TALLADEGA, Ala. (AP) — Brad Keselowski figures he was just being aggressive, down six laps and hoping some breaks would allow him back into contention. It was, after all, Talladega Superspeedway where anything can happen.
Other drivers were left shaking their heads after Keselowski spun and triggered a 14-car wreck Sunday when he was so far behind.
“Brad does a lot of smart things out there on the race track and then he does some things that make you just shake your head and go, ‘Really? How does a guy that’s a champion, that’s been that successful make such silly decisions?'” said Jeff Gordon, among those caught up with about 50 laps to go.
Keselowski said Talladega isn’t a track where you give up too early and the winner typically doesn’t get to the front by being passive. The race ended with Denny Hamlin winning under caution.
“You assume something’s going to happen but you don’t know,” Keselowski said. “And that’s why you race so hard. I was one or two debris yellows from being back in the race, and I wasn’t going to give up.”
It was the second incident of the day involving Keselowski, who won at Talladega in 2012 en route to the Sprint Cup championship.
He got spun after sliding down in front of leader Danica Patrick on lap 14 as she tried to move up the track.
His own crew chief, Paul Wolfe, indicated it was Keselowski’s mistake.
“We weren’t clear enough to make that,” Wolfe told his driver on the radio. “I’ll just leave it at that: We weren’t clear enough to make that move.”
Neither driver was placing the blame on the other in interviews afterward, with the second incident generating more anger in the garages.
“I don’t know if I cut somebody off or got run over,” Keselowski said.
Patrick said she was trying to squeeze in between Keselowski’s No. 2 car and Gordon’s No. 24.
“I haven’t seen it, so I don’t know if it was just me coming up,” she said. “It very well could have been. I don’t know if it was him coming down. I’m not 100 percent sure but I do know that I was looking in my mirror trying to get up behind the 2 and in front of the 24 and was just about to slide into that spot, and that’s when it happened.
“My apologies if that was all my fault. Shoot, I struggle to take people out and not take myself out. I don’t even know how to do it. That by no means is anything I was trying to do. I’m not out here to make enemies, especially on speedways.”
There was some grumbling from other drivers after what happened with Keselowski later, when he seemed unlikely to make up all that ground even at Talladega.
Clint Bowyer was asked if there was some protocol when a racer is multiple laps down.
“Seems like common sense is one of your strong suits,” Bowyer told a reporter.
Added Gordon: “It’s extra frustrating when the car’s six laps down out there, making some of the moves he was making. That was disappointing, but everybody’s got a right to race. He was trying to do something. I’m just not sure what.”
Matt Kenseth was also caught up in the second crash, and left little doubt how he felt about it. Kenseth wound up finishing 37th, while Bayne, pole sitter Brian Scott and Tony Stewart were knocked out.
He called the move in front of Patrick “mind-boggling” and said Keselowski was driving “really, really, really aggressively.”
Kenseth and Keselowski had a run-in late in the race at Richmond a week earlier after tangling following the final restart with both gunning for the win. Keselowski retaliated and then jumped out of his car and angrily wagged his finger at Kenseth.
Jimmie Johnson was also caught up in the second incident, but said he understands the mentality.
“I wasn’t so thrilled that a car six laps down crashed the field,” Johnson said. “But I get it. You’re trying to get your laps back.”
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