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Keselowski Springs Back To Life At Bristol

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Tuesday, March 20 2012

Brad Keselowski heads to Victory Lane after winning at Bristol on Sunday. (RacinToday/HHP file photo by Harold Hinson)

By Deb Williams | Senior Writer

BRISTOL, Tenn.  – If you don’t want an honest answer, don’t ask Brad Keselowski, but if you want an insightful one, then go to the Michigan native.

On the eve of Sunday’s Food City 500, Keselowski tweeted that his car for the NASCAR Sprint Cup race was the best one he’d ever had. It turned out Keselowski wasn’t playing mind games with his competitors. The 28-year-old led four times for 232 laps, a career high, to capture his second straight victory at Bristol and the fifth of his young career.

“I love Bristol and Bristol loves me,” a happy Keselowski said. “It demands 100 percent out of a driver and a team. It’s tough racing that requires so much discipline mixed in with some aggression, obviously.”

Even though Keselowski dominated the event, it was by no means an easy victory. Early in the race his Dodge was damaged in a multi-car accident that dashed the victory hopes of Carl Edwards, Kasey Kahne, Kyle Busch and Marcos Ambrose. Keselowski’s team maintained its composure and made the minor repairs that were required. Then in the race’s latter stages Keselowski found himself in a lengthy side-by-side battle with Matt Kenseth.

“Matt Kenseth is the best long-run racer in Cup,” Keselowski said. “I was not very comfortable that we were going to be able to win. I didn’t feel bad about it, but I was 50/50 that I was going to be able to pull off a win with him behind me with a very, very long run to finish the race.”

Brad Keselowski is more than just a Tweeter. (RacinToday/HHP photo by Harold Hinson)

The race’s fifth and final caution period with 21 laps remaining prevented Kenseth from getting the long run that concerned Keselowski. That, however, left crew chief Paul Wolfe with a major decision.

“Probably the toughest decision of the race for me was whether or not we should pit or stay out there on that late caution,” Wolfe said. “I have a great race engineer, Brian Wilson, that definitely helps me make some of those tough decisions.

“Looking at where we were at in the race, the speed we had in our car, we felt like if we stayed out, even with guys with fresh tires, it was going to be real tough to pass us.”

Keselowski’s victory is the 10th for Penske Racing at Bristol and moves that organization into a tie with Jack Roush for second on the track’s win chart. Junior Johnson leads that category with 16. It also moves Keselowski into a tie with Edwards, Kenseth, Alan Kulwicki, Terry Labonte and Mark Martin, who have two victories each at the tough half-mile track. NASCAR Hall of Famer and three-time champion Darrell Waltrip leads that category with 12. Of the 39 different winners at Bristol, half of them have won a Cup series title.

“This is a track where champions win,” Keselowski noted. “I think it speaks volumes for this track and what it means to your career. There’s other places that perhaps have a little more prestige and I said that last year as well, but this place defines a race team. It asks so much of you. I think the teams that come out on top, whether it’s driver or whatever, I think they show that they’ve got what it takes to overcome adversity. To win championships, you have to be able to overcome adversity. I think it’s very much a defining race track in that sense.”

Keselowski even took time in victory lane to do something that defines him as probably the most social media savvy Sprint Cup driver. He tweeted a photo to his more than quarter million followers. He’s even had conversations with NASCAR about working with its partners to provide the best mobile phone service possible at its tracks.

“Certainly, in our generation, timeliness is of extreme importance,” Keselowski said.

It’s also his understanding of today’s technological world that prevented him from being overly concerned about the thousands of empty seats at Bristol on Sunday.

“The attitudes and trends of the fan base changed,” Keselowski said. “So much access is provided through TV and social media. At some point the world changed a lot over the last five to 10 years and live spectator events are tough to sell tickets to. Look at the (TV) ratings. The amount of NASCAR consumed during the week is pretty damn high. I still think the sport is very strong and very healthy. It’s a different world.”

Keselowski also believes the people who don’t like the new Bristol are “missing out on something great.” That having Cup drivers compete in the Nationwide Series makes that circuit a “character builder.” And that he’s been successful on so many different types of tracks so quickly because his family never allowed him to be what his father described as a “One-Track Jack” when he was racing Late Models.

For Keselowski, it’s all about saying what he thinks is “real”.

“Some people appreciate that and respect it,” he continued. “Other people make a big deal out of it and say, ‘You’re being negative. You’re being cocky.’ How about just being truthful? I don’t understand why when you tell people it’s good or you tell people it’s bad you’re either being cocky or you’re being negative. How about you’re saying just what you really think? Whatever happened to that being cool?”

It’s still cool Keselowski to say what you think. But as Jack Nicholson told Tom Cruise in the movie “A Few Good Men” – “You can’t handle the truth!” Maybe those people can’t either.

– Deb Williams can be reached at dwilliams@racintoday.com

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Tuesday, March 20 2012
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