Brian Scott will join Brad Keselowski on the front row
Driver actively involved with military causes; will adorn truck at Charlotte Brad Keselowski couldn't have imagined a trip in 2008 to Balboa Naval Hospital in San Diego, California, would still be affecting his life today. But then again, the young driver couldn't have predicted what he would hear, see or experience in that hospital either. "I went through there in the hospital and it damn near made me cry walking past all these other guys," Keselowski recalled. "At the time, I was 23. There were guys that looked like they weren't going to make it and they were my age. "I think that rattles you pretty hard, at least it did me." Less than a year later, another experience with a close friend left Keselowski shaken once more, but a bit more certain of his eventual calling. "I had a friend, a close friend, who I remember spending New Year's with in 2009," Keselowski said. "He got deployed two weeks later, was in the Middle East … and he got blown up within the first month or two. He came back and when I saw him, that's when I knew. "All these things, it felt like kind of karma or the universe was pushing me this direction. I'd say that's what got me to where I am. Once I started the events and spent time with these people, I could relate to them so well." With a nudge from the universe, Keselowski launched the Checkered Flag Foundation in 2010 -- a 501(c)(3) organization that helps support military personnel and hosts various events to raise funds and awareness. • • • His foundation was the reason Keselowski was standing in the middle of the upscale David Yurman jewelry store at SouthPark Mall in Charlotte, North Carolina, on Tuesday night. Proceeds from the store's sales that evening benefited Charlotte Bridge Home, a local foundation that supports veterans and helps former military personnel ease the transition between service and their return home. "Tonight's event is about, one, having fun; two, raising attention; and three, helping to raise funds in the process for Charlotte Bridge foundation, which is a foundation that's dedicated in a very similar fashion (to the Checkered Flag Foundation) to help servicemen, servicewomen here locally in Charlotte … trying to find a home, trying to get back on their feet," Keselowski said, addressing the group on Tuesday night. "It's a cause that we're near and dear to as well, and we're glad and proud to help support them." The night's guests included foundation members, friends, NASCAR personnel and several veterans. One of the attendees was Charlotte Bridge Home's Veteran Outreach Specialist Tommy Rieman, a Silver Star and Purple Heart recipient who Keselowski refers to as a "general badass." "The way ( Keselowski ) sets himself up above the other drivers by coming out and doing things like this, showing that he cares for veterans, he leads by example," said Rieman, whose military service was recognized by President George W. Bush during the 2007 State of the Union Address. "So every veteran appreciates him … You've just got to love a guy who puts on a NASCAR event at a fine jewelry store." Rieman met Keselowski during one of the ride-alongs that the driver often gave to military personnel in the Checkered Flag Foundation's infancy. Surrounded by spotless glass cases filled with sparkling gems, the pair engaged in a lengthy conversation on Tuesday as the night was winding down. Staying past the event's scheduled hours while working the room, Keselowski seemed to know a little about each of the foundation's members. "He's a veteran who was in the Vietnam Era," Keselowski said, pointing out the organization's founder Thomas Norman with whom he had just exchanged goodbyes. "He was (U.S. Army) Special Forces and for some reason, he got ranked up so quickly they wouldn't send him over because he was too important ... Feels like to me that there's some kind of feeling that maybe he needs to do something back. So he's done all kinds of different things. He started this (foundation) here I would say four years ago -- a lot of growth, right?" With the fame, fortune and stature that arrives with being a professional athlete, Keselowski shares a similar feeling of wanting to give back. "Sports in general is very decadent, it always has been," Keselowski said. "There's something to be said for that, as an escape. But those that live in the escape, I always feel like, maybe have a greater responsibility to do something outside of it. "I sit back and look at the Tom Brady situation from this weekend and how much noise that makes in the media landscape. Then you think of so many other significant things going on the world right now that get zero recognition. So in that sense, I feel like those of us that are fortunate enough to get that recognition -- for good or bad -- always have to spread it to other areas." This weekend, Keselowski's No. 29 Ford in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series featured Careers for Veterans on the hood in Friday night's NC Education Lottery 200 at Charlotte Motor Speedway , in which he finished fifth. For Keselowski , it's another way to raise awareness for the cause that speaks to him. "I read this really great quote -- I think it's from Kevin Spacey, the actor -- about how fortunate he was to ride the elevator up to where he is and how important it is to send the elevator back down," Keselowski said. "And I thought that was really inspiring. "I'm not curing cancer. I make a very good living doing something that's decadent. I couldn't look myself in the mirror every morning, especially as I get older, knowing that I rode the elevator to the top and didn't send it back down with something so decadent as driving a car. "I'm very fortunate to have rode the elevator up." FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule
Team Penske driver on pit road penalty: 'I swung, we missed' RELATED: Full All-Star Race results CONCORD, N.C. -- Brad Keselowski borrowed a baseball analogy to describe his decision to push the envelope during the final intermission in Saturday night's NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race. Rather than leave the bat on his shoulder in the ninth inning, Keselowski dug in deeper leaving pit road for the final time. That decision netted Keselowski a pivotal pit road speeding penalty just before the 10-lap final segment, sending the Team Penske No. 2 Ford to the back of the field and dooming his chances at his first All-Star victory. "Sorry, man. I just had to pull out all the stops to get that pit road spot," Keselowski told crew chief Paul Wolfe post-race, making an allusion to going down swinging shortly after rallying to a ninth-place finish. "… Probably not what you want to hear, but thanks for everything." Keselowski finished first in two of the four 25-lap preliminary segments, boosting his average finish to the top of the 20-car field and placing him first in the realigned running order before the mandatory four-tire pit stop. After coming in for service, Keselowski eased ahead of speedy Stewart-Haas Racing teammates Kevin Harvick and Kurt Busch , pulling alongside eventual race winner Denny Hamlin at the exit of pit road. But instead of lining up second and on the front row for the final restart, Keselowski was demoted to the tail of the field. "I knew when I was coming out of the pit stall and the 11 (Hamlin) was pulling out with me, I either beat him to that line or lose the race," said Keselowski , twice a runner-up in the annual All-Star Race. "The penalty was I was three-tenths of a mile an hour over the speed limit, but I told my crew chief, I'd rather go down swinging than take a strike and wonder what might have been. I swung, we missed." After a quick debrief, Wolfe shrugged off the penalty as a simple miscue, one he hoped the team could put behind it entering next Sunday's Coca-Cola 600 (6 p.m. ET, FOX, PRN, SiriusXM), NASCAR's longest race. "Everyone at every position on the team, you've got to get all you can to win these races and I understand that," Wolfe said. "It's frustrating. Would've liked to have a shot from the front row. It's one thing not to come back out with the lead after we came in with the lead, but then to have to go all the way to the rear and not ever have a shot at it, it's frustrating. Just trying to get all you can, and it's a mistake. We all make mistakes and all we can do is try to learn from it, and hopefully we can come back next week and be a little better." A large part of Keselowski's motivation was to gather the all-important clean air out front, a precious commodity at an especially finicky track under the current NASCAR rules setup. Keselowski said the aero package could be less of a factor in next week's 600-miler, a race known for its long green-flag stretches. But on Saturday night in a segmented All-Star show, clean air was the ultimate trump card, possibly one worth speeding for. "Whoever gets the clean air with this format and this rules package is going to drive away," Keselowski said. "We've seen that the last three years and with this particular car, it's probably even more so. I thought the 4 (Harvick) and 41 (Busch) were probably two or three tenths faster than everybody, but without clean air, it doesn't matter." FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule
Longtime track mogul was voted into the NASCAR Hall of Fame Wednesday The selection of race track mogul Bruton Smith to the seventh class of the NASCAR Hall of Fame on Wednesday came with a groundswell of support among the 57 votes that were cast. One of Smith's most vocal boosters came from what might be considered an unlikely source. Helped by NASCAR chairman and CEO Brian France's stumping, the 88-year-old Smith was Wednesday's top vote-getter, leading the 2016 list of inductees with a 68 percent approval rating in his third year on the ballot. The selection comes four days before the 56th annual running of the Coca-Cola 600 , an endurance race that Smith created as the hallmark event for the track he helped create decades ago -- Charlotte Motor Speedway . Though Smith's contributions to the sport as a tireless promoter and innovator in the realm of track ownership are immeasurable, so is his history of being at loggerheads with NASCAR founder Bill France Sr., and his son and successor, Bill France Jr., over how best to help the sport grow. That same adversarial relationship seems to have skipped a generation, according to 2011 Hall inductee Ned Jarrett, who said he named Smith on his ballot Wednesday. "I already had him in my mind before then, but I think that might've made a difference overall," Jarrett said of Brian France's statement. "I think some people might've been surprised with his support. Bruton and Brian have always gotten along real well, and just I think him showing his support was good." H.A. "Humpy" Wheeler, a longtime Smith associate at the Charlotte track through a period of tremendous growth for the sport, said he was present for many of the former struggles between Smith's Speedway Motorsports, Inc., group and the first family of NASCAR, noting how conversations frequently went with Bill France Jr.: "We conked his head a whole bunch of times, but he was hard-headed enough that he let us have it back." Wheeler said he believed the younger France's push for Smith carried plenty of sway with the voting panel Wednesday, but beyond that, it may have also smoothed over any lingering hard feelings between the two factions. " Brian has never been a confrontationalist -- never -- like his dad was and like his grandfather was," Wheeler said. "He's live and let live, and let's move on and get this thing going like we're supposed to be, et cetera. It looks like he's got a pretty good way of doing things because a lot of things he's done have worked … "I think we found out today that one of the great things about this business is you can bury the hatchet and everything's fine. And the hatchets were flying so much 20 years ago, and you were wondering, when am I gonna get one right in the skull? I used to wonder and think I'm going to put a helmet on, but you've just got to learn to live and let live and bury that hatchet." Though the relationship between Smith and the Frances was at times antagonistic, the net result was to take the sport to new levels. Smith introduced luxury suites, condominiums and other modern features that were soon incorporated into speedways nationwide, and the expansion of the sport to new markets was a mutual goal for both the Frances and SMI. Friendly or not, the competition was healthy, and many innovations sprang from its intensity. "He was, I think, a big challenge to NASCAR and the France family along the way," Jarrett said, "and I think that's one of the best things that could happen to the sport because he made them better and make them do things better. It was good that they had that rivalry going on." Jarrett said his respect for Smith stemmed from a long-ago victory at a half-mile dirt track Smith had promoted in the Charlotte area. When Jarrett went to the pay window, he said that Smith was there to help explain that he could not pay out the purse. Since the attendance that night was more than adequate, Jarrett said he asked for reasons why, only to be told that the IRS had seized that night's gate to offset Smith's early financial struggles. Jarrett said Smith wrote him a check for his Friday night winnings -- $150, he recalled -- but was told there was no guarantee that it would clear Monday morning. It didn't, Jarrett said, but Smith vowed that he would make the situation right. Jarrett said he stuck to his word, an unusual circumstance in the sport's earliest days, when crooked promoters often skipped town with that night's proceeds. "Then the rest is history as far as all the other speedways and things," Jarrett said. "I mean, he has made major, major contributions to this sport." With contributions and recognition for seven decades in the sport come the setting-aside of any long-ago grudges. In a statement released Wednesday evening by the speedway that he bet the farm on back in 1960, Smith thanked not only the voting committee, but also NASCAR's fans -- the lifeblood of any track owner. Though he might not have known the behind-the-scenes process that potentially helped spur his induction, Smith could also give a tip of the cap to NASCAR's chairman, who opted not to let bygones cloud the panel's voting judgment. "Rivalries are what makes the sport," Wheeler said. "But sometimes, you've got to put the peanut butter back in the jar and put the lid on it." FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule
2012 Sprint Cup champion reacts to Kevin Harvick's comments RELATED: Kevin Harvick stumps for schedule overhaul Reigning NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion Kevin Harvick had a strong take on the Sprint Cup Series schedule during his media availability Friday at Talladega Superspeedway . The Stewart-Haas Racing driver said the 36-race lineup "needs to be mixed up" and "in my opinion the most stagnant thing in our sport is our schedule and our venues that we go to." Another Sprint Cup Series champion had a different take. Brad Keselowski , who once wrote a blog about his dream NASCAR schedule, reacted via Twitter later Friday afternoon. His thoughts: Interesting to see nascar schedule change topic come up again. Seems like we go through this every year about this time... — Brad Keselowski (@ keselowski ) May 1, 2015 @ keselowski because EVERYONE wants more short tracks......we just had Martinsville, Bristol and Richmond....thats what we want to see!! — JoeyPletka (@JoeyPletka) May 1, 2015 Me too. But what everyone wants and what everyone is willing to pay for are two different things. https://t.co/1dUeR0PRjB — Brad Keselowski (@ keselowski ) May 1, 2015 Even though most drivers and fans would say they prefer short tracks, almost all local short tracks are struggling to stay in business. — Brad Keselowski (@ keselowski ) May 1, 2015 Idk why- No denying that when nascar added 1.5 tracks in late 90's it grew tremendously. Despite the outcry for 1.5. — Brad Keselowski (@ keselowski ) May 1, 2015 A major schedule change for Nascar isn't a "common win" because tracks would lose $ It won't happen in the short term or maybe even ever. — Brad Keselowski (@ keselowski ) May 1, 2015 IMHO- We need to find "common wins" to grow Motorsports These Must benefit fans, tracks, teams, sponsors nascar and all other stakeholders. — Brad Keselowski (@ keselowski ) May 1, 2015
On Sunday afternoon, NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship contender Brad Keselowski played a game of cat-and-mouse with his competitors en route to his dramatic overtime win at Talladega Superspeedway that secured an automatic berth in the upcoming Eliminator 8 Round.
Second pole, eighth front-row start of 2014 for Keselowski
Brad Keselowski loses his engine. Jamie McMurray and Ryan Newman make contact while trying to navigate the smoke from the No. 2 car.
Watch the season finale: 4:30 p.m. ET (ESPN2) RELATED: Full lineup His Team Penske teammate had been faster Friday, but Brad Keselowski sped to the Coors Light Pole Award during group qualifying Saturday at Homestead-Miami Speedway . Keselowski's speed of 166.384 mph puts him on the pole for the Ford EcoBoost 300 . It's Keselowski's fifth series pole of the season and 19th of his career. Ryan Blaney, in the No. 12 Ford, had previously paced both Friday practice sessions and was fastest in the second round of group qualifying. He will line up fifth. Kyle Larson qualified second at 166.353 mph, with Matt Kenseth (166.006 mph) third and Elliott Sadler (165.827 mph) fourth. Chase Elliott, who locked up the 2014 NASCAR Nationwide Series championship last week, will start 14th. He finished 24th in the opening round and was the last car to advance in group qualifying. Elliott's JR Motorsports teammate Regan Smith , who is second in the standings, will start 15th. Smith has a 13-point lead over Brian Scott in the battle to finish second in the final standings. Derrike Cope, Ryan Ellis , Johnny Jackson, Kevin Lepage and Martin Roy did not qualify. The Ford EcoBoost 300 is scheduled to begin at 4:30 p.m. ET Saturday and will be televised on ESPN2.
Chase standings leader wins pole at New Hampshire RELATED: Qualifying results LOUDON, N.H. -- You couldn't script a better beginning to Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup for Brad Keselowski , who showed no sign of stopping his relentless run toward a second championship on Friday at New Hampshire Motor Speedway . Fresh from a dramatic victory in last Sunday's first Chase race at Chicagoland Speedway , Keselowski blew away the track record in winning the pole for Sunday's Sylvania 300 at the Magic Mile (2 p.m. ET on ESPN). The Coors Light Pole Award was Keselowski's fifth of the season, the eight of his career and his third in 11 starts at the 1.058-mile flat track. In the second and final round of knockout qualifying, Keselowski covered the distance in 27.090 seconds (140.598 mph) to edge Jamie McMurray (140.437 mph) for the top starting spot by .031 seconds. Kevin Harvick qualified third for the second Chase race at 140.065 mph. "The kind of track is kind of right in my wheelhouse, right in our team’s wheelhouse," said Keselowski , who won the July race at New Hampshire in dominating fashion. "We had this race circled before the Chase started, and we felt decent about Chicago, but we really felt like this was a race of emphasis for us to get a win and get out of the first bracket (three-race elimination round). "It's good, right? We just want to keep it going." Despite the excellent performances of the first two weeks, Keselowski isn't ready to claim ownership of the title just yet. "With the resets (after each round), the success of today really means nothing come Homestead (where the four remaining eligible drivers will race for the title, with the highest finisher among the four claiming the prize)," Keselowski said. "It's great. It's positive momentum. It's everything you want to do, and it’s everything you think you should do. "But when it resets, it resets, and nothing that you've done in the past really matters, as long as you're eligible for the bracket. I'm a long, long way from using the word favorite or feeling overly confident." McMurray, who did not make the Chase field, was pleased with his effort in qualifying. "I felt like, in my first run, I didn't get everything out of the car and maybe left a little bit on the table," McMurray said. "The first run I didn't think I got it all, but the second run out (in the final round), the second lap was really good. "Honestly, I came off Turn 4 and tried to run three laps and tried to just drive a little bit harder, but the tires just wouldn’t hold up for another quick lap." Chase drivers who will start in the top 12 on Sunday include Denny Hamlin (fourth), Kyle Busch (fifth), Jimmie Johnson (sixth), Joey Logano (seventh), Carl Edwards (eighth), Ryan Newman (ninth) and Dale Earnhardt Jr . (11th) Keselowski led the first of the two qualifying sessions with a lap at 139.614 mph (27.281 seconds), a scant .005 seconds faster than the No. 99 of fellow Ford driver Edwards. All told, 26 drivers in the 30-minute first round broke the track qualifying record of 138.130 mph (27.574 seconds) set by Kyle Busch on July 11, 2014. Earnhardt Jr. was the 12th and last driver to advance to the second session with a lap at 138.987 mph (27.404 mph). Chase drivers Jeff Gordon (13th), Kurt Busch (15th), Matt Kenseth (16th), Kasey Kahne (17th), Aric Almirola (21st), Greg Biffle (26th) and AJ Allmendinger (27th) failed to advance to the 10-minute final round. Notes: The track qualifying record was the 19th set this year in Sprint Cup Series time trials, in the first year of the knockout format. ... Keselowski has accounted for four of those records. ... The last two times Keselowski has won a pole for a Sprint Cup race (at Kentucky and Richmond), he has also won the race. MORE: READ: Latest Chase news PLAY: Monitor your Chase Grid Game picks WATCH: Latest NASCAR video FOLLOW LIVE: Get RaceView FULL CHASE COVERAGE • Chase hub page • Chase Grid games • #MyChaseNation