Brad Keselowski fine as 'bad guy'
CONCORD, N.C. -- Will reigning Sprint Cup champion Brad Keselowski be less outspoken or change his approach in the media after being called on the carpet by NASCAR chairman Brian France last week?
"That's a tough question," Keselowski said during a Tuesday news conference at Charlotte Motor Speedway to announce the Sprint All-Star format. "It's an important question. I think that I will still have the same approach to doing everything I can to push the sport forward as I see fit. It's just a matter of balancing it with the interest of everything else."
If I have to be the bad guy in this garage or in this sport, so that the series and American motor sports can move forward, that doesn't bother me one bit. ... I would rather be maybe a less popular champion of a series that's very, very successful, than a popular champion of a series that's not.” -- Brad Keselowski
France and International Speedway Corporation chairman Lesa France Kennedy met individually with the Penske Racing driver on Friday in Daytona Beach to strongly emphasize he needs to be more informed before speaking to the media.
The meeting came after Keselowski was outspoken about the sport, directly referring to France and Kennedy, in a USA Today cover story.
"I was definitely on the edge," Keselowski said Tuesday. "Yeah, I'm not going to run from that. But I'm also not going to run away from the validity of some of the things I said, either.
"First and foremost, if I have to be the bad guy in this garage or in this sport, so that the series and American motor sports can move forward, that doesn't bother me one bit. So if that's a trap, so be it. I would rather be maybe a less popular champion of a series that's very, very successful, than a popular champion of a series that's not."
Brett Jewkes, NASCAR's chief communications officer, told ESPN.com on Saturday the meeting was not held to discourage Keselowski from voicing his opinion.
"Everybody loves Brad's candor, Brian included," Jewkes said. "But there are some things Brad's not as informed on. He's not aware of things that are being worked on or achieved.
"The message Brian wanted to send was you need to understand the issues you're talking about a little deeper before you talk about them."
Keselowski was not penalized. He didn't address the meeting in Daytona Beach other than to write on Twitter: "Spent some time with the Lesa and Brian from the NASCAR team after yesterday's [USA Today] article, the passion we all share for our sport is amazing!"
Jewkes said the meeting was not just about the USA Today article. He did not specify what Keselowski said to earn a trip to France's office across the street from Daytona International Speedway two days before the Daytona 500.
But Keselowski did mention France and his sister directly along the lines of sponsors, teams and tracks not always working together with NASCAR.
"And until all three of those can unite, we're a house divided, and we're making bad decisions that are affecting how to generate revenue for the sport," Keselowski said in the newspaper.
This is not the first time Keselowski has been reprimanded for being outspoken. He was fined $25,000 in 2011 for criticizing NASCAR's move to fuel injection.
He also was fined $25,000 for tweeting during a red flag stoppage last year at Phoenix, defying a request by NASCAR that drivers don't carry cell phones inside their cars after he tweeted during a stoppage in the 2012 Daytona 500.
"Brad has been asking for more dialogue with Brian," Jewkes said. "He wants to be a leader in the garage. Frankly, Brian wants more dialogue with him. [Friday], there was a good reason to have dialogue."
Jewkes reiterated the meeting was not to discourage Keselowski from speaking his mind.
"The most important thing is Brian wants him to be candid," Jewkes said of Keselowski. "He wants him to speak his mind. But we all prefer he be up to speed on everything."