Brad Keselowski estimates NASCAR has fined him between $75,000 and $100,000 for various transgressions through the years.
Money, however, is not the reason why Keselowski now carefully chooses his words publicly. The 2012 Sprint Cup champion says he's still voicing his opinion with the same frequency; he's just no longer doing so publicly.
Instead, Keselowski prefers using "back channels" that have opened within NASCAR that didn't exist previously. It's not only a more tactful approach, but one that should produce more success in facilitating change.
"I think quite a few back channels have opened up within NASCAR over the last six to eight months that have given me the ability to not have to go to the media to get something done," Keselowski said Thursday at NASCAR's Media Day. "That fits my personal and professional agenda, and out of respect for that I think it maybe creates a situation where what might look like a muzzle to you or to the outside is perhaps more a moment of opportunity I just don't want to piss away."
Keselowski has received criticism for his often outspoken nature. One of his most frequent critics has been Jimmie Johnson, who a year ago chided Keselowski for not being more diplomatic.
At the time, Johnson said Keselowski should learn to be more restrained and that if he wanted to push change, there were better ways to do so than sounding off in front of a microphone. It's a lesson Johnson learned himself following his first Cup championship.
Last season, Keselowski had a pair of notable outbursts. The first occurred when NASCAR found unapproved parts on both Team Penske cars in inspection before the April race at Texas Motor Speedway. Keselowski insinuated his No. 2 team was "targeted," but by whom he wouldn't say.
Two months later, Keselowski accused Hendrick Motorsports and Joe Gibbs Racing of "stealing" away Penske crew members. In response, Hendrick called Keselowski "misinformed" and said he needed to represent the sport with "more class."
"Are there things I could do better? Absolutely," Keselowski said. "But mistakes are what builds your character and helps you become the person that you are and that you can learn from, so they're only a mistake if you don't grow and learn from them."
This past offseason, NASCAR has implemented numerous changes including a pronounced overhaul of its Chase for the Championship format. And as part of the discourse on what tweaks it was considering, officials consulted with Keselowski.
"I don't want to sit here and try to take credit for things that I didn't do on my own because that would not be fair," he said. "But I feel confident that I had at least some small role in some of the changes that have gone on in this sport over this offseason, and I'm very happy for all of them."
As for any concerns that he has been "muzzled," Keselowski is adamant that isn't the case. Nor will he become a vanilla driver concerned more with appeasing the powers that be than speaking his mind.
"I'm still gonna be vocal about something that I disagree about that there's no progress or no change being made on," Keselowski said. "But if there's progress or change being made, then why be an a**hole?"