Make us your home page

Get the quickest, smartest news, analysis and photos from the Bucs game emailed to you shortly after the final whistle.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Sprint Cup leader Brad Keselowski on verge of place in NASCAR legacy


By the time Brad Keselowski climbs into his No. 2 Dodge for today's Ford EcoBoost 400, he will have watched his favorite prerace video once, twice, perhaps three times. In it, Ray Lewis, arguably the NFL's fiercest linebacker, says to "chase your legacy every second of your life" and to "leave your mark to endure forever." So what if Lewis' pitch is simply an ad for a video game. For Keselowski, the message, which Lewis delivers with preacher-like fervor, is what is important. "He brings a level of passion that is really unparalleled in his sport," Keselowski said. "It's kind of a mix of old-school mental prep that just fascinates me. I want to bring that same passion and intensity to NASCAR."

As for leaving his mark, Keselowski has the opportunity at Homestead-Miami Speedway as he needs only a 15th-place finish to clinch his first Sprint Cup title in just his third full season in NASCAR's premier series.

Keselowski, 28, who leads five-time champ Jimmie Johnson by 20 points, also clinches by finishing 16th with a lap led or 17th with the most laps led.

Interesting note: Keselowski this season has finished worse than 15th only six times.

"It's been a long road from where I started," said the native of Rochester Hills, Mich. "My success is attributed to a constant desire to improve. That's how I've got to where I'm at, and that's how I believe I'll continue to be successful, with a commitment to improve every day."

Keselowski isn't kidding about a long road. As team owner Roger Penske said, Bob and Kay Keselowski "mortgaged everything for their kids to go racing."

Keselowski remembers using space heaters at home during the winter to save on electric bills while the family financed the K Automotive racing team.

After the team folded, Keselowski went track to track asking for rides, his big break coming in 2007 when Dale Earnhardt Jr. gave him a chance with his Nationwide series team.

Keselowski signed with Penske at the end of 2009 and his career exploded as he won the 2010 Nationwide championship.

"Sure, there were a bunch of moments when I thought I wasn't going to make it," he said.

Being part of a gold-plated team certainly helped reverse those trends. But Keselowski had an edge: knowledge from working with his family's race team.

"He understands his car," Hall of Fame driver Rusty Wallace said. "I've always said in order to be successful on a consistent basis you've got to understand the damn car. He can probably set that car up himself because he's been there, done that. That's my sole reason he's been as consistent as he's been."

"He's passionate about the sport and he wants to be involved," said Penske, 75, who also seeks his first Sprint Cup title. "Brad has not only pushed me as an individual, he's pushed the team in a positive direction. And he's delivering."

Wallace said Keselowski's ability to avoid wrecks by not unnecessarily challenging drivers who are known to crash is a sign of maturity and smarts.

Crew chief Paul Wolfe said Keselowski, who has five wins, is a master reading the pulse of a race and when to make a move.

Keselowski also talks to Penske every day about everything from the team's personnel moves to upgrading the fitness center.

"A lot of raw talent," Johnson said. "He has a hunger to learn the sport on a lot of levels and a desire that's admirable."

"To be a champion, you can't be at the bottom of the pecking order," Keselowski said. "You have to fight your way to the top. These guys aren't just going to throw away their seat, so you have to take it."

Ray Lewis could not have said it better.

Damian Cristodero can be reached at

Sprint Cup finale | Ford EcoBoost 400, 3 p.m., Homestead-Miami Speedway. TV: ESPN

Sprint Cup leader Brad Keselowski on verge of place in NASCAR legacy 11/17/12 [Last modified: Saturday, November 17, 2012 9:22pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Tampa Bay Super Bowls: A brief history and some predictions for 2021


    At last, Tampa will host a Super Bowl again. It used to be that the Cigar City would host one a decade, but by the time February 2021 rolls around, it will have been 12 years since the epic showdown between the Steelers and Cardinals. Because it has been awhile, let's revisit those past Super Bowls while also peering …

    Santonio Holmes hauls in the game-winning touchdown in the Steelers' 27-23 Super Bowl XLIII victory over the Cardinals in 2009, the last time Tampa hosted a Super Bowl. [JAMES BORCHUCK | Times]
  2. Rays bats go silent in second straight loss to Angels (w/video)

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — Sure, Alex Cobb was to blame for the Rays' 4-0 loss on Tuesday.

    Derek Norris strikes out with the bases loaded as the Rays blow a golden opportunity in the seventh inning.
  3. Marc Topkin's takeaways from Tuesday's Rays-Angels game

    The Heater

    RHP Alex Cobb made mistakes on back-to-back pitches to the first two Angels hitters Tuesday, allowing homers to Cameron Maybin and Mike Trout, but otherwise gave the Rays another solid outing, working into the eighth and scattering seven hits.

  4. Rays journal: Brad Miller won't return from DL when eligible

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — 2B Brad Miller (left abdominal strain) will not return from the 10-day disabled list Friday as he hoped. While he took ground balls Tuesday, he has yet to resume running.

    Rays second baseman Brad Miller, left, with infielder Tim Beckham, says he’s letting his left abdominal strain “cool down” before testing it by running.
  5. USF baseball rallies to beat Tulane in AAC tournament opener


    CLEARWATER — With Tulane runners on first and second and two out in the top of the ninth inning Tuesday, USF's dugout watched as burly American Athletic Conference co-player of the year Hunter Williams' fly to left went deep.

    USF outfielder Chris Chatfield is congratulated by third-base coach Chris Cates after hitting a three-run homer in the third inning, tying the score at 3.