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Minter: Keselowski Too Tough For His Own Good?

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Thursday, October 29 2009
Brad Keselowski is one of the new breed of drivers making their way up through NASCAR ranks and fields.  (Photo by Rusty Jarrett/Getty Images for NASCAR)

Brad Keselowski is one of the new breed of drivers making their way up through NASCAR ranks and race fields. (Photo by Rusty Jarrett/Getty Images for NASCAR)

Many NASCAR fans and media members who are searching for a young aggressive driver to inject some needed enthusiasm into the sport are eyeing Brad Keselowski. The Dale Earnhardt Jr. protégé picked up  his fourth Nationwide Series win of the season on Saturday at Memphis Motorsports Park using the aggressive style of driving that is rapidly becoming what he’s most known for.

He now drives for Hendrick Motorsports but will move to Penske Racing next season where he’ll compete in both the Sprint Cup and Nationwide series. His career ramp-up started, not surprisingly, with an aggressive move in the spring Cup race at Talladega Superspeedway when he held his ground on the last lap and sent Carl Edwards flying into the catch fence while he went on to score an upset win in James Finch’s No. 09 Chevrolet.

Since then, Keselowski’s tactics have drawn criticism from several NASCAR veterans including Denny Hamlin and Mike Bliss, who led the most laps at Memphis before an incident with Keselowski dealt his hopes for the win a hard blow.

“I got screwed,” Bliss said in his post-race interview. “He won the race, congratulations but I don’t think I would have done that. I should have put him down in the wall. I should have put him down in the grass and then through the wall but I didn’t do it.”

Carl Edwards, another Keselowski victim, said he would reserve judgment until he talked with the youngster, but said on TV after the race that if Keselowski wanted to race rough, he’d treat him the same way in the future.

Aggressive driving by young competitors is neither new or unexpected. Edwards admitted that he did it early in his career. Other great ones started that way too. Dale Earnhardt came into the sport using his bumper, as did Darrell Waltrip and lots of other champions. But others that were too aggressive were sent packing early in their careers. And Earnhardt and Waltrip came along in an era when sponsors and series officials were more tolerant of aggressive tactics on the track.

For many, the jury’s still out on Keselowski. His crew chief, the veteran Tony Eury Sr., refused to chastise his driver at Memphis, saying instead that the youngster has done everything the team asked and that he hates to see him move on at the end of the season.

And it remains to be seen how Keselowski will interact with fans once he has the demands of a Cup driver placed upon him. Will he be one who stops by the chain link fence and signs autographs as often as practical, or will he hop on a golf cart, wave to the fans and be whisked off to the motorcoach lot?

It also will be interesting to see how Keselowski does without Eury running the show. Earnhardt Jr., who had his greatest success as a driver under Eury, his uncle, has struggled every year he’s raced without him.

To his credit, Keselowski didn’t try to dodge the issue of his driving in his winner’s interviews at Memphis, saying among other things that he was giving the fans what they wanted.

“I was very aggressive and put myself in a lot of those situations that led to contact,” he said. “Two of them led to spins. I didn’t do myself any favors by that. It’s not like I came out on top with that. I tore my car up and slowed it down. It wasn’t like that was what won me the race.

“What won me the race was being aggressive throughout. The specific contact didn’t win me the race. They actually hurt.”

His biggest challenge now is finding a way to continue racing with drivers like Edwards, Bliss and Hamlin, because history has shown that NASCAR drivers have very long memories when it comes to perceived injustices on the track.

– Rick Minter can be reached at rminter@racintoday

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Thursday, October 29 2009


  • Jeff says:

    I’m amused that all the Kyle Busch fans are screaming that Brad is “too aggressive” and predicting his demise because of his driving style. All the while conveniently forgetting that their boy has made a career out of annoying people and driving over and thru people.

  • Callaway says:

    I love it when the guys who get bumper tagged come up with “well if he wants to race rough that’s how I will race him” like they have been driving Miss Daisy their entire career. It seems to be epidemic in this sport when this occurs this huge cloud of selective amnesia settles over the entire garage area with sage advise being handed out like free popcorn by the same drivers who have used the same technique themselves and brushed it off as “just one of them racin deals”. Yes he’s aggressive maybe to the point his team owner in Nationwide Dale Jr. should take some notes, his problem is he wants to everyone’s pal and garner all this respect in the garage area and appears to trade that for not winning races, in his case the apple fell a half mile from the tree. The trouble is now in the entire series there is some much money flowing in these guys are not hungry anymore most have been groomed to be drivers from birth in some cases in the old days racing allowed drivers to leave behind nasty dirty jobs that none of them never ever want to go back to they were hungry. This kid will learn along the way he won’t wreck too many cars doing it unfortunately driving a Penske uncompetitive Dodge given a different team I would wager the kid would have made the Chase in 2010. Anyone who remembers the old Dale Sr. run ins with Waltrip and Labonte to name just two and don’t see the similarity of the driving style don’t have good memories. This is exactly what the sport needs not the current PGA policorrect golf pro style drivers who say and act the same way bland and say the perfectly rehearsed dialogue after races. The loss of excitement and rough and tumble aspect in the sport is why people are tuning out they need to get back to their roots and fast it was never designed to be a gentleman sport in the first place for those who want that try Polo or horse racing. Anyone remember the Edwards bonehead move last year at Tega that wrecked almost the entire field stopping the race now he’s a great one for providing advise.

  • Chief says:

    Now, if it weren’t for guys like Brad and Juan Pablo, this NASCAR stuff would be quite boring by now, would it not?

  • lydia says:

    I enjoy watching this kid race…and his post race interviews are a hoot! I must admit..he is full of himself..so it will be fun to see if he can back it up and live to tell the tale! When he gets to Cup fulltime it will be quite interesting. Jeff Gordon has been at the end of his sanity lately with the beating and banging Montoya has been handing out. Gordon has not retaliated…either because of the Chase or he couldn’t get back to Montoya. It will be fun next year to see if Gordon takes his pent up aggressions out on this rookie! We all know Stewart won’t stand for more then one or two transgressions from a rookie…and Hamlin could prove to be quite the foe to Brad. Junior might just take this next season to let Brad know if it wasn’t for him BK wouldn’t have the ride… Then you have the take no prisoners Robbie Gordon..he may not have great cars..but he is as aggressive as the best of them. So..maybe the racing in 2010 will get a bit more exciting as the rookie finds himself in the middle of no nonsense veterans. Hey..if nothing else it will give us something else to talk about other then “JJ going for his fifth championship”!!!!

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