|12/02/10 02:23PM||Brad Keselowski, Camping World Truck Series, NASCAR, Nationwide|
At least he made it to the end this time.
December 02, 2010 14:14 PM, EST
Brad Keselowski, who was busted last year for sneaking out of the Nationwide Series and Camping World Truck Series Awards Banquet, was the final speaker at Monday night's event. He made it through hours of jokes, other speeches and dinner.
But when it was finally his time in the spotlight, the Nationwide points champion was ready.
He told stories about himself (pulling into Kyle Busch's garage stall at new-car testing in Charlotte), about a NASCAR inspector named Dennis and about a former employee named Jeff who worked for the Keselowskis' Truck team and saved Bob Keselowski's life.
"It's the presence of guys like Jeff, Dennis and teams like my 22 team and the stories we share together is the reason I call the Nationwide Series garage home," Brad Keselowski said. "They're very special people, and I'd like to thank them [Monday night]"
But it wasn't just people off the stage Keselowski wanted to honor. He turned to Truck champion Todd Bodine and thanked the driver and his team owners at Germain Racing for the one-off opportunity Keselowski got to drive a Truck for them at Memphis in 2007. He credited them with helping spark his career.
Before he even got to speak, Keselowski was presented with his championship ring by NASCAR president Mike Helton. And for those who wonder where NASCAR stands on any of the altercations in which Keselowski has been involved, Helton answered any doubts.
"I hope you wear that with as much pride as we have to have you as our champion," Helton said. Later, when he was signing off, Helton added, "Don't change. You're what NASCAR's all about."
If there was worry about Keselowski's ego being inflated by all the honors, comedian Tom Papa took care of that. Keselowski was on the receiving end of some of Papa's jokes where it was pointed out the 26-year-old was the lone champion on the stage who wasn't at least engaged. His infamous comment, calling Kyle Busch another name for a donkey during driver introductions at Bristol, also drew comments from Papa.
"I enjoyed it," Keselowski said. "Humility is always good for us."
Each of the series' top five drivers -- Carl Edwards, Busch, Justin Allgaier and Paul Menard -- was introduced and brought out on stage, as was rookie of the year Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
Allgaier, who finished fourth in the points, was glad his segment was an interview with hosts Rick Allen and Krista Voda. He wasn't keen on trying to figure out the teleprompter, saying he's much better at thinking on his feet.
Allgaier also received $95,000 in bonuses, including $75,000 for being the highest-scoring Nationwide-only driver in the four Dash 4 Cash races. But he was still introduced as Jason Allgaier.
"I'm used to my last name being butchered, but I'm more used to being called Jason than I am my last name being butchered any more," Allgaier said. "My wife calls me Jason Alljeer because I've been called that so many times over the course of my career that she thinks it's funny to mess with me. I answer to Jason, Justin, Jeremy ... about any J you can think of."
J.D. Gibbs spoke on behalf of Joe Gibbs Racing, which won the owner's title with the No. 18 driven by Busch and Brad Coleman. While the team is a juggernaut now, it wasn't always that way.
"Our first eight years in the Nationwide Series, we won four races," Gibbs said. "We learned how humbling this can be, how hard it is, how difficult it is. We're so fortunate, and thankful, to be where we are now."
Keselowski knows how Gibbs feels. He was selected by fans voting on NASCAR.COM as the series' Most Popular Driver, the third consecutive year he received that honor.
"There's just so many thank-yous to say, more than my heart can pour out and my voice can carry," Keselowski said. "It's the people that are in it. It's the people I've become friends with, more than just teammates with or competitors with, it's friendships. Those are the people you want to race with."