1970s | 1980s | 1990s | 2000s
patriarch 'Papa' John Keselowski started the family
racing dynasty by competitively racing motorcycles. He won numerous top honors
for hill climbing and ice racing in the late 1950s. The stock cars came a
few years later.
Bob recalls a brand new fully loaded Chrysler that his dad bought in
'61. His Dad never did tell mom why he bought the car. A few months later
it disappeared and it eventually showed up again, gutted and reworked
into a fully fledged race machine. Soon John's team - supported by his
boys Ron and Bob - had become well known for racing prowess. Under the mighty MOPAR name John
would hire local drivers to drive his racecars while he and the boys
would do the crewing. In 1968 after returning from Vietnam, Ron took
over the wheel of the K-Automotive Dodges.
two sons, Bob and Ron, were growing up in a racing atmosphere; Pop, a former
motorcycle racer and garage owner, was now running cars driven in the NASCAR
and USAC stock car series with such drivers as Dave Marcis, Homer Newland,
Rene Charland and eventually young Ron Keselowski at the wheel. In their
spare time, Bob and his brother worked on the cars and attended as many races
as possible. By 1968 the boys were running cars too. Bob, 17, as the crew
chief and Ron, 22, driving late models on the local tracks around Michigan.
GRAND NATIONAL / WINSTON CUP
K Automotive made its debut in the
NASCAR Grand National Series in 1969, a team owned of course by John Keselowski.
Fielding the #62 Kaye Engineering Dodge, Homer Newland finished 36th in the teams
debut at Michigan International Speedway. Newland also ran K Automotive’s
car at the inaugural event at Alabama International Motor Speedway, starting
eighth, but dropping to twenty-seventh due to an engine failure.
Ron Keselowski had raced a 69 Charger at the USAC meet at the Milwaukee Mile
in summer '69 and was ready for the wheel on the #62 car.
Ron Keselowski - June 1970
In 1970 Ron moved into the Winston Grand National / Cup Series division running most of the races for the team beginning with the Daytona International. He retired the '69 Dodge on lap 35, and would have to wait until Atlanta to finish a full race at 18th place.
first top ten was at International Raceway in August 1970.
Ron Keselowski's 69 Dodge at the 1970 Nashville 420. From Nashville420.com
He ran seventeen races for Team K, finishing eighth at the West Virginia 300, and finished 39th in the final points standings. They also fielded a car for Dave Marcis at the Southern 500, finishing 29th.
NASCAR on the beach - mentions Ron http://www.frontstretch.com/mmclaughlin/6825/
In 1971, K fielded entries for a variety of drivers, including Ron, Dick
Polling, and Bill Shirley.
1973 MIS - Ron Keselowski Dodge.
Ron drove Roger Lubinski's 88 car at Winston Cup level during 71 and 72 too (best position 5th again at MIS)
taking the following year off, K returned in 1973, fielding the 88
car for Ron in two races. He finished fifth at Michigan International Speedway.
Publicity photo - April 1974, the month of the Pocono victory - Ron Keselowski
would finally get his big win at Pocono, PA in the USAC Division.
It wasApril 1974 in the #19 K car with brother Bob as owner. 500 miles
and 200 laps. Ron led 61 laps of the race, and took home a check for $11,968.
Bob had gained invaluable experience as crew chief for his father and this
was a great debut as car owner.
Ron's last race as a driver was October of 74 in Lubinski's #99 car when
he came home more than 50 laps off the lead.
team made one more start in 1974 with Bob Whitlow, before making their
final Cup start at the 1975 Daytona 500 when Jim Vandiver finished 35th
after a wreck. Ron's best finish for K was 5th at Michigan International
1975 the Winston Cup racing ended after Ron's equipment got tore up at
Daytona with Jim Vandiver driving. Ron had raced over 70 races at cup level
by this point. Hard times fell on the family in the early 70's recession
causing "Papa John" to make the hard decision to quit racing for a period.
Ron's own Cup driving hopes were dashed in the financial woes of the family
business, which happened to be building Mopar engines for race cars of
ARCA & USAC
After a few USAC outings at MIS in the summer 0f 74 Bob and his brother
changed roles. Ron became the crew chief and Bob became the driver. Keselowski’s
first race as driver was in 1975 at Toledo Speedway in Toledo, OH. They
ran the local late model, then moved into the USAC division for the 1976
and 1977 seasons mostly driving 74 Dodge Challengers and Aspens. During
those two years his best finish was 7th at the Texas World Speedway.
While racing in ARCA the K-Auto Chassis was the one of choice of for many of their competitors.
to the Michigan Motor Sports Hall of Fame, at one stretch they had won
28 straight features at Toledo Speedway at which time Sonny Adams called
the boys and offered them the winning purse to stay home! They accepted
and went Sandusky to take a feature win there. Bob also started
to run late models and in 1978, entered some USAC stock and NASCAR Late
Model Sportsman events. The guys were running '74 and '77 Dodge Challeger
cars under an increasingly familiar #19 number.
came a moment that put everything in perspective - Bob was caught
up in one of the most dramatic accidents in NASCAR history, and it became
the catalyst for the guys taking a step back from the track for a while.
Bob destroyed his stuff in that Texas 500 mile USAC race, the photos from
which appeared on the cover of sports pages around the country -- the fireball
went almost 50 feet in the air! Backmarker in that same race was one AJ
From the Texas Star News June 4th 1978
The race was red-flagged to a stop after only eight laps when six cars smacked into a blazing chain-reaction pileup that was the worst in rect memory in stock car racing. Three drivers were hospitalized briefly, but miraculously there were no injuries. Five cars were destroyed.
wreck started when Bob Keselowski spun in front of a pack of cars
sending them careening in all directions. Ricky Otts spun and clipped
the wall while trying to avoid Keselowski. Ken Rowley spun backwards
into Ott and both cars exploded and were enveloped by flame as the
fuel tanks in the cars were crushed on impact.
A fireball 100 feet high billowed in the sky, reminiscent of the fatal Eddie Sachs/ Dave McDonald holocaust in the 1964 Indianapolis 500. Rowley managed to bail out of his moving ball of flame and was nearly run over by it. Ott also got out of his own power. The fire spread to field grass before it was extinguished. One firefighter was overcome by smoke and was hospitalized.
In 1978 Bob Keselowski ran in the NASCAR Busch Grand National Division
as well as a limited schedule in USAC Division. His best finish
that season was 10th at Milwaukee in the USAC Division.