After spending the afternoon with Jamie McMurray at the "Auto Club Speedway in L.A." event, I decided to head on down to Speedzone in The City of Industry to catch up with the Nationwide series two time most popular driver Brad Keselowski.
After sitting back and observing how Keselowski was handling his new found fame, since he signed a three-year contract to drive full-time for Penske Racing which began this year.
You would have never thought he was in a position that many of us could only dream about, by the way he handled himself around the fans.
He does not deserve to be treated the way he has been around the NASCAR web sites, and it's only because of a few on track incidents.
I have yet to read anywhere that a pre-requisite for winning a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship, meant a driver had to have a good repertoire with the fans or be one of the cleanest drivers out on the track.
When you look back through the annals of NASCAR history, the majority of the multiple championship winners had some type of a mean streak in them that worked as a motivational tool to keep them one step ahead of their fellow drivers.
Or for better terms, they took what they felt was theirs and fought tooth and nail to make sure that none of the other drivers didn’t sneak in and take it from them.
All the way from Richard Petty to Dale Earnhardt Sr., Jeff Gordon, and even Tony Stewart, these drivers earned their multiple championships by racing hard and aggressive in order raise the trophy at the end of the year, signifying they were the driver to beat for that particular season.
Championship trophies are the most prized possessions that any driver could ever collect during their career in the NASCAR series.
Drivers who choose to push themselves beyond where others may stop, are usually the ones that have the best chance because of the high speed game of cat and mouse that takes place once the race begins.
Dale Earnhardt Sr. and Richard Petty didn’t win seven championships apiece, along with Jeff Gordon who has four of his own because they chose to not push a little harder whenever they had a chance at a win.
Good examples of a couple of drivers who took the opposite route, and have fallen short are Mark Martin and Harry Gant.
Both of these drivers had tremendous talent and skill when it came to trading paint with their fellow drivers, but the one thing that each of them lacked was the willingness to take the next step, and rattle a few cages along the way in order to get the victory.
There is a huge gray area that NASCAR has left open pertaining to rattling a few cages, and they gave the drivers even more freedom this season to basically do as they want as long as it puts more fans in the stands.
So why is it when an up and coming driver chooses to glean off of the legends techniques on how to win races, along with trying to set himself up to maybe someday become the next Sprint Cup champion?
Yet he is already getting attacked by the fans because of a racing incident in Saturday’s Nationwide race at Auto Club Speedway.
Penske driver Brad Keselowski did not finish third in points along with six wins, 33 top five, and 48 top-10 finishes during the 2008, and 2009 season combined, because he was lacking the skill or experience that is needed to compete in this second tier series.
Instead, he worked his way up the ladder and along the way developed a driving style that would fit Keselowski and not the fans of NASCAR.
As diverse as the fan base is for the sport, it would be literally impossible for any driver to accomplish that sort of feat and it is being proven by the way Dale Earnhardt Jr is being treated.
Keselowski has gone through a lot in his last two seasons while driving the No. 88 JR Motorsports Chevrolet, and with the transition from leaving the most popular team in the Nationwide garage, to one that still has the potential to win championships was not an easy one.
“I was just starting, so it’s been very good so far. The real test is how you do on the track, so it’s been fun. I think we’re gonna be competitive all year long,” said Keselowski when asked about the transition from JR Motorsports to Penske Racing.
Keselowski also added that, “I see our cars have made major game since I’ve been here. With the addition on Steve Addington it’s been great. It’s awesome to add that depth to the company. With Paul Wolfe on the Nationwide side, I can see a lot of good things happening and I can’t wait to get started.”
After a wreck early on in the season opening Daytona 500, Keselowski finished in 36th place 34 laps off the pace, but that didn’t stop him from feeling good about the teams chances for the rest of the season.
“Actually, I think we’ve got great cars. I really do. I can’t say that strongly enough. Even though we didn’t get the results we wanted at Daytona, we ran very competitively, the laps and the duels and never got a shot, really, in the 500,” said Keselowski.
Keselowski also added that, “So, the cars are ultra competitive. We just catch some breaks and we could find ourselves in victory lane at any time and hopefully it will be in California.”
I asked Brad to describe for me in a few short words, how much help has his teammate Kurt Busch given him since coming to the team.
“He has helped me tremendously especially for Daytona. Trying to understand how the company works, how the teams work, how to get the most out of our cars. He’s a true champion.”
Keselowski finished off the evening with this statement, when asked about Penske Racing being the only team that is representing Dodge in the series.
“There should be pressure on you no matter what the circumstances are. You’re in the big leagues.”