Michigander brothers to compete in Daytona 500
In the ultimate display of brotherly love, NASCAR Sprint Cup Series superstar Brad Keselowski pushed his unsung older brother Brian Keselowski right into Sunday’s Daytona 500.
The two brothers from Rochester Hills, Mich., hooked up and sliced through the field during the second of two Gatorade Duel qualifying transfer races Thursday at Daytona International Speedway to secure spots in the Great American Race. Brian finished the qualifying race fifth; Brad finished seventh.
“I didn’t breathe for the last 15 laps. I don’t know if I’m going to breathe for the next three days. But it doesn’t matter, we’re in the (Daytona 500),” Brian Keselowski said after the race.
Sunday’s race will be the Sprint Cup debut for Brian Keselowski, 29. He’ll start the race 12th. Brad, the 2010 NASCAR Nationwide Series champion, will start 16th.
By most standards, the chances of Brian Keselowski making the 43-car field for the Daytona 500 were slim. He had the slowest car after qualifications on Sunday and would be forced to earn one of only two transfer spots during the second of the Duel races.
His is an unsponsored, family owned 2006 Dodge competing against the likes of mega-funded super teams like Hendrick Motorsports, Roush Fenway Racing, Richard Childress Racing and Joe Gibbs Racing. Brian’s dad Bob Keselowski, a former ARCA champion, owns the car.
The new racing surface and car setups at Daytona all but force a two-car draft so what’s a driver for a single-car team like Brian Keselowski to do?
Luckily everyone cheers for the underdog – especially a younger brother like NASCAR sensation Brad Keselowski.
And Brad, 27, needed a little help, too. A spin early on left him in the back of the pack so he hooked his legendary No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge to Brian’s rear bumper in the hopes of catching the leaders.
“I said, ‘Heck, I’ve got a great guy to work with back here after the spin and at least I know that he’s not going to dump me,’” Brad Keselowski said. “The next thing you know we’re running fourth, fifth and then second. I put the pedal to the floor and kept on pushing. I restarted on that last restart ninth or 10th, drove up there to sixth or seventh and just kind of stalled out. It’s a great feeling.”
Brian Keselowski cried after the race. The first to the car to congratulate him was Brad.
“He’s got to be the best pusher out here. He’s got to be,” Brian Keselowski said of Brad. “To watch him push everybody for the past two or three years, and then push me into this thing. This dog would not hunt all weekend long and then to push me into the race, I don’t know what they got under that hood but it’s awesome.”
“I can’t say that I’ve always been there every step of the way. But I think I was there today,” Brad Keselowski added. “I’m going to ask Roger (Penske) if he can help him with a motor on Sunday. Hopefully we can work together on Sunday, too.”
Jeff Burton won the race. Earlier in the day Kurt Busch, Brad Keselowski’s teammate, won the first of the two Gatorade Duels. The duels are the qualifying races that set the field for the Daytona 500.
Five drivers, Casey Mears, Todd Bodine, Derrike Cope, Michael McDowell and Kevin Conway, failed to make the field. Cope won the Daytona 500 in 1990; Mears finished second to Jimmie Johnson in 2006.
The Daytona 500 is at 1 p.m. on FOX. Coverage throughout the day will be on FOX, SPEED and ESPN. Check local listings.
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