During a quick trip to the Florida Keys between races, Brad Keselowski's life became more complicated — in a good way.
Because of his obvious talent — three top tens, including a win at Talladega, in nine Sprint Cup starts — Keselowski's services are in demand. Though Keselowski, 25, fully expects to re-sign for a full Nationwide Series season in the #88 JR Motorsports Chevrolet, he says he hasn't narrowed down his Cup opportunities for 2010.
The trip to the Keys was an attempt to take a break from the decision-making process. It didn't work.
“I thought about nothing else,” Keselowski said.
Nevertheless, he's no closer to nailing down his choice for a Cup ride, and as he waits, the universe of prospective rides is expanding. Kevin Harvick's disenchantment with his situation at Richard Childress Racing makes his return in 2010 questionable, despite the protestations of the team and sponsor Shell-Pennzoil.
David Stremme's lack of results in the #12 Dodge have rendered his status at Penske Racing fragile, to put it kindly. Keselowski enjoyed his first Cup start with Tony Eury Jr. as his crew chief last weekend at Chicagoland, but that was with Hendrick Motorsports, and Hendrick has four full-time Cup drivers — NASCAR's limit.
JR Motorsports, which Dale Earnhardt Jr. co-owns with Rick Hendrick, doesn't field a Cup team, and Earnhardt said recently the chances of that happening in 2010 are slim, barring an influx of sponsorship money. Similarly, Stewart-Haas Racing, a Hendrick affiliate, would be willing to add a third Cup team if the money were there to pay for it.
The bottom line is that NASCAR's perpetual silly season is a bonanza for Keselowski, who currently is the biggest domino in the game. With a wealth of possibilities for a well-earned Cup ride, Keselowski wants to take his time with the decision.
“I wouldn't say I've made any progress,” he said over a fruit snack in his motor home. “I continue to get more offers, which is making it even harder. I haven't narrowed anything down. I still feel good about where I'm at. I had a good week with Tony Jr. in Chicago, even though we didn't get the finish (he ran 32nd after sustaining damage late in the race).
“I felt like we were going to end up somewhere in the top eight. Somebody hit the #33 car (Clint Bowyer), turned him sideways, and he came up into me. It wasn't his fault — just a racing deal. I feel good about how I'm going with Tony Jr., so that's another piece to go with that. But team-wise, man, I'm not even close.”
As to his Nationwide ride, Keselowski says there are similarities between his situation and that of Brian Vickers, who reached an oral agreement to extend his Sprint Cup Series deal with Red Bull Racing but hasn't received a contract to sign. At Chicagoland, Vickers wondered publicly what the hold-up was.
“Sometimes we read too much into those things,” Keselowski said. “I try not to do that, either. For instance, I want to drive the #88 Nationwide car. We communicated that, and they want me, but I don't have a signed contract to do it. But that doesn't mean we don't all want to do it, and we don't all think we're going to do it.
“That might be the same thing with Brian. I feel confident that I'm going to put something together on the Nationwide side. I'm very close to doing that.
“I feel good about where I'm at, but I'm not even close (to a Cup deal). I have the feeling that when I do put something together, it's going to come together quick, but I'm not there.”
by Reid Spencer/Sporting News