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Minter: Still Thinking Talladega

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Monday, April 26 2010

Brad Keselowski takes checkered flag at Talladega in Nationwide race. (Photo courtesy of NASCAR)

By Rick Minter | Senior Writer

A few random observations from a long day at Talladega Superspeedway:

* Brad Keselowski is becoming more likable by the day. He’s a straight shooter who says what he thinks even when he’s involved in controversy, which is something a lot of other drivers don’t always do.

You always get the feeling that he’s giving everything he’s got when he’s behind the wheel, and he’s making a lot more smart moves than dumb ones.

His presence and enthusiasm have perked up the entire Penske Racing camp, as boss man Roger Penkse himself pointed out after Keselowski won Sunday’s Nationwide race at Talladega.

And, near and dear to my heart, he seems to appreciate the role of the print media types, something some of his more established peers seem to think little of these days.

As he closed his remarks in his winner’s interview at Talladega Sunday night, he thanked the press corps for their work on that long day, and others too.

And he sounded mighty sincere.

* Speaking of being appreciative, it was nice to hear Talladega’s Grant Lynch thank the Cup drivers during the drivers meeting for their efforts in helping Talladega and other tracks with ticket sales.

“We’re not where we want to be, but we’re better off than were we would be without your help,” Lynch told the group.

* I couldn’t help but noticing as I walked from the infield to the press box before the race that the Talladega crowd, in large part, was a plainclothes bunch.

At one time at Talladega, and at other Southern tracks, the crowd would be decked out in Earnhardt colors, at first with the No. 3 colors and later with those of the No. 8.

But as I walked through the crowd, I saw large numbers of people in plain shirts. Many of those in racing attire were wearing dated shirts – faded No.3 Earnhardt shirts, Roush shirts with car numbers no longer associated with that team, etc.

Perhaps the declining t-shirt revenue was part of what Mark Martin was talking about on Friday when he said NASCAR drivers’ pay is in a state of decline.

“In the ’80’s I made about 10 percent of where it went at its peak,” he said. “And I also think it’s on its way back down to be honest with you.

“Obviously we all feel the crunch. Everybody’s feeling the crunch. We have to shrink a little bit. So I think that race drivers’ pay is going to be seeing shrinkage as well as everybody else’s. That’s how it is.”

* Some of the old gang in the press box couldn’t help but wonder, after three green-white-checkered runs and the accompanying smash-ups at the end of the Cup race and a massive crash on the last lap of the Nationwide race, what David Poole would have thought of the events of the day.

It was a year ago at Talladega that we saw Poole, the Charlotte Observer’s NASCAR writer, for the last time. He died two days after the race, but not before writing one of his strongest columns ever – about the dangers of racing at Talladega.

Luckily, no one was injured on Sunday, even though Dennis Setzer’s crash was about as nasty looking as they come. At least there was a new catchfence to keep him from flying into an area where fans could have been, and luckily no one was hurt on either side of the fence.

I thought about Poole as I drove home Sunday night, and how troubled he was over the Carl Edwards-Brad Keselowski crash a year ago.

Did his being so upset over that race trigger his fatal heart attack? Would things have turned out differently for him and the sport if more of us had taken a strong stand that day?

The last line of Poole’s last column kept coming back to me:

“Does somebody have to die before we’ve decided we don’t have control?”

– Rick Minter can be reached at rminter@racintoday.com

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Monday, April 26 2010
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