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Brian Keselowski Gives Himself The Hook In Nationwide Series

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Thursday, August 20 2009
Brian Keselowski drover the No. 26 Nationwide Series car until his team manager removed him.  (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images for NASCAR)

Brian Keselowski drover the No. 26 Nationwide Series car until his team manager removed him. (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images for NASCAR)

By Jeff Hood | Senior Writer

In baseball vernacular, team manager Brian Keselowski walked to the mound and gave himself the hook.

After failing to qualify for last month’s NASCAR Nationwide Series Kroger 200 at O’Reilly Raceway Park in Indianapolis, the 27-year-old driver from Rochester Hills, Mich. made one of the most difficult decisions in his racing career.

After missing his third show of the season, Keselowski had seen enough. He voluntary pulled himself out of his family-owned Dodge.

“I had to step out of the driver’s seat because I basically had to manage the team,” said Keselowski, who oversees the No. 26 Dodge and the No. 96 Dodge regularly driven by Camping World Truck Series driver Dennis Setzer.

“I’ve got Michael McDowell driving the No. 26 car now. He’s doing an incredible job. I stepped back and decided to crew the car myself.

“I decided to go down a road a little bit different from where we’ve been going and saw some things that we really like. Michael has been a great help.”

Keselowski’s call to the racing bullpen paid big dividends quickly. McDowell’s eight-place finish at Iowa Speedway on Aug. 1 propelled the No. 26 Dodge back into the top 30 in owner points.

As long as the team is able to maintain its position in points, it will be guaranteed a starting berth in each race. That’s a major weight off the shoulders of Keselowski, who admits that it’s a major undertaking just to pay the organization’s bills each month.

But Keselowski continues to feel some of the stress associated with go-or-go-home qualifying. With 50-plus cars the norm on Nationwide Series entry lists each week, Keselowski is still forced to watch and hope the No. 96 Dodge is fast enough to make the field.

Keselowski said without the economies of scales that comes with running two cars, he likely wouldn’t be able to survive financially.

“We need to start getting both cars back into the show,” Keselowski said. “The No. 96 is basically my sponsor car, and it’s so tough to find sponsorship in this day and age.

“If I don’t do the second car, we’re not going to be able to survive. I want to race that 26 car. I don’t want to see that thing have to go into a start-and-park mode like a lot of other teams have had to go to. I completely understand that if you don’t pay the bills it doesn’t matter.

“But if we continue on with the way we’ve been running in the 26 car, then we’ll be fine. And all I’ve got to worry about is racing one car and qualifying the other. I think we can do it. We just need things to fall into place.”

McDowell’s misfortune following Daytona in July turned into an opportunity for Keselowski.

The 24-year-old McDowell became available after he lost his ride in the No. 47 JTG/Daugherty Toyota last month when the sponsorship money dried up.

“Obviously for Brian, it’s a relief not to have to make the races [in the No. 26],” said McDowell, who is driving the car on a week-to-week basis, including Friday night’s Food City 250 in Bristol, Tenn. “He’s a great driver. But balancing owning the team and running the other cars as well, crew chiefing them and driving them is just tough.

“This series is far too competitive to have to balance all those things. So it takes a little bit of stress off his plate here and helps him, hopefully, recoup some of the races that they lost by not making the show.”

Keselowski, who hasn’t ruled out getting back behind the wheel of the car someday, hopes to get the same opportunity as his younger brother Brad Keselowski, who visited victory lane at their home track in Michigan on Saturday in the No. 88 Chevrolet owned by Dale Earnhardt Jr.

“Everything Brad’s got right now is just awesome, and that’s just what a driver dreams for,” Brian Keselowski said. “If I can get in the same situation he’s in right now, that would be incredible.

“I’d really love to be in that same deal. Sometimes it just isn’t going to happen. It’s a one-in-a-million shot, what he got, and it’s really working out for him.

“I’ll wish him the best for the future. And I just hope that sometime in the future I can get the same opportunity.”

– Jeff Hood can be reached at jhood@racintoday.com

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Thursday, August 20 2009
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