NASCAR Race Weekend Central

Up to Speed: The Source of Brad Keselowski’s Frustration

Brad Keselowski had a rough night at Kentucky Speedway.  The No. 2 team, understandably, went to the Bluegrass State with high expectations, having won three of the six Cup Series events held at the 1.5-mile track.  While Keselowski ran just outside the top 10 through much of the first stage, he clearly did not have the speed he had flashed at Kentucky in prior starts.

To make matters worse, Keselowski got tangled up in a crash with Jimmie Johnson and Clint Bowyer right after the second stage began.  The resulting damage to the No. 2 car forced Keselowski to retire from the race, finishing 39th.

Once out, Keselowski made some comments on Sirius/XM’s NASCAR Radio that will probably be remembered longer than anything that happened in the race.

“I am probably as much frustrated with myself as I am frustrated with the situation,” Keselowski said, “and frustrated with the sport that we can’t design a better car than this that you can race without having to do everything on the restart.”

“It is a poorly designed car and it makes racing on tracks like this very difficult to put on the show that we want to put on for our fans,” Keselowski added.  “You do what you can to gouge and claw on the restarts and get everything you can.  You have to put yourself in bad situations to do that and that is where we were.”

Keselowski finished his statement by calling on NASCAR “to design a new car that is worthy of where this sport deserves to be and the show it deserves to put on for its fans.”

The disappointment of the crash no doubt fueled the anger of Keselowski’s comments.  He also released the following statement later.

The context within which Keselowski criticized the Gen-6 car, as well as his second statement, might cause fans to take his comments with a grain of salt.  However, Keselowski is right, and NASCAR should pay attention.

The worst thing that NASCAR could do is to trot out the old “actions detrimental to stock car racing” excuse and saddle Keselowski with a fine.  Tony Stewart met the same fate last year after criticizing NASCAR’s apparent lack of concern for safety when enforcing its lug nut rules.  An even better example is Denny Hamlin in 2013, who made similar comments about the Gen-6 car following a race at Phoenix International Raceway.  That particular event was only the second time that NASCAR used the new car, and learning its ins and outs remained an ongoing process. Yet, the Gen-6 car being new does not excuse NASCAR’s over-sensitivity in punishing Hamlin.

In fact, Keselowski likely released the second statement in an attempt to avoid any repercussions from NASCAR.  Nothing about the 2012 series champion’s first round of comments suggests that he is dissatisfied with being a NASCAR driver in the first place.  His primary dissatisfaction is with the car.

Though Keselowski also hinted at dissatisfaction with something else, how drivers have to race following restarts.  Admittedly, this is nothing new.  NASCAR implemented its current double-file restart format in 2009.  The move was designed to create better competition for the fans, and it had the blessing of the drivers.  Being able to get good restarts has taken on greater importance than it had before.  Yet at tracks like Kentucky, that importance rises to an even higher level.

On Saturday night, it was common to see the field get strung out after a handful of laps.  Despite NASCAR’s efforts to take away downforce and put more driving capability in the drivers’ hands, passing was still difficult.  Restarts, however, have the potential for many positions to be gained or lost.  So, for a lap or two after each green flag waves, drivers have to take extra chances to establish better track position.  Throw in the advent of stage racing, and drivers know that there will be at least two restarts per race.

2016 Michigan II CUP Kurt Busch Brad Keselowski Kyle Larson racing John HArrelson NKP
Brad Keselowski says the racecourse need to be improved.  Were these just words of frustration, or do they open a door for a better product of fans? (Photo: John Harrelson/NKP)

Keselowski’s comments suggest a growing disconnect between NASCAR and its drivers.  NASCAR likes to sell its restarts as must-see moments of the race.  Many times, they are.  Drivers like Kyle Busch and Kyle Larson have made picking up positions after restarts an art form.  Seeing drivers push themselves and their cars to the brink is a great thrill for fans.

On the other hand, it is obvious why the drivers might not like this arrangement.  If, at Kentucky for instance, passing becomes difficult three or four laps after a restart, drivers have a very limited window to make decisive moves.  The choices become to either make a risky move to pass the cars in front of you, or to back off, potentially lose positions, and spend the next green flag run trying to make up those positions.  That is a tight box for a driver to be in, especially during a three to four-hour race.

If NASCAR designed a car that allowed drivers to make more passes over long runs, we would see driver ability matter more over the course of a whole race.  It would be a better situation for the drivers themselves, who would not have to scramble so much each time the race resumes.  Restarts would lose some of their current, thrill-inducing potential, but that seems like a small price to pay for a car that could produce a better overall race.

 

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DoninAjax

This will no doubt be another example of “YOU CAN’T HANDLE THE TRUTH” for Brian. Brad said exactly what others including myself have said. It’s not the tracks! It’s the cars! The drivers can’t race in cars that can’t be raced.

kb

Of course the idiots who focus on Brads looks (and there are a shocking amount that take umbrage with it). It is amazing the vanity of UGLIES who post THEIR PICTURE and complain about Brad, LOL. Brad is a MALE MODEL! Not to mention the idiots that are jealous of his life, his wife, his success..his everything, and who will disagree strongly on his merits of experience! The snowflakes who are ripping Brad on social media, because they could..have zero standing on his truths, as they have never once strapped into a Cup car and ran it for a living. So they need to STFU. Brad is correct, glad to see him lay it out..hope he and anybody with a pair..lay it out MORE to CASTLE DAYTONA! NASCAR has a problem….listen MORE to the drivers!

Tom B

KB is correct.
I like how the media takes anything said out of frustration in the heat of the moment as gospel etched in stone to repeated many, many times. Social Media is an outlet for losers and haters. Danica has the ‘Looks Market’ cornered all to herself.

justtim

I’m no engineer, but it’s pretty obvious that downforce happens when all the air goes OVER the car. NA$CAR’s answer to lower downforce has been to just take downforce off the rear of the car creating unstable cars because of the inbalance between the front and back. They really need to get air under the nose as well. Lift the splitter a couple inches off the track and then the advantage for being out front is in clean air is taken away. Basically, do exactly what Dale Jr just said. And while they’re att it, open up the grill a bit. The fact that a small piece of duct tape is considered a “tuning” option says these cars are WAY too air tight up front. Not to get too nostalgic, but look back to the old days when Petty and Cale and the Allisons duked it out with ACTUAL stock cars that had a small spoiler added under the nose that in no way sealed to the track. No one ever talked about “aero” anything…

DoninAjax

I think they should drive 79 Monte Carlos and Thunderbirds.

Jim in NB

Talk about downforce balance. 79 Monte Carlo and tbird with 7 feet of engine hood and 3 feet of trunk.. hello for going no where

Capt Spaulding

Thst would definitely be interesting, ,,,use same rules from 79 and what a treat it would be to see Danica try to stay on the lead lap after a restart without the lucky dog or wave around.

Moparjeff

Why not? It wouldn’t be any more contrived or irrelevant than today’s race cars. I’m sure we all have our favorite era – mine is the ’84-’89 era.

Jim in NB

It’s ironic that since the Penske cars were both penalized earlier in the season, (caught with illegal something or other) they haven’t had the speed or handling and now Brad is whining about the car design.

dh

I don’t think he should have apologized at all for his statements. And – i agree with justintim above – air UNDER the car will make for different results. The challenge here really is – races of the late 70’s early 80’s of someone dominating is boring, manufactured endings driven by cautions is not ok, so – if the car can reduce aero dependancy and be “harder/more fun” to drive – then ideally racing changes – but it may not necessarily get “better” – and i suspect we’d have more races like last night based on really hitting the tune up – vs winning because you can’t pass.

Moparjeff

Seems like the real issue here is the fact that NASCAR is designing the race cars. I know its been going on for a long time, but this wouldn’t be an issue if owners and chassis builders were designing the race cars. You sure don’t hear stuff like this in a Dirt Late Model infield. NASCAR should get out of the race car designing business, establish a reasonable set of rules, and let the teams choose the chassis they want.

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