So many big-time NASCAR drivers have been focused on four wheels since hopping into their first go-kart in preschool, you wonder how many have given thought to what they'd do were they not racing. Brad Keselowski has.
That showed during a recent visit to the NASCAR Sports Grille in Hampton. Keselowski became so genuinely engrossed in conversation with service members who came to meet him that he ran late for media interviews and fan autographs.
"If I wouldn't have become a race-car driver, joining the military is something that I would have given serious consideration," said Keselowski, a Sprint Cup star who began in the Nationwide Series with a U.S. Navy sponsorship. "I have family in the military and I can't help but relate to some of the guys fighting for our freedom right now, because they are my age.
"They make what I do possible, so I want to honor them in some way."
One way, of course, would be to win a first Sprint Cup Series title. Keselowski already has qualified for the 10-race playoff, whose field will be set on Saturday with the completion of the Federated Auto Parts 400 at Richmond International Raceway.
Though in only his third full-time season in a Cup car, Keselowski has to be considered a serious contender on his past nine races alone. The 28-year-old Rochester, Mich., native has eight top 10s in the past nine races, including a victory at Kentucky, two seconds, a third and a fifth.
In the past, a lack of such consistency bedeviled Keselowski, who was third six races into last year's Chase, but faded to fifth. And, he admits, the stretch of tracks that concludes with Richmond — where he was ninth in the spring — is his best.
"I really wish the Chase was the 10-race streak we're on," he said. "There aren't any (Chase) tracks I feel great about and I don't think there are any I feel bad about.
"I'm excited about the (Penske Racing Dodge) cars we're going to roll out and I think we can go down to (the final race at) Homestead as one of the teams to beat."
A few more miles per hour might help. Asked about the favorites for the Chase, Keselowski lists Jimmie Johnson, Denny Hamlin, Matt Kenseth and Greg Biffle among the drivers to watch because of the RPMs they've exhibited of late.
"I feel our chances are as good as anyone's," Keselowski said. "We're executing really well as a team right now.
"Our pit strategy and pit stops have been spot on. We just need a little bit of speed to go along with that and I think we can fight right to the end."
The experience of making the Chase in his second full season should help. With four top fives in the first six Chase races a year ago, he was third, 18 points behind Tony Stewart, when he was spun out late at Martinsville and finished 17th to drop from Chase contention.
Fortunate is the driver these days who can enter the next season with the same owner, crew chief and team while having nary a sponsorship worry. Back at Penske Racing with Paul Wolfe as crew chief and Miller Lite again on the hood, Keselowski's team enters the Chase the picture of stability.
So he'll drive his Dodge Charger around the three-quarter-mile oval at RIR more or less carefree on Saturday, secure that he'll begin the Chase seeded in the top three thanks to his three wins. Sounds like a pretty good night for a guy who might otherwise be pedaling a Humvee were he not so darned good in a race car.
"I'm really looking forward to going to Richmond with no pressure, other than trying to win the race," Keselowski said. "We want to win to go into the Chase tied for the points lead.
"With the security we have of already locking ourselves in, we can take some chances to see if we can hit on something that will help us get to Victory Lane."
WHERE: Richmond International Raceway.
WHEN: 7 p.m.
TV: ABC.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun