News & Media


Behind the Wheel: Hard work helps offset bad luck

March 23, 2011, Brad Keselowski, Special to NASCAR.COM, NASCAR.com

The season is in full swing after our race last weekend at Bristol. We had a lot of on-track action with some drivers getting mad at other drivers. And after the race at California this weekend, we'll be using this year's owners' points to determine who is locked into each race. We're definitely off and running and things are starting to become routine again following the offseason.

Bristol was a unique weekend for both of my teams. Once again, we had two very fast race cars, but circumstances kept us from getting the finishes we deserved. I've never had three consecutive weekends where I've cut down right-front tires, but that's what we've had with the No. 22 Discount Tire Dodge. I don't know if we had a car that could have won the race, the 18 car [Kyle Busch] was in a class by himself, but it kept us from having the opportunity. Still, to grab a ninth-place finish after the incident was a testament to a lot of hard work by the Discount Tire team. After the year we had in 2010, I guess it is our turn to have some misfortune.

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Keselowski gets caught up in a seven-car wreck at Bristol.

Hard work was basically the theme of the weekend. The No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge was stupid-fast. I am very excited about how we will race over the next couple of weeks as I think we have hit on a few things that will transition well to other tracks. I really think we could have finished in the top five in the Cup race. But Bristol being Bristol, we were involved in a multi-car wreck on Lap 28 when Jeff Burton had an ignition box problem. We just had nowhere to go and we all just piled into each other. That's just short-track racing. After making repairs, we had a flat right-rear tire and the two incidents combined caused us to lose two laps. No one panicked. Paul [Wolfe, crew chief] and all the guys put together a plan to get both laps back, which we did and were able to scratch out an 18th-place finish. While 18th is a long way from a win, it felt like a win because it showed everyone that their hard work does pay off.

Now we go from one of the smallest tracks we race on, to the 2-mile Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif. Not only is that a big transition in setups and race strategy, it's a big transition mentally for a driver. Bristol is all-out, race-your-guts-out-every-lap, intense racing. You can't lie down in the seat for one second. Fontana is completely the opposite. It's very wide, with plenty of racing room. You still have to race hard, but you aren't fender to fender every lap, like Bristol.

One of the coolest parts about racing at Fontana is seeing what celebrities will make it out to the track. In past years we've had to go up against the Oscars, which probably kept some away. This year we have a new date so hopefully we'll get to see more of them. Sugar Ray Leonard is the honorary starter, which is pretty cool. I'm a big boxing fan and I look forward to meeting him.

From the fans

This week's fan question comes from Gary Lael in Illinois. He asked if there is still a "guys, have at it" decree this year?

Gary, we haven't been told otherwise by NASCAR, so I'm going to proceed this year like it is the same as last year. Clearly, I was the one driver that epitomized the "guys, have at it" mantra from last year. Although, I was on the receiving end of both incidents last season I don't go into any race with retaliation on my mind. That is a disservice to the guys working on my cars because if I'm thinking of payback, I'm not giving them 100 percent to make the car faster. That is my only concern when I get to the race track.

That's it for this week. Make sure you tune in to both races from Auto Club Speedway this weekend. It's never been a very strong track for me over the years, but we ran up front in both Nationwide Series races there last year and I think we've hit on a few things that will make us much better in the Cup car moving forward.

Behind the Wheel with Brad Keselowski runs every other Wednesday on NASCAR.COM as he shares his experiences throughout the season. The opinions expressed are solely those of Keselowski. Have a question for Brad? Submit inquiries to bradkeselowski@penskeracing.com and follow him on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/keselowski.