Dodge Motorsports: Driver Bio – Brad Keselowski – No. 2 Dodge Charger
AUBURN HILLS, Mich. – In just his second full season as a member of Penske Racing, Brad Keselowski firmly established himself as one of NASCAR’s top rising stars and a major cog in the future of the sport.
The 2011 season was full of firsts for the Rochester Hills, Mich. native as it included Keselowski’s first Cup Series win with Penske Racing – 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 Dodge. Keselowski and crew chief Paul Wolfe both signed extensions late in the year to ensure that this dynamic duo will continue their quest to bring team owner Roger Penske his first NASCAR Cup Series title.
Keselowski and Wolfe hope to pick up where they left off in 2012 as they enter this season with confidence and the knowledge that the Miller Lite team was a championship-caliber unit over the second half of the 2011 season. With many of the same parts in place and another year of experience under their collective belts, the Miller Lite Dodge team is ready to take the next step and battle for the 2012 title.
In addition to his goals in the Cup Series, Keselowski enters 2012 looking to continue his impressive production in NASCAR Nationwide Series (NNS) competition. He will return to race the No. 22 Discount Tire/Snap-on Dodge Challenger as he will share the 2010 NNS championship ride with young gun Parker Kligerman, his protégé that drove for Keselowski’s team in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series in 2011. As crew chief Jeremy Bullins takes over the reins of the team this season, it’s bound to be an exciting year for the No. 22 squad with both Keselowski and Kligerman battling for race wins.
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 Dodge – and made the most of it in 2011. Keselowski made the move with confidence and momentum, fresh off his first NASCAR championship in the Nationwide Series in 2010. As Wolfe also moved up to join Keselowski as crew chief of the Miller Lite team last season, 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 Nationwide Series and the Camping World Truck Series. He earned valuable seat time as he competed in 13 combined races – seven in the Nationwide 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 Nationwide 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 Nationwide Series.
Keselowski made his debut for JR Motorsports in the July 2007 Nationwide 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 Nationwide Series standings as he produced wins at Nashville Superspeedway and Bristol Motor Speedway in his first full season of Nationwide 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 Nationwide 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 Keselowski capture four victories and two poles in the Nationwide Series, but he won the biggest race of his career when he took the checkered flag at Talladega Superspeedway in April, marking his first NASCAR Cup Series victory.
Over the final three Cup Series events of the season, Keselowski took over behind the wheel of the No. 12 Penske Dodge 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 Nationwide 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 Penske Racing 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 Nationwide 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 Dodge. The confidence level for Keselowski remained high as he prepared for his first season behind the wheel of the “Blue Deuce” in 2011.
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 immediately after breaking 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 Nationwide 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 NNS victory. Still, it was his impressive performance at the Cup Series level as the season wore on that made 2011 so special.
“What a great season by everyone on this Miller Lite Dodge team,” said Keselowski. “It’s really difficult to turn things around in the middle of the season, as we were able to do following the race at Richmond in April. That speaks volumes to the dedicated people we have at Penske Racing. With the success we had last season comes high expectations for 2012. We expect to be a contender from start to finish.”
Source: Dodge Motorsports