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Brad Keselowski astounded by inclusion on NASCAR drivers council

Brad Keselowski, Jimmie Johnson, Kyle Busch and Denny Hamlin are the newest members of the nine-driver group that regularly meets with NASCAR officials.

The announcement came via a group text sent out by Dale Earnhardt Jr., a message Brad Keselowski promptly ignored. It wasn't until Joey Logano, a teammate of Keselowski's at Team Penske, sent an eye-opening text awhile later that Keselowski finally realized he had been elected to the NASCAR drivers council.

Logano's text read: "Holy s***, you made it!" Keselowski recalled Tuesday during Daytona 500 Media Day.

Keselowski's response: "I can't believe I'm on the driver council."

That Keselowski was elected came as a surprise, considering the 2012 series champion hasn't always enjoyed widespread popularity among his peers. In recent years he's had high-profile run-ins with Kyle Busch, Denny Hamlin, Jeff Gordon and Matt Kenseth, the latter two involving physical confrontations.

"I am honored to be a part of it," Keselowski said. "I didn't actively campaign to be a part of it, yet somehow I got voted in. I am not sure what that means. It was kind of like my ‘Sally Field moment.' It is interesting."

What isn't a surprise is Earnhardt was the one who informed Keselowski of his appointment, as Earnhardt has seemingly assumed a variety of roles.

"Dale Jr. is like a one-man band with the council," Keselowski said. "He is the Secretary of State, the IT guy, the president, all of it."

Entering its second year, the drivers council features a select number of members who become representatives through election and by achieving a certain performance threshold set by NASCAR.

Initially the meetings were quite antagonistic, according to Earnhardt. But eventually the two parties formed a working relationship that's played an instrumental role in some procedural changes, including the implementation of the overtime line introduced last week.

"We started out last year butting heads," Earnhardt said. "By the end of the year we were doing some awesome stuff.  The last meeting we had at the end of last season was awesome. We came out of there with a lot of confidence.

"The council is going to do great things. It's starting to show its potential."

The 2016 council consists of nine drivers with Hamlin, Busch and Jimmie Johnson joining Keselowski as first-time participants. Earnhardt, Logano, Kevin Harvick, Kyle Larson and Tony Stewart all served on last year's council. No longer involved are: Clint Bowyer, Greg Biffle, Jamie McMurray and Jeff Gordon, now retired.

Safety, rule changes and quality of racing are among the topics frequently discussed when the group meets with NASCAR executives. In the current council's first session of the season, tires and the 2017 aerodynamic package were the focus.

Johnson was surprised at the discourse of that first meeting. The dialogue between NASCAR and its drivers was a dramatic departure and less intimidating than how Johnson, a six-time series champion, had once interacted with the sanctioning body.

The council has also allowed Johnson to develop a greater appreciation for his fellow representatives, specifically citing Hamlin and Harvick, once an Xfinity and Truck Series team owner.

"Being in this council and being around the drivers and understanding where everybody's coming from, it's created a much more friendly environment," Johnson said. "I think as we add another year or two under our belts, it's going to be even more productive yet.

"There's a much more comfortable format for everybody to get involved."