On lap 236 of Sunday's NASCAR race, Brad Keselowski passed Kyle Busch for the race lead – and the crowd at Texas Motor Speedway erupted in joy.
Their reaction was similar to if Dale Earnhardt Jr. had taken the lead at Talladega. Fans stood, clapped, waved their hats in the air and motioned with their arms for Keselowski to go faster, faster, faster.
What gives? Why were the fans so happy? On Twitter, the answer was overwhelming: It wasn't necessarily Keselowski fans or Busch detractors who were so happy – it was the 'Anybody But Jimmie Johnson' crowd coming to life.
"I think I have a lot of Jimmie-hater fans," Keselowski said with a laugh Tuesday when asked about that moment. "I'm the de facto Jimmie-hater fan base right now."
As the season nears its end, most fans (other than those who support the 48 team) are not in favor of Johnson winning another championship. And while Keselowski said he'll "take every fan I can get," he's a bit wary of the Johnson-haters' support as he tries to win his first Cup title.
"I'm not sure how I feel about it, because I try really hard to engage a very informed and positive fan base," he said. "So that might not be necessarily along those lines."
During his still-young career, Keselowski has learned he can't control what people think about him. He once said 25 percent of fans will irrationally love a driver, 25 percent will irrationally hate a driver and the other 50 percent is up for grabs.
"All you can do is your best to represent what you think is right and hope that you're liked for that," he said Tuesday. "At some point you just don't control that. People are going to like you for things that probably aren't true to who you are, but that's just their impression; and there are going to be people who dislike you for things that really probably aren't true to who you are. I think you kind of roll with some of those punches."
But Keselowski emphasized he didn't become a race car driver because he needed to feel liked; he joined racing to become the best driver he could possibly be.
"It's great you have fans along the way, and I respect that immensely," he said. "... But the core of what I do is all based around competition."