Roger Penske defends Keselowski, says other drivers “jealous” of his success

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Brad Keselowski’s reputation in the Sprint Cup garage appeared to take a hit following last weekend’s post-race proceedings at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

Keselowski was able to shake it off and win today’s GEICO 500 at Talladega Superspeedway to advance to the Eliminator Round of the Chase.

But it was clear in his initial post-race comments in Victory Lane that the Charlotte incidents were not something he was thrilled with.

Naturally, the conversation in Keselowski’s post-race presser veered toward Charlotte – in particular, how he didn’t get down on himself as some of his peers criticized him for what he did.

But after Keselowski said his piece on the subject – which involved him talking about making peace with the fact there would be “uncomfortable moments” as he came up in the sport – his boss stepped in.

“Number one, these guys are jealous of the job he’s done this year,” said Keselowski’s team owner, Roger Penske. “He’s won six races.  He’s made poles. He’s been up front. Nobody likes to see a guy win like that. The fact that he has a little edge on him, he’s continually delivering, obviously I think makes a difference.”

Penske then made reference to the hard racing that Keselowski endured at Charlotte.

“If everybody understood what happened on the racetrack last week, when you get your rear fender knocked off on a restart, you get your front fender knocked off on a pass-by, I want him to get mad,” he said.  “I don’t want him to take it.”

“So to me coming back, we talked about it Sunday night, I said, ‘Let’s just go on, do our test [at Martinsville] during the week, move on here. ‘Brad’, I said, ‘put it in the rearview mirror.'”

Keselowski has maintained that Matt Kenseth damaged the right-front section of his car as he took a wave-around during the final restart of the Charlotte race – an apparent retaliation for Kenseth being run up into the wall by Keselowski on a previous restart with 63 laps left (Kenseth said on Friday that Keselowski “greatly exaggerated” the wave-around incident).

The two then tangled again at the conclusion of the Bank of America 500 when Kenseth was side-swiped by Keselowski at the entrance to pit road. Finally, Kenseth jumped Keselowski from behind as the latter was walking between haulers.

Earlier this week, NASCAR fined Keselowski $50,000 over the sequence of events. But while Penske admitted that there “was maybe some banging which was maybe not called for,” he made clear that he doesn’t mind Keselowski showing emotion.

“Look, I like him,” Penske added. “He’s a great driver. We have a long-term relationship with him. If he wants to get a little upset sometimes, that’s okay with me. We’ll let NASCAR figure out if he’s over the line or not.

“I guess it cost us 50 grand. I’ll take 50 grand and the win this week. Wouldn’t you?”

30 Seconds to Know: How does the Chase Eliminator round work?

 

Lewis Hamilton receives Daytona 500 invitation from Bubba Wallace

Lewis Hamilton Bubba Wallace
Rudy Carezzevoli/Getty Images
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Lewis Hamilton is a fan of the new NASCAR Cup Series team formed by Denny Hamlin and Michael Jordan to field a car for Bubba Wallace.

Will the six-time Formula One champion also be a fan in person at a NASCAR race in the near future?

Wallace is hoping so.

After Hamilton tweeted his support Tuesday morning about the news of a Hamlin-Jordan-Wallace team making its debut with the 2021 season, Wallace responded with a sly invitation to the Daytona 500.

Much would need to be worked out, starting with how much garage and grandstand access would be afforded for a 2021 season opener that likely would occur during a still ongoing novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

But it would seem fitting given that Hamilton and Wallace have been two of the world’s most outspoken Black athletes about the quest for diversity and racial justice. Hamilton recently reaffirmed his commitment to activism after his donning a Breonna Taylor shirt sparked an FIA inquiry.

The idea of Hamilton attending the season opener already had legs, too. The Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 driver has expressed a desire to race the Daytona 500 after he has retired from Formula One.

He was a spectator (with racing legend Mario Andretti) at four-time champion Jeff Gordon’s final Cup race as a full-time in the 2015 season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway. In 2011, Hamilton swapped cars with three-time champion Tony Stewart at Watkins Glen International.

Having rubbed shoulders with other racing greats so often, it only would be fitting if Hamilton — who is one victory from tying Michael Schumacher’s career record and also could tie the F1 record with a seventh championship this season — spent some time with the greatest basketball player of all time.

Jeff Gordon was flanked by Mario Andretti and Lewis Hamilton before the 2015 Cup season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway (Jared C. Tilton/NASCAR via Getty Images).