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Brad Keselowski Makes IndyCar Debut Late in Road America Test

The final hours of what seemed to be a routine test session for the June 26 Kohler Grand Prix at Road America offered a surprise in the form of 2012 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion Brad Keselowski.

Keselowski shocked many in the paddock by hopping in Simon Pagenaud‘s No. 22 Menard Team Penske Chevrolet for a shakedown late in Wednesday’s test session.

Keselowski, who drives Penske’s No. 2 Miller Lite Ford and No. 22 Discount Tire Ford in the Sprint Cup Series and XFINITY Series, respectively, completed some laps around the 4.048-mile road course after receiving some pointers from Pagenaud and other Verizon IndyCar Series drivers.

“I’ve always wanted to drive an Indy car, I think (Penske Racing President) Tim Cindric knew that,” Keselowski said in a release. “The opportunity came up to dip my toes in the water and kind of expand my knowledge base and put it in the back of my mind for wherever it goes, I don’t know. But it was a heck of an opportunity and I’m glad to have a chance.”

While the opportunity came seemingly out of nowhere, it’s likely that this was discussed in advance by Team Penske. The organization hinted at Keselowski’s ride early in the session.

Keselowski finally made his way onto the circuit shortly after 4:00 p.m. ET, completing two separate runs with an overall top speed of over 182 mph. The NASCAR champion increased his lap times by over 10 seconds throughout the session as he got used to maneuvering the Dallara.

While Keselowski made laps around Road America, the normal driver of the No. 22 Chevrolet watched closely and offered guidance. Pagenaud, who has three victories and the points lead through the first half to the IndyCar season, surveyed Keselowski’s run from the pit box throughout the session.

Pagenaud willingly gave up his ride for a few minutes in Wednesday’s test, but in the end had some important advice for Keselowski – don’t get too used to driving it.

“First thing I told Simon (after the test) is he has a very secure job, at least from me,” Keselowski said. “I’ve got a lot of respect for him and his team, everyone at Team Penske. This (No.) 22 Menards team, they did a great job today and I had a lot of fun going with them. Simon was fast, really fast and gave me a good rabbit to chase. I learned a ton today and had a lot of fun. I’ve got to let it soak in here to think about all of it. It was a heck of a day here at Road America.”

It’s unknown at this time if Keselowski will return to an IndyCar at any point in the future, or if Pagenaud will return the favor and drive Keselowski’s NSCS car. Keselowski, who has two victories to date in the 2016 NSCS season, also tried his hand at dirt racing for the first time last July, finishing 28th in the Camping World Truck Series race at Eldora Speedway.

In the end, Keselowski said the handling was much different on an IndyCar than it would’ve been in a stock car.

“It sure was getting in the corners a lot deeper,” he said. “I think the Indy car just pulls so many G’s through the center of the corner and in the brake zone. You have to build confidence in it because the stock car does everything it can to wreck your confidence and in the Indy car it’s important to have confidence. So you have to kind of unlearn everything you learned in a stock car to be good in these cars. That’s a heck of a process but a fun one.

“It’s certainly a different feel, trying to get acclimated to a different seat and you lean back more. I was kind of sitting in Simon’s seat and it doesn’t always fit you perfect, so it wears you out pretty quick. But it’s a good way to get worn out.”

 

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4 thoughts on “Brad Keselowski Makes IndyCar Debut Late in Road America Test”

  1. Kewl! Must be nice! Also, just in at the Team Penske driver cross-training news desk: June 8th & 9th Austin Cindric (son of Team Penske President Tim Cindric) tested a brand new AV8 Supercars Ford Falcon for DJR Team Penske at Queensland raceway in Ipswich. Lest we forget, the DJR Penske drivers (Scott Pye, Fabian Coulthard, as well as Mark Winterbottom) visited the Team Penske shop & Brickyard week of the Indy 500.

    • Good find! I’m always fascinated by these sorts of swaps. Austin Cindric’s driven just about everything that runs on pavement over the last month it seems, from an ARCA car to a V8 Supercar. Wild.

  2. This was cool to see. So few stars on the big-time motorsports stage even consider such things anymore, due to the ever-present fear of injury, be it to one’s body or “brand.”

  3. It’s not as prevalent today, but, back in the 60’s and 70’s, the Indy drivers used to make frequent visits to NASCAR, particularly when NASCAR ran at Daytona and Riverside. A. J. Foyt and Dan Gurney won several races each. Even the fear of serious injury didn’t bother them. Foyt was seriously injured in the Riverside 500 in January, 1965, and he was able to be back for the Indy 500, before returning to Daytona for the Firecracker 400 that July. He won the Firecracker in 64 driving a Ray Nichols Dodge, and again in 65, driving for the Wood Brothers. He also won four races for the Woods in 1971-72, including the 1972 Daytona 500, the 1971 Atlanta 500, and the California 500 in 1971 and 1972. Gurney won the Riverside 500 the first four years it was run (1963-66), and five of the first six (1968). The 67 winner? Parnelli Jones, another Indy driver. Foyt also won Riverside in 1970.

    As for NASCAR drivers going to Indy, there have been a few. Cale Yarborough, both Allison brothers, and Lee Roy Yarbrough, and of course, Kurt Busch, ran, but weren’t nearly as successful as the Indy drivers who journeyed down and ran NASCAR races. Tony Stewart came from Indy.

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