For 10 more races, Brad Keselowski still holds the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship. And as an ambassador for the sport, Keselowski lived up to his champion title in describing how NASCAR will weather the storm of controversy that has emerged in the last week.
“It’s been a crazy week for our sport,” Keselowski said in a phone interview Saturday where we also discussed his likeness being used in Ubisoft’s new video game, “Watch Dogs,” which is set in Chicago.
“We have a lot to prove to our fans and really, to ourselves about who we are and what makes our sport tick. I think the sport is up to the challenge.”
Keselowski acknowledged the challenge that NASCAR faces in trying to restore some of its credibility.
“It’s somewhat offensive to all of us who have been involved with this sport for so long, that the credibility is being challenged. But it’s being challenged for good reason, though,” he admitted. “Things were done that shouldn’t have been done.”
“We got together and the conversation was directed at a few more people other than us,” he explained. “We were just watching, and listening, and figuring out how it all works going forward. Obviously (NASCAR) are frustrated just like everyone; quite frankly they mean business.”
Having fielded his own entries in the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series before, Keselowski also has the unique perspective of a team owner. But delegation to key people allows him to focus on his primary responsibility as a driver.
“I rely on people. Everyone looks at this sport as I’m the driver, and I get a lot of the glory. I get probably 99 percent of the credit and do maybe 1 percent of the work,” he said. “You have to have people manage the team, and then I can walk in and make sure they’re following the vision I have for it.”
He did poke fun at himself, as there have been a handful of times where he and NASCAR have butted heads over opinions for how to grow the sport.
“The easiest way to sum it up is I’m glad it’s not me that’s involved,” he said. “It’s some drama that’s not my fault!”
Keselowski finished second in Friday’s Camping World Truck Series race and starts second behind Joey Logano, his Penske Racing teammate, in Sunday’s Cup race.
Further posts on “Watch Dogs” and Keselowski’s take on Logano’s Chase chances will follow in the coming days.
Mario Andretti’s last Formula One victory is also the last by an American driver in more than 42 years on the international open-wheel road racing series.
If you had told Andretti that while he was celebrating on the Grand Prix of the Netherlands podium on Aug. 27, 1978 at the Vandzoort circuit, he wouldn’t have believed it.
“Absolutely not,” Andretti told Kyle Petty during the most recent “Coffee With Kyle” episode (video above). “It’s a shame. Somehow we have so much talent here, and either there’s no invitation or something there. But I think it’s time to give some of this young talent that, in my opinion, is absolutely capable.”
The Dutch GP was the last of Andretti’s 12 victories in F1 and came during his championship season. No one since has come close to matching his success in F1.
Andretti’s son, Michael, took a full-time ride with McLaren in 1993 but left with three races remaining in a season marred by crashes and mechanical problems.
But Mario Andretti believes Andretti Autosport has another rising star with F1-caliber ability.
“Colton Herta is one that comes to mind,” Mario Andretti said. “As a young lad, his dad sent him to Europe, he was doing Formula 3, and he knows most of the circuits there. He’s trained. He’s showed in his rookie season and won some premium races at COTA (and Laguna Seca), beat two of the very best Indy has to offer (in) Will Power and Scott Dixon.
“This is one kid I’d love to see him get a break over there to fly the U.S. colors again.”
Herta, 20, seems interested in exploring an F1 leap over the next few years. After winning Sept. 13 at Mid-Ohio from the pole position (his third career victory in the NTT IndyCar Series), the No. 88 Dallara-Honda driver is ranked fourth in the standings in his sophomore year and regarded as one of the series’ top prospects.
If #F1 wants to start looking around for an American driver, Colton Herta has a suggestion for where that search should start. https://t.co/71PVeu6aBj
Herta recently told RACER.com “I’d love to give Formula 1 a crack” but said he also would be happy driving in IndyCar and IMSA.
A naturalized U.S. citizen who told Petty about spending several years with his family in an Italian refugee camp before coming to America, Mario Andretti said F1 brought an enormous sense of patriotic pride.
“Formula One is like the Olympics in a sense,” he said. “You’re in a different country, a different continent. When you earn that highest step of the podium, they play your national anthem. That’s when you take nothing for granted. You feel like I’m representing my country, and the proudest moments are those.
“I’d just like to see some other American drivers experience that. It’s time.”
During the “Coffee With Kyle” conversation, Andretti also discussed:
–His versatility as a winner in IndyCar, sports cars, NASCAR and Formula One;
–His 1967 Daytona 500 victory and how he enjoyed racing with crew chief Jake Elder at the famed Holman-Moody team;
–Why he delayed his entry to F1 for a few years because of his earnings power in IndyCar. “I always say I’d race for free, but at the same time, you’re thinking of family and the future,” he said. “It was in the back of your mind that you can’t give up the earning power of IndyCar. That kept me from going full time in Formula One, but I always said that sometime in my career, I’d have to devote a period to Formula One.”
–On what it was like racing in an era when driver deaths were more prevalent. “If you’re going to do this, you’re not going to dwell on those negatives,” Andretti said. “There’s no way. You knew it was present. Especially in the ‘60s at the beginning of the season at the drivers meetings, you couldn’t help but look around and say, ‘I wonder who is not going to be here at the end of the season.’ We’d lose four to five guys. In ’64, we lost six guys.
“It’s something if you dwell on that, you’re going to take on a different profession. It’s a desire and love to want to drive that overcame all that and then the confidence it’s not going to happen to me. And then you pray.”