It Is What It's Going to Be for Bubba Pollard in 15th Derby
Dec 1, 2022
Oh, the benefits of being your own boss, as best described by Brad Keselowski.
The 2012 Cup Series champion spent his formative years driving Wedge Style Outlaw Late Models in the Upper Midwest and has always wanted to moonlight in Super Late Model racing but wasn’t allowed once his NASCAR career took off.
It’s a well-known Team Penske policy but now as a co-owner of Roush Fenway Keselowski, a race like the Snowball Derby makes sense and it has the potential to make a lot of fun too, and that’s why Keselowski has joined FURY Race Cars at Five Flags Speedway.
"You know, I've never been to the Derby before and I've always heard about it and always wanted to make my way out here but wasn't contractually allowed for a long time," Keselowski said. "But now I'm my own boss and can do some things I've always wanted to do."
He said it with a big smile.
"So really, I'm just so glad to have the opportunity here with Tony Eury Jr. and everyone at FURY. I'm hopeful to make the most of it and I'm sure I'm going to learn a lot.
"I want to come here and win obviously, but I also respect that there are a lot of really great cars here, and no matter what happens, I'm going to continue to push and challenge myself, which is a really healthy thing to do."
Keselowski isn’t a complete stranger to Super Late Models, as Brad Keselowski Racing fielded a car for several years with Austin Theriault, including several trips to the Snowball Derby with that effort. For the longest time, that car still sat in the shop of what is now Keselowski Advanced Manufacturing.
With all of that said, despite all of his years driving at the highest levels of NASCAR, the 38-year-old concedes he hasn’t driven anything like what the modern Super Late Model has evolved into over the past decade.
"Yeah, there isn't much like a current day Super Late Model and with the racing is always evolving with the tires, the rules and the chassis -- all that stuff -- the setups, there is a lot to keep pace with. I'm sure there is going to be something that catches me off guard today and something to learn from that makes me better."
During his test on Monday, 2018 Snowball Derby winner Noah Gragson came over to his pit stall several times to offer any advice or perspective as needed. The soon to be Cup driver for Petty GMS just wants to see Keselowski have as much fun as he does coming to Pensacola each December.
"He was walking the track and I pulled in so I rolled the window down and gave him a ride and pointed some things out," Gragson said. "I just want to make sure I could get in up to speed in some small way. He says he’s watched races from here before, but has never driven, so I don’t know the last time he was in a Super Late Model -- might have been before I was born.
"It’s been awhile so I just wanted to show him around the track, because in my opinion, this is one of the toughest race tracks I’ve ever been to. This is the first year I’ve honestly come down here with an idea of what I wanted to feel and need. I was lost in 3 and 4 every year, because there are about 15 different lines you can run there depending on your car, and that was the kind of thing I wanted to let him know about."
It was a gesture that Keselowski really appreciated.
"That was kind of him to do for sure," Keselowski said. "I've got a steep learning curve and a great field to compete against, so I really appreciated that."
All told, his test went as well as it could, with the concession that Thursday will be the time to apply some of the things they learned.
"I'm pretty comfortable in the car, just trying to find the pace," Keselowski said. "The trick of this race is, from what I can tell so far, is that what it takes to qualify well is really different than what it takes to race.
"But if you're not in the race, it doesn't matter how good your race car is, s it's about striking those balances as we learn."
The main reason Keselowski said he was drawn to this garage area in the race is the culture -- and something he just wanted to see for himself.
"Racing is changing in so many ways, especially at the NASCAR level," Keselowski said. "The racing here reminds me in so many ways about what NASCAR was like 10-15 years ago from the rules to the people and atmosphere.
"There's a lot of nostalgia here and it's great to see."