THE BLOG

LIFE ON AND OFF THE TRACK

THE STATE OF THE 2

By | 2017-04-28T03:20:07+00:00 07.14.2016|Tags: |20 Comments

The funny thing about this blog is that when I first thought of writing it, I didn’t think we were going to be coming off two straight wins. I think it’s important to acknowledge that. My plan originally was just to take stock of where we were at this point of the season. 

So here we are. 

The state of the No. 2 Nation is very, very good right now. Generally speaking, I’m thrilled where I’m at professionally and personally. 

Let’s get into it. 

ON THE TRACK

2016 NASCAR Kentucky

From a professional perspective, I don’t think it gets any better than being the Chase Grid leader and having the most wins. That feels pretty good. 

Things are clicking, that’s for sure, and the results are indicative of that. I don’t think there’s really just one thing that’s the cause of it. It’s everything. 

At Daytona a couple weeks back, I think we probably had the best car. That comes from the team effort that everyone at Penske put in to turn around and build a much better car than what we had at Daytona in the spring for the 500. This time, during the race at Daytona, we also executed at a very high level. My spotter did a good job, and so did the pit crew. Paul did a good job with the strategy. I made some good moves. All of those things came together.  

When I look at Kentucky, we were probably not the best car. We were probably a fourth or fifth place car, but then again, that isn’t something that should get overshadowed. The thing about having a fifth place car is that on any given weekend, things can go your way, and you can win. That’s a big reason why we’ve been in the top five for the past seven or eight weeks. 

Taking a look at the team as a whole, I’m really happy with our progress. The pit crew is a relatively young bunch. We turned over most of the crew after we won the championship in 2012, and spent a year or two not really where we wanted to be. But now we’re becoming one of the top five teams on pit road, and that feels really good. With a little bit of time, I think we can become one of the best teams on pit road, if not the best. The chemistry is great. My communication with my crew chief, Paul Wolfe, is at a really high level right now. If I understood how we got to this point, I would have done it sooner. It’s sort of like sitting at the blackjack table, playing four hands and having them all hit. You take it, and enjoy it while you’ve got it. 

Personally, I feel good about my work behind the wheel. The cars are fast and I’m driving with a lot of confidence. Those things always go together for a race car driver.

THE BIGGER PICTURE

2016 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, Daytona

When I think about the NASCAR season so far—not just about our team, but in terms of the sport in general—there are few things that stand out to me. 

For one thing, I like the changes NASCAR made to the cars. They’re a bit racier around each other, which has allowed drivers to the showcase their talent to a larger degree. That’s a good thing. 

Somewhat related to that is collaboration that’s been happening in the sport this season, which has gotten a lot of attention of from the media. The drivers’ council has done a number of good things. The rules packages have been the most noticeable, but there’s been other changes with track security, rules and regulations on restarts and so forth that have been very positive from a leadership perspective and the standpoint of collaboration, which has gotten a lot of attention from the media—the driver’s council and so forth. It’s a huge step in the right direction, and I’m glad to be part of it. I think the sport’s really headed down a positive path that won’t be fully realized for another five to 10 years. 

Finally, one of the biggest challenges we have is with our changing fan base. Baby boomers aren’t getting any younger. Millennials are our next generation of fans. They’re harder to attract to any sport. Attracting those fans is a key challenge for us ahead.

OFF THE TRACK 

2016 NASCAR Kentucky

One thing I’ve done a lot of this season is work in the broadcast booth. I enjoy it, but it’s more than that. Motorsports has done so much for me. NASCAR has done so much for me. I take from the sport — money, trophies, fame, and so forth. And for that reason, I want to give back. At some point, I feel it’s every driver’s role to plant new seeds—whether that’s through the truck series, or teams or the broadcast booth. 

Speaking of truck teams: I’m really proud of what BKR has done so far this season. We’ve been so close to winning truck races. Our drivers are still in the hunt for that first team championship, and looking to make a strong run over the next few weeks. 

When you win, no one can say anything, and winning feels a lot more complete when you have a family to share it with. And when you’re lucky enough to be with someone like Paige, things are that much better. I’ve never been happier than I’ve been with her, and feel blessed to have our family. 

A pretty big change this year has been having our daughter, Scarlett, more visible at races. I was nervous about a number of things with respect to Scarlett, and I still am. (I think that’s part of being a parent.) My biggest worry is people who don’t like me taking it out on her. I’m still nervous about that. Any time I have a bad race and someone sees me with my daughter before it, I feel like people want to point the finger at her. As a dad, that’s the last thing I want her exposed to. I don’t want Paige exposed to that, either. 

But because we’ve had a successful year, it’s made me more comfortable having Scarlett involved in functions where she’s visible. 

HEADING TO THE CHASE

2016 NASCAR Daytona

So how do we keep the intensity up as we head toward the Chase? There’s no easy answer. You have to keep developing your car. You can’t rest on your laurels. 

You have to understand that everyone else is going to get better when the Chase starts. The two Stewart-Haas cars — the No. 4 of Kevin Harvick and No. 41 of Kurt Busch —  are first and third in points for a reason, and that’s because they’re good, consistent performers. I expect my teammate, Joey Logano, to perform really well during the playoffs. All the Gibbs cars have been good all year long, and the No. 48 always manages to find another gear in the Chase. The championship is going to run through those cars.

With that belief structure, you can look at where you’re at, and know that you have to continue to improve to stay on top.

It’s very easy to get baited into saving yourself, saving your car, saving your team for the Chase, but I don’t feel right about that. I feel I need to push the whole time. I feel good about myself as a person and race car driver when I push hard the whole year, and my goal, of course, is to win the championship. But that doesn’t mean I’m going lay up and not go for race wins because they don’t mean as much this time of year. 

In fact, to me—at least in one way— race wins mean everything. 

Even though we didn’t win the championship again in 2014, it felt like another championship season to me. It felt good in my heart. I’ve always subscribed to the belief that in motorsports, especially when you add in all these special rules with respect to playoffs, the Chase, and the randomness that can go with it, the only way you can really tell who the best team was is who had the most wins. In motorsports, you compete against everybody every week. That’s totally different from every other sport. There are no hollow or easy wins. 

The year reminds me a lot of 2012 and 2014. I feel like we’re having a championship caliber season. I’m going to do everything I can to win my second championship, but no matter what happens, the driver who wins the most races— whether it’s me or someone else—will be the best driver, as far as I’m concerned. 

THANK YOU

2016 NASCAR Kentucky

In motorsports, we don’t have hometowns the way that teams do in other sports, and because of that, we don’t really have hometown fans in that way, either. What we have, though, is something that’s really unique. 

Fans in motorsports tend to follow a kind of arc. In the beginning, when you’re new, people like you. You’re new, you’re fresh, you’re something different. Then you get somewhat established and continue to be successful, and people start to dislike you vehemently. Finally, when you reach the end of your career, you kind of reach that nostalgic stage, where you have fans who feel that you’re awesome because you’ve been around for 20 years. (Never mind that 10 years ago, they didn’t like you.) Rusty Wallace, Darrell Waltrip, Jeff Gordon—all of them were booed at the midpoint of their careers, and then cheered at the end.

It’s a funny dynamic that’s accentuated in racing more than in any other sports. 

I’m in the middle part. Last weekend at Kentucky, the fans were really polarized. There were those there who absolutely hated me, and they made themselves known. (That’s OK. I don’t race for popularity.) But when I was driving through the infield, getting ready to do introductions for the race, I noticed that a good percentage of the crowd was wearing my stuff, and I was like, “Wow, this is really cool. This is kind of thrilling.” 

Those guys are die-hard fans of mine. 

I would be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge those die-hard fans of mine. You’re the really special fans. Many years from now, when I decide to retire, I’ll know that all of you were really there with me from beginning. And as we head toward the latter part of the season, I just wanted to say thank you for that. I know you catch a little bit of hell from time to time from people who aren’t fans of mine. Thank you for being there for me, and the rest of the #2Crew. 

20 Comments

  1. patty July 14, 2016 at 11:04 pm - Reply

    As a fan of yours,i get a lot of haters,but I was thrilled to see you win in Kentucky in person for the 1st time.What a treat for fans of their driver to see it..I have 5 more races to go to,Homestead the last,hope you win it.Thanks for the blogs,love em.

  2. Lisa Alexander July 15, 2016 at 5:08 pm - Reply

    I am proud of the way your carry yourself. You are very important to the sport, you break the stereotypes that all drivers and fans are beer guzzling rednecks.
    I will always be a fan, and I wish you the best of luck in the world!
    @QuirkyFuzzball
    Lisa Alexander

  3. Wes Parton July 15, 2016 at 5:28 pm - Reply

    Brad,

    I am one of those lifelong fans you speak of. After the tragedy of Dale Sr., I fell off the Nascar bandwagon. One August night, I sat down and watched a race at Bristol Motor Speedway, a track I have a lot of memories at as a child. I told my Uncle, who is also a die hard Nascar fan, whoever wins the race I will begin to like no matter what. You happen to win that race and I have followed you ever since. You are an incredible driver, and I knew that from that night. Most of my family and friends think I resemble you, so some of them call me Brad. I don’t get to attend a lot of races, so maybe one day we can get together at a race and get a picture together. Continue to strive to be a better man, dad, driver, and teammate, because it only makes the haters hate more, which in my opinion fuels you. You brought me back to Nascar and continue to follow because of that one August night. In my opinion, I was your very first fan, and will be there til the end. Bring home some more trophies my friend! God speed, and drive safe.

    • Joshua July 30, 2016 at 6:02 pm - Reply

      Fantastic response! This is why I’ve been watching Nascar since 1988 (when I was 6 years old) and continue almost 30 years later. Brad K, you’re an awesome driver and I enjoy watching you take no slack. It’s also interesting to read your perspective–I think a lot of these “millennials” still think Nascar is Ricky Bobby or a bunch of grown men in flannel, drinking beer, and screaming curse words with rebel flags flying. So. Far. From. The. Truth.

      But at the same time–those good old days are what I long for, a FULL SEASON champion, a sense of freedom and a “never know what’s next” feeling.

      Maybe it’s because I’ve watched for so long, or maybe not, but I can almost guarantee a caution in the last part of an event. Sometimes I wonder where the prestige has gone–and I do think it’s gone the way of the Internet. Less people want to come out and more want to sit at home, glued to electronics.

      As I am doing now.

  4. Richard Belcher July 15, 2016 at 5:33 pm - Reply

    Brad your daughter has been a great influence on u ,and thats great, and u have
    made a great influence on my son Tyriq, when you and your family took tor time to talk to us and take pictures with him on his,birthday and for,that u have few fans
    For life .And i personally want to say that thank u for giving my son and i something that,we can share together 4ever thanks again from I feel thats your friends Richard and Tyriq Belcher PS that really helped me make my sons dream come true

  5. Callie Kearns July 15, 2016 at 6:20 pm - Reply

    I enjoy your blogs! I’ve been a fan since 2012 and will always be. So excited for the #2crew ! You guys are a force to be reckoned with!!! Oh and I am one of those fans who have taken heat for ya but I’m happy to educate people on just what kind of a great racer and gracious person you are!!!

  6. Chad Shepherd July 15, 2016 at 9:16 pm - Reply

    Thanks Brad! I respect your dedication and Patriotic behavior! I never thought I’d have a driver that I liked as much as Rusty Wallace but you’ve filled in quite nicely! Good luck and go get that second championship!

  7. Paul Ribb July 15, 2016 at 10:23 pm - Reply

    No Brad, “THANK YOU” for being not only one HELLUVA RACE CAR DRIVER but one HELLUVA HUMAN BEING who speaks the truth from his heart, in today’s society I can’t think of one thing more important than be honestly REAL and my man YOU ARE”” so from the bottom of my heart,,,, THANK YOU and all the best for you and your family #1 and you and your racing family #2.. Speaking of #2 in my humble opinion that wonderful team your a part of is ALWAYS GOING TO BE #1″” Good Luck this season with that 2nd Championship Mr. Bad Brad Keselowski #2 4ever!!!

  8. Wayne Burns July 15, 2016 at 10:40 pm - Reply

    We don’t mind catching hell for you Pal. And we can raise a little too when the “not fans” get rediculous. Keep up the good work! Michigan proud.

  9. Harold Hufstetler July 16, 2016 at 9:16 am - Reply

    I’m a duel fan 🙂 I pull for the 2 and 22 every week and of late I’ve included the 21. I don’t get the hate for you and Joey. I think it’s more to do with you guys winning and costing their favorite driver the opportunity.
    The last couple years have been my favorite as a NASCAR fan and it’s because of you and Joey. Penske cars running at the front always makes my weekend.

  10. MillerDuck July 16, 2016 at 11:39 am - Reply

    Been a fan from the Buah/Nationwide series days with JR Motor sports. Always appreciated the way you race and conduct yourself. Keep it up!

    P.S. thanks for signing my 2012 championship hat last year at Talladega.

    P.P.S. still want to know where I can get the patriotic Miller Lite hat you wore in victory lane last week at Kentucky.

  11. Magnus Persson July 16, 2016 at 3:11 pm - Reply

    Great blog as usual. I will support you no matter what Brad, you have made NASCAR awesome again and I let everyone I meet know that. I even drink Miller beer nowdays, and that is not common overehere in Sweden (Miller should really step up their advertising around here).

  12. Kelly July 18, 2016 at 4:26 am - Reply

    Have been a fan for a long time. Glad to see Roger Penske finally kinda calling out the insane fanatics that have you and Joey on chopping block for what you are paid to do RACE!. He is always too nice and I think he in his praise of the “other team” at your celebration, detracts. In my circle of conversationalists. The old ladies you race with are really bad, they don’t cut you any slack and you should not them. The hatred and bologna that gets spewed is unreal. Sick of it actually. Keep up the good work Joey and Brad. Go Team Penske, you have a a ton of fans!

  13. John July 18, 2016 at 1:32 pm - Reply

    Got to see you win at Daytona for the first time in person. Going to be at Homestesad, hoping the same thing happens there!

  14. Christian Zaragoza July 20, 2016 at 9:51 am - Reply

    I’ll always remember that moment in Phoenix when practically the entire field was wrecking into the wall because Nascar decided to rush the restart and left oil on the track. You drove through an oil slick to your first championship. I was a fan before then because of Rusty. After that moment it wasn’t about Rusty or the best looking car anymore. You have made a ton of new fans by being outspoken, intelligent, and thorough. We don’t really get to see the details unless the drivers give us a peak. You are certainly the best at that.

  15. dudemanbito August 2, 2016 at 4:25 am - Reply

    Hi Brad.
    I follow you from France since 2011. I think I’m totally your die-hard fanbase (I’ve your cap) !!
    I just want you to know that I really like the way you drive. It remind me Michael Schumacher. I like the way you two want to race every race at your best, and do what it needed to be done to win, even if it’s not always the conventionnal way ^^
    Keep racing like that, and many thanks to Paul Wolfe, he’s a genius !

  16. Hemi Andersen August 6, 2016 at 11:23 pm - Reply

    First time to leave a comment, but a long time Kesolowski fan. Ever since your dad ran the Truch series. I have followed you sinse you came to Penske. I am a MOPAR guy and was thrilled that you won the 2012 season on a Dodge. You’re in a Ford now and i’m still a fan. That was a great race today between you and Legano. Too bad your car broke. The ending could and would have been exciting. Best of Racing Luck tomorrow.

  17. Kevin September 18, 2016 at 2:31 am - Reply

    Good luck tomorrow. Put the Duce in Victory Lane !!!!

  18. Tina Strickland September 26, 2016 at 11:57 am - Reply

    Well it is obvious Paige (You gotta marry that beautiful girl) and Scarlett (such a cutie!) have influenced you of late. I love reading your blogs, keep it up. I have a picture of you, my husband and a fellow racer (nickname Lighting) on my work desk at home. When I get discouraged about stuff at our own race shop I just look at that picture and revs me up. Go 2!

  19. Paul October 3, 2016 at 12:24 pm - Reply

    Nice finish at Dover ! As you know , consistency wins championships . I love that you absolutely never quit – no matter where you are in a race . Keep pluggin” !!

Leave A Comment