Whenever Brad Keselowski wins he tends to dominate the news cycle, sometimes for what he does on the track, other times for what he does off of it. This week was no exception.
While Keselowski snapping a 33-race winless streak garnered a lot of the attention, so too did him dropping the American flag in the midst of celebrating Sunday at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. And as expected, that act solicited a wide spectrum of responses in this week's NASCAR mailbag.
I get that Brad didn't mean to intentionally drop the flag, but considering the high winds, why even bother to try and hold it out the window while celebrating? That had bad idea all over it. What did he think was going to happen? No wonder people thought he was being disrespectful.
Apparently, he thought he could hang on to it. He was wrong and immediately rectified the situation. And considering all Keselowski does for veterans -- he specifically started a foundation to aid injured veterans and their families -- to think he would do anything to intentionally desecrate the American flag is a preposterous notion.
From cutting his hand (in 2014 at Kentucky Speedway) to now dropping the flag, what's with Keselowski and mishaps while celebrating a win?
Let's just collectively hope he never visits Texas Motor Speedway's Victory Lane, where the winner customarily shoots a pair of pistols.
Probably because he's driving Jeff Gordon's 24 car, Chase Elliott has gotten all the attention but isn't Ryan Blaney just as good and just as likely to win Rookie of the Year? Chase is going to be under so much pressure, while Ryan can quietly race every week and not have to worry about being the "next Jeff Gordon." Elliott's already crashed out of two races so far.
Sure, Elliott has been in two accidents already, but only one (Daytona) can be attributed to him making an outright mistake, while the other (Las Vegas) was merely being in the wrong place at the wrong time with no avenue to avoid Matt Kenseth, who had nearly spun and was slowed on the track. Furthermore, don't forget at the time of Sunday's crash, Elliott had been running solidly inside the top 10 and coming off an impressive eighth-place finish the week before at Atlanta Motor Speedway.
That said, Blaney is every bit Elliott's equal and will benefit by not facing the same scrutiny and expectations as his rookie counterpart who drives for NASCAR's top organization, and is replacing a legend and the son of a Hall of Famer.
It would be no shock if Elliott and Blaney won during the regular season and each earn a Chase for the Sprint Cup playoff berth. Both are immensely talented and possess maturity beyond their years.
As a Matt Kenseth fan should I be concerned that my favorite driver looks destined for a season where everything that can goes will go wrong?
Three weeks into the season and you're contemplating hitting the panic button? That's a little premature, considering Kenseth has led laps in every race and had circumstances unfolded slightly different would have likely finished in the top five.
Although points still matter and factors into who qualifies for the Chase, don't let yourself get worked up over the near-miss in the Daytona 500, the Atlanta penalties or the self-induced spin at Las Vegas. Kenseth and the No. 20 team demonstrated the capability to win any of those races.
And it's an encouraging sign that even if victories don't materialize, Kenseth should finish near the front -- which, accompanied with his trademark consistency, is more than enough to contend for the championship, just as it was in 2014 when he went winless but still advanced to the Chase's semifinal round.
Las Vegas was a dud. There was little actual racing outside of restarts and little tire wear. Wasn't the low downforce package supposed to fix this?
With how superb the on-track product was in previous low downforce aerodynamic races at Atlanta the week before and a year ago at Kentucky and Darlington Raceway, it's understandable why some view Las Vegas as anticlimactic. Passing was down (844 fewer green-flag passes than the 2015 event) while tires had little wear -- three of the top-five finishers all eschewed pitting for fresh tires during the final caution period with 42 laps remaining.
Yet, didn't we expect Las Vegas to pale in comparison to previous low downforce races? It was even written in this space last week. Atlanta, Darlington and Kentucky all feature abrasive surfaces that chew tires, whereas Las Vegas is smoother, which makes passing tougher.
But there are reasons for optimism, however. Even though the statistics state otherwise, drivers seemed to be able to pass more so than previous Las Vegas races and the outcome saw Keselowski running down Kyle Busch for the lead despite the latter having the advantage of fresher tires and clear air.
Regardless of the rules package, it is impractical to think every race will be a barnburner. The key is NASCAR's willingness to continue taking away downforce and Goodyear bringing a soft tire compound that falls off over long runs. If these both occur, the action will reflect it more often than not.