Keselowski About To Be Showered by Awards
By John Sturbin | Senior Writer
On a to-do list topped by “Date a celebrity,” 2012 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion Brad Keselowski has added “Buy a tank” en route to what appears to be the inside track to the Driver of the Year award.
We’ll get to that possible tank purchase by “Bad Brad” in a moment.
But first, fourth quarter and final ballots for DOTY are due at noon today from a 21-member panel of national motorsports journalists and broadcasters. A panelist since 1996, it seems to me that Keselowski is a lock to add his name to a distinguished list of DOTY winners that began with open-wheel icon Mario Andretti in 1967 and saw Tony Stewart honored after clinching his third Cup championship one year ago.
“Yeah, it’s an award that’s been around for some time,” Keselowski said during a recent national teleconference. “I think I won the quarterly last year during the summer. So those awards aren’t something that you should take lightly, for sure. So it would be nice to win it. We’ve done some great things this year that I’m very proud of, along with many other drivers. I wouldn’t be ashamed to not win it. But on the flip side, it would mean a lot to me to (win it).”
Fourth quarter and final balloting are separate processes, although it wouldn’t be a shock if Keselowski prevailed in both. Interestingly enough, reigning IZOD IndyCar Series champion Ryan Hunter-Reay – who is on my short list of final DOTY candidates – beat Penske Racing’s Keselowski for the third quarter award.
My final ballot candidates are led by Keselowski, 28, who earned his first Cup championship by 39 points over
Clint Bowyer of Michael Waltrip Racing during a dramatic season-ender at Homestead-Miami Speedway on Nov. 18.
A five-time race-winner this season in the No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge Charger, Keselowski and crew chief Paul Wolfe outlasted five-time Cup champ Jimmie Johnson and crew chief Chad Knaus of Hendrick Motorsports to give car-owner Roger Penske his first title in NASCAR’s premier series. Penske Racing, which began running Cup races in 1972, ended the longest non-championship streak among current ownership. Penske’s best previous finish in the championship standings was second in 1993 with Rusty Wallace. In addition to his five wins, Keselowski posted 13 top-five and 23 top-10 finishes.
Hunter-Reay merits consideration after clinching his first IndyCar Series championship during the season-ender at Auto Club Speedway on Sept. 15. RHR’s fourth-place finish at Fontana, Calif., locked up the title by three points over Will Power of Team Penske. Driver of the No. 28 Team DHL/Sun Drop Citrus Soda Dallara/Chevrolet, Hunter-Reay won four races – including a summer stretch of three in a row – for Andretti Autosport. Hunter-Reay’s average finish during the 15-race season was 9.0, including seven top-five and 10 top-10 results. A 31-year-old native of Boca Raton, Fla., Hunter-Reay became the first American to win the championship since Sam Hornish Jr. in 2006.
My final two candidates are first-time NHRA champions Antron Brown and Jack Beckman, nitro teammates on the Don Schumacher Racing juggernaut.
Brown, a 36-year-old native of Chesterfield, N.J., claimed the Top Fuel world championship despite a first-round loss during the season-ender at Pomona, Calif., on Nov. 11. Driver of the Matco Tools dragster, Brown posted six wins in 11 final rounds and set a national elapsed time performance record in Round 4 of the six-race Countdown to the Championship to add 20 bonus points to his total over runnerup/teammate Tony Schumacher. Brown beat Schumacher, a seven-time world champion, by seven points. Historically, Brown became the first African-American driver to win a major U.S. racing championship, adding to the NHRA’s groundbreaking list of diversity.
Meanwhile, Beckman emerged as Funny Car world champion over DSR teammate Ron Capps by two points in the closest title finish in a class history that dates to 1974. Beckman, a 46-year-old native of San Fernando, Calif.,
won three races in the Valvoline/NextGen Dodge Charger R/T and also set a national performance record during Round 4 of the Countdown. A cancer survivor and former drag racing school instructor, Beckman’s run to the championship was jump-started after he and Capps swapped crew chiefs and teams four races into the season.
On this list, the above drivers rate ahead of two-time NASCAR Nationwide Series champion Ricky Stenhouse Jr. of Roush Fenway Racing; first-time NASCAR Camping World Truck Series champion James Buescher of Turner Motorsports; first-time NHRA Pro Stock champion Allen Johnson (and father/engine-builder Roy) of Team Mopar/J&J Racing; and Scott Pruett and Memo Rojas, who won their sixth GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series Daytona Prototype championship, and third in a row, for car-owner Chip Ganassi.
We’ll see if my fellow-panelists agree for the 46th edition of the award for North American-based series overseen by businessman Barry Schmoyer, president of the Driver of the Year Foundation in Sarasota, Fla.
Now, back to Keselowski and that tank, first mentioned during a teleconference last week and revisited during an interview Tuesday in Las Vegas, site of Champion’s Week festivities leading into Friday’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Awards banquet. The ceremonies from Wynn Las Vegas will be televised live on SPEED at 8 p.m. (EST).
Keselowski said that while he hasn’t begun the process of checking for used military tanks on eBay, he would like to purchase one from the World War II to Korean War era, roughly encompassing the 1940s to mid-1950s.
“I don’t want to do what everyone else does; I want to be different,” said Keselowski, who clinched the title with a 15th-place finish in the season-ender. Keselowski’s championship came in his 125th start, the fewest since Sir Jeff Gordon captured his first of four titles in 1995 in 93 starts.
“I’ve been looking into that (tank purchase) really all summer long,” said Keselowski, a native of Rochester Hills, Mich. “It all started with Wally Dallenbach who was telling me a story about having one. I thought, ’Wow, that would be awesome.’ So obviously living where I do (Mooresville, N.C.) and being around Dale (Earnhardt) Jr., I thought it would be cool if we both got a tank and chased each other around in the woods with them. It’s kind of our deal.
“I promised myself if I won it, I would buy one whether Dale does or not. It was kind of a little bit of motivation, I should say. I’m not one to really buy trophies for myself, but I think a tank would be pretty cool. I want to put one together and have some fun with it. When I’m done playing with it, I’ll just park it in the driveway and scare off people who aren’t supposed to be around. I don’t know. It will be fun either way.”
– John Sturbin can be reached at email@example.comNo Comment