Why he thinks NASCAR needs to loosen up, why marriage isn’t an option for him right now, and which NASCAR winner’s trophy is his favorite.
NASCAR Chase for the Cup points leader Brad Keselowski has a lot on his mind, and he is not hesitant to talk about it.
Keselowski has won two of the four races in NASCAR’s Chase for the Cup and takes a 14-point lead into Saturday’s Bank of America 500 at Charlotte Motor Speedway. Qualifying is Thursday at 7:10 p.m.
Keselowski talked with The Observer’s David Scott about a variety of subjects, including why he thinks NASCAR needs to loosen up, his family history and why marriage isn’t an option for him right now.
Q. A friend of yours says when you see a hornet’s nest, you pick up a baseball bat. What does that mean?
Do I pick up a bat? No, it’s already in my hand. Look, we’re not curing cancer here. I don’t take this sport so seriously to think every situation has to be ‘PC.’ That’s ridiculous. We’re driving race cars in circles. The sport needs to lighten up. That’s why I want to swing the bat.
Q. What’s the best piece of advice team owner Roger Penske has given you?
I get a lot of advice, but not a lot from Roger. The best is the same as he gives me every time: ‘Stay cool here.’ He’s right. There are so many moments we make things more complicated than they need to be.
Q. Your reputation as a young ruffian on the track seems to have improved among your fellow drivers. Are you glad about that?
There’s a part of me that wants to be the tough guy and think, ‘I don’t care what they think of me.’ But you definitely want to be respected by your peers. Then you have to balance that with the notion that if they love me, it’s because they’re beating me.
Q. Why do you wave an American flag from your car window after winning a race?
Because we live in a time, at least in this country, of unprecedented division amongst each other. Half the country is this, half is that. ... I don’t think it’s ever been this divided, at least since the Civil War. The one thing that seems to bring people together is the flag. Left or right, we can agree on. The flag isn’t about me. It’s about you, me, him, coming together and finding common ground. That – and it’s very hard to boo somebody flying the American flag.
Q. You recently became interested in your ancestry. How did that happen?
My sister Dawn has been working on it. I’m interested in learning about it, but not working at it. Is that fair? She works on it, that’s the difference. Somebody puts it in front of me and I’ll say, ‘Hmm, that’s interesting.’
Q. What have you found out?
It’s been a great debate in my family. My last name is Polish, so that seems fairly obvious, right? It’s changed spellings from ending with a ‘y’ or an ‘i’ over time. But Dawn found some birth certificates and we’re from neither Poland nor Russia. We’re from a province that existed at the time called Galicia in eastern Europe. It was a melting pot of Russians, Poles, Germans and Austrians. And on my mother’s side of the family, I’m a direct descendant of Sir Francis Drake.
Q. How did the family racing connection begin in the United States?
Both my grandfathers were sent back from World War II to help with the war effort at home. My grandfather on mom’s side was a blacksmith; my grandfather on dad’s side made drill bits for drilling out the barrels of guns. They couldn’t afford to lose that kind of skilled labor, so they sent them back home.
After the war, my dad’s dad found out the drill-bits process wasn’t that big of a deal. So he got into cars. He started to race, but got hurt racing snowmobiles. So he didn’t want to drive after that. He got into NASCAR, which was the hot thing in the ‘50s. He even lived in Charlotte for a little while.
Q. If you were racing one driver for the Cup championship on the last lap at Homestead, who would be and why?
You mean, like Game 7, taking the last shot? It would be Kyle (Busch). What happens, I don’t know, but I bet we both wreck. That would be like (David) Pearson and (Richard) Petty (at the Daytona 500) in ‘76, right? The winner is whichever one of us saves it.
Q. You’ll have the day off after Saturday’s Charlotte race. How will you spend a rare Sunday off during the Chase?
A buddy of mine is getting married in Mooresville. I’m not in the wedding; I’ll be an observer. It’s a good reminder for me of why I like to be single. Every once in a while I need that, so I won’t get any crazy ideas.
Q. Why don’t you want to get married?
I like what I do. Why screw it up, or give half of everything away?
Q. What’s your favorite television show?
I don’t watch television shows.
Q. What’s your favorite food?
Steak and potato. Sometimes basic is good.
Q. What’s your favorite movie?
“Forrest Gump.” There’s a strong message of the balance in life between destiny and determining your own fate. Which one is it? It’s a great question in life. Does everything I do today determine the future, or is somebody else playing a larger role? At end of the day, maybe it’s both. That’s a good message. It tells you, you can work hard and make a difference in this world. But if it’s not meant to happen, it won’t happen.
Q. Which driver did you idolize as a kid?
Kyle Petty. Long hair drove my dad crazy. It didn’t hurt that he drove the Mello Yello car from (the movie) “Days of Thunder.” When you’re a kid you fall in love with stuff like that.
Q. Did you have any other interests beside racing when you were a kid?
I didn’t have a shot at anything much more than racing. Life is a team sport. Your family is a part of your team. It requires support to do something successfully in this world, and the support I garnered from my family was in the racing world. I wasn’t interested in doing anything else that I wouldn’t be successful at.
Q. Do you wish you’d had other activities when you were younger?
I don’t regret where I am now, let’s put it that way. Looking back, this is what I would have wanted to do. But maybe I could have come about it in a more well-rounded way. But that’s OK.
Q. How were you able to win two races in 2011 driving with a broken foot?
I wanted my team to know that they could still count on me, even though I may not have been 100 percent. Things aren’t always going to go your way, but we were in the middle of a push to get into the Chase. I couldn’t let that get in the way. I’m not going to lie, it wasn’t easy. There were times in that race at Pocono where I didn’t think I would be able to finish.
Q. You’re a prodigious Tweeter. Is there any Tweet that you’ve regretted sending?
Q. You recently changed your Twitter avatar to a photo of you posing with the championship trophy from Dover. How often do you change your avatar?
It had gotten stale, so I decided to change it every time I win a race. But I didn’t expect to win as much. Now it’s become a lot of work.
Q. That Dover “monster” trophy is very cool. What’s the coolest trophy you’ve ever won?
My next one.