Race Weekend Central

Fan’s View: A New NASCAR Hero, Brad Keselowski

Brad Keselowski. He’s young, cocky and he’s winning. Perhaps you could even call him the latest addition to the NASCAR superstar stratosphere. Is that going too far? I don’t think so.

Every year or two a new name is added to the roster of drivers that you can include in the elite column. Some seem to make a run for the exclusive club and suddenly wane from view (Reed Sorenson, anyone?) And a check in the win column won’t necessarily guarantee entrance. There’s something more that goes into the making of an American Hero, i.e. NASCAR driver extraordinaire. The combination is elusive and the recipe changes from person to person. So, what is it that has all the cameras zoomed in on the kid from Rochester Hills, Mich.?

Is it just the visit to victory lane at Bristol on Sunday? Doubtful. Matt Kenseth parked his No. 17 at the most prestigious track on the circuit for the year, but are we talking about how the Daytona 500 champ is having a really rather stellar season so far?

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Is it his good looks? Uh, no. Keselowski’s still hanging on to that teenager beanpole physique. Combine that with a smile that seems a bit too big for his face, you could stick a thick pair of glasses and a clip-on tie on him and have a fine example of a stock photo of the chess club president. But that’s all on the surface. Beneath there must be something that’s got us talking!

Maybe it’s that pervasive use of Twitter? You know, how he pulled that super cool phone out of his racing suit and let the whole world know what it’s like to wait for the TV camera to go live in victory lane?

Well, there are a mere quarter-million people who received that tweet, but still this isn’t anything earth shattering. Kenny Wallace uses Twitter like the world is ending in three minutes, but that doesn’t keep his car funded enough to race every week. So, not the Twitter thing.

Clever ads with the sponsors? You know, I can’t think of a one off the top of my head. Google hasn’t coughed anything up more recent than his hauler taking on Carl Edwards in a cross-country race. Then we can probably say a certain magnetism on camera ain’t the thing, either.

Well then, we’ve kind of eliminated the surface stuff that goes into marketing a major personality in this day and age. And that leaves us with … timing.

Over the past year or two Keselowski has managed to keep his No. 2 within camera shot and usually in a manner that requires a comment on the part of media. His brash and bold driving style usually doesn’t cut any slack for a revered veteran, points leader or simply a competitor who is having a bit of trouble keeping it pointed in the right direction. He apologizes only when he really stepped in it, otherwise, he’s perfectly happy to say the other guy should just get out of his way.

His utter confidence in his abilities polarizes the fanbase. The cheers and jeers have continued to build in volume for the past year. And once a driver has the crowd on its feet, for whatever reason, sponsors start to pay attention. His unapologetic track record positioned him on the edge of the radar for the end of last summer.

During a test at Road America last August, Keselowski drove his car into the fence, breaking his ankle and launching his rocket into true stardom. Armed with Twitter pics of his swollen ankle and the twisted remains of his Miller Lite Dodge, he headed to Pocono and won. If the win had been a one-off, it would have been filed in the annals of 2011 Notable NASCAR stories.

Instead, he charged headlong toward the Chase with a second at Watkins Glen, third at Michigan and his controversial win at Bristol under the lights. His No. 2 machine took the checkers in the top five eight times between his accident and the end of the year.

Basically, he never gave NASCAR Nation a moment to dismiss him. He ended the season fifth in points and raring to go in 2012. The negative publicity being generated by his teammate in the No. 22 just never seeped into his garage stall.

Yet, he is aware of the scrutiny his fans send his way. In another PR moment of brilliance, he covered his Camping World Series No. 19 truck at Daytona in the twitter handles of his followers; a very public and current way to thank all those who have remained faithful.

And then came the jet dryer at Daytona. Like I said, timing is everything. Delayed by persistent rains on Sunday and even Monday morning, NASCAR made the announcement to move the Daytona 500 start time up to 7 p.m. – primetime. While FOX fans tuned in for House, they were given restrictor-plate racing, a massive explosion worthy of the latest blockbuster movie and a young driver dressed in blue Tweeting during the two-hour red flag.

In the weeks since, you can’t say he’s been posting tweets any more often than before, but the content is re-tweeted across all media the instant it appears. Brad is officially dubbed a media darling.

Thus, when he pulled into victory lane on Sunday, snapped that photo and climbed out his car, the story plastered all over the world is not one of a new winner, an underdog or even a long-awaited victory. Excitement and acceptance swirled through NASCAR. Instead, it seems as if it all came together as it ought.

For Brad Keselowski is what we hope to see: one of the best. He’s young, cocky, there’s every indication he’s going to keep on winning – and every person on the planet knows it. Let me introduce to you your latest NASCAR hero.

Welcome to the top, young man. I hope you like the view. It was certainly thrilling watching you get there.

About the author

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The Frontstretch Staff is made up of a group of talented men and women spread out all over the United States and Canada. Residing in 15 states throughout the country, plus Ontario, and widely ranging in age, the staff showcases a wide variety of diverse opinions that will keep you coming back for more week in and week out.

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