Mr. Unpopular: How bad has Brad ticked off his peers?
MAY 10, 2014 10:00a ET
Brad Keselowski didn't make any friends last Sunday at Talladega Superspeedway, where he triggered a 14-car crash on Lap 137 that took out some of the biggest names in the sport. Worse yet, the incident happened while Keselowski was six laps down because of earlier contact he was involved in.
Friday at Kansas Speedway, where Keselowski qualified his Team Penske Ford on the inside of Row 2 for Saturday night's 5-Hour Energy 400, the 2012 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion had a message for his fellow drivers: Get over your bad selves.
"I feel like people know something I don't know," Keselowski told reporters. "I got in a wreck at a plate track and I caused it. Like I am the first one to ever do that or something. Wrecking is never fun but it happens and that is just part of racing. Anyone that doesn't see it that way, obviously has a set of biases that they can't make a rational judgment, so I don't worry about their criticism."
Earlier in the day, Jimmie Johnson, one of the drivers caught in the big wreck, suggested that Keselowski maybe shouldn't have been as aggressive as he was, given where he was running at the time.
"There is an opinion, you are on the racetrack (so) you deserve a right to go race regardless how many laps down you are," said Johnson. "I'm sure that is probably a smaller percentage of people that have that opinion. It's very easy when you are caught up in that wreck to go, 'Why were you racing? You are six laps down.'"
Johnson admitted the perception of Keselowski's move is a matter of one's vantage point.
"If you are a No. 2 fan or Brad, you are probably over here," said Johnson. "If you are one of the drivers (from) the fan base that was caught up in the wreck, you are probably in the majority in thinking it wasn't right to race then. Six laps down, me personally I would have just been riding and tried to save our race car from getting torn up. Just sit there at the back of the pack."
Keselowski, not surprisingly, dismissed Johnson's comments.
"My answer would be that that is his right," Keselowski said when told Johnson said he would ride out back. "We are all hold the steering wheel and there are 43 of us and we all hold it differently and make different decisions."
Then, Keselowski defended his move.
"If we would have gotten back in sequence, we could have had a shot at winning the race with three or four yellows," he said. "I wasn't ready to give up. I don't feel like my team gave up on me, and it is my job to not give up on them."
This isn't the first time Keselowski and Johnson have had differences of opinion. Keselowski beat Johnson for the 2012 championship and last year suggested that the way to defeat Johnson was to race him hard, which Keselowski said Johnson did not like. Those comments clearly rankled Johnson, who went on to win his sixth championship in 2013.
Chances are, we haven't heard the end of this yet, which ought to make the racing even more interesting as the year continues.