DETROIT — Are we likely to see a different Brad Keselowski now that he is rich and famous and intends to buy a tank?
The payout of almost $6 million for winning the 2012 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship could go a long way in changing the most dedicated and focused individual.
Since capturing the championship last Sunday, the 28-year-old from a hardworking, blue-collar racing family in Rochester Hills has appeared in Detroit’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, and on “Good Morning America,” “The Late Show with David Letterman” and a host of other TV and radio programs.
Keselowski, who drives for Roger Penske, says he wants to hang out with cool people and date a celebrity. He’ll probably get the chance.
Will success spoil Keselowski, who was brought up to work hard, respect his elders and drive fast?
“No way. Brad is a genuine and caring person — there’s no facade about him, and I don’t see that changing.“
That wasn’t his mother, Kay, talking last Wednesday, as Brad continued his whirlwind tour of appearances around the country.
It wasn’t his father, Bob, who wouldn’t say much about Brad, anyway, preferring to let his son’s driving do the talking.
And it certainly wasn’t his uncle, Ron Keselowski, a tough former ARCA and NASCAR racer who mentored Brad, worked on his super late model car and would castigate him for finishing second.
Those were the words of Michigan International Speedway President Roger Curtis, who has seen Keselowski mature from a teenager with potential into a racer who has suddenly become the new face of NASCAR.
“Brad is still Brad and I expect him to be that way,” continued Curtis. “Of course, he’ll have more commitments now and more restraints on his time, not to mention more popularity, but I really don’t see that changing him.”
Curtis has worked personally at MIS in the past with Keselowski, who drove the No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge in 2012 but will swap with Penske Racing to Ford next season. Among their co-projects had been Keselowski’s Checkered Flag Foundation, which supports military members, veterans and first-responders.
“He’s been a great role model,” Curtis said.
Keselowski appreciates the support of people like Curtis and his MIS crew. He knows how much Dodge put into the effort of winning a Cup championship, even though the Auburn Hills manufacturer knew it was leaving NASCAR.
Curtis and MIS have big plans for Keselowski in 2013, but he’s not revealing exactly what just yet.
“We’ve watched the changing of the guard,” said Curtis of Keselowski’s Cup win. “We could be looking at a Keselowski period of dominance in NASCAR, where Brad wins two, three more championships. He is such a calculating driver and meticulous planner. He’s just an awesome dude.”