Despite feud, Keselowski projects a presidential image for NASCAR

Posted Wednesday, Apr. 17, 2013  comments  Print Reprints
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More information Series updates Sprint Cup Second verse: Martin Truex Jr., who finished second at TMS last week, must face the site of another second-place finish this week. He was the runner-up at Kansas both times last year. He led a race-high 173 laps in the spring race. Top 10: Mark Martin and Brian Vickers are doing the job for Joe Gibbs Racing in relief of Denny Hamlin. They both delivered top-10s, keeping the No. 11 in the top 10 in owner points. Chase position: Joey Logano and Paul Menard, who have never been in a Chase, are ninth and 10th in the driver standings. Nationwide Close spread: The top five drivers are separated by nine points. Leader Sam Hornish Jr. is two points ahead of Regan Smith. At this time last year, only two drivers were within 50 points of the leader. Off week: The series is off this week. It resumes with a Friday night race on April 26 at Richmond. Camping World Truck Different dozen: Twelve drivers have won the last 12 races at Kansas Speedway. It’s a record Kansas shares with Homestead-Miami, where 12 drivers won 12 races from 1996 to 2007. Buescher hope: Defending series champion James Buescher, who sits eighth in the standings, won the first of his four races last year at Kansas. Drive payoff: Kyle Larson, a driver of Asian-American descent, became the first graduate of NASCAR’s Drive for Diversity program to win a national series race when he won last week. The program, designed to spot and develop minority talent, is 10 years old. IndyCar Third car: Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing is adding a third car for Long Beach. It will be driven by Mike Conway, the 2011 winner. It was Conway’s first IndyCar Series win. Power drought: Will Power, last year’s Long Beach winner, has a 13-race winless streak, the second longest of his career. He had an 18-race drought over his first and second years in the series, 2008 and 2009. NHRA Four-wide: It’s “four-wide week” as the series heads to Charlotte. Top Fuel, Funny Car, Pro Stock and Pro Stock Motorcycle compete in the four-wide configuration. Pro Stock Motorcycle did not run a four-wide event in 2012 or 2011. They said it “Well, if you don’t leave first, they’re really loud. When you have a car on each side, you feel like the sky’s falling on you.” — Top Fuel driver Tony Schumacher, on the feeling of drag-racing four wide.

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Brad Keselowski is mad at NASCAR right now, which, if you know Brad Keselowski, could make you say, “Oh, boy.”

He’s been known to speak his mind.

Did so two years ago about the new fuel injection.

Did so last year after he was fined for tweeting from his car.

Did so at Daytona this year, when he criticized a couple of NASCAR head honchos in a USA Today article.

And did so after Saturday night’s race at TMS, after parts from his car were confiscated, saying NASCAR has something against his No. 2 team. (Whether it does or not, NASCAR penalized Keselowski 25 points Wednesday after finding that the team used illegal parts).

So you can imagine NASCAR holding its breath knowing that Keselowski was scheduled to make a White House appearance with President Barack Obama on Tuesday to recognize Keselowski’s championship last year.

What would he say?

As it turned out, exactly the right thing.

Keselowski, talking to reporters after the pictures and smiles in a somewhat subdued presentation in the Rose Garden, pointed out what he liked about the president’s message on the day after the bombings at the Boston Marathon — about the solidarity sports can create — and added his own interpretation.

“When you look at a sporting event, you see a nation as one,” he said. “I think that kind of ties in, especially after a tragedy, how people come together. And it makes us all realize how common our interests really are, when at times it seems they’re not.”

Keselowski and Obama struck the right note on a day they expected to be much different. Surely, some prepared jokes and kidding had to be tossed aside the previous day.

But by not postponing or canceling the event, the White House showed respect to NASCAR and racing fans. And both men managed to credit the world of sports for what it can do in serious times.

Keselowski, for all of his outspokenness, is a thoughtful young driver. The importance of his words, and of going ahead and staging his moment in Washington were not lost on him.

“I think it’s the right thing to do, not because it was me, obviously, being honored, but because of what it means to our country to continue to move on, despite those acts, and showcase that they won’t rattle us,” he said.

Keselowski did NASCAR just fine.

Ratings low

The NRA 500 televised by Fox on Saturday night posted a 3.5 overnight, the TMS event’s worst rating since it became a night race and the worst rating of the year for NASCAR.

It reversed a trend for Sprint Cup, becoming the first race this year not to meet or beat its number from last year.

But it also continued a trend for the April night race. The 3.5 was down from last year’s 3.6 and from the previous year’s 3.7.

Carlos Mendez, 817-390-7407 Twitter: @calexmendez

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