BRISTOL, Tenn. — Brad Keselowski insisted he never intended to accuse Hendrick Motorsports — or anyone else — of cheating, but his post-race remarks last Sunday at Michigan nevertheless got under the skin of Hendrick driver Dale Earnhardt Jr.
“I don’t particularly like the things he says lately about the company I work for,” Earnhardt said Friday at Bristol Motor Speedway. “I take offense at the claims and accusations. It’s just natural for me to do that, but we’re friends, and I don’t want any drama between (us).”
Hendrick Motorsports’ work with elements of the rear suspension has aroused intense interest within the sport ever since NASCAR introduced a rule before the June 30 race at Kentucky requiring sway bar mounts to be perpendicular to the ground.
After finishing second at Michigan, Keselowski characterized the rear suspension work — without referring to a specific team — as “parts and pieces on the car that are moving after inspection that make the car more competitive.”
Keselowski said Penske Racing, the organization for which he drives, has been reluctant to work in what he calls “a gray area” for fear of incurring a penalty, should NASCAR decide that the rear suspension innovations cross the line.
In fact, a number of organizations have been working in that area, including Roush Fenway Racing. After Greg Biffle won Sunday at Michigan, team owner Jack Roush acknowledged that he had sought NASCAR’s blessing before doing so.
“The 24 car (of Hendrick driver Jeff Gordon) put a left-rear tire through a battery at Darlington,” Roush said. “That was a wake-up call. We’ve been working at it, got assurance from NASCAR that it’s OK, it’s within the rules.”
NASCAR officials confirmed to the NASCAR Wire Service that the rear suspension work currently is within the rules, but that might change next year concurrent with the introduction of a new generation of Sprint Cup race car.
Though Keselowski’s remarks were construed in some quarters as an accusation, the driver of the No. 2 Dodge says that wasn’t the case.
“I didn’t appreciate how those words were twisted into calling out specific teams,” said Keselowski, whose remarks created a lively debate in social media. “In fact, I made it a point to not call out specific teams, and I think I said there were a half a dozen to a dozen cars that were running those things, and with the exception of the TV broadcast, hadn’t pointed out which ones they were.
“I don’t think there’s anyone out there that doesn’t believe that the Hendrick cars were one of those groups — and I’m not trying to say that’s the case — but I respect them and their ability to do those things and to be innovators accordingly.”