Defending ARCA RE/MAX Series Berlin Winner Keselowski Short-Track Ready MARNE MI (7-3-07) -- If you had to pick a favorite for this Saturday's Request Foods-GFS 200 at Berlin Raceway, Rochester Hills, Michigan's Brian Keselowski certainly ...
Defending ARCA RE/MAX Series Berlin Winner Keselowski Short-Track Ready
MARNE MI (7-3-07) -- If you had to pick a favorite for this Saturday's Request Foods-GFS 200 at Berlin Raceway, Rochester Hills, Michigan's Brian Keselowski certainly comes to mind. He's from the Great Lakes state; he's the defending race winner, and he is, without question, on top of his short-track game.
Despite only pitting once for tires, adjustments and fuel at Salem earlier this year, Keselowski still drove away from the competition to earn his second career RE/MAX Series victory in convincing style.
Last year at Berlin, with his father crew chiefing and his mother spotting, he held off eight-time series Frank Kimmel for an extremely popular and emotional win. Popular as a next-generation Michigan racer. Emotional because the win came exactly 20 years after his father and 1989 series champion Bob Keselowski earned his career-first ARCA win on the same Berlin short-track. The victory also represented the first time a father and son won ARCA RE/MAX Series events at Berlin. Keselowski's Salem win, which also came 20 years after his father had won at Salem, was also the only father-son ARCA victory combo at Salem. And just for grins, Brian's late model championship at Toledo Speedway in 2002 came exactly 20 years after his father had accomplished the same feat at the same track.
So, it's the experience of a well-oiled racing family that's coming with their very best short-track piece to Berlin for Saturday's Request Foods-GFS 200.
"We're bringing the same car we won with at Berlin last year and Salem this year," said Brian Keselowski.
"It's actually the first racecar we ever had for ARCA. We bought it from Hermie Sadler in 2004. We raced everywhere with that car the first year. We finished ninth at Kentucky in that car. Now it's just a short-track car. We have enough cars now that we can leave it as a short-track car."
It's not only Keselowski's first ARCA car he won with last year at Berlin, the race itself was the first time he had ever led a lap in ARCA competition.
"Berlin was the first race we ever led, and then we went on to win the race. Everything just worked our way. The cautions seemed to fall just right for us. We pitted when everyone else didn't."
Berlin, at about .4-miles around, is the series' shortest track on its 23-race schedule, but, according to most, it's one of the most difficult.
"It's very technically difficult, I would say," added Keselowski. "You don't necessarily need the best motor or car but you have to hit each lap just right. I mean, you can be off six inches and miss the corner at Berlin.
"The best way to describe it is that it's a road course with six left-hand turns. I mean it's crazy; you drive up hill, down hill, there's no backstretch wall to keep you in, and you're always turning. It's fun to drive, but it's challenging."
But if anyone has the short-track thing down these days, despite the challenges of a very unusual short-track in Marne, Michigan, it's the Keselowski's, who, from father to sons, cut their teeth on short-tracks across America. It's getting that first win, that sometimes proves to be the highest hurdle.
"I always felt like I could do it (win races); I just didn't have the finishes to prove it. I was starting to second-guess everything I did. But after that first win, you prove to yourself you can do it, and you just go do it again. We had to run 140 laps on the same set of tires at Salem, only pitted once, but we still won the race. There's no reason we can't win again.
"One good thing about Berlin is that you can pass, and that's really important on a little short-track. Everyone told me you can't pass on the outside, but we passed Frank (Kimmel) on the high side last year. You just have to have confidence in the guy you're racing with and hope you don't get pushed off the backstretch."
As most know, there is no backstretch wall at Berlin, so leaving the ballpark at Berlin can become quite common in a 200-lap short-track shoving match.
Like most of the top teams headed to Berlin, the Keselowski's are planning on two pit stops during the 200-lap race. However, in the short-track world, plans must change as necessary.
"It really depends on the car. If you're not handling, which is critical at Berlin, you've got to change. Last year, we pitted early, out of sequence, 'cause the car wasn't working. It helped us a bunch; then we really hit the set-up on the second stop, which gave us a great car in the end. We only pitted once at Salem because that's all we needed, for the most part, and we couldn't give up the track position in the end, but like I said, it really depends on the car. The car dictates how many times you pit."
And the car coming off Keselowski's trailer at Berlin may very well dictate how hard the other top-notch ARCA RE/MAX Series teams will have to push their own buttons.
The race itself may dictate how often the other ARCA RE/MAX Series teams will have to battle the Keselowski's for the remainder of the year.
"If we come out of Berlin ok, we'll be able to run some more races this year. We're definitely going to run Salem and Toledo later this year, maybe Milwaukee or the dirt tracks. I've never run on the dirt but I've been going there (Springfield and DuQuoin) since I was a kid to watch my dad race. So I'd really like to try that. I'd love to run the whole schedule, but we don't have the sponsorship to do it right now."
Oh but if he did. In only five starts so far in 2007, Keselowski has not yet finished out of the top-10. With a victory at Salem, a runner-up run at Winchester, a fifth place finish at Lakeland, a sixth at Toledo and 10th place finish at MIS, the Keselowski's are indeed on top of their game.
ARCA RE/MAX Series teams begin converging at Berlin at 10:00 am on Saturday, July 7 for registration and hauler parking. The garage area also opens at 10:00 am. Cars take to the track from 2:30-4:00 pm for a practice session, followed by SIM Factory Pole Award Qualifying at 5:00 pm. The Request Foods-GFS 200 rolls off at 8:30 pm on Saturday night.
Berlin Raceway is located five miles west of Grand Rapids on Interstate 96, exit 23. Then, go .3-mile south on 16th Avenue, then west to the Berlin Fairgrounds.
Tickets are available by calling Berlin Raceway at (616) 677-5000.