While other championship-winning drivers celebrate their victory with the customary spraying of champagne, Keselowski toasted his title by indulging in an oversized – two-gallon plus – glass of his sponsor’s product, Miller Lite. Some of the contents of that glass ended up streaming down Keselowski’s face and uniform – much to the delight of NASCAR CEO Brian France – but clearly, plenty of beer made it into the newly crowned champion.
Instead of hoisting the Sprint Cup Trophy high overhead in traditional fashion, Keselowski elected to cradle it gently in his left arm, allowing him to keep a firm grip on his beer with the right.
He then delivered a rollicking, “little bit buzzed” ESPN SportsCenter interview that the show’s anchors quickly dubbed “one of the greatest of all time.” He could not have been further removed from past series champions, most of whom sat politely in front of the post-race cameras, thanking all the right people with a predictable stream of “couldn’t have done it without thems.”
Like every Sprint Cup Series champion in recent seasons, he made an appearance on “The Late Show with David Letterman,” delivering Letterman’s “Top 10 Signs You May Not Be Cut Out To Be A Race Car Driver.” While his predecessors stuck faithfully to the script, however, Keselowski added a handful of ad-libbed lines that were at least as funny as those provided by the show’s writers.
While past champions have gratefully accepted a new high-performance automobile supplied by their respective manufacturer, Keselowski said last week that he will buy himself a World War II/Korean War-era tank. The 2012 Sprint Cup Series champion, who lives next door to Dale Earnhardt, Jr.’s 200-acre home near Mooresville, N.C., said he has been lobbying his fellow driver to buy matching tanks for an unusual brand of off-road fun.
“That'd be awesome,” said Keselowski. "I thought it would be cool if we both got a tank and chased each other around in the woods with them. It's kind of our deal. I promised myself if I won (the championship), I would buy one whether Dale does or not. I'm not one to buy trophies for myself, but I think a tank would be pretty cool. When I'm done playing with it, I'll just park it in the driveway."
Clearly, Keselowski is not your average NASCAR champion; a fact we probably should have realized some time ago.
After all, this is the same Keselowski who ignored the customary suit-and-tie dress code at a 2011 Champion’s Week luncheon in favor of blue jeans and an untucked shirt. “I'm a race car driver!” he scoffed. “Why do I need to dress like that?''
When Juan Pablo Montoya crashed into a jet dryer and triggered a lengthy red-flag period in the season-opening Daytona 500, it was Keselowski who passed the time by snapping a few cell-phone photos and posting them on Twitter. He easily ranks as NASCAR’s most social media-savvy driver, and his 340,000 Twitter followers are roughly three times as many as his predecessor, two-time titlist Tony Stewart.
Not all of Keselowski’s on-line commentary meets with the approval of those who run the sport. He has a penchant for speaking his mind, no matter whose toes might get stepped on. Earlier this month, he was fined $25,000 by NASCAR for carrying a cell phone in his race car in violation of the rules, and while he probably won’t be packing an I-Phone in his firesuit any longer, his insistence on calling `em like he sees `em is unlikely to change.
“I'm going to meet some cool people," said Keselowski after clinching the title at Homestead Miami Speedway. “I’ve always wanted to date a celebrity. That would be really cool, don't you think? Not a Kardashian, though.”
“He's entertaining,” laughed four-time Sprint Cup champion Jeff Gordon. “You never know what you're going to get with Brad. I think because of that, he'll do great. His ability to reach out through social media (to) the younger crowd… he's somebody that takes it, (who) wants to take it.
“And because of that, he'll put a lot of effort into it.”
While Keselowski will undoubtedly do things his way as champion, he also understands the responsibility of the position.
“Brad rubbed a lot of people the wrong way (at the start of his career),” recalled rival team owner Rick Hendrick. “He was very aggressive, but he learned how to control that and how to race, and he did it in a hurry.''
“I suffered from some serious confidence issues when I first came into Cup,” admitted Keselowski, “a result of not having the speed to be successful and trying to do too much. Nobody ever taught me about teamwork. My family and my parents, my mom and dad, they taught me about work ethic, (not teamwork).
“Eventually, though, I learned.”
Expect more of the same in the weeks to come.
Photo: Todd Warshaw/Getty Images. Alan Diaz/AP