The driver's constant commitment to improvement showed itself in the success the team had last season on return visits to tracks. Keselowski finished 23rd in the first Pocono race and then won there two months later. He went from 25th to third at Michigan, from 18th to first at Bristol and from 35th to second at New Hampshire.
"Brad is very dedicated to this team and doing what it takes to improve every week," says crew chief Paul Wolfe. "He spends a lot of time at the shop with me and with the engineers making sure he understands what's going on with the race cars.
"Some of the races last year, we didn't necessarily have a superfast car," Wolfe adds, "but we had a strategy to get a good finish. Brad really understands what it takes to put together a full, complete weekend. He's definitely doing his part and putting in the effort it takes to be a champion."
Those traits formed in Keselowski at an early age. As a third-generation racer he spent much of his childhood hanging around his family's race shop in Rochester Hills, Mich., and watching his father, Bob, compete in the ARCA and Truck series. (He entered just one Cup race, in 1994.) Bob's father, John, was a motorcycle racer. By the time Brad began racing quarter-midgets at age 14, he knew from up-close experience what it took to be successful.
Keselowski's big break came in 2007 when he was competing on the Busch Series and his team, Keith Coleman Racing, folded. Dale Earnhardt Jr. plucked him out of relative obscurity to drive for JR Motorsports. Earnhardt said at the time that Keselowski's background played a role in his decision: "He comes from a racing family, so he has worked on the cars and knows a lot about them. I figured if he was given a good opportunity, he could make it."
After winning five races over a season and a half on the Nationwide circuit, Keselowski landed his Cup ride with Penske. Now, "making it" is just what he is doing—a fact made plain both by his results and by the attention that swirls around him every race weekend.