Tom Bowles
Friday March 26th, 2010

Brad Keselowski does a biweekly diary for SI.com. In this latest edition, he puts his flip with Carl Edwards to bed and talks about moving on through a top 15 finish at Thunder Valley. What did he learn from it all? And what happens from here? Plus: the inside dish on NASCAR's new spoiler, the most talented Cup driver he's ever worked with, and whether open-wheel racing is part of his future now that he's driving for an Indy 500 legend.

After a wild and wacky two weeks, you came to Bristol and put together your best run of the year, a 13th finish. Tell us about your day in Thunder Valley.

Well, the Cup car was decent. Kurt Busch was really fast, again. So we put some of his setup in, picked up some speed pretty quickly, and were relatively happy with our car at the start of the race. We used some strategy to get up towards the front, and when the pit stops reset, we found ourselves running about 9th or 10th with new tires and feeling pretty good about our day.

We were able to drive up to about 5th or 6th from there, but we came back in on the next cycle of stops and just fell off. We fell back to about 18th or so from 6th, and we were kind of disappointed about that. We were stuck in that no man's land, so we used a strategy to get up towards the front: we took two tires, got up there, and ran that last cycle from the lead and fell back to about ninth.

We were probably going to finish ninth and that last yellow came out -- so we got cycled back to 13th on that. And it cost Kurt the win, which was unfortunate, but all in all, it was a decent day. Brought home a solid finish, which was really important for us.

I know you guys were playing around with two tires throughout the day while a lot of other teams had tire issues. How scary was it to play that strategy card, and why do you think we're seeing so many tire problems?

Oh, I was nervous about it. During the last few weeks, that's been something to be anxious about. We'll have to see, but hopefully we can get all that straightened out. I know they're working really hard on it. But I wouldn't say I felt comfortable, that's for sure.

As for your second question, I don't believe anything breaks randomly. There's always a reason, but I don't think anyone's really got an answer for the tires yet. That's what makes drivers nervous.

My other race-related question is abou the green-white-checkered restarts. I know it's been an issue in recent weeks, and a double-file restart late in the race arguably cost your teammate a Bristol win. What do you think about those types of finishes?

Well, I understand green-white-checkered restarts. The only real issue is that it's double-file. Each track has one lane that's inherently faster than the others, and you find yourself being boxed in based on what lane you get. So you can be the best car, get the wrong lane on that double-file restart and go backwards. I think that upsets a lot of people. They feel the race is essentially out of their hands based on what restart line they get. Drivers and teams don't like when they can't dictate their own race. That's when they cry foul, and with good reason.

But I don't think there's really a good solution. I just know green-white-checker finishes with double-file restarts seem to create a lot of chaos. Unfortunately it can turn into a wreckfest.

After all that was said leading up to Bristol, you and Carl Edwards left a meeting with NASCAR officials smiling, then raced each other hard and clean on Sunday. What's one positive thing you learned about Carl you'll take with you going forward?

He said he would leave me more room on the racetrack if I left him more room and he lived up to that when I raced him, so I think that's a positive thing.

After many drivers claiming you still needed to be "taught a lesson," you emerged from a place where bumping is the norm without so much as a scratch. Describe the importance of coming out clean after two weeks' worth of controversy.

There is some level of irony in it. To be clear about it, I raced Bristol the same way I've always raced Bristol. And it's the reason why I've been successful there. I race real hard, but I'm willing to give and take. The only difference I saw in Bristol than any other racetrack that I ever ran, is that I had cameras on me most of the race, and people were shocked that I gave and took. Well, I've been doing that the whole time! I understand give and take just as well, if not better than everybody else. The whole thing that comes with it is that some people just don't want to see it.

So I guess I take a level of pride in coming out without a scratch. I still don't think what happened between me and Carl at Atlanta was my fault. It's just one of those deals and the same thing could have happened at Bristol when we were racing. So that's my two cents on it.

Looking back on everything now, what's the one thing you've learned throughout this process you'll take with you going forward?

You take a lot of things away from it. I learned that the media is always very interested in stories that are based on human interest, not necessarily performance. I think I learned more about the fans than I did the media, in that the fans are looking for action out of our sport. Some kind of drama. Which I thought that before, but I guess I didn't realize how significant it was.

You're coming off a test this week of NASCAR's new spoiler. How does it make the car handle differently compared to the wing, and what's the biggest challenge you're going to face with the switch?

Well, it's faster through the corner and slower at the end of the straightaway. It drags more. It drives with a little more balance, and it's a little easier to control. I think those are good things, but I'm reserving judgment until we get to actually race it.

Your teammate, Kurt Busch, is one of the hottest drivers on the circuit right now. How much does that confidence translate over to the No. 12, and what have you learned from Kurt so far that's helped you in your full-time transition to Sprint Cup?

Well, the biggest thing I take from Kurt at this moment, and I understand we have a fairly new relationship, is his ability to dial in his car and get it driving right. So that's something I've been impressed with, for sure. You know, I've worked with quite a few drivers over the past few years, with the different jobs I've had at JR Motorsports and Hendrick Motorsports. There's quite a list that came through those cars. High-profile drivers and there is not a question in my mind that out of all the ones I've been around, Kurt is the most talented.

So I guess I take that with me, and I'm only envious of his talent. Like one of those, "We're not worthy moments." So I can take that from him and try and see what he's doing to be as fast as he is. You just watch and try to learn from that, and see where his talents are and if you can apply them.

While Kurt is a close second, it's Jimmie Johnson who remains the driver to beat. Does it frustrate you to see the No. 48 car winning so many races, and what's your strategy at Penske as you try and take down NASCAR's Goliath?

First off, it doesn't hurt that he has a ton of good fortune on his side. But a lot of people give him breaks. I watch video and very rarely do I see anyone ever race him hard. That means he has a lot of respect from his competitors, but I don't see a lot of people who are willing to do what it takes to beat him. So for that, I'll give him credit, because he's raised the bar and there's nobody else trying to get to it.

You're looked at as one of the more aggressive drivers on the circuit, but given a chance to rough up teammate Justin Allgaier for a Nationwide Series win on Saturday, you passed it up. Why?

There's a lot of reasons why I didn't. The first reason, and probably the strongest, is that I had a level of guilt from the year before, where I wrecked Justin and he was probably the car to beat at Bristol. So I felt like I owed him one. In my mind, it kind of evened that score.

And certainly, the scrutiny I had from the media and other drivers contributed to me passing up the chance. It was almost like a win to be able to stick it in their face that, "Hey, there's a head in here, I know what the hell I'm doing." That was almost its own win. It's kind of strange that not winning is winning, but in the big picture it is.

Plus it's very hard to make contact with another driver in the Nationwide cars without causing a wreck. It's next to impossible to just flat out move someone. Further, the last thing I needed to do for my Nationwide team was 1) divide it between the 12 and the 22 and 2) take a chance of wrecking him and myself and allowing Carl to have a better day than both of us. We'd lose points out of it. I have a lot of respect for Justin and for Penske Racing. I want this Nationwide program to be successful, not just the No. 22 car.

So at the end of the day, there were a lot of reasons why what I did made sense, and just one reason that it didn't -- because I didn't walk away with a W in the win column. So on that particular day, the "win" was to not win.

Can you take us through the differences of racing a teammate down the stretch versus any other car on the track. What goes through your mind, and will you change your driving style under the circumstances?

I usually don't. Bristol was a rare instance and that's the best way I could describe it. But some weeks, it does affect you. I agree that's not what the sport needs, but as a team, it's a lot better to see all the Penske cars run up front for the win and having to race easy than it is to see all of us running 20th having to race hard. So you have to be smart about it.

After months of debate, President Obama finally passed a landmark health care bill that was signed into law. How do you feel about it, and what do you think is the best way to fix the system?

I have mixed emotions, and I haven't made up my mind on how I really feel. I have to give the President his due credit. He was voted in on the premise of change, and that was his message all along. So at some point in time, you have to give him the ball and let him run with it. The change that he believes in right now is the health care system, so at some point, he deserves the benefit of the doubt that he knows what he's doing.

But on the other side, I don't see where it adds up and how it's going to work with so many roadblocks. So I'm a little confused by that. But again, I'm willing to give him the benefit of the doubt. And either way -- if it works or if it doesn't work -- we'll all be OK. It's not going to be the end of the world. In my mind, it's a great social experiment.

So, we'll see. I don't think we have a lot to lose. I don't think anyone would argue the system we have now is perfect, and if we give it a shot and 10 years from now, we realize it ain't working, we can always go back. There's nothing saying that this is the end. And I say those things as a person who's not a Democrat or a Republican. But I do believe that when you vote a guy into office to change things, you have to let him change. It's only fair. And if it doesn't work, you always have the opportunity to elect somebody different, or the government has the ability to go back to its original plan. So, we need to give it a shot. That's my immediate take.

But when I look at the actual legislation itself, you always have to ask yourself the same question: what are we trying to fix? And no one has really been able to explain, to me, what we're trying to fix. So that's part of why I have mixed emotions.

Now that Brad K. is with Penske, is there any possibility that he'll try open-wheel racing?

- Christine, NJ

Absolutely. It's going to be hard, because I'm not sure I'll know how to race without knowing how to rub fenders. But absolutely, I'd love to do it one day when the timing is right and when it's not a distraction from the NASCAR environment.

Have a question or want advice from Brad? Email me at tbowles81@yahoo.com or Twitter at NASCARBowles to get your chance to wind up in his diary!

Today's Choices:

Jessica Simpson. WIN HER. I have a weakness for blondes, so how could I not say Win Her? She's blonde with a great smile, that gets me every time.

Scarlet Johansson. UNDECIDED. Man, I don't know. I saw her in that movie, "He's Just Not That Into You," and I thought she was great. And then I've seen

Today's Topic: College Basketball

RING ME UP: Well I haven't really been following March Madness this year. My PR guy, David Hovis, is a huge fan of Duke so when he comes in we pick his brain about what's going on.

I LOST THE NUMBER: I lost my team, the Michigan Wolverines, after the whole collapse of the Fab Five several years ago. I've kind of been displeased with college basketball ever since.

It's been three years since you last ran a race at Martinsville in any of NASCAR's top three series. How will you try and brush up on your knowledge beforehand?

That's a great question, one that I've been trying to figure out and haven't come up with an answer for! It's going to be a difficult track for me, so I'm prepared for a difficult day mentally. Anything better than a difficult day is going to be like a win.

As far as the best way to approach it, really it's just to talk to your teammates. Other than that, you're kind of stuck to just wait until you get there and practice. At some point in this sport, you just got to get out there and do it, and that's about where I'm at now.

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