SPARTA — Put Brad Keselowski at Kentucky Speedway, and he would be fast driving a dump truck. Yet the King of Kentucky Speedway professes not to know why he is so fast over the Sparta bumps.
"Part of me assumes or hypothesizes (my Kentucky success) has to do with the fact that this track is kind of even status (with other competitors)," Keselowski says, "because I started racing about the same time this track came on the circuit."
On Saturday night, when the green flag flies on the fifth Quaker State 400 presented by Advance Auto Parts, sentiment will be riding with the retiring Jeff Gordon. Should the 24 car win, it would give Gordon at least one career victory on every track currently on the Sprint Cup circuit.
History says Keselowski — Gordon's sparring partner from last fall's melee at Texas Motor Speedway — is the man most likely to foil the 24.
Over the past four years, the Penske Racing driver has won four races here, two in Sprint Cup (2012 and '14) and two in the series now known as Xfinity (2011 and '13).
The King of Kentucky Speedway is not afraid to rattle cages.
After not one but two races in last season's Chase for the Sprint Cup, competitors were so angered by Keselowski's on-track actions they initiated post-race physical confrontations with the driver of the Miller Lite Ford.
The sight of the normally even-keeled Matt Kenseth chasing Keselowski from behind to put him in a headlock at Charlotte was soon followed by the wild brawl that ensued after a "racing incident" between Gordon and Keselowski at Texas.
Comedian Jay Mohr joked you could explain the rules of the new Chase format this way: After every round, four drivers are eliminated — and one has to fight Brad Keselowski.
"That wasn't too far off," Keselowski says.
Yet the 31-year-old from Rochester Hills, Mich., remains unbowed.
"I'm here to be No. 1," Keselowski said. "In any sport where you are a competitor, competing to be the best, what it is going to take for you to be the best is going to ruffle some feathers."
The King of Kentucky Speedway returns to the commonwealth this summer in a time of life transition. On May 20, Keselowski's girlfriend, Paige White, gave birth to the couple's first child, a daughter.
It is often said that becoming a parent alters one's life perspective in profound ways.
Yes and no, Keselowski says. He said he has been taken aback by how many people have sent baby gifts.
"When I was growing up, I never had birthday parties," he said. "Christmas, I'd get something from my Mom and Dad, maybe my sisters, but that was it. We didn't really do a lot of things for other people and a lot of people didn't do things for us in that sense.
"So I never really had this big sense of hospitality, I guess would be the right term. So when we had the baby and a lot of people were giving us gifts, I guess that would be the biggest perspective-changer for me. ... I think I probably have a stronger sense of community than I did before."
Which is not to suggest that the 2012 Sprint Cup champion is planning to allow fatherhood to lead to a kinder and gentler approach to his job.
"On the racetrack? I don't think so," he said. "Maybe, off, yeah. I think I can relate to people a little bit better."
The King of Kentucky Speedway dominated last year's Quaker State 400, winning from the pole after leading 199 of 267 laps.
It was trying to open a celebratory bottle of champagne in Victory Circle where things went amiss.
"I thought I had a really cool way of opening it," Keselowski says. "I was wrong."
A cut hand from the victory celebration — "I was trying to open (the bottle) on the table, crack it," he says — left him bloodied. After a trip to the track care center, he needed four stitches.
"My hand is almost healed," Keselowski says. "I've got a really nasty scar, so that doesn't look like it's going away. Most of all the nerve damage went away, which is really good, so I can move it really good."
A social media maven, Keselowski reports that lists of The 10 Worst Victory Celebrations of All Time sometimes pop up in his Twitter mentions.
"Not a list you want to make," he says. "I was kind of embarrassed by that one."
The King of Kentucky Speedway knows uneasy is the head that wears the crown.
Kyle Busch's record in Sparta is also exceptional. The driver of the No. 18 Toyota is the only one to win at Kentucky in four different stock-car series — ARCA, Camping World Trucks, Xfinity and Sprint Cup (the 2011 inaugural event).
If Busch were to match Keselowski with a second Quaker State 400 win Saturday night, he then would have claim to be considered the rightful King of Kentucky Speedway.
Even with the considerable competitive friction that flows between "Bad Brad" and "Rowdy," Keselowski says he takes no extra satisfaction in besting Busch on a track where both are so good.
"I don't want to beat just one driver, I want to beat all of them," Keselowski says. "I think if you get caught up focusing on one (rival) you lose sight of the main goal, which is to beat them all. I want to beat them all."