Twit­ter feud stokes NASCAR play­off

Dayton Daily News - - SPORTS -

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.”

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