Brad Keselowski does a bi-weekly diary for SI.com. Heading to Bristol this weekend, he previews the Saturday night fight under the lights while reflecting on a week full of hometown cookin' in Rochester Hills, Mich. Also in this latest edition: his take on the Ryan Newman -- Joey Logano saga, thoughts on adding a mid-week race to the schedule and why he's a Florida "hater."
Let's talk about Michigan. On the Cup side, you really struggled, coming home 34th in the final running order while Penske Racing suffered through an engine failure with Kurt Busch. Assess your day there.
Well, we had an issue with my engine at the Glen, and it looked like Kurt had the same issue, so I'm not exactly sure. Penske Racing engines are durable so we think this is a rare deal. We'll just fix it and move on. It's disappointing for Kurt ... but we weren't necessarily fast to begin with, and then we had problems with the splitter. We needed a caution to fix it, but one didn't come out until the very end of the race, and we lost two laps without a splitter on the car. Pretty unfortunate, but just the way our season has gone.
Is the splitter the most frustrating portion of the car for a driver? It seems like with this version of the CoT, there are a lot of guys that just can't stand it for several reasons.
Well, the people who have been reading this diary for as long as I've been doing it know that I'm not a fan of the splitter. I think it's holding back our racing from being even better than it is and I think our racing has been pretty damn good lately, even with the splitter.
I'll just say it's a very, very critical area to our cars, and it's disappointing that it didn't hold together.
The weekend wasn't a total wash in your home state, though. You did end up winning on Saturday in the Nationwide Series, expanding your championship lead to 347 points. Talk about what that meant to you, and the possibility of a championship now that it's getting closer to reality.
Well, it's looking real good for a championship, that's for sure. And nothing's set in stone, that's one thing to keep in mind. It sure does look good and feel good, though.
As far as winning in front of your home crowd and what it means for a driver, it's an opportunity for every driver out there who's made it to showcase his accomplishments in front of the people that have helped him get there. Because we've all had that person who helped us, and some of us have several --heck, some of us have dozens of them -- it's a chance to recognize those sacrifices and show that they were worth it.
What was the best thing you got to do last week while visiting your hometown, and why?
It's kind of cheesy, but the best part was going home, seeing my mom -- she cooked me meat loaf, one of my favorite things -- and playing with the dog.
You were lucky enough to visit ESPN earlier this week. What was your favorite part of the visit, and what did you learn from that experience?
The best part was doing the shows, for sure. NASCAR Now and doing TV in general. I love doing TV. I'm very interested in it, because the media plays a large role in how our sport is perceived. It's my chance to change the perception of the sport in my own way. I think that's cool to have that opportunity, and to enhance the viewers' experience. The other cool part was meeting Michelle Beadle. Big fan.
Would you ever want to be a NASCAR commentator after you retire?
Absolutely. I'd love to, and it's something that interests me now. It's an important job for the sport -- and the sport has given me so much, it's a great way to give back. It's an important job because this is how we relate to fans. This is how we explain the action and I feel commentators have one of the most critical roles of anyone in NASCAR. To explain racing to every type of fan -- whether it's the average fan, the casual fan or the passionate fan, they really dictate how the sport is perceived. So it's a very critical role. And I enjoy it from that sense of having the ability to help the fan enjoy the race.
The big feud on Sunday at Michigan was between Joey Logano and Ryan Newman, which spurred Logano to say Newman was "racing him too hard" with 70 laps to go in the race. Is there a point where Cup drivers will just "ride," conserving their equipment? And if we do have those points, is that an indicator our races are too long?
Well, there's a lot of factors going on right here. Some of them are easy to explain, others aren't. What a driver means by saying someone is racing him too hard, he means that the driver isn't letting him go when he's faster, which may or may not be the case. It's not always the case, but usually that's what he means or what he thinks. Or, he means that guy is holding him up and endangering himself in the process. It could be both. Why would you do that? The instances I've had where I've been accused of racing someone too hard, I look back at them and think to myself, I did it to prove myself, and to keep myself in the running as much as possible. That doesn't necessarily mean it was right, but it was right for me.
But I've also been accused a couple of times where I didn't feel like it was the case. I'd run up on a lapped car and I couldn't get around him, and the car behind me would get to me and start racing with me side-by-side, then get mad because I didn't let him go. But that's because I felt like the guy behind me wasn't really faster than me. I felt that circumstances dictated what happened. On other occasions, it's important to understand our cars are very hard to drive and they're even harder to drive side-by-side. So, when you're running side-by-side against someone you're clearly faster than, you're putting those cars at risk. And when that person races you really, really hard, he's putting himself at risk. So what I think Joey was trying to say was, he didn't feel bad Ryan got wrecked, because Ryan put himself in the position of consistently putting both cars at risk, and he reaped what he sowed.
After Tuesday's sponsorship announcement, any reaction to Kevin Harvick becoming your main beer rival for next year with Budweiser?
It's kind of funny because I consider us to be good friends, even though I prefer you drink a Miller Lite. I mean, it is the better tasting beer. I hope he gets used to seeing that Blue Deuce finishing ahead of him next year.
The Nationwide Series car seemed to be a lot racier on the intermediate tracks versus the Cup car, at least the first version we saw. Would you say that's a proper evaluation? What does the new car have that makes it easier to side draft and race your competition without so much of an aero push?
Well, it punches a bigger hole in the air. I don't think it's easier to side draft; I think the other car was just as easy to side draft as well. Personally, I don't see a big difference between this car and the old Nationwide car, other than it's a little slower down the straightaways. Hopefully, over time NASCAR will give us a little bit of power back because it's just a little bit too slow down the straightaway. It's almost like too big of a jump to go from a Nationwide car to a Cup car. So I'd like to see NASCAR give us just a little bit more power, but everything else I think they've hit a home run on.
The Jersey Shore phenomenon has returned over the past month, with its season premiere resulting in record ratings for MTV. Have you ever watched the show and do you think this type of reality television is the type of programming to showcase to teenagers?
I've never watched the show. I hate reality TV, never been a fan of it. I think you should live reality, not watch it.
Would you be a fan of NASCAR doing a midweek Cup race down the road, just like what the Trucks do at Bristol each year? -- Anonymous, Michigan
Yeah, I think it's great. I love that the trucks do that, it's a different way of doing things. I grew up with my family in ARCA and ARCA used to do that. Heck, summer it's a good time to have a midweek race. Let's do it.
Vanna White. WIN HER. I've always been a fan. She always turns the letters in an elegant way, with a nice smile.
Lady Gaga. SPIN HER. I don't know what to think about her. I'm very confused, but I do like some of her music. I don't know what to think.
Today's Topic: College Football
RING ME UP: Well, I'm very interested to see how Michigan performs, and if they can get through this rough spot. Let's see if this spread offense can work in the Big Ten -- it's year three for coach Rich Rodriguez and definitely a really big year for him. I've met him personally for the last three years, had some fun with him. I think he's a pretty cool guy; he's putting a different system into a very established school, and it's going to take time. But I think this is ultimately a results business, and we're all interested to see his results.
I LOST THE NUMBER: The easy answer here would be Ohio State. But although I dislike Ohio State, I don't dislike them as much as I dislike Florida. I've never been a big fan. I got a little miffed a few years ago when they trash talked (Michigan) ... it made me feel good when we beat them in a bowl game a few years ago.
Take us around a lap at Bristol.
Bristol is the quickest lap we run all year. Keeping that in perspective, before you ever run a lap around there you have to understand things happen very, very fast. You have to be a corner ahead at all times, which is very difficult to do. You have to be thinking ahead. So we'll start out at the start/finish line, which on a Cup car you just get to full throttle right before the start/finish line. It's only for about half-a-second, though, before you have to lift going into Turn 1. Turn 1 is a tricky corner on corner entry, because the corner tends to be fairly free on entry - which means the car wants to over rotate and spin on backwards into the wall. But then when you get to the center of the corner, it pushes. So you try to react to that. The exit to Turn 2 is kind of a hairy little corner. You can kind of drive out on any part of the racetrack, but it's a little rough [pavement-wise]; so it's a little tricky to manage both of those two.
The entrance to Turn 3 is different than the entrance of Turn 1. Your entry into the corner is just a little wider, because the whole backstretch seems to be a little wider than the frontstretch. So the entry into Turn 3's just a little wider, and when you get to the center, you're actually a little bit free as compared to 1 and 2, where you're a little bit tight. So that's a little tricky. You use just a little bit of brake, just as little as possible, just to manage the car. And again, you're only going through the throttle for just a split second on the backstretch. Get on it in the middle of 3 and 4, where you're just a little bit free, and then get on the throttle off of 4, and the corner tightens up on you just like the exit of turn 2 at Darlington. So you have to be prepared for that. Try to run as low as possible, hook your left tires right on the pavement for a transition... and that's a whole lap. It's very simple, very rhythm sensitive and very fast.
A lot of times, this night race is when we see a lot of paybacks. Is there anyone or anything in particular we should watch out for, and what's the right way to give a payback to somebody?
You'll have to tune in to see. That's what makes Bristol the best track we go to.