Defending Sprint Cup champion Brad Keselowski was defending himself on Twitter following his post-qualifying comments that NASCAR’s new baseline test to aid in its concussion management program “would not be a positive for this sport.”
“So yes, on the fence about concussion testing. In case u were wondering. Will wait & see how @NASCAR handles it before forming full opinion … What I can promise those who think I’m uninformed about the topic- I research my health every day, it’s my job, passion, career and life. … I believe that self responsibility more often then not serves the common good for man kind. My health= my responsibility …
"Everyday we set foot in a race car as race car drivers we take a risk. I choose not to run from it, or look for excuses not to participate. … How do we quantify concussion risks? That’s the question being asked of the medical field across all sports. Striping all selfresponsibility … Concussions in all sports are real and they are a serious problems requiring serious solutions. The medical field can always be beneficial. … Today, the medical field struggles to fully diagnose concussions. The full proof science doesn’t exist for mild cases. Who decides then? …
"Concussion testing is not a bad thing, I commend those who have proceeded down that route under the guise of self responsibility. … I feel if we really care about concussions as an industry, we have several other key steps that far out reach monitoring and diagnosing.”
After his qualifying run, Keselowski opined, “Doctors don’t understand our sport. They never have, and they never will. Doctors aren’t risk-takers. We are. That’s what makes our sport what it is, and when you get doctors involved, you water down our sport. I’m trying to be open-minded to the possibility that they can help us, but past experience says no.”
The concussion issue was just one of the topics in NASCAR’S Thursday competition meeting that piqued the curiosity of the 29-year-old driver, who reportedly was outspoken throughout.
In the Penske Racing transporter prior to qualifying, Keselowski questioned whether a throwback driver could exist in modern stock-car racing and whether freedom of speech was possible in corporate-controlled NASCAR.
He addressed testing, costs and some of the suggested changes to the Generation 6 cars for 2014. And although he disagrees with the proposed program for baseline testing for concussions, the defending champ insisted he will keep an open mind.
“My initial take was there was an attempt at an open dialogue between NASCAR and the teams — teams, drivers, et cetera — about how to improve in a number of ways for the future,” Keselowski told FOX Sports.
“Some were more specific to the driver health/concussions topic, then mostly dedicated to 2014, the car and some procedural rules. Good stuff, but dialogue is never a bad thing.
“There’s a lot of real smart people in the industry, and they’re all in their own little groups in the sport. We’re at our best when we can all collaborate, which always doesn’t happen. That’s why these meetings are important. It gives us a chance to create a breeding ground for collaboration.
“When NASCAR comes up with ideas of how to make the sport better — whether it’s for the fans, sponsors, TV, whoever — the stakeholders, which is all of those, sometimes it’s hard for them to be able see all the things we might do to maybe compromise those for our own self-interest. (That) is our job — our job is to serve our own self-interest.”
Because Keselowski “is not a big fan of the medical community in general” he admits his viewpoint is biased. He doesn’t consider neurocognitive baseline testing for the diagnosis of concussions the right solution because he believes it’s possible for competitors to game the system.
“For those reasons, I’m not particularly supportive at this time, but that could change with some time and experience,” he said. “I have not undertook ImPACT testing (Immediate Post-concussion Assessment and Cognitive Test). I feel like if you have a concussion — if you’re going to go through the steps of denial, maybe not denial but going through the steps to be able to drive the car — you’re going to be able to hide it in those tests. I’m quite confident of that.”
Although Keselowski participated in the 2014 Sprint Cup rules package test Oct. 14 at Charlotte, he believes it’s premature to critique the proposed alterations until the Dec. 9 second test. What bothers Keselowski, however, is how late in the game it is to be making changes for next year.
“It’s early in the development process for what they’re trying to do, but it’s late in the year to be working on it,” he said. “I think that’s the most concerning to me as it stands. I don’t feel like we really hit any home runs in that test.
“But to be honest, not every test is going to produce something big. Sometimes what’s important is to eliminate things, and we did eliminate a lot of things that I think we all had questions about, specifically NASCAR did, which was good. But it wasn’t the (magic) bullet we were looking for. With more testing still to go, it’s a little too early to say we’re there or we’re not there, but I think we all agree that we still have work to do.”
Given that Keselowski clearly is a prolific tweeter, he was perfect candidate to address the difference between political correctness and the sanctioning body’s censorship of drivers when it comes to social media. NASCAR warned competitors Thursday to be judicious when it comes to Twitter.
On Friday, a fan asked Keselowski just how genuine drivers are allowed to be.
“When I was getting into the car someone stopped me, and they asked me about freedom of speech and when it got removed,” Keselowski said. “I’m really into the constitution, but it’s a bigger piece than that. Society has zero tolerance for any comment that supports bigotry or hate.
“In a sport that relies so heavily on corporate funding and universal appeal across the board, it’s how this business works. Without that corporate sponsorship, we’re nothing. That’s the unfortunate part of this.”
As a truck-team owner and a Cup driver whose primary sponsorship was downsized from a full season to 24 races in 2014, Keselowski is well aware of the rising costs in the sport and the significance of benefactors.
“It costs so much money to run these cars — so much money, and we rely on corporate sponsorship,” he said. “I don’t know any fan that’s willing to pay what it costs to fund these cars — $150 to $200 for pay-per-view to watch our races — or that are willing to spend a couple of hundred dollars to sit in the grandstands. If you add up the amount of money we spend on a weekend, quite frankly, that’s what it would cost without sponsorship, which creates the model that we have.
“For the fans to be able to enjoy the sport at the price point they do is a direct reflection of the level of sponsorship in the sport. That’s going to create scenarios where we have compromises. And one of those compromises as a driver is that you know when you put on your firesuit today is that you give up your right freedom of free speech. You give up your right to do things that are harmful to corporate America. That’s just part of being a modern race-car driver.”
For those reasons, Keselowski insists the days are gone when drivers such as David Pearson, Darrell Waltrip or Rusty Wallace could speak their minds without repercussions. And though Keselowski still believes he is among the more vocal drivers, his internal governor works overtime.
“I make it a point to be outspoken — on the edge — but never crossing the edge of corporate America,” he said.
“It’s an evolving target, and it seems to be constricting smaller and smaller, especially in the last few years with everything that’s going on in the world. And I see no change in it in the future. That’s why it’s so dangerous to have a sport that’s so reliant on (sponsorship), but that’s where we’re at.”