Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Brad Keselowski are good friends. Earnhardt Jr. was the one who gave Keselowski his big break in NASCAR, and Keselowski lived on Earnhardt Jr.'s property for some time (he now lives adjacent to it).
But Earnhardt Jr. isn't too thrilled with Keselowski's post-race comments at Michigan about some teams (which everyone understood to include Hendrick Motorsports) getting a performance advantage by working in the gray area of NASCAR's rules.
"He's a really great race car driver, and I wish he'd concentrate on that," Earnhardt Jr. told reporters Friday at Bristol Motor Speedway. "He likes to talk a lot. His true skills shine on the racetrack, not really behind a microphone."
Earnhardt Jr. emphasized Keselowski is a good guy with a good heart and said he didn't want to start any drama with his friend. But he couldn't help but feel defensive on behalf of his team.
"I don't particularly like the things he says lately about the company I drive for, so I take offense to the claims and the accusations," he said. "It's just natural for me to do that."
From the sounds of it, Earnhardt Jr. isn't the only one at Hendrick who didn't like what Keselowski had to say.
Jimmie Johnson told reporters Friday that Keselowski "likes to talk a lot" and "says a lot of different things."
"I don't know what his strategy is," Johnson said when asked if Keselowski was playing mind games. "I'm not all that concerned. He's one of 12 that will be in the Chase that we need to worry about.
"Everybody's entitled to an opinion, but I think you need to have your facts straight and understand what's going on. Our car has been through inspection multiple times, and there's nothing out of line taking place."
After finishing second at Michigan last week, Keselowski said he noticed a handful of cars had some "tricks" that affected the handling.
"There's parts and pieces on the car that are moving after inspection that make the car more competitive," he said then. "Some guys have it, some don't. There's a question to the interpretation of the rule. Penske Racing errs on the safe side because we don't want to be the guys that get the big penalty."
On Thursday night, Keselowski insisted he never accused Hendrick of cheating and said he was disappointed his words were being twisted.
"I respect them and their ability to do those things, and to be innovators," he said Thursday. "It's our challenge to find that little bit of speed and have a true understanding of all the rules it entails. It's something we're watching."
Hendrick driver Kasey Kahne, who finished third at Michigan and was sitting next to Keselowski during his post-race comments, brushed off a photo some fans said showed Kahne displaying his middle finger in displeasure.
From Kahne's Twitter account:
Kahne said of the photo on Twitter:
@kaseykahne: To those who saw this pic my eye itched. Guess I chose the wrong finger to itch with but I don't flick people off.
@kaseykahne: I didn't know anything about it until today. It is pretty funny looking though. Sorry @keselowski
@keselowski: @kaseykahne haha All good