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The Call That Changed Keselowski's Life

Keselowski's Road To Winning NSCS Championship -- Sprint Cup champion Brad Keselowski takes a trip down memory lane with the "NASCAR Now" crew and gets a call from his father. Video courtesy of ESPN

LAS VEGAS -- By now you probably know that Brad Keselowski wants a tank, that he'd like to date Jennifer Love Hewitt and that there's a new market for giant Pilsner beer glasses like the one he drank from live on ESPN's "SportsCenter" after winning his first Sprint Cup title.

But what you probably don't know is none of this would have been feasible were it not for Discount Tire.

Stick with me.

You won't see the name of Keselowski's Nationwide Series sponsor splattered all over Las Vegas, where NASCAR is celebrating its newest champion this week. In the world of sponsors, this is Miller Lite's week to get the spotlight with the driver of the No. 2 blue deuce.

But were it not for Discount Tire, the 28-year-old from Michigan never would have gone to Penske Racing and delivered Roger Penske his first Cup title.

"Without that phone call from them, it doesn't happen," Keselowski said Tuesday.

This is how it all came down, a story that some of those closest to Keselowski weren't aware of until he talked about it first during the NASCAR Motorsports Marketing Forum at the Aria Convention Center and later with me at the Wynn Las Vegas sportsbook.

Keselowski, then driving the Nationwide Series car for JR Motorsports, had spent the summer of 2009 working with Rick Hendrick to stay in the Hendrick Motorsports family.

They looked at placing him in a Cup car at Red Bull Racing, but that deal fell apart. They looked at placing him at Stewart-Haas Racing, but the organization wasn't ready to go to three cars. Dale Earnhardt Jr. even looked at adding a Cup team at JRM, but that didn't happen.

Keselowski already had talked to Penske, telling "The Captain" he'd sign on only if given a full-time Nationwide ride, too. Penske said thanks but no thanks, maybe the last time he flat-out denied the driver something he wanted.

"So we walked apart, we broke up discussions," Keselowski said.

Late in August, when Keselowski's dream of landing a full-time Cup ride for 2010 seemed bleak, Discount Tire went to Penske with the offer to leave Roush Fenway Racing for his team if and only if Keselowski was the driver.

The rest is history.

Keselowski gave Penske his first Nationwide title in 2010 and first Cup title two weeks ago at Homestead-Miami Speedway, the site of one of the craziest celebrations you'll ever see.

"Without [Discount Tire] doing that, I don't go to Penske Racing," Keselowski said.

So why was a Nationwide ride so important to Keselowski? Simple. He figured to struggle during his first full year in Cup -- which he did, finishing 25th in points -- and that the Nationwide experience would benefit his growth as a driver.

"Absolutely," Keselowski said. "There was no doubt in my mind that going into Cup the first year was going to be very difficult. Sometimes you don't want to believe that, but obviously that was the case."

Now Keselowski has the money -- his share of more than $5 million that goes to the champion -- to buy the tank he always wanted and the celebrity star power that may at least help him get a foot in the door with Hewitt.

For the record, she hasn't called, as far as he knows.

"There's been so much going on; maybe they tried to get a hold of me and I missed it," Keselowski said with a laugh.

But Keselowski has had a few of what he'd call cool moments since winning the title. He got a Twitter mention from Washington Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III -- "We did it!!! (@keselowski voice) ha ha But seriously, loved coming back to Texas and getting the W on Thanksgiving. Big for our season" -- after a Thanksgiving Day win over Dallas.

He got to meet soccer star Alex Morgan, which he didn't realize at the time was a "pretty big deal," at the Thanksgiving Day parade in Detroit.

And he got to see his name up in lights at the Wynn Las Vegas, where on Friday night he'll be honored as the champion.

"It's everything I thought it would be," Keselowski said. "Everybody treats you like a champion. It's quite remarkable."

And it all happened because of a Nationwide Series sponsor that may barely get mentioned this week.

Source: David Newton Blog - ESPN.com

Keselowski Clinches First Championship
Brad's a Champion

HOMESTEAD, Fla. -- The fuel strategy that was supposed to carry Jimmie Johnson to a sixth championship instead made a winner of his teammate, Jeff Gordon, who triumphed in Sunday's Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway as Brad Keselowski locked up the Sprint Cup title.

Gordon crossed the finish line 1.028 seconds ahead of Clint Bowyer, his nemesis from a week ago at Phoenix, as Johnson's No. 48 Chevrolet sat forlorn in the garage, Johnson's title hopes the victim of a pit road mistake and a rare part failure. Ryan Newman ran third, followed by Kyle Busch and Greg Biffle.

Keselowski finished 15th, a lap down, but Johnson's difficulties took the suspense out of the title fight in the closing laps of the race. Johnson entered the season finale 20 points behind Keselowski, but his 36th-place result cost him second place in the final standings.

The Cup championship was the first for team owner Roger Penske, and the first since 1975 for car maker Dodge, which is leaving Cup racing at the end of the season.

"It means the world -- it really does," Keselowski said. "I've got the best team in racing, and I'm just so thrilled to be a part of it. From the top down, Roger Penske, [crew chief] Paul Wolfe, everybody else, the crew guys and my family -- that means so much.""

Bowyer passed Johnson for the second spot in the standings, 39 points behind the first-time champion. Johnson held third, 40 points back; in 11 full seasons of Cup racing, Johnson never has finished lower than sixth.

Gordon made some history of his own. He won for the second time this year and the 87th time in his career, most among active drivers and third-most all-time behind Richard Petty (200) and David Pearson (105). The victory was Gordon's first at Homestead and the first for Hendrick Motorsports.

"This is just huge," said Gordon, who wrecked Bowyer in retaliation last Sunday at Phoenix and drew a $100,000 fine and 25-point penalty for his actions. "Man, it's been an emotional week and a hard one -- one of the hardest ones I've ever gone through, just looking back on my decision.

"What an unbelievable week. There were so many ups and downs this week, and to be able to end in Victory Lane with just an awesome team effort was just awesome... This is the way you want to win a race, by just going to battle with them and having a good race car and playing it all out really smart."

Aggressive pit strategy put Johnson in position to challenge for the title, but the race fell apart for the 48 team after the 200-lap mark.

Able to finish the race on one pit stop to Keselowski's two, Johnson brought the No. 48 Chevrolet to pit road on Lap 214. Johnson, however, pulled away from his stall with a loose lug nut, and NASCAR mandated another stop to correct the error.

The coup de grace came on Lap 226, when Johnson returned to pit road with the drive line problem. The No. 48 crew pushed the car to the garage, where it sat for the rest of the race.

"Yeah, we were in position and putting the pressure on the 2 car [Keselowski] like we needed to," Johnson said ruefully. "I said at the beginning of the week, 15th isn't a lay?up, and I certainly had him in position.

"He made it really interesting here at the end of this thing. If we could have not had the mistake on pit road and then the gear failure at the end. Didn't really catch exactly what happened, but I know there was oil under the back of the car."

Keselowski, who didn't cover Johnson's move when the No. 48 topped off the fuel tank on Lap 158, knew he had dodged a bullet.

"He was going to win this race, and I know that," Keselowski said. "We were not as fast as we wanted to be, and we'd be the first to admit that, but my guys never gave up. We kept working, and at the end there we were even capable of getting back up enough to where it wouldn't have mattered if he'd have won -- which made me feel a lot better."

Keselowski Leads Laps, Finishes Ninth at Phoenix
Keselowski Leads Laps, Finishes Ninth at Phoenix
Penske Racing teammate Sam Hornish finished 14th in the Great Clips 200 on Saturday afternoon.
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No. 22 Discount Tire Dodge Challenger Preview-Phoenix
No. 22 Discount Tire Dodge Challenger Preview-Phoenix
Brad Keselowski makes final NNS start of season in front of "home" crowd at Phoenix International Raceway
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Keselowski Finishes 18th at Charlotte Motor Speedway
Keselowski Finishes 18th at Charlotte Motor Speedway
"We were very fast," said Keselowski. "We certainly had a car to win with the Discount Tire Dodge."
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No. 22 Discount Tire Dodge Challenger Preview-Charlotte
No. 22 Discount Tire Dodge Challenger Preview-Charlotte
Brad Keselowski and the No. 22 Discount Tire Dodge team going for the season sweep this weekend at Charlotte.
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Keselowski Rallies to a 4th-Place Finish at Chicagoland
Keselowski Rallies to a 4th-Place Finish at Chicagoland
"It was a respectable day for everyone. We didn?t give up on it all day and a fourth-place was all that we could get today"
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No. 22 Discount Tire Dodge Challenger Preview-Chicago
No. 22 Discount Tire Dodge Challenger Preview-Chicago
The defending winner of this race, Brad Keselowski looks to score his fourth victory of the season this weekend at Chicagoland
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Keselowski Earns Hard-Fought 2nd-Place Finish at AMS
Keselowski Earns Hard-Fought 2nd-Place Finish at AMS
Penske Racing teammate Sam Hornish finished ninth in the NRA American Warrior 300 on Saturday night
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No. 22 Discount Tire Dodge Challenger Prevew-Atlanta
No. 22 Discount Tire Dodge Challenger Prevew-Atlanta
Brad Keselowski and team have proven tough of speedways this season, looking for first win at fast Atlanta oval.
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Keselowski Finishes 32nd at Bristol Motor Speedway
Keselowski Finishes 32nd at Bristol Motor Speedway
Penske Racing teammate Sam Hornish finished 10th in the Food City 250 on Friday night.
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No. 22 Discount Tire Dodge Preview-Food City 250
No. 22 Discount Tire Dodge Preview-Food City 250
Brad Keselowski looks to pick up his fourth series win of the season at a place where he already owns one win.
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Discount Tire Comments on the Jacques Villeneuve and Danica Patrick Incident at NASCAR Nationwide Series Race at Road America

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. (June 27, 2012) - Discount Tire, proud sponsor of the No. 22 Dodge Challenger in the 2012 NASCAR Nationwide Series with Penske Racing, issued this statement today regarding the June 23 incident with Jacques Villeneuve and Danica Patrick at Road America.

This past weekend during the Sargento 200 at Road America, No. 22 driver Jacques Villeneuve, while battling for position on the last lap of the race, ended up knocking Danica Patrick's car off track. Villeneuve's comments regarding the incident during post-race interviews were not reflective of Discount Tire's sense of true sportsmanship.

Discount Tire stated: "Together Penske and Discount Tire have achieved great success in the Nationwide Series, including a championship, and have maintained the highest levels of integrity and sportsmanship throughout that relationship. Although we believe the contact between Villeneuve and Patrick to be unfortunate, it is a part of professional racing. However, Villeneuve's post-race comments did not reflect our ideals regarding sportsmanship. Having said that, we continue to be very proud of our relationship with the Penske organization."

ABOUT US
Discount Tire/America's Tire, based in Scottsdale, Arizona, is America's largest tire and wheel retailer. The company does business under the trade name Discount Tire in most of the U.S. and America's Tire in Oregon, and parts of Washington and California. The company currently operates more than 800 stores across the country. In 2010, the company marked its 50th year serving customers as their trusted tire retailer in local markets across the U.S. Discount Tire/America's Tire also sponsors NASCAR Nationwide Series, Monster Energy AMA Supercross, Formula D, Global RallyCross Championship and LOORRS racing. News, driver appearances, show car schedules and racing schedules can be found at discounttiremotorsports.com or americastiremotorsports.com. For more information about Discount Tire/America's Tire visit discounttire.com or americastire.com.

Media Contacts:
Joseph Valdez or Kendra States
jvaldez@lavidge.com or kstates@lavidge.com
(480) 998-2600

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