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Racer Revs Up New Shop, Heads Into First Turn

Alan Rooks
By Alan Rooks Editor in Chief, Manufacturing Engineering

Metalworking is a great industry that makes a major contribution to the U.S. economy, but it doesn’t typically attract movie idols or sports stars. That changed when NASCAR champion Brad Keselowski joined the ranks of metalworking entrepreneurs.

While continuing his successful racing career, Keselowski launched a new company, Keselowski Advanced Manufacturing (KAM), focused on hybrid machining. I got to attend the Jan. 24 grand opening of the 70,000-sq-ft plant in Statesville, N.C. Keselowski is investing “tens of millions of dollars” in equipment and expertise, and it shows. The large building is chock full of new machining equipment and is getting up to speed, having opened in April 2018. The company should be good for the local economy: KAM currently employs 30 people and expects to have up to 100 employees.

For a machining startup, the facility is enormous. That’s because it’s located in the building formerly occupied by Keselowski’s Camping World Truck Series team. His team, Brad Keselowski Racing, ended operations at the conclusion of the 2017 season. Race cars and custom cars grace the entrance to the facility—certainly a big draw for potential customers. Who in our industry wouldn’t want to rub shoulders with the 2012 NASCAR Sprint Cup champion?

KAM’s industry partners include BIG Kaiser, GE Additive, Mazak and Pinnacle X-Ray Solutions, and many key executives from these companies were at the event. What’s interesting about KAM is that it will be focused as much on additive as subtractive machining. Keselowski learned about AM as a racer. KAM has installed 3D printers from GE’s Concept Laser unit, machine tools from Mazak, and toolholding, workholding and metrology equipment. More equipment is on the way. If KAM can become a true hybrid manufacturer, that would be a real competitive advantage.

Keselowski will continue racing and placed 12th at the Daytona 500 on Feb. 17, driving for Team Penske. A week later he finished first in the Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway. A management team will oversee day-to-day operations at KAM. Keselowski, 34, is no slouch when it comes to competing: he’s the sixth highest-paid NASCAR driver with total earnings of $11.2 million, according to Forbes’ 2018 list of NASCAR’s highest-paid drivers. I’m sure his competitiveness will rub off on KAM.

All in the Family

The Keselowski family has been making things for a long time. Brad’s grandfather made drill bits for the military during World War II and Brad worked with his father and uncle, both of whom were racers, as they built their cars in the family shop. As a driver, Keselowski learned about advanced design, machines, and tools.

Brad, welcome to the metalworking industry. We all hope your shop will be a big success. Who knows, maybe some movie stars will want to start making things too!

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