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Keselowski on the run-in with Carl Edwards at Gateway race

Brad Keselowski does a bi-weekly diary for SI.com. Heading to Indy this weekend, he looks back on his latest incident with Carl Edwards at Gateway and gives his take on the NASCAR penalties handed down. Also in this latest edition: his thoughts on changing the Chase, Lake Tahoe vs. Lake Norman, and why moves to make drivers safer have also made them a little more aggressive.

Go through the final few laps at Gateway with us from your perspective.

I took the bottom line on the restart. I had a pretty good car and it felt like we were the car to beat, but I knew that the restarts would be tough to win. I knew that Carl was strong up off of turn 2, and that played right into his strong suit. I figured I was probably going to lose the lead and then just have to pass him back.

So with two laps to go, Carl got a great run off of turn 2, and I had cleared him to go down the backstretch, but he was faster than me off of 2. Had a big run down the backstretch. I moved down accordingly because I wanted to give him a lane on the outside; and quite honestly, I figured if I didn't give him a lane on the outside, he'd just run me over and wreck me anyway. I didn't want to give him any excuses. So he got to the outside of me in turns 3 and 4, and took just a little bit of air off of me. I got loose and simply got passed. I said, "That's OK. I'm going to get right back by him. I just need a lap to get going here." I was right to his left-rear corner on the entry of turn 1 down the frontstretch; and I got in there just a little bit harder than what I thought.

So I got in there pretty hard, but a little more than what the car would hold, and just got a touch loose. I didn't intentionally try to bump and run him -- I keep hearing about bump and run, and so forth -- but to me, that's not a bump and run. It's a "I got loose and just barely touched him" -- and I did. I thought for a second we were both going to wreck, and he did a great job of saving his car. I got a little lucky and saved my car, too. I kind of lifted for him, let him save it afterwards and get back in line. And we did. We got in line down the backstretch, I got to his quarterpanel halfway down the backstretch, and passed him entering turn 3.

So to me, the initial contact and the fact I passed him were somewhat unrelated, in my mind. I didn't feel like I passed him because I hit him, I passed him in turn 3. I didn't pass him in turn 1 because I bumped him. We were in the same position before we got to turn 1, and that was intentional because I gave it back and allowed him to save his car -- knowing I could take it back and pass him.

So I pulled even on him going into 3, and then jumping off of 4 I wanted to make sure I left plenty of room, so that there was no room for any back-and-forth about me cutting him off or anything. And I did, and I was planning on leaving him more room than I even did, and... he turned down and the rest is history, as they say..

A lot has been made in talking to racers of where Carl hit you, and how that changes the way that crash is perceived. Can you explain the difference between not only turn versus straightaway, but left rear versus right rear?

Well, there's obviously different forms of contact in different directions. A lot of racing is about positioning. Specifically, you look at the right rear quarterpanel and it's the most vulnerable spot to ever hit a race car. Our cars are made to turn left, so you would think if you hit them in the right rear, they would be the least sensitive to it. But it's actually quite the opposite. Just the way they react, with all the weight being in the left corner, the way they swing around is very violent. And afterwards, the track is going the other direction, so there are a lot of things that stack up against you when you get hit in that area. Of course, you can't react or be prepared for it as a driver.

There's a lot of talk about, "well you should be able to save it." That's not savable contact, no matter who you are when you get hit in the right rear quarterpanel. Generally speaking, when you get hit in the left rear quarterpanel, there's never any guarantees any time there's contact that you're going to be able to save your car. But that's the easiest area to save your car is getting hit in the left rear quarterpanel, because when you drive a race car, you naturally slide your rear tires to the right, and that's how it turns. The front end cuts and turns to the left, and the back end slides to the right. That's what gives you turning. So when there's contact made on the left rear, race cars are made to recover from sliding the rear tires to the right. As a driver, that's how you drive it.

I want you to take a step back, visualize yourself in Carl's position and go through the last lap along with you. What would you have done after the contact between Turns 1 and 2?

Hmm. I would have probably not let him get by me in 3 and 4, not by bumping me. But I would have held him tight through that corner, then sidedrafted down the front straightaway and had a shot at winning it -- but no guarantees.

Do you feel like what happened instead was the most crossing the line you've ever had in a race car, in an incident, with anybody?

No, I would say Atlanta was. I felt that was premeditated.

OK, let's move on to the penalties. Fair? Unfair? Could there have been more?

Well, the whole thing about this is there is no real justice to any of it. Real justice is to go back and for none of it to happen to begin with. That's never going to happen, though; as far as what's right and what's wrong, I have some internal bias from my own situation. I think that looking at it from a past perspective, I think the decisions that were made from NASCAR were the right move to make.

Do you feel like if it was handed down in Atlanta, we wouldn't have seen what we saw Saturday night? Or were the emotions of trying to win the race going to overcome Carl no matter what?

That's a good question. I don't know the answer to that.

Let's go back to the Talladega wreck last year, a wreck between the two of you where Edwards nearly went into the grandstands. That wreck injured seven spectators, and he was clearly shaken ... how much do you think that incident has shaped the relationship between you two even now?

Absolutely. Oh, yeah, without a doubt. I think he feels like I stole a win from him, based on his post-race comments - that's what he said. So yeah, I do feel that's a sore subject for him. It was one I tried to talk to him about, and he was in moderate denial about it over a year ago. So I don't know what to say any further than that, but it's obviously still something's that's with him.

But he put himself in a bad position there. It's very important to make that difference known.

What about your own probation? Do you feel it's justified, and do you feel NASCAR trying to take preventative steps to ensure that with Carl in the Chase battle, nothing more happened?

Well, I'm not exactly sure the motivation behind it. I can speculate based on Robin's (Pemberton's) comments. What I understand of it is protecting the garage from someone going out and doing something that tears up somebody else's race cars.

Any plans for you and Carl to talk?

Nope, no plans to do any of that at this point. I'm just going to keep doing my thing.

From that standpoint, is there now confusion over NASCAR's "Have at it, boys" policy? Or was it clarified?

It's clear now. NASCAR is in a tough position when it comes to this but they have done a great job.

A lot of people have commented on the fact this wreck between two Cup drivers ruined a whole lot of Nationwide drivers' days. How do you think it will affect NASCAR's thought process in trying to limit you guys from running the series next year, if at all?

The basics of it are there are a few of those drivers I feel bad for, but at some point, you're like, "Man, a lot of those guys wreck every week whether or not they get help from a Cup driver or not." Now, when I look at like a Shelby Howard or a Steve Arpin, Shelby does not get into a lot of wrecks. Neither does Steve.. So I feel bad for some of them, but not all of them, especially when you see half the cars that hit you were half a straightaway behind you. I want to be like, "Dude, slow down a little bit!" So I guess some of you have to look at it objectively -- every situation's different.

Let's move on to the Cup side. At Chicago, you had your first top-20 finish in Cup since mid-May (18th). What made the difference?

Well, we had one of our best weekends at practice and execution for the whole weekend, which I was fairly proud of. We had found some things that we had from earlier in May that we had to take back off our cars because we had failures with them. Well, we were able to get some of the failures back under control that kind of ravaged our June and July. Once we got that in control, I think we were more competitive. I feel like we're going to be drastically more competitive over the next few weeks.

With the Chase now a virtual impossibility, you've always said the focus is running consistently. How have you adjusted your goals now that your team will begin to shift towards 2011?

Probably just being able to go for wins, and not being able to worry about going for points. Running in the top 5 and the top 10 and feeling like we can gamble and make something happen, that's probably the biggest thing. Being able to throw the "kitchen sink" at something and see if we can make it work.

Speaking of the playoffs, much has been made recently of making changes to the Chase. After coming in from the Nationwide Series, what are your thoughts? Leave it alone, make some adjustments, or scrap it altogether?

To be honest, I don't really care. I'm almost to the point where we need to just make a set of rules, keep 'em consistent, and we'll figure it out. It doesn't even really matter to me. The whole mentality of changing because things are down... you look back and see things didn't go down until we started changing other things. Now, I'm not a fan of continuous change, because it's hard for the fans to relate to a sport that changes so rapidly every six months. It's hard for me to do. There are a lot of rules in racing and weeks where I couldn't even tell you all the rules! So how's the average fan going to tell you?

A law was recently passed promoting Wall Street reform and bank regulation. Do you think the people that helped caused the crash two years ago were held accountable enough, and are you happy with the way the government has reacted to the whole economic crash?

Well, Wall Street in general -- there's a lot of regulation there, but I think there's a lot of regulation required. Essentially, you're looking at the finances for the country, and quite frankly part of the world is controlled out of one very small area. So I think it's important to show some level of accountability. As to what extent, I trust the powers that be to look out for us.

A law was recently passed promoting Wall Street reform and bank regulation. Do you think the people that helped caused the crash two years ago were held accountable enough, and are you happy with the way the government has reacted to the whole economic crash?

Well, Wall Street in general -- there's a lot of regulation there, but I think there's a lot of regulation required. Essentially, you're looking at the finances for the country, and quite frankly part of the world is controlled out of one very small area. So I think it's important to show some level of accountability. As to what extent, I trust the powers that be to look out for us.

Does Brad think that the cars being so safe now makes drivers feel invulnerable, and they take bigger risks as a consequence? --Anonymous, Michigan

Absolutely. There's not a question in my mind that we're seeing maneuvers pulled that I don't think you would have seen five to 10 years ago. The cars have become extremely safe. But not only that, if you rub fenders with someone, with the old car you had to come in and pull those fenders out -- otherwise, you'd have a tire down or have substantial issues. We still see that on the Nationwide side with the old car. But with the new car, it's not that way. You bump fenders with someone, you're OK. You're going to be able to keep going and you're not going to cut a tire down, or wreck, or have any of those problems. So I think that has changed the racing quite a bit.

Lindsay Lohan. SPIN HER. I don't know how you could call her a winner. But obviously somebody's got to like her because they're buying her movies and watching her stuff. It just seems like a lot has gone on in that girl's life, and some of it you've got to feel bad for her, with her whole family situation and such. But at the end of the day, we're all responsible for our own lives, and while I'm not one to criticize, I feel like she's had a fair amount of struggle.

Bristol Palin. WIN HER Didn't she just get back with her estranged ex-boyfriend? Good for her. I'm supportive of anyone that tries to make things work out between their loved ones. Obviously, she's put a very large effort into that. So, good for her.

Today's Topic: Lake Tahoe vs. Lake Norman

RING ME UP: Lake Tahoe is probably as beautiful as it gets. It's an amazing experience; the mountains, the snow on top of them, the community. I don't know how you can compare them, it's a completely different atmosphere. And those are both very nice and beautiful areas, just drastically different. So, I really enjoy both of them... but I would pick Tahoe.

I LOST THE NUMBER: Lake Norman. But it has better girls. It's more of a party area, and there seem to be more girls. There's plenty more to do at Lake Tahoe, though.

Take us around a lap at Indianapolis.

All right, the big track at Indy is a very discipline-oriented track. It's so fast, the speeds are very high, so it can be very intimidating because you're driving into the corner and basically you're looking at a wall that's facing you head on. Very, very blind corners there. But you kind of have to put that out of your mind.

As you enter the corners, there are brake markers on both turn 1 and turn 3, which kind of helps you get perspective in how deep you'll drive it in. You'll drive it in the corners somewhere around 206 miles an hour, which is extremely fast, and you'll use quite a bit of brake. It's a heavy-braking racetrack, to slow your car down to right around the 165 mph range. So there's greater track speed. On corner exit, you want to get yourself as low as possible to set yourself up for a good corner exit. That can be very difficult. Some guys who are with the rumble stripping on the bottom tend to wear out the tires very heavy. Those are all unique challenges to Indy. As the runs progress, the right rear tire seems to wear out, so it gets really hard to carry exit speed, requiring some finesse as well.

What's the most memorable moment for you when you look back at Indy?

For me, it's thinking about the first moment I drove through the gate, just awe-inspired by this awesome facility and what it means. Not just for NASCAR, but for racing and the whole community.