January 28th, 2015
Tempers and the pressure of the Chase got to a few drivers last night unlike any that we’ve seen in recent times. Brad Keselowski tried to pick fights with Joe Gibbs Racing teammates Matt Kenseth and Denny Hamlin, which inadvertently involved Tony Stewart in some post-race fireworks. Many fans on Twitter have taken to calling out Keselowski for his actions, but I am here to defend him.
Because I had picked Keselowski to win last night, I made it a point to listen to his in-car audio throughout the duration of the Bank of America 500 from the Charlotte Motor Speedway. Coming to the first run-in with Kenseth, after it happened, Keselowski and spotter Joey Meier tried to figure out what happened. Eventually Meier concluded he might have missed Kenseth, but there was no room up high anyways.
As the race continued on, an event happened that no one in the reporting world (on Twitter at least) noted until it was mentioned at the end of that race. Kenseth had gotten the lucky dog pass, and as he made his way on the high side around the field to get his lap back, he turned into the side of Keselowski’s Ford. This damaged the right front and relegated them to “junk” as Keselowski put it.
At that point, Keselowski began suggesting he would pay Kenseth a “friendly” visit after the race to discuss what happened. Again he, crew chief Paul Wolfe, and spotter Meier went back to the original incident to recall if they had been in error, coming to the same conclusion.
On the final restart Keselowski scrapped with Hamlin and there was no talk of retaliation on that front. My opinion is Keselowski was dead set on getting to Kenseth, but before he could do that on the cool down lap, Hamlin brake checked Keselowski. An already mad Keselowski then added Hamlin to his hit list; trying to spin out Hamlin, without much success.
Then it was on to finding Kenseth and I’m going to deviate for a second here. What got Hamlin and Kenseth so fired up was that Keselowski hit Kenseth’s car while he had his seat belts undone. That is inexcusable in itself and NASCAR should review the cool down lap procedures. When a driver is in a vehicle going around the race track, going five mph or 200 mph, he should be belted in.
On Twitter I got some flack, with people saying “it is a known procedure to loosen belts on cool down laps,” which is a terrible defense. That’s the same kind of defense that came up when Tony Stewart had his unfortunate accident in August, where it was known that people get out of their cars to confront drivers. It took tragedy to have NASCAR and other sanctioning bodies to step in and enforce rules to keep drivers in the cars. Now I believe NASCAR needs to step in and stop this habit right here because these post-race bumps happen more often than you think.
Back on track, Keselowski and Kenseth make contact, of which it causes Keselowski to get into Tony Stewart’s car. Funniest part of this is how Stewart reacted; by gunning it in reverse to run into Keselowski’s car. Then on pit road Hamlin and Keselowski make more contact before going to the garage, where Hamlin has to be restrained from coming after Keselowski.
See, here again, Keselowski calmly got out of his car, but it is Hamlin who is flipping out to get to him. Hamlin should remember how tangling with a Team Penske driver worked out in the past. Anyways, I’m still confused how Hamlin, who started it by brake checking Keselowski and now trying to fight Keselowski, is coming off as more of a saint than Keselowski.
By the time they defuse the Hamlin bomb, Kenseth comes out of nowhere to tackle Keselowski between the haulers. Again, Kenseth put his nose where it shouldn’t have been, takes a cheap shot at Keselowski while getting his lap back, then takes exception to the retaliatory bump on the cool down lap. How did you not see that coming Kenseth? How did you not think, “Gee, this guy might get back at me.”? How is his spotter not keeping him informed that Keselowski is coming?
I think Keselowski had it correctly in his comments afterwards, saying “those guys can dish it out, but they can’t take it. I gave it back to them and now they want to fight, so I don’t know what’s up with that.”
That’s exactly it, Hamlin and Kenseth can be on the offensive, but once they are put on the defensive, they wig out. The television can only show what they capture, it was dumb luck a cameraman was following Keselowski when Kenseth tackled him. Imagine what else they would have seen had they been following around Saint Hamlin and Saint Kenseth the whole time.