For a sport seeking some needed momentum, the internet became a wonderful place for NASCAR Friday.
Ahead of the playoff-opening race from Chicagoland Speedway this weekend, two of the sport’s biggest names (and bitter rivals) sparked the latest Twitter war in stock car racing.
The drama started when Keselowski commented on Toyota claiming the top four spots in the first practice session of the afternoon, calling it “a rude awakening.”
We are all in for a rude awakening.
Haven't seen NASCAR let a manufacturer get this far ahead since the 70s https://t.co/LttpCz9vJZ
— Brad Keselowski (@keselowski) September 15, 2017
Busch clapped back, prompting NASCAR Twitter to ensue into a frenzy.
😭 STFU https://t.co/EjexBIHWwE
— Kyle Busch (@KyleBusch) September 15, 2017
Martin Truex Jr.’s crew chief, Cole Pearn, got in on the action next with a humorous tweet.
Were you alive in the 70s ? 🤔
— Cole Pearn (@colepearn) September 15, 2017
Other Toyota supporters then came out of the woodwork, including Busch’s teammate Denny Hamlin. While the Camrys have won six of the last nine races, there have been some slip-ups, including Hamlin’s Darlington victory that came attached to a 25-point NASCAR penalty for failing post-race inspection.
— Denny Hamlin (@dennyhamlin) September 15, 2017
But Keselowski wasn’t going down without a fight.
It's 2017. When you're about to lose an argument you call people names rather than face facts. https://t.co/IJnFiQOAXY
— Brad Keselowski (@keselowski) September 15, 2017
So why did the Team Penske driver speak out?
“Well, I mean, they’ve got a lot going for them right now,” Keselowski told NBCSN prior to his qualifying run at Chicagoland Speedway. “It’s not really fair of me to say where that is, that’s really more NASCAR’s and the team’s job, but it is still obvious. You can pretty much BS your way through it any way you want, it’s there. And we know we’re going to have to out-execute them, and we need a little bit of luck, because right now their cars have way more speed.”
Busch was also asked about the series of tweets between the two drivers, and didn’t quite understand why Keselowski felt the need to complain in the public eye.
“We watched those guys be fast at the beginning of the year, we’ve watched them be fast in years past, even when the Penske guys were with a different manufacturer, they won a championship,” Busch told NBCSN prior to putting his No. 18 Toyota on the pole for the Tale of the Turtles 400. “And we didn’t do our complaining on TV, we just did our complaining in the shop on Tuesdays when we went to work.”
“That’s where it’s all done, that’s what we’ve done,” Busch said. “I just gotta say how proud I am of our Toyota, TRD, teammates and guys and teams. Furniture Row Racing, Joe Gibbs Racing, TRD in Costa Mesa, the whole package is there. It takes a lot of hard work and dedication through a lot of great people. And all I feel like (Brad’s) doing right now is slapping his people across the face.”
Then, after winning the pole, Busch poked more fun at Keselowski.
“It’s because I’m in a Toyota, right?” he told NBCSN when asked about his pole-winning run.
— NASCAR on NBC (@NASCARonNBC) September 15, 2017
Keselowski mentioned “NASCAR’s complete inaction to level the playing field, which is the precedent that has been set the last few years” following his fifth-place qualifying effort. However, the 2012 Cup Series champ claims he understands the ebbs and flows of manufacturer dominance in the sport.
“At the start of the year, we were at the top of the cycle,” Keselowski said. “And at this moment, we are not where we need to be. With respect to that, we were at the top and it seemed like there were a lot of rules changes us to slow us down and now you have cars that are so much faster than the field and there’s complete inaction by anybody. That is frustrating because parity is either good or it is bad. I don’t care either way. But when you are at the top, you like being at the top, everybody likes being at the top.”
Are Keselowski’s comments a bit of sour grapes? One would assume so. A few months back, he mentioned that the Toyota camp had a huge advantage and that they were running for “best in class” when it came to the blue ovals. Those comments came not long after teammate Joey Logano saw his win for Team Penske encumbered at Richmond. The No. 22 Ford never recovered while even Keselowski’s Ford has seemed to struggle with speed at times.
Busch is having none of it.
“Who cares, he’s an idiot anyways, we al know that […] if you ask Brad, he can fix the world’s problems, that’s all there is to it,” Busch said in the media center post-qualifying. “It’s just a fact of the matter that no one else is doing anything, they’re putting their head down and going to work and he thinks that somehow big brother is going to come up and help him.”
“I don’t know what the point is,” Busch continued. “We [at Toyota] all just work hard and do our jobs. We’ve gotten to where we are and we’re going to keep doing that. I wouldn’t think that all the speed we’ve got for the rest of the year is just here this weekend or the past six weekends.
“I would like to think it’s here for the next 10.”
The two drivers have run into each other on track countless times throughout their careers. Most recently, at Watkins Glen last month, contact between the two sent Busch spinning in the inner loop.
“I’m way behind in payback, just FYI,” Busch said. “So if anybody’s going to be getting it, it’s him.”
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