Keselowski Brothers Fight Different Battles on Same Track

Jonathan LintnerSenior Analyst IJanuary 22, 2017

Brian and Brad Keselowski don't have much in common, at least outside of their day jobs driving NASCAR stock cars.

One drives a fully sponsored car, while the other scraps for money, still racing for the family team. One dodges photographers and media personnel like the famed figure he drives for—the other works in general obscurity like many small teams in NASCAR's Nationwide Series.

And for brothers, they look about as much alike as the Chevrolet Impalas they race and a Volkswagen Beetle.

What the Keselowskis share in common is their upbringing, which as a result has given the two an undying air of confidence and a positive attitude, shown while Brad was shadowed by Sports Illustrated reporter Mark Beech last weekend at Kentucky Speedway and still emitted after Brian crashed his primary car late in Friday practice.

Brad credits his time with the family team, working on the cars, and knowing the weekly struggles and workings of a small team for his current attitude and personality.

“I think that experience helps me appreciate things a bit more now as a driver. I have a really good understanding of what goes into getting a team to the track to compete, and I know just how much wrecking cars puts stress on everyone involved," Brad said. "I also got to see just how much fun it was when we won.”

A fateful decision for the Keselowski brothers to have Brad drive the family's Truck Series ride back in 2004 has put Brian behind the eight ball ever since. Although the older brother had a track championship under his belt, it was the fiery youth of Brad that was winning all the races. That, in the end, was the decision maker according to Brian.

"There's differing stories on that," Brian said. "It came down to basically we had enough money to run one track. He could get a little more speed out of the car, but I was a little more consistent.”

So, rather than competing in the NASCAR ranks, Brian went racing with what little money was left in the ARCA Series. Since then, he's built his own team up to run full-time in the Nationwide Series, where brother Brad drives the No. 88 car for JR Motorsports.

The Keselowskis now race on the same track on a weekly basis, where although they’re competitive in different equipment, competitive nature still reveals itself, and they still take pride in beating one another.

“Brian and I are super competitive at everything we do and polar opposites from birth,” Brad said. “I enjoy competing against him, when I win.”

The two brothers are busy in their own respects. Brad is often stolen away by the media and sponsorship obligations, and with Brian staying busy running all aspects of his race team, there isn’t a lot of family time being shared on race weekends these days.

"He's pretty busy doing his thing, and I'm pretty busy doing mine,” Brian said. “I run my whole race team—I'm the team manager, driver, owner, everything. It's pretty tough for me to sit down and say, 'Hey, what's going on?'"

Making things tougher was a bad weekend at Kentucky Speedway. In the final minutes of Friday practice, a tire went down on Brian’s No. 26 car between Turns 3 and 4, resulting in a damaged race car too tough to repair in only a day.

The team went to a backup car—not one of their own, but that of MacDonald Motorsports, thanks to the team putting their own backup car on the line.

Instead of the normal neon green and black paint scheme the No. 26 usually dons, Brian’s machine came out red, white, and blue, running to a 35th-place finish in the Meijer 300. The result dropped the team outside of the top 30, the Nationwide Series’ threshold of locked-in teams that allowed Brian to race Saturday night despite running a crawling qualifying lap earlier in the afternoon.

Meanwhile, Brad continues to run for more wins and a championship in the No. 88 car. The two Keselowskis are fighting different battles: one to make it, one to make it bigger. But all of the success hasn’t gone to Brad’s head—at least according to his brother.

"I have always said that Brad has never changed one bit. He's been the same way even with money or without money. He's always been that punk kid.”

Brian said he isn’t upset with his current hands-on situation running the No. 26 team. Tension was unavoidable at first, but years later, things worked out for both parties.

"That was a tough deal when the decision was made to put Brad in instead of me,” Brian said. “It worked out. In the end, I hooked up with a couple guys that had some cars, and we combined all our stuff together and went racing."

"It's hard as a race car driver and especially a family member of another guy who gets a chance and you don't. In the end, you understand it. And now it's whatever it is, it is. You've got to get past that or you'll never move on. I'm past it.”

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