By David Morgan, Associate Editor
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – A day after a run-in with Brad Keselowski during practice for Saturday night’s Coke Zero Sugar 400 at Daytona International Speedway, William Byron’s opinion of the incident between he and the 2012 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series champion hasn’t changed.
Though the two were able to talk things out and he was able to hear Keselowski’s side of the story, the second-year Hendrick Motorsports driver still believes the move that sent his No. 24 car spinning and him to a backup car crossed a line – especially with it occurring during practice.
“I’ve kind of watched it a couple of times and I just feel like it was unnecessary still,” Byron said. “I talked to Brad and got his opinion and I really appreciate him talking to me because that kind of helped just understand where he was coming from. But, I still feel like it was unnecessary for practice.
“It would have been, I feel like, more professional, to just come talk to me about what was wrong instead of tearing up a race car and making my guys have to bring out a back-up and have to work all the way through last night and get up early this morning and have to work even more. So, I don’t think that’s the way to handle it. So, that’s kind of the unnecessary part, for me, that I don’t appreciate.”
Keselowski noted after the incident that he was trying to send a message that he was not going to stand for getting blocked on track anymore. However, if Byron’s Hendrick Motorsports teammate, Jimmie Johnson, is to be believed, the move may have backfired.
“I felt like yesterday was avoidable and didn’t think that was necessary by any means,” Johnson said. “I don’t think he ‘sent a message’ to anybody. I think it was kind of careless and not such a smart move yesterday. But, if he feels good about it, which clearly…. I just watched his interview in the bus before I came over here…. he feels pretty good about what he did and we’ll just see how it all unfolds for him.
“It’s a tricky position that Brad has put himself in because plate racing is all about blocking. This new rules package on the 1.5-miles is all about blocking. And, he’s pretty damn good at blocking. So, that’s where I think he’s put himself in an interesting situation and we’ll see how the next few weeks unfold.”
Kyle Busch, who has had his fair share of clashes with Keselowski over the years, didn’t shy away from giving his opinion on the matter, adding that the kind of racing we see from Keselowski is reminiscent of how Tony Stewart used to race on the superspeedways.
“I have never seen Brad (Keselowski) lift behind me anyways,” Busch said. “I don’t anticipate if it’s an 18 car he’s going to do anything any different. You have to be careful with who you are racing, who you are doing things with and what’s going on. Tony (Stewart) always kind of said that too — years ago — I threw a big block on him in 2008 and about ended up on my lid.
“Shit happens, man.”
Whether or not the incident will have any ill-effects on how others race Keselowski when the green flag falls remains to be seen, but it is hard to believe some drivers won’t race differently around the superspeedway ace this weekend and going forward.
At least for Daytona, we will find out when the green flag drops at 7:30 pm Eastern on Saturday night.