NASCAR Season Preview: Brad Keselowski

Photo credit: Ned Leone

#2 Miller Lite Dodge, Penske Racing

Born: February 12, 1984

Home: Rochester Hills, Michigan

2011 HIGHLIGHTS: After mounting a serious charge late in the regular season to sneak into the Chase for the Sprint Cup, Keselowski ranked as high as third in points in the Chase at one point. He became Roger Penske’s de facto lead driver in the Blue Deuce, posting a season that would have made Rusty Wallace proud: three wins (Kansas in June, and Pocono and Bristol in August), a single DNF, and a fifth place finish in points.

2011 LOWLIGHTS: Though you wouldn’t know it by the way he finished the season, Keselowski didn’t actually crack the top 20 in points until he won at Pocono. That win, of course, came after Keselowski broke his foot in a testing accident at Road Atlanta. Keselowski also failed to finish the season strong, posting a 19.8 average finish in the final four races of the year.

SEASON OUTLOOK: If 2011 was any indication of where Keselowski is headed in the future, the outspoken, confident young driver should give Roger Penske his best chance at winning a Sprint Cup since Wallace won 10 races and finished second in points in 1993. He recovered from a mediocre start to the season to become NASCAR’s hottest driver in the summer months, and nearly played the Chase format to perfection by posting four top five finishes in its first six races.

That performance earned both Keselowski and crew chief Paul Wolfe multi-year extensions, but don’t expect either of them to get complacent. Keselowski is still a young, hungry driver who was raised in a racing family (father Bob owned a competitive team in the then-Craftsman Truck Series for most of the early 2000s), and Wolfe is one of the smartest young crew chiefs in the garage; neither is easily satisfied. Keselowski has also cleaned up his act under Penske’s umbrella, retaining his competitiveness and gift of gab without committing some of the stupid mistakes that hurt other brash drivers (see Busch, Kyle). It’ll be hard for them to match their performance from the second half of 2011, but Penske’s flagship team should be far more consistent this season.

– Chris Leone


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