ELIMINATOR MEDIA DAY NOTEBOOK: Keselowski: It’s racing, not a popularity contest

By Reid Spencer NASCAR Wire Service

CHARLOTTE, N.C.—If his racing career boiled down to a choice between success and popularity, Brad Keselowski would choose success every time.

But that doesn’t mean the 2012 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion doesn’t want fans and fellow drivers to like him.

“I want to be able to win races and win championships, and that’s the priority in my life and my number one goal,” Keselowski said Tuesday afternoon during a media day gathering at the NASCAR Hall of Fame featuring the eight drivers who advanced to the Chase’s Eliminator Round on Sunday at Talladega. “To do that, sometimes with this current setting, you’re going to have to ruffle some feathers, and not everybody’s going to like you, whether that’s teams, drivers or fans. I’m comfortable with that, or as comfortable as you can be.”

That doesn’t mean that Keselowski is oblivious to boos and catcalls at driver introductions. At Talladega, a week after run-ins on the track and in the garage with Matt Kenseth and Denny Hamlin at Charlotte, Keselowski heard more than his share.

“They don’t feel good, but over time, I’ve grown OK with it, so it just becomes part of it,” Keselowski said. “I’m happy that they’re making noise. What hurts most is when I went out there, and nobody made noise.

“That’s when you don’t even feel relevant. In some ways it’s fuel for the fire to race even harder and continue the path that I’m on, because I know that will turn over time.”

Perhaps no driver in the history of the sport inspired such strong emotions on both sides of the equation as did the late Dale Earnhardt. On the strength of his season-saving victory at Talladega on Sunday, Keselowski has evoked comparisons in a number of quarters to the seven-time series champion.

“There’s only one of those,” Keselowski demurred when asked about similarities to Earnhardt. “I would say that racing in some ways is like music, that you can be influenced as a band by another band, and certainly there are some influences there—but I’m not that band.

“It’s flattering, with all the success that he had, but I’m not that band. I’m just trying to do things my own way, the best way I know how.”

 SIGH OF RELIEF FOR NEWMAN

 Ryan Newman said he didn’t lose sleep over the possibility of being penalized for a ride-height violation at Talladega on Sunday, but that doesn’t mean the driver of the No. 31 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet wasn’t worried.

In post-race inspection, NASCAR deemed Newman’s fifth-place car was roughly an eighth of an inch too low in the rear on both sides. NASCAR took the No. 31 Chevrolet to its Research and Development Center in Concord, North Carolina, where officials determined the infraction had resulted from race damage and therefore would incur no penalty.

Newman believes the damage occurred with two laps left in the race.

“I think it was getting slammed from behind on the last restart,” he said. “I’m getting going, and I can’t remember… I spent as much time looking in the mirror as I did out the windshield the last couple of laps, but I think it was the 20 (Matt Kenseth) that drove me really hard.

“It actually wrinkled the rear quarter panels, which shows that the body’s moved and the rear bumper was knocked in. I never looked at the car after the race. I didn’t expect there to be any issues, so I didn’t analyze exactly what happened.”

When Newman learned his car was too low, however, he was understandably concerned.

“I didn’t lose any sleep over it—don’t get me wrong,” Newman said. “But I was concerned about it, mostly from the fact of, if for instance we don’t make it to the next championship round, I want those points.

“I want to be the guy that can say he finished fifth because of our average, not because of our penalty.”

ARE ISSUES BETWEEN LOGANO AND PATRICK RESOLVED?

On Oct. 11 at Charlotte, contact from Joey Logano’s Ford turned the No. 10 Chevrolet of Danica Patrick and ruined her night.

Patrick’s immediate instinct was to get revenge, but she realized that wrecking Logano at Charlotte would have no impact on his run for the championship since Logano had won on the previous weekend at Kansas and was guaranteed a spot in the Chase’s Eliminator Round.

Martinsville, site of Sunday’s Goody’s Headache Relief Shot 500, is another matter. With points reset, and with the remaining eight Chase drivers entering the race on equal footing, revenge could be devastating.

That’s why Logano has taken measures to ensure Martinsville won’t become a payback track.

“We’ve actually talked about it since then, and I feel like we’ve come to a good conclusion of what happened there,” Logano said. “That’s in the past. That’s in the mirror, and we’ll move forward.”

 From Logano’s point of view, the hatchet is buried, but the driver of the No. 22 Team Penske Ford still has to hope that Patrick doesn’t decide to bury it in his back.

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