TALLADEGA, Ala. – Roger Penske beat driver Brad Keselowski to the media center by 10 minutes after their victory Sunday in the Aaron’s 499 at the Talladega Superspeedway. By the time Keselowski got to the interview, he didn’t know what to expect.
“Not going to get fired, right?” he said as joined Penske.
The car owner with more Indianapolis 500 wins and a wealth of racing success shook his head and smiled. His job is safe.
“I wouldn’t trade him for anybody right now,” Penske said.
Keselowski’s victory was a masterful mix of car, strategy and driver. He got a push from Kyle Busch coming to the white flag to pass race leader Matt Kenseth, and then he used a move on the final lap that came in a dream to hold off any last-ditch charge by Busch.
Although four of the last leaders in Turn 4 have lost at Talladega, Keselowski not only kept the lead in the stretch drive, he pulled away to a five-car-length win.
“That was a perfect race,” Penske said.
For all the accomplishments at Penske Racing, the only thing missing has been a Sprint Cup Series championship. Rusty Wallace couldn’t win won. Neither could Ryan Newman or Kurt Busch.
Keselowski went a long way Sunday to proving he is a legitimate contender.
“Hell, it’s my job to be good,” Keselowski said. “That’s what I get paid for. I don’t get paid to suck at this. If I did, I’m not driving for the right guy. This guy has won all these races over here. We’re trying real hard to get that first Cup championship. We’re doing the right things.”
Keselowski qualified for the Chase for the Championship last year and he finished fifth. He now has two wins in the first 10 races which should get him into this year’s Chase either as a top-10 driver or a wild card.
With a victory on the short track at the Bristol Motor Speedway and the superspeedway at Talladega, Keselowski said he’s proven to be a more-complete driver – one worthy of championships consideration.
“It’s a large part of the reason why I came here to drive for him,” Keselowski said. “I want to be that first guy. I feel like he’s dedicated to making that happen.
“I look as some of the other elite car owners in the sport, and I don’t want this to be offensive, but to win another Cup championship for (Rick) Hendrick or Richard Childress is not the same as winning the first for Roger Penske. That’s a whole different accomplishment.”
Penske now believes he has all the tools to finally win a championship. Although he’s already announced he will switch from Dodge to Ford next year, he said he’s still getting a lot of help from Dodge.
“It takes a total combination,” Penske said. “Don’t matter what driver you have. Put him in the worst car, give him bad pit strategy, bad things like that, you’re not going to win races. It takes a team to win in Cup.
“I think (the win at Talladega) showed how good the car is – the aerodynamics, certainly the engine, and as I said earlier a world‑class driver.”
With job security.