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Published: Wednesday, 6/9/2010

ARCA's Keselowski challenges rules

BY MATT MARKEY
BLADE SPORTS WRITER

BROOKLYN, Mich. - Very early on, there were signs there might be trouble with this kid. Mischievous, ornery, cantankerous - he was all that and more.

As the trailer bringing the racing Keselowski family to the track snaked its way past a long line of participants waiting for clearance to enter the infield, Brad Keselowski and his older brother Brian were stashed inside the hauler and given specific instructions to stay out of sight.

The rules prohibited youngsters their age from entering the garage and pit area, but ARCA officials, knowing these two boys had been raised in a busy racing shop and could handle an air wrench or a hydraulic jack, looked the other way.

While Brian dutifully followed his parents' directive and remained incognito, there was Brad standing on his tiptoes and looking out the window, waving at the folks in line while that impish grin flashed from his face.

A little trouble followed, but Brad stayed right in the middle of the racing action. It was a prelude of coming attractions with Brad Keselowski.

"That story is true, and there are countless more of the same variety," said the now 26-year-old Keselowski, who has assumed a much higher profile in racing since those days, but has fostered and maintained that naughty segment of his personality.

"I guess I'm somewhere I'm not supposed to be all of the time. I have never been good at following rules, and I was never where I was supposed to be."

This weekend will find the native of Rochester Hills at Michigan International Speedway on Friday for Sprint Cup Series qualifying, then in Kentucky on Saturday night to race in the Nationwide Series. He comes back to the Irish Hills on Sunday for the Heluva Good! Sour Cream Dips 400 Sprint Cup race.

And it's a fair bet that somewhere along that circuitous route, Keselowski's aggressive driving style and nouveau "Dennis the Menace" nature will land him in the center of some discord once more. He has had recent high-profile, on-track conflicts with Carl Edwards and Denny Hamlin, and expects he will end up crossing someone else's path again soon, given the intensely competitive climate in NASCAR.

He made the move from mechanic and shop broom man to competitive racer at age 14 and won six times in his first season in quarter midgets. The next year, Keselowski won eight races and took the season championship.

Brad's grandfather "Papa" John Keselowski worked as a mechanic in a Ford dealership and started the family venture by racing motorcycles in the 1950s.

"Racing's been the family business for three generations - it's all I've ever really known," Brad said.

Keselowski is the son of 1989 ARCA Series champion and 24-time ARCA winner Bob Keselowski, who was also the Toledo Speedway track champion in 1983. Brad's uncle Ron raced in Winston Cup from 1970-74, and has been part of the family at K Automotive Racing team. Brad's older brother Brian is a former ARCA Series driver who currently competes in the Nationwide Series.

Since he made the move up to the NASCAR ranks, Brad Keselowski has been adept at finding Victory Lane. He also knows the route to NASCAR's version of the principal's office.

Following a Nationwide race at Talladega in April, he was docked 25 points for violating a variety of rules, but he still leads the series with two wins and nine top five finishes in 12 races. He finished third in the Nationwide Series in each of the past three seasons.

On the Cup side, Keselowski comes to MIS ranked 24th in points.

He won his first Cup race in April of 2009 in just his fifth career start, racing for powerhouse Hendrick Motorsports. Last fall, Keselowski picked up the endorsement of one of the most respected voices in auto racing, Roger Penske, when Penske Racing signed Keselowski to run in both Cup and Nationwide.

"Brad has shown terrific success on track the past several years and has quickly established himself as one of the top young stars in racing," Penske said.

"He comes from an

impressive family background in motorsports. He is a proven winner and a welcome addition to our team."

Keselowski hopes to enhance his standing in the Cup Series on the fast, two-mile oval at MIS.

Since any advance he makes will displace other drivers, he anticipates more conflict will accompany him along the way.

"The only way to climb the pecking order is to claw your way up it and prove to them that you're not going to tolerate or accept being at the bottom," Keselowski said.

"Naturally, there's going to be some negative feedback ... but that's the reality of the sport."

Contact Matt Markey at:

mmarkey@theblade.com

or 419-724-6510.



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