With driver Brad Keselowski yesterday becoming NASCAR’s “first Generation Y champion,” the series is “getting an image makeover unlike many seen during its 64-year history,” according to Nate Ryan of USA TODAY. Ryan writes, “The face of NASCAR is about to change.” Everything that followed Keselowski’s Sprint Cup Series title win was “an advertisement for the appealing impact the goofy yet digitally savvy and loquacious upstart could have on helping rebuild a fan base that has dwindled in recent years.” NASCAR has a “five-year plan aimed at hooking a younger demographic with a heavier emphasis on technology and cutting-edge cultural touchstones, and Keselowski seems to live right in its sweet spot while also being uniquely qualified and eager to deliver its message as the eighth-youngest champion in Cup history.” Keselowski “admitted to being slightly inebriated on national television” during his post-race celebration, “tweeted a photo from inside the cockpit within minutes of stopping his No. 2 Dodge and quoted Winston Churchill in victory lane.” But it was a live ESPN appearance “that really had [team owner Roger] Penske smiling.” While “swigging a glass filled with his primary sponsor's product,” Miller Lite, Keselowski “riled an enthusiastic crowd of fans.” Penske said, "I saw him as a great driver, a good tactician. I didn't realize he was commercially viable." Ryan: “Chances are, NASCAR's new face also will become a more refined one, too.” Driver Jeff Gordon said of becoming a NASCAR champion, "It makes you grow up. If you're ready for it or not, it doesn't matter. It's there, and there's a lot to take in and really look at things a lot differently and recognize that responsibility you have” (USA TODAY, 11/19).
BOUNCING OFF THE WALLS: ESPN.com’s Ed Hinton wrote each time Keselowski was asked a question during his post-race interview, he “would take another chug while listening.” Hinton: “What is certain: Brad Keselowski is a whole new kind of champion” (ESPN.com, 11/18). In Detroit, Gregg Krupa notes Keselowski “bounded unannounced on to the set of the Speed network, interrupting the live broadcast, pouring beer over the heads of the announcers, who had been analyzing the race” (DETROIT NEWS, 11/19). YAHOO SPORTS’ Dan Wetzel wrote under the header, “Beer-chugging Champ Brad Keselowski Is NASCAR's Perfect Pitchman For The Future” (SPORTS.YAHOO.com, 11/18). Also in Detroit, Mike Brudenell writes Keselowski was “funny, borderline crude but at all times entertaining and interesting at the postrace news conference as he had the media and Penske in stitches” (DETROIT FREE PRESS, 11/19).
NEW SCHOOL: In Miami, Greg Cote writes Keselowski “is not your father’s NASCAR champion.” Cote: “We can’t say if Sunday at Homestead-Miami Speedway signaled a new era for the sport, the first of many titles. But we needn’t wait to suggest the youthful, smiling new face of NASCAR is fresh, welcome, worthy of a toast.” Keselowski is the “first Sprint Cup champion born in the 1980s, the first to embrace social media, symbolically as well as literally the first with an opportunity to grow the sport’s popularity by appealing to a different demographic” (MIAMI HERALD, 11/19). In N.Y., Viv Bernstein writes as NASCAR “embraces social media to try to reel in young fans, Keselowski will be one of the hooks.” Bernstein: “True to form, his first act as champion was to post on Twitter, while he was still in his racecar. ‘We did it!’ he wrote” (N.Y. TIMES, 11/19). NASCAR Wire Services’ Reid Spencer said Keselowski is the "perfect demographic for a NASCAR champion at this point: 28-years-old in the 18-34 demographic and very active and popular on social media." Spencer: "This could well be a watershed moment for Brad and for the sport, and I think he’ll be a great champion” (THATSRACIN.com, 11/19). Speed's Tommy Kendall said Keselowski is "perfect for this generation." Kendall: "He’s the perfect guy. He’s authentic. He’s real. ... He’s a God send. He’s sponsored by a beer company. It doesn’t get any better than that” ("Wind Tunnel with Dave Despain," Speed, 11/18). In Toronto, Norris McDonald writes under the header, “Keselowski Best Thing For NASCAR In Years." Keselowski is “down-to-earth and blue collar." He worked for the family racing business “when he first started out, came up the hard way and had to scratch and claw his way to the top” (THESTAR.com, 11/19).
ON A ROLL: In Orlando, George Diaz writes Keselowski and Penske “rose together as NASCAR's wonderful odd couple.” Penske has a “distinguished history in motorsports -- his IndyCar teams have won 15 Indianapolis 500s and 12 championships -- but this marked his first NASCAR title.” Penske: "This guy Keselowski is something special, and for me it's a lifelong goal. We’ve been close but we've never delivered. But this guy here delivered it for us” (ORLANDO SENTINEL, 11/19). Keselowski said, “I can’t believe how everything just came together over the last three years. I feel like the best is yet to come” (SPEEDTV.com, 11/18). Penske said of his future, “I guess I’d like to go to Le Mans and win the 24-hour race. We’ve won the Sebring race, we’ve won Daytona, we’ve had some great wins, and that would be something that’s up there that I’d like to do. Right now I’m just going to think about what happened this weekend and we’re going to enjoy it” (“Wind Tunnel with Dave Despain,” Speed, 11/18).