NASCAR & Auto Racing

Brad Keselowski has one side as a driver, another as a team owner

Tyler Reddick (right) pursued Matt Crafton (left) and Erik Jones before finishing 13th in Friday night’s Camping World Truck Toyota Tundra 250. Reddick likes driving for owner Brad Keselowski because Keselowski is involved with the team.
Tyler Reddick (right) pursued Matt Crafton (left) and Erik Jones before finishing 13th in Friday night’s Camping World Truck Toyota Tundra 250. Reddick likes driving for owner Brad Keselowski because Keselowski is involved with the team. The Kansas City Star

Brad Keselowski is a throwback. He races with an edge and doesn’t run the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series to make friends.

Keselowski’s winner-take-all style has rubbed a few other drivers the wrong way and, admittedly, patience isn’t his strong suit.

But the young drivers on the Brad Keselowski Racing trucks team see a different side of the team owner and 2012 Sprint Cup champion.

“He’s not probably what a lot of people think he is,” said Austin Theriault, who finished 14th in Keselowski’s No. 29 Cooper Standard Ford on Friday during the Camping World Truck Series Toyota Tundra 250 at Kansas Speedway. “He’ll take the time to answer your questions. He’s just very down to earth. That’s what I like about him. He’s very approachable.”

That’s by design.

“I just try to be an asset and try to help when I’m needed and stay out of the way when I’m not,” Keselowski said. “I’m not known for my patience, but with that category I would like to think it brings out the best in that quality of the limited amount I do have.”

Keselowski, who drives the No. 2 Avaya Ford for Team Penske on the Sprint Cup circuit, cut his teeth on a family racing team with his father, Bob, a former Truck Series driver himself.

He ran parts of three seasons on the Truck Series with his dad’s K-Automotive Motorsports ride, which suspended operations in 2006.

He signed with Keith Coleman Racing on the Xfinity Series in 2007, but jumped to JR Motorsports, which is owned by Dale Earnhardt Jr., midseason after KCR suspended operations.

A year later, he had a full-time ride with JR Motorsports, where he for two more seasons on the Xfinity Series.

Finally, Keselowski joined Team Penske in 2010, winning the Xfinity Series championship and driving full-time on the Cup Series for the first time.

“Racing is circular in a lot of ways,” Keselowski said. “Obviously, we drive in circles around the track, but in a much bigger-picture way, it’s cyclical from the standpoint that I was provided some opportunities early in my career and I feel like I’ve been fortunate to make the most of those and get to where I’m at now. In turn, it’s my responsibility to send the elevator back down and the Truck team is my way of doing that.”

Keselowski’s own experience teaches that young drivers will make errors trying to feel their way up the ranks.

During Friday’s race, Tyler Reddick, who finished 13th in Keselowski’s No. 19 BBR Music Group Ford, crashed in practice and collected Theriault in the carnage.

“It’s like having kids,” Keselowski said with a chuckle.

Wrecks are a part of racing, Keselowski understands that, but he also makes it clear that he’s willing to help them avoid mistakes if they’re willing to reach out.

“I view it like a rope,” said Keselowski, whose wife, Paige, is due with the couple’s first daughter in two weeks. “I don’t push the rope. I let them pull it, and I’ll help them as much as they want me to be involved.”

It’s greatly appreciated.

“I’m going to make some mistakes and I’m going to have to learn from a lot of it, but there’s some big items that, if you ask him about, he might be able to save you from making that same mistake,” said Theriault, who started driving Keselowski’s late-model car in 2011.

Given his history, if anybody knows the challenges facing young drivers, it’s Keselowski and that’s why he makes himself accessible even if, in some ways, he’s paving the way for potential replacements in the Cup Series.

“He’s a very busy person, but, even though he’s not necessarily there every single day, he can be halfway across and he’s still very involved,” Reddick said. “He stays very in the loop about everything that’s going on. You don’t always see that out of some owners and NASCAR teams, but he has a unique position in ours because he’s also a driver. I think that brings his interest back into it more than some.”

To reach Tod Palmer, call 816-234-4389 or send email to tpalmer@kcstar.com. Follow him on Twitter at @todpalmer.

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