Gordon chides Keselowski over engine talk
July 13, 2014, Pat DeCola, NASCAR.com
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LOUDON, N.H. -- Nearly one month ago, Brad Keselowski told reporters at Michigan International Speedway that the Roush Yates Engines that Team Penske uses in its Fords were, along with the rest of the field, a full season behind the engine performance of Hendrick Motorsports' Chevrolets.
"We all have got a little bit of work to do because it's pretty obvious that the Hendrick engines are way ahead of everyone else," Keselowski said before a third-place finish in the Quicken Loans 400 on June 15. "Usually that's not something you catch up with in one season. As far ahead as they are right now, they're probably a full season ahead of everyone."
At the time, the Hendrick team had just knocked out four consecutive wins.
But after Sunday's Camping World RV Sales 301 marked Keselowski's second win since making those comments -- combined with Hendrick's absence from Victory Lane in the same time frame -- Hendrick driver Jeff Gordon said light-heartedly that the Penske driver is "full of (expletive)."
"They were full of (expletive) if they were saying that, because in my opinion they're just as good as us down the straightaways," said Gordon, who finished 26th after a fuel shortage in the final laps cost him a top-three result. "We were going through the corners really good there and over the last few weeks they've been going through the corners really strong.
"I don't know what they've got, but they've got something really, really good right now and we're playing catch up."
To Gordon's point, Keselowski and Penske teammate Joey Logano have added five new trophies to the two-car organization's mantle in 2014. For comparison's sake, Hendrick's four-car stable has six this year.
Considering the near clinic that Penske has put on each week in qualifying -- the team has four Coors Light Pole Awards to Hendrick's one -- it's hard to justify these two teams being anything but neck and neck as the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series regular season winds down.
Call it modesty or call it a strategic mind game, but Keselowski isn't about to admit his No. 2 squad is right up there with Hendrick just yet.
"I don't know, (Gordon) was pretty hard to pass off the corner, I can tell you that," said Keselowski, who officially clinched his spot in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup with the win and now leads the Chase standings. "We certainly had our handling right today, and I would still say that we have some work to do to keep up with them in that department. Today the engine was important, but not to the extreme of what we've seen at Michigan, Kansas and those type of race tracks. I think in that regard we were able to overcome that."
Gordon isn't the only one taking notice, either.
Race runner-up Kyle Busch said he didn't think anybody could have given Keselowski a run Sunday, and Busch's teammate Denny Hamlin likened the No. 2 Ford to his No. 11 Toyota that raced from a starting position of 32nd to lead 193 of 300 laps and win the 2012 New Hampshire fall race.
"I thought it was very reminiscent of how my car was in 2012 here, looking at his car in practice," said Hamlin, who finished eighth. "It was just a couple tenths faster each and every lap. I thought we were pretty good in the long run and was able to challenge him there, but we got within five car lengths then I had to back off and save some fuel, so who knows? It's just part of the game."
There's no way to know if Hamlin would have had enough to catch Keselowski if fuel wasn't a concern, but there was really no indication the 2012 champ was susceptible to surrendering the lead.
Keselowski's victory made it four in a row for Ford -- the first time that has happened for the manufacturer since 2001 -- and there's little reason to believe they'll lose any momentum during the week off before the series heads to Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
For Penske and Keselowski, it's now painfully evident that missing the Chase last season, a year removed from holding the hardware in Homestead, was an anomaly.
"I think we have a lot of potential still left in our team that we've got to keep working to get to because everybody is going to turn it up a notch when the Chase comes," Keselowski said. "We need to have another gear to grab to be able to run for a championship here in 2014. I think we're close, but I want to keep pushing, and I'm committed to getting another championship."