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My Brickyard Moment: Brad Keselowski, 2018

Note: This is another edition of a series of letters from NASCAR drivers recounting their NASCAR Cup Series wins at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and other big moments to happen at the Brickyard. Read other installments of “My Brickyard Moment” here.

Brad Keselowski entered the 2018 Brickyard 400 on a hot note, having just won the coveted Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway the race before NASCAR visited the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

He was also returning to Indianapolis after narrowly losing the race in 2017, which stung immensely. Keselowski was involved in a memorable late-race battle with Jimmie Johnson and Kasey Kahne. The trio attempted to go three-wide through Turn 3 for the lead. The move sent Johnson spinning into the wall and set up a NASCAR overtime duel between Keselowski and Kahne.

Keselowski finished second that day in 2017. The driver who has a deep respect for motorsports history in America so badly wanted to win at the Racing Capital of the World for himself, as well as for team owner Roger Penske.

At the time, Team Penske had 16 Indianapolis 500 wins but had never won NASCAR’s crown jewel race at IMS. Keselowski was determined to change that. When presented another opportunity to win late in the 2018 race, Keselowski went all-out against Denny Hamlin, trading paint for a chance to Kiss the Bricks.

In his own words, 2012 NASCAR Cup Series champion Keselowski explains the significance of his 2018 Brickyard 400 win for him and the pride he still has for being a winner at Indianapolis Motor Speedway:

Winning that race was a huge moment for me and for Team Penske. It came down really to the last few laps and passing Denny Hamlin to win. I remember just being right on his rear bumper and needed a little slip up from him.

He got real loose in Turn 2, and I got underneath him. We side-drafted each other all the way down the backstretch. It was just a really cool battle. I remember he got right on my door entering Turn 3. I had to back the corner up to keep from spinning out underneath him. But I was able to keep right on his quarter panel, and it was just really, really cool.

What a day. It is the Brickyard. It is awesome. Man, it was great.

My crew chief, Paul Wolfe, he made a heck of a call to pit. We pitted kind of late in the stage or late in that run, and the yellow came out and we had new tires and started eighth. I was kind of like, ‘He gave me the ball.’ He gave me the ball, and I had to make a play.

I was like, ‘Dang, this is going to be tough.’ We weren’t a dominant car by any means, but Paul and everybody executed an incredible race, and I just had to do my job.

It was obviously a big day for us, a number of reasons why. With Roger Penske getting his first Cup win here, and me getting my first Cup win here at such a historic racetrack that means so much to all of motorsports. For us to have our name on that win list sure does mean a lot to me, I can tell you that.

Just a terrific day all the way around. (I was) really, really happy, really just very much thrilled. It was not an easy day. I’m thrilled to be a Brickyard 400 winner.

Victories like this are sweeter when you’ve had failure beforehand. I feel like I had a car capable of winning this race two or three times in the past. (2018) was probably not even in the top three for cars I’ve had here.

With that in mind, either I didn’t execute, or we didn’t execute as a team. You try to learn from that, you try to be better and apply yourself in the best way possible. (In 2018) we executed across the board. I executed the passes I needed to execute, executed the long runs, the strategy on the team end, the pit stops on the team end, and that’s how we won.

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