'My hero': Bob Keselowski, racing lifer and father of Cup star Brad, dies at 70

Tony Paul
The Detroit News

Bob Keselowski, the father of NASCAR star Brad Keselowski and an accomplished auto racer in his own right, has died after a two-and-a-half-year battle with cancer.

Brad Keselowski, of Rochester Hills, made the announcement on social media Wednesday.

Bob Keselowski was 70.

Brad Keselowski with father, Bob, right. Bob Keselowski has died at the age of 70.

"My dad will always be my hero," Brad Keselowski wrote on Twitter. "He was quiet and understated, but that didn’t change the impact he had on me or that I watched him have on everyone who knew him.

"I am forever grateful for what I learned from this man, and I will remember him every day."

Bob Keselowski was born in Rochester and was introduced to racing at the age of 6 by father John, who raced motorcycles before eventually transitioning to stock car racing.

According to a 2012 USA Today profile, Bob Keselowski only ever had one job outside of auto racing — a two-month stint at a car dealership in the early 1970s. And even that job was just so he could make enough money for tires for an upcoming race at Daytona.

Bob Keselowski broke through on the track in 1989, when he won the ARCA Series championship. For his ARCA career, he had 24 wins — including an emotional first win at Michigan International Speedway in 1992 — and 26 poles. He was top-three in the standings for seven straight years.

He shifted to the Trucks Series when it debuted in the 1990s, and had 15 top-10s, including his lone win at the 1997 Virginia is For Lovers 200 in Richmond.

“Boy, I needed this one bad,” Bob Keselowski said after the race, according to NASCAR.com, citing the impact it had on the family business.

Bob Keselowski made one start in what is known as NASCAR's Sprint Cup, in 1994. He retired from racing in 2000, because of a series of nagging injuries. He survived a massive heart attack in 2002. His family racing team — founded in the 1960s — lasted until 2006, when it folded because of a lack of sponsorship. 

From there, the family largely turned its attention to Brad Keselowski's blossoming career, which got its start with the family team. He debuted in the Xfinity Series in 2006 at the age of 22, signed on with Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s team in 2007, debuted in the Cup Series in 2008 and was the Cup Series champion in 2012, by then driving for Penske Racing.

Brad Keselowski, who is set to join Roush Fenway Racing in 2022, has 39 wins in the Xfinity Series and 35 wins and 174 top-10 finishes in the Cup Series.

Another son of Bob and Kay's, Brian, also raced — he was a surprise entrant into the 2011 Daytona 500, and Bob actually always thought he would end up having the better career but never received the opportunities Brad did — and he's been a crew member and spotter in recent years. Bob's brother, Ron, a Troy native, raced for five seasons on the Cup circuit in the 1970s.

"He was my best friend," Brian Keselowski wrote on Twitter on Wednesday. "I'm forever going to be lost."

Bob and Kay Keselowski had five children, including daughters Ginger, Kathy and Dawn.

Funeral arrangements hadn't been announced as of early Wednesday afternoon.

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Twitter: @tonypaul1984