Brad’s Home at Team Penske

For years, Brad Keselowski envisioned himself taking left turn after left turn for Hendrick Motorsports—until one day he encountered a fork in the road. And the right he took there, toward Team Penske, turned out to be perhaps the most important decision of his life.

Brad’s transition out from under the Hendrick umbrella required some soul searching, and an alteration of that long-term vision. Today, BK is a formidable component of the burgeoning Team Penske NASCAR lineup, but the path that brought him there was paved by one of his would-be teammates with Hendrick, and at the time, his XFINITY Series car owner, Dale Earnhardt Jr.

“He brought up one of the good points that stood out to me when I made this decision [to join Penske],” BK said of his friend Dale Jr. “That was when you have the opportunity to grow and to take on new challenges and you’re capable of conquering those challenges, you need to take it.”

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Ultimately, Brad took the opportunity, but it wasn’t without some negotiating with racing mogul Roger Penske. Kes stipulated that, for at least his first year, he wanted to run full time in not only the top level Sprint Cup Series, but also on the second-tier XFINITY circuit.

After some thought, The Captain obliged. Penske called Brad, confirming he would field the No. 22 NXS car—and the rest was history.

But even more than establishing a strong foundation in the XFINITY Series, Brad wanted a place to call home, one where he would be a fixture in the lineup, as well as play a role in the organization. And mostly, he envisioned a place where every member of the team strives to be the very best.

“My intent is to come to Team Penske and build a home for my long term career,” Brad said. “There are very few teams that have the resources that can compete with Hendrick Motorsports, and this is one of them. I think there’s an overarching belief system of being here for excellence and nothing else. That really guides us, but there’s a lot of components that make us a great team.”

One of those components: The massive 400,000-plus square foot facility.

“It’s a tremendous facility that Roger Penske and everyone at Team Penske has taken a lot of pride in and continues to take pride in, as it develops and maintains its status as the top motorsports facility in all of North America.”

When asked what the massive, and spotless, shop holds, Brad’s answer was quick.

“Amazing racecars, all kinds of machinery, transportation, haulers, and all the personnel it takes to make a run for race wins, and perhaps more importantly, championship efforts.”

Once he settled into his new home, he laid out his list of goals. At the top: to be the first driver to give Team Penske a NASCAR championship.

To Roger’s delight, Brad was able to capture just that in his very first year with a 2010 XFINITY Series Drivers’ Championship. Kes joked that he gave a billionaire something he didn’t already have, and then he did it again. Two years later, he captured the 2012 NSCS title.

“I feel like, together, Roger and I have done some great things. I have a lot of confidence in him, I like the way he treats me and hopefully he would say the same about me,” BK said of Mr. Penske.

During the ensuing offseason, it was a time of change for Team Penske. The seat of the the No. 22 Shell Pennzoil car was open, and Brad knew just who he wanted in it. Kes believed free agent Joey Logano would make the best fit for a growing Team Penske, and those in command agreed.

“We already had a relationship where we could talk and call each other, see each other at the racetrack and talk about whatever,” Logano said of his rapport with Brad. “These relationships with driver teammates are more important than most people think.”

2016 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, Kansas

The pairing led to a high level of success, with the two drivers claiming a total of 22 Cup victories, and 19 Poles since the beginning of 2013, and a few tremendous one-two finishes, including one just last week in the Sprint All-Star Race.

In addition to helping fortify the Team Penske ranks on the track, Brad has done the same off of it. As vital as it is to have on-track success in racing, establishing positive sponsor relations might be even more important to race teams.

“He’s been fully engaged, and the sponsors love him,” Penske says of BK. “We have a number of people very interested in getting on with Brad.”

The Penske-Miller relationship existed long before Brad joined The Captain and Co. The partnership dates back to the 1985 Indianapolis 500 with winning driver Danny Sullivan. Just last year, MillerCoors and Penske celebrated 25 years of partnership at the Cup level.

“We’ve put Brad now in step with Miller far into the future,” Penske said just after extending both driver and sponsor contracts. “He fits the mold that they want. He’s open, he’s certainly willing to speak his peace, that’s what Miller wants, an athlete willing to represent their brand. This puts us in great shape because we’ve got great continuity with a sponsor and an elite driver.”

Earlier this year, Brad put on a special show for MillerCoors CEO Gavin Hattersley and his wife, Terry, at Talladega Superspeedway. At the conclusion of a thrilling restrictor plate battle, BK brought the pair to Victory Lane and shared a champagne shower with his sponsor after giving him a front-row seat to his second victory of the 2016 season and his fourth at the 2.66-mile Alabama track.

“Timing is everything,” Team Penske Executive Vice President Bud Denker said with a laugh after the race. “We had the CEO of MillerCoors, Gavin Hattersley and his wife Terry, who we brought in from Chicago, which I think is great, isn’t it?”

2016 NASCAR Talladega

Of course, Victory Lane celebration with the sponsors always helps the relationship, and Brad makes sure he keeps a similar rapport with the other side of his team’s behemoth race shop: the part with Penske’s four Verizon IndyCar Series teams.

Alongside his father, Bob, crew chief Paul Wolfe and Penske President Tim Cindric, Brad was in attendance of opening ceremonies and the first few laps of the 2013 Indianapolis 500 before flying back to Charlotte for the longest full-bodied race of the year, showing his complete support for all sides of the team.

“I wanted to experience the IndyCar life, see what it’s about, what it’s like, how this race plays out and I’m really excited to be here. It’s my first Indy 500 and I’m here soaking in one of the biggest races of the year,” he said. “I’m here with probably the best guy to do it with, Roger Penske. It’s quite an experience.”

Knowing that Mr. Penske is passionate in all of his endeavors, everyone working under his roof is aware that his heart lies at The Brickyard. Will Power, 2014 IndyCar Champion and 2015 Indianapolis runner-up, says that, while in Indy, he’s racing for Roger.

“This one is all about Roger,” Power says of the Indy 500. “It always is, but this is more that way. He loves this race so much. It is everything.”

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With the starting lineup already set, Power leads the Penske brigade starting sixth with his No. 12 machine. Simon Pagenaud and Helio Castroneves will join him in the Top 10 at eighth and ninth, respectively, while two-time Indy 500 winner Juan Pablo Montoya will start 16th for the 100th running of the historic event.

The annual Memorial Day classic entails a total of 1,100 miles of racing for Team Penske, with six entries between Indiana and North Carolina—seven including Ryan Blaney’s Penske-powered No. 21 Wood Brothers Ford. While Brad can relax and enjoy his time as a spectator for the first half of the North American racing celebration, he wants to deliver a win the second half for the first time.

“The Coca-Cola 600 just has this tremendous legacy in our sport of being the longest race, one of the toughest, most grueling races on a racecar driver, which makes it very difficult to earn a win at, and very special,” BK says.

Seven years ago, Brad might not have envisioned himself here, celebrating Team Penske’s 50th anniversary, but after a pair of Drivers’ Championships, three Owners’ Championships, and 46 total race victories, it’s safe to say that Brad has found his home.

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