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

Miguel Oliveira wins MotoGP Thai Grand Prix, Bagnaia closes to two points in championship

MotoGP Thai Grand Prix
Mirco Lazzari / Getty Images
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Miguel Oliveira mastered mixed conditions on the Chang International Circuit in Buriram, Thailand to win the MotoGP Thai Grand Prix. Oliveira showed the adaptability as he navigated a race that began in wet conditions and turned dry over the course of the race. Oliveira won the Indonesian GP in similar conditions.

“It was a long race, but I can’t complain,” Oliveira said on CNBC. “Every time we get to ride in the wet, I’m always super-fast. When it started raining, I had flashbacks of Indonesia. I tried to keep my feet on the ground, make a good start and not make mistakes and carry the bike to the end.”

All eyes were on the championship, however. Francesco Bagnaia got a great start to slot into second in Turn 1.

Meanwhile Fabio Quartararo had a disastrous first lap. He lost five positions in the first couple of turns and then rode over the rumble strips and fell back to 17th. At the end of the first lap, Bagnaia had the points’ lead by two. A win would have added to the gain and for a moment, it appeared Bagnaia might assume the lead.

Early leader Marco Bezzecchi was penalized for exceeding track limits, but before that happened, Jack Miller got around Bagnaia and pushed him back to third. Oliveira was not far behind.

After throwing away ninth-place and seven points on the last lap of the Japanese GP last week, Bagnaia did not allow the competition to press him into a mistake. He fell back as far as fourth before retaking the final position on the podium.

“It’s like a win for me, this podium,” Bagnaia. “My first podium in the wet and then there was a mix of conditions, so I’m very happy. I want to thank Jack Miller. Before the race, he gave me a motivational chat.”

Miller led the first half of the Thai Grand Prix before giving up the top spot to Oliveira and then held on to finish second. Coupled with his Japanese GP win, Miller is now fully in the MotoGP championship battle with a 40-point deficit, but he will need a string of results like Bagnaia has put together in recent weeks – and he needs Bagnaia to lose momentum.

Miller’s home Grand Prix in Australia is next up on the calendar in two weeks.

Bagnaia entered the race 18 points behind Quartararo after he failed to score any in Japan. The balance of power has rapidly shifted, however, with Quartararo now failing to earn points in two of the last three rounds. Bagnaia won four consecutive races and finished second in the five races leading up to Japan. His third-place finish in Thailand is now his sixth MotoGP podium in the last seven rounds.

Aleix Espargaro entered the race third in the standings with a 25-point deficit to Quartararo, but was able to close the gap by only five after getting hit with a long-lap penalty for aggressive riding when he pushed Darryn Binder off course during a pass for position. Espargaro finished 11th.

Rain mixed up the Moto2 running order in the MotoGP Thai Grand Prix as well. Starting on a wet track, Somkiat Chantra led the opening lap in his home Grand Prix. He could not hold onto it and crashed one circuit later, but still gave his countrymen a moment of pride by winning the pole.

Half points were awarded as the race went only eight laps before Tony Arbolino crossed under the checkers first with Filip Salac and Aron Canet rounding out the podium.

American Joe Roberts earned another top-10 in eighth with Sean Dylan Kelly finishing just outside the top 10 in 11th.