- David Newton, ESPN Carolina Panthers reporter
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BROOKLYN, Mich. -- Defending Sprint Cup champion Brad Keselowski says there is a reason Penske Racing and Roush Fenway Racing have been slow to share information on their Ford cars this season: Hendrick Motorsports and Joe Gibbs Racing.
"What keeps it from going too far is the fact Hendrick and Gibbs have this nasty little habit of going to our teams and outbidding different people and taking those employees and stealing our information," Keselowski said Thursday from Ford's worldwide headquarters in Dearborn, Mich.
"When that happens, that kind of puts up walls between camps, because you're giving up more than one company's information, you're giving up two companies' information."
Keselowski said Penske and RFR have to work through the challenge as they begin, with Ford's help, to share more information to improve the manufacturer's performance in the Cup series.
"Trying to protect yourself against that forces you to put up walls and don't necessarily lend themselves to working together," he said. "Still, we're going to put in a valiant effort where we can and where it makes sense to put Ford in the best position to have the best results possible because of their level of support for both of us."
Keselowski said Joe Gibbs Racing "stole" RFR's aero director, Vojin Jaksic, and "took all their information." He said Hendrick Motorsports took three employees from his Chase-winning team.
Joe Gibbs released a statemant in response to Keselowski's comments that read:
"We were surprised to read the recent comments and accusations made by Brad Keselowski. Clearly those comments are misguided and irresponsible. Brad's candor is well documented, but he would do well to only speak to subjects on which he is properly informed."
HMS owner Rick Hendrick also took offense to what Keselowski said.
"The comments Brad reportedly made were misinformed,'' Hendrick said. "The truth is that we hired one tire changer, who was a backup for Penske and whose contract was up. We also brought over one mechanic from their Nationwide program and, when the Penske engine shop was closing, added a few of those people. What Brad left out was that his organization also hired one of our tire changers.
"All of this was above board and is part of doing business in a competitive environment. I take no issue with any of it, and I expect Roger [Penske] would say the same. Brad misrepresents the facts and spends a lot of time making insinuations and accusations about other teams when he should be focused on his own program and competing at a high level. I hope he figures that out and begins representing himself and the sport with more class."
Keselowski also said taking employees and information is one reason JGR, driving Toyotas, and Hendrick, in Chevrolets, has won nine of the first 14 races and has dominated in laps led heading into this weekend's race at Michigan International Speedway.
"There's a reason why those two teams are higher up on the board, because they have more money and sponsors to do so," Keselowski said. "It's almost like Major League Baseball in that sense. The Yankees and the Red Sox are always going to be able to outbid the Oakland Athletics. That's just a part of the deal, and you find yourself trying to play Moneyball to beat them."
JGR vice president of racing operations Jimmy Makar said it's been more than a year since Jaksic was hired. He defended JGR's employment practices.
"We've had people leave, too," Makar said. "It's an open market. People are free to come and go as they please if their contracts are up."
Keselowski said "it's terrible for the sport." He added, "But it is what it is, and that's part of modern-day racing."
But Keselowski likes that Penske and Roush plan to open the lines of communication. The two organizations have only one win -- Carl Edwards at Phoenix -- and only Edwards ranks in the top eight in points. Keselowski rated the communication between the teams heading into this weekend at a four or five on a scale of 1-10 compared to two or three at the start of the season.
Ford racing director Jamie Allison gave slightly higher numbers, saying communication is now at an eight to nine compared to six to seven at the start of the season. Edwards, second in points, said there was little sharing before the season from his team.
"It's very, very exciting to me," he said of Ford pulling Penske and RFR together. "If Roush Fenway Racing and Penske, if we can work together to be better than we individually can be, then that is exactly what we should be doing. Ford wants us to do it. We just have to figure out how to do it the right way so we can respect everyone's proprietary information and hard work. I am 100 percent for it.'
But Edwards admitted it's a process.
"It's tough for anyone to hand over all their life's work and say, 'Hey, here's this for free, now I hope you give me something back,'" he said. "I'm all for it. Until we are dominating the series as a group, we should be doing everything we can to make ourselves stronger. Everything."
Defending Sprint Cup champion Brad Keselowski says there is a reason Penske Racing and Roush Fenway Racing have been slow to share information this season.