Long: The chance of lifetime comes today for Brian Keselowski


TALLADEGA, Ala. – Brian Keselowski will not race alone in today’s Camping World Truck Series event at Talladega Superspeedway. Driving in the best equipment in his life, he will be joined by the hopes and dreams of those who sought that one chance to show what they could do but never got it.

It could be the local short track racer who, for whatever reason, never got to prove how good they could be at a higher level. It could be the person who works in one field but whose passion is another, yet never got the chance to work in that area. It could be the employee stuck in a menial job when their talents could have carried them further, if only for the chance.

Whatever the reason, there is room in the No. 29 Ford for Keselowski and you. And many others.

The 34-year-old Keselowski has spent a lifetime in racing, starting with his family’s operation. The older brother of Sprint Cup champion Brad Keselowski worked on their father’s truck, served as jackman for several years and raced on the side when he had the money to do so.

Brian Keselowski tried to follow his younger brother to Cup but the money wasn’t there. Still, he and his father worked tirelessly to get to the track. Sometimes, Brian Keselowski made the race. Most often he did not, his car barren of the technological tools and tricks to go fast. His cars were put together by elbow grease and sweat. Computers were mainly used to check e-mail not diagnose setups.

This season, Brian Keselowski began to serve as a crew chief for select ARCA races, leaving his racing helmet on the shelf. He still drove in some ARCA short track races, finishing fourth in one and sixth in another, but he knows the chances of getting hired by a NASCAR team are slim with the young talent coming and not having a sponsor check to join him.

Even with his brother running a Truck team, the chance to partner never came. The team, which is focused on younger drivers, needed money to survive so sponsorship dictated its lineup. Brad Keselowski also alluded to in a recent blog that he’s not sure either of them was “mature enough” to deal with the other in a productive way earlier in their career.

Now, they are here. After Austin Theriault was injured in a crash at Las Vegas earlier this month, Brad Keselowski’s team needed a driver for this race. The pool of candidates was thin. Cup drivers typically don’t moonlight in a Truck race at a restrictor-plate track. Xfinity drivers were enjoying their first weekend off in months.

Brian Keselowski offered his services to his younger brother in a text.

There was no response.

A few days later, Brad Keselowski told Brian that he’d consider it but it would be up to the sponsor.

A few days after that Brian Keselowski got the text from his younger brother that they were good to go.

Brian Keselowski can’t stop smiling as he recalls the story.

His biggest challenge this weekend has been doing nothing. There’s a crew to work on the Truck. Brian Keselowski is merely the driver instead of driver/mechanic/engine specialist/tire specialist that he was when he tried to run in NASCAR.

While he’s never run a Truck race before, he’s run in the Daytona 500, and run in Xfinity races at Daytona and Talladega.

It was at Talladega where he admits he “scared the crap out of myself.’’

He was a driving instructor. He was seated in the passenger seat when a right rear tire blew as the student drove through turns 3 and 4. Brian Keselowski grabbed the wheel with his left hand and steadily steered the car as the car slowed.

“If you can do that, you can do anything,’’ he said.

Today is his day – a day many never got – to show what he can do.