The last four weeks have not been kind to Brad Keselowski, who in that span has been troubled with mechanical failures, poor performance and simple bad luck. As a result, he plummeted from third in points to 10th, and with it, questions have arisen whether the defending Sprint Cup champion will even qualify for the Chase.
However, despite not having finished better than 15th in the previous four races, Keselowski remains upbeat heading into Sunday's NASCAR race at Dover International Raceway.
"We have burned through a lot of bad luck the last few weeks with parts failures, untimely cautions, and loose wheels," Keselowski said Friday. "That is just part of racing."
This recent downswing is Keselowski's most pronounced slump since the beginning of the 2011 season when he went through the first nine races without posting a top 10.
But despite being on the Chase bubble and without a win to fall back on if he were to slide out of the top 10 in points, he says he's not "panicked" because while the results haven't been there the speed has and what's missing has been a lack of execution.
"I feel like we have the potential and the confidence to get things done and we just have missed out on the execution and that is what has kept us from having those two wins," Keselowski said. "All in all, we still haven't hit that execution and that is the really only difference. Quite honestly I feel like we are faster than we have ever been and I am just as confident as we have ever been."
The optimism isn't misguided.
This weekend sees the return of Keselowski's crew chief Paul Wolfe, who was suspended two weeks due to unapproved suspension parts found on the No. 2 car at Texas on April 13.
Wolfe, widely regarded as one of the top crew chiefs in the garage, has a rapport with his driver that some have compared to the relationship between Jimmie Johnson and Chad Knaus during their five-year reign as Cup champions.
That chemistry often manifests itself into the No. 2 car becoming stronger as the laps click by, with last year's title run being marked by week-to-week consistency where Keselowski scored two wins and finished no worse than ninth through the opening nine Chase events.
"This is a team. It is a lot more than just me and a lot more than Paul. It is about everybody on it. ... We lost our car chief and our head engineer too. Getting everyone back adds to the comfort level."
Whether it was a mere coincidence or not, the results have been noticeably amiss the last month while Penske Racing dealt with the fallout from NASCAR confiscating parts and pieces from the team and the subsequent suspensions and then the appeals process.
Keselowski's belief is with his team now back to full strength and returning to a track where he won last fall, success will soon return.
"I feel a little relief now, more so than just because Paul or the guys are back," Keselowski said. "I feel relieved because I think I have ran a lot of my bad luck out. That feels good because you know there is a certain amount you will get in a year and I feel like we have burned through it early in the year and that will put us in a good spot for the Chase.
"I think we are going to have a strong few weeks, I really do."