Kickin' It With Brad Keselowski
The Kevin Harvick/Joey Logano feud is great for the sport since it draws in fans
In terms of cautions, it's a delicate balance between fairness and excitement
Development driver Chad Finley reminds me of a younger Kurt Busch
Brad Keselowski does a bi-weekly diary for SI.com. Heading to his home track this weekend, he takes stock of his season halfway through while tossing in his two cents on a long list of Pocono feuds. Also in this latest edition: the future of his new development driver, what you learn from testing on a non-Cup Series track, and why his favorite summer vacation spot is ... Michigan?
Go through your day at Pocono with us. Twenty-first place is almost exactly in the middle of the 43-car field, and it seemed like you were a mid-pack runner throughout.
The first part of the race, we moved backwards pretty quickly. We qualified 11th, a pretty good effort considering it was my first race at Pocono. But in the first run, we fell back, although it looked like we were about a 15th-to-20th-place car. Where we were running, we might have been able to pick up a few spots, and have a borderline top-10 car.
But in the first quarter of the race, we had suspension issues that just killed our car's handling and performance. Then, we had a lug nut problem halfway through the race to go with it. That put us two laps down. Through the "Lucky Dog," we were able to get back on the lead lap for the last run of the race, and then we just survived all the carnage and got something out of what should have been a much worse day.
When a problem like that happens, are you the type of guy who feels the need to say something to the crew to pump them up a bit? Or do you leave that type of stuff to Jay Guy?
I think the best way to show support is to just be quiet. They know what happened, they're smart. I don't think it's any mystery to them; when they have a pit stop, they know that it's a bad pit stop or if they made a mistake. They don't really need to have it put back in their face, even if you're trying to be positive. I feel like sometimes, it's just counterproductive.
So I don't do the whole pump them up thing; they're pretty good at motivating themselves.
The Kevin Harvick/Joey Logano feud has dominated the headlines this week. What are your thoughts on the incident?
I think it's great for the sport. I'm all about that; anything we can do to engage our fan base seems to be a good deal.
You're a guy who's really close to your dad; you wouldn't be in racing without him. Having that relationship, can you understand what Joey went through with his dad meddling last week?
I can sympathize. Obviously, my dad was a big part of my racing career, but there's a professional distance we have now that I really respect with him.
Seeing incidents like what happened with Joey and his dad really make me look back and realize how lucky I am to have a dad who supported my career, but knows when to let go and let me be my own man. He just knew when to take that step ... it was really cool.
There's been a lot of talk about shortening the distances of both Pocono races. This was your first time out at that race track. Did you feel the race was a little too long?
I actually didn't. I had heard so much talk that I mentally prepared myself for it to be long. But I didn't feel like it was that long for a race, at least not more than some of the other ones like Texas or the 600. The message I get when people complain about the length of the track is that Pocono doesn't carry enough prestige to go 500 miles.
Whether that's true or not, I don't know. There could be some things done to the track to make it better for the fans, and for everybody. So I'd upgrade the facility a little bit.
The debris caution issue remains a hot-button topic, as none of NASCAR's first three cautions were for wrecks on Sunday. What's your take on when to throw a yellow flag for debris, and is NASCAR being a little too liberal on putting out the caution in 2010?
Well, I'm not going to disagree with that. There's a lot of different ways to look at it, though. It boils down to keeping a balance. Let's take basketball, for instance. Basketball, to me, is the worst sport of all when it comes to bad calls. They may not throw yellow flags, but they have fouls and bad calls. Other sports do it as well. So from that standpoint, you can't say you don't see bad calls in other sports, because I really feel like you do.
Then again, that doesn't make it right. At some point, there's a level of credibility that we must all maintain, that the finish to the race was a legitimate and fair one. However, we still have to have an entertaining race, so it's a delicate balance, and NASCAR walks a fine line. Sometimes, they might go a little aggressively to the yellow flag side, but I wouldn't want to be in their shoes.
Well with the wave-around, you've also got more cars on the lead lap than ever before. Cars are gaining spots they shouldn't.
Absolutely. Sunday, I was on an upswing, and other places I've been on the downswing, but it evens itself out. At the end of the day, what happens is that drivers don't get worse or better finishes. They might think they do, but they don't, because for every good race, you're going to get a worse one. What happens is that you end up tearing up more race cars. That's really what this is all about. It's about, at what point is it all right to tear up race cars? That, to me, is the story. There was over a million dollars in damage this last week alone [from getting aggressive with the yellow flag].
We're now halfway through the regular season. Has it exceeded your expectations, are you right in line with where you thought you'd be, or are you underachieving?
Well, I see a lot of room for improvement. What we need to do specifically is find our role. Do we want to be just another team, or do we want to take it to the next level? We've had this great benefit all year of being out of the spotlight, with the exception of Atlanta. Because nobody really knows much about me, other than what they see from the few Nationwide Series races I've won and the Atlanta incident. The team doesn't really have a big history of success over the last two or three years.
Winning the 2008 Daytona 500 [the No. 12 team won it with Ryan Newman] was a great accomplishment, but we need something fresh to hang our hats on. So the team itself is in a large transition, and we're trying to find our way. When we find it, that's when it'll be fair to really assess where we are.
You're one of three guys pulling the Nationwide/Cup double this month, heading to two different tracks in two days to compete (Brad is going for the Nationwide championship in NASCAR's equivalent of "AAA" baseball level this year). Have you done anything different to prepare fitness-wise for these weekends, and were you surprised you could win the first time out attempting something like that?
I didn't even think about that! It's a good story, to win in your first double-duty, non-companion weekend. I'm not sure if that's been done before, so that's pretty cool. I was excited to do it, and it meant a lot.
But from a preparation standpoint, the biggest thing I can tell you is just how important people are. From the racing side, I've been handing the ball off to the people I'm surrounded with, and they get the job done. It really sounds kind of cheesy, but that's what it is. They handle those little things you don't think of, or you weren't prepared for. So, I feel like that question is a better question for the people I'm surrounded by than it is for me.
And I didn't change my fitness regimen at all. I stayed the course.
You tested at Milwaukee this week. What types of things can you learn when you're driving on a track you won't compete on for either Nationwide or Cup?
The biggest thing was putting Kurt (Busch) in my car, me getting in his car, and trying to understand the differences between our driving styles and having data to show it. You create a crossover, so to speak, of what works for him that works for me, and vice versa. You're just trying to understand those things. Certainly, you're not going to set up your car for anywhere else when you're not at the race track, it just doesn't work. But you can learn patterns, and that's what's important.
This is your second Cup race ever at your hometown track this weekend at Michigan International Speedway. What types of special things do you have planned for this week?
Well, it's always a lot of work when I go out there. You've got the media, PR and you have the family that plays into it. But it's a welcomed challenge. I've been thinking about it on my drive out here, and how much I'm looking forward to having my name announced in driver introductions and being cheered -- those are the things that really make it worth it.
I get plenty of requests for tickets, too. It's one of those things where you get to the point where you're like, "Yeah, I've got a few but I'm sorry I can't help you out." The whole process can be overbearing sometimes.