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Keselowski Knows Who Buttered His Bread

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Wednesday, January 24 2018

Brad Keselowski says he owes everything to the people who built the sport.
(RacinToday/HHP file photo by Andrew Coppley)

CHARLOTTE, N.C. – NASCAR champion Brad Keselowski believes his job entails more than winning races and representing his sponsors, it’s also important for him to promote the sport so it’s there for future generations.

“I am eating the fruits off a tree produced by generations before me; by Richard Petty, Dale Earnhardt, Cale Yarborough, Darrell Waltrip and the list goes on,” Keselowski said Wednesday during the NASCAR Media Tour hosted by Charlotte Motor Speedway. “I am living off of what they have created in this sport that is so successful.

“In return for that, there is a question I think that isn’t just for me and not just for race car drivers, but for all of us on what we are leaving behind for the next generation. The reality is that what I do today to promote the sport most likely makes very little difference in this time span and this era. What we all do to promote our sport makes a huge difference for decades beyond that.

“Dale and Richard and all those guys left a hell of a legacy that I am not so sure any of us will be able to fulfill for the next generation. But I do feel an obligation to replant the seeds to grow the next orchard that the next generation will eat off of.”

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A.J. Allmendinger knows that one day he will have to put his NASCAR career on the shelf and that’s probably when he will turn to IMSA.

I love what IMSA is doing,” Allmendinger said. “There’s going to be 20 brand new Prototypes, there’s 21 or 22 cars in the Prototype class, which is bigger than any other Prototype class in the world. The GT class and our class, there’s 21 or 22 cars as well. It’s such a competitive field. I think the top 15 at the test were separated by 7 or 8 tenths. There’s so many different manufacturers in there now.”

Allmendinger is competing in this year’s IMSA season opener Rolex 24 for Michael Shank Racing in the GTD class. He left for Daytona after completing his obligations at the NASCAR Media Tour hosted by Charlotte Motor Speedway.

“I’ve always run the Prototype class,” said Allmendinger, who will drive an Acura NSX. “They won two races last year so the car’s got a lot of speed in it. But it’s a different way of racing. Being a Prototype, you’re the aggressor. You’re the one making the moves. With the GT cars there’s a challenge to allowing cars to get around you and not losing a lot of time.”

Allmendinger said the car’s anti-lock braking system was different than anything he had ever driven and it took him a while to learn it.

“I can’t say I’ve really got a full understanding of it yet,” Allmendinger said.

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Chase Elliott admits he would like to receive the National Motorsports Press Association’s Most Popular Driver Award, an honor his father received a record 16 times, but he’s quick to note that the sport isn’t about just one person.

“I think that the sport is a sport because there’s a lot of different names and faces that make for it,” Elliott said. “There’s guys that people like and there’s guys that people don’t like.  That’s what makes the sport, not just one person that everybody likes. As much as you may think, not everybody liked Dale (Earnhardt Jr.).  That’s just the facts.  The majority did.  But a lot of other people have other drivers, too.”

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Which is more difficult, running in a marathon or competing in the Coca-Cola 600? Actually, Jamie McMurray says they are relatable. They are both hard, but a different kind of hard.

“The thing that is hard about the Coke 600 is the length of it and the heat. It’s so hot that time of year,” McMurray said. “The thing about a marathon, you never get a break. I guess you can have all the breaks you want, but you obviously run the whole time. Huge fatigue in your legs. I got to mile 22-23 and it felt like I was running in snow. Just heavy feet. Hard to keep moving. My heart rate never got high, but it is interesting. There are a lot of things that correlate. The mental breakdown that happens in a race when you get hot or tired is very similar to what happens in a marathon.”

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When it comes to hobbies, two-time NASCAR Camping World Truck Series champion Matt Crafton has one – his dirt modified.

We’re actually building cars in-house now,” Crafton says. “Elite Chassis moved into my shop.”

Crafton plans to race at Volusia (Fla.) Speedway next month and probably 10 other different dirt events throughout the year, including Eldora. However, there is only one race on his bucket list – the Chili Bowl.

“When somebody has a ride open, I’ll definitely be there,” Crafton said.

Crafton isn’t the only driver in a NASCAR national touring series with a love affair for dirt tracks. Clint Bowyer’s hobby resides in the Lucas Oil Late Model Series, which he enjoys during the off-season.

I was polishing the side of the hauler yesterday (Monday),” Bowyer said Tuesday. “All the tires came for speedweeks. There is literally a semi-load of tires to be mounted. They are going testing in Brunswick for the first race of the year.

“That is ultra-competitive and it has really become even more so as the engineering and everything has crept in just like this sport. I am at the shop and I enjoy that during the week, working on those cars. When you are a racer, you can’t get away from it. If it is the off-season and there is a hot-rod sitting there, you are going to be working on it.”

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During the off-season it’s not unusual for some drivers to move away from the Charlotte, N.C., area so they can put racing’s daily grind on the back burner. Jimmie Johnson heads to Colorado for skiing and high altitude training. Kurt Busch turns his attention to Florida where he focuses on training and supporting his wife’s polo team.

“I work out twice as hard down there,” Busch said. “I have one of those altitude masks that help raise the altitude level. At sea level, the air is really good down there, but as soon as you get the season started and go to Atlanta, that isn’t too bad, but Vegas and Phoenix are high altitude and dry dirty air out west. That is why I like Florida and like to train down there.”

| Senior Writer, RacinToday.com Wednesday, January 24 2018
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