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Keselowski Wasn’t Wrong, But It Doesn’t Matter

Victor Figueroa |
November 3, 2014 | 12:12 p.m. PST

Staff Contributor

In a race where Jimmie Johnson reached a career milestone with his 70th victory, a feat accomplished by only seven other drivers in NASCAR history, the big story at Texas Motor Speedway was a post race scuffle between the No. 2 team of Brad Keselowski and the No. 24 team of Jeff Gordon; the fight cemented Keselowski’s reign as the most hated racer amongst drivers.

Gordon was leading late at Texas when during a restart he took the high line and Johnson, rearing from behind, took the low line. The move created a gap that the No. 2 car tried to shoot, but the space quickly closed, causing Keselowski to swap paint with Gordon, cutting Gordon’s rear left tire and sending the 4-time champ to the pits.

Now was Keselowski in the wrong for doing what he did? With tensions high and the race dwindling down to what looked to be the last restart of the night, I would say no; it’s a move he made to win the race. Does that matter? Not really.

Throughout Keselowski’s five-year stint on the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, he has always rubbed drivers the wrong way--both figuratively and literally. Keselowski’s first Sprint Cup win came in 2009 with a last lap bump of Carl Edwards, which caused a cataclysmic chain of events that sent the No. 99 car airborne into the fence, sending debris into the stands and injuring several spectators. Then just a few weeks ago, Keselowski managed to anger three different drivers in Denny Hamlin, Tony Stewart and mild-mannered Matt Kenseth. The latter of the three put Keselowski in a headlock after Keselowski purposely bumped him during the post race cool down.

Now, while Keselowski’s driving style seems to work--winning a championship in 2012 and having the most victories so far this season--it is often borderline reckless and combined with his self-serving attitude, a pop in the mouth may be just what he needed.

It’s Keselowski’s reputation that caused the brawl; the collision was just a catalyst. Had it been another driver, Gordon, the metaphoric and literal dad of NASCAR, would still be mad but probably would have choked down his frustrations, or at most a shouting match would have occurred, but for Keselowski having a conversation isn’t even an option.

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When Gordon started talking to Keselowski, before any fists were thrown, No. 2 was simply going to walk until Kevin Harvick pushed Keselowski back into the fray. Now, it’s unsure if Harvick wanted a fight to break out, but he did tell NASCAR reporters, “If you’re going to drive like that, you’d better be willing to fight.” Harvick has some bad blood with Keselowski too, lightly slapping him during a post race interview two years ago.

Regardless, the fact is that Keselowski failed to really acknowledge that he wrecked Gordon. When he began to walk away from Gordon, he wasn’t rising above the situation, he was ignoring it and in the process disrespecting NASCAR’s most veteran driver. On those final laps Keselowski had a choice. And for him to expect or at least act like there shouldn’t be any repercussions for his actions is ludicrous.

After the race Keselowski referenced racing legends Dale Earnhardt Sr. and Ayrton Senna and how they would have approved of his actions out on the track. Yes, the two were known for their aggressive style, but at least Earnhardt would give racers fair warning before moving them out of his way. And as painful as it is to say it, they’re both dead and so is their driving style. Keselowski is aware of this difference saying, “These guys have their own code… That’s their right.” And it’s true that he doesn’t have to follow along. But there’s something to be said when everyone from the calmest to the most aggressive drivers in NASCAR all look at Keselowski with disdain. Team owner Roger Penske says it’s because other drivers are jealous. But I don’t think that’s it because as Denny Hamlin said few weeks ago in Charlotte: “Nobody wants to be Brad.”

Keselowski proclaims that he’s not trying to dish out something that he couldn’t take himself. But what he needs to realize is his attitude has consequences on and off the track. Keselowski hasn’t earned the respect, nor does he have the skill of the late Dale Earnhardt Sr., so I hope for his sake that he really can take whatever drivers are giving him, because whether it’s the next race or the one after, drivers won’t be afraid to take a shot at him, in fact they’ll be glad.

Reach Contributor Victor Figueroa here or follow him on Twitter



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