Conventional wisdom in the wake of last week's Carl Edwards/Brad Keselowski Atlanta Aerial Assault was that Edwards' tap was a message delivered by most of the garage fed up with Jet Ski's slam-bang style, that Keselowski would see the error of his reckless ways and sin no more.
Now that his head has stopped spinning, Keselowski has spent most of the last week asserting that hell no, he's not going to change his driving style now:
"That's probably the best revenge there is -- to not let it get to me one bit, to not change," Keselowski said. "That's a sign to [Edwards] and everyone else that [intimidation by wrecking is] not going to work on me."
To his credit, Keselowski acknowledges that he wouldn't be able to mouth off like this even 10 years ago:
"I feel lucky to be in race cars that are as safe as they are, to be able to be here talking today and to be able to say, 'Hey, I'll take the lick and I'll get out of the car and come back the next race weekend and drive just as hard,' just to prove a point that I wasn't wrong and I still don't feel like I'm wrong."
"He's very openly outspoken and cocky about what his intentions are," said McReynolds. "He has no problem racing people hard, and if they don't like it, then they are going to have a problem. The thing to remember, though, is most of these drivers are complaining about Brad racing them hard. You've got to be kidding me! You are supposed to be racing hard." McReynolds invoked the holy quartet of Pearson, Earnhardt, Petty and Bobby Allison in praising Keselowski's "hard" racing, which might be overselling it just a wee bit.
Most drivers have had problems with Keselowski at one time or another, either because he's cost them a race or because they can see that his style could eventually cause real problems. Keselowski simply dismissed other drivers' criticisms in a must-read Sports Illustrated interview:
"[T]here are some drivers who play it as a game, where they're trying to tear your house down to make their house stronger. Which means if they can distract you or discredit you and get you thinking about things you shouldn't be worried about, hopefully you won't be worrying about things you should be worrying about, which is making your cars faster and working with your team."
Interesting idea, but again, that takes the responsibility completely off Keselowski's shoulders. Next time you're in a crowd -- trying to make it through a crowded airport to catch a plane, say -- try shoving your way through rather than saying "excuse me" as you edge past. You'll get to the same place a bit faster, but chances are you'll take a carry-on bag to the back of the head somewhere along the way.
There's a fine line between aggressiveness and recklessness, and at this point, Keselowski hasn't even found that line, much less trod along it. And if he does continue to bulldog his way through the field, he's going to find that all the sympathy he garnered from the Edwards wreck will vanish quicker than a hot lap at Bristol.