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Brad Keselowski is badly bruised but determined to run Sunday's Pennsylvania 500 without relief

  The face of pain is clear on Brad Keselowski's face. And why, once again, do NASCAR rules force a driver to get in the car to get any points? (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

   By Mike Mulhern


    POCONO, Pa.
   Jimmie Johnson got a good close-up of Brad Keselowski's crash at Road Atlanta the other day, and Johnson says that only reaffirms his belief that NASCAR should let teams test at real Cup tracks on real race tires.

    Keselowski's brakes failed while testing for next week's stop at Watkins Glen, and Keselowski hit a concrete wall hard. He is here for Sunday's Pennsylvania 500, and he is bruised, but game to try to run the full 500 miles.
   Johnson:   "There's certainly an argument for all tracks making their stuff safer. No doubt about that.
   "Looking at that track and where he hit….there's stuff like that around a lot of places.
   "We knew going in there, that if you got off it was going to be a tough one."
   The solution is easy:
   "We could go back to Cup tracks…." Johnson says.
   In fact Johnson says instead of testing for next week's Watkins Glen race at some other road course, NASCAR should let Cup teams actually test at the Glen itself, and on the real race tires. It's a short ride up the highway from Pocono Raceway, and teams for years would make the Sunday night drive after the June Pocono race up to the Glen for testing.
   "I totally agree," Johnson says.
   "I know we're trying to keep expenses down…but here (the Road Atlanta situation) we go to a track we don't race at, with tires we won't use in the (Glen) race, and trying to make all that correlate to the real tire we'll use.
   "So we're kind of wasting money, in a sense. That's  been my argument all along with the testing ban.
   "Give us a chance to go to a few of the right tracks with the right tire. Because we're all going to spend the money; we all have a testing budget for improving cars, so let's use it wisely, and in a productive manner."

  The wall that Brad Keselowski hit. Not up to NASCAR safety standards, by a long shot. (Photo: Jimmie Johnson)

   And safe manner, Keselowski agrees.
   "Glad to be back in the race car," Keselowski said Friday, nursing his battered feet between practice sessions for Sunday's Pennsylvania 500.  "It didn't look like -- for a little while -- I was going to get to do that.
   "In general I'm not that bad.  There are some things down there that don't feel real good.  It took a little effort to make it all work inside the car.
   "But I'm not going to get out, I don't care how much it hurts."
    The safety issues involved in testing at non-Cup tracks is now painfully clear.
    "There's a reason it's not a Cup facility – It's not up to the requirements," Keselowski says.
   "But those are the things we have to do if we want to remain competitive….if we want to find the edge…if we want to go to Watkins Glen and unload as a competitive team.  You've got to take those chances. 
    "This Wednesday when we took those chances, we paid the price for it…and almost a much larger price."


   When you hit a concrete wall at 100 mph, it does this to your braking foot. Thank goodness NASCAR requires soft walls at most tracks (Photo: Brad Keselowski)

    Keselowski says he hopes to be back fully healed in six weeks.
   "The big question is how the bone in my foot is going to heal," he said. "That's a huge question."
    Pain? Well, with NASCAR's drug rules, all Keselowski can take for the pain is Motrin.
   "They put some pain medicine in me while I was at the hospital through an IV," he said. "I don't know what that was. But thank God for that.  Otherwise it would have been really bad, really rough. 
    "I've been really lucky that each day I've recovered tremendously.  All the swelling in both my feet have gone down."

    Johnson watched it all unfold, along with Dale Earnhardt Jr.: "Actually Junior was there first in his race car, hopped out and went over to see him and  reported back to our guys what he had seen.
    "We were in rental cars down there to offer assistance, help, and do whatever we could. And then the fire crew showed up."

    Keselowski says it was the worst hit of his career: "I hit about as hard as you can hit in one of these cars…and I'm still here somehow. 
    "As a driver, probably one of your worst nightmares is going through a corner like that one, without a Safer barrier…without brakes. 
    "I had two or three seconds staring at a wall, knowing I was going to hit it about as hard as you possibly could. 
    "I was just really, really lucky."
    Actually Keselowski broke through the wall.
    Now: "I've checked my brakes a couple extra times before each corner. 
    "This is not an easy place to drive with your foot torn up. Shifting means you do a lot more with your feet. It requires a little more finesse. And finesse certainly isn't something you have when your feet hurt. 
     "It's going to be tricky all weekend."



   A beautiful day in the Poconos (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)


    Ryan Newman was by far the quickest in Friday practice for Saturday's 10:40 a.m. ET qualifying.  On longer runs Kasey Kahne, Mark Martin, Clint Bowyer, Juan Pablo Montoya and Jeff Burton were fast; tire drop-off in speed is about two seconds over 20 laps at this 2-1/2-mile track.
    Goodyear engineers, who have faced unusual comments from teams that their tires this season are "too good," laid out the game plan for the second half of the season, and at 10 of the second-half tracks Goodyear will bring the same tire used earlier this year.
    The exceptions are Phoenix, being repaved, and Bristol and Martinsville.
   Jeff Gordon won here in June. Teammate Jimmie Johnson says track position will once again be key: "The flat corners don't promote side-by-side racing. Turn one is your one opportunity for it, and if it doesn't happen, you've got to wait 55 or 56 seconds to try it again."
   Third teammate Dale Earnhardt Jr.? The big news surrounding him apparently is the Danica Patrick story, with reports that Patrick has finally laid out here 2012 plans, and is just waiting for the right time to make the announcement.
   Earnhardt is expected to be car owner of record for Patrick's Nationwide runs again next year. But he insists "I have nothing new to report on that. I guess I'm really not in the middle of it, but I guess they're still moving forward. I don't know nothing that I didn't know last week."
    However Earnhardt did offer some advice: "Anyone that comes into the sport – anyone -- needs two to three years in the Trucks and the Nationwide series to step into the Cup series comfortably.
    "Two or three years in the Nationwide Series is a pretty decent amount. And that would be rushing it in my mind.
    "These Cup cars are a real challenge. And the travel and the series itself and the schedule and everything, it is just a real big old pool to jump in right off the bat.
    "I know once you get that opportunity in front of you, you're afraid that might be the only opportunity you'll ever have. But sometimes it's smarter to gain more experience at the Nationwide level…because some guys come in a little early and they blow that opportunity and it turns out to be the only opportunity they ever get."
    And now that Carl Edwards has a new contract, how are Earnhardt's own contract talks with Rick Hendrick going?
   "I really don't get involved in my negotiations too much because I'm too nice," Earnhardt says. "I had to send my sister in there, because she is a shark about it.
    "I just want everybody to be happy and everybody to go on down the road and get back to work and move in the right direction and all that good stuff.
    "I also like to try to keep the relationship between me and Rick less about money and more about being friends and trying to do better on the track, and helping each other out.
     "I leave all that stuff to my sister – she's the one that went to school and has all that experience and knowledge. I really trust her with all that stuff.
    "If I had to jump in there, I really don't know if I could put up the fight. I'm just not that kind of guy."


   Dale Earnhardt Jr. -- 427 c.i.? How'd he get that through inspection (Photo: Getty Images for NASCAR)

Testing and 427

Johnson's comment:
"I know we're trying to keep expenses down…but here (the Road Atlanta situation) we go to a track we don't race at, with tires we won't use in the (Glen) race, and trying to make all that correlate to the real tire we'll use.
So we're kind of wasting money, in a sense. That's been my argument all along with the testing ban."


NASCAR's goal was to eliminate the advantage rich teams had by doing all the testing. Johnson says that testing is no longer useful, even though they are doing it anyway and wasting their money. So, in that way, doesn't the ban accomplish what it was supposed to accomplish?

They probably need to ban all testing at any track, or else allow it all.

As far as Junior getting a 427 through inspection, the extra weight of the big block, along with the fact the the tires can barely handle the torque of the 355 engine at many tracks would probably not produce an advantage (Not to mention the fact that the 427 would get worse gas mileage, killing any chances for victory). Isn't there even a minimum engine size, at least at the plate tracks, because they were worried that a smaller engine might have an advantage?

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