Just when you think you’ve got Brad Keselowski figured out, you don’t. Take the slight Southern drawl, which belies his Rochester Hills upbringing. The accent is secondhand, a little habit he picked up since leaving Michigan to go live on Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s North Carolina ranch and race stock cars in the heart of Dixie. It suits him, though, the gentle drag of it, the latency of thoughtful hesitation and all the good ol’ boy manners a slight drawl implies. It suits him because next on the list of things you don’t have figured out about Keselowski is that, in addition to being one of the select people on earth with the disposition required to manhandle 3 and a half tons of steel at breakneck speeds — which may be genetic; his father raced and his brother races — he’s really a thoughtful guy.
When Keselowski isn’t worrying about torque and lap times, he’s pondering things like personal equilibrium. He founded his own racing company, Brad Keselowski Racing, not because it was easy or because owning cars and employing drivers was an obvious step for a 25-year-old upstart who’s already racing in two of the three largest NASCAR series, the Nationwide and Sprint Cup, but because his yin needed a little yang. “There are a lot of drivers down here and all they do is drive. It’s just a weekend job and they’re not involved in anything else. And they make good money, but I didn’t want that,” he says. “I’ve got these two sides to my life. One of them [driving] is rewarding in a selfish way. I get all of the glory and do about 5 percent of the work. Whereas the business ownership end is the exact opposite. I feel like I do about 60 percent of the job and I don’t get any of the glory. It helps me find balance.”
As Keselowski tries to carry the momentum of his April victory at Talladega, and wins in last year’s Nashville and Bristol races, through to a packed 2009 schedule, which will bring him to the Michigan International Speedway for a NASCAR race on June 14 and in August for the Michigan 250, he lives up to his reputation as a thinking-man’s hotshot. He waxes philosophical on the similarities between entrepreneurship and racing. “Driving and business ownership are a lot like steering a ship,” he says. “You deal with what you can control, put forward your best effort, and watch it go.”