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NASCAR drivers are torn over ‘Boys, Have At It’ shenanigans

Brad Keselowski, Jeff Gordon

NASCAR drivers Brad Keselowski, left, and Jeff Gordon talk on the grid during qualifying at Talladega Superspeedway last weekend.

(Brian Lawdermilk / Getty Images)

The Matt Kenseth-Joey Logano blood feud is turning NASCAR into an entertainment entity, much like pro wrestling, without the pink tights and “from parts unknown” introductions.

Discuss.

“I don’t think there is anything wrong with healthy rivalries,” Brad Keselowski said. “I don’t think what we have seen over the last few weeks has been healthy.”

“I’m one that believes that any publicity is good publicity,” Jeff Gordon said. “And I think when there’s that much buzz and attention on the sport, I think while there could be negative things surrounding it, I still think that it heightens the sport in the long run.”

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And so it goes. The mixed emotions are understandable and probably depends on where one sits in the “Boys, Have At It” standings. Gordon is locked into the Final Four scenario at Homestead-Miami on Nov. 22, so he has no worries. Keselowski, like his Penske teammate Logano, may have a target on his firesuit.

Brad K is known not to play nice. Just ask Gordon, who got entangled with Keselowski in one of those rubbin’ ‘n’ racin’ deals on a green-white-checkered restart here at Texas Motor Speedway a year ago, a move that would cost Gordon a shot at a title in Homestead.

Gordon went nuts. “He’s a dip-[bleep],” Gordon said.

But at least Gordon kept everything in check on the race track and did not pull a retaliatory move like Kenseth did last weekend in Martinsville when he was down 10 laps and rammed into Logano. Kenseth is suspended and will miss Sunday’s race here as well as next week in Phoenix.

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This is all part of the new/old business model for NASCAR. It all gets very complicated as fans conjure up the ghost of Dale Earnhardt and remember a time when heavy-metal retribution was the thing. Now it’s more complicated than that. One bad race will ruin any of the Chase qualifiers, now down to 8 from the original 16.

And there’s the nebulous “driver’s code” thing. Logano has been called to task by some for not calling Kenseth to try to quell the emotions before things got out of hand, even if the apology or explanation wasn’t sincere.

As if NASCAR is like some junior high school drama, where Joey should be calling Matt to explain why he stole his girlfriend.

Sigh.

“Just move on and be a damn adult,” said Keselowski, Sunday’s pole-sitter. “That has always been my feeling but I respect the fact that not everybody feels the same way and that is part of what makes the sport unique, the different characters. Certainly my take might be different than others.”

Keselowski is usually in the middle of the fray, so some people might do a big eye-roll when it comes to his perspective on NASCAR nastiness, but he has a point.

Not everybody feels the same way. An assorted cast of characters. People are paying attention, whether it’s to rant or rave.

Logano will hear the mixed emotions as he races Sunday in Texas. He will see it, too, assuming some people were on the quick ordering their “Free Matt” t-shirts available online, with proceeds supporting the Denny Hamlin Foundation that raises funds for children with cystic fibrosis. Kenseth and Hamlin are teammates at Joe Gibbs Racing.

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“I understand why that penalty was so severe,” Gordon said. “NASCAR wanted there to be a line and I like it when they draw a line because so often when we hear about judgment calls, we don’t like judgment calls. We like things to be clear. And I think we’re all pretty clear now.”

Well, yes and no.

Which driver do you love, and who do you loathe?

Your answer will tell you whether this nastiness is a cool deal or whether it’s just “Boys, Have At It” shenanigans.

gdiaz@tribune.com


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