Brian Keselowski is back at the racetrack this weekend – minus a gallbladder – and he couldn't be happier about it.
Keselowski, the Cinderella story of Daytona 500 qualifying, could hardly stop smiling when discussing his return to the Sprint Cup Series after emergency gallbladder surgery before Bristol and the time it took to build a car.
Substitute driver Dennis Setzer suffered a mechanical failure that sent him crashing into the wall during a Martinsville practice and destroyed the K-Automotive team's only car. So even when Keselowski was recovered from his surgery, he wasn't ready to return.
Now that he has a ride built – and no more stomach pains – Keselowski is thrilled to be back. He virtually rebuilt an old car in order to compete at Richmond, and just finished Thursday night.
"I really just can't wait to get out there," he said.
The driver had been dealing with what he thought were stomach issues for more than a year, but always tried to just suck it up. The week before Bristol, however, the pain suddenly became unbearable. An ultrasound revealed he had gallstones, and doctors told Keselowski he needed to have his gallbladder removed.
"I don't like going to hospitals in the worst way, so I did everything I could not to go," he said. "But I had to go."
With that ordeal behind him, Keselowski has turned his focus back to racing. He said he'll attempt races in which he feels there's a chance the team could make them – and vowed to try and complete the full race every time he showed up.
"I'm just so sick of doing the whole start-and-park thing," he said, referring to his Nationwide Series season last year. "I mean, I did it because I got in the hole and I had to do it. I don't like owing people money, so if that's what if I have to do, that's what I have to do. I'm not saying I won't ever do it in Cup, but I just don't want to do it.
"I just don't want to do it anymore. It just tears me up. I'd rather mow the lawn somewhere than do that."
To that end, Keselowski said he took "every penny" of his winnings from the Daytona 500 and put it back into the race team.
So if that's the case, how does he afford to eat?
"Well," he said with a laugh, "hopefully we keep making races."