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KANSAS CITY, Kan. -- Brad Keselowski has a simple answer for everyone wondering why he was in the thick of the lead pack last weekend at Talladega Superspeedway, despite being six laps down.
"I wasn't ready to give up," the 2012 champion of NASCAR's top series said Friday at Kansas Speedway, site of Saturday night's race. "I don't feel like my team gave up on me. It's my job to not give up on them."
Keselowski was six laps down last Sunday when he spun in front of Trevor Bayne with 50 laps remaining, sparking a crash that involved 14 cars and left about the same number of drivers angry. The Team Penske driver has been the target of criticism on many fronts in days since, including Friday when six-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson said he wouldn't have raced the same way under the same circumstances.
"You have to think, being six laps down, you are not going to get back on the lead lap," Johnson said. "There is an opinion that when you are on the race track you deserve a right to go race regardless how many laps down you are. I'm sure that is probably a smaller percentage of people have that opinion. ? Six laps down, me personally, I would have just been riding and tried to save our race car from getting torn up. Just sit there at the back of the pack."
Clearly, Keselowski saw it differently. Having fallen multiple laps down because of an incident earlier in the race that also involved Danica Patrick, the Penske driver didn't want to take anything for granted on a restrictor-plate track where numerous cautions before the end are often the rule rather than the exception. If he could get in step with the lap-down car of Jamie McMurray and battle for the free pass, he surmised, anything might have been possible.
"I would say in most cases, I probably wouldn't have done that," Keselowski said after qualifying third for Saturday's race. "But in that case, I felt like it was the proper thing to do in having the potential to race the 1 car (of McMurray) and get back in sequence. And if we would have gotten back in sequence, with enough speed in our car, with three or four yellows we could have had a shot at winning the race."
As for Johnson's comment that he would have done things differently, Keselowski said "that's his right. We all hold the steering wheel, and there are 43 of us out there, and we all do it a little differently making decisions. It would be quite lame to watch if we all did the same thing and all had the same ideas and personas. That's his right."
In fairness, Johnson also said he felt last weekend's incident "just falls into that restrictor-plate bucket," given that such accidents often occur at Talladega with regularity. Which may have been why Keselowski sounded surprised that the controversy over his laps-down racing at the home of the Big One was even at issue at all.
"I got in a wreck at a plate track, and I caused it. It's like I'm the first one to ever do that or something," Keselowski said. "Wrecking is never fun, but it happens, and that's just a part of racing. Anyone who doesn't see it that way obviously has a set of biases, and they can't make a rational judgment. So I don't worry about the criticism."
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