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Minter: Keselowski Has A Throwback Demeanor

Rick Minter | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Monday, September 5 2011

Brad Keselowski showing class and grit as he drives his way to the top in NASCAR. (RacinToday/HHP file photo by Gregg Ellman)

By Rick Minter | Senior Writer
RacinToday.com

HAMPTON, Ga. – Last week at Bristol Motor Speedway I had the chance to spend some time visiting with two-time Sprint Cup champion Terry Labonte.

Among the things that struck me about that chance meeting was how young and fit Labonte seemed, even though his hair was grayer and his race cars much slower than in his heyday in NASCAR.

It also was interesting to see once again how a true champion handles things as simple as a conversation with a reporter. He was confident, truthful and as interested in finding out what was going on in the reporter’s life as he was in recounting his own recent adventures.

A week later I had a chance to travel with Brad Keselowski to an appearance on behalf of his Nationwide Series sponsor Discount Tire. It soon occurred to me that Keselowski has, at a relatively young age, come to have a lot in common with Labonte, and with other former Cup champions I’ve come to know.

When we got in the car, he turned to the back seat where I was sitting and asked me what kind of music I liked. Soon there was some of my classic country favorites coming out the speakers.

I pointed out the significant age difference between us by telling him that it didn’t seem so long ago that the young Keselowski on the Cup circuit was Brad’s uncle Ron, who made 68 Cup starts back in the early

Brad Keselowski and Mike Bliss in NASCAR garages. (RacinToday/HHP file photo by Erik J. Perel)

1970s.

He pointed out that it was his older brother Brian’s 30th birthday.

“I can’t believe my brother is 30 years old,” he said.

A conversation that got off to a good start got even better.

He seemed to have an understanding of the history of the sport, and of world affairs in general, that was extraordinary given the fact that he’s just 27 himself and operates in an environment where many get so consumed with racing that they don’t notice what’s going on in the outside world.

At the tire store, Keselowski did and said all the right things to the fans and employees of the store. It could be argued that he was putting on an act, with me and with the folks he met, but I’d bet against it.

Keep in mind that he’s the hottest driver in racing, one who was about to run both the Nationwide and Cup races. And he was on a tight deadline to make a press conference at the track, then get to the real business behind the wheels of his Penske’s Dodges.

But his manner never changed. On the way back to the track, we swapped a few more stories, and he seemed to be more interested in hearing mine than telling his.

I got the sense that when the pressure of the Chase comes to bear, this kid won’t choke. And that will make for a very interesting 10 weeks.

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

Rick Minter | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Monday, September 5 2011
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