Brad Keselowski circles the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series trips to his home track at Michigan International Speedway on the calendar every year.
However, until recently, visits to MIS always brought about stress for the Rochester Hills native. But now entering his 16th Cup start at the track, the wiser BK is driving freer than ever, ready to show the No. 2 Miller Lite Ford Fusion’s strength once again in this weekend’s FireKeepers Casino 400.
“You know, earlier in my career it used to feel a ton of pressure,” BK said of driving at MIS. “But as of late, I don’t seem to feel quite as pressured by it. I think maybe that’s just changes in my life or changes in the status of my career as I’ve become more established. But now I just look at it and I think of how amazing it is to run well there, and I don’t seem to get stressed about if I don’t run well there. That’s been good. But I would say it certainly affects people in different ways. And in my case it’s affected me differently as I’ve grown older.”
Nonetheless, a home-track win would be one of the most significant triumphs to the Team Penske driver, as he has admitted in the past.
“If we could win Michigan, it would be one of the biggest wins of my career — if not the biggest,” BK said.
Even though Brad hasn’t yet pulled through for that milestone victory, he’s done everything but at his home track. Eleven straight finishes of 13th or better—including a runner-up result in 2012 and a trio of third-place efforts—solidify him as a serious threat to the competition at the fastest track in NASCAR.
In his 15 starts at the two-mile D-shaped oval, not only has BK been around at the finish each time, but he has ended 13 of those runs on the lead lap. The two exempted races, both in his 2010 rookie season, had the Penske driver a total of just four laps down. A track like Michigan is known for demanding every ounce of strength from the motor, the Goodyear Eagles, and a driver’s grip and endurance—so completing 2938 out of 2942 total laps run is a definite shot in the arm to the team.
“I would say it’s a weekend that is circled every year on our calendar and one where we’ve had a lot of success but haven’t been able to break through for that first win,” Brad said. “So I feel like with the season we’re having this year, we have a great opportunity of checking that box off.”
His Michigan Cup debut came in the second race of the 2009 season there, with a 24th-place result that was overshadowed by his win in XFINITY competition the day prior.
“Oh my God, I won at home! I’m speechless. I can’t believe it. I’m usually terrible here and to win here is a major accomplishment. It’s so cool to win in front of my hometown fans,” Brad said in the Winner’s Circle in 2009 following his first of two Michigan NXS victories.
Brad hopes to put on a great race, not only because the track is home for him, but it’s also home to his team owner, The Captain, Roger Penske. With his Penske Corporation headquartered right outside of Detroit, Penske’s passion for motorsports in Michigan stretches deep. Not only was The Captain responsible for bringing IndyCar back to Detroit’s Belle Isle, but in 1972, he purchased Michigan International Speedway—something the driver of his No. 2 Miller Lite Ford recognizes.
“Roger used to own Michigan International Speedway and it’s a track that he holds dear to his heart. It’s my home track. All these things are lining up.”
All those factors lining up mean that BK will do what it takes to claim a checkered flag on Sunday. His status of essentially being locked into the NASCAR playoffs, with a pair of 2017 victories already under his belt, will allow him to take some risks and he plans to do just that with nothing to lose going for his third win of the season.
“Michigan will always be my home track, and that puts it at a whole other level compared to other tracks of wanting to win in front of your family and friends in the place you recognize as home,” he said.
And coming off a Top 5 finish last week at Pocono Raceway, BK is confident that he can put the No. 2 Miller Lite Ford Fusion in Victory Lane for the first time at his home track this weekend.
Tune into the FireKeepers Casino 400 from Michigan International Speedway on Sunday, June 18 at 3 p.m. ET on FOX Sports 1 to see if the Rochester Hills native can bring it home.