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Keselowski Finds Nice Gift For Wealthy Owner

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Saturday, November 6 2010

Brad Keselowski and team owner Roger Penske are No. 1 in the Nationwide Series in 2010. (Photo by Rusty Jarrett/Getty Images for NASCAR)

By John Sturbin | Senior Writer

Fort Worth, Texas – Brad Keselowski clinched his first NASCAR Nationwide Series championship Saturday afternoon at Texas Motor Speedway, and in the process posed a timely answer to one life’s enduring mysteries.

“It’s hard to give a billionaire something, you know?” said Keselowski, referring to team-owner and motorsports mogul Roger Penske. “What do you give this guy? Well, here’s a trophy, and it’s pretty cool.”

Keselowski’s third-place finish in the O’Reilly Auto Parts Challenge sealed the 2010 NNS title with two events to spare at the expense of race-winner Carl Edwards. The series champion in 2007, Edwards snapped Kyle Busch’s five-race series winning streak at TMS via a green-white-checkered finish that the latter charged was illegal.

“Carl Edwards jumped the restart by about three lengths before the double red marks,” a visibly agitated Busch said during his post-race interview in the infield media center.

Asked if he had relayed that opinion to NASCAR officials, Busch replied: “Does it (f ——) matter? Race is over. Guy’s in Victory Lane.”

And Busch – whose bid for a record sixth consecutive win fell short by 0.702-seconds –promptly exited, stage right.

“I don’t expect him to be happy,” Edwards said when informed of Busch’s remarks.

As duly noted on the ESPN2 telecast, Edwards got a huge jump on the GWC restart on Lap

Carl Edwards went through the fence and into the grandstands to do a meet-and-greet with Texas Motor Speedway fans after winning Saturday's race. (Photo by Todd Warshaw/Getty Images)

204, following a caution caused when Clint Bowyer’s car started spewing smoke and fluid on Lap 199 of the scheduled 200.

“I did what I had to do to win the race,” said Edwards, driver of the No. 60 Copart.com Ford Fusion. “It really doesn’t matter what he (Busch) says.”

Despite the win, Edwards ended the day an insurmountable 465 points behind Keselowski with races at Phoenix International Raceway and Homestead-Miami Speedway remaining. Busch, the 2009 series champion, is third in points despite a staggering 12 victories, 21 top-five and 24 top-10 finishes in 27 starts.

Those stats compare favorably to those of Keselowski, a 26-year-old native of Rochester Hills, Mich. Keselowski has compiled six wins, 24 top-five and 27 top-10 results in his third full season in the series and first with Penske Racing and its 72-year-old patriarch.

“He’s ‘The Captain,’ ” Keselowski said of Penske, who now can count 23 national championships, more than 330 victories and nearly 400 poles across various stock car, open-wheel and sports car series. “This was awesome and it’s incredible that we were able to get him a championship.”

But Penske made his reputation at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, where generations of Indy-car heroes ranging from Mark Donohue to Rick Mears to Helio Castroneves have presented him with a record 15 Indy 500 poles and as many victories. A championship in any of NASCAR’s three national touring series remained the one domestic racing bauble to elude him, until Saturday.

“We’ve been in NASCAR a long, long time,” said Penske, who first entered cars in the series in 1972. “To me, it’s like winning the Indy 500 for the first time. What can you say; it’s a team sport and a team effort. To me, that’s what we came here for. (Crew chief) Paul Wolfe, the whole group, they worked their heart out and we got the results.

“Obviously, Brad is a great driver. Paul and all the team members that put this together…this deal came together quickly. At the beginning of the season, we had a vision on how to win this championship. We had the reliability and our guys put it together.”

Keselowski, driver of the No. 22 Ruby Tuesday/Discount Tire Dodge Charger, also gave the manufacturer its first Nationwide championship. Dodge drivers have won seven Sprint Cup titles and two in the Camping World Truck Series.

Keselowski joined Penske’s camp after two seasons in the NNS series with Junior Motorsports, the Chevrolet team owned by Cup star Dale Earnhardt Jr.

“Coming to Penske Racing I told Roger I wanted to do this Nationwide deal and he looked at me like I was crazy,” said Keselowski, a second generation racer.”Why not? Might not ever happen, but all you can do is lay the foundation for it.

“It’s just awesome to think and reflect. It’s here, it really happened. I feel like I should be going to Disney World or something. And you think back on what it means to be a champion in any sport, how few people get that opportunity. You think about the people who make sacrifices for you…so many pieces it takes at this level. I’m really humbled and thankful for everyone.”

Keselowski’s aggressive driving style has seen him clash with Edwards in both the Cup and Nationwide series. But shortly after exiting his car and venturing _ helmetless _ into the frontstretch grandstands to celebrate with some of the estimated 72,500 fans, Edwards sought-out Keselowski.

“You think I congratulated him?” Edwards asked, mischievously. “I congratulated him. It’s his first championship and he’s done a good job. That whole team’s done a good job. Yeah, we had our differences and battled, but today is his championship day and he beat us. So that’s the way it is.”

– John Sturbin can be reached at jsturbin@racintoday.com

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Saturday, November 6 2010
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