Keselowski a true talent, will leave his mark in Cup series
Mark my words. This kid is a winner.
I’m talking about Brad Keselowski the 24-year-old from Rochester Hills who grew up in a family that has long been one of the great mom-and-pop operations in NASCAR.
Brad (pictured at right in an Associated Press photo after winning at Nashville) grew up in that atmosphere, learning from his father Bob Keselowski, a Truck Series race winner, and uncle Ron Keselowski, who drove in the Cup series for several years in the 1970s.
Starting out at Oakland County’s Waterford Hills racetrack in quarter-midgets, Brad has worked his way through the ranks, often in family-owned vehicles, and his hard work led to results that caught the attention of Dale Earnhardt Jr.
Prior to the 2008 season, Jr. gave Brad a call and asked him if he wanted to drive the Nationwide car for JR Motorsports. At the time, it must have seemed like a dream come true, and little did Brad know just how key that move would be to his career.
In a Nationwide series that has become dominated by Cup drivers like Kyle Busch, Denny Hamlin, Tony Stewart and Clint Bowyer, Keselowski has been the biggest bright spot among Nationwide-only full-timers. His #88 Navy has raced up front with these heavy hitters from Cup all season, won two races, and up until a couple weeks ago he was within shouting distance of the points lead.
He has clearly shown he has the goods to compete against the best. … that’s pretty good for a kid from the Detroit suburbs.
And those Cup guys better remember his name, because it was just announced Monday that Brad will be attempting the Charlotte and Texas races this year in the #25 Cup car for Hendrick Motorsports.
Keselowski is the perfect prototype of a superstar in today’s NASCAR. He’s a young, marketable and talented driver. Any team would love to have him, but through his association with Jr. he’s pretty much linked with Hendrick, and they would be crazy to let him go.
Brad will run a full season in Nationwide in 2009, with sponsorship soon to be announced after the Navy deal came to an end, but he should also run the maximum seven Cup races to keep rookie status for 2010.
After that, you can bet he’ll be behind the wheel of a Cup car in 2010. The #24, #48 and #88 aren’t going anywhere, so that just leaves the #5 at Hendrick, as the four-car rule will be in place by then. If Hendrick sticks to the plan of having Mark Martin in that car part-time in 2010, look for then to lend Keselowski out to Stewart-Haas Racing for a year until Martin’s time in that car is done.
But I have a feeling it won’t come to that, and the #5 will be all Keselowski’s in 2010, and he’ll make his home state proud by following in the footsteps of other successful Michigan driving talents like Johnny Benson, Benny Parsons (a former Detroit cab driver) and Jack Sprague.
“About all I know is racing,“ Brad told me last week.
Based on his results on the track this year, I believe him.
And soon, everyone in the Cup garage will, too.