Speed thrills in the Keselowski family

When you’re a racing family, especially one with a NASCAR Sprint Cup champion, going fast is seldom a concern. For the Keselowski family there’s one exception.

“I’m the designated driver in Ohio because they can’t keep their foot off the gas,” Kay Keselowski said of trips to Miami County to visit her brother who lives near Tipp City.

Having Kay Keselowski drive has other advantages, though the 1966 Bethel High School graduated admits it’s been a while since she’s been pulled over for having a lead foot of her own.

“They tease me all the time because there have been times I have been stopped for speeding and they never give me a ticket,” Keselowski said. “They all think there’s some secret code indicating I was born in Ohio so they don’t give me a ticket.”

It’s no secret where Keselowski will be today. The mother of Sprint Cup champion Brad Keselowski will be in front of her television in their Rochester Hills, Mich., home watching the Daytona 500.

Brad opens defense of his Sprint Cup title at Daytona International Speedway as NASCAR kicks off its season with The Great American Race. Brad, 29, starts 15th in the 43-car field driving the No. 2 Miller Lite Ford for Penske Racing. Kay’s oldest son Brian, 31, missed the 500 when he finished 21st in the first qualifying race Thursday.

Kay admits to knowing little about racing while growing up on a farm on Dayton-Brandt Road. It wasn’t until she moved to Michigan in 1978 that she met her husband Bob, the 1989 ARCA points champion and former NASCAR Camping World Truck Series driver, that the sport grabbed her attention and never let go.

“My dad and my brother are both blacksmiths so I laugh all the time that the only horsepower I knew was one horsepower,” Kay said.

Her first date with Bob was a trip to the 1979 NHRA U.S. Nationals in Indianapolis — her first introduction to racing — then Kings Island later that day.

“That was quite the first date,” she said.

Now, 34 years later, there are few places she’d rather be. Work commitments will keep Kay from attending today. She’ll keep it simple, preferring to watch with a few people.

Though she’s been around racing all these years she still gets nervous watching her son race bumper-to-bumper at speeds approaching 200 mph. Being a mom, though, she’ll always worry. She’ll worry about where Brad is on the track if the Big One erupts, that major multi-car accident that could happen seemingly anytime at Daytona. She’ll worry about Brian and his small-budget K-Automotive team as he tries to keep up with NASCAR’s high-powered programs.

“That’s the difficult part but it’s one that you live with,” Kay said. “Brad has a fantastic ride and the sponsorship behind him and I’m thrilled to death for him. Brian hasn’t been that fortunate. But you hope for the best for him and hope things run smoothly for him. You just hope for the best for both of them.”

For this season she’s happy both have their rides. And she has hers. After winning the Sprint Cup title Brad rewarded Kay with a sharp ATS Cadillac. Black, not blue like his Miller Lite, though.

“He takes care of me very well. It’s really awesome,” she said. “He always buys me the little more expensive gear so he bought me one of his coats, t-shirts with the champion stuff on it, stuff I might not have gone out and bought.”

She would love to see another care package soon after today’s race, one containing Daytona 500 championship souvenirs of a Brad Keselowski win. His highest finish in three Daytona 500 starts is 29th in 2011.

“I’ll be doing a pretty crazy dance, I’m sure,” she said. “It’s a crap shoot down there the way the racing is. … He runs well at those tracks and I think he’s proven he can do it.”