For Keselowski, truck team efforts paying off
September 13, 2013, Kenny Bruce, NASCAR.com
JOLIET, Ill. – Brad Keselowski Racing scored one of its strongest results to date, with owner/driver Brad Keselowski finishing second and teammate Ryan Blaney taking third in Friday night’s EnjoyIllinois.com 225.
The strong run indicates just how far his own organization has come, Keselowski said.
“I’ve been really happy with how things have come together lately,” Keselowski, who led five times for 50 laps in the 150-lap race, said. “I really think Ryan has had a shot of … winning probably the last three or four races. They’ve had a few mechanical issues, which was kind of a letdown. I feel bad about that. A really strong truck at Iowa and running out of gas, and then being up front with some suspension failures in Canada. The 19 led a bunch of laps at Iowa with Ross Chastain, which I was really glad to see, happy for him.”
The third-place finish shot Blaney, a winner earlier this year at Pocono, up two spots in the points. He’s now fifth and trails leader Matt Crafton by 82. It was his seventh top-five finish of the season.
“Look at where we were and where we were finishing at the beginning of the year, and where we’ve been over the past two or three months,” Blaney said. “We’ve had a chance to win about six or seven races here and they just haven’t played out, whether it be mechanical failures or just racing.
“But I’m really happy with how much we’ve learned and how much support Ford and Penske Racing have given us to be able to learn like we have and really excel. I think we can be a top five team every week in both trucks. … I’m really happy with the progress we’ve made.”
Fielding one competitive team, even at the Truck Series level, isn’t an easy endeavor. Exposure isn’t comparable to that of the Nationwide or Sprint Cup Series and sponsorships are equally difficult to come by, if not more so. Yet Keselowski, who purchased the assets of his family’s team in 2008 to try and keep the group afloat, continues to pour resources, and time, into the program.
Funding would obviously help the two-team effort, but Keselowski said he’s found other ways to approach such issues.
“I think at times we probably could look to funding and say it would be better if we could show direct results with it,” he said. “But the reality is there are a lot of areas that we could be better that don’t require funding and that’s what I work on every day with my people to try and find that next piece that’s not from spending more money but from working smarter and harder.
“And I think they’re really starting to grasp that concept. I know it sounds cheesy to say that teamwork is a component that produces that but it really is. They’re working better as a team, whether it’s the two teams together, or with different vendors or even within themselves. I’m really proud of that.”
It’s as much a personal mission as a desire to simply suit up and race. For a driver who has yet to win in the series, there are likely few who feel as strongly about where it is today and where it will be tomorrow as the defending Sprint Cup Series champion.
“The truck team is such an important effort for me personally,” he said. “Along the way I say a lot of things and sometimes get myself in a lot of trouble and have some strong opinions. A lot of people will tell me that I haven’t earned that right to do so or been around as long as Jeff Gordon or done things like Jimmie Johnson. Name your driver.
“But to me, obviously winning a championship is validation and makes me feel better about saying those things. But owning a team and re-investing in the sport, which is something the majority of those people don’t do makes me feel like I have a spot in the sport and have a right to a louder voice. And that’s why team ownership in this series is so important to me personally and professionally.”