Believe it or not, Thursday’s victory at Bristol Motor Speedway was the first NASCAR Camping World Truck Series win for Brad Keselowski.
Despite being a former Nationwide and Sprint Cup Series champion, having 19 Sprint Cup wins, and 30 Nationwide wins, Keselowski had been winless over his 10-year, 61-race Truck Series career.
That all changed Thursday morning in ‘Thunder Valley.’
Besting Darrell Wallace Jr., Kyle Busch and the rest of the field in his 62nd career start, Keselowski became the 25th driver to score wins in all three NASCAR series, and also joined his father, Bob, to become the first father-son duo to win in the Truck Series.
"For me, it’s just a big day both personally and professionally," said Keselowski. "Personally … with my family and the commitment they have had for this sport and this series in particular. To race and make a living for quite a while, and — beyond that — allow me to do the same, in the later stages of their involvement. It was a tough road, quite honestly. And we didn’t make it."
A long-time ARCA and short track competitor, Bob Keselowski was part of the Camping World Truck Series from its inception in 1995, running 16 of the 20 races that year.
Over five years, the elder Keselowski would compete in a total of 86 NCWTS races, all while fielding his own trucks and funding the entire operation.
Eventually, the family team went bankrupt and had to stop racing, something the younger Keselowski called a "personal tragedy of sorts."
Continuing the family tradition, Keselowski owns two trucks in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series, but his operation is on a much larger level than the team his father once ran.
While his teams have found some success in the Camping World Truck Series, Keselowski pointed out the failure to win hits hard as an owner and a driver.
"The success and the failure at this level, it hurts more," he said. "It affects you more personally, than it does at the Cup level, for whatever reason. You wouldn’t think it would with the fame, money and notoriety of the Cup Series being so much higher. But I think when you add the element of being an owner and having control, the failure hits you more personally because there’s no excuses."
By doing running his own team, Keselowski feels he is giving back to the sport by giving others the chance and opportunity to succeed, where others might not have done so.
"That’s one of the main reason why I’m still involved in (the Truck) Series, is because of that, but it’s much more than that," he said. "Professionally, it’s about the opportunity to work with more people in this sport and be even more hands on than I am with the Cup car or the Nationwide car. Learning about the sport. Learning about the people. Learning about what it takes. And being able to give back, whether it’s a simple gesture like helping younger drivers like Ryan Blaney, Tyler Reddick this year, but more than that too, different members of the sport, fabricators, crew chiefs, over the wall guys, mechanics, the whole gambit. To have them involved and to be part of their career and given them an opportunity like I was given when my career was not really going anywhere by others."
On top of the pressures of being a team owner in the Camping World Truck Series, Keselowski clearly feels addition pressure of his family’s history in the sport on his shoulders.
"Having the family ties to the sport, are a lot more of the challenge and the journey that this has been," he said. "Having my mom and dad be a part of the series, I can remember to this day was racing in ARCA in 1994 and him coming back and saying, ‘You know what? I’m done with that. I’m going to go run this thing called the Truck Series.’ I was 10 years old and had no idea what he was talking about. It was a new series. Finally got to watch him on TV on a regular basis, which was great for me personally."
Keselowski would go from watching his father on TV to working on the family team, Eventually, he would climb the NASCAR ranks to become a champion at the sport’s highest level.
With both his personal and professional success, both on and off the track, Keselowski feels he is going about things the right way in his NASCAR career.
In an ironic twist, Brad was not present when his father Bob scored his lone NCWTS victory at Richmond International Raceway in 1997, and Bob was not in attendance Thursday at Bristol.
However, after the race, Brad posted a text he received from his dad, showing he was proud of his son’s accomplishments, in a very Bob Keselowski kind of way.