CONCORD, N.C. – I daresay that anyone who saw Brad Keselowski for the first time would never picture him as a race car driver.
With his boyish looks and wry smile, Keselowski looks more like a teenager who is up to something.
Come to think of it, given his “tweeting” and picture taking during races, Keselowski has, indeed, been up to something – to the fans’ delight, I might add.
But at age 28, Keselowski hasn’t been a teenager for quite some time. And, yes indeed, he is a race car driver – a darn good one at that.
In NASCAR circles many suggest that Keselowski may become a superstar in the not-too-distant future. There is reason for that.
After competing in just 17 races on the NASCAR Sprint Cup circuit from 2008-2009, Keselowski has been driving for Penske Racing, one of the most respected and successful teams in stock car racing history, for the last three seasons.
Keselowski caught everyone’s attention in the spring of 2009 when he won at Talladega driving for James Finch’s Phoenix Racing team.
That season, Keselowski was also competing in selected races for Hendrick Motorsports and Penske, which meant his potential was widely recognized.
Circumstances developed at the end of 2009 that led to Keselowski’s full-time union with Penske as part of a three-car operation with Kurt Busch and Sam Hornish Jr.
That lasted another season before, in 2011, the team was reduced to two cars with Busch and Keselowski.
Keselowski won twice last year, at Kansas and Pocono, before another Penske shift was completed. This season, A.J. Allmendinger is Keselowski’s teammate.
Busch, ironically, currently drives for Finch.
Keselowski is now the senior driver at Penske. He drives a well-recognized blue No. 2 Dodge sponsored by Miller Lite, which has been a Penske staple for years.
Many veteran fans instinctively associate a No. 2 Miller Lite-sponsored car with Rusty Wallace, who raced and won with Penske for many seasons and was elected into the NASCAR Hall of Fame on May 23.
Wallace was one of Keselowski’s racing heroes.
“I’ll never forget, there was this NASCAR video game and Rusty was always the man to beat,” Keselowski said. “I was about 10 years old and I remember how good he was at Bristol and Martinsville and places like that.
“When I think back to him, I think of that black and gold Miller car, too. It’s pretty cool to think of him in the Hall of Fame and what that means for Miller.”
Keselowski’s career is young but he continues to display his potential. He has already won twice this year, at Bristol and Talladega, and returns to Charlotte Motor Speedway for the Coca-Cola 600 after a strong performance in the Sprint All Star race a week earlier.
In that special race, he won a $50,000 segment and finished second overall.
“We had a good run in the all star race and in the truck race, too,” Keselowski said. “I’d like to get one more position in the Nationwide and Cup races this weekend.
“I think we’ve got a good shot at it. Hopefully, we’re able to make some small improvements on the car during the week and if we do that, I think we could do it.”
Keselowski took a big step toward that goal in the History 300 Nationwide race. A gamble on fuel mileage worked and he was victorious over Denny Hamlin. It was his second career victory at CMS.
He now has a win and two seconds in a little over a week at Charlotte.
He’ll start 24th in the Coca-Cola 600, certainly not a stellar qualifying effort but, given the race’s 600 miles, one that can be overcome.
Incidentally, he was fastest in the final Cup practice session Saturday with a speed of 183.692 mph. He made only five laps and was, obviously, very satisfied.
There were predictions the 600 could evolve into a battle between Keselowski and Jimmie Johnson, the pre-race favorite.
If so, it will take time to develop, for several reasons.
“I definitely think there’s a transition from other races here to the 600,” Keselowski said. “As a driver, You have to be a little more patient.
“But it’s probably more of a transition for the crew chiefs than it is for the drivers because, at the end of the day, it’s still our job to drive the cars very, very hard and make ‘em go fast.
“The crew chiefs have to make sure the cars have a more appropriate balance of speed and reliability. Speed being on a long run versus a short run and reliability being parts and components that don’t fail in such a long race.”
Keselowski added that the month of May is huge for Penske Racing because it competes in NASCAR and IndyCar – where Penske has been hugely successful for years – on the same day.
Keselowski would like nothing more than to see Penske enjoy victory in both the 600 and the Indianapolis 500.
“Roger has had a lot of success at the Brickyard and that’s great to see,” Keselowski said. “We want to have success here, too.
“But pulling off a weekend sweep isn’t an easy thing to do. I don’t know if it’s ever been done. I know how much it would mean to Roger to pull it off.
“It’s a great opportunity – and that’s the key word I want to use. I’m just happy that I have fast enough race cars to have a legitimate opportunity.
“Roger cares so much about both programs. I feel very lucky to have an owner that engaged.”
If Keselowski wins the 600, it’s very likely thousands and thousands of fans will know sbout it only minutes – perhaps seconds – after the race is over.
Why? Simple. He’ll be “tweeting.”
Author: Steve Waid