In his latest bradracing.com blog, "Those Who Serve," Brad Keselowski reveals, "If racing hadn't worked out, I would have joined the military," following his sister, Dawn, his grandfathers, his uncle and several cousins.
"Because I'd heard about it from other family members, I was fascinated with the discipline, the mental strength that it takes to be a member of the military and the code of self-sacrifice and honor that goes with it," Keselowski wrote. "And I was also impressed by people who were really looking to make something of their lives and took that route.
"It was racing, though, that really brought me into direct contact with veterans and helped me truly grasp what they do for our country."
Last year during NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race weekend, Keselowski's Checkered Flag Foundation invited injured military and first responders to show his appreciation for their sacrifices. The first-class NASCAR weekend offered an opportunity for the veterans to bond with one another and feel the rush of adrenaline from riding along with Keselowski at full race speed in a Race 2 Recovery car.
"On days after races, we started hosting injured veterans, taking them on rides in a specially built car with its own safety setup," Keselowski wrote. "I decided that if I was going to it, I was going to do it full out, and that meant having a car that went full speed -- 180, 190, 200 mph. I didn’t want to take an injured vet, who had made all the sacrifices he made, to a racetrack and have him experience 150 mph. I wanted to take him out and have him say, 'Hey, this is the real deal here.'"
with NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion Brad Keselowski
Keselowski and one of the honorees, Jacob Lerner, hit it off right away. Lerner joined the army in 2006, where he was stationed at Fort Hood, Texas. In June of 2008, the combat engineer and his 3rd BDE 1st INF unit was deployed to Afghanistan. Shortly after surviving an improvised explosive device attack, Lerner stepped on an antipersonnel landline, severing his left foot and injuring his right arm.
Last May, Lerner was attending NASCAR Technical Institute and wanted to work for a race team so he interned at Brad Keselowski Racing. Now, he's actively looking to become part of a NASCAR team.
Next Wednesday, Keselowski will host a charitable open house event to benefit Lerner at luxury jewelry company David Yurman in Charlotte's South Park Mall from 6-8 p.m. ET. David Yurman will launch its Frontier collection, and a portion of the evening's proceeds will go to Lerner.
Keselowski notes NASCAR's special connection to the military in the conclusion of his blog.
"It's no coincidence that that the biggest racing weekend of the year is on Memorial Day," Keselowski wrote. "NASCAR was created in 1948, three years after World War II had ended. It was created by a lot of war veterans, and a lot of the garage is populated with former military because the lifestyle is so similar. You’re kind of a gypsy in some ways. You need to have a lot of discipline and be able to follow orders, or somebody could get hurt, potentially fatally.
"Because of that, there’s a real affinity between the racing community and the military world that doesn’t exist in any other sport, as far as I can tell. My guess is that there probably always will be. And if I can play some small part in perpetuating that, I would be very proud."