Jimmie Johnson: Brad Keselowski’s indifference about his actions ‘pisses people off’


If there was ever a perfect theme song for NASCAR star Brad Keselowski, it would be The Coasters’ hit from the late 1950s, “Charlie Brown,” with the infamous lyrical refrain, “Why’s everybody always picking on me?”

(If you’re too young to know who The Coasters are, the video for their biggest hit is below.)

Six-time defending Sprint Cup champ Jimmie Johnson can kind of understand that when it comes to Keselowski.

During Friday’s weekly press availability at Phoenix International Raceway, Johnson was asked why it seems everybody is so mad at Keselowski.

“It seems to have gone on for quite some time,” Johnson said. “You go back to I think it was Carl (Edwards) and Brad (Keselowski) had their dust up a while ago (actually several dust ups dating back to 2010).”

Currently ranked seventh of the eight remaining drivers in the Chase, Keselowski is 17 points behind series leader and Penske Racing teammate Joey Logano.

Heading into Sunday’s Quicken Loans Race for Heroes 500 at Phoenix International Raceway, Keselowski may be an island unto himself when it comes to his hopes of advancing to the final round of four at Homestead next week.

Short of winning Sunday’s race to get an automatic berth into the final round of four drivers vying for the championship in the winner-take-all season finale, Keselowski could find himself with zero friends (other than Logano) at PIR to help him in his quest to advance, Johnson said.

And, according to Johnson, it would be all of Keselowski’s doing.

“This has been building,” Johnson said. “I can promise you it is not jealousy. I know that has been thrown out there.

“I think it is more about the stuff that happens on the track and off. A style, an attitude, a variety of things like that which all play into it. Truthfully, it pisses people off more than others.

“Like (paraphrasing Keselowski’s actions), ‘I don’t really care about what happens outside of the car and what people say.’ Some people really get affected by that and really get wound up about it and caught up in it.”

Johnson tries not to get caught up with the emotion of things, particularly with all the negativity that has swirled around Keselowski from recent run-ins with Jeff Gordon, Matt Kenseth, Tony Stewart, Kevin Harvick and others.

“I don’t care, I’ve got other stuff to worry about,” Johnson said. “I don’t care about that. It’s going to affect some drivers more than others.

“It’s been building in that front. When you look at Matt Kenseth being as upset as he was (three weeks ago after a run-in with Keselowski in Charlotte), that is pretty rare. Jeff (Gordon), I want to say that it’s pretty rare, but I think we are at like the third or fourth time he has let his aggression come up and he has gone after somebody.

“I think it’s pretty new to having an assist with (Kevin) Harvick kind of pushing (Keselowski) over into Gordon. That is a first. I don’t have a clear vision as to what it is, but it is evident that it has been building and it’s kind of at a high.”

Will Gordon’s Hendrick Motorsports teammates – Johnson, Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Kasey Kahne – do everything they can to get Gordon into the final round, and potentially keep Keselowski out?

In other words, will one of the other HMS drivers take one for the team?

And when asked if Gordon’s post-race reaction at Texas was justified, Johnson did a quick about-face.

“Okay back to the point,” Johnson said with a laugh. “You are going to have to ask him that. I don’t know.”

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Ford Mustang GT3 test has Austin Cindric dreaming of Daytona: ‘I want to drive that car’

Cindric Ford GT3 test
Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images

Austin Cindric wasn’t the “mystery” test driver behind the wheel of the new Ford Mustang GT3 at Sebring International Raceway, but the Team Penske driver desperately wanted to be.

Ford CEO Jim Farley, an amateur sports car driver himself, made the big reveal via a Tuesday tweet that provided the first video evidence of the GT3 Mustang on track.

“I’ve watched the video in question about a million times,” Cindric said Wednesday during a Ford Performance Zoom news conference to promote NASCAR’s first road course weekend of the season at Circuit of the Americas. “Definitely exciting times for sure. I want to drive that car. It suits my experience level and also the relationships that I have.”

Ford will enter the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship next season with its GT3 Mustang, entering a two-car factory effort (that will be managed by Multimatic) in GTD Pro and making customer cars available in the GT Daytona category.

That increases the likelihood of seeing more NASCAR drivers crossing over to IMSA. Cindric has been the only full-time Cup driver in the Rolex 24 at Daytona the past two years, but Ford Performance global director Mark Rushbrook has said the GT3 Mustang will provide more opportunities.

Ford has used its GT4 Mustang as a NASCAR driver development tool in the IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge with Harrison Burton and Zane Smith combining to win the season opener at Daytona International Speedway in January.

“We’re excited about the Next Gen car and the new architecture there and the similarities between that car and GT3 and even GT4 cars,” Rushbrook said at the announcement of the Ford GT3 program in January 2022 at Daytona. “We think it’s a great opportunity and to do be able to do that in a 24-hour race and get NASCAR drivers even more time is something we need to consider taking advantage of that opportunity.”

Given his sports car background, Cindric probably still would be in the Rolex 24 regardless. He has eight IMSA starts since the 2017 season opener at Daytona, racing a Lexus RCF GT3 and Mercedes-AMG GT3 in the GT category. The 2022 Daytona 500 winner made his second LMP2 start this year with Rick Ware Racing.

But Cindric’s preference naturally would be in a Ford, particularly with sports car racing enjoying convergence and crossovers in both GT and prototype racing.

“It’s an exciting time in GT racing, just as it is now for prototype racing with a lot of new regulations and manufacturers building new GT3 cars,” he said. “And also the opportunity with WEC (the World Endurance Championship) and Le Mans and how that all lines up for that category of car. It’s definitely an exciting time. I want to be as much of a part of that as possible.”

Though those odds seemingly will increase with multiple Ford entries in the Rolex 24 field next year, Cindric said NASCAR drivers still have to put in the networking to land rides as he has in recent years.

“Now how (the GT3 Mustang) relates to specifically NASCAR drivers and how often they want to be in the Rolex, could it be an influence? Absolutely, as far as the tie-in with the manufacturer,” Cindric said. “But the challenge and the drive and the logistics of getting an opportunity for a race like the Rolex 24 will be just as challenging as it always is to find your one-off ride for the race. At least from my experience, that’s what I still anticipate.”

It turned out the “mystery” test driver wasn’t from NASCAR (Farley revealed the driver to be 24 Hours of Le Mans winner Joey Hand after a fan asked whether it was Joey Logano).

But Cindric believes there could be more Cup drivers — and perhaps himself — behind the wheel of Mustang GT3s in the future.

“There’s definitely more of a pathway than I think there would be before as far as Ford drivers are concerned,” he said. “Hopefully, I’ll get the opportunity to drive that thing. It’s obviously a great looking car. That’s the first box you’ve got to check. And it’s cool (to have) a guy like Jim Farley, no doubt he’s a racer just as much as he is steering the ship for Ford. It’s cool to see he’s just as excited as the rest of us about it.”