(TOLEDO, Ohio - November 18, 2012) - Today at Homestead-Miami Speedway on the southern tip of Florida, Brad Keselowski will make what he hopes is the final push for his first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship. With a 20-point lead over five-time champion Jimmie Johnson, the 28-year-old from Rochester Hills, Mich. is a certain favorite.
The ride to the top has been a long and bumpy one, though, and there's little question that the Keselowski family's history in ARCA laid a clear and strong foundation for the championship glory that may lay ahead.
The Keselowski name is synonymous with the ARCA sanction. From the ARCA Racing Series to Toledo Speedway, the entire family literally came up through the ARCA ranks. The Keselowski family utilized ARCA as a stepping stone to NASCAR.
Bob Keselowski gained notoriety in the area when he won the late model track championship at Toledo Speedway in 1983. He later went on the win the ARCA Racing Series national title in 1989 before he would go on to compete in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series. Bob won 24 career ARCA Racing Series events over his career, including one at Springfield on August 22, 1993. The spoils of that triumph are pictured above - and do you notice the nine-year-old in the picture's center? Yes, that's Brad.
Bob's brother Ron also raced in the ARCA Racing Series and the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series.
Bob and Kay Keselowski's legacy would be their sons Brian and Brad, both of whom grew up at Michigan and Ohio race tracks - certainly at Toledo and Flat Rock Speedway, where both raced.
Brian, ironically, won the late model championship at Toledo Speedway 20 years after his father Bob did. Brad, Brian's younger brother, was a crew member on Brian's late model. Brian went on to win three ARCA Racing Series events while Brad raced a short time in the ARCA Racing Series before moving onto the NASCAR ranks - his steady progression through the Camping World Truck Series, the NASCAR Nationwide Series, and the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series.
In fact, Brad Keselowski's latest ARCA start came on June 16, 2006 at Michigan International Speedway; he finished a career-high 19th at 22 years old, but still came home eight positions behind his older brother, who earned his first ARCA win less than a month later. At right, the Keselowski boys are pictured with father Bob on that day.
When Brad got his opportunity at Hendrick Motorsports (prior to his current tenure at Penske Racing), he traveled to Toledo Speedway to test his Nationwide cars on the Tuesday after his Nationwide win at Bristol.
That day was August 27, 2008, just over two years since his last ARCA start but only eight months from his first NASCAR Sprint Cup win.
"I wanted to come here (Toledo Speedway) and get back to a track I knew really well," Keselowski said. "When we had our meeting, and they asked me where I wanted to do this test, I said Toledo."
Today, the kid who grew up at Toledo and Flat Rock Speedways has a chance to seal the deal on NASCAR's biggest stage.