“Wreckin’ ain’t racing.”
Three little words can certainly carry a lot of weight, can’t they?
Though Brad Keselowski’s choice of words were different than the normal mantra of “rubbin’ is racin’,” it was nonetheless a telling statement from a driver known for his tendency to incite controversy.
At the end of the race, Keselowski found himself racing side-by-side, once again, with Kyle Busch as the laps wound down at the annual race at Watkins Glen International. In yet another stellar, fight-to-the-death finish at the twisted New York racetrack, Busch just slightly came out on top ahead of a charging Keselowski with Martin Truex, Jr. right in tow. As the road course races continue to grow in popularity, the drivers continue to put on a great show every time they’re on the schedule.
But despite the fact that Keselowski and Kyle Busch were racing extremely hard in the waning few laps of the race, there was almost no contact. “Trading paint” was not in their vocabulary, despite being a constant option. So was playing bumper cars. Keselowski had every opportunity in the world to ram into the back of Busch’s Toyota, sending him spinning across the racing surface similar to last year’s race at The Glen.
But he didn’t. Questioned repeatedly about that after the race on Sunday, Keselowski had a very similar answer each time.
“There’s racing and wrecking,” he said at one point. “Those are two different things. Everybody defines them a little differently, and I guess that’s the code you live your life by. Me, I define last year as racing and some people would define that as wrecking. If I was gonna take out Kyle today, it would have been wrecking in my mind and there’s a distinct difference.”
Is this the same Brad Keselowski who has started on-track rivalries with Carl Edwards, Denny Hamlin, and, oh yes, even Kyle Busch? Could this be the same driver who continuously puts his foot in his mouth and can’t seem to avoid controversy? Even though Keselowski is the defending champion of the Sprint Cup Series, he still has a tendency to create problems for himself, both on and off the track. He’s had run-ins he’ll never apologize for, with some of the most mild-mannered drivers and ticked off the most powerful individuals in racing.
Through it all, he hasn’t backed down.
The interesting dynamic about Keselowski is that he has an interesting middle ground between being a talented spokesperson for the sport without adhering to all of the rules and regulations like they are gospel. He races aggressively but preaches respect. He’s not always the most consistent, or even sensible, person in that role, yet he certainly tries and makes quite a nice little soapbox for himself when he feels like it needs to be there.
That’s why for Keselowski, this past Sunday’s race was quite an eye-opening statement. I have spoken many times in the past about drivers whining about other drivers racing them too hard. I still hate it, but I don’t want to beat a dead horse despite the fact that it happens almost every weekend.
The Keselowski vs. Busch battle was perfect. That’s because not only did Keselowski profess the racing was aggressive, yet respectful … so did Busch.
“You know, I commend Brad for doing a better job this year at bringing home a cleaner race,” the winner explained, after spinning off Keselowski’s front bumper in this race last year. “I felt like we ran hard. We ran really hard there those last couple laps.”
Though the two are still in disagreement over what happened at the end of the race last year, they both agree about one thing: the way they raced at Watkins Glen was the right way to do that. And to have both the second and first-place drivers in agreement after a battle like that after the checkered flag is rare.
For both drivers who have struggled with their ability to maintain a calm demeanor, it was a display of maturity on both ends.
Not only that, it was a great race for anyone who was tuning in. Man, if we could have the perfect mixture of great races without listening to the drivers complain about how they competed, my blood pressure would lower significantly on a weekly basis!
Wreckin’ ain’t racin’ … but slicing and dicing will do just fine for most of us.
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