Muzzled? Brad Keselowski says he’s taking advantage of ‘backchannels’

jutter@charlotteobserver.comFebruary 13, 2014 

NASCAR Daytona Media Day Auto Racing

Driver Brad Keselowski said Thursday that he’s taking advantage of new lines of communication with NASCAR, and that he hasn’t been “muzzled” because of his sometimes-controversial opinions.

JOHN RAOUX — AP

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— Has former NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion Brad Keselowski been “muzzled,” or does he simply have better access to the sport’s decision makers now?

Depends on the perspective.

Keselowski, the 2012 Cup series champion, has been the subject of much speculation this offseason as to whether he has lost his trademark openness.

“I don’t have a muzzle on my face right now, but maybe I should have,” Keselowski said during Thursday’s NASCAR media day. “I’m in an increasingly difficult position as a champion of this sport to try to convey the very strong situation and the health of this sport, which although it could always be better, is not terrible and my own personal agenda to be a champion that moves this sport forward.”

While Keselowski may not be as public with his opinions, he acknowledged several “back channels” have opened up with NASCAR officials over the past six to eight months.

“That fits my personal and professional agenda,” he said. “And out of respect for that I think it maybe creates a situation where what might look like a muzzle to you or to the outside is perhaps a (better) moment of opportunity.”

Keselowski, who failed to make the Chase last season, credits his better acesss to NASCAR officials to recent changes in the sport.

“I do feel like this sport has grown a lot over the last year in the sense of new people, new hires and a new level of transparency that will serve it for years to come.”

Patrick shrugs off criticism: Danica Patrick shrugged off recent comments made by Hall of Famer and NASCAR legend Richard Petty that she could only win a race “if everyone else stayed home.”

“Everyone is entitled to their own opinion,” Patrick said Thursday. “You can’t try any harder in the car. I think that’s something every driver would tell you.

“When someone questions our effort level, you can’t try any harder. You’re doing everything you can. Maybe subconsciously there’s some motivation, but I can’t tell. I’m giving it my all every single time I get in the car.”

Patrick won the pole for last season’s Daytona 500 and finished eighth but that was her only top-10 finish of the 36-race season. She finished 27th in the series standings.

“People are going to judge what he said, whether they judge it well or not, and I’m just not going to,” she said.

Patrick has added a race to her Speedweeks schedule. She will compete in the Feb. 22 Nationwide Series season opener at Daytona in a car fielded by Turner Scott Motorsports.

Biffle plans to stay at Roush: Greg Biffle, who has spent his entire NASCAR career with Roush Fenway Racing, says he’s confident he will return to the organization next season. His current contract expires at the end of this season.

“We have been in talks for about the last half of last year and over the winter talking with (sponsor) 3M and it’s kind of a mutual negotiation, so we’re well on our way to probably announcing something I would think in the first quarter,” he said.

Biffle, 44, has won Truck and Nationwide series championships at Roush and has 19 series victories. His best finish in the Cup series standings was second in 2005.

Harvick joins board: Cup driver Kevin Harvick has joined the board of the Cal Ripken Sr. Foundation. The Ripken Foundation and Kevin Harvick Foundation will combine to build a youth development park in the greater Greensboro area.

Utter: 704-358-5113; Twitter: @Jim_Utter

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