DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Brad Keselowski might as well sign up as the next celebrity target at a comedy roast.
His fellow NASCAR drivers already have plenty of practice hurling cutting barbs his way – just minus the rim shot.
Denny Hamlin on Keselowski’s rep: “Nobody wants to be Brad.”
Kyle Busch on who young drivers should emulate: “Don’t come in like Brad.”
For each blunt opinion Keselowski has about the state of NASCAR, drivers have two or three zingers ready to fire right back at “Bad Brad”. Not even winning the 2012 Sprint Cup championship earned Keselowski his proper place at the big boys’ table. He’s yet to earn as much respect in the garage as former champs Tony Stewart, Matt Kenseth, Jimmie Johnson and Jeff Gordon.
Heck, Keselowski even took the rap for costing Gordon a shot at a fifth title when they tangled in an accident on a late restart at Texas.
Keselowski has accepted the black hat, better to stir reaction with an outspoken opinion or two than build a career as an irrelevant driver.
If he’s failed to gain many best friends in the sport, it’s a small price to pay for having the type of passion that energizes him to be among NASCAR’s best drivers.
“I know that when I have had whatever run-ins I have had throughout my career, I have had them because I have done the things that I feel like I need to do to be the best, and that is why I am in this sport,” Keselowski said. “That is what drives me.”
“Some of the stuff he says, all of us shrug our shoulders, close our eyes and are like, ‘I wouldn’t have said that,’ ” 2010 Daytona 500 winner Jamie McMurray said. “But there is normally a little bit of truth in it, as well. He obviously likes attention or he wouldn’t say things like that.”
Even Keselowski’s detractors can’t deny his talent. He’s coming off a career-best six wins with 17 top-fives driving the No. 2 Ford for Team Penske.
“I feel like I am a top-three driver in the Sprint Cup series,” Keselowski said.
He mentioned reigning series champion Kevin Harvick and Carl Edwards as the other two drivers in the gold-silver-bronze class.
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