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Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Brad Keselowski: Once a young protege, now a mentor to young drivers and a legitimate title contender

A quick word on Brad Keselowski, your NASCAR Cup series points leader.

I remember speaking to him many years ago when he was driving Nationwide cars for Dale Earnhardt Jr. He had talent and true NASCAR fans knew that, but we had no idea what the future held for him -- a crazy first Cup win in 2009 at Talladega; a Nationwide title; Regular Cup wins in a new ride at Penske racing, and now legitimately competing for a Cup title.

Back then he was a protege of Dale Jr.

Now, as evidenced by Ryan Blaney’s win in Keselowski’s truck last weekend, he is the finder of proteges and the next generation of talent.

Last weekend, Brad got his first Truck win as an owner (eventually he’ll get one as a driver, I’m sure, but this will do for now). Then two days later, he won the first Chase race of 2012 and catapulted himself into 1st in points.

While it’s true that Jimmie Johnson is hot on his heels, along with ten other drivers, he has to feel good about his chances to win the Cup.

Brad’s largely unexpected rise to a power position is perhaps the most impressive surge in the sport since Jimmie Johnson began his dominating run in 2006, and he’s gathered quite a few fans along the way, in part due to his heavy social media presence and interaction with fans.

Even those of us in the state of Michigan rooting since his Truck Series days and those days at Jr. Motorsports for a hometown guy to do well back never really envisioned all of this, and it’s a pretty cool thing to see him running with, and often outrunning, future Hall of Famers like Jimmie Johnson and Jeff Gordon. People tend forget that Brad has NASCAR in his blood, with father Bob and uncle Ron being former competitors in the sport, and I know his family couldn't be prouder.

Whatever happens this year, I’m confident Brad will be a champion in the Cup series one day, possibly more than once.

For those of you surprised to see him doing so well and stealing so many headlines from the usual big names, don’t be.

He’s going to be doing it for a long time into the future. Last weekend was just the beginning.


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