Who Is Ben Brust, And Why Are NASCAR People Talking About Him?

One of NASCAR's most devoted new fans is a sharp-shooting college basketball player.

Imagine being followed on Twitter by some of your favorite drivers and NASCAR personalities, constantly receiving supportive tweets about whatever you do.

That's the case for hardcore NASCAR fan Ben Brust, who often gets tweets from Kevin Harvick, Scott Speed, NASCAR vice president Steve O'Donnell, Bob Jeffrey (Tony Stewart's spotter), Brett Griffin (Jeff Burton/Elliott Sadler's spotter), Josh Jones (better known as @mother_function) and others in the racing industry.

"It's all humbling, because I don't even know why they want to talk to me," Brust said via phone last week. "I look up to them and love watching them on TV every week."

But there's a reason Brust gets so much attention from the NASCAR world. Brust is more than just a race fan; he's a sharp-shooting guard on the University of Wisconsin basketball team who has made headlines with some breakout performances this season.

And as much as Brust loves basketball, he's also committed to spreading the NASCAR gospel.

"My goal is just to get people to like NASCAR," he said. "I love it, and I'm just trying to spread the word to show people what they're missing out on."

Brust, a sophomore, never liked racing when he was growing up. Whenever he'd see NASCAR on TV, he'd turn the channel and say, "Why is this on? This is a joke. Waste of time."

But his brother became a fan after watching Harvick win the 2007 Daytona 500, and Brust eventually got converted about 18 months ago.

"I came home one Sunday, and he had NASCAR on," Brust said. "I sat down with him and started watching, and I started asking him questions. I had a little interest."

Brust then went to Los Angeles to do some basketball training and found himself stuck in a hotel room with only six channels. One of those was Fox, and the 2010 Coca-Cola 600 happened to be on TV – so he started watching.

"That's when I fell in love with it," he said. "When the race was over, I was pissed because I just didn't want it to end. I was loving the racing. I don't know how it hit me, but it hit me – and I've been hooked ever since."

Brust, a huge Harvick fan, started following NASCAR types on Twitter and caught the attention of the Charlotte Observer's Jim Utter. Through Utter, Brust connected with Jones (@mother_function) and both Kevin and DeLana Harvick – as well as many others.

The Illinois native attended his first races this season – the Chicagoland Nationwide Series standalone race in June, then the Brickyard 400 in July. Thanks to Jones, Brust got to take a picture next to Harvick's car and chat with DeLana.

Overall, Brust was blown away by the experience.

"Ever since I've been to a race, I've realized there's nothing like it," he said. "I'm already planning trips for next year, and I'm going to take as many as I can with the time allotted. It's a really cool experience, and I never thought it would be like this. But I'm like a nut. I cannot get enough of it."

Thanks to both his passion for NASCAR and burgeoning basketball stardom, Brust now receives widespread support from the racing community – and beyond.

After the Badgers' most recent game – in which Brust scored a game-high 25 points against UNLV and went 7-for-7 from 3-point range – the term "Ben Brust" became a trending topic on Twitter.

Because of Brust, it's not out of the question Wisconsin could be the NASCAR world's sentimental favorite when the NCAA Tournament arrives in March.

"That's definitely cool if that happens," he said. "If the growing interest in the Badgers keeps happening, I love that."

So what about his teammates? Has Brust been able to convert the rest of the Badgers into race fans?

Not quite, he said. But there's been some progress.

"They still look at me like I have three eyes (when discussing NASCAR), but when they're watching SportsCenter, they don't turn the channel when they see the race," he said. "They kind of want to know where Harvick finished so they can be like, 'What happened?'

"So they're not watching the races, but I've eventually gotten them to at least show a little more interest and have some idea of what's going on."

Brust, though, isn't discouraged. He's proof of how it takes just a couple races to catch the NASCAR bug.

Want to follow Brust on Twitter? Check out his profile at @benbrust.

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