AP Auto Racing Writer
BRISTOL, Tenn. (AP) Brad Keselowski was a long shot, at best, to race for the NASCAR championship this season.
Then he turned it up a notch and became a legitimate contender to make the 12-driver Chase for the Sprint Cup championship field.
Now, he's the hottest driver in NASCAR and is forcing everyone to consider him a serious threat to unseat five-time defending champion Jimmie Johnson.
Keselowski picked up his third win of the season - second since breaking his ankle in an Aug. 3 crash - and took a huge step toward making the Chase.
It's an amazing turnaround for Keselowski and his No. 2 Penske Racing team.
He was ranked 21st in points four races ago, when his struggling team went to a test session to work on road course improvement. But Keselowski was in a nasty accident during that session that left him with a broken ankle.
It's hardly slowed him.
Since the accident, Keselowski won at Pocono, finished second at Watkins Glen, third at Michigan and now has the Bristol victory.
Although he's walked gingerly in the month since the crash, he hopped up and down in excitement as he climbed from his Dodge.
"An awesome car, an awesome team!" he yelled. "Tony Stewart, Jeff Gordon and Dale Earnhardt won this race. It's a race of champions. There are races that pay more, that are races that might have a little more prestige, but this is the coolest damn one of them all."
But Keselowski regretted all the post-race celebratory jumps about an hour after the race.
"Stupid is as stupid does," he said. "Last 100 laps I was certainly starting to feel it. But you know, I don't think anybody wants to hear me whine. Every once in a while I do and they tell me just to shut up anyway, and it hasn't been very productive. It obviously has felt better. I wish I wouldn't have jumped off the damned car."
The win moved Keselowski up one more spot to 11th in the standings, and he's jumped 10 spots over the last four races. He's currently in position to claim the first wild card spot, and could clinch his berth next week at Atlanta by virtue of his three wins.
Everette's Note: You have got to love this guy! He is as country as they come, but a genuine human being and a great competitor. Watch out for him in the Chase.
And so it goes...