June 30, 2012; Sparta, IN, USA; NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver Brad Keselowski waves to the crowd during driver introductions before the Quaker State 400 at Kentucky Speedway. Mandatory credit: Michael Hickey-US PRESSWIRE
There's a difference between 'racing hard' and 'racing like an asshole,' the Penske Racing driver says in this week's 12 Questions interview.
Our series of weekly NASCAR driver interviews continues with Brad Keselowski, the Penske Racing driver who is tied for the Sprint Cup Series lead in victories this season.
SBN: What percentage of your career races can you remember?
BK: I have no idea. Percentage? Off the top of my head, without anything to jog my memory, I would say one.
SBN: One? One percent?
BK: We're supposed to be race car drivers, man! Race car drivers look forward.
SBN: Well, some other race car drivers have said they remember like 99 percent. What if you had something to jog your memory?
BK: Oh yeah, well then I could remember a lot. Like an in-car camera tape?
SBN: No, I mean like if I said, 'Hey, remember that Nashville Nationwide race from a few years ago?'
BK: Oh. Then no. I look forward, man. If you spend your whole life looking backward, what a shitty way to live.
SBN: What was the first win you had in any form of motorsports?
BK: My first win ever would have been in a Quarter Midget. That was in '98. I was 14. It was my first-ever race.
SBN: Oh, really? So you were one-for-one?
BK: Actually, I started out six-for-six. I won my first six races.
SBN: How'd you pull that off?
BK: I don't know, I was fuckin' good, I guess! (Laughs) Just remember: If winning were easy, losers would do it.
SBN: Who is a clean driver you enjoy racing with in Cup?
BK: They're all a little dirty. It's just some have an image of being clean.
SBN: I don't buy that. Surely there's someone who races you cleanly and gives you lots of room.
BK: There are some that are less dirty that race me cleaner, if that's what you're asking.
SBN: OK, well what driver seems to make it particularly hard on you?
BK: A good one! If you're a good fuckin' driver, you shouldn't make it easy on me! That's your job. Your job is to race. The difference is – and this is where people get it all messed up – there are drivers who race like an asshole and drivers who race hard. For some reason, as a sport, we're not capable of distinguishing between the two.
A driver who races like an asshole is a driver who either 1) Doesn't understand the simple principle or 2) Doesn't care about the simple principle of how in this sport, you have more of an ability to screw somebody else's day up than in any other sport.
An example of that would be this: Let's say your car is one second faster than the rest of the field. You've come in and you've pitted with 10 laps to go and you're 10 seconds behind the leader. You know if you pass all these cars, you'll get to him on the last lap and you could win the race.
Well, if you're running 10th when that happens and the ninth-place car blocks the shit out of you, that's racing like an asshole. And the reason why that's racing like an asshole is because no matter what that guy does, you're going to pass him. You're so much faster than him, you're going to pass him. The only difference is he's ruining your shot at getting to the leader. And he has that ability. That's racing like an asshole, because you're not improving your own day – you're just hurting somebody else's.
I think a lot of times, when drivers say, 'Oh, he races too hard,' that's what they mean. But they don't ever give the full explanation.
Now, a guy who will race you hard for the win? That's cool as shit to me! The guy is like, 'I've got a fifth-place car and you've got a fourth-place car and I'm going to fight you because you're not going any further ahead than what I want you to go.' I can respect the hell out of that. And that's not racing too hard.
But a guy who basically dedicates his day to fucking you? That's an asshole.
SBN: So are there drivers out there who are really like that?
BK: Yes. But see, the thing I haven't really figured out is whether they are doing it intentionally or whether they just don't get it.
SBN: When it comes to your own personal code of conduct on the track, do you ever race somebody like an asshole?
BK: Yeah, if I got somebody I don't like, then I'll race 'em like an asshole. Mmm-hmm.
SBN: You don't like them personally or just the way they drive?
BK: Either way.
SBN: Do you keep a mental list for payback of people who have wronged you on the track?
BK: I'm sure it's in there somewhere, but it's not conscious.
SBN: Has that changed for you? It seemed like a few years ago when you were coming up through the ranks, you and Denny Hamlin had the whole revenge thing going on.
BK: (Chuckles) Well, people change. I think you mature with age.
SBN: I know you don't like to look back, but who is a driver from the past you'd like to team with if you could turn back time?
BK: I mean, there are people I'd like to meet, but this sport right now is so much different from what it's ever been that I don't know how you could accurately say that.
SBN: What's the last time you got nervous about something?
BK: That's tough, because there are different scales of nervousness.
SBN: I'm talking butterflies-in-your-stomach nervous.
BK: Oh! In my ridealong program (for his Checkered Flag Foundation benefiting military members and veterans), I let (crew chief) Paul Wolfe drive my car at Charlotte. And I rode with him. I got pretty damn nervous. I didn't tell him, but yeah, I had some butterflies there. (Laughs)
SBN: You guys meet a lot of fans, and some of them can ask awkward questions or put you in uncomfortable situations. Can you share a story along those lines?
BK: Can I steal one from someone else? Is that OK?
SBN: Sure, why not?
BK: Sam Hornish tells the best story: He was signing autographs with Kurt (Busch) somewhere, and this lady walked up to them and said, 'Kurt! What are you doing here, community service?' (Doubles over with laughter)
It's not my story, but it's still pretty damn funny! (Still laughing) Remember to put in there, it's not my story!
SBN: Got it. After you're done driving someday, would you rather be a NASCAR broadcaster or a high-ranking NASCAR official like Robin Pemberton?
BK: I would enjoy both of them, to be honest. I'd pick whichever one I think I'd have a bigger impact with. Like on the TV side, if I thought the analysts were really bad and I could go in there...you know what I mean?
SBN: Like you could raise the TV ratings because people were like, 'I gotta see what Brad is going to say today?'
BK: Exactly! (Laughs) I always want to be where I'm the most impactful, so it would depend at the time.
SBN: What's a question you get asked a lot that you're tired of answering?
BK: I get asked a lot about Dale Jr. Here's the best one: 'Can you tell Dale Jr. I said hi?' Or this one: 'Can you have Dale Jr. call me? Can you have him autograph my sock?'
I mean, what do you say to someone like that? People know that I know Dale and they get all kind of weird about it. Like I'm famous...for knowing Dale Jr.! (Laughs)
SBN: At this point, I normally give you a question from the previous interview. But Clint Bowyer was last time and he couldn't come up with one.
So now I need one for the next guy, and it's going to be Brian France. Can you help me out with a question for Brian?
BK: (Laughs hysterically) Ask him, 'Who has the hottest wife or girlfriend in the garage?'
SBN: No...I can't...I mean...come on...
BK: (Still laughing) That's my question! You asked me to give you a question! (Laughing uncontrollably, clapping hands with glee)
BK: I want to hear his answer!
Coming next week: Brian France answers Brad Keselowski's question and 11 others.
Archive: Catch up on the previous 12 Questions interviews from this season.