Sunday, April 14, 2013

Keselowski’s Kim Jong-un Problem

When Brad Keselowski meets President Obama on Tuesday to be honored as NASCAR’s 2012 Sprint Cup champion, he might want to ask the leader of the free world how he goes about handling North Korea’s Kim Jong-un.

While Obama is dealing with Jong-un, a grandson trying desperately to consolidate his power, Keselowski has his own Jong-un problem.  His name is Brian France.  And while France’s arsenal doesn’t include nuclear weapons or missiles, he can certainly do plenty of damage to Keselowski and Roger Penske Racing.

In the days after Keselowski captured the title last year at Homestead, many wondered aloud if NASCAR would allow Brad to be Brad.   He had proven to be refreshingly opinionated, honest and outspoken during the season and it carried through a sometimes raucous title celebration.  By the time the victory tour reached NASCAR’s season-sending banquet in Las Vegas, people were no longer wondering -- they were pleading. 

Please let Brad be Brad.  For a sport in need of some new blood and excitement, Keselowski was both.

The honeymoon didn’t last long, however.   Not even to the first race of the 2013 season.  Just a few days before the Daytona 500, Keselowski showed up on the front page of USA Today with a critique of what ails NASCAR.  His comments were spot on.  But those concerning NASCAR’s leadership hit a little too close to home.

"The problem I see in the sport is that there are multiple entities that have to work together for us to be successful,” he told the paper's Nate Ryan.  “We have sponsors — partners, or whatever the hell you want to call them — tracks, the sanctioning body and the teams. Those are our four groups, and how well they cooperate dictates what we have as a product for our fans. And our fans create everything.”

Then Keselowski got personal.

“When Bill France Jr. was in charge of NASCAR, he had control of all these pieces and wasn't at the mercy of the TV world. He had control of the tracks and NASCAR, which is now divided in two with Lesa (France Kennedy, president of International Speedway Corp. that controls 12 tracks) and (NASCAR Chairman) Brian (France). France Jr. had relationships with the sponsors, drivers and teams. Now we don't have that. Those three other pieces are segregated. Those three pieces need to get together. And until all three of those can unite, we're a house divided, and we're making bad decisions that are affecting how to generate revenue for the sport.”

NASCAR’s leadership exploded.  Keselowski was called in for a scolding.  Can’t help but wonder what would have happened had that discussion come earlier, not later.

Afterwards Keselowski said all the right things, about how he didn’t realize how committed Lisa and Brian are to the sport.  But he also warned he would continue to speak out and he has.

Since then things have gone south between Keselowski, Penske Racing and NASCAR.  The Penske cars have come in for added scrutiny during the inspection process.  At Martinsville, Keselowski’s car was held in tech inspection and nearly missed qualifying.  Then just as he moved into contention during the race, he was forced to realign his car in his pit box, an official saying the car's tire was over the line, although replays showed there was clearly space between his tire and the white line. 

It went from bad to worse at Texas, where both Penske cars were held in pre-race inspection.  Rear end parts “not in the spirit of the rules” according to NASCAR were confiscated and the team forced to make significant changes to the car.  Keselowski was able to make it to the grid in time for the start, but teammate Joey Logano was forced to start from the back of the field.  Keselowski came home ninth, but it was apparent the 500 miles had done nothing to cool him off.

"I have one good thing to say.  That's my team and effort they put in today in fighting back with the absolute bullshit that's been the last seven days in this garage area. The things I've seen over the last seven days have me questioning everything that I believe in, and I'm not happy about it. I don't have anything positive to say and I probably should just leave it at that."

Of course he couldn’t.  Brad was being Brad.

"There's so much stuff going on,” he said to reporters, “you have no fucking idea what's going on.  And that's not your fault.  That's not a slam on you. I could tell you there's nobody, no team in this garage with the integrity of the (No.) 2 team. And the way we've been treated over the last seven days is absolutely shameful. I feel like we've been targeted over the last seven days more than I've ever seen a team targeted. But my guys kept their heads on straight and they showcased why they are a winning team and championship team. We're not going to take it. We're not going to be treated this way.”

Ironically, it was Keselowski who first went public with the rear end story near the end of last year when he called out the No. 48 for stretching the rules.  Someone asked if Keselowski was worried suspensions.

“I'm very worried about losing my crew chief, Paul Wolfe, but I tell you I've got one of best owners in the garage and I'm going to be first one at his desk telling him if anything happens like that we'll both be in a meeting with anybody and everybody who'll listen. There's been so much stuff going on I could make a list two pages long, but go ahead throw that one on there. I'm out.”

So are France and NASCAR targeting the Roger Penske team?  It doesn’t matter.  Keselowski thinks they are and now it’s in his head. 

Tuesday should be an interesting day.  Not only will Keselowski, Wolfe and Roger Penske be meeting the President (along with NASCAR executives), that’s the day fines and suspension s are normally handed down.  Fines and suspension are usually handed out for NASCAR on Tuesday.

Could make Congressional infighting look tame by comparison. 


  1. Well I guess you got your point across ... And did it without sounding like you can solve the problems of the world...there's where Brad gets off track. Brad may have had some good points in his January interview but he came across as a know it all...and NASCAR took issue. I get it..and Brad doesn't...therein lies the problem. Brad may have some good input...but doing it right in the faces of the Suits isn't how you make friends or try to get them to take
    you seriously. Now, Brad has taken this to another
    level..conspiracies, black helicopters, Mother Ships, and
    accusations....and who do you think is going to win here?
    Now I will say...I watched his interview as if a building was
    imploding before my eyes..fascination and disbelief! He has
    every right to say and feel the way he does...he had every
    right to the interview in January...but he must be willing to
    accept the consequences...and I'm not sure he "gets" what
    that may end up to be. I love free speech in NASCAR..I
    want the drivers to throw it all out there...but what Brad
    threw out there Saturday night was just odd..strange..alittle
    too Twilight Zone...does Brad not remember the saga of
    Kurt Busch while driving for Penske????

  2. Glad to see Kez standing up to NA$CAR. With the money that Penske, Roush, Bruton, Hendrick have, it is time to start a new
    sanctioning body. ESPN & Fox now run the sport and it is time
    for a change. Every fan I know is tired of NASCRAP and will support the change.

  3. Is this news? Hasn't NASCAR always operated this way? Isn't this why Tony Stewart called NASCAR "The professional wrestling of motorsports?" Hasn't the France family always determined who would win and who would lose in advance?