Sunday night, somewhere around Homestead, where the barley pop was flowing like a swollen heartland river, the strains of this refrain courtesy of Garth Brooks must have surely been heard:
I’ve got friends in low places
Where the whiskey drowns
And the beer chases my blues away
And I’ll be okay
I’m not big on social graces
Think I’ll slip on down to the oasis
Oh, I’ve got friends in low places
For NASCAR Nation, Brad Keselowski is a tailored fit as their champion. Among sports fans, NASCAR’s are often given the Cousin Eddie (see Vacation movie franchise for reference) treatment, the outcasts of the sporting world; too loud, over the top, and unrefined. Keselowski relates, speaking of never being the strongest or the fastest, surviving on passion and perseverance to reach NASCAR’s pinnacle. People love an underdog, and the skinny motorhead from Michigan is just that.
During his young career, he’s taken on the sport’s biggest names: Busch, Edwards, Hamlin and Johnson, to name a few, and with nary an ounce of hesitation. Bad Brad never had any use for “giving a guy room” and subsisting on the butt end of the pecking order. He took a ”I belong here just as much as you do” attitude on to the track, and while it may have rattled the chains of some more established drivers, Keselowski made it clear he had a grander goal in mind than just getting in the race, he was there to win championships- so either lead, follow, or get out of the way.
Such an approach may make some enemies along the way. Darrell Waltrip knows all about it, and Dale Earnhardt lived that journey as well. Give them guff, and they gave it back; not unless of course, they were getting in your head first. Keselowski succeeded where the likes of Denny Hamlin, Carl Edwards and Mark Martin all came up short in facing off against the grandest of recent champions, Jimmie Johnson.
There’s been some good drivers who have had their name on Penske cars; Rusty Wallace, Kurt Busch, and Ryan Newman, to name a few, but it was the son of a short tracking ARCA racer who delivered the Captain his first NASCAR Sprint Cup. Roger Penske now knows the elation his good friend Rick Hendrick has experienced several times over. How Hollywood a script it is, coming in a year where Penske was dealing with troublesome headlines made by former drivers Kurt Busch for his temper, and the once-promising A.J. Allmendinger for a failed drug test. The owner of 15 Indianapolis 500 championships now has a taste of NASCAR glory to take the edge off of a sometimes difficult year.
The victory also gives Dodge a sweet parting gift as it heads out the door. Not since 2004, when Kurt Busch won it a Ford, has someone taken a brand other than GM to the title.
2012 has been a mixture of the good, the bad and the ugly for NASCAR fans. For many, the ascension of hard charging, hard drinking, and fast tweeting Brad Keselowski to the top gives them a sweet story to savor over the offseason. Even if he isn’t THEIR guy, his story has an inspirational feel to it that says “If this guy can do it, why cant my guy?” But for his fans, Sunday’s wild celebration may be just the first of many more for the Blue Deuce.
Jim McCoy is a radio and television sports reporter and producer in Southern Oregon, where he makes his home with his wife and three children. Jim is also a radio play-by-play announcer for high school football, baseball and basketball. He was recently named Oregon Association of Broadcasters 2012 Sports Announcer of The Year- Non-commercial Division.
Other articles by Jim McCoy include…