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NASCAR mailbag: Is Brad Keselowski better than Dale Earnhardt Jr. at Daytona and Talladega?

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Members of Junior Nation vehemently state their case why Dale Earnhardt Jr. is still the standard when it comes to restrictor-plate racing.

Rey Del Rio/Getty Images

It is rare that a restrictor-plate race goes off without controversy of some sort, and Saturday night at Daytona International Speedway was no exception.

Yet unlike most plate events, what had people talking wasn't so much what transpired on the track, but Brad Keselowski winning and the significance that carried. Some passionate members of Junior Nation took umbrage with the notion that their driver may no longer be the best when it comes to restrictor-plate racing.

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You're a moron if you really think Brad is a better plate driver than Dale Jr. Junior's been doing it better and longer than Brad and the numbers show that.


How can Brad Keselowski be better in restrictor-plate races than Dale Earnhardt Jr., who has more career wins? Don't ignore the stats to fit your stupid narrative.


Why does SB Nation even let you write about NASCAR when you obviously don't know anything about it? Even an idiot knows that Dale Jr. is best at Daytona and Talladega and his problem this year is that his cars are terrible. IT'S NOT THE DRIVER!!

Brad is not even close to Dale, who would beat Brad every time if he had a decent car. Why don't you actually do some research or find another sport to cover.


Although the fervor for Earnhardt is admired, it's not sacrilegious to suggest Keselowski is equally as good if not better than Earnhardt when it comes to Daytona and Talladega. Since his first plate victory in 2009, Keselowski has amassed two more wins than Earnhardt, and without question has been far superior this season.

Of course Earnhardt is going to have better career stats considering he's been in the Cup Series since 2000, whereas Keselowski didn't begin full-time until 10 years later. Earnhardt simply has had more opportunities to build a résumé, and to solely cite overall career numbers ignores what Keselowski has accomplished in significantly less time.

But if you want to go off career stats, know this: Keselowski owns a better career winning percentage (16.7) in plate races than Earnhardt (9.7 percent).

What makes it difficult in comparing the two is that, more so than anywhere else, when it comes to restrictor-plate tracks a driver absolutely requires a fast car with a powerful engine and sleek aerodynamics to have a reasonable chance of winning. Those are elements Earnhardt has noticeably lacked. An ill-handling car that wanted to break free caused him to crash in February at Daytona and in May at Talladega, and again held him back on Saturday night.

Earnhardt and his No. 88 team simply have to adapt and find a solution. Good drivers and teams adjust. Keselowski and Team Penske did just that after finishing a ho-hum 20th in the season-opening Daytona 500 -- they rebounded by scoring consecutive plate wins.

If you want to believe that Earnhardt is better than Keselowski, it's not a preposterous notion. Just don't short Keselowski the credit he deserves, and earned. To do so is misguided. At a minimum, Keselowski has proven to be Earnhardt's equal.

After Brad won, he seemed to think that since he's now won three times he's suddenly a championship contender. My question is, why? Two of these wins came at Daytona and Talladega, and with only one plate track in the Chase there's little to no carryover.


Keselowski was asked a variation of this very question in the post-race winner's press conference, and his response basically centered on maintaining consistency on a week-to-week basis and putting oneself in position to win.

The biggest takeaway from Keselowski having three victories is that he and the No. 2 team are actually closing out, an area of weakness a year ago.

In 2015, late-race execution was an issue with Keselowski failing to win at New Hampshire, Darlington and Texas despite leading the most laps, and at Martinsville where he was out front for more than 100 circuits. Letting Martinsville and Texas slip away was particularly painful, as a victory in either would have secured him a berth in the championship finale.

Ultimately, Keselowski knows his season hinges on performing in the Chase's third round, where he's faltered each of the past two years. Anything short of not making it to Homestead with a shot at the title will constitute a disappointment.

What is it with Joey Logano and pissing people off? He flat ran over Kurt Busch at Daytona and is deserving of being paid back by Kurt, which I hope happens. It's like Joey didn't learn anything from last year when Matt [Kenseth] took him out.


The topic of Logano and his ever-growing list of enemies has been discussed extensively in this space. In short: When you're young, talented, unapologetically aggressive and win with great frequency, people are going to get annoyed. NASCAR has long been that way and isn't going to change anytime soon.

As for the incident at Daytona, that was merely a byproduct of restrictor-plate racing where feelings are hurt. Logano was trying to push Busch coming off Turn 4, a trouble spot at Daytona, and pushed too hard causing Busch to spin. Nothing more.

Besides the lack of malice, what further differentiated Logano vs. Kenseth from Logano vs. Busch is what occurred afterward. Standing on pit road Saturday night, Logano immediately took full responsibility, something he never did with Kenseth. Whether that's enough to appease Busch, time will tell, but it must be said Logano admitted he was in the wrong and took steps to rectify the situation.