Keselowski won six races for Earnhardt before moving on to Penske Racing and a Sprint Cup Series ride, and with a month to go in the season, Earnhardt predicted Keselowski would hang with Johnson all the way until the end.
"I don't think he's going to crack. I think he's going to be hard to beat," Earnhardt said. "I think he will be a tough competitor all the way through. Brad has been waiting on this opportunity all his life so I don't expect him to crack under the pressure."
Keselowski opened the Chase with a win at Chicago and picked up another victory at Dover to take control of the championship fight, but Johnson used consecutive wins at Martinsville and Texas to take a seven-point lead into Phoenix last weekend. A blown tire there caused Johnson to crash, and now Keselowski has a nice cushion that's certainly giving him some peace of mind.
Johnson said the weekend is young.
"He may be very comfortable and calm now, it may not happen until he's in the car, but at some point that magnitude hits," Johnson said. "I've lived through it five times. That's a turning moment, and we'll see how he responds. This just isn't any other race. This is the championship race, and there's a lot that comes with that."
Keselowski insists he wouldn't have it any other way.
"I want the pressure. That's what I want. That's what makes it worth something," he said. "Without those questions, why am I doing that? I'm just driving a car in a circle. Without having a motivation, it doesn't mean anything. You can't strip away your motivation just to remove yourself from pressure because then you can't justify your existence."
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