Kickin' It With Keselowski (cont.)
Okay, let's stop here for a second. Millions of casual fans, when they think of you, they think of the flip you caused Carl last year at Talladega, or maybe last November at Homestead, where you got spun out by Denny Hamlin down the straightaway. What makes each situation different, and Carl's situation the most severe in your eyes?
The only similarity between Talladega and Atlanta was the end result of the car going airborne. Anything other than that is not even the same race, so to speak. What makes Talladega and Atlanta different is intent. At Talladega, we were racing hard for position [for the win] and we both didn't give an inch. Nobody intended to wreck the other guy. I didn't intend to wreck Carl, and if the roles were reversed, I don't think he would have intended to wreck me.
It was just the way it worked out. Even though it was a brutal hit, and I really felt bad for him as the moment was unraveling, there was, in my mind, nothing I could do to prevent it without being forced down below the yellow line. Which was Carl's decision ... So in my mind, I was in a box and that was just it. But there was no box for Carl at Atlanta, and if there was, it was a box he made and put himself in. So that makes a big difference in my mind.
As far as Denny at Homestead, to be honest, the more time I had to think about it, the better I feel about that situation. I felt like I went over the line at Phoenix. It seemed to be an eye-for-an-eye, and he had a right to be angry and do what he did. There was a big difference in speed -- 140 miles an hour versus 65 at Phoenix -- but I can still understand his movement because what I'd done to him at Phoenix was not a cool thing to do.
The difference between Denny and Atlanta is, quite honestly, this was Carl's fault. When there are two parties involved in a racing incident, there's almost always blame to be shared between the two. It's just a question of how much. Whether it was 10 percent, 20 percent, 30 percent depends how you look at racing ... but I certainly didn't carry the majority of the blame, so I didn't think it was nearly similar to the other incidents.
There's supposedly an unwritten code amongst drivers not to spin guys on the straightaway. Were you surprised someone was trying to break that code on the front stretch?
It's worrisome for me and the sport in general. I don't think that's what the sport needs. I agree that it needs action, but it does not need intentional wrecking. That's not action. That's wrestling.
True, unpredictable action is what makes the race exciting. Unpremeditated stuff; when you're racing side-by-side, the guy slips up, then makes contact. Accidents happen ... that's racing, what our true fans really enjoy, what our hardcore fans enjoy, and what will keep the sport successful and popular.
But intentional wrecking is like school bus figure-eight racing. It'll get the big crowd, but it won't last. It's not sustainable. That's not going to work to keep the sport at the top level it's trying to be at. And eventually, the end consequences will be either a fatality and/or the involvement of the law or the judicial system.
Let me ask you a Devil's Advocate question here. People have said if you want to "pay someone back," pay them back at a short track -- where the speeds are lower. But can't you seriously injure someone no matter how you pay them back?
There's always risk, and there's different ways. The perfect example of that would be Greg Biffle and what he did to Joey Logano at the Nationwide Series race at California last year. All he did was brush him up against the wall. Didn't ruin the guys' day. He came back and won the race, but he got his message across.
At Atlanta, Carl did get revenge on me the first attempt he made to wreck me, because I lost contact and a few positions. That's revenge -- that's payback right there. But that wasn't enough for him. He felt justified for more than that.
Let's just say there's different ways of payback to where you don't ever have to do what Carl did to send your message across. There's no reason, ever, to do what he did. And I'm not saying that just because it was me. I'm saying that because that's the truth. There are so many other ways to do things that don't endanger the other drivers, the fans, or the credibility of the sport.
Have you been able to put yourself in his shoes?
Oh, absolutely... as soon as I got out of the car and saw that video. That's why I wanted to see the video of the first wreck, because I wanted to put myself in his shoes. To truly understand why he was angry ... and when I did, I found absolutely no justification for it.
I've been spending a lot of time with my dad lately, and my dad is one of those guys that's the first person to criticize me. So I saw him last night when I got back from testing in Texas and he tells me, "You know, don't take this the wrong way, but I really didn't have any problem with Carl wrecking you." And I'm like, "OK, thanks, Dad. I appreciate that."
And he said, "No. What I'm trying to say is, intentional wrecking, sometimes it has a place. But what I really had a problem with is that you really didn't do anything to deserve to be intentionally wrecked." At that point, it was kind of like a validation in my mind, if my dad can look me square in the eye and say that ... I know it's true. Because he will call a spade a spade. And he's like, "You didn't even do anything wrong in the first wreck for him to be mad at you, period."
On Sunday, you were very outspoken that Carl needed to be suspended one race, but a few days later you came out supporting NASCAR's stance in an official statement. What made you change your mind?
Well, it's important not to cut down the sport. The fact that NASCAR chose the consequences that they did is their right, and I support them in their decision. They have to have support for this sport to be successful, and that's what made me change my mind.
It's almost like you have a debate on Capitol Hill over a bill. It may not go your way, but in the end you're going to support the decision. That's a perfect way of putting it. You're not going to say, "Well, I'm moving out of this country and to Canada." You're not going to get everything you want all the time.
When you were in Texas the past couple of days, debate about this wreck just took off. Were you at least a little surprised at how this became a national story?
I didn't have any expectations, to be honest. I didn't think to myself, "Well, I better make the highlight reels for that one!" But I can understand the public's curiosity over the fact that I don't think anybody outside of racing sees it the way the racing circle itself sees it as just another incident. I think other people look at it and see something that is flat out against the law. It's an intentional act that, quite honestly, if the judicial system wanted to get involved, could probably prosecute. You look at similar instances in other sports, such as hockey or in football where we've seen the play end and someone does something to injure another player. And we've seen those people be penalized. In hockey, I think we've seen a guy who's cross-checked somebody out of nowhere, injured them, and had to go through the court system for it.
Those aren't just acts of sport. Those are criminal acts. So I can see how it can go bad for the sport. I've also heard it both ways. I've heard the story of, "Well, if Brad's car hadn't gone airborne, we wouldn't even be talking about it." And the bottom line is it did go airborne and that's why we are talking about it. But let's carry that the other direction. What if I went through the catchfence and killed three people? Or 20 people, or one person...who cares what the number is? Not only would we have 10,000 safety guidelines, I think Carl would be in jail right now. And I'm not just talking about being hurt as a driver. I'm talking about someone in the stands. For a fan in the stands, let's say there was a 3-year-old or 8-year-old kid that got hurt. He didn't sign up for that.
I know you're not out there to make friends. But Juan Pablo Montoya said after your wreck that there were a lot of drivers that would have loved to pay you back. How do you feel about that, or do you even feel anything about the fact there have been a lot of drivers that have taken this opportunity to say you needed to be taught a lesson? Does that motivate you, bother you? How are you going to change from this incident?
Most drivers that have said things like that have some kind of hidden motivation, so I really don't put a lot of thought into it. Some of them, like Juan, just like to hear themselves talk and get on TV. Whether or not they say anything that's credible is not a concern. He wants attention. So I don't really put a lot of weight into what those drivers say because I don't think there's a lot of credibility there.
Then there are some drivers who play it as a game, where they're trying to tear your house down to make their house stronger. Which means if they can distract you or discredit you and get you thinking about things you shouldn't be worried about, hopefully you won't be worrying about things you should be worrying about, which is making your cars faster and working with your team.
Do you feel like you need to change?
Heck, no. I think the exact opposite. I think it's important ...when I sit down and talk to Carl, and I'm sure he's probably going to read this or someone will read it to him or whatever, I'm going to tell him the basics are that I plan on retaliating against him. But my retaliation against him is to do absolutely nothing differently. What that means is, to go out and to wreck him is just vindication for what he's done. It's vindication for everything he's done that has attracted all this negativity. It just completely erases that, and shows a distraction on my end instead of the main focus of going out there and winning races. If I'm worried about wrecking Carl Edwards, I'm not worried about winning the race.
At the same time, to buckle and say, "You know what, I'm not going to race as aggressively the next five races" is to let his bullying work. What he did was a bully maneuver, because at the end of the day what I did at Atlanta was not wrong. It's a bully maneuver for him to be able to beat his chest and say, "Hey, I got wrecked at Atlanta. I paid him back! That kid's going to learn a lesson."
So I won't let that change me. Look, Carl Edwards made a gutsy move. I'll give him credit for that. He risked his own career, his team's equipment, his team's morale, his complete fan base, his credibility ... so many things, all out of retaliation against me. That's a hell of a risk. So the best way for me to retaliate against his retaliation is to show that everything he risked gained him nothing. Because the mere fact I lost 20 or whatever spots I lost, doesn't do anything for him. He gets nothing out of it, his team gets nothing. They might get a chuckle or a laugh, but that's not going to make their sponsors happy. They're not going to get a championship ring, they're not going to get a trophy. So he risked all those things for a cheap thrill that might last one or two days. And race car drivers -- they figure that out pretty quickly. They figure out what they've gained and what they've lost. And by showing that he's gained nothing, because I'm not going to race any differently, the message will come across to him and others that wrecking me intentionally won't work. They're risking a lot with very little-to-no reward.
So, it's very important to me that I make no change at all. That's my plan going forward. If the same move happened tomorrow, if we ran Texas next week and he restarts on the outside of me, I'm not going to do anything differently.
Email Tom at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter at NASCARBowles.