THE BLOG

LIFE ON AND OFF THE TRACK

The Bigger Picture

By | 2017-04-28T03:20:26+00:00 10.02.2015|26 Comments

At the end of last weekend’s race at New Hampshire, I was black flagged for jumping a restart, and the penalty cost me a shot at a win. Since then, a lot of people have asked me why I wasn’t angrier after the race, and the last thing I want people to think is that I didn’t care. I cared quite a bit. But a couple of things happened before the Sylvania 300 that had me thinking about the bigger picture, and they honestly helped put the result of the race into some perspective.

Every time we go to Loudon, there’s a lady with her daughter — the daughter’s probably in her early 20s now, and she’s in a wheelchair. She’s always right at the gate when you walk into the garage to start practice, and for the last few years, every time I’ve seen her, I’ve said hello, signed an autograph for her, shaken her hand and gone about my day. This year, when I went to shake the daughter’s hand, the mom leaned in and whispered in my ear her daughter’s ailment was getting the best of her. She wasn’t able to really shake my hand anymore.

That really stuck with me. Same goes for some news I’d gotten a few days earlier about a boy named Elijah Aschbrenner. I’d met Elijah at Catwalk for a Cause, a charity event held by Martin Truex Jr. He’s a 10 year-old boy suffering from cancer and, up until recently, his cancer had been in remission. I saw online recently that his cancer was back, and that the prognosis wasn’t good.

Elijah Aschbrenner was Martin Truex Jr.’s guest at the Talladega race earlier this year.

All of these things made me want to take a step back, and talk about charity and giving back, and specifically, my own experience with it.

BEING THERE

The whole relationship that athletes and celebrities have with giving back is a complicated one. Sometimes you wonder about people’s motivations. What’s genuine? What’s being done for show because cameras are there? Does it matter?

I’ll give you an example of the kinds of moral dilemmas that are out there. I heard of a very well-known football player who everyone recognized as being a great guy, and he really struggled with how to handle working with kids who were terminally ill. When he first started, he tried to keep up with the children. But when they passed away — which they all did — it broke his heart every time. Eventually, he decided to be very professional and great with the kids at the events he went to, but when they were over, he had to move on. It was hard to know what to think of that.

The first real experience I had with community service came when I was driving for Junior Motorsports. One of the sponsors was the Navy, and they asked me to visit one of their hospices, Navy Medical Center in San Diego. I was 24 at the time, and really had no idea what we were going to be doing, so I said, “It sounds cool. Let’s do it.”

When I walked into the hospital, it was overwhelming. There were people my age who were missing arms, legs, limbs and worse. I’ll never forget walking up to them, and seeing their bandages. So many of the bandages were this rust colored brown. Knowing that the bandages had been white to start with, and that they were changing to brown as the patient’s’ blood leaked into them and dried up — it made it so real to me.

It also made me realize why it’s important to spend time with people in need.

Spending tie with some of the Paralyzed Veterans of America last year at Kentucky.

Spending time with some of the Paralyzed Veterans of America last year at Kentucky.

You can give money to people all you want, but giving money and giving hope are two different things. We need them both, but understanding the difference between the two is really critical. That’s why I try to do more one-on-one meeting with people.

When you’re with someone in an individual setting — or even if it’s a group setting — you’re helping someone momentarily escape their reality, escape their situation and perhaps, bring hope to them, which is a powerful thing. You can give them some peace of mind, and give them — and yourself — some perspective that they may not have been able to find. I usually start by talking the way I would with anyone I’m meeting for the first time, and keep it very focused on them: where they’re from, if they’re going to the race, that sort of thing. The one thing we don’t talk about, especially when I’m with servicemen and servicewomen, is their ailment. They get asked about it all the time, and typically, the last thing they want to talk about is how they were injured. That particular moment can bring back some really awful memories, and talking about it can also makes the person feel like he’s standing out in a negative way.

So we talk, and hopefully, I encourage the person to keep up his or her own battle to survive, and continue to be an inspiration for others.

One of other things I’ve noticed when I’m meeting face-to-face with people is that their families need encouragement, too. They’re trying to take care of this individual, and it’s so hard to take care of yourself, let alone someone else sometimes. Family members need some inspiration — something to prop them up — and I try to do what I can there, too.

Finally, the other thing is that when you’re there in person, you can sometimes help spread the news about that person’s illness, and bring attention to their situation so that they and others like them can benefit from it.

We have quite a few drivers in NASCAR who put in the time to help many, many people. Given what happened this week, I want to take a moment to acknowledge Tony Stewart, arguably the most charitable person you’ll find in the garage. He does a ton, and you’d never hear about any of it because it’s all done under the radar. I have a tremendous respect for him because of that.

1002_Tony

Tony Stewart is one of the most charitable men in our sport. I’m glad he’ll be sticking around after he retires.

A WORLD TO HELP

There’s no doubt that being a parent — even as short a time as I’ve been a parent — affects the way you look at children. The hope is that one day, kids grow up and figure out the world on their own, making their own decisions for good or bad. The idea that they’ll never get that chance, that they’ll never get to walk their own path, feels criminal.

Elijah Aschbrenner has had a tremendous effect on me and on my girlfriend, Paige. He inspired us, and reminded us of what is truly important. I’ve included more information about him below.

This weekend, I’ll get back behind the wheel of the 2 car, and I’ll put my energy back into racing for a championship. Sometimes things will go our way, and sometimes they won’t, and without a doubt, I’ll let you know how I feel about it. But whatever happens, win or lose, I’m going to remember that there’s a lot more happening outside the track, and it really, really matters. My hope is that you’ll take a moment out of your day to think about the bigger picture, too. There is literally a world of people out there who need our help.

(Learn more about Elijah Aschbrenner at https://www.facebook.com/prayersforelijah and #PrayersForElijah on Twitter.)

26 Comments

  1. TL October 2, 2015 at 6:05 pm - Reply

    Great blog once again, Brad. I’m a 17 year old guy and you’ve been such a great role model for people my age and younger. I’m a huge fan of yours and watch every single race and cheer you on. You are genuinely a great guy. You’re patriotic, humble, and you’re a phenomenal race car driver. I got to me you face-to-face for the first time following the truck race at Charlotte last year, and you were so nice and signed my hat and flag. I’ve been cheering for you every week and will continue to do so. Go Brad! #GoingFor2

  2. James October 2, 2015 at 6:41 pm - Reply

    You’re a class-act, Keselowski.

  3. Ron October 2, 2015 at 7:49 pm - Reply

    You are wise beyond your years
    Thanks for the insight on smoke
    Hoping you win the chase
    2×2

  4. Ron Van Dusen October 2, 2015 at 7:54 pm - Reply

    This is why I support you and am so proud Team Penske and MillerCoors do as well. I work for a MC wholesaler and respect your opinions, passion and your wisdom beyond your years. Brad, you are a real class act. Never change!!!!

  5. Kathy Wilton October 2, 2015 at 8:09 pm - Reply

    Very well written and from your heart. That is what really counts. Keep up the great work.

  6. Mike Wood October 2, 2015 at 9:26 pm - Reply

    Brad you could not have posted these comments at a better time. I am in Cedar Falls Iowa filming the wedding of a mutual friend of ours, Taylor Morris. Tonight at the rehearsal dinner, several other wounded warriors who spent time with Taylor at Walter Reed all posed for a photo together, and it was hard to contain myself. But they all had huge smiles on their faces, and are letting nothing get in their way. I’ve filmed hundreds of weddings, but this one for Danielle and Taylor will mean more to me than they can imagine. Both are true Anerican Heroes. Thank you for all you do for our heroes Brad.

  7. Sandi Beach October 2, 2015 at 9:47 pm - Reply

    Well written as usual. You helped change my additude on Tony a little. Nice to see your Dad & Uncle Ron staying involved.

  8. Doreen Onuski October 2, 2015 at 9:59 pm - Reply

    Amazing how you put your feelings into words! Have so much respect for you for helping our veterans escaping there problems ..even if for a few moments! Will be cheering for you …as I have been since your beginning with Jr. Motorsports!!! Good lick this weekend!

  9. Dave N. October 2, 2015 at 10:27 pm - Reply

    BK,

    Great blog post. Right up front, I used to be a big NASCAR fan until just after Dale Sr. passed. Been a casual fan since, and honestly, never cared much for you as a driver, as I watched only from the periphery. This year, my son has become interested in NASCAR, so I have again, and I have gained a lot of respect for you as I find out more about you. You are a credit to the sport, I wish you the best of luck, and (as a Navy vet) thank you for all you do.

  10. Ann October 2, 2015 at 10:48 pm - Reply

    Brad, you write beautifully, I have tears in my eyes. Wonderful. You, Team Penske and Team Penske sponsors are the best.

  11. Jeri Roberson October 2, 2015 at 11:17 pm - Reply

    Well said. Very heartfelt words. There are always somebody that needs those few words to ease the burden they bear and, for a short time feels someone cares enough to share there thoughts .GOOD LUCK..

  12. L Lee October 2, 2015 at 11:59 pm - Reply

    I am a fellow Penske (Auto Group) employee and really enjoy your blogs. It is awesome that you can be so assertive on the track and so introspective in your blogs. See you in Phoenix #goingfor2

  13. Mike October 3, 2015 at 12:00 am - Reply

    Brad….. I’ll be honest ….. I had never been a fan , as a matter of fact you were prob one of my least favorite drivers for a variety of reasons . As a fan often times it’s hard to realize who you are on the track and in interviews isn’t always a great representation of who you truly are behind he scenes . I stumbled upon this blog entry through a post on a message board and I’m truly glad i did . My impressions of you as a person have changed and although I’m sure that wasn’t your intention you have gained a fan …. Keep being who you are on and off the track !!!

  14. valerie combs October 3, 2015 at 12:10 am - Reply

    Brad – once again this just proves why I’m a BK fan…beautifully written and completely made me take a look at the big picture that tends to be forgotten in our everyday lives. Good luck this weekend and the rest of the season!

  15. Dylan October 3, 2015 at 12:26 am - Reply

    Hey Brad. Big fan ever since your start, racing for Dale in the now, xfinity series. I have the upmost respect for you and most the other racers in the cup series, it’s the only reason I watch the races anymore since I find it boring when nascar tries to manipulate the race, and it seems to happen every single race. Hopefully your post race comments might open some peoples eyes, but whatever, not what the blog is about.

    really heartfelt blog and I completely agree things like this puts life into perspective.

  16. Access Kelly October 3, 2015 at 12:56 am - Reply

    Brad! I love your blogs. You’re freaking brilliant. The real deal. Don’t ever change!! Proud to say I’m a newer Nascar fan. My dad loved the sport for years and I finally got hooked on it last season. Left turns fo’ life! Haha! I love you and Joey! You two will keep Nascar relevant, refreshing and perhaps most importantly… alive. #GoPenske

  17. Kimberly Johnson October 3, 2015 at 12:36 pm - Reply

    This was an amazing blog. I have never gotten so emotional as I have with this one. May god bless you and your family.

  18. Melanie October 3, 2015 at 3:57 pm - Reply

    Very inspirational Brad! Thank you for sharing your thoughts, and heart felt emotions. Utmost respect for you!

  19. carolyn acton October 3, 2015 at 8:47 pm - Reply

    great blog helped me accept nascars stupidy

  20. Patricia October 3, 2015 at 9:16 pm - Reply

    I was your guest at Bristol in the spring after my husband’s 14 year battle was over. We were long time Penske fans and, when you came on board, we were your fans. You are aggressive and exciting to watch on the track; compassionate and honest as a man. Never underestimate the positive impact you have on others. Thank you for sharing.

  21. AnthonyC October 4, 2015 at 3:19 am - Reply

    Brad, you make me proud to be your fan. You are a true champion, and a great, great American.

  22. janice October 5, 2015 at 1:50 pm - Reply

    brad – awesome blog. i love reading what you write. you know another nascar champion that was extremely charitable, and not many knew…..dale sr. he had a heart of gold. i saw it when i met him once at a chevy dealership. how he was with the special needs kids and people who were handicapped brought tears to my eyes. the big-bad intimidator was a softy at heart.

    keep those feet of yours firmly grounded and always remember the love of others. thanks brad.

  23. TINA STRICKLAND October 29, 2015 at 11:54 am - Reply

    Once again you prove to be a class act and we are proud of you. All people can take a lesson from you and Tony. They don’t have to be celebrities to go and visit the Military hospitals or Nursing homes. See you in Martinsville!

  24. Joe Kennedy November 29, 2015 at 7:21 pm - Reply

    You are awesom. Been a fan since you drive for Navy and JR. Now I’m a bigger fan.

  25. Houston Steven May 10, 2016 at 9:38 am - Reply

    You are my favorite driver. Thank you for the insight, and I hope you win the chase Brad. I am your biggest fan.

  26. Roberta July 21, 2016 at 1:58 pm - Reply

    You are so much more than a driver. I agree wholeheartedly about giving time not just money. Thank you ..

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