By BloodCurse 1 Comments
Brad Keselowski won this past weekend's Food City 500 at Bristol Motor Speedway in dominating fashion; leading the most laps to win his fifth Cup race and second in a row at BMS. An especially satisfying win for him considering the whole timing lines thing (more details in previous blog). The blue deuce was just hot all day long, and, although, Vickers led for a good while I think only Kenseth and Gordon had fast enough cars to get a close enough to have a shot. But, ultimately, there was just no catching the wheelman of the blue deuce. I don't think it's the only time we'll see him in victory lane this year.
I think he's done just about everything right in his career. He never rushed into anything, he took time and honed his skill and now it's paying off in a big way. After driving for his family-owned team he was tapped by Dale Jr to drive the 88 in the Nationwide series where he spent a few years proving that he could compete with Cup stars like Kyle Busch, Denny Hamlin, and Carl Edwards (going on to have feuds with each one of them, actually) and, of course, scoring the upset in James Finch's 09 at Talladega.
2010 saw him join Penske Racing full time in both Nationwide and Cup. I'm no doubt sure he was giving it his all on the Cup side but the chemistry just wasn't there, in fact his first full time Cup season will likely be remembered for Carl Edwards sending his car airborne at Atlanta. But what did click, however, was his relationship with Paul Wolfe and his Nationwide team. Together they produced 26 top 5 finishes, including 6 wins, which led to the 2010 Nationwide championship. It was Roger Penske's first championship of any kind in NASCAR.
A year later a sponsorship swap saw him step in the #2 Miller Lite Dodge, famously driven by Rusty Wallace and Kurt Busch. Paul Wolfe joined him in Cup this time as well. While they started off luke-warm, even with a fuel-mileage win at Kansas, things got red-hot in the summer when they scored two more wins and jumped over 10 spots in the points and making their first chase. All this after sustaining a broken ankle in a hard crash testing at Road Atlanta. What was really impressive to me was where they finished and who they finished in front of. 5th place. Five-time defending champion Jimmie Johnson finished 6th, and with one less win. It's a pretty big deal when you can say you out performed the 48 team.
All this was possible, I believe, because Brad took his time, learned all he could and didn't rush into the first Cup ride available to him. Granted these days if a Cup ride becomes available who could or would say no. But if he'd jumped the gun early would he and Roger have their first championship? Would he be the top driver at an elite Cup team like Penske? Looking at two other drivers I see Ricky Stenhouse Jr taking a similar approach and can't help but wonder what would have been had Joey Logano had a full season or two in the Nationwide series.
It seems it isn't a question of "if" but "when" Brad and Penske will celebrate their first championship in the Cup series. I have a strong feeling it will be sooner rather than later.