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“A leader is somebody you look up to,” Newman said. “It all depends on your position. If you look up to somebody like that, then yeah, he is your leader. But if you don’t, then somebody else is.”

Does Newman look up to Keselowski?

“Only when I’m standing next to him,” he wisecracked.

Matt Kenseth, the 2003 Sprint Cup champion, said Keselowski has his own ideas that are shared by some other drivers, but not by all. “I think that’s a good thing. I think that’s what makes Brad Brad,” Kenseth said. “I think everybody is different in this sport and different personalities are important and good.”

Perhaps Keselowski’s drive comes from how long it took him to arrive in NASCAR’s top series. He didn’t drive in the Nationwide Series until 2008 and was its champion two years later. He was 25 when he won his first Sprint Cup race in Talladega and did not get his first fulltime Sprint Cup ride until joining the Penske organization in 2010. He broke through last year with a career-best five victories and 23 top 10s.

Keselowski won’t let this season’s disappointments keep him from chasing down his ultimate goals. “I’m the type of guy that reaches sometimes a little further than what I have for length in my arms,” he said with smile.

Keselowski says he’ll work to improve his track cred and leadership standing in the garage with additional victories and championships.

“But I’m smart enough to realize that I still have steps to go,” he said.