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Monday, February 21, 2011

Keeping up with the Keselowskis ... Michigan brothers show love in qualifying Duel

In addition to Trevor Bayne, one other NASCAR name got national attention for the first time this week – Brian Keselowski.

Being from Michigan, I am quite familiar with the Rochester Hills-based Keselowski family and their body of work, and have spoken to both Brad and Brian and know their unique story – which was finally aired on a national stage this week after remaining pretty unknown until now.

As I watched Brad push Brian to the front in the Duel race, I couldn’t believe my eyes. Here was team that showed up at Daytona on pure hope, didn’t even have the car ready until after they arrived at the track and did some more work, and was painfully slow all week during practice.

Point blank: Brian had no shot at making the race – and with a shoestring budget and little options for this year, that could have been curtains for the team. (which, basically, consists of Brian and his father at this point). So when Brad got behind him and pushed his big brother, who had never gotten the breaks Brad did, it was even bigger than the national media even realized.

Both brothers came up racing, but were often vying for the same ride, and Brad ended up on a bright career path while his older brother struggled to make races and recently has been doing a lot of starting and parking. Brian admitted this week, amid all the media scrutiny following his making the race, that he had some feelings of resentment and jealousy toward Brad in the past when he was passed over for rides.

But I’m hoping that is all in the past. Now, even though he crashed out early in Daytona and finished 41st, Brian has a new lease on his racing life. He took home about a quarter million dollars for his Daytona efforts, which will help the team get some life in it, and he plans to run for Rookie of the Year in the Cup series. Whether he’s able to make all the races and run decent at all is another matter, but at least Brian’s got a fighting chance – and it’s all due to a little brotherly love on the track in the Duel races. Watching him smiling from ear to ear after the race, you would think he just won the lottery – because in a way he did.

The Keselowski feel-good story even got the attention of some established drivers, including Kevin Harvick, who had kind words for the entire Keselowski clan.

“I think you look at that scenario and you look at the Keselowski family and everything that they’ve put into this sport, they’ll make more money off of this one race than they probably have made in years. To see that and hopefully that leads to them being able to get better cars and being able to be more competitive,” Harvick said. “It’s just really neat to see a family that’s that close and to have his brother be the one kind of pushing him up there because nobody else probably would have got behind him and said alright I’m going to stick with you and we’re going to the front, but I think Brad had the confidence in his brother to know that he can drive the race car and get behind him and push him. Usually one thing leads to another so hopefully this leads to good things. Really the Keselowski family, you couldn’t ask for better people. They’ve been around this sport for a long time and are just good people. It couldn’t have happened to better people.”

I echo that sentiment, and congratulate the entire Keselowski family for this weekend’s accomplishments, and I’m sure Bob was beaming with pride after seeing both his boys work together like that in the Duel … (though their 500 finishes won’t be remembered fondly, unfortunately).

We all know Brad has a bright future at Penske, as his past results have shown. But in addition to that, hopefully the Cinderella story that started at Daytona can continue and Brian can at least do what he’s always wanted to do – race every week and make a living at it, even if he’s never a superstar.

Here are some other stories I've written on the Keselowski brothers:
Brian Keselowski: 'That's all I do -- racing'
Native Son: Keselowski doing his best to raise Michigan's profile in NASCAR
Making his mark: Brad Keselowski thriving with new NASCAR team

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