Real. True. Fun. Winner. Champion.
Brad Keselowski, a two-time Bristol winner, including this year’s Food City 500, is your 2012 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion. Of course you already know that, and it's clear that he's going to enjoy his reign as champ... and looks like fans will, too.
The 28-year-old Michigan native sealed the deal on Sunday with a 15th place finish at Homestead -- which would have been pretty scary had it not been for Jimmie Johnson’s woes, which have been well-documented.
You gotta appreciate the fact that Keselowski didn’t do what an awful lot of folks predicted – fall apart under the pressure. He definitely didn’t subscribe to the “gotta lose one before you win one” theory that is often applied to first-time challengers.
Nope, Bad Brad stayed calm and cool under pressure. And when Johnson tried to play a few head games with him, Keselowski, who won his title after just 125 starts (second only to Jeff Gordon who won his first one in 1995 after just 93 starts) didn’t flinch.
You had to love Keselowski doing his post-race interview with ESPN, enjoying a beverage from a huge mug and telling the interviewer that he “already had a buzz.” That’s the kind of stuff fans want to see – somebody acting a little bit crazy and not worrying at all about how it was perceived.
All of us here at BMS have known for a while that Keselowski was a cool dude and a great racer. He loves competition at "The World’s Fastest Half-Mile" -- and while his joy at winning his first Cup race here in August of 2011 was evident, it isn’t my favorite memory of him. Nope, that would be when he won his first Bristol Nationwide Series race in August of ’08.
Keselowski, who was driving for Dale Earnhardt Jr. that night, might be the most excited first-time Bristol winner I’ve ever seen. He kept saying he couldn’t believe he’d won at Bristol – because “when you win at Bristol, you’ve really done something.”
When he went into the media center for his post-race interview, he did something I’d never seen any other NASCAR driver do… he carried his trophy with him. Had it sitting right up there on the table beside him, something Earnhardt Jr. appreciated immediately.
“See that right there?” he asked, nodding toward Keselowski with a big grin on his face. “Bringing that trophy in here? That right there… that’s old-school. I like that.”
Maybe that’s why so many people do like Keselowski. He sure does seem much more “old-school” than a lot of other drivers. He comes from a racing family but not one that had lots of money or success. He speaks his mind and he’s more blue-collar than white-collar.
And one of his first comments after getting out of the car yesterday, spoke volumes:
"Always, throughout my whole life I've been told I'm not big enough, not fast enough, not strong enough and I don't have what it takes," Keselowski said. "I've used that as a chip on my shoulder to carry me through my whole career. It took until this year for me to realize that that was right, man, they were right.
"I'm not big enough, fast enough, strong enough. No person is. Only a team can do that."
He definitely sounds like one heck of a champion to me. Real. True. Fun. Winner. Champion.