The Top Five: Breaking down the Talladega playoff race

Five thoughts after Sunday’s playoff race at Talladega Superspeedway…

1. Actually, it wasn’t a bad race

Talladega was a restrictor-plate demolition derby unlike anything we’d seen in a long time.

— Only 14 cars were still running at the finish — 14! — and only eight of those were still held together enough to actually race for the win.

— The 11 cautions tied a race record! Yep, none of the 96 other races run at Talladega have ever had more cautions than Sunday.

— Kyle Larson was a lap down — and finished 13th! Trevor Bayne, whose car appears on the crash report twice, finished third!

Given all that, it’s understandable if people look at the results and go, “Ugh, what a joke.” Not to go all #WellActually on you, but it really was a good race up until the point the carnage broke out.

Think about it: The first Big One didn’t take place until there were 17 laps to go. Prior to that, the field was two-, three- and even four-wide in a brilliant display of how good plate racing can be. There were lead changes and strategy and dicey moves, and no one spent time hanging at the back trying to avoid the wreck.

They actually raced.

Only at the end, when it was Go Time, did it really get crazy and kind of ridiculous. But that’s not really a surprise; after all, it’s Talladega.

As long as cars aren’t flipping or flying — which they didn’t on Sunday — the rest of it is just side effect of what was a pretty thrilling show.

2. Master Kes

For a last-lap pass, there didn’t seem to be too much excitement from the crowd at Talladega. The fans seemed deflated after Dale Earnhardt Jr. finished seventh, so even Brad Keselowski’s thrilling move didn’t save the day for them.

But it was fitting that Keselowski won Earnhardt’s final plate race, because it was a symbolic passing of the torch from the best plate racer of this generation to the next.

Keselowski has now won at Talladega five times and six wins overall in restrictor-plate points races. Earnhardt finished his career with six Talladega wins and had 10 plate wins in points races.

Though Talladega unquestionably contains a lot of randomness in surviving long enough to be there at the end, the actual winning moves often require a very specific skill. And Keselowski might be the best at it.

We often see the race leader be able to block a late run. But Ryan Newman couldn’t do it — granted, he had some degree of nose damage — and Keselowski ended up playing the finish perfectly. He deserves a ton of credit for the execution.

“You’d love to be able to pat yourself on the back and say it’s all skill, but there is some luck that’s involved in this,” Keselowski said. “… You know when you come here that probably three out of every four races you’re going to get caught up in a wreck or something like that happens.

“But the races where you have the good fortune, where you don’t get caught up in a wreck or you don’t have something break or any of those things, you have to take those races, run up front and win them. And I think that’s what we’ve been able to do.”

Junior Nation probably doesn’t give a crap about all this, given their disappointment, but it’s important to recognize we’re watching a rare and unique talent when Keselowski has the chance to win at Talladega.

3. Playoff race?

Fans still give Kyle Busch a hard time for saying Talladega and Daytona aren’t “real” racing. But seriously — is it? And does it belong in the playoffs?

Those questions are likely to pop up after a day when only two of the 12 playoff drivers finished on the lead lap.

“I’m sure there are a lot of competitors who say they wish (Talladega wasn’t in the playoffs), because you can’t control your own fate,” Denny Hamlin said after finishing sixth. “In no other sport does your competition make a mistake and it cost you. In our sport, it does.”

Hamlin suggested to NBC Sports last week that Talladega should be the regular season finale instead of a playoff race.

And indeed, that seems like a better solution. It doesn’t feel right in a lot of ways for the outcome of a championship to be impacted by an event with so much randomness. Because, let’s be honest: Kyle Busch was right.

Whether it’s “real racing” or not, though, it definitely won’t be changing anytime soon.

“I don’t know that there’s a desire to have a different product here at this type of racetrack,” said Ryan Newman, who was once one of the most outspoken drivers against plate racing.

4. Dale Jr.’s health

There were tens of thousands of people rooting for Earnhardt to win his final restrictor-plate race, which felt like his last, best shot at a victory before he retires.

Personally, I was just hoping he made it through the race without getting another concussion.

That sounds sort of dark, but it’s the truth. All season, I’ve thought in the back of my head: “I wonder if he can get through the plate races without suffering a huge hit.” And — luckily — he did. He had to make it through three close calls to do it, but he survived.

“This was one that I was worried about in the back of my mind,” Earnhardt said afterward. “I was a little concerned. But you can’t win the race if you race scared, and I’ve raced scared here before, and you don’t do well when that happens. So you have to block it out and just go out there and take the risks and hope that it’s just not your day to get in one of those accidents. And it wasn’t.”

Earnhardt fans didn’t get the win they wanted, but this was also a victory: Their driver competed for the win all day and left with his health intact, meaning he just has to make it five more races.

Wrecks can happen anywhere, but the chances sure are a lot lower at other tracks.

And along those lines, Earnhardt felt that by racing hard, he proved something to the critics who charged he has been too timid at times this season.

“Anyone who questions our desire to be here and compete this year and our desire to run hard and face can look at the risks that we took this afternoon, knowing that any of those crashes would have probably given me a bit of an injury that would have held me out of the rest of the season,” he said.

5. Pointed situation

Kyle Busch might not make it past Round 2 of the playoffs.

That’s crazy, isn’t it? All year long, it’s pretty much been a Martin Truex Jr./Busch/Kyle Larson show. Those three seemed to be the main title contenders going into the playoffs, and the conventional wisdom was Busch was at least a lock for Round 3 thanks to his 41 playoff points.

Welp…

Busch is currently seven points behind Jimmie Johnson for the final playoff spot entering Kansas. And Matt Kenseth is just one point behind him, so it’s not like he can focus just on beating one or two drivers next week.

Yeah, he could go win there — Busch has five straight top-five finishes at Kansas, including a victory last year in the spring. But there’s a very real chance he could fail to make the cut.

On a similar note, Johnson could be out if he doesn’t have a good run — which is also hard to believe.

I doubt many of us would have predicted two of the elite Toyotas or the seven-time champion would be in danger of failing to make it past Round 2, but that’s the case. And it’s going to make Kansas a very interesting cutoff race.

Social Spotlight with Paige Keselowski

Each week, I ask a member of the racing community to shed some light on their social media usage. This week: Paige Keselowski, wife of Brad Keselowski. Note: This interview is not available in podcast form this week due to a microphone malfunction. Apologies. 

One thing that you’ve been part of over the last year are these Facebook Live visits that Brad has been doing, where you and Brad will go out to the campgrounds and surprise people and bring them goodies. You’re usually the camera person. So how did that all get started?

It started in Watkins Glen over a year ago. We didn’t have the baby for the weekend and we were like, “Oh, let’s do something, because it’s too late to go anywhere.” So Brad was like, “Why don’t we just ride around the campgrounds?” I said, “Oh, that sounds fun.” I’ve always liked to ride through with the scene and see everyone having a good time, especially at night, chilling here. It’s a good time.

Brad said, “We’ll take a few gifts and maybe we’ll see some 2 fans and we’ll surprise them.” I said, “OK, that sounds good.” And he said, “Why don’t we try it on this new Facebook Live?”

So that’s really how it got started and it was really a successful thing. There were like thousands and thousands of views, a lot of people commenting. At the time, I used to try to read off questions so Brad would answer them. Because at first, the plan was, “Let’s turn on Facebook Live, drive around and if you see someone, then we’ll stop.” So we kind of searched people out as we were driving and we were able to just have a Q and A with Brad.

And then as it’s kind of evolved, we’ve done it a little differently. Brad will tweet out that we’re gonna head out to the campgrounds and fans will tweet us their locations. So now we try to choose someone and we literally go out and search for their campground. That makes it a little more exciting, trying to find them. Like at Bristol this year, we had a family tweet us and they had literally put up directions to their campsite. Like they would have signs in their campground area all the way to their little campsite. Unfortunately, we made a huge effort to go find them, but the track wouldn’t let us in their area with the golf cart, so we actually did not get to meet them.

Now, even like for weeks before, people are like, “I’ll be at Dover, I’ll be at campsite such and such. Here are my directions, please come see us.” They’ll like tweet us pictures. It’s evolved.

(The campers) are really cool because they’ve been at the same campgrounds for years and they know all their neighbors. So when you get there, it’s actually like their neighbors are benefiting, because they’re like, “This is my friend Joe! He’s been here with us for years. Can you get a picture with him?” It’s a really cool thing. They become family out there and they’re enjoying our sport, and that’s what really matters.

And I think for Brad, it means a lot to him to be able to go and have a personal conversation in a comfortable, relaxed, fun setting with his fans who appreciate him and want to tell him about who they are, and he gets to really know their families and people around them.

I will say that sometimes, it makes me a little anxious going out there just because it’s usually at night and everyone’s been drinking and it’s like a big party. You’re going out to this campsite and you don’t know these people and you have no idea who the people are around them. They’re either really excited or they’re really chill. You don’t know what you’re gonna get.

And then it’s like a domino effect. The whole campground finds out Brad is there and it’s just like bees — they start swarming. I’m like, “Oh no! How are we ever gonna get away?” But everyone has been so nice, so welcoming. It’s really kind of an exciting thing. I don’t really say a whole lot on the camera, I just like to video and I like to take in everyone’s reaction to Brad showing up.

So in general, how do you see your role with Brad’s fans? Do you consciously try to keep people informed, or are you just being yourself?

I guess maybe I’m trying to figure out a role  — if there is a role. I don’t feel like I’m here to really inform them. I tweet out things when I want to about Scarlett or the three of us, just because I like it. I’ll like this picture, this video of her, and I just want everyone else to get a smile or laugh because of something that she’s done.

But other than that, I think Brad does a pretty good job himself of keeping his fans informed of who he is or what he cares about and what he thinks about things. I just feel like my role is to be a mom and support the Miller 2 Crew. So when I have to opportunity to put things out, I’ll do it. Other than that, I try to just enjoy social media myself. I don’t want to be part of the PR team.

So your Twitter is public. You have other private accounts as well, so obviously you don’t want to share out everything in the world. What is the balance? How do you manage privacy on social media with such a public platform?

It’s funny you say that, because we’ve been having these discussions lately with Instagram accounts, because I have Instagram and I do have Facebook, but both of those I basically keep private.

But I’ve been pushed lately — not in a bad way — to open my Instagram or to open an Instagram for our family that Brad and I would do together. Then I’ve had people ask me, “Why don’t you open your Instagram? You have so many good things on there and your (Instagram) Stories of Scarlett are so funny.”

I want to be able to post whenever I want to post and not have people going, “Ugh, you post all the time,” or, “Why is she posting that picture?” I feel like for Instagram, I hope it stays around for a long time so it’s like an album that I have of all my photos, you know? And if you want to follow them, fine; and if you don’t because I post too much, you don’t have to follow me.

But I guess that’s why I keep it private, it’s because I post so much on there and I enjoy it. I think Instagram is probably my favorite social media (platform).

You seem like an opinionated person, from what I know of you. Sometimes you may have an opinion of something that goes on during a race. Have you ever gotten in trouble from one of your tweets?

Yes, I did get in trouble for one of my tweets. And I didn’t even think it was that bad. The funny thing is, I feel like I barely tweet, and when I do tweet, it’s not about controversial things. It’s mainly of Scarlett or…what do I tweet? I don’t even know myself.

But yes, I got in trouble, and it was over the NASCAR app where you can listen to the scanners during the race. And I just said it was disappointing that (the app) was behind when we were trying to listen — and I got told that I need to shh and enjoy the sport. So I said, “OK.”

And it’s stuff like that that makes you not want to be a part of social media and be involved with the fans, because when you’re involved with the fans, you want to be honest with the fans. You want to have authentic, real conversations with the fans. You don’t want to just tell them this because that’s what other people want to hear. You want to be open.

So a lot of times, that’s why I don’t tweet a lot, it’s because I feel if I tweet something and it’s not what other people want to hear, then you’ll get in trouble with it. And that doesn’t make social media enjoyable, if someone takes 140 characters that you type and they dissect it all to what they think it might mean. So I guess in that sense, it’s why I don’t tweet a lot and I just stay off of it; then I don’t have to get the tweets saying how I don’t know what I’m talking about.

It’s interesting that people would think you don’t know what you’re talking about, because you grew up in a racing family and your dad still races. You sometimes post about his victories and his races in eastern North Carolina. Do you feel like your history helps inform your opinions about racing?

My daddy’s been racing since well before I was born — dirt racing and now asphalt — and he still does it today. That’s basically his hobby and that’s what we did every weekend, even when I went to college. I felt like I needed to be there to support him. So you go on Saturday night, you watch your dad race, you drive back and then you go out with your friends or catch up. And I did that often, and even now Brad is good about getting me back to be able to see some of his races and bring Scarlett to share that with him. So since I know a lot about the sport, I know a lot about racing — I don’t know it all, and that’s OK, too. I just like to share and be a part of it.

Do you ever have moments where you see something that Brad has tweeted or shared, and you cringe and go, “Honey, why did you go there?”

Yes, I do that to him all the time. I’m like, “Oh, Brad.” And it’s not that I disagree with what he’s saying, I just know what’s coming behind it. I’m like, “Alright, let’s get through this.”

What happens when that negativity comes your way? At times when people are hateful or negative, how do you deal with that?

I block people.

You’re a blocker?

I’m a blocker. It’s funny, because we went out to dinner last night and I was telling Brad that I had with interview with you today, and I was like, “Yeah, I went to my Twitter to see how many people I have blocked.” It was 37, which is not a lot. I had 37 blocked, and two muted.

He was like, “Wow, let me see who they are!” So he started scrolling through and was like, “These are the same people I have blocked!” I’m like, “I wonder why?” (Laughs)

So I just block people. If you say something mean to me, if you say something to me about Brad, you have free right to say that. But whatever you want to say and you believe, I have just as much right to not want to read it. And I don’t. I don’t want my social media filled with negativity or mean remarks about my family, because that’s not fair to me, and so I’ll just block you.

That’s another reason why we’ve had the debate over Instagram, why I haven’t opened it: Because it’s going to be another opening of the floodgates to people who put negativity in your life, and that’s really sad, because you want to share these things. There are people out there who genuinely care or who are just interested in your life and watching Scarlett grow up, and they feel this connection to Brad because they’ve been a fan of his for years and now he has a family. And I don’t mind sharing those things; I’m happy to share those things. I love them.

But I don’t want to have to deal with the negativity, because that gets to wear on you. It’s like, come on. It just gets depressing at times, and you’re like, “Geez, is there nothing else in your life that you’re grateful for and you have to be negative towards someone else?”

I feel the same way. I’ve recently changed my philosophy, because I was just muting people, and now I’ve just decided, like you, to block them.

I don’t really know all the ins and outs about the mute, but definitely the block button. And Brad sat there last night as we were reading through them and he’s like, “I’m just gonna unblock some people tonight.” I’m like, “OK…” He says, “Everyone deserves a second chance. People change.” I’m like, “That’s why I love you.” (Laughs)

What’s the future for you on social media? As you navigate all this stuff, as Scarlett continues to grow up, do you feel like you’ll still want to continue to be on it or do you feel like you’re back off at some point? How do you think it’ll turn out for you?

I feel like in some ways, I have backed off. I’m less active, especially on Twitter. On race days, I’m here in the bus with Scarlett and I usually try to time it where she naps and I get to lay around and watch the race. So I’m definitely on Twitter during the race. Occasionally I’ll tweet my opinion, but I’ll probably cut back on that now since I got shushed.

I really rarely get on Facebook to look at things. Occasionally, I will post photos on an album. A lot of my Facebook is people from back home who don’t have Instagram or don’t follow me on Instagram. They always like to be in the know of what’s going on. But Facebook’s always out of order, and I can’t keep up. I’ll take time scrolling through and it’s like, “I’ve already seen these 10 posts.” So I’m not very active on there.

Now Instagram, I’m pretty active on it. I love to scroll through and look at pictures while Scarlett’s playing outside or whatever, taking a nap, and I love to follow her around. But I feel like from before she was born to now, I’ve been off of my social media a lot more.

But as far as Instagram, we’re still debating in the Keselowski household if we’re gonna open it or not. Brad wants me to, but we put out that poll a while back (asking fans whether they should make Brad’s account public) and everyone basically was like, “Just keep it closed.”

I was shocked at that. You ask people whether you should open a personal Instagram account to the public and people were like, “No, you have the right to privacy.” I was floored by that. I thought everyone would be like, “Yeah, we want to see more!”

We were, too. I was really shocked. I think Brad thought he was gonna win that because he’s like, “We’re gonna put a poll out, and if they say no, then we won’t, but if they say yes, we’re gonna open it.” I’m like, “OK.” And I thought I was gonna lose, honestly. But then we got back and we were just sitting there staring at it. We’re like, “Oh my gosh, I can’t believe this!” So I don’t know.

They said no, so that’s fine, but we still get pushed from different angles for us to open it. And I told him if we did open it, I wanted it be our family account –maybe with some stuff from the Checkered Flag Foundation to be posted up there — and for the two of us to run it. It’d be really who we are in our day-to-day lives.

MORE: Social Spotlight with Brad Keselowski

Roger Penske on whether NASCAR team is behind the Toyotas

If you somehow missed it, Team Penske driver Brad Keselowski sounded the alarm bells Friday about what he perceives to be Toyota’s massive advantage in the Cup Series right now. His tweet was met with a hostile response from the Toyota camp.

So how does Roger Penske feel about Keselowski’s tweet and his team going up against Toyota? Fortunately, he was at Sonoma on Saturday to answer that question.

“Look, I’m not on Twitter,” he told a couple reporters when asked about the situation. “I don’t regard that the way I run my business, and Brad has his own thoughts that are probably not the feeling of the team at this point.

“Toyota has done a great job in preparation for the last part of the series. I think we had good cars early on. I think we’re a little bit behind right now. But it doesn’t mean we’re giving up, for sure.”

Penske cited Joey Logano’s seventh-place qualifying effort on Friday and Ryan Blaney’s playoff potential as evidence the team is making gains. But he stopped himself after starting to go down that road.

“I’m not one that decides to talk about my pluses and minuses in the media, to be honest with you,” he said.

OK, but what about politicking to NASCAR for help when one manufacturer starts to get ahead, as was commonplace in the old days? Does he see a purpose in that?

“NASCAR has the responsibility to have a level playing field, and if they determine that it isn’t, they can look at engines, they can look at aero and those things, and I’m sure they’re doing that right now,” he said. “But at this point, we all started with the same set of rules. Toyota has gotten hot here at the end and we’ve got to acknowledge that professionally.

“On the other hand, we’re not going to give up.”

Brad Keselowski expands on why he decided to shutter Truck team

 

When Brad Keselowski announced he would shut down his Truck Series team, many assumed it was directly tied to the high cost of running a truck — which Keselowski said causes him to lose $1 million a year.

And while that was certainly a factor — Keselowski acknowledged Friday his new contract with Team Penske resulted in a smaller piece of the pie for Trucks — he said in both a blog post and comments to reporters there was another major part of the decision.

Keselowski would like to be a Cup Series team owner one day, but he believes he cannot do so without a sustainable business. So the driver plans to start a manufacturing business of some kind — the specifics of which he said he was not ready to announce — to help eventually fund a Cup team. And he would use the current space in the Brad Keselowski Racing shop to do that.

“If you look at all the business owners at this level – and really all three of these levels – they have a sustainable, profitable business outside of motorsports,” he said Friday. ” That’s going to remain the key for any owner to have success.”

Keselowski said he could continue to fund his team through racing, but that would only last until he stops driving. Then his business would have to shut down because “I don’t have a profit center.”

“Having that profit center is what helps you get through the ebbs and flows that every race team has, so I need to have one of those profit centers,” he said. “That doesn’t mean that I’ll be a Cup owner one day, but that means when the time is right, if we achieve the goals that I have, I’ll have the opportunity to make that decision myself and not have it made for me.”

Anyway, it’s interesting to consider that while economics may have been the primary factor to push Keselowski out of the Truck Series, an eye on the future also played a role.

 

News Analysis: Brad Keselowski Racing to shut down after 2017

What happened: Brad Keselowski Racing, which fields two full-time Trucks in the Camping World Truck Series, announced it will shut down following the conclusion of this season. In a statement, Keselowski said: “The Truck Series is truly special to me given my family’s ties to the history of the sport, and this decision comes with much contemplation. But, for a number of reasons, and as I plan for the long-term future, I’ve decided not to field a team in 2018.”

What it means: In 2014, Keselowski said he was losing $1 million per year on his Truck team and told NBC Sports in June that figure has been consistent in recent years. “It’s a money loser,” he said. “Big time.” With small purses in the Truck Series and with most teams finding it difficult to find sponsorship that will cover the cost of racing (Keselowski told NBC it was $4.5 million per Truck, per season), it seems nearly impossible to consistently make money as a team owner in that series. Although it’s nice for a Cup driver like Keselowski to give back to the sport by providing an opportunity for young drivers (the team helped Ryan Blaney’s career get started, for example), that can’t be expected to continue when too much money comes out of a driver’s own pocket.

News value (scale of 1-10): Eight. Even though the Truck Series has well-known financial issues and top teams like Red Horse Racing have shut down recently, it’s still jarring and shocking to see Keselowski’s team announce it will stop running.

Three questions: What is the long-term future of a series where only 13 drivers have run all 14 races so far this season? Although NASCAR is working to reduce costs, how can teams continue in this economic environment if it’s such a money drain? Keselowski said he one day wants to be a Cup Series team owner and is “seeking to develop an advanced engineering and manufacturing company that would be housed out of our 78,000 square foot facility in Statesville” — so what does that entail?

The Top Five: Breaking down the Watkins Glen race

Five thoughts following Sunday’s race at Watkins Glen International…

1. Total Toyotas

Fans can be upset and drivers (coughBradKeselowskicough) can politic all they want, but Toyota is absolutely dominating the series right now.

After a slow start for Joe Gibbs Racing, the four-car team has joined Furniture Row Racing to put six of the fastest cars on the track every week. And it doesn’t matter whether it’s a big track or a road course — Toyotas are likely going to be running up front most of the day.

Just check out Sunday’s finishing order: Toyotas swept the top four spots (for the first time ever) and had all six of its main cars in the top 10. And Toyota drivers also combined to lead 59 of the 90 laps.

As Kyle Larson has faded (he’s now third in the point standings behind Truex and Kyle Busch), it’s increasingly looking like the Toyotas will roll into the playoffs just as strong as they were last year.

Of course, a Chevrolet ended up winning the 2016 title — so that doesn’t mean a Toyota championship is a sure thing.

But it’s certainly looking good at the moment, particularly with Truex holding 34 playoff points (plus staring at another 15 if he hangs on to be the regular season champion).

As a reminder, that means Truex would start each round of the playoffs with at least 49 points — close to a full race — and could still add more points in the regular season and the playoffs races themselves.

So is Truex a lock for Homestead?

“It doesn’t mean that it’s a free pass or we’re just going to skate through,” Truex said. “We’re still going to work hard and try to do the best we can. But I do think that as the playoffs start, the thought process probably shifts more toward, ‘How do we figure out how to run really well at Homestead? Have a shot at winning there?’ Because that’s what it’s going to come down to.”

2. Blink and you’ll miss it

Sunday’s race was the shortest full-distance Cup Series points race in NASCAR’s modern era (1972-present). It was actually three minutes shorter than Saturday’s Xfinity Series race, which is kind of amazing in itself.

The last time a full-distance Cup points race was less than the two-hour-and-seven-minute run-time of Watkins Glen? Hickory in August of 1971, according to NASCAR.

One big reason was there were only three cautions — and NASCAR let the race play out at the finish, with the final 36 laps all under green.

That’s becoming a trend lately, since NASCAR seemingly has stopped calling late debris cautions after an outbreak of criticism following the Michigan race in June.

A recap:

— At Sonoma, the final 55 laps were green.

— Daytona was an overtime finish, but that was set up by an accident.

— Kentucky was an overtime finish, but that was set up by Kurt Busch blowing up after a 100-lap run.

— At New Hampshire, the final 35 laps were green.

— Indianapolis finished in overtime, but that was set up due to multiple wrecks.

— At Pocono, the last 55 laps (all of Stage 3) were green.

I love that. Yeah, it might be more exciting to see a crazy double-file restart in overtime — but if a caution is not warranted, then it’s good to let the race play out. And that’s what NASCAR seems to be doing.

Plus, a long run at the end doesn’t mean it’s a boring race. The finish Sunday was still in doubt and had plenty of excitement right down to the final seconds. So those are all positive things, and I like how NASCAR is officiating these races. I hope this trend continues through the playoffs, when the races mean so much more.

 

3. Brad and Kyle, Part 389

Based on his radio chatter, I thought Busch was going to go punch Keselowski in the face after the race, but that didn’t happen. Instead, Busch shook hands with AJ Allmendinger and laughed about something, then walked briskly toward the garage with reporters trailing behind.

He didn’t say anything notable (“Imagine that,” he said about the contact) — saving his thoughts for a mid-flight Twitter Q&A on the way home — but it was clear he was once again upset with his nemesis.

This is my favorite rivalry in NASCAR. On the surface, the two men have a lot in common: Both Busch and Keselowski are such unapologetically hard racers, both each have one title, both own a Truck Series team and each has a child who was born days apart from the other.

Yet there is ZERO common ground between the two, who have no relationship (despite Keselowski’s attempt at an olive branch through his blog a couple years ago). And they conduct themselves in a much different manner.

I think both are fantastic for the sport and are compelling, interesting people. They add spice to the race weekends on a regular basis. So it doesn’t bother me that they don’t see eye to eye, because that’s entertaining for the rest of us.

Oh, and don’t expect them to ever chat about Sunday’s incident, either.

“I don’t think he is really the listening type, so that is pretty doubtful,” Keselowski said.

4. Points battle blown open

If you haven’t paid attention, the points gap for the final playoff spot (see below) is only getting wider with four races to go.

Joey Logano is now completely out of the picture — he’s 106 points behind Matt Kenseth for the final spot — and in a must-win situation. That’s crazy, by the way.

Meanwhile, Kenseth added to his lead over Clint Bowyer and is now up by 28 points. Bowyer needs either Kenseth, Chase Elliott or Jamie McMurray to have a bad race (or two) while he has really solid results at Michigan, Bristol, Darlington and Richmond.

Of course, this all changes with a new winner. But it’s fairly obvious after Sunday there won’t be 16 different winners, so there should be at least a couple spots available to make the playoffs on points.

5. Must-See TV

NBCSN’s experiment with using a radio-style call for its TV broadcasts this weekend was a smashing success and as well-received on Twitter as any new thing can possibly be these days.

Mike Bagley of the Motor Racing Network fame was phenomenal in his role at the top of the esses, bringing all the excitement and enthusiasm from the radio to a TV screen. But just as impressive was Parker Kligerman, a driver with no formal announcing training, being able to pick up Bagley’s lead and call the action through the inner loop. Jeff Burton also brought a ton of insight in a fast-paced environment.

In addition, Leigh Diffey’s play-by-play announcing from the booth was top-notch. The F1 announcer was filling in for Rick Allen (who was in London for the track and field world championships) and was perfect alongside Steve Letarte, who was typically excellent in breaking down the strategy.

All in all, it made for one of the best NASCAR TV broadcasts in recent memory.

———–

PLAYOFF PICTURE

By patron request, I’m going to start including the playoff picture at the bottom of the Top Five each week. Here’s how it looks now:

IN (13): Truex, Larson, Harvick, Ky. Busch, Keselowski, Hamlin, Johnson, Blaney, Ku. Busch, Newman, Stenhouse, Kahne, A. Dillon.

Points Bubble with four races to go:

14. Chase Elliott +39

15. Jamie McMurray +34

16. Matt Kenseth +28

—-

17. Clint Bowyer -28

(Everyone else more than 100 points or one win behind)

News Analysis: Brad Keselowski signs extension with Team Penske

What happened: Brad Keselowski removed himself from the potential free agent market by signing a long-term contract extension with Team Penske, the team announced Tuesday morning. The length of the deal was not released, but the team’s statement said Keselowski would remain driver of the No. 2 car for “well into the future.” In addition, crew chief Paul Wolfe also signed a contract extension.

What it means: Keselowski played coy about his future prospects when asked in April, saying he was happy at Penske but had learned to never say no to the possibility of other opportunities. But as Silly Season developed further, it became clear Keselowski was working on staying at his current home and would not be jumping back to Hendrick Motorsports, which was where he made some early Cup starts. Staying put makes sense, because Keselowski has deep ties to the status quo — not just through his time there building a team with Wolfe, but with Penske’s Michigan connection and Ford’s support for the Brad Keselowski Racing team in the Truck Series.

News value (scale of 1-10): Three. This wasn’t a surprise and had become a long-anticipated announcement. Although it’s a big-name driver, it involves staying with the same team — so it’s along the same lines as the Denny Hamlin contract extension news in February.

Questions: After locking up both Keselowski and Joey Logano to long-term deals, is Penske’s next target creating a third team to bring Ryan Blaney back in house? Will Keselowski avoid the post-extension slump being endured by Logano? Does this mean Keselowski, 33, will ultimately finish his career at Penske?