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NASCAR Cup Series

Jeff Gordon, Brad Keselowski, Crews Scuffle after Texas Race

By Matt Weaver (FORT WORTH, Tex.) — Jeff Gordon, Brad Keselowski and their respective crew members scuffled on pit road following an on-track altercation in the closing stages of the AAA 500 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race on Sunday night at Texas Motor Speedway.

The altercation began on the first attempt at a green-white-checkered finish when Keselowski took Gordon and Jimmie Johnson three-wide for the lead, making contact with both Hendrick Motorsports drivers in the process. The exposure cut Gordon’s tire, sending him from the lead to becoming the final caution of the race. Johnson held off Keselowski and Kevin Harvick under the final restart to win the race while Keselowski ultimately finished third.

Gordon lost a lap on pit road and finished 29th, dropping him from the championship lead to fourth in the overall Chase standings with one event remaining before the Homestead-Miami title contenders are decided. The four-time Sprint Cup Series champion took exception with how Keselowski raced him and confronted him on pit road.

Keselowski got out of his car and began exchanging words with Gordon. It was then that Harvick interjected himself into the situation, shoving Keselowski towards Gordon, igniting a brawl between the two drivers and their crew members.

Keselowski ended up with a cut on his lip and forehead while Gordon too sported a nick on his lip.

“We were sitting there on older tires,” Gordon told ESPN on TV. “I spun the tires a little but I got a pretty decent restart. We went down into (turn) one and I just wanted to get to the outside of the 48 (Johnson) and out of nowhere I just got slammed by the 2 and it cut my left-rear tire. He’s just a dipshit. The way he races, I don’t know how he ever won a championship and I’m just sick and tired of it.

“That’s why everybody is fighting and running him down. Your emotions are high. That was a huge race for us. We had the car and we had the team.”

Keselowski was also involved in a scuffle last month at Charlotte Motor Speedway (with Matt Kenseth) and is currently on probation for that incident. The 2012 Sprint Cup Series champion said that he was simply racing for the win.

“It was just racing hard and (Gordon) left a hole — and everythig you watch in racing — if you leave a hole you’re supposed to go for it,” Keselowski said. “It closed up and we made contact. I didn’t want to ruin anyone’s day, I wanted to win the race and that was our opportunity.”

Due to his frequent run-ins with veteran and rival drivers, Keselowski has often found himself in the center of controversy, with fingers pointed in his direction. Sunday at Texas was no different.

“I’ve been through a lot of rivalries,” Keselowski said. “I’ve got a little blood on me right now. I’ve been roughed up and put in the grandstands and wrecked and all that stuff and I’m still here fighting. I race 100 percent and go for the win and that’s what our fans deserve.

“It’s my job to race 100 percent, and that’s what I did today. I don’t want to wreck anyone but I certainly race hard, and that’s nothing to be ashamed of.”

Gordon said there was no conversation between him and Keselowski.

“You can’t have a conversation with him,” Gordon said. “He beats his own drum and gets himself in this position himself and he’s got to pay the consequences. I’m going to race him the same way he races me. But that kind of stuff is uncalled for and I’m not going to stand for it.

“To (NASCAR), it’s just a racing incident. To me, it’s a bunch of crap. The kid is doing stuff way over his head. That stuff is uncalled for. You are racing for a win and a championship. You don’t go slamming someone and cut their left-rear tire. If that’s what it takes, no problem, I can do the same thing to him.”

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NASCAR Cup Series

Roger Penske: The Garage is Jealous of Brad Keselowski

By Matt Weaver — Brad @Keselowski has come under much scrutiny and criticism during his brief career, most of it resulting from his candid and outspoken demeanor but also for outbursts like last weekend at Charlotte or his destructive feud with Carl Edwards in 2009 and 2010.

Keselowski says that he and teammate @JoeyLogano came up during an era where it was notoriously difficult for younger drivers to break into the sport and that his controversial edge was born of having to fight and claw to maintain his place in the Sprint Cup Series.

“Besides my teammate Joey Logano — what other drivers came from that era and were successful,” Keselowski asked. “There isn’t one. There’s not one that came through those four or five years and that is for good reason. They’ve been ran out of the sport and I’m not going to let that happen.”

As a result, Keselowski believes that his stance is going to continue to produce uncomfortable moments like last week at Charlotte when he scuffled with Matt Kenseth and Denny Hamlin on and off the track following the conclusion of the Bank of America 500.

“Certainly there were some uncomfortable moments this week,” Keselowski said. “There’s been some uncomfortable moments in the past. I hope there’s not any more uncomfortable moments in the future, but there probably will be.”

Keselowski says that the controversy will likely continue until the old guard that was partially responsible for holding him back cycles out, leaving the new generation as the power-brokers in NASCAR. He says he has taken “solace” in that fact.

Team owner Roger Penske defended his 2012 champion, his personality and his struggle to earn respect, expressing that the garage is jealous of his recent success and that he didn’t blame Keselowski for his outburst at Charlotte a single bit.

“Number one, these guys are jealous of the job he’s done this year,” Penske said. “He’s won six races. He’s won poles and he’s been up front. Nobody likes to see a guy win like that. The fact that he has a little edge on him, he’s continually delivering, obviously I think that makes a difference.”

Penske, mild-mannered but fiercely competitive doesn’t want Keselowski to change.

“If everybody understood what happened on the racetrack last week, when you get your rear fender knocked off on a restart, you get your front fender knocked off on a pass-by, I want him to get mad. I don’t want him to take it.”

Keselowski is empowered by his support system, acknowledging that his team, Penske and crew chief Paul Wolfe has always been honest with him — be it positive or negative messages.

“I feel like I have a great group of people around me that are willing to tell me the inconvenient truth sometimes,” Keselowski said. “In this case the inconvenient truth would be if they felt I was wrong but the people around me weren’t saying that. That way, that feeling, those guys giving me the support that they did, helps me turn the page.”

And he turned the page into Victory Lane and the Eliminator Round.

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Editorial

Weaver: New Chase Producing a Legitimate Champion

By Matt Weaver (TALLADEGA, Ala.) –The legitimacy of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion has come under continuous scrutiny ever since the advent of the Chase for the Championship but the events of Sunday afternoon at Talladega Superspeedway may have added much-needed credibility to the eventual champion in 2014.

The naysayers often proclaim that the champions of today are not comparable to those of yesteryear. Worst yet, others say that the playoff era titleholders are somehow a lesser breed because they have not always been the “best team.”

So this begs an obvious question: How do we define the best? Is the best team the one with the most wins or is it the one with the best average finish over 36 races?

The traditionalists would have the driver who accumulates the most points over 36 races crowned the champion but NASCAR has adopted several point payout systems that would have produced different results if applied over a full season. (1992, anyone?) The notion of a best team is completely subjective and not affected by a playoff in the least.

So perhaps the mark of a champion is earned when a team executes at the highest level and when the stakes are highest — like Brad Keselowski and the No. 2 team’s victory on Sunday at Talladega.

Despite the random feel of the Chase Grid, the new championship format requires that teams continually execute for the entirety of the format. There is no cruising for consistency. The format requires excellence, especially when a team endures bad luck like the No. 2 at Kansas and Charlotte over the past two weeks.

At this point, it was win or go home and the 2012 champions drove right into Victory Lane.

Eight drivers now remain in the 2014 Chase for the Championship. They are Keselowski, Joey Logano, Kevin Harvick, Ryan Newman, Carl Edwards, Denny Hamlin, Matt Kenseth and Jeff Gordon.

Each driver and team has utilized a different path to advance to the Eliminator Eight. The format is the best of both worlds — demanding victories and consistency — and allowing seemingly defeated drivers, like Keselowski, to rise above the ashes.

Despite a combined eight victories this season, Jimmie Johnson, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Kasey Kahne and Kyle Busch were simply not the best this season. With all due respect, if they were, they would have answered the bell and risen to the occasion in the same vein that Keselowski did when it mattered the most.

The eventual champion is going to be the team that executes at Martinsville, Texas, Phoenix and Homestead. The best team is going to win one of the next three races and at Martinsville, and when it’s do or die in Miami, they are going to rise to the occasion and do what has to be done.

Because that’s what the best team does. That’s what a champion does.

So how do we define the best in the world? Right now, with only four races remaining, it looks an awful lot like Brad Keselowski.

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Editorial

Keselowski with Plenty to Race For Despite ‘Bye’

By Matt Weaver — Brad @Keselowski has entered unknown territory in regards to the Chase for the Championship. With his victory on Sunday at Chicagoland Speedway, the 2012 Sprint Cup Series champion now has a first round bye of sorts for the next two events at New Hampshire and Dover.

This is a prospect that no other driver has faced since the introduction of a playoff system back in 2004 and how he and his team attack those two races will be a fascinating subplot for the remainder of the Challenger Round.

The immediate reaction from most onlookers is that Keselowski will not have much to race for until the start of the Contender Round but a deeper look shows that this isn’t quite the case. Despite having an automatic berth into the Round of 12, Keselowski and crew have much to gain and lose over the next two races.

The first involves his teammate, @JoeyLogano.

While Keselowski is guaranteed an automatic berth into the next bracket, Logano has not yet earned the same luxury. Despite a very impressive fourth-place showing in Joliet, Logano has only a 20-point advantage over the elimination cutoff. While that by itself is a pretty sizeable cushion, Logano is one cut tire (or Morgan Shepherd) away from dropping into the danger zone.

The best case scenario for Logano is to win outright on Sunday or continue posting top-10s. It’s an achievable goal that the Miller Lite crew can now devote extra time to given their victory, should Logano and crew chief Todd Gordon require backup.

Don’t forget that Keselowski led 138 laps at Loudon in July, making him and Paul Wolfe a valuable asset in terms of both data acquisition over the weekend and as a chess piece on race day. While that may come too close to team orders for some to approve, it is an advantage that Team Penske earned on Sunday by winning the playoff-opening event.

The second reason for Keselowski to continue digging, simply put, is because that is what drivers and race teams do.

Wolfe explained on Sunday that the victory will not change their approach for the remainder of the first round. And in the same way that a victory in the third race of the season didn’t change how they continued pressing for three more regular season victories, don’t expect Keselowski to lift in preparation for Kansas in three weeks.

Lastly, the 2014 season has presented the “Blanco Dos” team to make a statement against perennial championship contenders like Hendrick Motorsports and Stewart Haas Racing. Think again if you don’t believe Keselowski doesn’t want to send the message that he can beat them head-to-head more times than not.

In addition to the psychological benefit it may provide him in the weeks leading up to the Homestead Championship Race, it is also advantageous of Keselowski to win the next two races just to prevent a rival from earning the same luxury and comfort he is currently enjoying with his two-week bye. Doing so could force the likes of a @JeffGordonWeb, @JimmieJohnson or @KevinHarvick to make a mistake and conceivably miss the second round altogether.

This argument doesn’t even include the mysterious and intangible momentum that Keselowski and company currently have and shouldn’t readily relinquish. The No. 2 team is in a unique position for the next few weeks in not having to battle their way into the second round.

But conventional wisdom suggests they should race just the same.

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NASCAR Cup Series

Keselowski: It Scares the $h*! Out of Me

By Matt Weaver (CHICAGO) — Brad @Keselowski enters the Chase for the Championship as the top-seeded driver but has circled the second round of the playoffs as a possible pitfall in his efforts to win a second NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship.

The so-called Contender Round will thin the field from 12 to 8 drivers and features events at Kansas, Charlotte and Talladega — a prospect that terrifies the 2012 Cup Series champion.

“That second bracket — the Contender bracket — scares the shit out of me,” Keselowski said. “Kansas and Talladega have both been wreckfests the past few years and winning at Charlotte is the only way you can feel comfortable going into that last race. I think that bracket is really going to break some hearts.”

For those still eligible for a championship entering the second round, a win at either Kansas or Charlotte would guarantee entry into the third round and alleviate any pressure of racing at the combustible Talladega restrictor plate race.

As a result, Keselowski and Team Penske used one of their four remaining tests last week at Charlotte, in the hopes that they can win and avoid the pressure generated by Kansas and Talladega.

“We did that because Charlotte is in the bracket that scares the shit out of me,” Keselowski reiterated.

The organization also has three tests remaining and will use them for Martinsville, Texas and Homestead. As for the rest of the Chase, Keselowski says each of the four rounds will require a different set of skills to advance, something he says is a benefit for fans and the good of the sport.

“In some ways you are going to have to take different approaches,” Keselowski said of the new-look format. “In the first bracket, (consisting of) Chicago, Dover and New Hampshire, that is going to demand consistency. The second (which consists of) Kansas, Charlotte and Talladega … we’ve seen that Kansas and Talladega are both wreckfests so that demands survival.

“The third — Martinsville, Texas and Phoenix, to make the final four — that’s going to demand performance. Homestead will be about performing under pressure. All told, I think all four are going to require something different out of you and I think that’s a good thing.”

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NASCAR Cup Series

Drivers Offer Suggestions for Bristol Changes

By Matt Weaver (BRISTOL, Tenn.) — The Sprint Cup Series’ most recent return to Bristol Motor Speedway on Saturday night was met with widespread praise from both drivers and fans, with many of them calling it the best race at Thunder Valley since the controversial resurfacing that forever changed the venue back in 2007.

Bristol has seen a lot of changes over the past decade with the Tennessee half-mile transforming from a single groove on the bottom track into a high-speed multi-lane circuit that featured side-by-side racing when progressive banking was installed seven years ago.

Fans criticized the changes and attendance for one of the most beloved events began to suffer. In a poll conducted by the speedway in 2011, 70 percent of fans demanded a return to the Bristol of old and the use of the bump-and-run that made the World’s Fastest Half-Mile so famous in the first place. As a result, Speedway Motorsports Inc. construction manager Steve Swift ordered a grinding of the top groove to weaken its effectiveness, and in theory, force drivers back to the bottom. The plan backfired and made the top line faster than ever before.

The bottom line has now been rendered all but useless as of last Saturday night, leaving one driver in @AricAlmirola to suggest that SMI now grind the bottom line in the efforts to open that lane back up for passing.

“When they grinded the top a few years ago, they wanted to force us back to the bottom but they actually just made the top faster than it ever was before,” Almirola said following the incident that knocked him out of the Irwin Tools Night Race. “I think they should look at grinding the bottom too and see if they can give us another line to pass.”

2015 Rues Package: Drivers Wants Less Downforce, Softer Tires

Brad @Keselowski has won two races at the track in the new configuration and finished second on Saturday but wishes they had never touched it in the first place. With that said, he doesn’t like the idea of touching it once again given the previous results.

“I just don’t think they should have changed the track at all,” Keselowski said. “I think it was a mistake to do so but it’s not my decision to make.

“(But) no, they don’t need to go grinding tracks. They handed it to a bunch of engineers and told them to make the bottom lane the fastest and lo and behold they screwed it up and made the highest lane the fastest. I’m shocked.”

Greg Biffle finished 10th on Saturday night and has long been a proponent for a softer Goodyear tire. While the fastest line at the new Bristol will continue to be the top, he believes the bottom can still be a viable option assuming that Goodyear develops a softer tire that allows a driver to dig and better rotate the center of the corner.

“The softer the tire and the more grip it has, the better the bottom is,” Biffle said on Friday afternoon. “The harder the tire and the wider the arc we have to run, it puts us all the way up the track. It’s just a matter of getting a soft enough tire on the car to allow us to use the bottom.

“When you pile downforce on these cars and you give them a soft tire and they go too fast. If you shed a little bit of downforce and put on a softer tire, we could run all over the race track and pass like old Bristol.”

Attendance was up considerably on Saturday and the event generated a familiar buzz of years’ past. Perhaps it is time to leave Bristol be after all as all three iterations were capable of putting on exceptional races. Opinions, as they always do, varied on which version of the track a driver most preferred.

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XFINITY

Is It Really Over – No More Iowa For Keselowski?

By Unique Hiram – On Saturday night, Brad @Keselowski charged his way to victory, capturing the checkered flag for the U.S. Cellular 250 Presented by New Holland at Iowa Speedway. This marked his third victory and seventh top-10 finish of the season in the NASCAR Nationwide Series.

He was chosen for double duty because of scheduling conflicts with the team’s development drivers. “This isn’t a race that Penske circles and says they want to send a Cup driver; it’s just the way it works right now. With the development drivers running the Truck series, the race is a conflict and it just kind of schedules out the way it does for me to be here,” Keselowski said during his post-race interview.

Upon making the trek from Pocono and touching down in the Midwest, he hit the asphalt running and focused on the task at hand. In the final round of qualifying, Keselowski took the provisional pole position with a time of 23.577 seconds; however, @TrevorBayne21 grabbed the top spot with a time of 23.558 seconds.

Once the green flag dropped and within 45 laps of the race, the double deuce was leading the field. The lowest position that he dropped down to was third and when it counted Keselowski was in the prime position to take the win. His margin of victory was 0.886 seconds ahead of a hard-charging @Mc_Driver (Michael McDowell).

The 2010 NASCAR Nationwide Series champion eluded to the fact that this would be his last time racing at the track and was asked about this after the race.

“I’ve enjoyed the success that I’ve had here, and I think that it’s important to me personally to see those (development) drivers get an opportunity in races like that; I know that we are working towards that at Penske. I would expect it to be my last race here for quite some time,” he said.

In five starts this season, Keselowski has three wins, five top-fives, five top-10s and led 332 laps. Overall, in 212 series career starts, he has 30 wins with 101 top-fives, 134 top-10s, 17 poles and led 4,245 laps. With these stats and still being in the prime of his racing career, it would be difficult for one to think that he wouldn’t want to add more to his stellar career.

How long can he stay away from a track that he has methodically mastered? One Year? Two Years?

Only time will tell.

One thing that is for certain, the former series champion is a die-hard racer who has loved competing in Iowa. Although he may be taking a hiatus for a little while and showing his support of the development drivers honing their driving skills, I believe the “Hawkeye State” hasn’t seen the last of Keselowski.

In the words of this most famous colloquialism …“It isn’t over until the fat lady sings.”

EMAIL UNIQUE AT unique.hiram@popularspeed.com

FOLLOW ON TWITTER @UniqueHiram

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XFINITY

Keselowski’s Pit Strategy Equates To A Win in Iowa

By NASCAR Wire Service (NEWTON, Ia.) — The well-worn script read something like this: Brad Keselowski swoops in from the sky.

 

The 2012 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion snares a second straight win in the NASCAR Nationwide Series US Cellular 250 at Iowa Speedway, then hops a jet back to Pocono Raceway and competes in Sunday’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series event at Long Pond, Pa.

 

Simple. Neat. Expected — except part-timer Michael McDowell nearly spoiled the big-timer’s happy, if nerve-wracking Saturday night ending.

 

“I had my shot at it,” said McDowell, who led briefly on lap 248 before the always-fast Keselowski swept high and surged to his third win in four U.S. Cellular 250 starts.

 

That he did — thanks to another driver’s misfortune.

 

James Buescher’s crash on lap 241 set up a madcap three-lap dash to the finish that allowed McDowell to challenge for the upset.

 

“A really good battle,” said Keselowski, who led 146 laps and has finished no worse than third in seven Nationwide starts this season. “He had me there for a minute. Somehow I slid back by him. I’m not really sure how it worked out. These wins aren’t easy to come by and I’m really proud of the effort everyone put into it.”

 

Keselowski’s stated goal entering the Nationwide portion of his weekend was to aid Team Penske in a tight race at the top of the owner point standings.

 

He accomplished that, narrowing Joe Gibbs Racing’s lead from eight points to one (804 to 803).

 

“This isn’t a race that Penske circles and says we want to send a Cup driver to,” Keselowski said. “It’s just the way it works right now, (with) development drivers running in the (Camping World) Trucks series. The race is a conflict and it just kind of schedules out the way it does for me to be here. But I’ve enjoyed the success I’ve had here and it’s important for me personally to see those (developmental) drivers get opportunities in races like that.”

 

JGR drivers Sam Hornish and Elliott Sadler finished fourth and 10th, respectively.

 

Hornish — one of a handful to choose four tires on the last pit stop — led 65 laps and notched his fourth straight top-four finish at Iowa.

 

Trevor Bayne led the first 31 laps and settled for third with a $100,000 silver lining.

 

Bayne locked up the Nationwide Insurance Dash 4 Cash prize, earning another $100,000 for fan James Dennis of Henry, Ill.

 

“It hasn’t sunk in entirely yet,” Dennis said.

 

It has for Bayne.

 

“Hopefully we can build on this,” said Bayne, who moved up to fifth in points with 673. “I feel like we did everything but go to Victory Lane this weekend.”

 

Chase Elliott finished eighth and maintains a narrow lead of 714 points to 712 over Regan Smith, who placed sixth.

 

McDowell matched his career-best finish in just his second start of the season.

 

“This is a great finish,” McDowell said. “When you’re that close to getting the victory, it’s definitely a tough one. Brad definitely had the best car tonight, but on those restarts everybody’s got a shot.”

 

Especially at Iowa, where grooves abound.

 

“The cool thing about Iowa is the top and the bottom is about even on the restarts,” said Keselowski’s crew chief, Jeremy Bullins. “So Michael was able to get a good run and get the lead and Brad was able to get it back. I think a lot of places you go, there’s a definitive — there’s no question you’re taking the top or there’s no question you’re taking the bottom. Here, I think you look back, it’s probably closer to 50-50 as far as who gets the lead.”

 

His driver, as usual, held it here at the end.

 

“Thankful that it came together,” Keselowski said.

Categories
NASCAR Cup Series

Penske Official: We’re Right There With Hendrick

By Matt Weaver — If Travis Geisler is to be taken at his word, Team Penske is a legitimate threat to unseat Hendrick Motorsports as favorites to win the new-look Chase for the Championship.

As President of Competition for Team Penske, Geisler’s word carries a lot of weight. In fact, it carries the same weight at the one-two punch that drivers Brad Keselowski and Joey Logano have provided this season. Combined, the dynamic duo has posted three victories and has led at least one lap in every race this season for 953 total.

While only four teams will compete for the championship at Homestead Miami Speedway, Geisler believes only six teams have shown the muscle to get there and believes his two-car program is amongst them.

“I think if you look at it today, and everything can change by time we get there because this deal really ebbs and flows a lot, but I think (Kevin Harvick) and (Jimmie Johnson) are really the two main targets,” Geisler said. “Obviously (Jeff Gordon) and (Dale Earnhardt Jr.) have been running well and I feel like our cars are right there.”

Winning three races right out of the gate has really helped Penske prepare for the Chase in terms of testing and analyzing weaknesses according to Geisler, especially considering that the organization has all four of its test dates remaining.

“We would have had to use those at some of these tracks coming up if we were in the sport we were last year, where we didn’t have either car locked in at this point,” Geisler said. “We would be testing at some of the tracks coming up to make sure we could go and execute. But we know we can probably go to those tracks and run well and we’re most likely in the Chase with both cars so we’re focused on how to use those four tests at tracks in that last 10.”

Categories
Editorial

Why Kurt Busch, Brad Keselowski Rivalry is What NASCAR Needs

By Matt Weaver — Let’s face it — we all love a good feud in NASCAR.

There is a certain subset of the fandom that was first attracted to the sport as a result of Ken Squier’s famous call of the 1979 Daytona 500, that included these timeless words:

“And there’s a fight between Cale Yarborough and Donnie Allison! The tempers overflowing; they are angry, they know they have lost and what a bitter defeat.”

The fact that NASCAR fans like a good fight is no more demeaning of their personality than it is of the similarly-minded NHL fans. It is the rough and tumble foundation in which the NASCAR empire was built.

martinsville_kubusch_keselowski2222222222222222222222In a sporting world where so much has become homogenized, pasteurized, and sanitized for mass consumption, there remains an eternal appetite for athletes who are still willing to remind the fans just how much driving in circles actually matters and just how far they are willing to take retaliation when they believe they have been wronged.

This is what makes the possibility of a prolonged spat between Brad Keselowski and Kurt Busch so enticing for fans of stock car racing. These are two characters with sharp convictions and clear-cut moral perspectives over how drivers should conduct themselves both on and off the track — and both believe the other has violated that code.

We want our sport and our narratives to feel authentic — and to have two polarizing and genuine superstars on the cusp of a prolonged battle — that’s the ultimate for this aspect of NASCAR racing.

And quite frankly, that’s the only missing ingredient to a fantastic start to 2014 that has also included six different winners in as many races, the sport’s most popular driver winning the Daytona 500 and close finishes week-in-and-week-out … even if some of them feel contrived.

That’s not to say that we want Brad and Kurt going out and wrecking each other for the next 30 races.

Instead, in a perfect world, this is the start of an all-encompassing battle, where both drivers duel nose-to-nose to the finish line this weekend in Texas, followed by shenanigans at the roughneck speedplants in Darlington and Richmond all leading up to their participation in the Chase Grid over the final 10 weeks of the season.

In the current NASCAR atmosphere, where the Sanctioning Body has set out to eliminate “it was a good points day,” the drivers must also be willing to step out of this white collar public relations vortex where feuding can no longer happen at the risk of offending sponsors.

The status quo has had a much more costly effect in offending the fans.

Even Keselowski himself, last fall, admitted that feuding has been squashed by the millions of dollars pumped in by the advertisers. From that perspective, it’s ironic that Brad is now one of the combatants in a war of words that has included threats of face rearranging by Busch and “leave victory lane and we’ll go.”

As Popular Speed cohort Steve Waid pointed out this morning, NASCAR needs the black hat villain and the sport needs rivalries. Just as Yarborough (a mirror for Keselowski), Allison (Busch) and Richard Petty (Earnhardt Jr.) shaped that 1979 season, 2014 also has all the pieces in place for a return to NASCAR racing that’s just a little rough around the edges.

A NASCAR for NASCAR fans.

EMAIL MATT AT matt.weaver@popularspeed.com

FOLLOW ON TWITTER: @MattWeaverSBN