He also mentioned that tire testing is a double-edged sword in general.
“Tire testing is always interesting because it is such a balance between it being a free test for the teams ... They are very valuable tests. Our team chose Michigan because we have been so close to winning here and it would mean so much to me to win here that we didn’t want to miss out on the opportunity. That said, tire testing is also very dangerous. I was at Kansas in 2012 and watched Dale Jr. hit the wall and probably shortened his career because of it. At a tire test. That weighs on your mind. Michigan is the fastest track on the circuit and it goes without saying that if you blow a tire here and wreck at 220 mph it is going to hurt and shorten your career as a driver. But you are willing to take those risks and go out on a limb as a competitor. That is the risk you signed up for.”
And with all that said, he indicated NASCAR and Goodyear should do a better job of listening to drivers who participate in the tests.
“You hope along the way that you gain the knowledge and feedback for the team to improve and be better with those efforts and with those risks. You hope that you are able to assist Goodyear in bringing back a tire compound that is best for the sport. I am of the opinion they didn’t choose what my recommendation was for what was best for the sport, or any of the other drivers that were here. That is their decision. That is their choice. With respect to that, I don’t want my name attached to endorsing that decision.”
So that’s basically that. Brad has his opinion, Goodyear has theirs, and neither is going to change. We’ll see how the race plays out on Sunday in terms of tire management and who turns out to be correct. I understand Brad’s point is based on his experience, but I also understand that Goodyear had feedback from a lot of sources and I lean toward trusting that decision unless I see evidence that it’s not the proper one show up on track.
“Of course you want to feel like anyone else in their job that if you put a lot of effort in and have your boots on the ground, you would like to think that your boss or those above you would listen to you when you have your boots on the ground,” Keselowski said. “When they don’t, you get a little disappointed. I think that is probably not fair for me to answer the exact methodology but going back to what I said earlier, I like Greg, I like Goodyear, I think they made the wrong decision this week. It is what it is. We are here and we will get through the race and hopefully everything will be fine.”
But Brad was just getting started, as most of his comments were focused on the future of NASCAR, and whether the package used at the All-Star race that produced tight, competitive racing should be considered for other races this year and beyond.
Suffice it to say that Brad is not a fan, essentially saying that the package takes too much of the result out of the hands of the driver, limiting their ability to improve their position based on skill and ability. He predicted regular use of this package would drive the best competitors out of NASCAR and into other forms of motorsports.
“In general, I think credit to Marcus Smith and SMI. They found a great package for the All-Star race. I think that package needs to remain solely at the All-Star race. I think a lot of the drivers in this sport are in a position where they chose Cup racing because of the demands that the cars take to drive. I think there are a lot of fans that come to our races expecting to see the best drivers,” Keselowski said. “I think if you put a package like this out there, like we had at the All-Star race on a consistent basis that the best drivers in the world will no longer go to NASCAR. They will pick a different sport. That won’t happen overnight. It would happen over time and be a tragedy to the sport. They want to go where they can make the biggest different to their performance and there is no doubt that the driver makes less of a difference with that rules package.”
It’s a fine line … a mix of wanting to let the drivers do their thing and give them ability to race freely, but also wanting to put on a good show for the fans … the question, at its most basic, becomes: What is more important?
I would say it’s more important what the fans think, but you can’t completely discount the drivers or they will bail on the sport -- Brad is right on that count.
Here’s his thoughts on the matter.
“Does it matter what drivers think? Long term yes, short term no. Long term yes because if you go to a package where drivers have less ability to determine their fate, they will go to an avenue where they can. Right now NASCAR affords itself the best opportunity for drivers to determine their own fate, make a decent wage and attain notoriety,” Keselowski said. “Over time, if you went to a package such as this, it will go away. It won’t be overnight but it will go away. I think that the trickle down effect to that will be that eventually fans will recognize the best race car drivers and follow them. There is a reason why Tony Stewart and Jeff Gordon and some of the best drivers of our time moved from open-wheel to NASCAR. Kyle Larson is another great example. They know they have a better opportunity to effect their finish based on talent and know they are racing the highest caliber race car drivers. They know that they can attain the highest level of notoriety with the highest wages in motorsports in the United States. I don’t think that is a coincidence.”
He made a comparison to Indycar, saying:
“I think long term, if you want to know what the All-Star package would look like if it was ran in NASCAR full time, look no further than IndyCar. They have already proved it and had great racing, a number of fatalities associated with that racing that was unfortunate and a short, unsustainable boost in their fans for those races when they first went to those packages, and then it trailed off. With respect to that, I think that if I was forecasting the future, that is how I see it. But I don't’ know what decision NASCAR will make. It is their decision. All I can do is give my input and at this time, those are my strongest thoughts.”
Regarding MIS, Brad said a win on Sunday would be a pretty big deal for him.
“I have said it before and I will keep repeating it. A win here would be like winning the Daytona 500 for me,” he said Friday. “A home track means a lot to any race car driver. It is your friends and family and there is a lot of notoriety that comes with it. It makes the losses sting more and the wins sweeter. The fact we have been so close and not achieved it is very top of mind every time I come here. We are pushing hard to make it happen and I feel like we have a decent shot this weekend.”
On a lighter note, Keselowski got to enjoy a charity event earlier this week with his Checkered Flag Foundation.
“We had a great time raising funds to help the Fisher House Foundation build a Fisher House building for veterans and their families here in Ann Arbor, close to where we are at here at the race track. That is something we are really committed to doing and hopeful to see that come to fruition. We had a lot of fun at the fundraiser. It was a fun fundraiser,” Keselowski said. “A great way to engage the community and some of our veterans and hopefully make that happen for this community. It is a cause near and dear to my heart for a lot of reasons and we were able to put a dent in the funding. It has been a good start to the week.”