Twitter feud stokes NASCAR playoff
Dale Earnhardt JOLIET, ILL. — Jr. is playing out the string in his final NASCAR season, leaving a mammoth open- ing for some driver to capture the sport’s attention and become its next most popular star.
Junior had some advice on how the new generation can win fans — and it had more to do with Brooklyn and Nashville filters on Instagram than taking check- ered flags at Dover or Kansas.
“I think the young guys are really, really crafty for social media and I think that’s a great direction for them,” he said.
Sure enough, it was social media that again got NASCAR talking — typing? — and not over a fun debate on who will win today’s playoff opener at Chicagoland Speedway. And two veteran drivers were involved.
Kyle Busch and Brad Keselowski, who have long tussled on and off the track, poked each other some more Friday on Twitter over Toyota’s recent run of success. Led by Busch, Toyota took the top four spots in practice, prompting Ford driver Keselowski to tweet, “Haven’t seen NASCAR let a manufacturer get this far ahead since the 70s.”
Busch retorted with a crying emoji and told Keselowski to shut up. Keselowski then accused Busch of name-calling.
Busch, the 2015 Cup champion, won the pole Friday night, with Joe Gibbs Racing teammate Denny Hamlin second and Martin Truex Jr., another Toyota driver, in third. Kevin Harvick and Keselowski were fourth and fifth in Fords.
This was not McGregor-Mayweather trash talk.
But the back-and-forth perked up a few ears.
Hamlin, Busch and Truex, who drives for Gibbs sister team Furniture Row Racing, have won a combined eight races this season.
Not bad, but hardly the dominant run Keselowski thinks the manufacturer is riding into the playoffs.
Keselowski, who drives for Team Penske, has two wins this season and is the 2012 Cup champion.
“I feel like all he’s doing now is slapping his people across the face,” Busch said.
Keselowski said earlier in the week that Fords didn’t have the speed needed to win the championship and suggested the finale would con- sist of four Toyota drivers.
“Winning counts and sometimes you have to catch a little bit of luck. That hap- pens. The fastest car doesn’t always win. That has been the case a few times with late yellows and so forth,” Keselowski said Friday. “Win- ning races is more than one thing, it always has been and always will be. You always like to be close but right now we aren’t close.”
Keselowski considers him- self a bit of a spokesman at times for the sport given his tenure and accomplish- ments. He’s locked in to a long-term deal with Penske and Ford and has rarely backed down from speaking on the state of the industry.
“I am not looking over my shoulder worrying about getting a ride with another manufacturer one day, and that gives me some privileges that maybe some other guys don’t have,” he said.
Catching up hours after the Twitter clash, Earnhardt simply t ipped his cap toward JGR’s season. Matt Kenseth also made the 16-driver playoff, and the fourth Gibbs driver is rookie Daniel Suarez.
“I got on a bike after practice and rode 40 miles with Jimmie ( Johnson), which is a terrible idea. So I missed the whole debate,” said Earnhardt, who drives a Chevrolet. “I think Joe Gibbs and that whole organization have done an incredible job of getting four teams to work very closely together. And I’ve never seen it done any better, where one organization literally has four cars that seem almost equal every week.”