By Jordan Dodson
Brad Keselowski earned his first Sprint Cup championship at Homestead-Miami on Sunday, in only his third full season. He now joins the company of Dale Earnhardt Sr. and Jeff Gordon in winning a Sprint Cup championship within three years or less in a Sprint Cup career. But that is not all he proved to me this year. Keselowski has proven in multiple ways, that he is more like Dale Earnhardt Sr. than some may think.
One driver has far more accomplishments than the other, but both have similarities in racing style and persona.
Brad Keselowski first made a name for himself when he drove for JR Motorsports in 2007, at the Nationwide level. It was when Keselowski won his first Sprint Cup race, at Talladega Superspeedway, that people started to take notice.
Keselowski, in his fifth Sprint Cup start, won at Talladega in dramatic fashion as he tapped Carl Edwards, who was attempting to block him, into the fence and won his first Sprint Cup race. That was also the first time Keselowski proved that he was not going to go down, without a fight, just like Dale Earnhardt Sr.
Dale Earnhardt Sr. was known for sticking his bumper into competitors’, or telling drivers what was on his mind. A great example of that was in 1999 when Earnhardt spun Terry Labonte at Bristol Motor Speedway, in an attempt to “rattle his cage”. Earnhardt was also not afraid to speak his mind. There are countless stories told by his competitors about the mind games he played on them. After all, Earnhardt’s nickname was “The Intimidator.”
But at the end of the day, Dale Earnhardt Sr. respected the sport of NASCAR and his competitors and they respected him. He wanted to race the best he could and put on a great show for the fans. I have seen the same qualities in Brad Keselowski during the 2012 season and throughout his young career.
Brad Keselowski has proven, just like at Talladega, that he is not afraid to speak his mind or use his bumper. Keselowksi is always willing to speak his mind, even at the beginning of his racing career. Some instances include, trash talk and battles on the race track with Carl Edwards and Kyle Busch. Many remember when Carl Edwards flipped Keselowski at Atlanta Motor Speedway during their rivalry and the battles they had in the Nationwide series. Keslowski and Kyle Busch had a war of words at the beginning of Brad’s career as well. Keselowksi has not been afraid to speak his mind and in the process has had to work a little harder to gain the respect of other drivers.
Another instance of Keselowski speaking his mind, was calling out Hendrick Motorsports this past season for pushing the envelope on pre-race adjustments and in turn frustrating Hendrick Motorsports drivers. Dale Earnhardt Jr. later told Keselowski to stick with what he knew best, driving a race car.
Sure, other drivers trash talk too, but Brad Keselowski is different. He is honest about what he thinks and feels whenever, wherever and with whomever.You have to admire that kind of honesty. Another difference is that Brad backs up his words and actions on the track and in turn is gaining respect from his competitors, and proving he is an elite NASCAR driver.
Through the examples mentioned and others, Brad Keselowski proves he has “The Intimidator” factor and the results to prove it. If Dale Earnhardt Sr.’s accomplishments are a sign of things to come for Keselowski, then he has a bright future ahead.
Keselowski has been a breath of fresh air this 2012 season and his demeanor, similar to Earnhardt, has been refreshing at a time when drivers are more likely to play by the rules than bend them as compared to their predecessors.
Keselowski sums up his racing style like this, “I’m not in the habit of just wrecking people just to wreck ‘em. Now obviously if somebody does something to push me around, that’s a little different.” And as far as Brad’s outspokeness and honesty, “The sport of motor racing needs someone to keep it honest and you know what, if that’s the one contribution I can give to this sport, then so be it, because that’s how much I care about this sport and I want to see it be successful.”
No one will ever replace Dale Earnhardt Sr, but with all that said, Keselowski’s attitude and constant results on the race track make me think. There is no doubt, Keselowski is making a name for himself, in his own way and on his own terms.