Gibbs Takes Big Swing At Keselowski, Remarks
By Jim Pedley | Managing Editor
Sometimes – in racing and in life in general – success is the result of hard work and the creative application of intellect and experience. Sometimes it’s the result of thievery.
Brad Keselowski clearly thinks that it is a bit of the latter which has been holding back him and his team this season.
The defending Cup champion on Thursday told reporters that he believes that the Chevy operation of Hendrick Motorsports and the Toyota operation of Joe Gibbs Racing have each been able to put their drivers ahead of him and his Penske Racing team by “poaching” employees and data.
Hendrick and Gibbs, he told reporters, “Have this nasty little habit of going to other teams and outbidding other people and taking those employees and stealing our information.”
Late Friday afternoon, Joe Gibbs fired back. His words to the free-speaking driver translated to: Shut the hell up.
“We were surprised to read the recent comments and accusations made by Brad Keselowski,” Gibbs said in a statement. “Clearly those comments are misguided and irresponsible. Brad’s candor is well documented, but he would do well to only speak to subjects on which he is properly informed.
“Obviously NASCAR is a very competitive environment and we take our hiring processes seriously at JGR. The individual he referenced in his comments was working outside of the sport of NASCAR at the time we hired him.
“We have a great deal of respect for Roger Penske and his organization and I feel like I have always had a good personal relationship with Roger. We look forward to competing with Brad on the racetrack, but hope that he will use better judgment in the future before making such misinformed claims and accusations.”
Keselowski made his comments during a visit to Ford Motor Company’s Dearborn plant in Michigan.
His point revolves around the fact that heading into Sunday’s Quicken Loans 400 at Michigan International Speedway, Chevrolet has won seven times in 2013, Toyota five times and Ford just twice. Keselowski is ninth in points and still looking for his first victory of the season. That is, he is yet to win in a Ford.
Keselowski, getting specific, claimed that Joe Gibbs Racing hired away a key aerodynamicist from Ford’s Roush Fenway team. And, Keselowski, a Michigan native, said, Hendrick raided Penske for three members of its Cup-winning team of a year ago.
On Friday, other drivers were asked about the poaching of key employees in NASCAR. Not all that surprisingly, their concern about the subject seemed to rise and fall depending on which brand of car they raced.
Ford driver Greg Biffle of Roush Fenway Racing said yes, poaching people and ideas happens and it may be hurting his team.
“I know about that,” he said. “Sometimes you can leapfrog your learning curve by hiring somebody that already knows or may have more information. A lot of times that will jumpstart you on whatever you’re working on. It doesn’t matter whether it’s racing or something else, so that’s cost us a little bit.”
Hendrick’s Jimmie Johnson, the season points leader, was asked if had heard Keselowski’s remarks. Sure did, he said.
“From a crew member standpoint,” the five-time champion said, “we do have a mechanic that came over from Roush last year. The real speed in any race car is within the engineers and the crew chiefs. So, I don’t find a lot of merit in that. I think we picked a guy up from Dodge who is on our engineering staff, but he wasn’t all that close within the race team. I’m not saying that he (Keselowski) doesn’t have a point, but I’m not sure that we benefitted greatly from those situations.”
Then there was Gibbs, whose candor matched Keselowski’s on Friday.
The poaching of employees has always been a part of doing business. And, by definition, professional sports are businesses. None are more business-oriented than auto racing, which mixes sport and marketing as a way of life. Teams hire vertically and horizontally.
For sure, it’s aggravating. And expensive. Teams spend millions on people and their ideas. Along comes a team which can offer more, and off go the employees and their intellectual and mechanical property.
But, as in all businesses, there are always going to be team members who want to better their own personal situations. And when they switch teams, they bring their talents with them.
Keselowski knows that. And, having dealt with him a bit, the belief here is that his remarks were made for effect. They sure had the effect of enraging Gibbs and, probably, Rick Hendrick and his team.
– Jim Pedley can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org Comments