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Keselowski’s Hurting But At Least He’s Living

| Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Saturday, August 6 2011

Brad Keselowski watches his car being prepped for practice at Pocono on Friday. (RacinToday/HHP photo by Harold Hinson)

By Jim Pedley | Managing Editor

Brad Keselowski has been involved in some dramatic, high-flying, debris-spraying, holy-crap wrecks during his racing career. And then there was the one he survived earlier this week during a test session at the Road Atlanta road course.

“It wasn’t good,” the Penske Racing driver said Friday at Pocono Raceway, site of Sunday’s Sprint Cup race. “The biggest thing is that I felt lucky that was all that was tore up. I hit about as hard as you can hit in one of these cars and I’m still here somehow.”

The wreck, which involved slamming into a wall unprotected by SAFTER barriers at about 100 mph, destroyed Keselowski’s Cup car. It also necessitated a helicopter trip to a hospital where he was diagnosed with a broken ankle.

The injury forced Keselowski to withdraw from Saturday night’s Nationwide Series race, but is not preventing him from racing at Pocono. Or, at least starting the race at Pocono.

While Penske racing has backup plans should Keselowski begin suffering too much pain during the race, Keselowski said no backup will be needed.

“I’m not going to get out (of the car),” Keselowski said. “I don’t care how much it hurts.  That’s not going to happen.  Sam (Hornish Jr.) is going to drive my car at Iowa (Nationwide).  I would go there if they would let me. I don’t think I’m going to be able to convince Roger (Penske) of that. I can tell you, I’m not getting out Sunday.”

Brad Keselowski rests his injured ankle at Pocono. (RacinToday/HHP photo by Alan Marler)

Keselowski, who won last weekend’s Nationwide race at Lucas Oil Raceway in Clermont, Ind., said there is not a whole lot he can do about the pain.

“I got to take a Motrin or two and they put some pain medicine in me while I was at the hospital through an IV; I don’t know what that was,” he said. “Thank God for that. Otherwise, it would have been really bad, really rough.  I’ve been really lucky that each day I’ve recovered tremendously.  All the swelling in both my feet have gone down.  I’m able to walk and do the things it takes to be a race car driver.”

The mental pain he suffered just before impact was not so swell either.

“As a driver, probably one of your worst nightmares is going through a corner, like that one was, without a safer barrier, without any of the stuff that we’ve got used to and got accustomed to, without brakes,” the 2010 Nationwide Series champion said. “And knowing that I had two or three seconds staring at a wall, knowing that I was going to hit it about as hard as you possibly could.  Probably less comforting was knowing that it was a temporary wall and on the other side was trees, so I figured I was going to end up in the trees.  Somehow, I made it through it, broke the wall down and came flying through on the other side.”

And after impact?

“I was pretty sure after I hit the wall that I had broken everything that I could break,” Keselowski said. “I was hurting pretty good.  I guess, you know, a few days recovery and I just healed up.  I feel pretty decent now.  Walking isn’t all that easy, but that’s just the deal. You get in the race car and make it work somehow.”

The injury is to Keselowski’s left ankle. And with Keselowski being a left-footed braker, and with this weekend’s Ponoco race necessitating gear changes and clutch use, the 26-year-old Michigan native will be challenged like crazy inside his race car.

“I can tell you, I’ve checked my brakes a couple extra times before each corner,” he said.  “It’s not an easy place to drive with your foot tore up.  Coming to Pocono this year, they opened up the shifting rule, so that means you do a lot more with your feet.  It requires a little more finesse.  Finesse certainly isn’t something I wouldn’t say you have when your feet hurt.  It’s going to be tricky all weekend.”

The timing of the injury is also bad in terms of the remainder of his season. Keselowski is currently 21st in points and out of contention for a Chase berth based on points alone.

But he has a victory this season and were he able to work his way into the top 20 between now and the start of the playoffs next month, he would be a prime Wild Card-berth candidate.

“This is about the worst time knowing we’re coming up on the Chase,” he said, “knowing that we need another win to get in, knowing that we have tracks coming up that require a lot of finesse with the brakes – Watkins Glen and here at Pocono.  And then, you’ve got one of the toughest races of the year with Bristol, it’s 500 laps on a short track.  There’s no good time, but this is certainly the worst time.”

Then there is the good news.

“I consider myself a lucky guy to have walked away and be here,” he said.

– Jim Pedley can be reached at jpedley@racintoday.com

| Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Saturday, August 6 2011
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