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Keselowski takes the helm at Penske Racing

January 26, 2012, Mark Aumann, NASCAR.com

CONCORD, N.C. -- Doesn't buy into the idea that two-car teams can't compete on level playing field

This is Brad Keselowski's team now.

If anyone doubted that, all they needed to do was listen to him during Thursday morning's Penske Racing media availability -- when he not only succinctly summed up the importance of the team's new and renewed sponsorship commitments in off-the-cuff remarks, but then began to direct writers and photographers as to where they should go for one-on-one interviews.

If Roger Penske is the Captain, Keselowski is quickly on the way to becoming his first lieutenant.

"He's a great commodity for us, and I think he'll be a great star."

--ROGER PENSKE

"I have a commanding presence? I'd say Roger's the leader," Keselowski said. "Leadership in racing is tied directly to success. It's my goal to be a co-leader of this team with [new teammate A.J. Allmendinger] or whoever my teammates are. It's very important for us to both be leading and steering the ship.

"I want to see how that develops and I want to be a part of him getting there, because strength is in numbers."

Keselowski's ability to lead hasn't gone unnoticed by Penske, perhaps the master at organization and preparation when it comes to auto racing. You don't win 15 Indianapolis 500s without knowing what it takes to motivate people. And Penske hopes Keselowski is the key to landing that elusive Sprint Cup championship trophy.

"When I met with Brad the year before he came to drive for us, he came to the shop and said, 'Look, I'd love to come to your organization someday and help you build the best team in the business,' " Penske said.

"He's been fully engaged. The sponsors love him."

Even more importantly, Keselowski has become to go-to guy in the organization when it comes to finding and signing top talent.

"I think he was instrumental in helping us get A.J. on board -- because when you're changing drivers like that, you don't have months and months to do all kinds of research outside of what you can see on the track," Penske said. "Also, as we've tried to recruit other people into the organization, Brad's the first guy to say, 'Let me get on the phone and give them some input into how good the team is and what we can deliver if you come to work for us here.' "

Much of that has to do with Keselowski's maturity -- and his views on what makes for a successful operation. He's been quoted as saying Kurt Busch is the most talented driver he's seen. And yet Busch was unable to win a title during his time at Penske.

Keselowski has a theory as to why.

"It takes more than talent to win a championship," Keselowski said. "This is a big, big ship at Penske Racing. There's over 300 employees. The words of three or four people set the path for 300 some-odd employees. As a driver, you're one of those three or four people.

"I try to surround myself with people that are committed to the truth. I think you see that in the way I do things."

--BRAD KESELOWSKI

"That path is so important because it's a team sport. You can be the most talented quarterback in the league and not make the right calls at the line or not have the belief of his players. I think there's a lot of power behind that. At the NASCAR level, it's not good enough to be the most talented driver. You have to be a motivator. You have to be a team player."

A lot has been made of NASCAR's "super teams," as mega-operations like Hendrick Motorsports and Roush Fenway Racing have dominated the series in the past decade. But Keselowski doesn't buy into the idea that Penske can't compete on a level playing field with just two cars.

"If you want to know my honest opinion, there are no four-car teams in NASCAR," Keselowski said. "There are a lot of two-car teams, a few one-car teams and a couple pairings of two-car teams. But there are no four-car teams. Just look at Hendrick. You go there and there's two separate shops.

"... It's not a successful model. It doesn't work. Each team takes roughly 100 people to run it. You can't get 400 people to work together. It's 400 cats, running all different directions. It's a struggle in itself to get two teams to work together. And I feel zero competitive disadvantage to a four-car team."

After three victories, a berth in the Chase and a top-five finish in the points, Keselowski could sit back and enjoy the accolades. But that's not how he got to this point.

"I think the important thing is who you surround yourself with," Keselowski said. "You can surround yourself with people who will tell you what you want to hear, and I don't do that. I try to surround myself with people that are committed to the truth. I think you see that in the way I do things.

"I don't necessarily tell people what they want to hear."

But when Keselowski speaks, people listen -- even people used to giving orders rather than following them. That continues to impress Penske, who sees a leader just coming into his own.

"I think he's at the right age," Penske said. "You could see how good he really is when he got hurt. He's a great commodity for us, and I think he'll be a great star."