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Keselowski Climbs To New Heights After Talladega

Jeff Hood | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Friday, May 1 2009
Brad Keselowski celebrates in Victory Lane at Talladega after winning last Sunday's race. (RacinToday photo by David Vaughn)  

Brad Keselowski celebrates in Victory Lane at Talladega after winning last Sunday's race. Keselowski doesn't drink but he does pour. (RacinToday photo by David Vaughn)

By Jeff Hood | Senior Correspondent
RacinToday.com

Richmond, Va. – NASCAR’s newest star, Brad Keselowski, began his day by jumping off a golf car and greeting autograph-seekers and well-wishers as he entered the Nationwide Series garage early Friday morning.

 Five days after Keselowski led one lap and won the Aaron’s 499 at Talladega Superspeedway, journalists packed the .75-mile Richmond International Raceway’s infield media center shortly after noon to hear the first-time Sprint Cup winner discuss his improbable victory.

 “It’s just the racing roller-coaster, man,” said the 25-year-old Keselowski, a full-time competitor in the Nationwide Series for J.R. Motorsports whose previous two Cup starts this season produced finishes of 38th at Las Vegas and 23rd at Texas. “You’re on the bottom and then you’re on the top. And sometimes you’re in the middle.

 “We’re back on the top, but that doesn’t mean I won’t get back on the bottom before the year is over. You just try to time it right where you’re on top as long as you can be. But you’ve got to take it if you’re on the bottom. And we were certainly on the bottom the first two [Sprint Cup] races this year.”

Ironically, the Rochester Hills, Mich. native will be relegated to spectator status during Saturday night’s Crown Royal presents the Russ Friedman 400.

Keselowski’s part-time Cup schedule is set to resume next weekend when he pilots the No. 25 Chevrolet for Hendrick Motorsports in the Southern 500 in Darlington, S.C.

He insists that he’s not frustrated over the fact that he’ll turn the driving chores of James Finch’s No. 09 Chevrolet over to veteran Mike Bliss this weekend.

 “I don’t think it’s soaked in that I won,” said Keselowski, who hopes to meet with Hendrick Motorsports soon about a potential Cup ride in 2010. “So it’s hard to get frustrated when you don’t even picture yourself as a winner yet.

 “I feel like I can run over there (in Cup) right now and be competitive. But the opportunity isn’t there. And until the opportunity is there, it is what it is.”

 After learning recently that his limited number of career starts (currently five) didn’t meet the requirements for him to compete in the preliminary event – the Sprint Open qualifying race – of this month’s All-Star race at Lowe’s Motor Speedway near Charlotte, Keselowski figured he’d be able to enjoy a rare off-weekend before the start of 17 straight weekends of racing in the Nationwide Series.

 But potential vacation plans were put on hold following Sunday’s Talladega victory which assured Keselowski, a two-time winner in the Nationwide Series, a berth in the All-Star event’s feature race.

“We haven’t even got the All-Star situation figured out, as far as which car I’m running,” said Keselowski, when asked if he’ll drive the No. 09 or 25.

 “I went from not even being eligible to run in the Open to being locked in the big show. That’s pretty awesome.”

 At Talladega, Keselowski said he originally planned to draft with Casey Mears during the closing laps on Sunday to push a Chevrolet to the front. Instead, he wound up hooking up with Carl Edwards’ Ford.

 That scenario setup one of the most memorable finishes in NASCAR history after Edwards’ No. 99 Fusion became airborne and slammed into the catchfence just shy of the finish line.

 It was simply a case of a racing incident where Keselowski held his line as Edwards attempted to throw a block.

 “I looked back at Talladega and I guess I keep running it through my mind,” Keselowski said. “I’m my worst critic. I keep looking back through Talladega and go ‘man, if it wasn’t for this I wouldn’t have won. Or if it wasn’t for that.’

“But I really can’t find any place that I feel bad about, or that I feel like I messed up.”

 As far as rewarding James Finch with his first win in the Cup Series, Keselowski laughed and said the post-race celebration for his car owner stretched well past Sunday.

“I saw James on Tuesday, and he was having a really good time,” Keselowski said. “It’s funny when you compare James and [me] because we are in so many ways opposite.

 “I don’t drink and James enjoys some beverages. So it’s funny for me and a unique relationship.”

Jeff Hood | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Friday, May 1 2009
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