The finish of last year's Aaron's 499 Sprint Cup race at Talladega Superspeedway has been called a lot of things by a lot of people. Fans have called it exciting, drivers have called it potentially lethal and NASCAR has called it's just drivers havin' at it. This week, with the 2010 Aaron's 499 just days away, Brad Keselowski had few problems with people calling it the event that made him a star and helped land him a top Cup ride. And, he indicated, with Talladega being Talladega, more stars could be made this Sunday. The finish of the 2009 race, replayed ad nauseam courtesy of YouTube and television, shot Keselowski out of obscurity. As he and Carl Edwards diced for the lead on the final lap at about 200 mph, Edwards slid low to block Keselowski. But his car didn't clear Keselowski's, contact was made and Edwards' car launched into the air, where it was hit again by Ryan Newman and pirouetted into the catch fence just yards from spectator-packed grandstands.
Keselowski earned his first Cup win for James Finch's part-time team and months later got a phone call from Roger Penske, leading to this year's deal for a coveted seat.
Coincidence? Keselowski was asked exactly that this week.
"That's a great question," he said. "One that I'm not in a good place in time to answer. You know, a lot of great things have happened to me over the last 12 months, and, you know, coming back to Talladega is a great chance to reflect upon that. But to know where I'd be, geez, man, it's so hard."
Keselowski said there are few better places in NASCAR for young stars to be made than at Talladega. The racing there, with its high speeds and restrictor plates and bump drafting and, yes, big wrecks, can be a wonderful place for fans to meet and fall in love with drivers.
"I think the win that I had at Talladega last year exemplifies the core of the sport where the core of stock car racing rises to popularity, and that's that any driver can win a race, based on his own moves, his own risks, his own strategy," Keselowski said.
Meanwhile, Bob Osborne, Edwards' crew chief, said the mechanical bits of cars are more important at other places.
"Talladega is challenging for a crew chief because so much of it is out of our control," Osborne said. "We do the best we can to get the car handling well and create a smart pit strategy, but most of this race depends on the driver and the spotter."
But neither Osborne, his driver nor any other driver can be hoping that another star is made at their expense on Sunday.
Lives are at stake — in the cars and in the grandstands — and hopes for a championship are at stake.
"Obviously a year ago the finish was a little more exciting than I would have liked," Edwards said. "But we were in a position to win. We're going to go back with points in mind (he's 15th) considering the trouble we had in Atlanta and Texas, and hopefully we can come out of Talladega in one piece."