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Friday, August 19, 2011

NASCAR's top stars know Brad Keselowski is a threat

Fresh off a win and a second place finish, Rochester Hills native Brad Keselowski arrived at his hometrack with a good bit of wind behind his sails, as his recent boost puts in the lead in the Chase wild card standings.
Brad’s always been regarded as a talent, but he was also was seen as a brat by some who wasn’t mature enough to really succeed.
That’s all changed now, and the sport’s greatest stars are now speaking highly of Michigan’s favorite NASCAR son.

Dale Earnhardt Jr. was impressed by how Brad drove, with a broken ankle, to a win at Pocono, and gave a nod to the Keselowski family.
“I thought he was pretty tough. His old man was tough and they come from -- he doesn’t have nothing on a silver spoon when he was young. He made his own way. Obviously he was born into a racing family, but everything that he -- to get to where he got, he had to make it there and he knows how hard it was to get there,” Jr. said. “He wasn’t going to give that opportunity to anyone else that day by having a relief driver or having someone else even race the car. He loves racing. He’s passionate and a competitor. I was happy for him and thought it was really cool, but I wasn’t surprised that he was doing whatever it took.”

Jr. went on to say that Brad has gained respect even from those who once had beef with him.
“I don’t know any rookie that’s ever come in here and not ruffled some feathers. That’s just part of the process. He earned a lot of respect I’m sure from guys,” Jr. said. ”What he did was cool and I think it was good in the eyes of the sport and to the fans and endeared him to a lot of people because of his stamina and his determination, which is good for the sport. The sport needs to see, the fans need to see that we have characters like that in the sport and that there are still guys that race -- I think all the drivers are like this, but it’s not popular opinion that we are all that gritty. You don’t really get the evidence of that too often in this day and age.”

Even 5-time himself, Jimmie Johnson, was a Brad booster Friday at MIS.
“I have a lot of respect for what his part is in the growth and the speed that Penske Racing has along with Paul Wolf and (Steve) Addington. Those guys have done an awesome job as a group taking their cars from where they were to where they are now,” Johnson said. “My perspective for Brad has been more of over the course of the year rather than just the last two races. Those last two races didn’t hurt by any means, but, you can’t argue with the success they have started since late spring and early summer and they’ve been rolling.”

And 4-time champ Jeff Gordon was equally nice in his assessment of Brad.
“I think I’ve always felt like Brad’s a really good race car driver. He’s proven that in the Nationwide Series. He’s had some success in the Cup Series and now you look at Brad and you go, ‘Okay, their performance is better.’ He’s a lot tougher than I thought he was. I think that he’s definitely got -- and that can build your confidence and momentum. Your confidence as a driver, your momentum as a team and they’ve got that right now. He told me prior to the race Monday, but he told me this I think on qualifying day. He said, ‘I don’t think I’m going to make it through this weekend, it’s really hurting.’ I don’t know if that extra day helped him or what, but he made it through and he was really strong. I think Penske has really got their act together. I don’t know what they found, but they definitely went down the right path and they’ve gotten it together. I think Brad is really being recognized now as a driver that we all thought he was when he came into the Cup Series because of his Nationwide performance and now he’s backing that up.”

Kyle Busch hasn’t always been friendly with Brad, but he brought up the #2 car when asked who could surprise everyone in the Chase.
"I think we've seen that here the last couple weeks and that's the 2 (Brad Keselowski) car. He come out of nowhere,
winning that race at Pocono and surprising us all and getting two wins on the year and now getting himself as a wild card
berth and then backing it up with a strong run this past week. He's certainly had some flashes of brilliance this year where
he's run well. He can be a guy that if he comes out here and runs well again this weekend, he's going to be a guy that's
probably going to be on everybody's mind."

So what does Keselowski think about all this adulation and his prospects of making the Chase and threatening for a title? Well, he says he’s not thinking about it, and is just focusing on winning.
“I’m thinking a lot about how we can win at Michigan. When you win, you don’t have to worry about all that other stuff. It takes care of itself. That’s where our thoughts are.”

And that’s probably the best approach to take. No need to get caught up in all the fuss; just go out and perform like you've been doing.

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