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NASCAR: Defending champ Keselowski tries to build on title

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(AP)
Brad Keselowski prepares Friday for practice for the NASCAR Sprint Cup series' Coca-Cola 600, which will take place Sunday at Charlotte Motor Speedway in Concord, N.C.

CONCORD, N.C. – Defending series champion Brad Keselowski believes he’s still the fastest in Sprint Cup, even if his results 4 months into the season don’t bear that out.

Keselowski is winless and seventh in points heading into the Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte Motor Speedway on Sunday night. He opened the season with four straight top-four finishes and seven top 10s in the first eight races.

Recently, he’s struggled to stay near the top, with a 33rd-place finish at Richmond, an 11th at Talladega and a 32nd at Darlington.

“If there were a right-side seat and you rode with me through the last two or three [tracks], you’d go, ‘Damn, we’re the fastest car here,’” Keselowski said.

While Keselowski knows speed is the foundation for success, you still must execute on the race track and have that lucky streak that keeps you from getting caught up in wrecks.

Keselowski qualified 20th-fastest for NASCAR’s longest event – nearly 4 mph behind pole-sitter Denny Hamlin – and will start outside the top 10 for the sixth straight race.

Keselowski won’t have crew chief Paul Wolfe this weekend, as he serves his two-race suspension for unapproved parts at the race in Texas. Keselowski also dealt with his Twitter rant criticizing David Ragan’s final restart position at Talladega – an opinion Keselowski later apologized for after learning that NASCAR told Ragan to switch positions.

Ragan was victorious at Talladega.

“Look, I’m not perfect. I know that, and I don’t pretend to be,” the 29-year-old Keselowski said.

Keselowski has also had car issues this season, including a broken drive shaft at last week’s All-Star Race.

“It’s hard to really say I’m happy with where I’m at because I’m not, but I’m not unhappy either,” he said. “Winning a championship is a step to have that opportunity to become a leader, but there are several other steps.”

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