As the newest winner on the Sprint Cup Series circuit, 25-year-old Brad Keselowski is the hot topic around the NASCAR forum. What does the future hold for this young man?
On April 26 at the Talladega Super Speedway, Keselowski shocked the NASCAR world by winning the Aaron's 499 after passing (or, well, wrecking) Carl Edwards on the last lap.
Edwards and Keselowski were nose-to-tail for the last two laps and had worked their way to the lead.
As they came through the tri-oval and toward the start-finish line, Keselowski jumped high and Edwards blocked. So Keselowski then swung low and got his right front fender inside of Edwards' No. 99.
As Edwards came down to block, he went right across the nose of Keselowski's No. 09, and the result was what some are calling "The Crash Seen 'Round the World."
Keselowski went to victory lane in only his fifth career Sprint Cup Series start, third of the year, driving for James Finch's Phoenix Racing. He has been running a limited schedule in the Cup Series for both Hendrick Motorsports and Phoenix Racing, which leases cars and engines from HMS.
Prior to Talladega, Keselowski's best career finish was 19th, and he seemed content to run a couple of races while he focused on the Nationwide Series Championship, but not anymore. It has been speculated that he will be the heir to the No. 5 when Mark Martin decides to step away, whenever that may be.
Since last year, he has run full-time in the Nationwide Series for Dale Earnhardt Jr. and has two wins and finished third in points. He was consistently one of the Nationwide regulars that could hang tough with the Sprint Cup Series drivers that would come down and run the Saturday races.
Now that he's tasted victory in the Cup Series, Keselowski says he is in negotiation talks with HMS because he wants a full-time ride in 2010. Because of that, everyone has begun to discuss where Keselowski will end up next year and if he will land a full-time ride.
Some say that he should, that he deserves it since he has shown he can win.
Earnhardt Jr., on the other hand, wants Keselowski back in the Nationwide Series car for next season. He knows that there is no need to move a driver up too quickly.
He doesn't want to see another driver hurried up the ladder based solely on potential. Jamie McMurray, Joey Logano, and Casey Atwood are the first that come to mind that have suffered this fate.
As unexpected and exciting it was for Keselowski to visit victory lane, that's all it really was: exciting.
One can only hope that he doesn't let his ego get in the way of the big picture, where he dreams of being, and where he will end up. For now, he needs to take a close look at the facts.
First, when it comes to Talladega, it's anyone's game. If you put yourself in the right position, you could end up in the winner's circle, just as Keselowski did.
It's not a handling racetrack; just put the pedal to the floor and stay out of the big wrecks. You don't have to fight the conditions of the car or make major adjustments on pit stops. Get yourself a good engine and you're all set.
Keselowski was ready, since he drives for Phoenix Racing, which (as it was already mentioned) gets technical support from the powerhouse of Hendrick Motorsports.
Now add in the fact that owner James Finch puts plenty of emphasize on running well at the restrictor plate tracks of Daytona and Talladega.
Remember back to the 2007 Daytona 500: The fourth-place finisher was Mike Wallace, and he drive the same car that Keselowski brought to victory lane.
So, what does Keselowski do now?
Well, it's real simple: nothing.
There is no substitute for seat time and gaining experience; he can get these things in the Nationwide Series if he stays there.
Just because you won at Talladega doesn't mean you are going to arrive in the Cup Series and dethrone Jimmie Johnson. Just because you won at Talladega doesn't mean that you are going to set the world on fire.
Need a second opinion? Ask Brian Vickers or Richard Brickhouse, Lennie Pond or Bobby Hillin Jr. All of those drivers won their first career race at Talladega and never won another race.
Heck, Vickers is still searching for victory No. 2 three years after his victory.
Keselowski needs to listen to Earnhardt Jr. and stay where he is. There is no need to be looking for a Cup deal with HMS or any other team with an open seat.
In due time, a good ride will come along, and it very well could be the No. 5.
Hendrick Motorsports is where Keselowski belongs; it was they and Earnhardt Jr. who helped get him to where he is and was.
Currently he sits sixth in the Nationwide Series points, so the focus should be on trying to grab that championship, not on demands and contract talks.
I for one hope that Keselowski doesn't get what he wants. It's nothing against him; he has proven that he can win. He has talent and will be a champion one day, maybe in both series.
But if Keselowski really wants a Cup ride, then he needs to prove that he can come in and contend with the Sprint Cup drivers every weekend, on all types of race tracks in this new car, and consistently be a contender.
The big question might be can he take a James Finch car and win at Darlington this weekend? And what about the All-Star race that he's entered in?
If the answer is no, then Keselowski should not be in a Cup car, and patience needs to be learned and exercised on both his part and any team owner thinking about putting him in a car.
There are plenty of races and wins ahead for Keselowski, but only if he listens to Dale Earnhardt Jr. and gets back in that Nationwide Series car next year.
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