Brad Keselowski says he never accused Hendrick Motorsports or any specific team of cheating.
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Not after his second-place finish in Sunday’s NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Michigan Speedway or since has the driver narrowed in on one organization.
Keselowski , who once appeared to be on the Hendrick Motorsports fast track, insists he simply made general “observations” after the race that “there’s big discrepancies in the cars now.”
However, he never called out the Hendrick drivers by name.
“There’s certain parts and pieces on the cars that are making them quite a bit different to where we’re seeing different paces throughout the field,” Keselowski said Sunday. “I think there’s probably half a dozen to a dozen cars that are drastically faster than the rest of the field.
“That’s disrupted the parity, created a lot of side-by-side action that is maybe good, maybe bad, depends on who you are.”
Ironically, at one point during Keselowski’s “observations” third-place finisher Kasey Kahne, who was seated next to him, scratched his cheek with his middle finger. Perhaps Kahne was simply implying that Keselowski was No. 1 or maybe he just had an itch.
As of Thursday night, Keselowski had not seen the replay of the news conference to respond. But the other Hendrick Motorsports drivers had plenty to say about Keselowski.
“He likes to talk a lot and he says a lot of things,” Jimmie Johnson said. “I don’t know what his strategy is. Honestly, I’m not all that concerned. He is a very strong driver (with) a very strong team; and one of 12 that will be in the Chase that we’ll need to worry about.
“There has been a lot of discussion during the week, and it’s certainly coming from his postrace interviews. Everybody is entitled to an opinion, but I think you need to have your facts straight and understand what’s going on.”
Johnson insists the No. 48 Chevrolet has been through NASCAR’s technical inspection “multiple times and there’s nothing out of line taking place.” Johnson turned the tables and complimented Keselowski and the No. 2 Penske Racing crew for doing “a great job” with pit strategy at Michigan and their recent success with fuel mileage. But Johnson’s focus simply isn’t on Keselowski.
“The Chase is going to be very interesting,” Johnson said. “I think the fans are going to have a very interesting 10 weeks. There are going to be 12 very capable teams going into that championship (run), and I’m worried about all of them.”
Dale Earnhardt Jr., who offered Keselowski his big break in NASCAR when he offered him a Nationwide Series ride at JR Motorsports, believes Keselowski is “a really good guy” and has “a pretty good heart.” But Junior says Keselowski’s focus should be on his behind-the-wheel responsibilities and not garage politics.
“He is a really great race car driver, and I wish he would concentrate on that,” Earnhardt said. “I think he likes to talk a lot, but I think his true skills shine on the racetrack, not really behind the microphone.”
Keselowski insists that his initial remarks Sunday were taken out of context. He believes “there’s a misconception in the stock car community that since we drive stock cars, they’re all the same.” And if an organization introduces something different in the garage, there is then the perception of “cheating.” While Keselowski finds the practice “baffling,” he insists his intent was describing the difference between the misconception and what his team needs to overcome its shortcomings “and make a legitimate run in the Chase.
“My team has done a great job of executing,” Keselowski said. “I don’t think there is anyone out there doing a better job than we are right now, and it’s shown in the results. I would like to have a little bit more speed and we’re (working) on that intently.
“My comments were in general an observation as to what was being seen, and I think those were turned around into an accusation of cheating. I’ve been clarifying it the best I can because I didn’t appreciate how those words were twisted into calling out specific teams. In fact I made it a point to not call out specific teams.
“I don’t think there’s anyone out there who doesn’t believe the Hendrick cars weren’t one of those groups, and I’m not trying to say that’s the case, but I respect them and their ability to do those things and be innovators. It’s our challenge to find that little bit of speed and to have a true understanding (of) all the rules (and what) that it entails in that particular department and that’s something we’re watching.”