NASCAR driver Brad Keselowski of Rochester Hills discusses the importance of winning at MIS. Angelique S. Chengelis, The Detroit News
Brooklyn, Mich. – When you grow up in Rochester Hills, and you drive a Ford Mustang for Bloomfield Hills-based businessman Roger Penske, and your sponsor is Discount Tire, which was founded in Ann Arbor, it makes complete sense why Brad Keselowski desperately wants to win at his “hometown” track, Michigan International Speedway.
Keselowski has come close at MIS, finishing sixth in the FireKeepers Casino 400 last June and then second in the Cup race at MIS in August. In 19 starts at the two-mile oval, he has six top-five finishes, including being runner-up twice and third three times. The former series champion has three wins this season and is fourth in the points, but said a win at Michigan would be “one of the biggest” in his career.
“I feel like I have sat on this podium here the last half a dozen years after the race finishing second or third, which really stinks,” Keselowski, 35, said Friday at the speedway. “(Winning at MIS) is a huge item on the bucket list. A checkmark that is not there. I feel like we have had the opportunity and we have made a few mistakes. I feel like in some ways we have been good but not great enough to do it.
“Someone once told me that to win races at the Cup level you run in the top-five and things will fall your way. We have done that a lot here. We have run in the top five but it hasn’t fallen our way. I just have to believe that it will if we keep doing the things we have been doing.
"I try not to think too much about it because you just get some bad vibes going. It is certainly always on my mind.”
Keselowski was seventh in the first practice session on Friday and 15th in the second session. Qualifying is Saturday.
It never takes much to understand how important winning at MIS is for the local manufacturers. But just in case any of the Ford drivers needed extra incentive, they got it Thursday night at the Henry Ford estate in Dearborn. Keselowski said the thoroughly enjoyed a speech delivered by Edsel Ford.
“Or as we like to call him, ‘The Godfather of Ford Performance,’” Keselowski said. “One of the things he said was that Ford's winning percentage (at MIS) was almost 50 percent at the Cup level and how much it means to him to have success in what they consider to be their back yard. It really struck me how much it means. Sometimes we forget those things. We are racing 30-some times a year and traveling all over and we get very much into a routine.
“So you forget the significance of individual races sometimes, especially in the middle of the season and what they mean to different people. And to the manufacturers that have for so long been the lifeblood of our sport and are based here out of Detroit, it means the world to them to have success in front of their executive teams and core employees, both white collar and blue collar. It means a lot to them to bring home that manufacturers trophy. That was one of the smartest moves this track ever made was coming up with that manufacturers trophy. Hopefully we can help Mustang get its first win here at the Cup level and I think we will have a terrific opportunity to do so.”
Team Penske has four wins this season and Keselowski has three of them. Joe Gibbs Racing has dominated the rest of the races. Still, Keselowski likes how the season is setting up.
“I think we are fairly pleased with where we are and of course we want more,” he said. "I think this weekend is going to be an incredible opportunity and I am very pleased with some of the things that the team has shown me they are working on. It has been a good year and we are really proud of it, but we are hungry for much more.”
And nothing would satisfy him more than a win on Sunday.
FireKeepers Casino 400
When: 2 p.m., Sunday, June 9
Where: Michigan International Speedway, Brooklyn
Support race: NASCAR Xfinity Series LTi Printing 250, Saturday, June 8, 1:30 p.m.