4 November 2014
NASCAR Sprint Cup Texas: Penske backs Keselowski over brawl
Roger Penske has reiterated his complete support for driver Brad Keselowski, who was involved in a post-race brawl with Jeff Gordon in Texas.
NASCAR Sprint Cup team owner Roger Penske has publicly stated his support for his driver Brad Keselowski over the controversial events at the end of the AAA Texas 500 on Sunday.
Keselowski made contact with his Chase rival Jeff Gordon as the pair battled for the lead during the penultimate restart of the race at Texas Motor Speedway, causing the #24 to spin out. A furious Gordon was left in 29th place, and promised over the team radio that he was going to beat the [expletive] out of Keselowski after the race.
Gordon duly arrived in the Penske pit stall to confront Keselowski over the incident, with dozens of members of both the Penske and Hendrick pit crews also getting involved as NASAR officials sought to control the situation. The confrontation erupted into a full-blown brawl and punched were thrown, leaving both Gordon and Keselowski with cuts and bruises when they subsequently talked with the media.
Keselowski was unrepentant about the original in-track incident, insisting that "There was a hole and I went for it. It closed up and we bounced off each other and kept going. It was just a battle for the win," adding: "I didn't go out there and intentionally wreck anybody or do any of that other hoopla."
And on Monday, his boss made it clear that he was standing by his man over the altercation, the second that Keselowski has been at the centre of in under a month following a similar fracas at Charlotte Motor Speedway with Matt Kenseth.
"The Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup has provided great excitement and intense competition,” said Roger Penske in a statement issued by the team. “Brad Keselowski is a champion who competes to win in every race, which is what I expect of him.
“While the actions by others following the race in Texas were unfortunate, Brad has my 100 percent support as we now move on to Phoenix for the next stage of the NASCAR championship."
"A lot of my strength personally comes from my team, whether that's the guys who work on the team or my boss, Roger Penske," Keselowski had said on Sunday. "If Roger Penske came up to me tomorrow and said, 'Brad, you drove that race wrong, you shouldn't have done what you did,' it would affect me.
"But the management team at Penske tells me to drive the way I did and tells me there's nothing to be ashamed of and continues to support me," he continued. "And they're my boss. My boss isn't the other drivers in the field. My boss is them. As long as they're on my side, I feel strong and I feel proud and encouraged to continue."
Gordon hadn't been impressed by Keselowski's defence or his justification for the original contact that cut his tyre and spun him out, severely denting his chances of making it through as one of the four finalists competing in the winner-take-all title decider at Homestead-Miami Speedway in two weeks time.
"It's emotion that is a part of this Chase and this format as well as towards people that make dumb decisions. He has been making a lot of them lately," fumed Gordon on Sunday. "That is why people have been running after him and chasing him down. It's why his team has got to defend him over there because of what he does on the race track."
NASCAR is currently reviewing video and photographic records of the incident, and will announce any penalties arising from the confrontation this week. It's unlikely to penalise either driver directly because it will not want to overtly interfere with the outcome of this year's championship battle, but that could change if there is direct evidence of either man landing a punch.
"Everybody gets together, and when you're holding on to each other and grabbing and this, that and the other, it's one thing," NASCAR's senior vice president of competition and racing development Robin Pemberton said after the race. "When punches are landed, that's a different scenario."
Initial viewing of the available video suggested that neither driver was seen throwing a punch, although Keselowski is seen to stumble and fall backwards after a punch is aimed at him seemingly by a member of the Hendrick Motorsports pit crew. The Hendrick team said that it is reviewing the mêlée and had no immediate comment. Also involved was Stewart-Haas Racing's Kevin Harvick, who is seen to shove Keselowski towards Gordon immediately before the brawl erupted.
Keselowski is already under NASCAR probation and received a $50,000 fine following events that took place after last month's race at Charlotte, when he rammed into Matt Kenseth's stationary car on pit road. Kenseth went after him and at one point had Keselowski in a headlock. Kenseth's Joe Gibbs Racing team mate Denny Hamlin also sought to confront Keselowski over a different on-track incident the same night but was held back by team members. Neither JGR driver was penalised over the altercation.
"These guys are jealous of the job he's done this year," Roger Penske had said the following week. "He's won six races. He's made poles. He's been up front. Nobody likes to see a guy win like that. I want him to get mad - I don't want him to take it."
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