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Monday, August 27, 2012

War of words between Brad Keselowski, Hendrick Motorsports could lead to some great on-track battles; Danica Patrick has decent weekend at Bristol

You know how it’s strange and sometimes uncomfortable to watch someone talking about someone else in a seemingly negative way when that other person is in the same room and is right next to them?
That’s the scene that I witnessed a week and a half ago at MIS, when this whole mess of Brad Keselowski vs. Hendrick Motorsports began.

For those of you who missed this whole bit, let me recap it for you. Brad Keselowski (former Hendrick driver) and Kasey Kahne (current Hendrick driver) were sitting in the MIS media room after the race ended when Brad said the following quotes:
“There are big discrepancies in the cars. There are certain parts and pieces on cars that are making them quite a bit different to where we're seeing different paces throughout the field. There are probably half-a-dozen to a dozen cars drastically faster than the rest. That's disrupted the parity and created a lot of side by side action. That's maybe good or maybe bad, depending on who you are.
“There are parts and pieces that move after inspection, [making] them more competitive. Some guys have them, some don't. There's a question to the interpretation of the rule. We err on the safe side because we don't want the big penalty. Obviously, there's a question to the interpretation that [certain rear-ends] are legal right now. As a group, we haven't felt comfortable enough to risk our name and reputation over those parts and pieces. Others have, which is their prerogative. I'm not going to slam them for it.
“But it's a gray area and Roger Penske doesn't do that. There's certainly some performance we've lost. I shouldn't say lost…we haven't gained because we choose not to go [into the gray areas]. That's something we have to evaluate every week. We have to make a reevaluation to decide if that's the right way to go. Certainly, that's part of the speed discrepancy. Some teams haven't figured out how to make it work and some don't feel comfortable risking the piggybank.”

The whole time, Kasey Kahne just kid of sat there staring in the other direction, and was no doubt not too happy to hear the guy next to him insinuating his team might be bending the rules.

Brad, later on, clarified that he never meant to say anyone was cheating, and was just pointing out that different teams took different approaches. He did not like the way some media spun it into accusing him of saying that the Hendrick team was cheating. True, he didn’t specifically say this, but the implication was there that this kind of equipment was on the borderline of cheating, so I won’t blame the media too much on this.

In the week after these comments were made, those parts that he was referring to were determined to be legal by NASCAR, so I’d bet Penske will jump on board with Hendrick and others and use them if it helps get some speed at certain tracks.

But in the meantime, there was offense taken by Hendrick to Brad’s comments.
Dale Earnhardt Jr., who basically discovered Brad and gave him a ride that propelled him to stardom, was not too happy with his former Nationwide Series driver and protege.
Jr. had this snippy comment to say at Bristol about Brad’s speech the week prior.
“I do know Brad pretty well. Brad is a really good guy. He has a pretty good heart. He is a really great race car driver and I wish he would concentrate on that. I think he likes to talk a lot, but I think his true skills shine on the race track not really behind the microphone.”
Basically, shut up and drive. (Note: Anytime someone starts by saying “I really like so-and-so,” you know an insult is coming next).

Jeff Gordon was a little nicer about it, but equally defensive of Hendrick’s team.
“I’ve said this all year long. Our guys work hard; and they’re smart. And our cars have been through NASCAR tech more than anybody’s this year. And each time we come out of there without an issue. So I say, one. You need to ride behind your own car before you talk about other people’s cars because his car looks his car looks just like every other car, in my opinion. The other one is just go to work, you know? Our guys are working hard. That’s why we’re where we’re at and we’ve got some good stuff happening.”

My take on all this: I like seeing this kind of intensity between the drivers. Whether he said they were cheating or not, the Hendrick guys aren’t happy with the way Brad was talking, and will no doubt have that much more of a desire to finish ahead of him.
And on Brad’s end, he is doing a stellar job at a Penske team that nobody expected to compete for a title when he went there, and the fact that he can run toe-to-toe with guys like Jimmie Johnson is a great accomplishment, and has to be very personally satisfying to Brad considering that Jr. Motorsports and later Hendrick Motorsports were his first big stepping stones in the sport.

It all adds up to more drama, and drama is what this sport needs. The fact that these wars of words continue to happen is a great predecessor for some possibly very cool endings to the year in the Chase.

Imagine it now: Brad Keselowski and Jimmie Johnson battling side-by-side down to the last lap at Homestead; whoever finishes in front of the other gets the title.
With talk like this between the teams already, that battle, should it happen, would be even more interesting to watch for many reasons.

So keep on talking Brad, and keep on talking Hendrick drivers. The fans enjoy it, and I hope it translates into some great battles on the track, too.

Danica has decent weekend at Bristol
When Tony Stewart decided to bring Danica Patrick to Bristol this past weekend, many folks thought she wouldn’t do so hot. At first, they looked to be right, as her practice and qualifying were terrible. But she ended up soldiering on to a solid 9th place run in Nationwide, and then she was on the lead lap in the Cup race after more than 400 laps of the race had been run, an amazing feat considering
In line with her recent run of luck, she later got spun by Regan Smith and finished poorly, but I must recognize you have to have a pretty good bit of talent to be running on the lead lap at that point of Bristol race; It’s a short track and even the best get lapped sometimes.
So the grade for Danica’s Bristol weekend is pretty high. She did a lot better than and most others thought she would do. She’s got a long string of Cup races coming up now; so we’ll see if her positive momentum from Bristol can carry forward.

She said she did take some mental notes about how certain people raced her Saturday at Bristol.
“It was just a bummer because I really felt like the GoDaddy car was going to get a solid, maybe a top 20 finish and on the lead lap. And that wouldn’t have been something that I thought would happen tonight. The team did a great job and everything was running really smoothly. So it’s a shame that we lost that. But you know, Bristol is a place where you find out who’s playing fair and who’s not.”

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