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Auto Racing / NASCAR

Monday, 21 February, 2011 7:12 PM

Brian Keselowski gets big push from brother Brad in Daytona 500

Photo credit: NASCAR

Brian Keselowski

Photo credit: insidetracknews.blogspot.com

Brad Keselowski

by Raymond Rolak
AmericaJR.com Web Team

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- These are storybook moments. They just don’t happen. Brian Keselowski qualified for the Daytona 500. He couldn’t believe it. His father Bob was going to be his crew chief. It was a low budget operation for the #92 Dodge race team. Team K-Racing got some late sponsorship from Detroit based Discount Tire. This all is the prelude to what may be the best feel good motorsports story of the year.

Brian, 29, is the older brother of NASCAR sensation Brad Keselowski, 26. “I'm here on a credit card and a prayer,” said Brian. On the last day of qualifying he got into the Daytona 500 with some help and a push from his younger brother and Penske Racing car #2. Brad had qualified already. He found himself behind his brother Brian and pushed the #92 car up to the front of the pack and across the finish.

Brian had an emotional moment when he stopped on pit road and realized he had made the big dance. He then got a hug from his younger brother. Their mom, Kay and dad came up a few minutes later to join the celebration.

The Keselowski’s, both Rochester Hills, Michigan natives, have a racing pedigree. Their father raced in the ARCA series in the 70’s and Uncle Ron raced in four -Daytona 500’s. 2007 Daytona 500 champion Kevin Harvick said. “Usually, one thing leads to another. The Keselowski family, you couldn't ask for better people.”

Brad has had great success in the #22 Penske Dodge. He won the Nationwide Series point championship last season. He was also named the Most Popular Driver for the third consecutive season. Penske Racing upgraded Brad to the #2 Miller Lite Dodge for the Daytona 500.

The #92 team and Brian didn’t even have hotel rooms. They did not expect to be here. Veteran driver Joe Nemechek of the #87 Toyota car said, “The Keselowski brothers provided the entire sport with a feel-good moment. All the guys in the garage know what Brian has to work with. To make this race is awesome.” The older Keselowski got some additional sponsorship from the Golden Corral restaurant chain.

Proud father, Bob Keselowski said, “Coming in we thought, No matter what, this is going to be a great opportunity for Brian to run at Daytona with the big boys.” Brad got his experience on Michigan short tracks and at the Toledo Speedway. Now he is in the major leagues of motorsports.

The Daytona 500 is the first big NASCAR race of the year and it is the biggest race of the season. This is the only sport in which the biggest event is at the beginning and it carries by far the largest purse. The race is the direct successor of shorter beach races held on Daytona Beach in the late 40’s and early 50’s.

The euphoria did not last long. On the 28th lap, a 15-car monster wreck took out Brian Keselowski. He was up high on the track and another rookie, Andy Lally #71 came up out of control and ended the day for #92. The original mess was caused by Michael Waltrip #15 and Dave Reutimann #00. It was a two car drafting procedure that went astray.

Rookie Trevor Bayne ended up winning with the #21 Ford. It was a white knuckle finish with four cars having a chance to slingshot into the lead. In fact, Ford cars finished 1-2-3 and Edsel Ford, along with Ford execs visited in ‘Garage Alley’ during Speed Week.

Brian and Team Keselowski Racing got a purse of $273,663.00 for starting in the big race.

Brad Keselowski and Team Penske had led for nine laps but were also taken out with a later crash. The track has been resurfaced and was fast. Drivers figured out that by hooking up in two-car packs, it was a fast way around the freshly paved Daytona International Speedway,

At the pre-race meeting for the drivers, Jack Hege was honored and presented to the drivers. He has been to all 51 Daytona 500 races as a spectator. A few seats away, Tom Cruise the star of the NASCAR movie, Days of Thunder, applauded with enthusiasm. Heisman Trophy winner Tim Tebow was next to Mr. Hege. It was an exciting start of the traditional Sunday morning as chapel followed afterwards for the drivers and guests.

On the third lap, the spectators at Daytona International Raceway stood in silence, with three fingers raised toward the sky. This was a tribute to the late Dale Earnhardt. The acknowledgement marked the 10-year anniversary of Earnhardt's fatal accident at the famous track.

NASCAR announced that next year’s race will be pushed back by a week to Sunday, February 26, 2012.

Related Story: NASCAR Driver Brad Keselowski previews the upcoming racing season at MIS

 

 

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