Not Hatin’, Just Statin’: Brad Keselowski is NOT Vanilla


Last weekend’s race at Michigan International Speedway was what NASCAR fans hope for; speed, close competition, crazy action and of course, controversy. The race began with high hopes from Jr. Nation that Dale Earnhardt Jr. would dominate and sweep both MIS dates for 2012, making him an even bigger threat for the championship; and though he performed better than the majority of the field, his teammate Jimmie Johnson eventually set the pace once again. Hendrick Motorsports dominated for yet another week. In fact, besides Jeff Gordon’s engine woes and Jimmie’s eventual blow up, Hendrick cars dominated the top 10 the majority of the race…again. Surprising? Of course not. Just ask drivers like Brad Keselowski and Hendrick fans, though you will get two very different responses as to why…and bring on the controversy.

Brad Keselowski is no stranger to candor and honesty; always speaking his mind truthfully during interviews and post-race media. He is well known for well thought out and intelligent responses that are straight to the point; there’s no beating around the bush with “Bad Brad”.  Some appreciate him for that reason, others not so much, but most at least respect him for it. Rewind to Michigan post-race media, where Brad was asked this question:

Q. Brad, what you were saying about the cars having an advantage. We were listening on the radio to several drivers talking about that. Do you have the trick? What is the trick? We talked about it at Pocono.

To which he answered:

BRAD KESELOWSKI:  “There (are) parts and pieces on the car that are moving after inspection that make the car more competitive. Some guys have it, some don’t. There’s a question to the interpretation of the rule. Penske Racing errs on the safe side because we don’t want to be the guys that get the big penalty.

Obviously there’s a question to the interpretation that as of right now it’s legal. But I’m sure that Roger doesn’t want to be the one caught red-handed. As a group at Penske Racing, we have not felt comfortable enough to risk that name and reputation that Roger has over those parts and pieces. Others have, which is their prerogative. I’m not going to slam them for it.

But it’s living in a gray area. Roger doesn’t do that. There’s certainly some performance there that we’ve lost. I shouldn’t say lost, but haven’t gained, because we choose not to do that. That’s something that we have to continue to evaluate every week that goes by, that those components are permitted to be run. We have to make a reevaluation of that internally to decide if that’s the right way to go.

But as it stands now, certainly that’s part of the speed discrepancy through the field. Some of the teams haven’t figured out how to make it work, some of them just don’t feel comfortable risking the piggybank on it.

It’s part of how this sport works behind closed doors. We’re still working our way through it. I’m not saying I have all the answers to it, but it’s certainly part of that discrepancy that we were speaking to earlier.”

And bring on the backlash! People immediately started attacking him for “accusing Hendrick Motorsports of cheating”. Wait…what?? Did they read the same article I just did? I do believe he said the words “as of right now it’s legal” and “those components are permitted to be run” along with “I’m not going to slam them for it.” Look, I know Hendrick motorsports drivers are the “golden boys”, and even I myself have been a Dale Jr. fan for 14 years and can’t help but to be a fan of all 3 of the other Hendrick drivers, but it doesn’t mean that no one should question them, talk about what they are doing, or point out their differences and knack for finding innovation in areas other teams can’t. I mean, racing is an extremely competitive sport, is it not? Wherein you need both offense and defense to not only survive, but to succeed.

Teams need to understand their competition to be able to formulate a game plan. How do they work? Where are they better? What are they doing differently? Anyone who says “they just need to concentrate on their own team” is fooling themselves. Do professional football players not study the other teams or players game tapes? Do they not take that information to formulate their own offense against that other team? Of course they do. No one would be properly prepared otherwise. Sizing up your opponent is part of the game, and crucial for success in ANY sport, NASCAR is not exempt from that rule. Repeat after me: Offense AND defense.

My second point in this matter is this: fans have been complaining lately that drivers have been “too vanilla”. In other words they haven’t been speaking their minds, showing enough emotion or straying from their typical scripted Q&A protocol.  Well, Keselowski does exactly what the fans have been asking for every time, naturally. It’s just who he is. Why beat around the bush, say something you don’t mean, or avoid answering a question to make people happy? What would be purpose of asking his point of view then? Point being, Brad isn’t going to open his mouth and give you roses, kittens and butterflies to get you to like him, he is going to tell it like it is; whether everyone likes it or not. No vanilla in this guy (well, except maybe in his dance moves, which have yet to be seen, a la Denny Hamlin). In fact, in a way he reminds me of Dale Earnhardt (except maybe a bit nicer with his choice of words ;-), and isn’t that what the fans have been asking for? I mean, you don’t have to agree with every word he says, but you could at least respect him for what he is actually doing; being honest.

So race fans, here is my advice. Sit back, relax, and take Brad Keselowski’s thoughts at face value; he says what he means…period. Agree, or disagree, it doesn’t matter, but don’t burn the poor guy for something he never said or did, and for doing his job just as it has been asked of him…BY YOU! So the next time you are watching (or reading) a Keselowski interview or post-race media Q&A, sit back and let him give you a little “Superman”, or “Moose tracks” or whatever the heck you would consider not “vanilla”, because let’s face it, he ain’t hatin’, he’s just statin’.


Original Interview transcript: