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Keselowski sees a chink in Johnson’s armor

Nov 8, 2013, 9:17 PM EDT

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Shortly after his driver, Jimmie Johnson, won last Sunday at Texas Motor Speedway, crew chief Chad Knaus said that Matt Kenseth – Johnson’s main rival for this year’s Sprint Cup championship – was a “more formidable” opponent than Brad Keselowski, who bested Johnson for the title last year.

For better or worse, Keselowski tends to be outspoken, so you had to believe the Penske Racing driver was going to respond to that. On Thursday, he did.

“It’s just one of those situations where it’s hard to really define what he was trying to say,” Keselowski said according to Bob Pockrass of The Sporting News. “I said I would give him the benefit of the doubt but that doesn’t mean I’m not listening…Maybe the emphasis should be put on respecting what Matt has done, not necessarily on disrespecting where I’m at.”

According to Pockrass, he then gave Kenseth a tip going into the resumption of his championship battle with Johnson this weekend at Phoenix International Raceway: Be aggressive and battle the No. 48 at every opportunity.

“That was one of our strengths last year [at Phoenix],” said Keselowski, who took the points lead at PIR last fall when Johnson blew out a tire and hit the wall late. “If I were going to give Matt a piece of advice, I’d say use the [expletive] out of him every time you get. Run him hard because that’s his weakness.”

For Johnson’s part, he admitted today at PIR that Keselowski and his No. 2 Penske team “were better than us for sure” last fall, but firmly disagreed with the assertion that he can’t handle on-track pressure.

“I guess we need to ask Jeff Gordon, Mark Martin, Denny Hamlin – who else have I raced for a championship? – Carl Edwards, a lot of those guys how we race,” he said. “We race hard. That is not a weakness of ours by any stretch.”

I have to agree with Johnson. From my perspective, Keselowski’s comments were made out of defending his accomplishment last year and to be fair, winning a Sprint Cup – and doing so over one of the most dominant drivers in the sport’s history, no less – is a big accomplishment. Maybe I’d bristle a little too if I were in his shoes and Knaus’ words hit my ears.

But you don’t win five Cup championships like Johnson has without having to go through some close battles on the track. After all, it’s not every day that you flat-out dust everybody like he did one week ago at Texas. That’s not the norm.

And the matter’s not for Johnson to worry about anyway. He’s got bigger things to deal with this weekend – like figuring out how to keep Kenseth in his rear view mirror.

  1. pitpenguinsrulez - Nov 8, 2013 at 11:25 PM

    Without the Chase Jimmie doesn’t even have 5 championships to his name simply put and without Knaus he’d be nothing because Jimmie absolutely sucked in the Busch Series! But apparently his win at Chicagoland in 2001 made him so great in the eyes of Rick and Jeff.
    !

    • jdw692003 - Nov 9, 2013 at 2:49 AM

      So tired of ignorant people trying talk about something that they have made no attempt to research then talk about. For the record, FOX ran the numbers and Jimmie won 5 Cup titles under the old points system AND of course the new system. Just another crybaby. Do you also cry about Vettle being so good?

      • theracefan - Nov 9, 2013 at 6:43 AM

        Your the bone head, The chase has existed 10 years and JJ won all 5 under chase rules. Do your homework before you badmouth others.

      • pitpenguinsrulez - Nov 9, 2013 at 3:52 PM

        Oh really FOX ran the numbers? Look at these stats pal:

        If the old system was still in use from 2004-2012 these would be the champs
        2004: Gordon
        2005: Stewart
        2006: Johnson
        2007: Gordon
        2008: Edwards
        2009: Johnson
        2010: Harvick
        2011: Edwards
        2012: Keselowski

        Yeah Jimmie SURE wouldve won 5 championships under the old system! Hed only be a two time champion pal and Gordon would have six. So stick that in your pipe and blow on it!

  2. manik56 - Nov 8, 2013 at 11:51 PM

    I have often wondered why drivers not in the championship hunt do not race the daylights out of drivers that are. Jimmie has so much to lose, why don’t people take advantage of that? It should be a free spot on track if you can just catch his bumper. Don’t even get me started on restarts. It seems everyone is afraid of racing hard at the end of the year but the top two or three guys. It makes for a lousy race.

  3. randominternetpunter - Nov 9, 2013 at 9:04 AM

    Keselowski is a great competitor and a wonderful personality.
    This “chase” is excruciatingly soporific without him.

  4. worknman24hours - Nov 9, 2013 at 10:18 PM

    I expect Jimmy to get wrecked out by a back marker before the Chase is settled,

    The only question is…will anyone be ready to finish high enough to make a proper challenge?

    Time is very, very short for any of that.

  5. timaug - Nov 10, 2013 at 12:16 AM

    go back to tweeting keselowski,
    that’s what you are best at.

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