How Brad Keselowski and the Late Dale Earnhardt Are Cut from the Same Cloth

Joe Menzer@@OneMenzFeatured ColumnistFebruary 4, 2015

Brad Keselowski's aggressive driving tactics definitely are reminiscent of the late Dale Earnhardt.
Brad Keselowski's aggressive driving tactics definitely are reminiscent of the late Dale Earnhardt.Tom Pennington/Getty Images

You know Brad Keselowski's eyes lit up when he heard that none other than Richard Childress recently compared Keselowski to the late, great Dale Earnhardt.

But was Childress on the mark with his comments?

Asked during the final day of the annual Charlotte Motor Speedway preseason media tour last week if he thought Keselowski's driving style these days was too aggressive in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, Childress was blunt in his reply. "No. I don't think he is," Childress told FoxSports.com. "He's a hard driver. I like Brad. ... He's just a hard racer."

And then Childress added the part that rankled some folks. "I had a racer like that with me once and people gave us a little heat back in the day," Childress continued. "You just take it and go on and race to win. ... You know he's going to race you as hard as he can."

Childress, of course, was referring to Earnhardt, who won a record-tying seven Cup championships before passing away at age 49 in a last-lap accident during the 2001 Daytona 500. Six of Earnhardt's titles came from behind the wheel of a car Childress fielded for him at Richard Childress Racing, so Childress is an expert when it comes to The Intimidator.

He's also right on when it comes to Keselowski.

First, let's clarify one thing right here. Keselowski is not nearly as cool away from the track as Earnhardt was, and he never will be.

Earnhardt was as daring off the track as he was on it, a fact imparted on former longtime motorsports writer Tom Higgins when, while driving to his motel one night after a function, Earnhardt surprised him by having Childress, who was driving the car Earnhardt was in, pull up alongside in another car and then actually reached out to grab Higgins' neck as both cars motored along at about 55 miles per hour. Higgins told the story to FoxSports.com recently, adding that when both vehicles later arrived at the same destination, Childress and Earnhardt "got out and they said, 'OK, we're going to have a pants check, front and back.' I hadn't (soiled myself) but it was close."

Higgins also said Childress and Earnhardt were laughing hysterically at the practical joke, one of many Earnhardt pulled on others during his long career.

These are different times, to be sure. But if Keselowski ever attempted anything even remotely close to that, he'd no doubt get a face full of fists and no one would be laughing.

Earnhardt was the guy you wanted to have a beer with at the bar. Keselowski is the guy at the bar who thinks he knows it all before he's even had one beer and gets more annoying with each sip thereafter.

Richard Childress
Richard ChildressUSA TODAY Sports

But all of that stuff is away from the track and needs to be separated from what really matters.

On the track, you'd better believe that Keselowski is as close to a modern-day Earnhardt as there is in the sport.

There were five different occasions last season when he and other drivers mixed it up, usually to their mutual displeasure, during races.

Keselowski wasn't always right, and he wasn't always wrong. But he never felt the need to apologize for much of anything.

Not when his former teammate, Kurt Busch, accused him of making "a punk-ass move" at Martinsville. Not when Matt Kenseth called his driving "mind-boggling" at Richmond. Not when Jeff Gordon and others questioned his aggressive tactics after Keselowski triggered a huge wreck at Talladega.

Keselowski didn't even apologize, at least not really, after he clearly lost his mind following the Bank of America 500 at Charlotte Motor Speedway and started using his car to run into a whole slew of folks after the race had ended. That was the night the usually mild-mannered Kenseth tackled Keselowski in the Sprint Cup garage and briefly engaged him in a headlock.

And Keselowski certainly has made it clear he will never apologize for the on-track incident during the AAA Texas 500 at Texas Motor Speedway that led to an all-out brawl between him, Jeff Gordon, their two pit crews and even some other pit crew members from other teams.

"You know you're doing something right in this sport when you're racing the racing establishment (Gordon) and you make them upset," Keselowski told David Scott of CharlotteObserver.com. "You're racing and getting in a fight for the win, not for 20th (place). When that (happens), you're probably doing the right thing."

In every case where he ruffled another driver and/or team's feathers, Keselowski would say he was only racing to win.

Earnhardt used to say the same thing after roughing up Bill Elliott or Rusty Wallace or a young Jeff Gordon.

Keep in mind that Keselowski did, in fact, win six times in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series last season. No other driver won as often.

See, there is this thing that ticks people off in racing more than just about anything else. It's called winning. And for Keselowski, like Earnhardt before him, it's the only thing. He'll aggressively go for it no matter who's in his way or what the post-race consequences may be.

It is what endears Keselowski to many, yet it's the same reason many others despise him.

Keep in mind that before Earnhardt's death, he wasn't exactly beloved by everyone he competed against, either. And there were those in the stands for whom he wore the black hat of a villain, the same way Keselowski proudly wears it today.

Told that Gordon recently said he would never invite Keselowski to his house for dinner, Keselowski told Scott: "I didn't know we were doing this for dinner invitations. I'll have to ask (owner) Roger (Penske) about that."

It was exactly the kind of response Earnhardt would have had. And you know what his car owner would have said about it.

Joe Menzer has written six books, including two about NASCAR, and now writes about it and other sports for Bleacher Report as well as assisting FoxSports.com in its coverage of motorsports. Follow him on Twitter @OneMenz. 


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