Sunday afternoon, Team Penske driver Brad Keselowski will join his Cup Series peers for a trip to Darlington Raceway. The Goodyear 400 will mark the first of two races at The Lady in Black, both of which will feature cars hitting the wall and earning the famed “Darlington Stripe.” Finding success will not be easy given the inherent craziness, but Keselowski is ready for a “challenging” afternoon of racing.
Keselowski sat down one-on-one with Heavy ahead of Sunday’s race to preview the upcoming trip to Darlington and discuss his quest to find dominant speed. He explained that heading back to The Lady in Black in the spring is “old school” and that he likes the schedule change. Keselowski also detailed how easy it is to make a mistake on the difficult track.
“I like Darlington as a track. I like what it stands for, with respect to the history of the sport,” Keselowski told Heavy. “And it’s just really, really tough. It’s quite honestly one of the most challenging tracks in all Motorsports.”
In his career, the veteran driver has one win and five top-five finishes in 14 starts. He has found consistent success over the years. Though Keselowski noted that he too has pushed too hard and suffered the consequences at the historic track.
“I’ve hit the wall too,” Keselowski added. “Last fall, I think I hit the wall in the Southern 500. Like a hundred laps in. And just the whole rest of the race, I was just under my breath, calling myself an idiot. ‘You knew better than that. I gotta be smarter than that.’ I was just so mad at myself. So you’re on a fine line. Sometimes you push too hard. That’s part of it. But Darlington when you push too hard, she bites.”
Keselowski will strive for consistency and speed at Darlington
Following a third-place finish in the Buschy McBusch Race 400 at Kansas, the 2012 champion explained to media members that he is trying to achieve a breakthrough in dominant speed. His car has been good all year, but Keselowski is seeking that little extra that will help him return to Victory Lane multiple times. But how will he achieve that goal?
“Well, you know, the execution is definitely part of it,” Keselowski explained. “I ain’t gonna sit here and tell you I’ve been perfect. I got caught up in a scenario in Atlanta that, you know, was my own doing. You know, so I’m not gonna sit here and say I’ve been perfect.
“But really, when you look at success in the sport, the backbone of it at least, with any kind of continuity is being really fast,” Keselowski added. “And we are fast, you know, we’re running the top five pretty consistently when we execute. But there’s just right now kind of segregation, another level on these mile-and-a-half [tracks] where those guys are just a step better than us. And we got to find that, to be able to go out and just dominate one race.”
Keselowski has performed well at the 1.5-mile oval tracks, such as Las Vegas Motor Speedway and Kansas Speedway. His third-place finish on Sunday is a fitting example. He also finished second behind Hendrick Motorsports driver Kyle Larson during the spring trip to Sin City.
Wins are important, but Keselowski remains focused on helping those in need
With the calendar turning to May, NASCAR is making preparations for the Coca-Cola 600 and the 600 Miles of Remembrance. Every Memorial Day Weekend, the Cup Series drivers head to Charlotte Motor Speedway with the name of a fallen military member on their vehicles. They then take part in a grueling race while honoring those that have given their lives in the line of duty.
For Keselowski, the 600 Miles of Remembrance only continues the work that he does in the Veteran community. He started The Checkered Flag Foundation in 2010 with the goal of honoring and assisting “those who have sacrificed greatly for our country.” The organization has since raised roughly $3.8 million for veterans, active military members, and first responders while donating to the Fisher House Foundation and Paralyzed Veterans of America.
“We’re really busy right now with a number of initiatives that are active,” Keselowski said. “And of course, we have a number of initiatives that we’ve completed. Some of them that stand out to me are: we completed the Fisher House construction fundraising in Michigan, my home state, which was terrific. I’m really proud of that one. We’re in the middle of construction of a dog park for canine training, specified around the use for police forces, but also for the local community, and veterans that might have PTSD and so forth.
“We also have our Heroes Homecoming event coming up where we fund and effectively celebrate the acquisition of a dog to a veteran in great need of support. That’s coming up this month. We have all other kinds of active programs. I’m really proud of all of them, whether it be the Purple Healing Camp up in the northeast there with the Military Family Foundation.”