Brad Keselowski would bring crazy cool to another Chase run

NASCAR needs Brad Keselowski to make the Chase for the Championship.

It starts with the obvious: He is the defending champion, and deserves a shot to take on the other 11 contenders for his title.

But there's also this:

Tony Stewart has a metal rod inside the tibia in his right leg, and he's likely going to be a couch potato for the rest of the season. Four-time champion Jeff Gordon, currently 13th in points, is precariously close to eliminating himself from contention. Denny Hamlin was toast a long time ago.

So the sport is down three stars from the get-go, including one (Stewart) with an ornery disposition who can implode on any week. That's a beautiful thing from a marketing standpoint.

That brings us back to Keselowski. He's taken some shots for his beer-chugging championship celebration interview on ESPN, but that's just the old fuddy duddys talking. Keselowski is a cool cat as NASCAR moves forward with another generation of drivers with star power.

Look at the events that transpired in Watkins Glen last weekend when Keselowski resisted the urge to bump arch-foe Kyle Busch out of the way to score a victory. It was most definitely Temptation Island for Keselowski.

"Well, there's always temptation, yeah," he told veteran NASCAR writer Reid Spencer after the race on Sunday. "You're a married man. I'm sure you look through Maxim magazine — maybe something a little more vulgar than Maxim magazine."

"I'm right here, Brad," Lee Spencer, Reid's wife, shot back.

"I'm just saying there's always temptation," Keselowski said. "I'm just saying that he [Reid] has looked at a magazine with a girl that looks really hot. It doesn't mean there isn't temptation, but there's a level of respect and a code of honor that you have to have as a man."

That's the deal with Keselowski — he's honest and engaging, and sometimes a bit too crude and brash. But that's all good for business.

"I owe it to the sport to be vocal and to be honest," he told me during the Coke Zero 400 weekend in July. "That's not always easy, but it's important to me."

Keselowski could have taken a cheap shot at Busch on the track. Lord knows he needs to end up in Victory Lane to lock up a spot in the Chase. After five victories during his title run in 2012, Keselowski still doesn't have a victory this season, although he is eighth in points.

"In my mind, points are great when you're in the Chase," he said. "Before that, to me it's about wins, even if you don't end up in the top 20. I'd rather be a wild card with four or five wins than be a guy in the Chase with zero wins. I guess I don't look at it that way.

"I could have definitely dumped Kyle and won the race. That stuff goes back and forth, and I'm sure someone in the tabloid side of the media will make a big deal about that, but it won't be me because I know I did the right thing."

Perhaps no Maxim readers will care if Keselowski makes the Chase. But there's a larger audience out there that should care. I, for one, hope to see him in Homestead for the grand finale, trying to defend his title.

Read George Diaz's blog at OrlandoSentinel.com/enfuego or e-mail him at gdiaz@orlandosentinel.com

Dillon in the driver's seat

Austin Dillon, step up and sign in, please. You get to drive Tony Stewart's car this week at Michigan.

With Stewart out indefinitely after suffering a broken leg during a sprint-car dirt-track race (doh!), Dillon becomes the next man up for Stewart-Haas Racing. Max Papis took over Stewart's ride at Watkins Glen last weekend, finishing 15th.

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