Bad Brad Knows About Racing And Theater
Once again, on Sunday afternoon, Brad Keselowski showed championship form.
Yes, on the race track, where he used a wonderful pairing of hammer and scalpel to fashion an improbable top-six finish which in all likelihood, earned him the 2012 Sprint Cup title.
But also after the race at Phoenix International Raceway. It was then that he showed inner championship form. Keselowski’s monologue about the hideous face which NASCAR and “the best drivers in the world” put on his/your sport at PIR showed that this 28-year-old can see invisible lines.
The lines which separate racing from circus; the lines which separate brawlers from racers; the lines that divide character from ugliness. The lines which Earnhardt, Pearson, Petty could see. And yes, lines which Jeff Gordon, the bet here is, sees with today with the clear head which mornings bring.
In case your cable was down, here is a brief recap of what happened in Avondale on Sunday: Gordon and Clint Bowyer, whose championship hopes were still breathing, bumped each other on the track. No problem there.
After clipping the wall, Gordon, who says Bowyer has bumped him way too often, waited for Bowyer to come around the mile oval and then deliberately wrecked him.
That produced a brawl in the pits between Bowyer’s crew and Gordon and his crew. Gordon’s crew had to pin its driver against a pit box to protected him. Cameras showed a mass of pushing and shoving and rolling around in the greasy, smelly muck.
Bowyer circled the track under the ensuing yellow and then headed his car into the infield. After it was stopped, he got out and sprinted to Gordon’s hauler. There, he had to be restrained by NASCAR officials.
When the red and yellow flags were finally put away, the race was finally restarted. And things degenerated further. On the green/white/checkered restart, Danica Patrick spun. Her car came to rest dead center and sideways on the track.
That track was coated with oil. Television announcers could see that from their booth but NASCAR officials said they could not see it from theirs. Around came the field and a big wreck took out a bunch more cars.
And during it all, the drunks and bad asses who think they knew Dale Earnhardt Sr. but were much more in touch with their own fantasies than with the man himself, went wild.
Keselowski, involved only as a tangential victim of the final wreck, got out of his car at the end with a 20-point lead he will take to Florida for next weekend’s season-ender and showed his disgust.
And in doing so, also showing that he knows the difference between racing and theater. He knows that even in NASCAR in the era of have at it, racing is still a sport and that sportsmanship still has a place.
And in saying so, Keselowski became the voice – profane as it was Sunday – which NASCAR needs and has struggled to find over the last 12 years.
”Well, it’s the double standard that I spent a whole week being bashed by a half a dozen drivers about racing hard at Texas and how I’m out of control and have a death wish, and then I see bulls**t like that,” he said. “That’s f*****g bullshit. That’s all you can call that.
“These guys just tried to kill each other. You race hard and I get called an a*****e for racing hard and called with
a death wish, and I see s**t like that, and it just p****s me off. I’m not yelling at you, Dave, but it’s just f******g ridiculous, and they should be ashamed. It’s embarrassing.”
The profanity? Calculated, is the guess here. Calculated to drive the point home: Ala Gen. George Patton when he said, “When I want my men to remember something important, to really make it stick, I give it to them double dirty.”
Here’s hoping it sticks.
OK, this is NASCAR. It’s rebels and outlaws and moonshiners even though not really anymore. It’s 16-ounce tall boys and trading paint and having at it and little kids giving the finger as their parents laugh hysterically. Yes, we get all that.
And, yes, we remember Daytona in 1979 and what happened on the back stretch and what that meant to the sport.
And hey, were all talking about it, writing about it and YouTubing the bejeezus out of it this morning.
But for the best among us, there are those invisible lines.
The ones Keselowski sees 20/20.
“The retaliation is out of control in this sport,” he said. “We’ve got a bunch of drivers that feel like they have to retaliate or they’re being challenged as a man, and that’s ridiculous. It’s not what this sport needs. I don’t think it’s good for anybody, and it’s going to get somebody hurt.
“You know, I’ve said before we walk a line between chess players and daredevils, and we’re not walking it very well. I don’t know why that is.
“That’s not what this sport needs. It needs hard racing, it needs people that go for broke, try to win races and put it all out there on the line, not a bunch of people that have anger issues. That’s not good for anybody, and it really hurt my feelings to be a part of a Chase race for the championship and have that jeopardized from people that can’t keep control of their emotions.
Sunday may have been a memorable day for NASCAR. But for true racers, it was not a beautiful day.
And Brad Keselowski knows the difference. He knows the difference between a party and a riot. And that is a championship quality.
– Jim Pedley can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org Comments