“I didn’t actively campaign to be a part of it, yet somehow I got voted in,’’ Keselowski said in February. “I am not sure what that means.”
Whatever it means, Keselowski is one of three new members on the nine-driver council, along with Jimmie Johnson and defending series champion Kyle Busch. They join Dale Earnhardt Jr., Tony Stewart, Kyle Larson, Kevin Harvick, Hamlin and Logano.
Keselowski told NBC Sports he felt “privileged” to be part of the council, which has met at least once this season.
“It’s nice to play a part in hopefully making the sport move forward,” Keselowski said Friday following Xfinity Series qualifying at Texas Motor Speedway.
But his appointment, voted on by drivers including teammate Joey Logano, a council member since its 2015 inception, came as a shock to some.
“I was surprised,” Logano said in February on the NASCAR on NBC podcast. “We all were surprised. He was surprised, too.”
But why? Why should the 2012 Sprint Cup champion and one of the more vocal and thoughtful drivers in the garage have to equate being elected to the council to how Sally Field accepted her 1985 Best Actress Oscar?
“What do you think?” Logano asked Friday with a laugh.
Keselowski’s track record with his competitors is checkered. One just has to look as recently as 2014.
Actions taken by the Team Penske driver against Matt Kenseth and Denny Hamlin at Charlotte Motor Speedway in October resulted in being ambushed by Kenseth between haulers. Later, Keselowski sat in the NASCAR hauler, resembling a student waiting to meet with the principal.
Keselowski drew the ire of competitors for his brashness and aggressiveness as early as 2009. Then he was just a part-time Cup driver for Hendrick Motorsports while he competed full time in the Xfinity Series.
But he was a part-timer who had one win. A win that came after Keselowski and Carl Edwards made contact coming to the checkered flag at Talladega, sending Edwards into the catchfence. A year later at Atlanta, the favor was returned by Edwards, who blatantly retaliated for another incident that damaged his car during the race.
Those incidents and more, as well as Keselowski’s “me against the world” attitude, rubbed some drivers and many fans the wrong way during his first seven seasons on the circuit.
At the same time, Keselowski earned a reputation for being one who would speak at length on the sport’s many aspects. That includes his tweets and his blog, giving fans previously unavailable looks at the sport and his life.
During his champion’s speech at the 2012 banquet, he talked of his desire to help be a leader in the garage.
“I hope that as a sport, that we can continue to find common ground, to unify,” Keselowski said, accepting the first Sprint Cup title for Team Penseke. “I believe everyone in this room, we have some of the smartest people in this room that can solve any problem and I know that as a sport, we’re capable of getting it done and I hope that everyone of us can continue to work together, find that common ground and as a champion, I want to be your leader and I want to help make it happen.”
Thanks to a surprising vote by his peers, Keselowski is getting that chance and according to Logano, doing what he promised four years ago.
“I think he’s been a great addition to the Drivers Council, for sure,” Logano said. “He’s taken the role in the ‘Brad way.’ The way you would expect Brad to. He attacks the position in that role and really has become one of the leaders of the council, fairly quickly.’
“I think that now he’s in there and people have seen that, there will be a spot in there for him into the future.”