Opinion: Since When is Going for the Championship Frowned Upon?

This past Sunday’s AAA Texas 500 at Texas Motor Speedway was a snoozefest for the first 250 or so laps, but once it got under 100 laps to go, I had a feeling that told me: “Something is going to happen here, and it’s going to be BIG.” And boy was I right.

Jimmie Johnson, who was eliminated from championship contention, won the race, but that was completely overshadowed by the events that transpired on pit road after the checkered flag had flown on the eighth race of the Chase and the 34th race of the Sprint Cup season.

On the first attempt at a green/white/checkered finish, Brad Keselowski made some contact with the race leader at the time, Jeff Gordon, which led to the No. 24 car cutting a left-rear tire, spinning out, losing the chance to win and advance into the final round of the Chase and eventually finishing in 29th position, holding the fourth and final transfer spot by a mere one point heading into Phoenix next weekend.

“(Expletive) 2 car ran into us, that’s what happened,” Gordon told his crew when they asked what happened.

Johnson pulled away to win the race, with Kevin Harvick finishing in second place.  Remember that name because here is where it gets good.

Gordon parked his car next to Keselowski’s on pit road after the race to show his displeasure with the No. 2’s driving. He got out of his car, took off his helmet and started having a heated verbal confrontation with Keselowski.

Fast forward a few seconds, and both crews were at their respective driver’s sides, ready to defend them at all costs. And then, out of nowhere, BOOM!  In came Harvick, the driver of the No. 4 car, who was parked directly behind all of this, and shoved Keselowski in the back. This started the brawl.

Nobody knows if Gordon or Keselowski landed any punches on each other because of the lack of video, but both drivers came out bloody and battered from the gigantic brawl. Harvick was quoted as saying that Keselowski “needed to fight his own fight,” noting that in previous weeks, Keselowski has made many drivers upset with his driving style; and although Harvick does not think he is out of control, he thinks that the No. 2 needs to back his driving up, so to speak, and added that if he is going to continue to race the way he is, he should be prepared.

So, why does this matter?  Well, first off, here is my take on this whole thing. I do NOT blame Keselowski at all. He is trying to win a championship.  He saw a gap in the racetrack and he shot that gap.

One of the best race car drivers of all time, Ayrton Senna, was quoted as saying, “If you no longer go for a gap that exists, you are no longer a racing driver because we are competing, we are competing to win”.

The late, great Senna hit the nail right on the head. This is a competition. These guys are doing this as a profession. If they see a gap, they are not going to let it close when they can push the limits and try to shoot that gap, win the race and eventually, win the championship.  That is why I do not understand why everybody is hating on Keselowski, whether you are a Gordon fan or not.

If it is Game 7 of the World Series, you just got the call from the bullpen on no rest, now you are on the mound, it is a 3-2 count with the bases loaded and two outs and you can win the World Series with one pitch, would you not rear back and make that 95 mph fastball try to get up towards 100 mph? It is fourth and goal from the one-yard line in overtime of the Super Bowl. If you were the running back, would you not run the hardest you have ever ran to get that touchdown and win the Super Bowl? I know that I for sure would, and this instance with Keselowski is no different.

I understand why some fans might not be too crazy about Keselowski at the moment because either he wrecked their favorite driver or they just do not like him. Personally, I do not have a preference. I actually like his racing style. Like I said, anybody in their right mind would shoot that gap with all the aforementioned things on the line in a situation like that.

Keselowski did not do anything wrong, contrary to popular opinion. He was trying to win a race to send him into the championship round of the NASCAR season, and he is getting hated on for it. I am in the minority with this opinion, but for those people that are on the other side, I hope that you can at least see where I am coming from as a knowledgeable, unbiased NASCAR fan.

With all of that being taken into account, the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series travels west to Phoenix this upcoming weekend for the second to last race of the season. Only four drivers will remain alive to contend for the championship heading into Homestead-Miami Speedway in two weeks, and I cannot wait to see how this all will play out. You will want to tune in, because I am sure that it will not disappoint.

Davey Segal is a multimedia journalist for Impact Sports.