Brotherly shove Brad pushes older Keselowski into 500 as siblings produce feel-good moment
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- Brian Keselowski freely admits that his brotherly love for his younger sibling, Brad, has its limits and that he has no intention of rekindling a roommate relationship with him.
But in large part because of Brad, Brian was looking for a place to stay Thursday night. He might even have been willing to knock on Brian's door and deliver a rare hug.
He's always been kind of a snotty little kid. I hate to say that because he just pushed me into the Daytona 500. He knows I love him.
That's because Brad Keselowski pushed his older brother into this Sunday's Daytona 500 by helping Brian to a surprising fifth-place finish in Thursday's second Gatorade Duel at Daytona International Speedway. The finish was such a surprise to Brian and the boys' father, Bob, that much of the Keselowski clan and Brian's makeshift No. 92 Dodge race team were caught without hotel rooms for the upcoming weekend.
They had checked out of their hotel earlier with the expectation that they wouldn't be around to run in the 500.
"We thought we were going home," Bob Keslowski said. "Coming in we thought, 'No matter what, this is going to be a great opportunity for Brian to run at Daytona with the big boys. No matter what this is going to be a great weekend, but come Thursday we'll probably be heading on down the road.' So now we've got to find some hotel rooms."
It was a good problem to have after Brian's long-shot run, fueled mostly by Brad's willingness and determination to use his much faster car to push Brian over the final 13 laps in a two-car draft. Afterward, a tearful Brian Keselowski reunited with Brad in Victory Lane.
"He didn't say much," said Brad, the defending Nationwide Series champion and a Sprint Cup regular who now drives the No. 2 Dodge for Penske Racing. "He was pretty teared up, so that was cool. That was more or less just a thank you."
Brian fielded his unlikely independent entry on a shoestring budget with the help of their father, and consistently struggled to stay up to speed during practice sessions leading up to Thursday's race.
"This feels absolutely awesome," Brian said. "Obviously I would not be here without Brad. I think he's one of the best pushers out there. We struggled really to even get here to try this. We were still putting together the car at the race track and, man, we just did not run good at all.
"It just goes to show you that you've got a chance, no matter what. You've got to find a guy to push you. Thank God it was my brother. I don't know if anybody else would have stuck with me that long."
Don't be getting any ideas that it's all warm and fuzzy between these two brothers. Most of their lives, it hasn't been that way at all and it's not likely to change now.
"Well, we get along a whole lot better now that we don't live together," Brian said. "I would say [our relationship] is up and down."
Brian admitted that there was considerable jealousy on his part when they were growing up, right up until the time when Brad's big break in racing came at the expense, possibly, of his big brother. He said the family couldn't afford to let him go racing until he was 18 years old, whereas Brad benefited from being able to start much earlier. Both of them spent time working for the family race team, K-Automotive Racing, a team headed by Bob that has competed on many levels from weekly racing all the way up to NASCAR's Camping World Truck and Nationwide series, and fielded Brian's No. 92 Dodge on Thursday.
"It was a tough thing, growing up," Brian said. "I couldn't afford to go racing. I worked on my family's truck team. When we got a little bit of money, got a little bit of sponsorship, Brad got to go quarter-midget racing. But by then I was too old [for that].
"I didn't get to start driving until I was 18 years old. By then, he had two or three years of experience and was winning championships."
Brian said that when Brad got his biggest break to run in the Nationwide Series, it actually came in a car owned by a team that originally had been planning to put Brian in the seat. But the opportunity went to Brad because Brian hadn't yet gotten enough seat time at the right tracks to be eligible to drive at that level.
"They put Brad in the car instead," Brian said. "I guess the rest is history. I feel like if roles could have been reversed, there's a possibility I could be in the same position he's in now. There are no guarantees, but I would have liked the chance."
Instead, Brian has been hanging on -- piecing a part-time driving career together mostly with the help of his dad, an uncle and some loyal friends. On Thursday, it was Brad's turn to help him out -- and he did so in a big and very memorable way.
"I think it just shows the kind of individual that Brad is," Roger Penske said. "Obviously he could have looked to go with someone quicker at the end on that last yellow [caution]. But he said, 'Look, I'm going to go with the guy who got me here.' I think at that point, to get that car in the race, with his dad doing everything for both of them, it almost makes you cry when you think about it. They just did a terrific job."
Veteran drivers Dave Blaney and Joe Nemechek, who also raced their way into Sunday's 500 in Thursday's second Duel, said the Keselowski brothers provided the entire sport with a feel-good moment.
"All the guys in the garage know what Brian has to work with. It's not much," Blaney said. "To come down here and make this race, I don't care how you make it -- to make this race is awesome. It's something you'll never forget."
Then Nemechek turned to Brian and added: "You have a big payday coming. Maybe you can hire some more help."
Brian Keselowski admitted that running in the 500, which paid Nemechek $261,424 for finishing last in the 43-car field a year ago, was a boon for the family race team that none of them saw coming. They might have imagined it, dreamed about it, but they did not see it coming.
Otherwise, they never would have canceled those hotel rooms.
"This was so far out there," Bob Keselowski said. "I mean, you dream about it -- but it's more like, yes, that would be nice. Could you imagine if we could make the Daytona 500, coming down here with Brian and very little equipment? But it was all kind of just a dream.
"Brad had told us before the race, 'If there is an opportunity for me to help you, I will help you.' Well, the opportunity came when he spun and went to the rear of the field. We made a bogus pit stop -- screwed the pit stop up and had to start at the tail end. So there they were together, and they were like, 'Well, let's go.' And off they went up through the field."
Later, a beaming Brian told the assembled media that Brad really hasn't changed much through the years.
"He's always been kind of a snotty little kid," he said, laughing. "I hate to say that because he just pushed me into the Daytona 500. He knows I love him."
Sure he does. After all, they will always be brothers. And Thursday was day the family will never forget.
Brad Keselowski, who ended up finishing seventh, denied that the spin on Lap 40 that put him at the tail end of the lead lap changed his priorities from winning to pushing his brother into Sunday's race.
"Hell, no. I never think my chances of winning are over," Brad said. "I was just thinking I had to find somebody good to work with. And Brian was the only one I knew I could work with.
"He made good moves. He found the right holes and used 'em right. Brian has got some experience at this -- more than people think. I'm really proud of him. He did a great job."