Keselowski: It’s racing, not a popularity contest

FORT WORTH, TX - OCTOBER 20:  Brad Keselowski, driver of the #2 Ford, looks on during the Brad Keselowski's "Who's Got Game?" Video Game Fan Challenge at Texas Motor Speedway on October 20, 2014 in Fort Worth, Texas.  (Photo by Sarah Glenn/Getty Images for Texas Motor Speedway)

FORT WORTH, TX – OCTOBER 20: Brad Keselowski, driver of the #2 Ford, looks on during the Brad Keselowski’s “Who’s Got Game?” Video Game Fan Challenge at Texas Motor Speedway on October 20, 2014 in Fort Worth, Texas. (Photo by Sarah Glenn/Getty Images for Texas Motor Speedway)

CHARLOTTE, N.C.—If his racing career boiled down to a choice between success and popularity, Brad Keselowski would choose success every time.

But that doesn’t mean the 2012 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion doesn’t want fans and fellow drivers to like him.

“I want to be able to win races and win championships, and that’s the priority in my life and my number one goal,” Keselowski said Tuesday afternoon during a media day gathering at the NASCAR Hall of Fame featuring the eight drivers who advanced to the Chase’s Eliminator Round on Sunday at Talladega. “To do that, sometimes with this current setting, you’re going to have to ruffle some feathers, and not everybody’s going to like you, whether that’s teams, drivers or fans. I’m comfortable with that, or as comfortable as you can be.”

That doesn’t mean that Keselowski is oblivious to boos and catcalls at driver introductions. At Talladega, a week after run-ins on the track and in the garage with Matt Kenseth and Denny Hamlin at Charlotte, Keselowski heard more than his share.

“They don’t feel good, but over time, I’ve grown OK with it, so it just becomes part of it,” Keselowski said. “I’m happy that they’re making noise. What hurts most is when I went out there, and nobody made noise.

“That’s when you don’t even feel relevant. In some ways it’s fuel for the fire to race even harder and continue the path that I’m on, because I know that will turn over time.”

Perhaps no driver in the history of the sport inspired such strong emotions on both sides of the equation as did the late Dale Earnhardt. On the strength of his season-saving victory at Talladega on Sunday, Keselowski has evoked comparisons in a number of quarters to the seven-time series champion.

“There’s only one of those,” Keselowski demurred when asked about similarities to Earnhardt. “I would say that racing in some ways is like music, that you can be influenced as a band by another band, and certainly there are some influences there—but I’m not that band.

“It’s flattering, with all the success that he had, but I’m not that band. I’m just trying to do things my own way, the best way I know how.”

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