November 15, 2012
NASCAR must embrace Brad Keselowski
By DEAN McNULTY, QMI Agency
HOMESTEAD, FLA. - Brad Keselowski should be NASCAR's dream contender in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup championship.
At 28 years old he represents the most desired demographic in all of professional sports — male between the ages of 18 and 35.
Keselowski, more than any other driver in any of the major league racing series be it NASCAR, Formula One or IndyCar, is also the most in tune with his generation's need for instant everything, be it information, stimulation or gratification.
Remember last February after Juan Pablo Montoya fiery crash during the Daytona 500?
Well, there was Keselowski in his parked No. 2 Penske Racing Dodge tweeting instant updates and pictures from the crash scene to his more than 325,000 Twitter followers with his cellphone.
It got huge attention among the young, hip sports fans — you know the ones that beer companies target in their multi-million dollar Super Bowl ad campaigns.
Oh, yes, and Keselowski's primary sponsor on the No. 2 Dodge just happens to be Miller Lite and NASCAR's premier series just happens to be sponsored by Sprint — a cellphone company.
In a very long winded trip back to my original premise here, Keselowski SHOULD be the poster guy for a NASCAR Series that has been trying hard to lure a younger demographic to the sport.
Yet the tall foreheads in the NASCAR rules room nailed Keselowski with a $25,000 US fine and probation until the end of the year this week for tweeting, again from his car, during AdvoCare 500 at Phoenix International Speedway last Sunday when the race was red flagged after Jeff Gordon decided to turn the race into a county fair demolition derby.
Of course, it just doesn't make any sense, but then, NASCAR's interpretation of its own rules is all over the map at the best of times.
In this case, NASCAR said Keselowski was in violation of Sections 12-1 and 20-6.7A of the rule book, to wit: Cars and drivers will not be permitted to carry onboard computers, automated electronic recording devices, electronically actuated devices, power distribution modules, power conditioners, micro-processors, recording devices, electronic digital memory chips, traction control devices, digital readout gauges and the like, even if inoperable or incomplete.
On Thursday during a meet the media event at Homestead Miami Speedway, where he will attempt to win his and Roger Penske's first Sprint Cup crown on Sunday, Keselowski did not promise to be a good boy and obey the rules when asked if he would have his trusty cellphone with him this week.
"I will say probably not," he said.
Keselowski, of course, is pretty much up on what is going on in the youth market and he was asked if he thought NASCAR was being hypocritical in assessing him with the fine and probation on one hand and accepting big bucks from a cellphone company with the other.
"It doesn't matter whether it is, it exists and I have to work around it," he said.
It is important to know, as well, that the two instances where Keselowski used his cell, he was stopped in his race car. It is not like he was texting and driving at 200 m.p.h.
In any event NASCAR, rather than punishing Keselowski, should be promoting the hell out of his connection to the young, savvy audience that it craves.
For his part, Keselowski said he is part of that generation that goes nowhere without his cellphone, and that he feels naked when he doesn't have it with him
"Naked actually is very appropriate," he said. "I do feel naked when I don't have my phone. It's my security blanket. It doesn't matter how I feel about it right now. It is what it is at this point."
At the end of the day Keselowski said he isn't going to let the cellphone controversy get in the way of his real job at Homestead -- to win a championship.
"I just have to move on and focus on the weekend ahead," he said.
Formula 1 driver Lewis Hamilton is refuting a claim by his McLaren team that he is having second thoughts on moving to Mercedes next season. "I was a little bit surprised to hear that because it's definitely not the case," Hamilton said Thursday ... Over in the IZOD IndyCar Series Graham Rahal has signed on to race next season for Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing -- a team co-owned by his father, former Honda Indy Toronto winner Bobby Rahal, and late night talk show host David Letterman.
JOHNSON TRIES MIND GAMES
Jimmie Johnson is dusting off the kind of mind games he used to win the NASCAR Sprint Cup championship in 2010 from Denny Hamlin, in an attempt to rattle rival Brad Keselowski.
Johnson and the No. 48 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet team goes into Sunday's Ford EcoBoost 400 at Homestead Miami Speedway 20 points back of Keselowski and the No. 2 Penske Racing Dodge team.
All Keselowski has to do to claim his first title is finish 15th.
Johnson, in a face-to-face meeting with Keselowski at a promotional event, reminded him that his Penske garage mate Will Power had a 17-point lead over Ryan Hunter-Reay in the IndyCar series finale at Auto Club Speedway this season and promptly choked.
"And, Brad, if you'd like me to call later and remind you of any other examples, I certainly can, of guys that didn't pull off the season finale as they would hope," he said. "But one thing I've learned is that, regardless of how experienced anyone is in this championship battle, at some point the magnitude of it hits you.
"I've lived through it five times."
Johnson said that the Penske team — also looking for its first Sprint Cup championship — will also feel the pressure.
"That's a turning moment, and we'll see how (Brad) responds," he said. "It also carries over to guys changing tires. There's some point where every member on that race team goes, 'This is it — this is what I've worked so hard far.' I'll be glad to point out those moments as needed."