July 1, 2014 at 7:07 pm


Brad Keselowski marches into Daytona with cocky confidence

Brad Keselowski, a Rochester Hills native, is fourth in the NASCAR Sprint Cup points standings. (Todd Warshaw / Getty Images)

Raise a toast to Brad Keselowski, NASCAR’s Wild Child.

Just be careful you don’t choke on the beer bong. And watch your fingers when popping open that bottle of champagne.

Keselowski, NASCAR’s version of Bluto from Animal House, is the life of the party again along pit road and other prominent places.

The driver from Rochester Hills ended up at Victory Lane for the second time this season at Kentucky, where he was ridiculously dominant — winning the pole and leading 199 laps. The celebration became a tad too exuberant when Keselowski cut his right hand while opening a bottle of champagne.

“We were playing around with some champagne, and I told my good friend I should have stuck with beer,” Keselowski said. “We had too much fun with champagne, and one of the bottles broke and I cut my hand open. It’s no big deal.”

We presume the four stitches on his hand won’t preclude Keselowski from contending in the restrictor-plate madness at Daytona International Speedway during the Coke Zero 400 Saturday night.

Keselowski has cobbled together some strong finishes at Daytona, including a third-place finish in the 2014 Daytona 500, won by Dale Earnhardt Jr., NASCAR’s Favorite Son.

Another Dale Jr. victory in Daytona would set off another round of fireworks, far more spectacular than any July 4th pyrotechnics. A victory by Keselowski is liable to set off another type of implosion.

Keselowski is too much of a party boy for some, even by NASCAR standards. He can come across as a little too cool for school, especially because he always speaks his mind. He rattled some restrictor plates last season by accusing Rick Hendrick and Joe Gibbs of poaching employees from other NASCAR teams.

To which I ask, so what?

“It’s easy to be quiet and not ever raise any drama and just collect a paycheck,” he told me at Daytona last year. “That’s easy to do and I understand why people would do it, but it’s not me.”

That’s why Keselowski is an acquired taste despite winning the 2012 Sprint Cup title. He rattled some old NASCAR bones in a hurry by taking a swig from a giant beer glass during a live ESPN interview in Homestead’s Victory Lane.

“We’ve had fun,” said the day after winning the title. “It’s been a great experience. I’m just enjoying it. But they took the glass from me — David Hovis (Keselowski’s public-relations representative) took it from me. He got booed by the crowd when he took my glass. That was the highlight of my night.”

It certainly wasn’t the way Jimmie Johnson would handle it. Nor Jeff Gordon. But what’s wrong with having an offbeat personality?

Keselowski is the odd fit among championship contenders. He is fourth in points, trailing the Hendrick Motorsports juggernaut of Gordon, Johnson and Earnhardt.

“I turned 30, and I’m going through a bit of a midlife crisis,” Keselowski said at Kentucky. “I want to win another championship. I don’t want to win just one ... the urgency is now.”

You’ve been served, NASCAR Nation: Brash Bad is back in business.

This is a good thing.