In his 14th year full time in the NASCAR Cup Series, Brad Keselowski knows exactly how much it means to have the best performance possible when pursuing a championship. It was much as he did in 2012. Nowadays it has become much harder, especially when teams in NASCAR are still finding their way with the Next Gen cars.
According to Keselowski, the competition is so high, especially with playoff urgency, and there is a much more equal mechanical playing field. Add to that plenty of other vital factors that make the racing that much fiercer every week.
Pit Crews, Respect and Everything In Between
"The NASCAR Next Gen car is a pretty good shift in the paradigm of racing and the margins of competition are lower and everybody is looking for any advantage they can find," Keselowski said in an interview with NASCAR.com. "We'd all like to have the racing where it's super respectful and so forth, but I don't know if that's really possible given the landscape of NASCAR with the Next Gen car and the playoffs and everything else."
Keselowski went on to talk about a lack of respect on the track. "All the formats, and the layouts of the cars, the stages and all that and the yellow flags — all of this is made to make the racing super intense and to really throw respect out the window and it's working."
Respect — or a seeming lack of it — seems to be the running theme this season, and Kyle Busch really chimed in on that at Atlanta Motor Speedway. And it isn't just a topic of conversation limited to on the track. That wasn't the only topic Keselowski commented on, as he also had something to say about his team and RFK Racing's recent pit crew swap with Ricky Stenhouse Jr.'s team.
Before Sunday's race at Talladega, it was announced that JTG Daugherty Racing's Daytona 500-winning pit crew for its No. 47 Chevy would be swapping with RFK's No. 17 Ford pit crew, and working with Chris Buescher. For Stenhouse, who had been on a roll with three finishes inside the top 8 in the previous four races, the change was disappointing. He made that very clear. Since the pit crews for the No. 47 are fielded by RFK Racing, Keselowski discussed the change and even said that it was a minor issue and that Stenhouse could have reached out about it personally.
"Yeah, I wish he would have talked to me if he had a problem," Keselowski said during an interview at Talladega on Saturday. "I'm really proud of the pit crews we have at RFK, and they have had success not only with our cars but with the No. 47 and No. 38 as well."
Keselowski also said that the adjustments to crew members are made fluidly throughout the season and based on individual chemistry as much as the crew performing well as a unit. As one of the sport's integral driver-owners, Keselowski has realized the difficulty of decision-making at the highest level. From crew changes to the diversity of track types, the 39-year-old veteran realizes the challenge of finding balance within his own team and organization. Even with his decade's worth of knowledge, the sport is an ever-changing landscape.
"There's a significant difference in the continuity of the schedule from today to when I joined the sport as a Cup driver 12 or 13 years ago," Keselowski said. "You know, I feel like we had too much continuity at that time, and today you could argue we don't have enough. But that's probably subjective. It's certainly a different challenge."
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