Brad Keselowski pays tribute to young NASCAR fan killed in crash

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Athletes love the limelight when they’re in it. But when they’re away from the TV cameras and microphones, their time is just that – their time.

We rarely hear much about what those athletes do in their private lives, but NASCAR Sprint Cup driver Brad Keselowski has stepped forward to tell a compelling tale of a chance encounter with a young waiter who wanted to become involved in NASCAR.

So much so that Michael Mastalez moved from his native Texas to Mooresville, North Carolina – otherwise known as Race City USA and home to numerous race teams – to hopefully find a way into the NASCAR world and business.

Keselowski told the tale of meeting Mastalez while dining at a Mooresville restaurant not far from Keselowski’s home and Team Penske’s headquarters to David Scott of The Charlotte Observer.

There were a number of coincidences that came into play that one night, March 30. Keselowski just happened to be given a table that Mastalez was his designated server that night. Unbeknown to Keselowski at the time, Mastalez was also a big fan of his and the No. 2 Team Penske Ford.

Keselowski was having dinner with someone he was interviewing for a job and asked Mastalez privately to go along with a good-natured prank to see how the job prospect would react under pressure, so to speak.

Mastalez was more than happy to do so. And after the dinner was over, Keselowski was so impressed that he took Mastalez’s information with the intention of bringing the waiter into the Team Penske or Brad Keselowski Racing fold as an intern.

That encounter was probably bigger than any tip that Mastalez ever earned as a waiter, and he was likely ecstatic that his life’s dream may soon be coming true.

Five days later on April 4, the 21-year-old Mastalez, his girlfriend, two other passengers and the pilot were killed in the crash of a sightseeing helicopter in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee.

First responders cope after Pigeon Forge helicopter accident

Shortly after he learned of Mastalez’s death, Keselowski wanted all of his 660,000 Twitter followers to know just how special the young man was, sending out a string of 14 consecutive tweets, including this final one:

Click here and read David Scott’s excellent tale of Mastalez’s inspiring yet tragic story, as well as its impact on Keselowski.

Follow @JerryBonkowski