At Charlottte Keselowski discusses driving while injured

Brad Keselowski (No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge Charger R/T)

“The way I look at it, we’ve run four races of the 10 and if you do the math that’s forty percent of the way but still a long ways to go. But certainly a great start for our whole team to have won two races and finished sixth and seventh in the other two. That’s certainly the start that we all dreamed of as a team. We just got to keep that run up which we know is not going to be easy. There are certainly a lot of great cars in the field. The 11 (Denny Hamlin) and the 5 (Kasey Kahne) are going to run really well here this weekend. Jeff Gordon has run really well over this stretch as well so nothing is going to be given to us, that’s for sure. I’m certainly very proud of where our team stands as of now. We’re hoping to keep that run up and all signs point to a great group of guys that I believe can get the job done. So, I’m really looking forward to this stretch. Charlotte is a good week to prove ourselves again. I felt very fortunate to get through Talladega with, you know, the outing that we had and to have the points lead. We’re going to take advantage of it and capitalize off it.”

Brad Keselowski, Penske Racing Dodge
Brad Keselowski, Penske Racing Dodge

Photo by: Action Sports Photography

DALE EARNHARDT JR. IS GOING TO MISS TWO RACES WITH A CONCUSSION. YOU RAISED THE BAR ON TOUGH GUY STATUS LAST YEAR AT POCONO. CAN YOU TALK ABOUT THE PSYCHOLOGY AND HOW DIFFICULT IT IS TO STEP AWAY FROM THE CAR? “First off, I’d say that I was as shocked as anyone else to hear that stuff today. I certainly wish Dale the best and I know he’s got a lot of people saying that. It’s a tough situation to race in this sport, to be under injury and be wondering what the line is. We all have our own code for that. Certainly (we) do rely on the team to make the cars go and go fast and to run at a competitive level. You know that they make a lot of sacrifices in their own lives to make it possible, whether that’s something as simple as missing out on their son or daughter’s basketball game or dance recital or whatever it might be or their own injury. I’ve got a couple of pit crew guys that we’ve had rotated in and out this year who’ve hurt themselves. And so, as a driver, the temptation is, for me at least, to honor that back by yourself finding a way to preserve through adversity and physical injury is certainly one of them. But then you’re left balancing that knowledge with sometimes you can compete through an injury and perpetuate whatever damage there is or even worse, risk those around you. So there is certainly a fine line to walk and every injury is different but I would say that every driver will encounter that at some point in their career and has to find their own path through it.”

WHEN YOU PRESERVERED AT POCONO, YOU SAID THAT NOBODY IS GETTING IN MY RACE CAR. DALE JR. DOESN’T HAVE A CHOICE AND UNDER THE CIRUCMSTANCES, WHEN HE’S HAVING THE KIND OF YEAR HE’S HAVING, HOW HARD MUST THIS BE FOR HIM TO BE SITTING ON THE SIDELINES? “For any race car driver not being in the car is yourworst fear. It’s the nightmare that you have. I have the nightmare where you wake up late, they drop the green and you’re not in the car yet and things like that (smiles). It’s your worst fear to not be in the race and that’s the competitive drive that you have as a race car driver. So, missing the show is terrible. It’s just terrible to watch it and not be a part of it. It’s terrible to wreck out early in the race and have to watch it let alone to never be in it. It’s just a tough situation. I don’t know how to express it any different than that. It’s certainly not anything that anyone wants to see happen.”

HAVE YOU SUSTAINED CONCUSSIONS IN RACING AND RACED WITH THEM? WHAT ARE THE DANGERS OF RACING WITH A FUZZY HEAD AT 200 MILES PER HOUR? “First off, I’ll say I’m not a doctor but I do have a loose understanding of what a concussion is and I would venture to say that based off that understanding, everyone in this room has had a concussion. It comes to what severity it is and how it affects your performance. You know the examples I have are basically it’s treated off of symptoms and there’s hardly any way to prove without it being a severe concussion, whether you have one or not. And with that understanding, I have never had a concussion that was able to be medically proved. I’ve had concussions that a doctor could look at you and say ‘I think you do based off of what you’re telling me’ and that’s why this is such a tough area. It’s a complex situation in more ways than one. Obviously, the brain is a very complex part of the body and an important one but it’s also very complex as far as how it’s described or however you want to call it. So from a medical standpoint, to me, if you’re saying Brad, have you had a concussion, I want to see a picture that says yeah, there’s a bruise, there’s a blotch, whatever you want to call it, that’s a concussion to me, one that I can prove. Now obviously there are some symptoms that you can believe in. Have I ever had symptoms before where I’ve had a headache? Absolutely, but I’m going to guess that everyone here has had a situation where they’ve hit their head on a wall or cupboard or something and walked away with a headache for a few seconds. If that was in a race car and you said that to a doctor, they’d tell you that you had a light concussion. Does that mean you’re going to get an MRI and you’re going to see a bruise on your brain? Probably not. So I think it’s a very difficult situation to explain and for all of the middle ground, which is where you feel sick but you can’t prove anything medically, that’s where it becomes tough. And yes I’ve had situations where I’ve been in that middle ground and you’re left going off of your gut. Respectfully to Dale, he chose to not put himself in a bad situation and I think that’s very admirable for sure because everyone knows those are accumulative, concussions and their effect on your body, and that’s something that he doesn’t need to take a risk of. And I think we all respect that, especially with Dale and his passion for the sport, his caring for his competitors and not put ‘em in a tough situation because it appears only he knows how severe it is. I feel like the drivers in this sport are smart enough to know the line and usually, if you have an injury like that, that prevents you from being focused and racing at a hundred percent, it should also prevent you from going fast enough to be in the way. The sport almost naturally clears itself of people like that.”

WHILE IT WAS COURAGEOUS OF DALE JR. TO GO TO A DOCTOR, HE DID HIDE IT FOR SIX WEEKS WHICH COULD HAVE PUT HIMSELF AND HIS COMPETITORS IN DANGER. BECAUSE HE IS PARKED FOR TWO WEEKS, COULD THAT MAKE PEOPLE WARY OF WANTING TO STEP FORWARD? “By saying he hid it for six weeks you’re talking about because it happened after Kansas, is that what you’re saying? I haven’t heard that from Dale. I don’t know. I haven’t heard that part. That’s news to me. I knew that he had wrecked really hard at Kansas. I was there when it happened. I was physically there and literally right next to him when it happened. He had wrecked; I had heard it in my car. We were sitting in the garage and I looked up and could see the marks and knew that he had hit really, really hard and that he was probably not going to be okay. I got in the mini-van that we had there and drove out obviously as the track was closed where they were cleaning up the car and looked at the marks and again thought ‘Wow, he hit really, really hard.’ And he was in the ambulance and they were checking him out, so I can verify that we went through that process and I drove by him right when he was getting out of it and picked him up. I can tell you he sat next to me in the car and I drove him back to his hauler and he looked fine to me. I was really impressed by the fact that he looked as well as he did because I would have been really, really sore. So only he knows where it went from there and I think that’s the whole point here – that concussions are mostly self-described or whatever you want to call that, self-policed, and that only you know how bad they are. And whatever amount he felt like he had at that point was obviously not enough for him to feel like it was a detriment to others, where this time it is. Only he knows and I don’t think it’s fair for me to comment on that without walking a mile in his shoes and what he felt and how much it was affecting him.

“Everyone has got their own code. That’s the tricky thing about concussions. You can’t just look at somebody like a broken arm because you can see a broken arm. You can’t just look at somebody and say well, he’s got one or he doesn’t. So, it’s very much self-policed and there’s no answer to it for the racing community and no answer to it for the rest of the sports community whether it’s high school football or college or pro football or hockey. The difference in our sport versus those is that when you’re unable to make great decisions or you lose your focus, the potential is there for others to get hurt where that doesn’t necessarily exist in football. If you can’t focus then you miss the play. In racing, if you can’t focus you knock the wall down or you wreck somebody. Obviously whatever level he had before he did not feel like he was in jeopardy of that happening and now he does, so only he knows. I have to trust him. A large portion of the sport is based on trust and that’s why it’s such a tight-knit community.”


IS THIS SOMETHING THAT GUYS HAVE TO BE CONCERNED ABOUT NEXT WEEK AT KANSAS? WHAT ARE YOUR IMPRESSIONS OF THE TRACK? IS GETTING USED TO THE HIGHER BANKING GOING TO BE A PROBLEM? “The track looks great. I don’t see any difference in Kansas and any of the other repaves we’ve done. I’m not sure what circumstance caused that issue. I don’t have an answer for you to be honest.”

WITH THE CHASE FIELD SPREAD OUT NOW, ARE YOU AT THE POINT WHERE YOU AND PAUL (WOLFE, CREW CHIEF) CAN LOOK SPECIFICALLY AT OTHER COMPETITORS AND MAKE WHAT THEY DO INFLUENCE YOUR DECISIONS? “Not at all. We’re 100 percent focused on our game and doing what we’ve done over the last 13 or 14 weeks. If we can do that, I feel confident we have a strong shot at winning the championship.”

Source: SRT Motorsports

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Jeff Gordon , Kasey Kahne , Brad Keselowski , Denny Hamlin
Teams Team Penske
Article type Interview
Tags charlotte, dodge, keselowski, penske, srt