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Friends-And-Family Plan Put Big Bro Into The 500

Rick Minter | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Friday, February 18 2011

Big brother Brian Keselowski gets pushed into the Daytona 500 field by little brother Brad Keselowski. (Photo courtesy of Penske Racing)

By Rick Minter | Senior Writer
RacinToday.com

Daytona Beach, Fla. – After all the lead changes, two-car drafts, possible rules changes and everything else that went on at Daytona International Speedway on Thursday, the coolest story turned out to be one of brotherly love; or at least brotherly drafting.

Brad Keselowski pushed his older brother Brian to a fifth-place finish in the second Gatorade 150-mile qualifying duel and got his unheralded brother a coveted starting spot for the Daytona 500.

That means Brian Keselowski, whose best previous NASCAR finish was a 10th at Memphis in a Nationwide Series race back in ’07, will make his Sprint Cup debut in NASCAR’s biggest race.

Keselowski, who drove a plain-white No. 92 Dodge and wore a plain black firesuit, was overcome with emotion at what he accomplished after starting dead last in the second Gatorade Duel.

He thanked Ernie Elliott for help with his engine, and pointed out that his car started out as a 2006 Dodge, built by Ray Evernham’s race team.

It came at a fire-sale price, in a package deal that included four other cars and an assortment of parts.

“I think it’s the eighth one they ever built,” Keselowski said. “Bought a package of four really old cars originally thinking we were going to make them Nationwide cars.

“At the start of last year, I moved down south. If we’re going to go COT racing, Nationwide, we got to be here.

“As bad as last year went for us, we had to do something different.  We never got a chance to cut them

Brian Keselowski made the 500 in a car cobbled together by friends and family. (File photo courtesy of NASCAR)

up and make Nationwide.  For a little bit of money, I can cut the nose, do the Daytona test.”

So that’s the direction he took, after a 2010 Nationwide effort in which he failed to qualify for five races and finished an average of 34.4 in the ones he did make.

The 500 car was put together mostly by Brian Keselowski and his father Bob, with some last-minute assistance from Uncle Ron Keselowski and a couple of volunteers who came to Daytona and bought their own licenses.

Brian Keselowski, like the likeable underdog types in any profession, said he wouldn’t have it any other way.

“It’s always been a family operation for us,” he said. “It continues to be that way. While I’d like to have a little bit of extra help so I don’t have to do the better part of it myself, I don’t know if I’d want to have it any other way.

“I love working on race cars.  It’s what I grew up doing.  I started as a kid.  I never drove a race car ‘til I was 18, I always worked on them.  I have a good knowledge of my cars inside and out of what they are.  It can only get better from here.  It’s great.  I’m so excited about it.”

Keselowski admitted that he’s been somewhat jealous of his younger brother’s success. After all, it was supposed to have been the older son who got the first racing opportunity. But when it was Brian’s time, the family couldn’t afford it. Then when Brian did get a chance to race in Nationwide, he wound up not being eligible to race at Daytona. Brad got the ride, and the rest of his story, as they say, is history.

“If the roles could have been reversed, there’s a possibility I could be in the same position (Brad) is in now,” Brian said. “There’s no guarantees. I would have liked the chance.”

But he didn’t get it. Of course, Brad might not have made it either. One never knows.

“What if it wouldn’t have worked?” Brian said. “We’d both be sitting home. It could go either way.

“We made our first Daytona 500. I guess it’s not a bad thing.”

– Rick Minter can be reached at rminter@racintoday.com

Rick Minter | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Friday, February 18 2011
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