Brad Keselowski won't be silenced in Coke Zero rumble

DAYTONA BEACH — Brad Keselowski loves drama.

Check that. He is a magnet for the continuous spin-cycle of Twitter and other social media.

Part of that is because he is the defending Sprint Cup champion, and among the most engaged drivers on Twitter in the NASCAR Nation with more than 421,000 followers.

Part of that is his unfiltered honesty.

Example: He did not race in the Subway Firecracker 250 at Daytona International Speedway Friday night because he didn't want to risk getting caught up in a crash-fest similar to the deal here in February when parts of Kyle Larson's car ended up in the grandstands and injured more than two dozen fans.

"There are guys in middle-to-back half of the field when there is a wreck they don't lift," he said on the eve of Saturday's Coke Zero 400 at Daytona, where he will start on the eighth row alongside Dale Earnhardt Jr. "That's what caused the damn car going into the grandstands."

There you have it. Brash Brad calling out other drivers. Bold Brad simply being honest.

"It's easy to be quiet and not ever raise any drama and just collect a paycheck," he said. "That's easy to do and I understand why people would do it but it's not me."

Keselowski has raised the drama a few times this season, including the time he accused Rick Hendrick and Joe Gibbs of poaching employees from other NASCAR teams. He's also raised some drama in the chase to defend his title.

Keselowski has been off-key this season, enough to cause concerns that he may not be among the mix of 12 drivers who will qualify for Cup championship run. He is winless in 17 starts and is 13th in the points standings. It marks the lowest he has been in the Cup standings since April 2012.

No worries. OK, maybe some.

Keselowski and his No. 2 Miller Lite Ford haven't quite been in sync with the new Gen 6 model this season. And there's the usual yada-yada involving the occasional wreck, including getting turned around by Kurt Busch and getting collected in a multi-car crash at Kentucky last weekend.

"I think racing is like blackjack," he said. "It's one thing if you're losing hands at 16 and 17. If you're losing hands at 20, you know eventually that's going to come around. And that's where we're at. We're on that kind of run. Odds are we will start winning hands at 16 and 17 if we stay patient."

Saturday will be a tough night to draw on patience. As long as gambling references are getting thrown around, Daytona is like a 200-mph craps game. Just another roll of the dice. Restrictor-plates and cars flying in the night will make it a race of attrition and survival.

But there is precedent for a late-season bounce-back: Tony Stewart struggled in much the same way in 2011 before, after barely qualifying, he won five of the 10 Chase races to take the championship.

"We know they are definitely capable," Stewart said Friday. "When they hit on something and find what they did last year and find something that's working for them, they definitely can put together the consistency to do what they did just like last year. It's just a matter of getting themselves to that point."

Keselowski would agree with all of that. It's a natural confidence not to be confused with cockiness. That's always part of the Brad-being-Brad label.

"It's difficult because some people say, 'The fame goes to your head and da-da-da,' '' Keselowski said. "Whatever. I don't feel that way. Hell, if the fame was going to my head, I'd be flying to Bermuda after qualifying and on a boat with Jay-Z."

No boat for Brad this weekend. He's chasing speed in his car, the only drama he truly craves.

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

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