News & Media


Behind the Wheel: Racing worth the risk; safety upgrades ease worry

October 20, 2011, Brad Keselowski, Special to NASCAR.COM, NASCAR.com

Although hooking up in a two-car draft at 'Dega in 2009 eventually paved the way for Brad Keselowski, driving the No. 09 Chevrolet of Phoenix Racing, to score his first Cup win, the first-time Chase contender would rather go back to pack racing at the Alabama track. (Getty)

Rule changes bring unknown factor to Chase race at 'Dega; win or two needed

As race car drivers, we all are keenly aware of what can happen to us every time we strap in behind the wheel of one of our cars. More times than we care to count -- as in Sunday's tragedy at Las Vegas Motor Speedway -- something happens that causes us to ask ourselves, "Is everything worth it?" To me the answer is ...

Yes. Without a doubt. At least it is in my case. Racing makes me who I am. It's what drives me. It's what I'm wired to do.


Honoring Wheldon


NASCAR will provide teams with a B-post decal in honor of Dan Wheldon for all the cars and trucks this weekend at Talladega.


The Lionheart Knight image is one that was included on the back of every one of Wheldon's helmets. NASCAR also is producing helmet decals for any of the drivers who would like to run a version of the decal on their helmets.


Additionally, some of the drivers have their own personal plans to recognize Wheldon this weekend.


NASCAR also will include a moment of silence in Wheldon's honor prior to the invocations Saturday and Sunday.


My thoughts go out to Dan Wheldon's family and everyone in IndyCar. Penske Racing is one of two organizations which compete in both NASCAR and IndyCar. I know a lot of people within the walls of our shop are struggling with it. I believe, though I never met him, that Dan would want everyone to continue moving forward. I think that's important, especially with the new, safer car -- which Dan was instrumental in helping develop -- that IndyCar is coming out with next season.

There is no doubt that, over the last 10 years, NASCAR has become a much safer sport. While Talladega Superspeedway -- the site of our race this weekend -- still brings about a level of apprehension to many drivers, the safety of the cars we drive helps to ease those feelings. We know we are driving in the safest racing series in the world and that allows us to go out there and put on a great show for our fans.

I'm not sure what to expect this weekend when we get to Talladega. We have a bigger restrictor plate and the pressure relief valves on our radiators have been lowered, which is supposed to keep us from being able to hook up in the two-car draft for very long. It'll be interesting to see how that all plays out. Even though Carl [Edwards] and I were given a lot of credit for developing the two-car draft in 2009, I'm all for getting back together in a big pack. To me, Talladega is plenty wide enough for us to race side-by-side.

We have an exciting Chase on our hands, no doubt. This new point system is doing exactly what they hoped it would with the top seven drivers separated by only 27 points. The Miller Lite Dodge has been very competitive and very fast on the restrictor-plate tracks this season but we just haven't been able to get the finishes that we probably deserve. We need to strive for more consistency over the final five races -- and we need to win one or two -- to get back in serious contention for the championship. I love Talladega so this would be a great place to start.

(Editor's note: Keselowski has a best finish of 15th -- summer race at Daytona -- in the three previous restrictor-plate races this season. He crashed out of the Daytona 500, and was involved in a six-car accident that relegated him to a 33rd-place finish at Talladega in April.) | Watch

This week's fan question comes from Jason in Vero Beach, Fla. He wants to know why we are bringing out new cars during the Chase instead of relying on existing cars that we know can perform?

Thanks for the question, Jason. I've actually been asked this question a few times over the last week or so and I answer it the same way: You aren't going to get better by standing still. Each new car that is built is based off information/success of all our past chassis. We have a great engineering department here at Penske Racing and they continue to pore over all types of simulated information and testing results to give us the best equipment possible.

I'm really excited about the new chassis that are coming out from our fabricators. The key now is to make sure we have the correct mechanical setup on the car to ensure that we are getting the maximum performance possible.

That's it for this week. Not only will I be driving the Blue Deuce this weekend, Parker Kligerman will be behind the wheel of the Penske Truck Rental Ram from Brad Keselowski Racing in the Truck Series race. How cool would it be for both of us to pick up a win at Talladega?

Behind the Wheel with Brad Keselowski runs every other week on NASCAR.COM as he shares his experiences throughout the season, both at and away from the track. 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.

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