TALLADEGA, Ala. — For the second week in a row, Brad Keselowski competed in two races, one Sprint Cup and one Nationwide Series, on the same day.
He was far from the only one, but Keselowski won the Aaron’s 312 after finishing 34th in the Aaron’s 499. And he’s leading the Nationwide Series standings by a healthy margin.
"There’s a quick adaptation period where you have to show a certain skill set that’s completely different," Keselowski said. "It’s like in football, if you were taking a snap as a wide receiver and going over and taking one as running back. It makes it interesting, and that’s when you see who has the talent to do that and the mental strength to try."
Talladega Superspeedway is a track that often eliminates cars and drivers by something close to random selection. Ryan Newman suggested that its races shouldn’t count in the point standings. Dale Earnhardt Jr. referred to it as "a lottery."
But Keselowski owes a lot to the perilous Alabama track. He won the Aaron’s 499 in 2009 while he was only a part-time competitor in Cup. The exposure helped him earn a regular Cup ride at Penske Racing. The 26-year-old from Rochester Hills, Mich., is from a racing family. His father and uncle competed in NASCAR with some success. He’s still finding his way in the Cup ranks — currently 26th in points — but he is widely considered a future star, even while some of his peers regard him warily for an aggressiveness uncommon in newcomers.
But Keselowski knows he has to play it smart, particularly with a Nationwide Series championship within his grasp.
"I have no room to make a mental error if I want to win the championship at the end of the year," he said. "It’s very draining to drive both series. It gives you the opportunity to make a mental mistake from just being worn down. I’m going to have to work hard to make sure that doesn’t happen."
It’s so far, so good, for a young man who finds himself exactly where he always wanted to be.
Monte Dutton has covered motorsports for The Gaston (N.C.) Gazette since 1993. He was named writer of the year by the National Motorsports Press Association in 2008. His blog NASCAR This Week (http://nascar.rbma.com) features all of his reporting on racing, roots music and life on the road. E-mail Monte at firstname.lastname@example.org.