Brad will be Brad.
We saw that much again this past weekend at Martinsville Speedway, when Brad Keselowski pulled no metaphorical punches -- and hinted at delivering some physical ones -- after his run-in with eventual race winner Kurt Busch on pit road early in the event. The moment was vintage Keselowski, honest and outspoken, leaving little to the imagination, and echoing through the social media universe at the speed of the No. 2 car on a pole run.
The 2012 champion of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series certainly keeps things interesting, which was indeed the case when his battered race car -- looking like a modified without its hood -- returned to the track and traded paint with Busch for several laps. Like him or loathe him, there's no doubt that Keselowski makes NASCAR more exciting, even if sometimes he may push things too far. Better that than not push at all, even if some series executives may sometimes disagree.
So now NASCAR's premier series returns to Texas Motor Speedway, where last spring saw a defiant Keselowski in the wake of rear-end housings confiscated from both Team Penske cars. On the eve of that anniversary, and on the heels of this past Sunday's shenanigans at Martinsville, there seems no better time to count down the top 10 moments of Brad Keselowski being his sometimes maddening, always quotable, and often gloriously controversial self.
10. Ranting on Ragan
Keselowski was steaming last spring over a lane change made by eventual race winner David Ragan before a green-white-checkered restart at Talladega, calling the move "blatantly wrong" on Twitter. "That lane won. BS." What Keselowski didn't know at the time was that NASCAR had ordered Ragan to move to correct the running order, and the 2012 champ quickly issued an apology on his website. "I placed blame on David Ragan for the restart lineup confusion when it wasn't his fault," he wrote. But true to form, there were no regrets over getting worked up in the first place. "Passion," he added, "is not something I will apologize for."
9. Calling out Kyle
There also weren't any apologies in August of 2010, when Keselowski delivered what still may be the most famous moment ever during driver introductions at Bristol -- where drivers take the microphone to introduce themselves. Keselowski wasn't happy about an incident the night before in a NASCAR Nationwide Series race, when he bumped Kyle Busch out of the way and got taken out in response, and he let everybody know it. "Kyle Busch is an ass!" he shouted to the crowd, which roared its approval. "Just say what you mean and be real," Keselowski explained later. "They appreciate that." On that night, at least, they certainly did.
8. Jawing with Johnson
They weren't dueling for the title as they had the season before, but the rivalry between the teams of Keselowski and Jimmie Johnson was still on a low simmer last fall. After winning at Texas, No. 48 crew chief Chad Knaus opined that their current rival for the title, Matt Kenseth, was "a little more formidable" than who they'd faced the season before. So Keselowski offered Kenseth some friendly advice on how to beat Johnson. "For them, I wouldn't want to race somebody that's going to race me hard. That's not their wheelhouse," Keselowski said. "… I'd say, use the s--- out of him. Every time you get, run him hard, because that's his weakness."
7. Banging on Busch
In the tight quarters of Martinsville, even pit road can be hazardous. That was the case in the STP 500, when Keselowski and Kurt Busch made contact during an early yellow-flag stop, and the No. 2 car spent 30 laps undergoing repairs. When Keselowski returned he aimed his displeasure toward Busch, whom he banged into and then directed a strategic digit. "He does awesome things for charity, and he's probably the most talented race car driver, but he's also one of the dumbest," Keselowski said, "so you can put those three together." Busch seemed surprised by what he termed a "punk-ass move." After the race, Keselowski sounded ready to rumble for real. "He knows where I'm at. Leave Victory Lane," he said. "We'll go."
6. Airborne at Atlanta
Talk about rumble -- Keselowski and Carl Edwards did just that in a vehicular sense in the spring of 2010. Tensions were still high from their controversial finish at Talladega the previous season when Edwards, more than 100 laps down, took out Keselowski near the end of a top-10 run at Atlanta. Even worse, Keselowski's car flipped into the air. "If they're going to allow people to intentionally wreck each other at tracks this fast, we will hurt someone," Keselowski contended. NASCAR called in both drivers for a summit the next week, which seemed to cool things -- until they tangled again four months later at the end of a Nationwide race.
5. Perseverance at Pocono
The photos posted to Twitter were not pretty -- not of Keselowski's race car, which had crashed head-on into an unprotected wall when his brakes failed during a test at Road Atlanta in August of 2011, or of his broken left ankle, which had swollen to the size of a softball as a result. But Keselowski not only raced at Pocono that next weekend, he scored a victory that would prove crucial to his playoff hopes. Dealing with foot and back pain and wearing a left shoe bigger than the right, Keselowski led the final 16 laps. Yes, the kid did more than talk tough. "I know it just hurt," he said then, "and it felt a whole lot better on the way to that checkered flag."
4. Fuming in Fort Worth
Keselowski's penchant for outspokenness turned to defiance a year ago at Texas, after NASCAR confiscated the rear end housings of both Penske cars. The saga would continue for weeks, with NASCAR levying harsh penalties that would be amended somewhat on final appeal. Even so, the immediate aftermath left Keselowski stinging. "The things I've seen over the last seven days have me questioning everything that I believe in, and I'm not happy about it," he said after the race in Fort Worth. "I feel like we've been targeted over the last seven days more than I've ever seen a team targeted."
3. Swigging in South Florida
Who knew that Keselowski could celebrate as hard as he raced? He certainly showed that after clinching his first Sprint Cup title at Homestead in 2012, taking to the championship stage holding a beer glass half as big as he is, and filled to the brim with Miller Lite. Keselowski swigged from it regularly as the crowd chanted "Brad needs beer! Brad needs beer!" and then the new champion conducted a memorable interview with ESPN's SportsCenter. How did it feel? "Pretty damn awesome," he told the studio anchor. "I've got a little buzz going here. I've been drinking for a little bit. It's been pretty good, man. I can't lie."
2. Triumph at Talladega
It was another victory in 2009 that introduced the brash, opinionated Keselowski to the public at large. Charging to the finish at Talladega, Keselowski remembered Regan Smith being black-flagged the previous fall because he had dipped below the yellow line. So when Carl Edwards came down the track approaching the checkered, Keselowski didn't budge -- and the resulting contact sent Edwards hurtling into the fence, injuring several fans. Afterward, the winner was unapologetic. "I was here to win," Keselowski said. "… Holding your line was the way to do it. I'm sorry it caused a wreck and for those that are hurt. But that's just the situation with the rules, and the way it is."
1. Shot seen 'round the world
And yet, if there were three words which cemented Keselowski as the motorsports force of nature he has become, they were these, typed into his iPhone during a red flag that interrupted a 2012 Daytona 500 pushed to Monday night by rain: "Fire! My view." The accompanying image of Juan Pablo Montoya's collision with a jet dryer went viral, landing Keselowski 160,000 new followers on Twitter. Suddenly, he wasn't just a driver. He was a social media trailblazer -- posting from the seat of a race car! It was creative and crazy and a little rebellious all at the same time. The practice was ultimately banned, but not before Keselowski sent a Twitter photo that captured the attention of not just NASCAR, but sports fans around the world.