Coca-Cola 600 pole-sitter Brad Keselowski has no intention of struggling for very long in the Sprint Cup Series.
"I'd rather work at McDonald's than run 40th in Cup," he said "I hate it. I can't stand it. You want to know what my nightmare is? It's waking up, having a dream of pulling in the garage area, looking up at the scoreboard and seeing my car on the right side of the board (with the backmarkers)."
Clearly, Keselowski has every intention of making the most of his No. 1 starting spot in the lineup for NASCAR's longest race on Sunday evening.
Keselowski said his team has been making gains in the past few weeks that are noticeable to him but may have not shown up in the stats.
"As race car drivers, we go off the feel of our ass," he said. "The feel of my ass is that the cars are getting better every week and they're turning just a little bit better, the horsepower is getting a little bit better. I think that we have more in store."
So what have some of those improvements been? For one thing, Keselowski said the departure of Tom German – Penske's head of engineering – has "opened doors that would have never opened before."
Those changes have included allowing crew chief Paul Wolfe and car chief Jerry Kelley to make more hands-on adjustments to the car.
"It's not some amazing new muffler bearing, it's small little things," Keselowski said. "It's putting the car together right and having the ability to do that without jumping over 20 to 30 hurdles. That's what this sport is about. It's about small details and we're getting the details a little bit better each week with the 2 team."
And glimmers of hope like the pole provided Keselowski with some inspiration – which he said was necessary sometimes to shake off the doldrums that a slump brings.
"It's that drive that keeps you going," he said. "You need moments of inspiration or motivation for no other reason to kind of shut up that devil on your shoulder that's saying, ‘I need to do something else.' That's the little cancer growing on your shoulder."