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Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Keselowski already showing signs of patience

They call it teaching a rookie a lesson.

That’s the whole point of the Carl Edwards-Brad Keselowski rivalry, and the Denny Hamlin-Brad Keselowski rivalry, and the Greg Biffle-Joey Logano rivalry, and the Kevin Harvick-Joey Logano incident at Bristol … etc.

The older drivers aren’t going to be pushed around by some young punk who is just out of diapers in their mind. If they don’t get their respect, the kid is getting the chrome horn.

The most extreme example of this was Brad’s airborne flight at Atlanta, and after watching him race this past weekend at Bristol, I’d say he’s starting to understand the big picture better.

Brad had two solid races at Bristol, and didn’t put anyone in the wall. When racing for the win against teammate Justin Allgaier in the Nationwide race, he didn’t get too physical and the two waged a great battle for many laps. I recognize it was his teammate, but I don’t he would have smashed into his competitor even if it had been a non-teammate. Also, on Sunday, he raced side-by-side real peacefully with Carl Edwards for several laps, and didn’t have any incidents with any other drivers.

There’s two reasons for this. First of all, he is fresh off a long talk with NASCAR about the Edwards incident. Far too many people already see him as a wreck waiting to happen, and he doesn’t want to further that impression or his competitors won’t want to work with him on the track.

Second, he is starting to think big picture. While his Chase hopes are slim in Cup, he can still salvage an impressive season if he keeps running like he has run the past two weeks. A bunch of wrecks won’t help him stay up in the points. Also, in Nationwide, he is contending for a title, and there is no need to be overly aggressive and tear up race cars. It’s hard to win championships that way.

It’s a fine line. Keselowski (whose intro song at Bristol was “I Won’t Back Down”) can’t be seen as bowing to his elders, doing whatever they say. And he won’t.
But I believe he’s starting to realize that someone new to the sport like him has to be careful what he does depending on which driver he is battling. These unwritten rules about veterans and rookies may or may not be fair, but it’s the code drivers live by.

Keselowski is smart, and I believe he knows that while he should still be aggressive (all winning drivers are aggressive), there are times when it’s not necessary to make a move that might end up tearing up a couple race cars and bruising some egos.

And if you’ve got talent like Keselowski does, you don’t need to wreck cars to win. You can just drive to the front and do it clean.


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April 13, 2010 at 7:15 AM 

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