Brad Keselowski’s aggressive late-race tactics helped trigger yet another post-race fight during this Chase for the Sprint Cup, this time with Jeff Gordon following today’s AAA Texas 500 at Texas Motor Speedway.
Immediately after his scuffle with Gordon, Keselowski said that he was going for the win and wasn’t trying to wreck Gordon. Later, during a post-race press conference, he again declared that he would not change his ways on the track.
“The sport, specifically the driving corps, is stuck in the year 1999, 2000,” he asserted. “With the testing bans, the COT cars, all these different things that have happened, the only way for a guy like me to break through is to drive the way I’ve drove over the last four or five years.
“I think last year, I got away from being as aggressive as I was in 2012 [when he won the Sprint Cup title] and this year. I didn’t make the Chase. Won one race. That’s not acceptable to me. I’m here to win races for Roger Penske and for my team.
“That means when there’s a gap, I have to take it. If it requires a tiny bit of rubbing, that’s okay. It’s not anything I don’t expect on the other side. Plenty of times where I got rubbed. It will go both ways. That’s okay by me.”
Keselowski continued by saying that he wasn’t “trying to dish out something that I couldn’t take myself” and acknowledged that some of his peers have a different way of racing, which he said was their right to have.
But he then said that he couldn’t back down and risk returning to where he was last year, when he failed to make the Chase after claiming the biggest prize in stock car racing.
“I’m not going to get in the spot where I was in 2013 where, you know, I tried to be exactly what they all wanted me to be, because what they want me to be is a loser, and I’m not here to lose, I’m here to win,” he said. “That means I’m going to have to drive my car, harder, stronger, faster than everybody out there. That’s what I feel like I did today.”
Keselowski certainly had to earn his third-place finish. For much of the race, he was stuck just outside the Top 10 until a caution came out for debris at Lap 252.
Having to roll the dice in order to get a result that would keep his championship hopes alive, Keselowski stayed out under that yellow and only dropped back to third place before another caution at Lap 285 for debris. That gave him the break he needed to secure fresh tires and to get in step with the leaders.
He was shuffled back to 13th when a group of seven drivers stayed out under a later yellow at Lap 296, but the continued rash of cautions gave him opportunities to peel off positions on late restarts.
He found himself in third place when the race was thrown into green-white-checkered because of a Clint Bowyer crash with four laps left. But on the first GWC attempt, Keselowski made contact with leader Jeff Gordon, causing Gordon to fall back and eventually spin out with a tire failure.
Keselowski was then out-dueled by Johnson on the second GWC attempt, and in the pits after the race, Gordon came over and shouted at Keselowski.
When Keselowski was pushed from behind by runner-up Kevin Harvick, Gordon then got a hand on Keselowski to set off bedlam as they, their crews, NASCAR officials, and other bystanders were sucked into the fight – a scene remarkably similar to Keselowski’s brouhaha with Matt Kenseth following the Chase race at Charlotte Motor Speedway four weekends ago.
That episode has earned Keselowski a good bit of scorn, and chances are, this latest episode will too.
But it would appear that while Keselowski isn’t necessarily happy about being dubbed as a bad guy, he’s made some sort of peace with it all.
“From my perspective, I think I’ve come to the reality that there’s a lot worse things in this world than me,” he said. “If I’m a villain, the people that think I’m a villain have a pretty good life and should be proud of that.
“All this stuff that’s going on in the world – if your villain is me racing 100%, you’ve got it pretty good and I don’t feel too bad for you.”