Do what it takes
New enforcement policy suits Keselowski just fine
By RICK MINTER / Cox Newspapers
NASCAR’s new policy of loosening the reins on drivers, letting them be a little more aggressive on the track without incurring penalties, shouldn’t have too much effect on young Brad Keselowski. He already races that way.
That fact was evidenced by his stunning win over Carl Edwards in last year’s Spring race at Talladega Superspeedway, a race that ended with Edwards sailing into the catchfence after contact with Keselowski, who slipped by to take his and his car owner James Finch’s first Sprint Cup wins.
“I actually did those things already last year,” Keselowski said with a smile during last week’s media session at Daytona International Speedway. “I’m not sure how much that I can change. I’m already right there for the most part.”
The question for Keselowski and a lot of others on both sides of the catchfence is how other drivers in NASCAR will react to the shift in enforcement policy.
“When I met with NASCAR [officials] in Phoenix last year, they pretty much told me that’s the way the sport was pretty much going to go, and they were going to be OK with it,” he said. “So I didn’t see it as much of a surprise. I’m more interested in seeing the actions of other drivers versus myself.”
But Keselowski, who comes from one of the sport’s old-time families, isn’t about to label himself just as an aggressive driver.
“My attitude towards racing is to do what it takes to win,” he said. “I’d prefer to win honorably. I can’t always say that I’ve done that. Hopefully we can put together strong enough cars this year to where we can win without drama.
“A goal of mine is to win a race and look back and nobody say, ‘He screwed me over to do it.’ That’s the way race car drivers are…we never get beat fairly, just ask us. That’s part of the sport. The approach is to go out there and win and do the best that we can every week. We’ll see where that takes us.”
Among those not complaining about Keselowski is his new teammate, Sam Hornish Jr. Keselowski has moved from Hendrick Motorsports to Penske Racing, where he’ll run full Nationwide and Sprint schedules.
“I think that Brad’s very fast,” Hornish said. “I think he’s definitely got an understanding of the car. He’s spent a lot of time over there at Hendrick trying to make himself better and to learn from the guys he’s around. All in all, there are some things that I can learn from him and I think that it’s a good addition to the team.”
Although he probably needs to become friends with Hornish and with Kurt Busch, his other teammate at Penske, he’s not worried about making other friends, at least on the track.
“Anytime your competitors are happy with you is when they’re beating you…” he said. “A lot of the established drivers don’t like young drivers coming into the sport because there is an upset to that balance. Before, that ride wasn’t a ride that they had to worry about and now it is. Realistically, it’s that they don’t want to race that guy.”
Even though Keselowski has acquired a reputation as being aggressive, he said that perception isn’t the same as reality.
“I feel like that, objectively, if you step back and watch my in-car camera tapes and stuff, I feel like I give when it’s the right time to give and I take when it’s the right time to take,” he said. “For the most part I always do that.
There have been a few races during the season where I step back and say, ‘Whoa, I did a terrible job of not giving right there.’
“There have been a few (races) where I’ve given too much. But at the end of the day, when I look my team in the eyes, I want to be able to look at them and say that I took more than I gave. I want to be able to look at them and for them to know that when I got out of that race car, I left nothing on the table. I never gave up a spot that I shouldn’t have…
“If you have to make a few competitors mad along the way, that’s just part of it.”