Honestly, it's hard to imagine the last ten years of NASCAR without Brad Keselowski. One of the most popular and talked-about drivers comes from Rochester Hill, MI, and was born on February 12, 1984. As he grew up in a racing family, continuing his family tradition has always been a certainty for him. His father Bob Keselowski was a former truck series racer, as well as his uncle Ron, who drove in the Winston Cup.
Along with his older brother Brian Keselowski, who's also a Sprint Cup racer, Brad spent his childhood and adolescent years helping his father at the race shop in his hometown, and in 2000, he finally began driving in the Factory Stock division, an entry-level competition and a proving ground for many of today's Sprint Cup drivers.
Brad started his career in his father's team
His NASCAR career started out in 2004 in Craftsman Truck Series where he drove the Ford F150 for the family-owned K-Automotive Motorsport. On his debut, the Kroger 250 at Martinsville, Keselowski finished 33rd. That year, he drove seven more races for his father's team, and the last race of the season, the Ford 200, for MB Motorsports. His best finish of the season was 16th place in Ohio 250, his second CTS outing.
Keselowski spent the 2005 driving full time for K-Automotive Motorsport, opening the season with a seventh place, his best and only top-10 finish that year. Lack of sponsorship forced him to spend the 2006 driving part-time replacing Kelly Sutton, and he appeared driving for MB Motorsports again at the season finale. In the same year, he began driving part-time in NASCAR Nationwide Series for Keith Coleman Racing, but with no significant results.
Dale Earnhardt Jr's substitute
His big NASCAR breakthrough began in 2007 when he signed for JR Motorsports, replacing Dale Earnhardt Jr. after driving the first half of the season for Keith Coleman Racing, a team which went bankrupt. The opportunity Dale Jr. personally opened to Keselowski changed his life - in numerous interviews, Brad quotes Dale Jr. as his close friend and a person who helped make him what he is today. In his third outing for JR, Keselowski scored his first top 10 finish, 10th place at Kroger 250. He made four more top-10s, finishing the season 25th.
The following year was way more successful for him, as he drove the No. 88 Chevrolet to his first victory in the Federated Auto Parts 300, one more win at Bristol Motor Speedway and third place overall with 19 top 10 finishes. In 2008, Keselowski also made three appearances in NASCAR Sprint Cup. In 2007, Keselowski formed his own team, which began competing in the Truck Series the next year.
Brad's first NASCAR Sprint Cup race win came in the 2009 season
The last year for Brad and JR Motorsports was 2009, where he again scored third overall - at the end of the season, he signed for Team Penske, previously having proven himself by winning the 2009 Aaron's 499, a Sprint Cup race at Talladega Superspeedway! However, the race created a major stir because of its finish. In the final lap, while defending from Keselowski, Carl Edwards pushed him but lost control of the car and spun, leaving Brad to cross the finish line.
That was the first time in NASCAR Sprint Cup history that the very first lap a Sprint Cup driver led was the final and winning lap of a race. Also, Keselowski's win was the first NASCAR Sprint Cup win for James Finch and Phoenix Racing. However, the rest of the Sprint Cup season with Penske was pretty bad and highly controversial after he caused a 15 car wreck by bumping Kurt Busch at Talladega. In Nationwide Series, Keselowski finished third, with notable run-ins with Denny Hamlin.
In the 2010 Nationwide Series, Victory Lane felt like home to Brad
Keselowski's ascend to NASCAR glory began in 2010 when he dominated in the Nationwide Series. He finished the 2010 Nationwide Series with 6 wins, five pole positions, 29 Top-10 out of which 26 were Top-5 finishes. His 26 Top-5 beat the 2009 Kyle Busch's record of 25 Top-5s. However, in Sprint Cup, he finished 25th with just two Top-10s. Throughout the season, Brad had a series of accidents and crashes, the first one being in Atlanta when he unintentionally tapped Carl Edwards, who then proceeded to collect Joey Logano. Later during the race, Edwards retaliated, hitting Keselowski and causing his car to go airborne.
The dangerous rivalry produced one more crash in Sprint Cup at the Gateway International Raceway where Edwards pushed Keselowski towards the wall, causing an 11 car wreck. Edwards proceeded to win the race but was booed in the Victory Lane, put on probation and fined by NASCAR. Keselowski was also put on probation and both drivers were strongly advised to calm down. After winning the series, Keselowski continued to compete part-time in subsequent years, bringing many victories and Top-10s for himself and his crew at Penske.
In 2011, Brad switched to #2 Dodge, flagship car of Penske Racing, starting the season slow, and with a dangerous 200MPH crash at Road Atlanta testing. Luckily, he had just a broken ankle and managed to win the race just a week later, despite driving injured. With a win in Irwin Tools Night Race at Bristol, Keselowski secured himself a place in The Chase and was achieving good results until he spun at Tums Fast Relief 500, which ended his quest for the trophy. He finished the season fifth with three wins, fourteen Top-10 finishes out of which 9 were Top-5s.
Video : The friction between Brad Keselowski and Carl Edwards
2012 was best the best season for Keselowski
At the 2012 Daytona 500, Brad was caught up in a crash on lap 188 and finished 32nd. However, the bad start led to his best Sprint Cup season so far - 2012 Food City 500 was the fourth race of the year and his first win, followed by a victory at Aaron's 499 and Quaker State 400. Consistent driving throughout the season earned Keselowski a place in The Chase which he opened with a win at GEICO 400 and two weeks later, he won at Dover too. In Texas, Keselowski drove furiously and finished second, narrowing Jimmie Johnson's lead with two more rounds to go.
In the last race of the 2012 Sprint Cup season, luck was on his side - Johnson was out with gear failure and he finished fifteenth, which was enough for him to win the title. With the title in his hands, Keselowski joined Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Jeff Gordon as the driver who got his main series title within the first three full-time seasons.
In 2013, Penske switched from Dodge to Ford
After the success, 2013 saw Keselowski switching to Ford and the new cooperation started out great, with four consecutive Top-5s. However, the rest of the season didn't go well as he didn't qualify to The Chase and managed to win only one race, the 2013 Bank of America 500 at Charlotte Motor Speedway. That win was the first Chase win scored by a non-Chase driver. That year, Brad was also caught up in a NRA 500 car setup controversy involving himself and his teammate Joey Logano. Keselowski ended the season fourteenth, but he signed a new deal with Penske to remain with the team until 2017.
Controversial NASCAR Series season
The following two years, 2014 and 2015, were fairly underwhelming for Brad Keselowski as well. In 2014, he started well - third at Daytona 500 and in Phoenix, and was automatically qualified to the Chase by winning Kobalt 400 in Vegas. He continued on to win four races during the season before the start of The Chase. He was caught up in several incidents including a heated on-track argument involving hand gesturing aimed at the former teammate Kurt Busch and a crash-related controversy at Talladega when 14 cars were wrecked trying to avoid his spinning car.
In Charlotte, Keselowski was again in the center of controversy after several on-and-off track run-ins with Denny Hamlin and Matt Kenseth. After the race, Keselowski was attacked by Kenseth. The other, more memorable incident of 2014 was a huge brawl between Keselowski, Gordon and Harvick and their crew members after the AAA Texas 500 where Keselowski blew Gordon's chances of winning the championship.
Video : Brad Keselowski gets loose and causes a big crash at Talladega
2015 was calm but disappointing for Brad
The following year passed without any major incidents on Brad's behalf, but in The Chase, at Texas, he was passed by non-Chaser Jimmie Johnson with 10 laps to go after leading for almost the whole race. He finished the race second, but the following event, the 2015 Quicken Loans Race for Heroes 500, saw an underwhelming performance from him as he finished ninth and failed to qualify for the final four Chase drivers. In the last race of the season, Ford 400, Keselowski again led the most of the race but a late caution cost him the lead and the win as he finished 3rd behind Kyle Busch who won the race and the 2015 Sprint Cup in what was the best season of his career.
Solid 2016 season
Brad was running strong most of the 2016 season but failed to qualify for the title battle and had to settle for the 12th position in the final classification. The start of the season was poor after Keselowski finished 20th in Daytona 500 but when he returned to the famous track for the second race of the season, he was victorious.
Until the end of the season he also won the races at Las Vegas, Talladega, and Kentucky and had numerous top 5 and top 10 finishes, but that still wasn't enough to be among the title chasers.
Keselowski's style is not so popular among drivers
In 2016, Keselowski will again be competing for Team Penske and we expect a solid year and lots of Top-10s from him. Although his driving style is often condemned by fellow competitors and he has made several controversial moves throughout his career, Brad Keselowski is undoubtedly one of the most talented and fearless drivers who race America's ovals. Because of that, we secretly hope for a redemption in the 2016 Chase and one more title to grace his home.