Few athletes have achieved the level of success, generated as much interest and created so much discussion as Team Penske's Brad Keselowski in his first five full seasons competing at NASCAR's highest level.
From his championship pedigree on track with his aggressive racing style, to his social media savvy and his ability to speak his mind on a wide variety of topics, Keselowski has established himself as one of racing's true stars.
Keselowski enjoyed one of his most productive seasons in 2014 as he claimed a series-leading six victories in Sprint Cup Series competition. He also produced a single-season career-high five pole positions while earning the second-most Coors Light Pole Awards among all drivers this past season. Driving the Miller Lite/Alliance Truck Parts/Wurth Ford Fusion, Keselowski was the only driver to sweep both the NASCAR Xfinity Series and NASCAR Sprint Series races in a single weekend, a feat which he accomplished twice (Las Vegas and New Hampshire) in 2014.
The 30-year-old native of Rochester Hills, Mich., also scored Team Penske's landmark 400th race victory when he took the checkered flag at Richmond and he won back-to-back races at Richmond and then Chicagoland. After returning to the Chase for the Sprint Cup in 2014, Keselowski continued to produce in the postseason as he won twice (Chicagoland and Talladega) in the new Chase format to finish fifth in the final championship standings.
In the NASCAR Xfinity Series (NXS), Keselowski started 11 races, in which he scored five poles and five victories as he helped the No. 22 Discount Tire/Hertz Ford team claim its second consecutive NXS Owners' Title. With the productive season, Keselowski moved up to fifth on the NXS All-Time win list with 32 career victories.
As he prepares to build on his remarkable success in 2015 behind the wheel of both the No. 2 Miller Lite/Alliance Truck Parts/Wurth Ford Fusion and the No. 22 Discount Tire/Hertz Ford Mustang, the former Xfinity Series and Sprint Cup Series Champion can rely on his strong roots in the sport to help chart his path for the future.
BORN TO RACE
Growing up in a racing family, Keselowski was well aware of the sacrifices that needed to be made to reach the top level of the NASCAR Cup Series. After years of climbing the rungs of the NASCAR ladder, it's somehow fitting that Keselowski earned the opportunity to get behind the wheel of one of the most iconic rides in motorsports history - the No. 2 Miller Lite car - and made the most of it in 2011.
Keselowski made the move with confidence and momentum, fresh off his first NASCAR championship in the Xfinity Series in 2010 with Team Penske. When Paul Wolfe also moved up from the No. 22 NXS team to join Keselowski as crew chief of the "Blue Deuce" in 2011, Keselowski was well positioned for a strong run in the Miller Lite machine.
Keselowski was raised in an environment where spending time at the race shop and the track was just a way of life. His father, Bob Keselowski, was a 1997 race winner in the Camping World Truck Series. His uncle, Ron Keselowski, competed at the Cup Series level in the early 1970s.
At the age of 14, Keselowski made the transition from turning wrenches for his family-owned team, K Automotive Motorsports, to racing. He started competing in the Senior Honda 120 Quarter Midget division in 1998. In his first season, he earned six feature wins. The next year, he moved up to the Senior Honda 160 Quarter Midget division where he won eight feature races and the championship.
In 2000, Keselowski began racing stock cars in the Factory Stock division. That season, he collected nine feature wins as well as Rookie-of-the-Year honors at two Michigan tracks – Auto City Speedway and Dixie Motor Speedway.
During the next three years, Keselowski balanced his budding racing career with his full-time job working for his family's Camping World Truck Series operation. He advanced to the Limited Late Model and Super Late Model divisions and continued to rack up wins, despite competing on a limited basis.
In 2001, he earned five fast qualifier positions, one feature win and five top-five finishes. Over the next two seasons, he collected 11 fast qualifier positions, two Super Late Model wins, two Limited Late Model victories and nine top-five finishes.
Keselowski graduated to Camping World Truck Series competition in 2004 as he drove the truck operated by his family's team for eight races. The following season, he ran the full Truck Series schedule. His best finish was seventh, which he recorded in February 2005 at Daytona International Speedway.
In 2006, Keselowski continued to gain more NASCAR experience as he ran a partial schedule in both the Xfinity Series and the Camping World Truck Series. He earned valuable seat time as he competed in 13 combined races – seven in the Xfinity Series and six in the Truck Series. That experience prepared him for 2007, when he caught the eye of Dale Earnhardt Jr., owner of JR Motorsports.
Keselowski entered the 2007 season expecting to compete full-time in the Xfinity Series for Keith Coleman Racing. But Keselowski had to alter his plans when the team suspended operations in June. Keselowski, who already raced in two Truck Series events earlier in the season, was given another chance later that month when Germain Racing needed a last-minute replacement for Ted Musgrave in the Truck Series race at Memphis Motorsports Park.
Though Earnhardt was aware of Keselowski's talent, he really became intrigued as he watched the young driver win the pole position, lead 62 laps and compete for the win that day in Memphis. But what struck Earnhardt the most about Keselowski was how he handled himself on the track, especially after being spun out with 10 laps to go by eventual race winner Travis Kvapil.
Keselowski still salvaged a 16th-place finish after the incident. The race was the turning point in Keselowski's NASCAR career. Realizing how much Keselowski had to offer, JR Motorsports signed the young gun to drive the No. 88 car in the Xfinity Series.
Keselowski made his debut for JR Motorsports in the July 2007 Xfinity Series race at Chicagoland Speedway. He earned a 14th-place result – the first of eight top-15 finishes he would score during the season. Keselowski competed in 27 races in all, but earned his best results driving the No. 88 entry, recording five top-10 and eight top-15 finishes in 14 starts.
In 2008, Keselowski enjoyed a banner season. He finished third in the Xfinity Series standings as he produced wins at Nashville Superspeedway and Bristol Motor Speedway in his first full season of Xfinity Series competition. He also earned one pole position, 11 top-five and 20 top-10 finishes.
The promising racer led laps in 21 races for a total of 295 as he earned the WIX Filters Lap Leader Award for 2008. Keselowski also was chosen by the fans as the Xfinity Series' Most Popular Driver.
On Nov. 2, 2008, Keselowski made his NASCAR Sprint Cup Series debut at Texas Motor Speedway, driving the No. 25 car for Hendrick Motorsports. He climbed from his 37th starting spot to finish 19th. Later that month, he made his second Cup Series start and finished 23rd in the season-finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
The 2009 campaign was a season to remember for Keselowski. Not only did he capture four victories and two poles in the Xfinity Series, but Keselowski won the biggest race of his career to that point when he took the checkered flag at Talladega Superspeedway in April, marking his first NASCAR Cup Series victory. Later in the season, Keselowski came on board at Team Penske and the rest, as they say, is history.
Over the final three Sprint Cup Series events of the season, Keselowski took over behind the wheel of the No. 12 Team Penske car and he earned a top finish of 25th place at Homestead.
Keselowski earned four top-10 results in a total of 15 Cup Series starts in 2009. He once again was a force in the Xfinity Series as he finished third in the championship battle for the second consecutive season and he was also voted the Most Popular Driver in the series for the second year in a row.
In 2010, his first full season as a member of the Team Penske family, Keselowski did something that no other driver in motorsports history was able to accomplish - he captured the first NASCAR championship for legendary team owner Roger Penske. With Wolfe calling the shots, Keselowski re-wrote the record book as he won the 2010 NASCAR Xfinity Series title. He also won his first career Cup Series pole at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in September to go with two top-10 finishes and nine results inside the top-15 behind the wheel of the No. 12 machine.
The confidence level for Keselowski remained high as he prepared for his first season behind the wheel of the "Blue Deuce." The 2011 season was full of firsts as it included Keselowski's first Cup Series win with Team Penske – which came at Kansas Speedway in June – his first berth in the Chase for the Championship and his first top-five finish in the championship standings. These accomplishments all led to a breakout year for the driver of the No. 2 Miller Lite machine.
Following a slow start to the 2011 season in which Keselowski was mired in the 28th position in the point standings after nine races, his season began to turn around following a third-place finish at Darlington Raceway in May.
He followed that up with a pole position at Charlotte Motor Speedway the following week. His win at Kansas completed a three-week stretch that propelled the team to torrid summer portion of the schedule that included two more wins at Pocono Raceway and Bristol Motor Speedway, respectively, and the No. 1 "wild card" spot in the Chase for the Championship.
In one of the gutsiest performances in recent sports history, Keselowski picked up his final two victories, along with two more top-three finishes, in a four-race stretch that began immediately after he broke a bone in his left ankle during a testing incident at Road Atlanta in early August. This earned him the 2011 Dale Earnhardt Tough Driver Award by The Sporting News and the respect of everyone in the garage.
Though he wasn't able to defend his driver's championship in the Xfinity Series, Keselowski continued to produce at a high level in the No. 22 Discount Tire Dodge in 2011. He earned five wins and four poles in 29 races as he scored his 17th career NXS victory. Still, it was his impressive performance at the Cup Series level as the season wore on that made 2011 so special.
The 2012 season is when Keselowski turned dreams into reality by winning the first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Championship in Penske Racing history in just his third full season with the team. The championship gave Roger Penske the only title that was missing on his resume in his nearly 30 years of competing in NASCAR and it firmly established Keselowski as one of NASCAR's true superstars.
Keselowski produced career best results on the way to his first Cup Series title and his second championship for Team Penske to go along with the NXS crown he won in 2010. Keselowski recorded a single-season career-best five race victories including regular season wins at Bristol, Talladega and Kentucky and two victories during the Chase for the Sprint Cup at Chicago and Dover in the Miller Lite machine. Keselowski also set career bests with 13 top-five and 23 top-10 finishes - a record for the "Blue Deuce" - as well as 735 laps led.
In addition to his Cup title, Keselowski also built on his success in the Xfinity Series in 2012 as he continued his winning ways in the No. 22 Discount Tire/Snap-on car for the third consecutive year. Competing in 21 races, Keselowski posted wins at Charlotte, Loudon and the inaugural NXS race at Indianapolis as well as 11 top-five and 14 top-10 performances.
Though he was not able to defend his Sprint Cup Series title in 2013 as the No. 2 team did not secure a spot in Chase, Keselowski did continue his winning ways as he won the fall race at Charlotte Motor Speedway. He also added to his legacy in Xfinity Series competition as he posted seven wins and helped earn the first-ever NXS Owners' Championship for Roger Penske. That production helped set the table for Keselowski's winning 2014 season.
Wolfe will continue lead the No. 2 Miller Lite/Alliance Truck Parts/Wurth Ford in 2015 and with Keselowski behind the wheel, the tandem expects to fight for the championship once again this season and into the future.