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

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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.”

Follow me @JerryBonkowski

Alex Marquez wins first MotoGP #StayAtHomeGP Virtual Race

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Alex Marquez of Spain won the inaugural MotoGP #StayAtHomeGP Virtual Race as the world’s premier bike racing series followed other motorsports into online racing.

The #StayAtHomeGP, which was streamed Sunday on several platforms including the Motorsports on NBC YouTube channel, featured a field of 10 riders competing on their console gaming systems at home.

Francesco Bagnaia was the runner-up, and Maverick Vinales rounded out the podium.

INDYCAR iRACING: Sage Karam wins Watkins Glen opener

Defending MotoGP premier series champion Marc Marquez, the older brother of the rookie race winner and his teammate at Repsol Honda Team, finished fifth.

Here’s a recap of the race from the MotoGP site.

The premier class of MotoGP has yet to hit the track this season as its opener was canceled and the next three races were postponed, including the Grand Prix of the Americas being moved from April 5 to Nov. 15.

Several other racing series have tried online racing in recent weeks.

IMSA held a “SuperSaturday at Sebring” March 21 in place of the postponed Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of SebringNASCAR started its Pro Invitational Series last Sunday at Homestead-Miami Speedway and will continue Sunday at Texas Motor Speedway. IndyCar kicked off its six-race IndyCar iRacing Challenge with a Saturday race at Watkins Glen International that was won by Sage Karam.