October 08, 2009
Oh, this is getting good. You already know that Denny Hamlin and Brad Keselowski have a bit of a history of gettin' all up in each other's business. They've collided a couple of times in the Nationwide series, and Keselowski has been warned about not racing the Chasers too hard. (We'll get to that in a moment.)
In Phoenix this week for an appearance, Hamlin continued to tee off on Keselowski, saying he hadn't even spoken to Jet Ski yet. "No, haven't talked to him at all," said Hamlin. "I don't really think he's man enough to call me face to face. Just don't think it's his style."
Hamlin was incensed by Keselowski's postrace comments in Dover a couple weeks back in which Brad seemed to distance himself from responsibility for their collision. (See for yourself here, and make your own call.)
"How he uses his talent to me is questionable," Hamlin said. "I didn't realize it was in question with every single competitor on the Cup side that has raced with him and talked to me about it. "They said, ‘You know, we don't know what he was doing. It was blatant.' Then, listening to him talk (on TV) and making it sound like he was the victim and I was the one taking advantage of him when I was the one in front of him. Well, it was kind of a ridiculous statement. It showed that he just didn't have much level of maturity at that point."
Keselowski was warned in Kansas after he and Juan Pablo Montoya thumped a bit. "Word came down from the tower to the 25 team to make sure they were aware and cognizant of who he was racing against at this particular point in the race," NASCAR spokesman Kerry Tharp said. "The 25 car had every right to every inch of the track, but we sent the message to make sure you're aware of your surroundings."
For his part, Keselowski laughed off the warning. "I thought he needed to be mindful of me. He's the one who hit me," he said. "I didn't really change the way I raced him. I thought it was kind of funny. To have NASCAR say something ... they were just words, asking us nicely. It would be different if they were black-flagging me."
Here's the thing: people will scream that Chasers shouldn't be given any preferential treatment and this warning radiates conspiracy. But that's not it at all. Keselowski has exactly 12 starts at the Sprint Cup level, and NASCAR was simply reminding him that this wasn't Friday night at the dirt track anymore. Outracing a Chaser is fine; outstrategizing one is more than acceptable. But knocking a Chase driver out of the hunt because you can't yet control your car? That's not a fate I want to see befall anyone, not even the relentless Terminator that is Jimmie Johnson.
Still, we've got the makings of a good rivalry for 2010 and beyond: "Hamster and Jet Ski." Sounds like a crappy morning sports show, doesn't it? But with any luck, it's the future of sparks flying in NASCAR.
Still-hot Hamlin says Keselowski still fails to man up [Racin' Today]
Brad Keselowski shrugs off warning from NASCAR during race [Scene Daily]
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