Monday, June 17, 2013

Mr. Roush, Tear Down Those Walls

How smart is Brad Keselowski?
Depending on whom you were listening to last weekend following Brad Keselowski’s complaints that other teams were “stealing our information” by hiring away crewmen from Roush Fenway Racing and his Penske Racing team, Keselowski’s comments were (choose one):

a)      Misinformed (Hendrick Motorsports);

b)      Misguided and irresponsible (Joe Gibbs Racing); or

c)      Misfortunate (Roger Penske).
Actually, it’s a trick question.  The answer to the question is “d,” none of the above.  Maybe I’m reading too much into Keselowski’s comments.  And maybe I’m giving Keselowski too much credit.  But I think he knew exactly what he was saying last week.

Keselowski is a student of the sport and knows that crew members jumping from team to team is an old racing tradition.  The best chassis man in NASCAR history, Jake Elder, was nicknamed “suitcase” because he was constantly on the move.  Manufacturers have been known to lure an entire team away (sound familiar?).  And Keselowski himself asked out of his contract with Hendrick so he could drive for Penske.

Keselowski wasn’t even asked about teams stealing crewman.  He was asked how Roush and Penske were getting along.  Fine, he said, then he started dropping bombs.

Hendrick and Gibbs have this nasty little habit of going to our teams and outbidding different people and taking those employees and stealing our information.  When that happens, that kind of puts up walls between camps, because you're giving up more than one company's information, you're giving up two company's information.''
That’s what prompted the swift reaction from Hendrick and JGR.  Over-reaction would be more like it.   Rick Hendrick even seemed a little embarrassed by it all come Sunday.
But Keselowski wasn’t trying to stop other teams from pilfering backup left tire carriers.  Read between the lines and his message was clear: the flow of information between the Roush and Penske teams isn’t what it should be.  He was trying to tear down the “walls” between Roush and Penske by calling attention to them, at Ford’s headquarters no less.
Once of the big questions prior to this season was how Roush would play with Penske, which was moving to Ford after winning a championship for Keselowski in a Dodge in 2012.  The whole idea of Penske leaving Dodge for Ford was to have another team to share information.
However the Ford teams have been off the pace this year.  Even though Greg Biffle won Ford’s 1,000th NASCAR race Sunday at Michigan, there were at least five cars faster than his, including three Hendrick Chevys.  The Penske cars have yet to win and haven’t really been in contention to win. 
Jimmie Johnson, for one, seemed to understand what was really bugging Keselowski
"He raised up a valid point as far as the Roush aspect of sharing information there,” Johnson said.  "I think the real truth in what he's saying is relative to the Penske-Roush relationship. I fully understand that. I'm sure both sides are protecting something. We're all racing each other for Chase slots and championships and race wins.  
It’s not the first time Keselowski has used a bit of pit road psychology.  Last year he called out Hendrick Motorsports in general and the No. 48 car in particular for its rear-end configuration.  Again the reaction from the Hendrick camp was swift.  But I wrote at the time I didn’t think his target was Hendrick.  The real target was his own team; he wanted them to start pushing the envelope.  It may have been the turning point in the season for Penske Racing.
By the end of the weekend another voice had weighed in on Keselowski’s comments.  Perhaps the most important voice of all.  The voice of Jack Roush.   After acknowledging that his and Penske’s team had held just one joint wind tunnel test (one!), he noted, "We had a summit meeting with the Penske guys last week, and talked about some of the strategies.  We just scratched the surface. It will be great to have someone to share information with."
Roger Penske, after weighing on Keselowski, also spoke about the meeting with Roush.
“We made great progress,” he said.  “We checked the boxes of where we were. I think Jack and I are on the same page — our people are. We’re a new organization.  We’re both separate but coming together, it doesn’t happen overnight. I think there’s been a lot gained and we’ll see a lot more.  I’m a business man, Jack’s a business man. I think we understand that. We see the benefits of the Chevrolet people working together, the Toyota people and we have to play the same game. We’ve all got to do better.”
More than halfway to the Chase and the two lead Ford teams have just “scratched the surface"!?!  No wonder Keselowski was speaking out.
So did Keselowski’s comments help tear down the walls or was it just a coincidence?  Can Keselowski really be that smart?
Obviously I think so. 

But maybe it’s just an example of another conspiracy theory hatched on the fringe of blogosphere.

1 comment:

  1. I like your perspective. When other writers were writing about how he put his foot in his mouth, you more accurately wrote about what I also believe his comments meant.(Also It's fun to see him poke and prod Hendrick)When he first came up I really disliked him, his on track was too aggressive. This guy is the ONLY, and I STRESS ONLY, driver who I listen to and feel he gives interesting answers. He's very smart,the best thing to happen to racing in a long time.