Keselowski Completes Championship Year
HOMESTEAD, Fla. – It wasn’t very long ago that Brad Keselowski was struggling to find a ride in one of NASCAR’s premier touring divisions.
The son of life-long racer and former ARCA champion Bob Keselowski, Brad Keselowski had nearly run out of options in 2007 when an opportunity arose for him to drive a competitive entry in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series.
Jumping in the No. 9 Toyota fielded by Germain Racing in place of suspended driver Ted Musgrave at Memphis (Tenn.) Motorsports Park, Keselowski sat on the pole and nearly won the race. Had it not been for late-race contact with Travis Kvapil, Keselowski likely would have won the race.
That performance, as it turns out, was the start of Keselowski’s push to stardom in NASCAR.
Watching that day was Dale Earnhardt Jr., who saw something in the way Keselowski raced that day in Memphis. Earnhardt decided to give Keselowski the chance to drive one of his NASCAR Nationwide Series midway through the 2007 season and one year later Keselowski found victory lane for the first time in NASCAR competition.
Keselowski won six times while driving for Earnhardt and even won a Sprint Cup race at Talladega Superspeedway while driving for James Finch.
In 2010 Keselowski departed JR Motorsports for an opportunity to drive a Sprint Cup entry fielded by the legendary Roger Penske. He struggled in Sprint Cup during his first full season, but that same year he dominated the NASCAR Nationwide Series en route to the series championship.
One year later Keselowski broke through in Sprint Cup competition, winning three times and finishing fifth in the championship standings. All of that despite a badly broken left ankle following a testing crash at Road Atlanta in Braselton, Ga., midway through the season.
Then came the 2012 season.
Keselowski scored three wins prior to the Chase for the Sprint Cup to put himself near the top of the list of contenders that included names like Jimmie Johnson, Denny Hamlin, Tony Stewart and Matt Kenseth.
He started the Chase in victory lane, winning at Chicagoland Speedway in Joliet, Ill. Two races later he found victory lane again at Dover (Del.) Int’l Speedway, taking the championship lead in the process with five-time champion Johnson hot on his heels.
Johnson chased Keselowski in the standings until the series got to Martinsville (Va.) Speedway, where Johnson won the race and moved to the top of the standings. Johnson won again the following week at Texas Motor Speedway, but not before surviving a furious battle with Keselowski.
Everything changed at Phoenix Int’l Raceway when Johnson blew out a tire and slammed the wall, suddenly putting Keselowski in the driver’s seat in their fight for the championship. Johnson’s bad luck continued at the season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway, his No. 48 Chevrolet breaking a rear-gear with 41 laps left.
Some will say it was Johnson’s misfortune that made Keselowski the 2012 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion. In truth, it was Keselowski’s perseverance and drive to succeed that made him a champion. Now he has a trophy to prove it.
“I saw this really cool video that Ray Lewis did. He said that throughout my whole life I’d been told I wasn’t big enough, I wasn’t fast enough, I wasn’t strong enough and I didn’t have what it takes,” Keselowski said. “I’ve used that as a chip on my shoulders to carry me through my whole career. It took until this year for me to realize that it was right. I’m not big enough, fast enough or strong enough. No person is. Only a team can do that. These guys up here, they make me big enough, they make me fast enough, they make me strong enough to do anything we want to do.
“I can’t be here without them, I really can’t. This isn’t a one man effort. I might get the glory, but it is about these guys, it is about my family. I use the saying all the time that life is a team sport. Sport is about being a part of this world, being in this life. My family is a part of my team just like these guys are, my coworkers. Without them I’m nothing. I’m just very proud, very happy for every one of them.”