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Young Drivers Not Into Taking Short Route To Cup

Rick Minter | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Friday, August 24 2012

Brad Keselowski didn't want to become Dick Trickle. (RacinToday/HHP file photo by Alan Marler)

By Rick Minter | Senior Writer
RacinToday.com

BRISTOL, Tenn. – A few observations from the early race weekend at Bristol Motor Speedway:

At the close of a media event in which the paint scheme for the No. 2 Dodge was unveiled, Brad Keselowski sat around with a small group of reporters and gave his thoughts on how young drivers get Sprint Cup rides.

He said that in his case he focused on the goal of a Cup ride from the start, never really trying to be the best Late Model driver in the land.

He said that being a success in short track racing didn’t automatically make him a better candidate for a ride in NASCAR’s elite division.

“I didn’t want to be another Dick Trickle,” he said of the legendary short tracker who won more than 1,000 feature races but none in the Cup series.

He agreed with the observation that NASCAR’s most successful racer of late, Jimmie Johnson, had a less than stellar record in Late Models, ASA and even the Nationwide Series.

Keselowski also said that it may be 10 more years before there’s a demand for young drivers. The current line-up in the Cup Series is relatively young and those drivers still enjoy what they do for a living.

Rusty Wallace, whose induction into the NASCAR Hall of Fame will be honored on Keselowski’s car Saturday night, described racing on a high-banked, high-speed track like Bristol in terms that few drivers readily acknowledge.

Wallace, who won nine Cup races at Bristol, said that in the heat of battle, he would try to focus on the flagstand to be sure which straightaway he was on.

Doug Kenimer, the retired dirt racing star from Dahlonega, Ga., often said that when he was racing on short, high-speed tracks, he’d be at such a level of intensity that he wasn’t really aware of which straightaway he was on.

All but overlooked in the debate over the changes to the track at Bristol Motor Speedway was the late-race charge by Ross Chastain in Wednesday’s Camping World Truck Series race.

Chastain, who grew up on a 500-acre watermelon farm in Florida, rode the high groove, the one that was supposed to be rendered ineffective, to go from 20th place to third in the final 50 laps.

“Bryan Berry gave me an awesome truck, and it took me about 120 laps to figure out how I needed to run it and to move up to the lanes I needed to,” Chastain told reporters after the race. “I can’t say enough for the SS Green Light team and Melon 1 for sticking behind me. It s been tough; we’ve had some tough races this year for sure but the whole watermelon industry is behind me and we are looking to run the whole year, but we still need some more help.”

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

Rick Minter | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Friday, August 24 2012
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