When Brad Keselowski was crowned champion at Homestead-Miami Speedway last year, he vowed that he would be a different type of champion. He said that he would speak his mind more than other champions have in the past and help improve the sport that he loves.
Well, Keselowski certainly spoke his mind – but maybe not in the best way possible. Instead of representing the sport as he wanted, he made a lot of people angry.
Take his comments about this year’s champion Jimmie Johnson as an example.
“When someone races them hard, they’re not prepared,” Keselowski said late in the season. “That’s their weakness. If I was Matt, I would exploit that.”
Well Johnson has shown that he is one of the best at conserving his equipment, he also has proven multiple times that he can race as hard as the best of them. Whether that’s in the form of a dominating performance, or working his way back up through traffic after running into problems as he did in the final race of the year. Fans have also witnessed him battle hard for a win at a place at Martinsville.
“That’s not a weakness of ours by any stretch,” Johnson said when he heard Keselowski’s comments. “We love to race hard. That’s what we’re here to do. “I’m not the best at putting up the fastest lap, the best in qualifying, the best in topping the speed charts in practice. But look at who’s passed the most cars on the racetrack. I’m good at racing. That’s my sweet spot.”
Keselowski also took time this year to critize NASCAR about the new mandatory baseline testing.
“This is not the field for doctors. Let them play in their arena and I’ll play in mine,” Keselowski said Friday at Martinsville Speedway.
Beginning next season all drivers in NASCAR’s three national series (Cup, Nationwide and Trucks) will be required to submit to the ImPACT (Immediate Post-Concussion Assessment and Cognitive Testing) test, which measures verbal and visual memory, processing speed and reaction time.
At the beginning of each year, drivers will undergo the ImPACT test. This will be used as a baseline if they suffer a concussion during the season to determine when it might be safe to return to competition.
“Doctors don’t understand our sport,” Keselowski said. “They never have and they never will. Doctors aren’t risk takers. We are. That’s what makes our sport what it is and when you get doctors involved, you water down our sport. I’m trying to be open-minded to the possibility that they can help us, but past experience says no.”
Could trying to portray this image hurt Keselowski in the long run? Possibly as he wasn’t as strong this past season as the year before, failing to make the Chase.
Others say what hurt Keselowski was when NASCAR penalized Penske Racing for something illegal with the rear-end housing on both Keselowski’s car and Joy Logano’s car.
“I certainly don’t think it’s cheating,” team owner Roger Penske told The Associated Press at the time. “You are looking at the rules and you are working in a gray area. We all work in the gray areas. We’re trying to be as competitive as we can be, we’ve got very creative minds and it takes a lot of creative minds to be competitive.
Both drivers were docked 25 points and their crew chiefs were fined $100,000. But perhaps the biggest blow was mass suspensions. The crew chiefs, car chiefs and head engineers on both teams were suspended for seven weeks, as was the team competition director.
This incident caused Keselowski to once again – as some said at the time – run his mouth where he shouldn’t. Post-race, Keselowski critized NASCAR’s technical procedure.
“I have one good thing to say and that’s my team and effort they put in today and fighting back with the absolute (expletive deleted) that’s been the last seven days in this garage area, the things I’ve seen one the last seven days have me questioning everything that I believe in and I’m not happy about it,” he said. “I don’t have anything positive to say and I probably should just leave it at that. There’s so much stuff going on you have no (expletive deleted) idea what’s going on. And that’s not your fault and that’s not a slam on you. I could tell you there’s nobody, no team in this garage with the integrity of the 2 team. And the way we’ve been treated over the last seven days is absolutely shameful. I feel like we’ve been targeted over the last seven days more than I’ve ever seen a team targeted. But my guys, they keep their heads on straight and they showcased why they are a winning team and championship team and … We’re not going to take it, we’re not going to be treated this way.”
This wasn’t the first time that Keselowski has been critical as in 2012, he took a shot at Hendrick Motorsports’ cars.
“There’s part and pieces on the car that are moving after inspection that makes the cars more competitive,” Keselowski said. “Some guys have it, some don’t. There’s a question as to the interpretation of the rule.
“Penske Racing errs on the safe side because we don’t want to be the guys that get the big penalty.”
At the time, Hendrick Motorsports teammates Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Jimmie Johnson had some key words of advice for the young driver – focus on driving.
“He has a pretty good heart, and he’s a really great race car driver, and I wish he’d concentrate on that,” Earnhardt said at the time. “I think he likes to talk a lot, but I think his true skills shine on the racetrack, not really behind the microphone.”
Perhaps Keselowski should listen to their advice moving into 2014.