Why I Love NASCAR: Brad Keselowski

Credit: Debbie Ross for Skirts and Scuffs

Some names on NASCAR’s Sprint Cup circuit did not get on my radar until much later. Names like Petty, Earnhardt, Labonte, and Bodine were all a part of my NASCAR. As the years went on and I fell out of my regular viewing habits, new names appeared like Kenseth, Busch, and, even later, Keselowski. With forty-three drivers on the track, several Start and Parks in that group, and a limited attention span, it stands to reason for this “fan”, unless a driver does something newsworthy I am not likely to take much notice. Keselowski certainly got his name and reputation on the loudspeaker and perked my curiosity.

The first time I distinctly remember Brad Keselowski’s name was when he punted Carl Edwards in Talladega in the running of the Aaron’s 499 in April 2009. Keselowski, then a Nationwide regular, who had a few races in Cup that year, was racing for the lead at the very end of the race with Carl Edwards. While trying to block Keselowski’s bid for the lead in the final moments of the race, Carl Edwards went flying off the track and dramatically flew into the grandstands. Miraculously and thankfully he walked away virtually unscathed; in fact Edwards jogged away from his horrifyingly wrecked car and to the start/finish line to end the race! Brad Keselowski won the race. Unknowing that people were injured due to Carl Edwards’ accident Brad Keselowski stated, “This is NASCAR racing at its finest. I found myself laughing in the race car halfway through it because I was having so much fun. I hope the fans had fun too.” Once he was told there were injuries associated with the event Brad Keselowski explained, "There has to be some element of danger in this. It's no different than football. The fans want contact. If we hadn't had contact out there, everyone in this media center would write how boring it was."  Keselowski closed by saying, “Without the passing, the race would be boring. But you don't get 57 passes for the lead without additional danger.” Bold, unapologetic, and perfectly candid Keselowski certainly came to my attention, but I had yet to form an opinion about the boy.

The next time Brad Keselowski wandered into my notice was in Atlanta in March of 2010 for the running of the Kobalt Tools 500. In a turn of events that would be debated, defended, and deliberated for months to come, Carl Edwards tapped Brad Keselowski sending him spinning into the air. The cars had been running in speeds in excess of 190 mph. Keselowski, like Edwards before him, thankfully got out of the car with minimal injuries. During the interviews that followed the incident Keselowski commented, “It's not cool to wreck someone at 195 miles per hour." That was the end of the “payback”. The drivers have since stayed clear of one another on the track, although they are both vying for the 2011 NASCAR Sprint Cup.

The fact that Keselowski made the Chase this year as a wild card contender is interesting. His charge toward the end of the regular season was impressive, exciting, and the stuff of racing drama. With a hurt ankle due to testing gone awry to his string of wins and strong finishes, he nearly pulled off a “legitimate” spot in the Top 10, but ran out of time and had to settle for joining the Chase in one of the two wild card positions. During his win streak Brad Keselowski showed poise, grace, and graciousness in post-race interviews, something not usually associated with young drivers even though they are far more media savvy than generations before. Upon winning at Pocono in August for the running of the Good Sam RV Insurance 500 Keselowski stated that, "I'm no hero. The heroes are the guys [who] died in Afghanistan this weekend. I want to spend time thinking about them. They're my inspiration for this weekend, the things that those guys do. I'm glad that we could win today, but those are the heroes. I just drive race cars for a living." Those insightful words struck a powerful chord not only with me but with scores of others who had little else to identify with Keselowski. It solidified my respect for the boy who, up until that point, only had a reputation, a tainted one, associated with Carl Edwards and the two wrecks they had perpetrated on one another.

In addition, after every win this season Brad Keselowski asks for an American flag in lieu of the checkered flag to drive around in his victory lap. While I’ve heard some grumbling about the move, I love it and am cheered when I see it. This boy is obviously a proud American and seems to understand his place as an entertainer/athlete. He has perspective about his role in his career and seems to be centered. I can tell you, I honestly admire and respect him and am pleased for his successes this year. Were Brad Keselowski to win the NASCAR Sprint Cup this year and sit at the lead table in Las Vegas, I’d certainly tune in and give him a standing ovation! Regardless, having Brad Keselowski running in the Chase and simply in the field is yet another reason why I love NASCAR.

Why I Love NASCAR: Brad Keselowski Why I Love NASCAR: Brad Keselowski Reviewed by Chief 187 on Monday, October 10, 2011 Rating: 5