Pocono 400 - Qualifying

Brad Keselowski, driver of the #2 Redds Ford, looks on from the grid during qualifying for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Pocono 400 at Pocono Raceway. (Doug Pensinger / Getty Images / June 6, 2014)

Brad Keselowski is accustomed to hitting the reset button.

He did it last weekend after a piece of paper got stuck on the grille of his Miller Lite Ford, forcing him to make a move that would cost him a victory at Pocono on Sunday.

And he has done it in a much bigger-picture kind of way, never looking back on a 14th-place finish in the 2013 standings that kept him out of the Chase for the Championship. It was quite the shot to the ego for a guy who won the 2012 Sprint Cup title.

But Keselowski is accustomed to the ebb and flow of his chosen profession.

"We talked about how you set the reset button after losing a race like we did last week, which is not easy, and in that sense the answer is understanding what went wrong," Keselowski said Tuesday.

"But it's a little bit different in the context of seasons. In seasons the great thing is everybody resets. The rules reset. The team resets, the changes, and it has a feeling kind of like the first day of school when you get to Daytona, where even if you finished out the year before with maybe some B's and C's or a D along the way, you feel like this is a new year, new teachers, new classmates, and it really is yours for the taking and yours to make it whatever you want.

"For me it just always feels like there's a new level of energy and excitement. This year there's been no shortage of that."

No there has not. Keselowski is fifth in points, with a victory and the Pocono near-miss. Barring injury, he easily will qualify for the Chase.

He returns to his hometown track in Michigan this weekend as a confident man, a report card filled with the grades that make a champion.

His quest for another title will come down to a few minor adjustments — his team becoming more consistent on pit road and the ability of the engine shop to catch up with Hendrick Motorsports on the "power level."

"If we can cross those two hurdles, we can be the team to win it all this year," Keselowski said.

Yesterday's disappointments are just that. Keselowski tried to rub off a piece of debris from his grille in the closing laps at Pocono. But as he pushed up against the bumper of much slower Danica Patrick, Dale Earnhardt Jr. shot past him to grab a lead he would not relinquish on Lap 155 of a 160-lap race.

"It was the right move," Keselowski said. "I told somebody I felt like I was playing a game of blackjack and I was sitting on 15 and the dealer had a face card. If you play by the rules, you should take a card and you should hit, and we did, and we busted. The dealer turns over his card and he was sitting on 15, as well, and so you knew he was going to bust out. That's part of it. That's the cards we play, and some of racing is always going to be chance, and you have to play it by the odds, and I lost."

The good thing about Keselowski's season is that school is not out, and he's going extremely well. Regardless of Pocono, he has the passing grades to prove it.

gdiaz@tribune.com