The Cinderella story is one of the coolest experiences in sports, a moment in time when the team or athlete from which people expect very little goes out and kicks some tailpipe, advancing much further than anyone ever anticipated. In the 2011 Chase to the NASCAR Sprint Cup Brad Kewselowski is living it!
Guest Column By Cathy Elliott
The art of eavesdropping is highly underrated. It seems people will only express how they really feel when they think no one is listening.
Case in point: While watching the race at Talladega Superspeedway on October 23, a guy sitting next to me felt compelled to blurt out to no one in particular that "I can’t believe THAT guy might actually win the championship."
THAT guy in question was Brad Keselowski, who finished fourth in the race and moved up three spots in the championship standings, heading to Martinsville ranked third in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup.
Keselowski hasn’t really been the type to quietly work his way into the world of NASCAR Sprint Cup Series racing. He came in with a bang and has gotten increasingly louder ever since.
He got his first Cup win as a part-time driver in 2009, basically knocking Carl Edwards out of the way to take the checkered flag at Talladega. Since then, he has earned a reputation as being a take-no-prisoners kind of guy, not above a little bit of fender-smacking, or a lot of smack-talking.
He finished the 2010 season 25th in the driver standings. Ordinarily that would be considered a forgettable number, but everyone remembers Brad.
This season, he has elevated himself from being the equivalent of the loud-mouthed new kid in the schoolyard to the guy who, back in August, gutted it out to win a race with a broken ankle, and who scratched and clawed his way to one of the two wild card positions in the Chase. Thanks to a competent and dedicated support system, he has not only snuck his way into the dance, but now he has caught the eye of the prince.
Or has he? Of the top five in the standings – Carl Edwards, Matt Kenseth, Keselowski, Tony Stewart and Kevin Harvick – the driver who seems to be getting the least amount of love and attention is perhaps the best story of the lot.
Granted, Edwards, Kenseth, Stewart and Harvick hardly fall into the category of unpleasant stepsisters, but when did we stop rooting for Cinderella?
The Cinderella story is one of the coolest experiences in sports, a moment in time when the team or athlete from which people expect very little goes out and kicks some tailpipe, advancing much further than anyone ever anticipated.
Their story goes down in history, used again and again not only as incontrovertible proof that the underdog really can rise up to lead the pack, but as an inspirational tool for all of us. It reminds us that regardless of what ladder you are attempting to climb, it looks an awful lot higher from the bottom looking up than it does from the top looking down.
Who, after all, would ever have dreamed that THOSE guys, the unconventional upstart Texas Western men’s basketball team, would beat the mighty Kentucky Wildcats to win the NCAA title in 1966? In the 1980 Olympics, accomplishing a "Miracle on Ice" against a dominant Soviet team seemed simply impossible, but THOSE guys, the U.S. men’s hockey team, made it happen.
Who would have predicted that when leaving Talladega, five-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson would be practically out of the discussion and that Brad Keselowski would be among the top three?
Well, for starters, THAT guy would. "That was exactly how we needed to leave Talladega, with a strong finish. We gained points on the leader and gained points on really all the Chase cars," he said. "I’m very proud of the effort that everyone on this Miller Lite Dodge has put forth thus far. We’re still in contention, and we have a damn good shot at winning this championship."
Sometimes we chase things, and sometimes things chase us. As the story goes, the prince chased Cinderella down, and as he held out the slipper, he found that it went on very easily, almost as if it had been designed for her particular foot.
We still don’t know what the ultimate outcome will be, but we do know this: We have seen THAT guy, Brad Keselowski, win with a heavy foot, and a canny foot, and even a broken foot. So as far as the 2011 Chase for the Sprint Cup goes, if the ultimate magical shoe fits, he might not only wear it. He just might win it.