During this past race weekend and Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn, Mich., Michigander and reigning NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion Brad Keselowski ruffled at least a few feathers, namely those of team owners Rick Hendrick and Joe Gibbs.
Here’s the gist of what Keselowski said:
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. 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. . . .
“Trying to protect yourself against that forces you to put up walls and don’t necessarily lend themselves to working together. 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.”
A specific example given by Keselowski was that Joe Gibbs Racing “stole” Roush Fenway Racing’s Aero Director Vojin Jaksic and “took all their information.” He accused Hendrick Motorsports of stealing Penske employees.
After Keselowski’s comments, both Hendrick and Gibbs released statements. Here’s what Hendrick had to say:
“The comments Brad reportedly made were misinformed. 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.”
When Keselowski left the JR Motorsports Nationwide Series fold for an opportunity to race in the Sprint Cup Series full-time for Penske Racing, Hendrick publicly expressed his disappointment in Keselowski leaving (JRM has an alliance with Hendrick Motorsports) and hinted at trying to bring Keselowski over to his Hendrick Motorsports organization down the road. Wonder if he still feels that way?
And why is it bad for crew members to leave Penske for Hendrick or Gibbs, but it was perfectly fine for Keselowski to leave JR Motorsports and the hopes of someday being promoted to a full-time Cup ride for the Sprint Cup opportunity with Penske? Besides, I’m guessing at least several current Penske crew members haven’t always been employed by Penske. Many of them probably came there from another team.
Anyway, isn’t that just life in the real world, even outside the sports world? Aren’t qualified job candidates sometimes lured from one company to another by higher and pay and better benefits? I think I’m going to have to agree with Hendrick on this one. I like Keselowski; he’s like a breath of fresh air. It’s nice to hear a driver voice his opinions. But is this the right cause to take? Perhaps not.
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