With three races remaining in the 2009 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series (NSCS) season, Brad Keselowski made an inauspicious move to Penske Racing. Sure, after two consecutive top-three finishes in NASCAR Nationwide Series (NNS) competition in 2008 and 2009, while driving for Dale Earnhardt, Jr., Keselowski was labeled as a “driver to watch.”
Four years later he has become so much more.
Being described as a “driver to watch” was not good enough for Keselowski. Supremely confident in abilities that were hardened on the short tracks of Michigan and Ohio, along with an upbringing in a family of racers, the young driver knew just how good he could become by joining an organization like Penske Racing.
For several decades, Penske Racing has been at the top of the motorsports world. 15 Indianapolis 500 wins and 12 IndyCar titles on the open-wheel side. 78 NSCS wins, one Daytona 500 trophy and an NNS driver championship prior to the 2012 NASCAR season. Drivers with names like Donohue, Wallace and Allison have all sat behind the wheel of cars prepared by Penske Racing.
Only Keselowski was able to give “The Captain” the one mantelpiece he was missing, the NSCS championship.
As he comes to the close of his first year as a NSCS champion Keselowski has missed the Chase for the Sprint Cup, meaning a new champion will be crowned. Still, he has won a NSCS race at Charlotte Motor Speedway, kept the No. 22 Discount Tire/Hertz team in contention for the NNS owner’s title with five wins and used his champion’s pulpit to express his opinions on how the sport can continue to be better.
“I’ve definitely enjoyed my first year as a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion,” said Keselowski. “Unfortunately we couldn’t defend our title, but that makes us even more determined to get back to our old form for 2014. But to have our hauler parked in the first spot all year, to know that Roger (Penske) could finally walk through the garage as a champion car owner, made it a very special year.”
In 2010, Keselowski gave Penske Racing its first NASCAR title by winning the NNS driver’s championship by a large margin. However, the team lost out on the owner’s title. That title, the one piece of hardware that Penske Racing has never won, is a major goal for the team this year.
Keselowski’s first win for Penske Racing came in the NNS race at Talladega Superspeedway in May of 2010. The following spring, at Kansas Speedway, Keselowski scored his first NSCS win for Penske. He would follow that up with two more victories and a top-five finish in the series standings, all while racing with a bad ankle and back suffered in a testing accident at Road Atlanta. That set the table for the five-win, championship season of 2012.
“What we’ve been able to accomplish since I came to Penske Racing has been incredible,” stated Keselowski. “I wouldn’t have made the move over here in 2009 if I didn’t think we could do it, but you never really know. I think we’re just tapping into our potential and that is exciting.”
Keselowski, who recently signed an extension to remain at Penske Racing, doesn’t see himself racing anywhere else in his career. He wants to be a cornerstone of the organization for many years to come, while still continuing his endeavors as owner of Brad Keselowski Racing.
“This is where I want to be. I believe we have championships left in us, including this year’s Nationwide Series owner’s title. That’s the goal.”