The Curious Case Of The Fans vs. Brad Keselowski

Keselowski wins Daytona

Can someone explain to me why fans seem to hate Brad Keselowski so much? Here’s a driver possessing so many of the traits fans say they place great value on, and yet, perhaps the only driver currently less popular than Brad Keselowski is his Penske teammate Joey Logano.

He’s a winner. The second-generation NASCAR driver has 20 wins and championship. I’m not much of a mathematician but I believe that’s one more championship than the beloved Dale Earnhardt Jr. owns, and more than what Carl Edwards or Denny Hamlin has.

Then I hear old school fans bemoan today’s drivers as politically-correct corporate shills. Uh, did anyone see Brad Keselowski shortly after he won his championship? Dude was dang near three sheets to the wind. at about 6’1 and 150, Bad Brad looks more like Barney Fife than he does John Wayne, but that doesn’t stop him from going toe-to-toe with any and all comers. If you want someone who speaks his mind, this is your guy!

So, dear fan, I ask you, why isn’t Brad Keselowski up among the fan favorites? I get that he drives the slightly less popular Ford Fusion. Chevy definitely has its hard core following among the fan base. I don’t really think that’s it. I can see how the ladies don’t ooh and aah over him like they might a Junior or an Edwards. My gate doesn’t swing that way, but Keselowski isn’t pretty boy material. That’s really not it either.

The strange thing is, there was a time when Brad Keselowski enjoyed a greater degree of popularity. Remember- he rose to prominence driving for Earnhardt in the Xfinity Series. That created an initial halo effect. When the Keselowski-Edwards feud was at its zenith, it was Edwards cast as the villain. Remember all the “‘roid rage” comments? That seems like a completely different driver.

The best this observer can come up with is those whom Brad Keselowski has chosen to tangle with. Jeff Gordon would be Exhibit “A”. Gordon has had his own ups and downs with NASCAR Nation, but in the twilight of his career, even the old Earnhardt fans who hated him came around. To be sure, Kevin Harvick and Kyle Busch are themselves polarizing figures, but both drivers with whom Keselowski has had issues enjoy a greater degree of popularity than Brad.

To be fair, Brad Keselowski makes no effort to be a fan favorite. To him, winning is all that really matters. For some fans, that earns him respect, but perhaps not nearly as much as one might think.

There’s no arguing that he hasn’t always chosen his battles wisely. In the complicated code of conduct among drivers, there would be those that would argue there would be times that Keselowski should have backed off, and saved it for another day. That really isn’t the Brad Keselowski way.

The 32-year old isn’t going away anytime soon. Is it possible that as time goes by, Brad will earn at the very least a grudging respect? That wouldn’t surprise me. For now, a sport that relies on having a few black hats to make interesting has Brad Keselowski more than happily filling the bill. You can love him, you can loathe him, but you can’t ignore him.