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Keselowski: Mental Fitness Is The Key In The 600

Deb Williams | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Sunday, May 26 2013

Brad Keselowski says preparing the mind is as important as preparing the body when it comes to racing 600 miles in one day. (RacinToday/HHP photo by Harold Hinson)

CONCORD, N.C. – Several NASCAR drivers have a personal trainer and follow a strict workout schedule while others compete in marathons and triathlons, but none of those are for Brad Keselowski. The current NASCAR Sprint Cup champion prefers to rely on mental toughness.

“I’ve never really been big into the whole workout routine thing,” Keselowski told the media Thursday at Charlotte Motor Speedway. “I’ve always felt if you’re strong enough mentally, that you can damn near overcome anything. I feel like if you have mental strength, that you can do anything. That doesn’t mean you can jump off this building and fly, but it does mean that you can overcome pain and you can essentially turn off your body’s sensitivity to it. So quite honestly, I’ve spent all of my focus on being as mentally strong as possible once I get behind the wheel. Once you can do that, the rest doesn’t matter.”

Sunday’s Coca-Cola 600 at the 1.5-mile track is the longest stock car race and each year drivers are always questioned about how they deal with the event that begins in the evening and consumes nearly four hours. It’s a mentally and physically challenging event and Keselowski believes mental strength will always be one’s strongest asset.

“Mentally, you’ve either got it or you don’t,” Keselowski continued. “The big chunk of what it takes mentally to be successful in this sport, I think, really doesn’t come from training it comes from the experiences you’ve had growing up – good or bad.”

Keselowski pointed to Tony Stewart as an example. The Indiana native has earned three NASCAR Cup championships, an IndyCar title and an IROC championship. He also was the first driver to win the USAC Midget, Sprint Car and Silver Crown championships in the same season. Stewart possesses a World Karting Association title as well.

“You look at where he’s come up and how he’s come up in the sport and how he’s had to fight, dig and claw every step of the way, and that experience, I think, builds you tougher more so than anything else,” Keselowski said. “I’m 29 years old and I didn’t get my first opportunity to really run in Cup until I was 27. At that same time I was watching other drivers – the Kyle Buschs and Joey Loganos who had their first Cup opportunities in their early 20s and I think at least one of them at least at 19, and you see that and it makes you madder than hell because you feel like you could do it if you had the opportunity and you didn’t get it. I think that fuels some of your mental strength and fuels your drive to have something to prove.

“When those moments come that we all have, where you’re starting to break down mentally, that’s in the back of your head, that’s in the back of your mind, and gives you the fuel it takes to keep going and keep burning. That, to me, is what the mental strength of this sport is all about.”

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

Deb Williams | Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Sunday, May 26 2013
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