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NASCAR/Racing

Keselowski shares night with veterans

August 29th, 2011 7:29 am by Jeff Birchfield

Brad Keselowski followed winning Saturday’s IRWIN Tools Night Race at Bristol Motor Speedway by giving local military veterans rides around the .533-mile short track on Sunday.

“We do some cool things with the track,” Keselowski said.

“It’s nice to be able to pay back the guys who make sacrifices so that I can drive race cars around in a circle. Especially the guys in my foundation who have given up so much for our country.”

Keselowski’s Checkered Flag Foundation is designed to support military members, veterans, first-responders and their families. He said laps around BMS provided the perfect outlet to give back.

“I’m not a golfer, a bowler or any of those things,” Keselowski said. “If I want to do a cool event with my foundation, I’m going to do it in a race car. I think everybody enjoys it.”

One ride-along participant was Charlie Vanhoy, who recently retired from the Tennessee Army National Guard as a veteran of two tours in Iraq.

The actual ride was only one part of the experience for Vanhoy got to hang out with the driver and his family, ride around in the back of a pickup truck with Keselowski during pre-race introductions, watch Saturday night’s win from the track suites and celebrate with the No. 2 team in victory lane.

In addition to Vanhoy, his wife, Jessica, and daughter, Cynthia, each got to ride around the “World’s Fastest Half-Mile” with Keselowski’s Penske Racing teammate Parker Kligerman.

“It’s been a great weekend and I can’t thank them enough for everything they do for the soldiers and their families,” Vanhoy said. “It’s very special. Riding in the car, it was one of the wildest rides I’ve ever been on in my life, it was great. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime (experience). I don’t know how you could ever compete with it.”

Keselowski was certainly glad to share in the good times. He was still beaming the day after his win, calling the August night race the coolest on the circuit.

“What an honor to win at Bristol,” Keselowski said. “We were strong that first run and we knew we had something for them. By the end of the race, we got up to the lead and the sky was the limit. I was driving my tail off and the next thing you know we’re in victory lane at Bristol.”

Keselowski has been the hottest driver on the Sprint Cup tour since breaking his ankle in a testing accident at Road Atlanta. He has won two of the four races since the injury, and has three wins this season overall.

In fact, the 27-year-old Michigan driver has finished no worse than third over the past month and has picked up 13 points positions. Virtually sewing up a spot in the “Chase,” Keselowski said he has a simple plan to race for this season’s championship.

“You look at the sport in its simplest form and it’s about winning,” he said. “If you look at the championships, Jimmie (Johnson) has won and he’s won a lot of races.”

As a second-generation driver and a student of the sport, Keselowski talked about what it meant to drive the blue No. 2 paint scheme to victory lane at Bristol, a track where the car’s previous drivers, Rusty Wallace and Kurt Busch enjoyed great success.

“Everybody is so supportive of the race program,” Keselowski said. “Miller is one of the marquee sponsors in the sport and with the success it’s had, that blue deuce is better known than I am. It’s always an honor to run that car at Bristol. I feel like I lived up to the commitment by being able to win.”

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