AVONDALE, AZ - It's a big NASCAR weekend in Avondale.
Race fans everywhere know that when it comes to Victory Lane, Jimmie Johnson has been there, done that a lot. Maybe too much. In fact, the driver of the #48 Chevrolet is bidding for his sixth NASCAR championship.
But here at Phoenix International Raceway, it's the driver who trails by seven points heading into the penultimate race of the season that may not yet be gaining in Johnson's rear view mirror but seems to be gaining in popularity.
As Brad Keselowski acknowledged when asked by the media, he's been hearing from plenty of people who want him to unseat Johnson. Nothing personal, says Keselowski. But there's a sizable group of people who have been there, done that as well - the fans.
So for all the cars and crew chiefs in NASCAR at PIR this weekend, it really boils down to a drag race of sorts - two cars going all out from green flag to checkered.
And make no mistake, the guy playing "follow the leader" is the same guy who plans on becoming the points leader. In other words, Keselowski is bullish about his chances to overtake Johnson and he's not shy about sharing that opinion.
"I have a tremendous amount of respect for him, but I still want to beat him with every inch of my body. And I'm not going to lay over for someone," Keselowski declared into the media microphone. "There's a difference between respect and laying over for someone. I'm going to push him as hard as I can. And you know what? If he does win it, which I don't plan on letting that happen, but if he does win it, then he's going to look back at this time period and say he never fought any harder than he had to fight me."
Isn't this about the time where the official starter yells - "Gentlemen, start your engines..." Well, in our best Bart Scott voice - "Can't wait!"
The Spring Cup race at PIR begins Sunday at 12 p.m. All eyes will be on the Valley. You can watch it on ESPN.