News & Media


Keselowski defends MIS and (to a point) Busch

June 14, 2012, Joe Menzer, NASCAR.com

For critics who feel speeds may be spiraling too high at repaved Michigan International Speedway and for those who believe a former teammate's temper may rob him of a Sprint Cup future, Brad Keselowski had some strong words Wednesday.

This wasn't so much Brad Keselowski, race car driver, as it was Brad Keselowski, race defense attorney.

"He is the most talented driver I've worked with in Sprint Cup -- and that will remain until somebody else proves differently. "

--BRAD KESELOWSKI ON KURT BUSCH

Regarding MIS, which will host a Nationwide Series race this Saturday and Sunday's Cup race on a brand-new surface, Keselowski said it will be up to drivers and their teams to take advantage of every bit of practice time allotted them. Teams arrived a day earlier than normal for extra testing, beginning Thursday morning.

"Every practice lap [counts]. Not until your last one do you really have a good judge for it, because the track conditions have changed so drastically," Keselowski said. "I think Pocono [which also was recently repaved] was a good example of it last week. I picked up three seconds [on lap times] over the course of the weekend. That's over 10 miles an hour.

"So I think you're going to see where the driver has to keep an open mind behind that steering wheel, where you continue to push the car harder as the track grips up -- and to continue to push your limits. I don't think it's until the last lap that you really know where you're at, and I think it's a moving target."

Keselowski added that he is not overly concerned about speeds that unofficially surpassed 215 mph on the straightaways at MIS during a test last April.

"To me, too fast is when we start flying in the grandstands," Keselowski said. "Until then, it's just a matter of how much pride you have, and how much heart you have as a race car driver."

During a national teleconference call, Keselowski also took the opportunity to defend -- to a point -- the actions but mostly the talent of former Penske Racing teammate Kurt Busch. After a verbal altercation with a reporter at Dover two weeks ago, Busch served a one-week suspension mandated by NASCAR and sat out the last race weekend at Pocono.

"I felt like it was an unfortunate situation, for sure. There is a part of me that sympathizes with both sides, and it's certainly not the way I would have handled it, " Keselowski said. "I'm not in Kurt's shoes and don't pretend to be in his shoes. I hate to throw him under the bus or any of those things -- but as a sport, we rely on the media to be the voice of the fans. And in that case, there certainly some fan interest in what had preceded beforehand that justifies some of the line of questioning that he was subjected to.

"I can also understand the emotion and fire that it takes as a competitor to be a winner, and how that could make you see it a bit differently when you've been caught in situations where you have to deal with the drama rather than focusing on being the best race car driver possible who can go out and win races, which is what motivates most of us as drivers at the end of the day. And so you get frustrated sometimes as a competitor -- because you know at the end of the day, that's directly affecting your ability to be competitive. And as a race car driver, that can be unacceptable at times in your mind. So I can see a bit of both sides, as far as that's concerned, and I'm glad I was not in his shoes."

Keselowski added that he does not believe a string of emotional outbursts dating back years that have seemed to have come to a head in the public eye the last two seasons will keep Kurt Busch from driving a Sprint Cup car anytime in the near future. Busch met with his current car owner, James Finch, on Tuesday and Finch has indicated that he will be monitoring Busch's behavior closely and on a "week-to-week" basis for the rest of this season.

Busch simply is too talented to be pushed out of a Cup ride anytime soon, or at least for long, according to Keselowski.

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"I still have a lot of respect for him and his talents," Keselowski said. "I think there will always be a spot for elite talents in this sport -- and Kurt is an elite talent. I've raced around him. I've tested with him, practiced with him, talked with him extensively.

"He is the most talented driver I've worked with in Sprint Cup -- and that will remain until somebody else proves differently. And I've been privileged to work with some great drivers, with the time I've spent at Hendrick [Motorsports] and JR Motorsports and at Penske. There have been a lot of great drivers who have been my teammates, so I think it says a lot when I say he's the most talented I've worked with. And that talent will carry him through those trying times, and I think he will find another opportunity down the road."

At the same time, Keselowski acknowledged that Busch hasn't been helping himself much lately.

"Certainly those black marks against him don't help," he said. "We're in a period of time in this sport, where your ability to bring in funding through sponsorship is almost more important than your ability to run well or run competitively when you get behind the wheel. And so that does not favor a guy like Kurt. I think that's unfortunate and bad for the sport. But it is what it is, and it's certainly going to affect his future because of it -- and I think he would tell you that himself. But I wish him nothing but the best."

Meanwhile, Keselowski has his own races to think about at MIS this weekend. After the test at the facility last April, he told track president Roger Curtis that Saturday's Nationwide race, in particular, should prove to be perhaps the most entertaining of the year in that series.

He did not back down from that assessment Wednesday, and gladly explained why.

"I think you're going to see a lot of drafting in both series. But in the Nationwide Series, with the limitation of horsepower, the draft becomes more influential to the car's performance," said Keselowski, a native of Rochester Hills, Mich., who already has won a pair of Nationwide races at the place he regards as his home track. "That will put the cars in position to where if you can find clean air in the corners and combine that with drafting down the straightaways, you can make some incredible moves on the track. And with the design and layout of Michigan being as such where all three lanes -- the bottom, middle and top -- are capable of essentially the same speeds, that means you'll be able to switch lanes based on what the car in front of you does to remove aero-dependency in the corners. But then you'll also be able to follow them down the straightaways to reduce drag down the straights. So you'll be able to really capitalize on the air in a way that's not possible at other tracks.

"I think it's really going to make a big difference on the Nationwide cars. It might even on the Cup side, too, but I think it's going to be such a big difference on the Nationwide side that I was inclined to run the Nationwide race in the hopes of learning something extra before the Cup race. Beforehand, I was not scheduled to run it. But after the test, I felt it was going to make a big difference -- and I stick by those words. I think it definitely has the potential to be one of the best races of the year, from the front of the pack to the middle of the pack, with incredible moves and a lot of passing and all those things we all enjoy watching."