Keselowski still drives hard but he’s a family man now

Gregg Krupa
The Detroit News

He is 33 now, five years removed from becoming the first Michigan-born driver to win the NASCAR Cup championship, and Brad Keselowski is also the prouder-than-proud papa of two-year-old Scarlet and newly wed to long-time girlfriend Paige White.

If it sounds like it is time for the Rochester Hills native to secure the future and share some of the career decisions, Keselowski sounds like a man whose mind is already there.

Whether it is his expiring contract with Team Penske or the long-term impact of a dangerous sport on his life, and more importantly, now, the life of his family, Keselowski’s hands seem firmly on the wheel.

Even in a sport in which the threats to the health of the brain and mortality are omnipresent.

“I’m driving to win multiple championships, and I’ll have that opportunity,” said Keselowski, who talked about the importance of having “the concussion discussion” with his family before his marriage in February.

“It’s more of a waste not to seize that opportunity and make the most of it, or at least take it, than it would be to even have an injury in that time span.

“I’m looking forward to making the most of it.”

So, how about that contract?

“Well,” he said, chuckling a bit, “that’s a great question, one that I hope to have answered very, very soon.

“And I can tell you that I’ve gone a long ways in my life and career with the help of Roger and all of Team Penske.

“And so, I think that’s all I can really say at the moment.”

The 2012 Sprint Cup Series Champion and the 2010 Nationwide Series Champion, both with Team Penske, and a perennial contender for the cup. Keselowski did not sound like a man car shopping.

“Roger’s given me a lot, and I have no reasons to not want to stay with him,” he said.

Among reasons not to leave is battling for a second top NASCAR championship. Keselowski is currently in fifth place, 131 points behind leader Martin Truex Jr. headed into the FireKeepers Casino 400 Sunday at Michigan International Speedway.

Through 14 races, Keselowski has two wins, eight top-five finishes, 10 top-10s and three unfinished races, including two by unfortunate wrecks in No. 2 cars that were highly competitive.

But, there is also family now. The dreams a young suburban-Detroit kid dreamt a couple of decades ago in his dad Bob’s racing shop, learning about cars, keeping the floors clean and the lawn cut are partially realized, and other priorities have emerged.

“Yeah, absolutely; without a doubt,” he said. “Right now, you’d be almost foolish to be an athlete in sports and who has a wife and kid and not have the concussion discussion with the family.

“We’re all seeing that, quite frankly, there are athletes out there who are either dying or suffering severe loss of quality of life in the later years of their career, and so forth. When you have a family, you have a tremendous responsibility to look out for them.”

Dale Earnhardt Jr., who has suffered both concussions behind the wheel and symptoms of post-concussion syndrome, is retiring this year. Meanwhile, many drivers talk not only about concussions, but also the substantial G-force hits they take throughout their careers.

The wreck seven-time champion Jimmie Johnson experienced Sunday at Pocono, when brake failure sent him headlong into a wall at considerable speed, is only the most recent example.

“I’ve had that conversation with my wife and family,” Keselowski said, “and I feel good about continuing to go on and do all those things.”

“Certainly there’s a lot of discussions around that for I think any athlete in the latter half of their career because its’ become quite obvious that even though you might not feel some of the ramifications of some of these events, impacts, et cetera, that they can still make a difference, and change you in a negative way in the latter half of your life or career.

“But there’s not a right or wrong decision. I think it’s just a decision you make together as family.

“And, my family has made the decision to continue to move forward, to enjoy the opportunities we have as professionals in the sport that we love and keep moving on.”

Keselowski is aware of data suggesting some of the best drivers in history are at their best around age 39.

“So I still have six of the best years of my career left, and I want to see those to fruition.”

Firekeepers 400

When : 3 p.m. Sunday, Michigan International Speedway, Brooklyn

Support races : ARCA Corrigan Oil 200, 6 p.m. Friday; Xfinity Irish Hills 250, 1:30 p.m. Saturday

TV : All races on FS1

Defending champion : Joey Logano

Tickets :