Penalties came down yesterday from the aftermath of the Texas Chase race. Not surprisingly, none of the drivers were affected in the least.
Regardless though, with every race, it becomes more and more evident that the Penske Racing drivers are out there alone. Neither have many friends among the 43 NASCAR Sprint Cup drivers going round and round — especially the No. 2 driver, Brad Keselowski.
But with Keselowski, it’s not Texas, nor even Charlotte that lost him respect and friends in the garage. While Gordon had every right to be upset at his race being ruined at Texas, Keselowski was racing for a win with his Chase in the balance — no different than Gordon. But drivers race with a lot of raw emotion and intensity, but even more and longer memories. When a retaliation doesn’t take place the very next week, every driver knows they’re not in the clear. The back of the driver mind is filled with every wrong that’s happened on the track and it’s cumulative. Another brushing with the same driver makes the skin that much thinner when the next happens.
But with Keselowski, it’s not one driver that he’s rubbed the wrong way (quite often literally). It’s a whole slew, and drivers talk. Teammates, friends, etc. all share stories and frustrations and it’s pretty safe to say Bad Brad’s name comes up often.
He’s overly aggressive when everything on the line, and even when it’s not. Earlier this year, at the first Talladega race, six laps down, Keselowski was racing like the white flag was waving, and triggered the “Big One” of the May race. While that’s a single example, Brad K doesn’t have respect because of this. Racing the same way he did last Sunday on a green white checkered and when he’s 6 laps down leaves a bad taste in driver’s mouths, and it’s been said people will race you the way you race them. But no one is as aggressive across the board as Keselowski. Some would peg that as a commodity and a good thing, but drivers want to end the race in one piece, and there’s a fine line between aggressive and reckless. The No. 2 driver skirts the line more times than they should and the drivers don’t appreciate that.
ESPN’s Marty Smith put it best — “That fight was a cumulative occurrence. The disdain for Keselowski among his peers is as high as any I’ve experienced in 17 years in the NASCAR garage. And because of that — because of Brad’s approach and his unwillingness to back down and his propensity to verbalize that publicly — the fight happened.”
Keselowski has a ton of talent. He’s a great driver with a ton of skill. But there’s a social element to racing — just like most jobs. Being good at your job is the biggest part, but being able to respect and be respected is a crucial part as well to longevity. Obviously you’re not there to make friends, but having some sure can help in any given race. Politics are part of racing as much as any other job, and often Brad runs his mouth faster than his qualifying laps.
Regardless, it’s made for exciting and enjoyable races and race conclusions. I expect Phoenix and Miami-Homestead to continue that trend.