NASCAR's Brad Keselowski: the circuit's six road races this year preposterously too many
This weekend's EchoPark Automotive Texas Grand Prix will be the first of a record six road courses on the NASCAR Cup schedule in 2023. Veteran driver Brad Keselowski calls it overkill.
"Way too many," the accomplished 39-year-old from Rochester Hills, Mich., told the American-Statesman on Thursday. "Our circuit was built on ovals. It's always been a nice little throw-in of a road course here and there. I think six is a bit preposterous."
Keselowski, the 2012 Cup champion who has 35 victories in stock car racing's premier series, does enjoy the Circuit of the Americas stop though, now in its third year.
"It's an interesting track, we don't run on anything quite like it," said the driver of the No. 6 Ford Mustang for RFK Racing. "The turn 1 entry being so wide and drivers being what they are, we're just animals. This is a track made for animals, and we have a lot of them in our circus here in NASCAR. It's nice to be in the Austin market, an area with a lot of NASCAR fans. We want to serve them and we're glad to be here."
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Keselowski, one of only six to win a title in both the Cup and Xfinity Series, understands Formula One has quite the appeal here with the annual U.S. Grand Prix pulling well over 100,000 fans on race day. But he said popular F1 crossover drivers Kimi Raikkonen and Jenson Button, both of whom are entered in Sunday's race, could be in for a rude awakening.
"They're about to enter the circus and, like I said, the animals here are ferocious," Keselowski said. "I'm not gonna say they're better drivers than ours. Those guys are pretty damn good drivers. They're meaner drivers, I'll say that, They will chew you up and spit you out and cry a few crocodile tears."
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F1 is rapidly gaining popularity in the States while NASCAR continues a descent from its glory days of the 1990s and early 2000s. The last five Cup races have posted year-over-year declines in TV numbers. Cup races draw more than 3 million viewers, still more than twice as much as Formula One, but F1 has practically caught NASCAR in the coveted young demographics.
"They're on top of the cycle, candidly," Keselowski said. "Kudos to them for getting as far as they have here. They recognize opportunity that North America presents and with the Liberty Media Group (U.S. ownership) they've done a great job leveraging that. It's still a cycle, though.
"The struggles we have are well-documented. That's not just in NASCAR, but across the planet. Ultimately I think NASCAR has a really compelling story to tell, the racing is as good or better than ever in a lot of ways. Generational preferences come and go. i don't see NASCAR falling by the wayside, I see it being a constant rollercoaster of ups and downs. What's key is for our sport to stay true to itself, not lose its fundamentals."
Keselowski is willing to bet on it. Last year he moved from his longtime Penske Racing home and bought into Roush Fenway ownership, thus the RFK moniker. After a difficult 2022 season, he just missed a win last week in Atlanta, passed in the last lap by Joey Logano. He's a solid No. 6 in the points standings.
"We definitely feel the progress, but ultimate the win board is the check mark we need," he said. "It's uncomfortable without a win. You want to be on that list to lock yourself in for the playoffs. We'll push on."
Watermelon smash: Defending Texas Grand Prix champ Ross Chastain, whose family are watermelon farmers in rural Florida, will celebrate in his own special style at noon Friday. He will drop watermelons from atop the landmark 251-foot-high COTA tower.
The driver of the No. 1 Chevrolet for Trackhouse Racing scored his first Cup victory at COTA. He is an eighth-generation watermelon farmer whose father and brother currently manage JDI Farms in Punta Gorda, Fla.
Moonlighting: Several Cup standouts are crossing over for multiple races this weekend. William Byron, A.J. Allmendinger, Aric Almirola and Ty Gibbs also are doing the Xfinity Pit Boss 250 presented by USA Today/Gannett. Cup standouts Kyle Busch, Alex Bowman and Chastain are doubling up in the XPEL 225 Craftsman truck race.
Local touch: New Braunfels native Parker Chase will make his second Xfinity start of the season. Chase finished 16th at Daytona. He drives the No. 24 Toyota Supra for Sam Hunt Racing.
Star power: Two-time Emmy Award-winning actor, writer and producer Brendan Hart, who stars in the critically acclaimed "Ted Lasso," will serve as grand marshal for Sunday's race. ... Three-time Grammy Award-winning singer Darius Rucker will do a pre-race conert at 12:45 p.m. Sunday and serve as the honorary starter. ... Adrianne Palicki, from the hit series "Friday Night Lights," will be honorary pace car driver. And Golden Globes winner Jaime Camil will sing the national anthem.
NASCAR at COTA
Friday-Sunday, Circuit of the Americas, tickets — weekend general admission passes start at $99, weekend grandstand seats start at $125, individual Friday $25-$45, individual Saturday $75-$90, individual Sunday $90-$185, kids 12-under free Friday and Saturday
Friday — Cup Series practice 1:05 p.m., Craftsman Truck Series practice 3:30 p.m., Truck Series qualifying 4 p.m., Xfinity Series practice 5:30 p.m., Xfinity Series qualifying 6 p.m.
Saturday — Cup Series qualifying 10:30 a.m., XPEL 225 Craftsman Series truck race 12:30 p.m. (FS1), Xfinity Pit Boss 250 4 p.m. (FS1)
Sunday — EchoPark Automotive Grand Prix Cup Series race 2:30 p.m. (Fox 7 Austin)
This article originally appeared on Austin American-Statesman: NASCAR at COTA: Keselowski questions NASCAR's number of road races