Sunday, April 20, 2014

Keselowski Recalls Sting Of Hendrick Rejection

A little-known 2012 interview with former NASCAR Sprint Series champion Brad Keselowski resurfaced last week, shedding light on just how close the Michigan native came to being a Hendrick Motorsports Sprint Cup driver and how disappointed he was when that opportunity escaped him.

In episode of the syndicated show “In Depth with Graham Bensinger” that re-aired last week, Keselowski spoke candidly about team-owner Rick Hendrick’s decision to keep veteran Mark Martin in his No. 5 Sprint Cup Series Chevrolet for 2010, despite previously promising the ride to Keselowski.
Keselowski spoke about a meeting with rival team owner Roger Penske two years earlier, intended to gauge his interest in joining Penske Racing.
“He wanted to know what my situation was,” recalled Keselowski. “I knew I wanted to do the Hendrick (deal) and go for that. But this is Roger Penske! How can I say `no’ to a chance to meet him? So I met him in a Conference Room in 2008. I sat in that office and he talked to me. I just wanted to hear him talk. I didn’t know what he (would have) to say.
“At the end, he asked me a very simple question. ‘Are you interested?’ I told him I’m a loyal guy (and) I’ve already made another commitment (to Hendrick).
“I had agreed to race for Rick Hendrick,” said Keselowski. “He had just signed Mark Martin, and I was ready in the wings, so to speak. I wasn’t just ready (in terms of) the sport, I was ready mentally. But obviously, it didn’t play out.”  
Keselowski and Hendrick in happier times
Hendrick spoke openly at the time of keeping Keselowski close at hand, saying, “We're looking at different options… external situations with other teams” like Stewart Haas Racing and Phoenix Racing, in addition to a full-time return to the JR Motorsports Nationwide operation. “He wants to do something associated with our company and we're working on it,” said Hendrick. “He'll be running Cup (in 2009). Whether he'll be running them all or 75 percent of them or what, I don't know."
Keselowski chose to remain with JR Motorsports in 2009, believing he would replace struggling Casey Mears at the wheel of Hendrick’s No. 5 Sprint Cup Series Chevrolet the following season. He made 12 Sprint Cup starts with HMS and Phoenix Racing that season, but realized early in the season that his promised ride might not be his, after all.
“As soon as Mark Martin won (at Phoenix in April of 2009), I knew what it meant,” he recalled. “As soon as he won that race, I knew I wasn’t going to get the ride at Hendrick Motorsports in 2010: the one essentially we’d talked about and I’d been promised.”
One week later, Keselowski took car-owner James Finch to Victory Lane at Talladega Superspeedway. “I was driving with a chip on my shoulder, trying to put (the rejection) in the background,” he said. And while he initially hoped the victory would be enough to retain his promised spot in the Hendrick stable, Keselowski soon received a telephone call from the HMS owner.
“I know what (the call) was, but I didn’t want to believe it,” he recalled. “As soon as he won Phoenix, (Martin) walked up to Mr. Hendrick and said he wanted to drive the car for the next year or two. Which essentially (meant) there was no spot for me.”
Martin proved difficult to ignore, teaming with crew chief Alan Gustafson to win five times during that decisive 2009 season. It was a fairytale matchup, and given the choice between an established veteran and a largely unproven rookie, Hendrick elected to retain the hot hand.
Asked if he felt betrayed by the decision, Keselowski said, “I never really thought of it as betrayal. (Or) maybe I did, I don’t know.
“I was more heartbroken… chippy. Maybe that’s something that comes from a sense of betrayal, but that’s a strong word. I would say it definitely added fuel to the fire of who I am and my desire to be the best.”



  1. Anonymous9:56 PM

    I'm sure that Mr. Henderick has thought about that decision, but like any successful businessman he has to use his best judgment and live with it. Penske Racing has flourished since Brad and now Joey have joined the organization. They definitely give the appearance that they are on the same page , unlike Perez and Vettle. I think this is an ongoing struggle for team owners as to when would be the best time to make a move, and how to do that to an aging veteran without leaving shoe marks on them as they leave. I still think that the 4 time champ will be able to go out on his terms, regardless of who is in the waiting.

    Charles Utts

  2. Anonymous8:44 AM

    well, brad . should have known, a man is as good as his word!!! just saying!

  3. It allways comes down to the bottom line, I love Mark Martin but this guy has not eeb competitive for years after that luck up win, Mark is a awesome personality for the sport but how many times has he been beaten at the very end because of not having the killer instinct needed tobe great.Cant stand Brad K but respect his awesome talent.

  4. always knew Hendrick was a back stabber, Hope to see Brad and Joey kick hendrick ass, Brad has a good start, and Roger is a wise man to have picked him up

  5. Anonymous10:12 PM

    Brad, count your lucky stars, it worked out for the best all around.