Keselowski talks his Chase title pick, Richard Petty's future, more
A good pit stop helped Brad Keselowski lock in a top-10 finish at Martinsville
Tempers have flared recently, so don't be surprised to see some paint trading
Keselowski doesn't think that Richard Petty will be leaving NASCAR anytime soon
Brad Keselowski does a biweekly diary for SI.com. Heading into the race at Talladega, the driver of the No. 12 Dodge hopes to keep building momentum after scoring his first Sprint Cup top-10 for owner Roger Penske. Find out how Martinsville became the key to their success, his reaction to the possible demise of Richard Petty Motorsports, and learn a classic Halloween "dos and don'ts" moment for the Keselowski family in the latest edition of Kickin' It With Kes.
Let's start with Martinsville. Sunday was a major breakthrough for the No. 12 team, as you scored your first top-10 finish with Penske Racing. How'd you do it?
Well, we were really good at Martinsville in the spring. That's one of the key things for us this time around, as we were in position to get a top-10 in that race. We were eighth or ninth on the last restart, and just got caught up in that mess with Kenseth and Jeff Gordon. But we had very similar runs between the spring and the fall -- just didn't catch a bad break at the end of this race. In fact, we actually caught a good break; we had an awesome last pit stop and gained one or two spots. That put us in position with a solid race car to run our own race and that last segment under green -- almost 100 laps -- helped get us a solid finish out of the day.
This was a long time coming for you, but for your team it's been even longer -- it's the first top 10 since Bristol in August 2008. How important was it for the team to get this burst of momentum?
Well, it's always helpful. I was surprised by that stat. It's really kind of amazing how long it's been for them. It's certainly something we're proud of, but we know we've been capable of doing it all year. It's just a matter of executing. This is a sign that good fortune will come your way if you continue to work hard and continue to do the right things. I believe we're doing that.
With four races left, it's a virtual certainty that Kevin Conway is taking home this year's rookie of the year title without so much as a top-10 finish. Considering you could have been a rookie if you ran seven races or fewer last year, would you like to see them change the policy in the future so that guys like you -- who have never run a full season -- will get a chance to compete for it?
Yeah, it was certainly disappointing to not get the chance to run for it. But the sport is changing and evolving, and the years of running seven races or fewer before running your first full season and being competitive are long since gone -- especially with the advent of the CoT and the testing ban. So I think that even if it wasn't in my favor to change the rule, that's something we should be looking at. And with the current situation, I think we need to dictate a different philosophy going forward.
With only a few races left, there aren't a lot of opportunities left for payback. Is there anyone out there you still feel like you need to get even with by Homestead? And do you think we're going to see a rash of incidents toward the end of the year like we did with you and Denny last year?
I think there will be something. I don't know what, but I think there's a lot of tempers that have flared up over the last few weeks. Not necessarily anything on my end, but I would not be surprised at all to see something. And with NASCAR's policy of just letting it be, there's no reason not to pay someone back. It's almost becoming expected that you do it.
As for me... from my perspective, the unfinished business is to go out there, run good, and be able to win a race. We have a lot to work to do there. If I spend my time worrying about paying anybody back, I'm not focusing on winning the race.
Right now, the Chase has solidified into a three-car race: Jimmie Johnson, Denny Hamlin and Kevin Harvick. Which one of that trio has the edge, and why?
I think Jimmie has the edge, without a doubt. He's got better luck, for one, and you can never write that off. He's come to Talladega the last few years, not been ultra competitive and gotten great finishes out of it. And this track's going to be the wild card, don't get me wrong, but what I think you're going to see is he'll get out of Talladega, well, like he always has. One of the two others -- whether it's Kevin or Denny -- probably won't, and if that happens I think it's Jimmie's title to lose.
Richard Petty Motorsports is the talk of the garage this week, unsure whether it'll even be able to compete after Talladega. How much of a blow to this sport would it be to lose a man like The King? Or is it not as big a deal as people are making it out to be?
Well, it's a big deal to lose the King. As far as the team perspective goes, it's big to lose any competitively-funded teams, but not necessarily because his name is on it. I don't think many people associate that team with his name even though it's on the building. Because, let's be honest, the Petty Enterprises that we're used to in Randleman is not the same "Petty team" that's up in Concord. So really, it's just the namesake on the cars from that standpoint. But my perspective on that is Richard will find another position in this sport, and we won't lose him. I think we'll just lose his namesake on a team that isn't even his team to begin with. So as far as that's concerned, there's much made about something that really isn't warranted, because he'll find another spot in the sport and be well-known in that position.
If RPM folds, we're down to 29 fully-funded teams for 2011. Would you like to see NASCAR shorten the fields if that's the case? In what ways can we encourage new car owners and sponsors to come into this sport?
First off, you have to open up the testing ban because it limits new barometers and creates no incentive and no possibilities for other, new teams to be educated and be competitive. So before we're ever going to do anything, we need to open up the testing ban and I don't think that's going to happen, so -- it's essentially a moot point from that standpoint.
I've said it before, several times in this particular diary that the testing ban is one of the worst things that's ever happened to the sport and I stand behind that. I don't see where a new car owner is going to get in the sport and ever be competitive, especially on a timeline that's acceptable with sponsors and fans without testing. Therefore, there's no incentive to do it (and they start and park).
As far as shortening the field, I don't really have any strong opinions on that. There were times we used to race 36 cars, there were times where my uncle's told me stories about starting 70, 75 cars at Talladega, so no matter what the number, this sport will be fine.