Truck Win Has Special Significance For Keselowski
By Deb Williams | Senior Writer
BRISTOL, Tenn. – For Brad Keselowski, Thursday’s victory in the UNOH 200 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race not only made history, it also gave the Michigan native a special satisfaction on a personal and professional level.
The 30-year-old Keselowski’s victory provided him and his father, Bob, with the distinction of being the only father-son duo to have visited victory lane in the truck series. It also made him the 25th driver to win a race in each of NASCAR’s top three series.
“It was a tough road, quite honestly,” said Keselowski, whose family’s race team spanned nearly half a century and three generations before folding in 2006 for lack of sponsorship. “My family’s race team went bankrupt. It’s always been a little bit of a personal tragedy of sorts to have to go through that. That’s one of many reasons why I’m still involved in this series.”
Professionally, Keselowski views his involvement in the truck series as an opportunity to work with more people in the sport and be more hands-on than he can at the Sprint Cup and Nationwide level where he drives for Penske Racing. He considers it his chance to give drivers, such as Ryan Blaney and Tyler Reddick, and different members of the sport – fabricators, crew chiefs, over-the-wall guys, mechanics – the type of opportunity he was given when his career “was not really going anywhere.”
“To have success means you’re going about it the right way,” Keselowski continued. “We felt like we had, but we just hadn’t been able to put it all together the last few years with me driving. Ryan was leading the points up until last weekend, which was special. Now I’ve got my first win … this is just turning out to be a really special year.”
Winning a NASCAR truck race was an accomplishment that had eluded Keselowski for a decade. He even collected a NASCAR Sprint Cup championship nearly two years before he obtained a truck victory in his 62nd start.
“This is more of a personal challenge of winning races as your own boss and team owner,” Keselowski said about his truck team. “It’s more of a self-discipline personal challenge. Winning at the Cup level is a personal challenge, but it’s one I perceive in a different manner. When you have the ownership hat and the driver hat on at the same time, it definitely changes some perception. The success and the failure at this level hurts more; it affects you more personally than it does at the Cup level. You wouldn’t think it would with the fame, the money, the notoriety of the Cup series being so much higher, but I think when you add the element of being an owner and having control, the failure hits you more personal because there are no excuses. But so do the successes; they hit you harder. They mean more because you have a bigger slice of the pie as far as control is concerned.”
For Keselowski though, control isn’t the only issue. It goes much deeper because of his family’s ties to the sport and the truck series.
“I remember my dad was racing in ARCA in 1994,” Keselowski said. “I remember him coming back and saying, ‘I’m done with that. I’m going to go run in this thing called the truck series.’ I was 10 years old and I had no idea what he was talking about. He was on the cusp of really breaking through when he got hurt as a driver and went through that cycle. Then as an owner, lose sponsors and never really recover. That’s been so much of the roller-coaster and so much of the journey, but I’m grateful for it because it makes the success of today, this season and some of the success we’ve had in the past that much sweeter.”
Ironically, Bob and Brad missed each other’s first truck victories. Brad was in school when his father won a Thursday night race at Richmond, Va., in 1997, and this time Bob was traveling with his brother and Brad’s brother.
“School had just started that day so I couldn’t go to the race,” Keselowski recalled about the 1997 event. “I traveled with my family all summer to all the races and my dad was right there, about to win a race, and the second I wasn’t there he won. I was so mad. I was not very nice to my teachers the next day because I was mad at school for having to be there. I had it on VHS tape and I watched it over and over.”
This year, Keselowski wants the driver and owner championship for his truck team. Blaney is fourth in the driver standings, 24 points behind leader Johnny Sauter. Keselowski is fifth in the owner standings, also 24 points out of first.
“We have an opportunity to play a role in winning all three championships with the truck series owner’s title, the Nationwide owner’s title and the Sprint Cup championship,” said Keselowski, who planned to display his Bristol trophy at the team’s shop. “To me, that would be the ultimate achievement in American motorsports at this time. The reality is we have a very strong chance at it. That’s my goal and that’s my passion.”
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