As Driver, Brad Keselowski Is Far More Than Personality And Twitter

As recognized as he is as a driver, Brad Keselowski is also noted as somewhat of a "character." What helped give rise to that was his willingness to use Twitter during races, as he is doing here.

Sometimes Brad Keselowski doesn’t act like he’s 28 years old. To put it another way, he doesn’t act his age – maybe it’s more 18 rather than 28.

But that’s a good thing. Beyond just outgoing and sociable, I daresay the driver from Rochester Hills, Mich., can be downright mischievous.

He’s the guy who gained a lot of notoriety when it was learned he was on Twitter during races. He has fun with it and, I daresay, a lot of other things.

Like many of you, I’ve read several of his “tweets,” (I trust that is the correct word) and sometimes he sounds like a standup comedian.
Once I thought I’d get into the Twitter act and see what would happen. I had just written a piece about him and afterward he won that weekend’s race.

So I sent: “Great race. You made me look like a genius.”

His response: “Anything to help, bro.”

I admit I got a kick out of that.

However, while personality and a good sense of humor do count in racing, they do not, alone, make a successful driver. Results count for much more.

When the results are good, and happen often, a driver eventually becomes acknowledged as one of the best in NASCAR.

For Keselowski the results have been good. And they have occurred often.

That is the reason many think he is destined to become a NASCAR star – if he’s not already. It can’t be denied his star is on the rise.

Keselowski has proven to be a winner. That first happened in 2009, when he drove in 15 Sprint Cup races.

Six of them were with James Finch’s Phoenix Racing team.

Keselowski won at Talladega for Finch in April, a truly surprising victory because he had only a few Cup races under his belt and he won with a second-tier team.

That certainly raised eyebrows. But Keselowski wasn’t immediately tagged as a driver with a bright future. After all, unpredictableTalladega has produced more than its share of surprise winners.

Keselowski's team owner, Roger Penske, is man known for his ability to recognize talent. He hired Keselowski in 2010 and to date, the union has produced excellent results.

In 2010, Roger Penske, a team owner with a well-known eye for talent, hired Keselowski. Their first year together was mundane with no wins, only two finishes among the top 10 and a 25th in points.

But that was not unexpected. After all, it was Keselowski’s first crack at full schedule.

What was unexpected was Keselowski’s 2011 season with Penske. The third-generation driver won three times.

Two of his victories came later in the season and helped propel him into the Chase. He was 11th in points before it began and fifth at the end of the season.

“We were focused on 2011, what we could do to maximize it and we’re very proud of the season that we had,” Keselowski said last year.

“I’m very, very happy with Penske Racing.

“You know, I think we’ve got a lot to be proud of. I think as time goes on, if we can continue to grow like we have this year the sky’s the limit for all of Penske Racing.”

So far Keselowski has been proven right. He’s already won three times this year, at Bristol, Talladega and most recently, Kentucky. His three victories tie him with Tony Stewart for most this season.

Keselowski is 10th in points and with his three victories is all but guaranteed a place in the Chase for the second time in three seasons.

Lest anyone think Keselowski is just a gifted driver making the most of good equipment, at New Hampshire there was strong evidence that he is a tough, resilient competitor who can make the most of unfavorable circumstances.

Keselowski finished fifth at New Hampshire, his sixth top-five run of the year – which ties his output for all of 2011.

It wasn’t so much that Keselowski finished fifth; rather, it’s how he did it.

He started 22nd and by the 90th lap he was among the top 10. He was the only driver who started outside the top 12 to finish inside it.

He was able to do that at a track on which it is notoriously difficult to pass and in a Dodge that wasn’t, well, perfect.
“We had really good long-run speed but we weren’t as good as we needed to be on the short runs,” Keselowski said. “Our balance was a little bit shifted.

“That played a big role in it all. Track position is everything and the further up you are, the better air you’ve got. We just never really had that.”

Keselowski agreed that to finish fifth from a poor starting position was indeed a good day.

“But it wasn’t easy,” he added. “It was tough. It was hot. That’s racing and it’s not supposed to be easy.”

Clearly, Keselowski can meet the physical and mental rigors of the sport. He can overcome. That certainly enhances his status.

“It was hard fought,” he said of New Hampshire. “We drove from the back to the front. Had a really strong run.

“You hate not to be happy about it. Being happy for us is winning. But at New Hampshire, that was all we had and we all had to make the most of it. I’m proud of our effort.”

I have no doubt that many other people are as well.

For them, probably the best way to let him know is to “tweet.” He’ll get the message, for sure.

The Shootout Likely Won’t Go Away Soon

Recently I had the privilege of being on Sirius Radio with Dave Ross and Buddy Baker. One of the topics of conversation was qualifying. Specifically, the guys said no one seems to be interested in it any longer and was there a way to get more fans to attend?

One suggestion was that perhaps it would be good for the pole winner to receive championship points. That might provide some motivation for the competitors and give fans a reason to go to the track.

In days gone by drivers had motivation. A pole winner earned the right to compete in the Budweiser Shootout at Daytona International Speedway the next season. That meant more money, sponsorship exposure and track time in an “all-star” event.

I can’t tell you how many times an excited pole-winning driver said, “Hey, we made the Shootout!” in his post-qualifying interviews.

The Shootout began as the Busch Clash in 1979. Because it was open to pole winners only fields were usually small. In 1981, for example, there were only seven cars on the grid.

Few complained, however. It was considered an elite event open to those who had to earn their way into the field.
But things changed when Anheuser Busch brought an end to its Bud Pole program, which, of course, meant that the format for the Shootout’s starting lineup had to be changed.

For a time drivers representing the four manufacturers were selected for the Shootout. But Dodge dropped to only three teams and the method had to be scrapped.

It was recently announced that eligibility for the Shootout has changed again – and it’s the most convoluted ever.
The field will consist of the drivers in the top 12 in the 2010 point standings, past Sprint Cup champions, past Shootout winners, past winners of the Daytona 500 and the Coke Zero 400 and the Sprint Cup Rookies of the Year from 2000-2010. Whew!

Given these eligibility requirements the starting lineup for the Shootout will be sizable, perhaps as many as 30 cars.
But at the same time there are eligible drivers who either don’t have rides – John Andretti, for example – or who are not

currently competing in Sprint Cup racing – among them Sterling Marlin, Geoff Bodine, Ken Schrader and Derrike Cope.
It seems to be a bit a stretch, doesn’t it?

I understand – at least I think I do – what NASCAR is attempting. By enlarging the Shootout field with drivers who have, under the criteria, earned their way in is an effort to make the race interesting, not to mention more appealing for fans, whose favorite drivers are almost certain to be competing. Yep, Dale Earnhardt Jr. is one of them.

It’s been suggested that the Shootout be scrapped. It’s an exhibition event that clutters a season that runs from February to November. Many have already said the Sprint Cup schedule needs to be shortened. So why not do so with the elimination of a meaningless race?

Point well made, but it’s not going to happen.
The Shootout will certainly remain as long as Budweiser forks over the sponsorship money.
Let’s face it, the drivers aren’t going to complain about a chance to earn additional income, get more track time at Daytona and the opportunity to score bragging rights.

And I suspect NASCAR believes it can’t lure fans by taking something away from them.
Yes, the Sprint Cup schedule needs to be shortened and that’s going to take imaginative thinking. Lopping off points races won’t happen because tracks – and NASCAR – need the income. But there may come a day when we see races run during the middle of the week.

And there may also come a day when the Shootout is eliminated, something some have said should happen quickly.
As I’ve said, point well made. But I think it’s more likely to happen later than sooner.

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