Injured Keselowski's win no small feat

August, 9, 2011

The biggest story coming out of Pocono is definitely what Brad Keselowski did on a fractured ankle. And I have to say, I'm thoroughly impressed. I sprained an ankle playing in the ESPN Flag Football League a couple years ago, and that was bad enough on its own.

But what's even more impressive is the history of NASCAR drivers not only running while fighting injuries but excelling.

Monday on NASCAR Now, we revisited some of the notable ones. Terry Labonte running the final two races of his 1996 championship season with a broken wrist, Ricky Rudd winning at Martinsville after being burned and doing his Victory Lane interview laying down with ice bags and an oxygen mask.

Even recently, drivers have shown that they can put physical issues aside to win. Carl Edwards on a broken foot, Denny Hamlin with a torn ACL and now Keselowski with a fractured ankle.

I know NASCAR isn't like traditional sports in that you don't have to able to run fast, jump high or throw far, but physical conditioning is important, and having to press down on a fractured ankle hundreds of time a race is taxing. Plus, just a momentary lapse in concentration could be costly.

Now, let's dig a little deeper into Keselowski's performance.

Moving Up A Rung

Last season, Keselowski became the 22nd driver to win what is now called a Nationwide Series championship. With the new one-series rules in effect, he'll likely not be running for another anytime soon.

Of those 22 previous champions, Keselowski is only the ninth to win at least three Sprint Cup Series races. If he reaches five, he'd be just the seventh to do so.

Trivia break: Who holds the record for most Cup wins among Nationwide Series champions?

Penske Powered

Keselowski's first Cup win, in 2009, came with Phoenix Racing with support from Hendrick Motorsports. His Kansas win earlier this season was his first with Penske, and now, he's the fifth driver to win multiple Cup races with Penske Racing.

To compare, teammate Kurt Busch is in his sixth season with Penske and has won only nine Cup races.

Keselowski's turnaround has been amazing. He didn't have any top-5 finishes last season and didn't have a top-10 finish until the 32nd race. He had no finish better than 10th all year. This year, he already has three top-5s and six top-10s.

Trivia break: Keselowski is the 97th driver to win three Cup races. Who is the only other active driver with that many? (Hint: He's racing full-time in another series.)

Nice Cup Of Joe

Lost in the fun of Keselowski's win was how impressive the Joe Gibbs Racing cars were, despite their finishes.

Kyle Busch finished second after leading 27 laps. Hamlin was 15th after leading 65 laps. Joey Logano led 44 laps, but finished 26th.

To do the math, that means the three JGR cars led a combined 136 of the 200 laps, and were one rainstorm away from picking up the win.

Trivia break: Who are the only two drivers with more Pocono wins than Hamlin's four?

Trivia Break Answers

1. Kyle Busch has 22 Cup wins, one more than Bobby Labonte.
2. Elliott Sadler has three career Cup wins.
3. Jeff Gordon and Bill Elliott each have five wins at Pocono.

Matt Willis | email

ESPN Staff Writer
Matt Willis has been a studio researcher at ESPN since 2006, working on "NASCAR Now" and "SportsCenter," among other shows. He graduated from Ithaca College in 2006 with a degree in journalism. While there, he worked on ICTV, on shows such as "Ya Think You Know Sports?" and "Sports Final." He also was a member of the IC Comedy Club and figures about half of the jokes he makes in his column are actually funny.



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