If Kelley Blue Book put a value on every NASCAR Cup driver, Brad Keselowski’s price would be going through the roof right now. Following a wave of recent retirements and fresh faces arriving on the scene, a proven talent and personality like Keselowski, 35, is increasingly rare. Athlon Sports tracked down the 2012 Cup champion — one of seven former champs currently racing — to find out more about the multi-faceted racecar driver, father, failed fisherman and aspiring actor.
You’re one of the elder statesmen of NASCAR. How does that feel?
I don’t know. Everybody wants to put everybody in a box. I guess that’s natural in life. It helps us make more sense of things in our minds. But most of us don’t fit in a box. There are certainly a bunch of drivers that are much older than me that are still competing. And there are certainly some drivers that are quite a bit younger than me that are competing. I like to think of myself as being right down the middle.
Right in your prime?
Yeah. Well, prime for a NASCAR driver is statistically 39. And I’m .
What’s the least glamorous part of your job?
I like to say everybody wants to be Michael Jordan taking the final shot, but nobody wants to be Michael Jordan when he misses the final shot and has to deal with the repercussions. Because you don’t always make the final shot, right? It’s dealing with the failures, whether it’s pressure you put on yourself or pressure from outside people. The success is easy. Everybody can deal with success, it’s dealing with failure. That’s the hardest part. And there’s a lot of failure. A Hall of Fame-level driver in NASCAR is like five percent. You think of baseball, it’s hitting .300, right? A NASCAR driver, you hit a five percent win rate, you’re a Hall of Fame driver. You hit 10 percent, you’re a first-ballot Hall of Famer. Think of that. That means if you can win one out of every 10 races, you’re a first-bid Hall of Famer. That means 90 percent of your races, even as a Hall of Famer, are not great. It’s a tough stat to really wrap your head around.
It took Dale Earnhardt 20 years to win the Daytona 500…
Yeah. One in 20. What is that? That’s five percent.
How did winning the Cup championship change you as a driver?
Just confidence, without a doubt. Confidence in yourself. Confidence in other people around you. All those things.
Were there any adjustments with Team Penske adding a third team?
I told Roger Penske, the car owner, that I’d really like for my team to have a new hauler. When we went to a third team, he said, “You want that new hauler?” I said, “Yeah!” He said, “Great. Here’s what I’m going to do. I’m going to take your old hauler and we’re going to order a new hauler. But in the meantime, we’re going to give you that old, dingy trailer to use until the new hauler comes in. By the way, it’ll be in in six months.”
Who had your hauler?
[Ryan] Blaney. Yeah. Guys here were elbowing it out. Life lessons.
What’s your favorite sport other than racing?
I’m a pretty big Detroit Lions fan. I would say I follow that the closest. I know the general manager [Bob Quinn]. I grew up in the area [Rochester Hills, Mich.]. That’s probably the one I follow the closest. That, and the University of Michigan.
I’ve seen you fishing and playing basketball for charity. Do you do that stuff in your free time?
Sometimes. I usually just do it for charity. I like to do things for charity that show how bad I am, because I feel like that’s a great way to raise money for people. It’s not that much fun watching someone who’s good at fishing or playing basketball. It’s a lot of fun watching people who are terrible at it.
Why do you say that? What’s gone wrong?
I went fishing for an hour and a half at Daytona, in a tournament. And I caught a bird. It’s the only thing I caught. I’m serious. We were fishing with shiners and I threw it out there and the birds were flying overhead. Nothing bit all day and this bird just kept circling, circling. Went down to grab my shiner and a bird came up on my line. Caught nothing but a bird.
Does your daughter [Scarlett, 3] have a favorite driver?
I don’t know. I’ll have to ask her. She was in a [Ryan] Blaney phase. She goes through phases. She really liked Kyle Larson. She likes Joey [Logano]. She likes the cars that are easy to see. She loves bright-colored cars. You find that a lot with kids. They like cars just because they’re bright. When I was a kid, I used to love the Mello Yello car. It was black and it was green. But it wasn’t just black and green. It was neon or fluorescent or whatever you call that. I thought that was so cool.
That was a cool car. Who was your favorite driver growing up?
Kyle Petty. Because he was in that car. I liked the car first. Then I liked him. Then after that — this is kind of bad — he went to the Coors Light car. And they did, like, a neon blue and pink car. It was mean. It was mean looking. I thought that was the coolest car ever. I was like 10 years old cheering for the Coors Light car.
Did you buy the diecast toy cars?
No. But I painted my toy cars. You couldn’t buy the diecast, because it was a 21 and over diecast [for the Coors Light car]. I wasn’t good at it, but I had fun with it. I’d take a spray can and tape up little parts.
You’re known as a big reader. What books would you recommend? And what are you reading now?
Yes. I finished one book and I’m starting another one. I’m terrible with titles. I like Ryan Holiday. There’s two books, Ego Is the Enemy and The Obstacle Is the Way. Those are two really good books. Another one I’m reading is World Changers [by John A. Byrne]. It’s short biographies of top-10 world changers in our era. [Apple co-founder] Steve Jobs. [Home Depot co-founder and Atlanta Falcons owner] Arthur Blank. Who’s the guy from Whole Foods? John Mackey? Those type of guys.
Do you guys pull any pranks to keep it fresh on the road?
Yeah. We got really bad with them at one point in time, so we had to cease fire. We had gotten into this thing where — it’s kind of bad but also quite humorous — where anytime somebody would grab a plate of food, they had to walk around with their arms around it. The gag was off this TV show. Essentially, someone would sneak up behind them, with their whole plate of food and just slam it down to the ground. And it would just be a mess, everywhere.
Who’s the biggest prankster among drivers?
Right now, I’d say Kevin [Harvick].
What do you guys do during rain delays?
Eat too much and make bad decisions on social media.
You’ve dabbled in acting, including the “Sharknado” franchise…
Yeah. I’ve been in like three movies now and a couple TV shows.
And you’ve done a little broadcasting. Talk about expanding your repertoire…
It’s a different world. I think I’m a better racecar driver than I am media player. But I’ve had fun with it. I’m thankful for the opportunities, accordingly. And you never know where life’s going to take you. So maybe I’ll get more. I would love to.
Yeah. But I still think I’ve got a great job as a racecar driver.