Brad Keselowski does a bi-weekly diary for SI.com. Heading to Atlanta this weekend, he recounts his infamous "butt" comment at Bristol and tries to explain bad feelings with Kyle Busch. Also in this latest edition: his take on a possible Cup Series date in Montreal, the latest on if he'll be allowed to run for a Nationwide Series championship next year, and why he won't play fantasy football like the rest of Americans these days.
Before we get into Montreal, let's go back a bit and go through your weekend at Bristol. Why don't you describe what happened with Kyle from your perspective.
Well, the funny thing about life is you only see a small picture of it. It's always hard to see the whole picture. This case is no different; you only see the section where there's a start and there's an end.
Certainly, there are some other parts that happened before Bristol's wreck that add to that story as well.
Are you saying there was bad blood before Bristol?
There was bad blood on his side but not on my side. I had no reason to be mad at him, and, to the best of my knowledge, never did anything wrong by him. Hell, I know a couple of times I might have raced him pretty hard, but I know for sure I never spun him out or anything like that. He did start all that crap at the start of the season about wrecking me out of the first five races, but I really didn't honor that with any comments.
OK. Let's get back to the incident itself.
Basically, he got a great run through the bottom of Turns 1 and 2. It kinda surprised me how well his car stuck. And he pretty much had me cleared down the backstretch, but he knew it was a really tough call. So he actually left me a lane, and when he left me that lane I had more speed on the top. I began to fill that lane. Because he stayed down to the bottom and was clear, I continued on my run and he decided he was clear a little too late. So he moved up, and when he did that his timing was just off and it was more or less a timing issue than anything else.
It was similar to when you're in a parking lot and two cars are trying to pass each other. You wave the other person by, but they don't go, and then you say, "Screw it. Well, I'm going to go." And that's when they speed up. So, it was a timing situation ... we made contact, my front end to his rear end. He got sideways and lightly brushed the wall at best. So when he did that, I swerved down to the bottom of the track to try not to get caught up in it. And he slowed down even more than he had to and then ran over the back of me until he spun me out.
Looking back on it now, would you have done anything differently?
Oh, if I had gotten back to him before the end of that race, it would have been a lot of fun. But unfortunately, my car was too torn up to do that.
You then went on to call Kyle Busch an "ass" the following day during driver intros. Where did that come from, and why did payback never come to fruition during the race?
Well, here are the basics. 1) [The comment] wasn't planned, from the standpoint that I didn't even know we were going to say anything on the microphone until the minute or two before we had to. I didn't even know there was a microphone. Beyond that, I was just in the driver's introduction line with a bunch of other drivers. We were just kind of joking about what we were all going to say. I think we all watched Dale Earnhardt Jr. walk out and noted the crowd was kind of flat, so we all said we wanted to say something to get people excited. It was a group of guys just being guys ... and suddenly, an idea came into my head: Why don't I just say Kyle Busch is a jerk?
So Juan Montoya and Martin Truex Jr. were there, and they both told me I didn't have the guts to say it. And then I said, "You're right, I'm not going to say it." But then Kyle went out there and made all the fans angry and upset with what he said, so I turned around and decided, "You know what? I am going to say it." So I walked down, right before we got on on stage, to find the preacher that wishes you good luck, as he does every week.
So I asked him, "Hey man, would you be upset if I said the word ass?" And the preacher said, "No, man, it's in the Bible." So I said to myself, "OK. That's it. I'm doing it."
OK. Well again, during the race you never actually retaliated against Kyle. You had plenty of opportunities to do so despite going a lap down -- why wait?
Well, I plan on being in the sport for a long time, and I didn't see any advantage of doing anything right there. If anything, with time you have the benefit or luxury of really being concise about whatever you do.
Do you feel like going forward you still "owe Kyle one," so to speak? And do you feel restricted there because you're on NASCAR probation the rest of the season?
The difference between me and Carl and me and Kyle is that me and Carl generally have a respect for each other outside the car. I think Carl's a good person outside the car. I'm not so sure about Kyle. I don't talk to Kyle outside the car or anywhere else, so...
Let's talk about Montreal for a minute, a Nationwide event where you finished fourth Sunday in what was billed as one of the sport's best races of the season. What do you think makes racing up at that road course so great?
There're some interesting dynamics to racing at Montreal. One, it's an off weekend for Cup, which allows teams of the Cup nature to kind of carry over. And also it's the drivers. You've got the Robby Gordons and Marcos Ambroses that come over, drivers who are very skilled road racers.
So it adds some depth to the field on the Nationwide side. Also, being that it's a road course, it adds some ringers to it, drivers that fans have heard of, although they're not well known. They get kind of a free pass, so to speak, since they're not racing for points. They also get a free pass to run all over each other and other than the damage to that car, they don't really have any damage to anything else.
I think that creates an interesting dynamic. The other dynamic is that it's in a city, and the fans really embrace the race track. I think anytime you see a track the fans embrace, specifically on location, you can't help but embrace it on TV and beyond.
The topic du jour this week among NASCAR folk is whether the Cup Series should be racing in Canada, preferably in Montreal, by 2012. What's your take?
I believe we should be racing in Canada, yes. But as for a venue, we need a NASCAR-style race track there. It would be a huge success.
You've now gone 24 races in Cup with a not-so-lucky stat: zero top-10 finishes. Are you surprised? How do you turn your season around?
Well, surprised would be an understatement. I really thought that, based off our first five or six races, a top-10 would come really quickly through the year. But it just didn't pan out, and it still hasn't panned out. But our performance from a pure raw speed standpoint hasn't been where it needs to be to have a shot at running in the top-10 or winning races.
There's all sorts of confusion over NASCAR's policies toward Cup drivers in Nationwide next year. What's the latest you've been told, and does it create a higher sense of urgency to win the title now?
Well, the sense of urgency is the same either way for me. I'm not looking at it as, "Hey, I need to win two Nationwide championships, or three, or one. I might never have another shot." I'm not looking at it like that.
And my thoughts on it ... I have not heard an answer on what it's going to be. Every day that goes by, I know it gets tougher to come to a conclusion. I know the title sponsor, Nationwide, is adamant about approving the Cup drivers for the series, and for good reason. I think realistically, if you pull the Cup drivers out there, it's not going to be good for the series, initially. And you need to ask yourself at the end of the day: What do you want the Nationwide Series to be?
Do you want it to be a place where young drivers can develop? If that's the case, that's what ARCA's for. That's what the Truck Series is for. So even if it doesn't kill the Nationwide Series to pull the Cup drivers out of it, that means it kills another series. So looking at the sport from those eyes, I don't see what the point is. I don't see what the goal is. Yes, if you look back in time over the last 10 years, the sport has changed to where there's been a substantial decrease in Nationwide-only drivers winning races. There's no doubt about that.
But you have to ask yourself about the sport and how it's changed -- what it would mean if you pulled the Cup drivers from Nationwide now. And I think if you're NASCAR, you have to look at it, think about it, and say, "Well, if we do help the Nationwide Series we'll hurt another series, whether it's the Truck Series or ARCA, which has strong ties to NASCAR. And I don't think either one is looking to do that, so ... there's an interesting dynamic there.
There are still places for you to run if you're looking to make a name for yourself. I think that's the part a lot of people don't understand. The drivers that say, "Oh, man. I finished fourth or fifth in points. If it wasn't for those Cup drivers, I would have won the championship." OK, well run in a series that doesn't have Cup guys and win the championship. There's an interesting back-and-forth dynamic, and I think at the end of the day if you're NASCAR you don't want to make this series like the other two series. We've already got that covered, and that's my opinion on it.
Everywhere around the country, sports fans are catching something called fantasy football fever. Has that happened to you? If so, who's on your team or who are you looking to pick this year?
Well, I'm not doing fantasy football. I've never been a big fan of it because it's a lot of work to maintain it all. I've got plenty enough work to do, and I'm not a stat guy. I don't like stats. I think you can make stats read whatever way you want them to read.
I enjoy watching the games. I like football, but I'm not a fantasy football guy. I never really played fantasy sports, period. I tried it one time and just really never got into it. There's a fantasy racing league with my friends; I looked into that and didn't like it, and the same thing with fantasy football. It just seemed like a huge time killer.
Does it frustrate you to race on holiday weekends, or is it cooler? If you had total control of NASCAR's off-weeks, where would you put them? -Anonymous, Michigan
Well, assuming the holiday in question is Labor Day weekend or Memorial Day weekend, I really enjoy racing on them. In fact, I think it's even cooler to race on a weekend like that because you can share your experience with more of your fans, friends and family simply because they have the time off.
So if anything, I like it better if we race on those weekends, except for July 4th. That's the best way I can answer that question. Now if it's Easter, Thanksgiving ... I wouldn't be happy to race on those days. But I'm pretty happy with the schedule and the weekends off. I think NASCAR does a good job with what they can, and I really don't have any complaints.
Suzy Kolber. NO OPINION. I don't really have a strong opinion on her; the only thing that sticks out in my mind is the Joe Namath incident. I'm a big fan of all the female sportscasters, though. They do a very good job.
Michelle Beadle. WIN HER. I got to meet her at ESPN recently, and she's a good time. Upbeat, happy, but not cheerleader happy -- smartass happy like me. And I like that.
Today's Topic: NFL
RING ME UP: This won't go over well with everyone, but I'm a Patriots fan. I like Tom Brady. He's got style, he's got class, he's from Michigan and he's kind of the underdog. He's always been the underdog all through his career -- he came off the bench and won games, he didn't get picked in the first round ... all that good stuff. He got hurt the year before, then comes back and has a good year ... big fan.
I LOST THE NUMBER: I'm not a big Vikings fan, I'm not going to lie about that. It's the whole Brett Favre thing; it seems very cheesy and played out.
Take us around a lap at Atlanta.
You start off at the start/finish line and it's a dogleg, part of the tri-oval. That makes it trickier than a lot of tracks to get around because the track is a little worn down. And even the tri-oval becomes a significant turn you have to hit right. It can be difficult, and something you have to be prepared for.
So you go through the tri-oval to get to Turn 1. Turn 1 can be a very tricky corner. It's one of the fastest corner entries we have in all of racing (corner entry speed). And you just feel speed at Atlanta because not only is it a very fast entry, you also turn the car very hard to the left and you drop about two stories going into Turn 1. And then there's a huge bump on entry to Turn 1. So those factors help Atlanta feel very fast from a driver's perspective. It's the fastest-feeling track we go to all year from a driver's seat.
When you enter Turn 1, you need to make a decision on which groove you're going to run because you can run multiple grooves at Atlanta. Where the bottom seems like the place to be in qualifying or on new tires, there are some cars that will run in the middle. When running the top, you can get in the corner pretty hard, and it's very hairy up there. Very slick. The track is very worn out, so there's a lot of spots all over the track where it continues to wear out. It can be tricky and slick, and the bottom is even slicker yet -- you just have a little more room, and you have to back your corner entry.
As you're going around the corner, the track again is still very rough ... bouncy. The wall is kind of weird at Atlanta. When you're running the top, the wall kind of moves on you. And it goes in and out, in and out, so it's hard to really run up close to it. That's why a lot of drivers run into it. And when you're on the bottom, it's the same thing. The white line really moves around, up and down and up and down, so it's really hard to follow.
On the exit of Turn 2, that's where you make a lot of speed up at Atlanta. On the bottom, it's very slick and you have a lot of wheel spin, and on the top you get really tight, and the wall comes in at you. That's the balance between those two.
You carry that run off down the backstretch and into Turn 3, where it's a tricky corner. The entry of Turn 3 narrows up on you and then widens back out. Generally, you want to run the bottom through Turn 3, it'll be the fastest lane. There's a lot of bumps down there as well -- it's a little rougher than 1 and 2. And they go all the way through the corner.
You'll lift a substantial amount, drag some brake, and go through there. You get on the throttle pretty early, but you can't really commit to it. You get into this weird four-wheel slide off Turn 4 that makes you feel like you're going to hit the wall. And you actually slide all the way out to the wall before you get to full throttle... and do it again.