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Sunday, April 26, 2009

Michigan's own Brad Keselowski stuns NASCAR with win at Talladega


That’s all I can say after watching Oakland County’s own Brad Keselowski pull off a stunning upset victory by passing Carl Edwards in dramatic fashion to win a Cup race in only his fifth-ever start.

Because he had to follow NASCAR’s rule of not going below the yellow line, Keselowski sent Carl Edwards flying when Edwards tried too late to block his pass for the lead on the last lap of the race at Talladega.

And as Edwards crashed into the catch fence (and luckily made it out without serious injury) the Rochester Hills native made his way to the checkered flag at the biggest, scariest place to drive in NASCAR.

Prior to the race, the thought occurred to me that Brad might have a good day. The #09 car, fielded by car owner James Finch, is always good at restrictor plate races, and has come close to wins at Daytona a couple times. Add to that a solid driver like Brad, and I figured he might get a top-10 finish if the cards fell right.

After all, this was supposed to be the year he just got his feet wet in Cup. No one expected him to win a race during his part-time schedule.

But by winning this race, he has made this year into something special. Not only is he finally running up front every week in the Nationwide series, he’s making Sundays mean something, too.

If he’s not in Cup full-time next season, something is seriously messed up. It’s difficult, with the spots all claimed at Hendrick Motorsports if Mark Martin sticks around.

It’s possible Keselowski could spend a year over at Stewart-Haas Racing in a third car, since that’s basically Hendrick version 2.0, and then move to the #5 once Mark Martin retires at the end of 2010. However it works out, even if he stays in the #09 car for all of next year, I don’t see how Keselowski can be kept out of Cup at this point. He’s a truly talented driver who can be both aggressive (as he was on the last lap) or patient (as he was most of the race), depending on the situation.

Don’t forget that this was a great weekend overall for the family, as Brad’s brother Brian Keselowski posted a 14th-place finish in the Nationwide race and locked himself in the top-30 for a guaranteed spot with family-run team. The Keselowski family, going back to their father Bob and uncle Ron, has a long history in NASCAR and is very respected. The emerging careers of Brad and Brian should continue that legacy.

It goes to show it doesn’t matter if you’re from Michigan or North Carolina (or Australia for that matter), you can make a name for yourself in NASCAR … and that’s one of the things that’s so great about the sport.

Congratulations, Brad. It may not have been a pretty win, but everyone in Michigan was cheering you on and is happy to see you achieve success at the sport’s top level.


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