SPARTA, Ky. -- Bad Brad Keselowski did almost everything wrong this weekend.
He wrecked on his first practice lap Friday at Kentucky Speedway, missed tons of much-needed track time, got mad, went to a backup car from last season and ran the No. 2 Dodge out of gas on his last pit stop Saturday night.
Not exactly the textbook instructions on how to win a Sprint Cup race. So what? Bad Brad isn't a guy who does things by the book. He does things on emotion.
And the result is winning -- three times now in 2012 after blowing away the competition at the end of the race on the 1.5-mile Kentucky oval.
"What a weekend," Keselowski said afterward. "We fought back from adversity all weekend long. It's teamwork. These guys on this team are just badasses. They put together a year-old car [from Martinsville last fall] in 40 minutes in 100-degree heat to where we could win today. That's what badasses do. Hard work equals results."
The same thing should be said about Kentucky Speedway officials. Everyone involved with this facility, along with Kentucky state officials, deserves huge kudos for making an enormous improvement in this year's event compared to last year's unprecedented traffic horrors.
"It was very comfortable," said Speedway Motorsports Inc. chairman Bruton Smith, the track owner who vowed to make amends. "I think we accomplished it. I'm very pleased with all changes we made. We spent millions of dollars and the state spent millions.
"I've talked to lot of race fans today and they all say, 'Thank you.' I've heard more 'thank you' comments than I ever have in my life."
The Kentucky State Police sent out Twitter alerts every 15 minutes all day that stated all race traffic was moving smoothly without backups.
Granted, it was a smaller crowd, about 30,000 fewer than the 105,000 fans who tried to come (some never made it) last year. But the success of Saturday's event should bring some of them back.
Keselowski alone is worth the price of admission. No points racing for this Michigan marauder. Brad K. doesn't need any stinkin' points. He gets it done the old-fashioned way -- by winning.
Keselowski is the first driver this season to win three races. If you aren't impressed, you should be. Three is the magic number.
Almost everyone agrees that three victories should guarantee a driver a spot in the Chase. Even if that driver falls outside the top 10 in points (which earn a playoff spot), three wins should assure him of earning one of the two wild-card spots that are based on victories.
Keselowski is 10th at the moment. He needs to stay in the top 10 to use those wins to start the Chase on top.
"You guys look at this stuff backwards,'' Keselowski said. "Who leads the points? That doesn't mean anything. Who has the most wins and stays in the top 10 is the only thing that matters.
"I guess you're never guaranteed [a Chase spot], but it feels good to have those wins to fall back on."
You guys look at this stuff backwards. Who leads the points? That doesn't mean anything. Who has the most wins and stays in the top 10 is the only thing that matters.
”-- Brad Keselowski
Keselowski and his rising-star crew chief -- Paul Wolfe -- have shown they can win anywhere on any type of track. His 2012 victories have come on a short track (Bristol) and a restrictor-plate track (Talladega) and an intermediate oval tonight.
But this one was another race that showed just how gritty a competitor Keselowski is.
"Brad just thrives on this stuff," Wolfe said. "Anytime people think we don't have a chance, he is able to step it up to another level. He showed us that last year with his broken foot.''
Keselowski won at Pocono last season a few days after breaking his left ankle in a test-session crash at Road America in Wisconsin. It became a symbol of his toughness.
He won Saturday after tangling with Juan Pablo Montoya in practice Friday. Keselowski felt Montoya caused him to spin into the wall on the first practice lap. When Keselowski returned to the track, he bumped Montoya from behind to show him how he felt about it.
And Keselowski made a trip to the NASCAR hauler (without being summoned) to explain his position.
"I don't like being pushed around and I felt that's what happened," Keselowski said. "I don't like it. I won't stand for that. That's one code I'm going to continue to live by."
Keselowski and his code caught some breaks Saturday. Kasey Kahne, who finished 4.4 seconds back, had a rocket of a Chevy under him, but an extra pit stop for a loose wheel caused him to play catch-up all night.
Denny Hamlin, who finished third, couldn't challenge Keselowski down the stretch because Hamlin had to conserve fuel to make it to the end.
Keselowski might have held them off anyway. He is at his best when things seem the worst for his team.
He's the gunslinger quarterback who throws a touchdown pass on third-and-15 from his own 25-yard line. He's the outfielder who strikes out swinging three times in the game before hitting a grand slam to win it in the bottom of the ninth.
He's Bad Brad, and that's the way he likes it.
"Maybe that makes us better," Keselowski said. "There's always little bit extra when you get fired up. Some people say that's a bad thing. Well, maybe it's not for me."