Keselowski knows Logano’s battle
Brad Keselowski knows exactly what Joey Logano is going though.
Logano, who hasn’t caused much of a ripple either good or bad in his previous four seasons in NASCAR’s top division, certainly has stirred the pot in confrontations with Denny Hamlin over the past two races. Their spat resulted in Hamlin wrecking Logano at Bristol and the most recent installment resulted in Hamlin crashing and breaking a vertebra in the final lap. Logano also lit Tony Stewart’s fuse because he had to audacity to keep the lead by blocking Stewart, a tactic that always sends Stewart into orbit.
Keselowski, who is in his fourth Cup season, had run-ins with more experienced drivers early in his career, most notably Carl Edwards, who sent Keselowski flying into a wall in a payback maneuver once at Atlanta.
“I think I have more experience in that area than I would like to have,” Keselowski said of his battles with established winners. “But as far as Joey is concerned, I think it’s typically an old guard, new guard thing.”
There’s nothing new there. A young, brash Darrell Waltrip ruffled more than a few feathers back in the 1970s when he started to break up the domination by Richard Petty, Cale Yarborough, Bobby Allison and David Pearson. He was so irritating that he was nicknamed “Jaws’ by Yarborough. But, Waltrip won races and championships and gained respect.
Keselowski, an opinionated, blue-collar guy from Michigan has done the same by winning a championship and nine races. It also doesn’t hurt that he worked up the ranks to drive for Roger Penske. He also didn’t back down from anyone.
“I look back on it for me personally and think that the experiences I went through were really something to be proud of because you know at that moment that those people are mad at you because they’re fighting for their livelihood just like you are and you are considered a serious threat and they know it,” Keselowski said.
Logano hasn’t been a threat to much of anyone during his Cup career. He came into the sport as a youngster with a lot of promise. In his first four seasons, he never met expectations at Joe Gibbs Racing after becoming driver for a team that won two championships with Tony Stewart.
Instead of being a regular victory contender as Stewart was, Logano was largely a middle-of-the-pack racer who managed to win twice. He rarely said anything controversial and seemed to respect older drivers. Other than one incident at Pocono with Kevin Harvick, he wasn’t known for pushing back against the veterans.
Now as Keselowski’s teammate at Penske Racing this year, Logano is more of a threat. He was contending for the lead when he ran afoul of Hamlin at Bristol. He wound up with a third after sliding into Hamlin and crashing as they headed toward the checkered flag at California.
“I don’t see him driving any differently,” Keselowski said. “I just see him racing closer to the front, No different than any other driver, he’s had run-ins. But, they haven’t been as notable because they weren’t as close to front.”
And that’s the whole rub, according to Keselowski.
“It’s those moments when you feel you have that opportunity (to win) and someone makes it hard and drives you over the edge and makes you angry,” Keselowski said.
That’s not necessarily a bad thing, according to the tough-nosed kid from the Detroit area.
“In some ways, he should be proud that he made some people angry,” Keselowski said.
Logano, a soft-spoken guy who has very rarely gotten into tiffs, vows he isn’t going to back down.
“I don’t feel like I do anything that’s disrespectful,” Logano said. “I race really hard. I’m fine with being known as a hard racer. That’s OK with me.”
Keselowski believes that’s just fine.
“If you allow someone to change you than you are not going to make it, because they are going to try to change you into someone they can beat,” Keselowski said.