but skidded wide coming out of the first turn of the final lap and was bumped by Keselowski's fast-closing No. 2 Dodge.
Keselowski apologized after the race on Twitter and discussed the incident again Friday.
"Like I said after the race, it was unfortunate because dumping the leader on the last lap is not something that I want to be known for," he said. "I feel like we're all going for the same spot. I obviously pushed real hard and he wasn't going to give it up."
Marcos Ambrose eventually won, and Keselowski settled for second.
In his home state, Keselowski was 19th Friday in qualifying. He has won at MIS on the Nationwide Series, but never on the Cup circuit.
"Obviously this place is special to me and I'd like to be able to bring home my first Cup win this weekend or as soon as possible at my home track. ... I'd rather be the guy that screwed up because I wanted it too badly than the guy that screwed up because he didn't want it enough," Keselowski said.
Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s return to Michigan isn't off to a great start.
Earnhardt, who won at Michigan International Speedway in June to snap a four-year losing streak, will have to start from the back today. He rubbed against the wall in practice Saturday and will need to go to a backup car.
Series points leader Jimmie Johnson also will be in back because of an engine change. Johnson was third in qualifying Friday. Earnhardt was 22nd.
Justin Allgaier passed Jacques Villeneuve on the final lap in a green-white-checkered finish and won the Nationwide race at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve in Montreal, depriving French Canadian Villeneuve of his first victory at any level in NASCAR. Villeneuve, who started third, survived three late restarts in a wild race that went six extra laps and saw Danica Patrick lead 20 laps. But Villeneuve, who had been saving fuel, slowed briefly on the final one and Allgaier slid past for his second win of the season and third of his career. Sam Hornish Jr. finished second and Villeneuve was third.
Four races remain until the cutoff for the 2012 Sprint Cup Chase for the Championship. The top 10 drivers in points qualify along with two wild cards based primarily on season wins. A look inside the standings as the series arrives at Michigan today:
Driver Team W T5 T10 Points
1. Jimmie Johnson Hendrick Motorsports 3 11 16 777
2. Greg Biffle Roush Fenway Racing 1 9 12 --1
3. Matt Kenseth Roush Fenway Racing 1 9 14 --2
4. Dale Earnhardt Jr. Hendrick Motorsports 1 9 15 --17
5. Brad Keselowski Penske Racing 3 8 12 --44
6. Martin Truex Jr. Waltrip Racing 0 5 12 --49
7. Clint Bowyer Waltrip Racing 1 5 12 --58
8. Tony Stewart Stewart-Haas Racing 3 9 11 --61
9. Kevin Harvick Childress Racing 0 3 9 --67
10. Denny Hamlin Joe Gibbs Racing 2 9 11 --84
Wild cards: Kasey Kahne (2 wins, 653 points) and Ryan Newman (1 win, 644 points) hold the two wild cards going into today's race. Today: Pure Michigan 400, Brooklyn, Mich., 1 p.m. TV: ESPN, telecast begins at noon. Lineup, Page D-10.autoracing