|Brad Keselowski during driver intros at Pocono|
Credit: Karel Zubris for Skirts and Scuffs
2011 was a banner year for Brad Keselowski, first taking over the iconic No. 2 at Penske Racing and then earning three Sprint Cup Series victories on his way to a fifth place in the season standings.
2012 has seen its share of highs and lows, but Keselowski is still ahead in the standings compared to where he was this point last year. After the first 14 races of 2011 Keselowski had one win to his name, a fuel mileage victory at Kansas, and sat outside the top-20 in points. This season, with four top-5 finishes including two wins, Keselowski sits 10th in the standings as we head into the grueling summer stretch.
When Keselowski spoke with reporters on Wednesday during the weekly teleconference he wasn’t talking about points or the title, he was focused on the new racing surface at his home track of Michigan International Speedway. “I'm hungry to run well every week. Michigan is just a little bit extra special,” Keselowski remarked on what it’s like to run at home. Although he’s never won a Sprint Cup Series event at MIS he does have two Nationwide victories at the two mile track.
Speculating that the top speeds at Michigan will be somewhere in the 215 to 220 range, Keselowski said that it will be hard to tell just how fast the speeds are and how much your car will pick up until the end of the final practice session. Pointing out that speeds at Pocono went up three seconds over the course of the weekend Keselowski says he isn’t afraid of Michigan being too fast. “Well, to me, too fast is when we start flying in the grandstands. Until then, it's just a matter of how much pride you have and how much heart you have being a race car driver.”
As for whom he thinks will be the toughest competition this weekend, the driver of the Blue Deuce said that the biggest threat comes from Hendrick and Gibbs drivers because of their speed. “It's just a matter of executing the weekend from there when you have speed. That's your cornerstone, speed, as far as weekend performance is concerned. And that group, or those two groups, I should say, have the most speed.”
In addition to talking about the upcoming weekend at MIS, Keselowski opened up about his thoughts on former Penske teammate Kurt Busch. Busch, who parted ways with the team after last season has been in hot water in recent weeks following comments made to Bob Pockrass of the Sporting News. Keselowski said, “You know, I hate to throw him under the bus or do any of those things, but I do know as a sport, we rely on the media to be the voice of the fans, and in that case, I think there was certainly some fan interest in what had preceded beforehand that justifies some of the line of questioning that he was subject to.”
Calling Busch, “the most talented driver I’ve ever worked with in Sprint Cup,” Keselowski went on to talk about the importance of sponsorship in today’s NASCAR. “We are in a period of time in this sport where your ability to bring in funding for sponsorship is almost more important than your ability to run well or run competitively once you get behind the wheel, and so that does not favor a guy like Kurt, and that's a bit unfortunate to me. I think that's bad for the sport.”
With NASCAR’s new integration with Twitter and the dedicated page launched last weekend at Pocono, Keselowski, who has become somewhat of a poster boy for the partnership said he first joined the site after getting an iPad from Nationwide following his 2010 championship. “I feel very fortunate to have a role as a leader in the sports integration of social media, specifically through Twitter. So that's a bit of an honor that I feel lucky to have, certainly from a competitor standpoint.”
Keselowski along with Samantha Busch, Trevor Bayne, and several others are being featured in new commercials from Twitter showing the partnership between the sport and the social media giant. View Keselowski’s commercial here.