NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver Kyle Busch (18) and Sprint Cup Series driver Brad Keselowski (2) stay close during the Cheez-It 355 at Watkins Glen International on Sunday. (Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports)
Brad Keselowski took Spike Lee’s advice.
He did the right thing.
There’s no doubt Keselowski was sorely tempted to use the front bumper of his Ford on the back of Kyle Busch’s Toyota in the final corners of the Cheez-It 355 at Watkins Glen International.
The reward for a bump-and-run would have been substantial. A victory would have gone a long way toward cementing Keselowski’s place in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup.
Doubtless there was a devil on one shoulder of Keselowski’s fire suit saying, “Go ahead-dump him; he’d do the same to you.”
But the angel on the other shoulder prevailed, and Keselowski raced Busch cleanly to the finish, taking second for the third straight year. That was the price for doing the right thing.
I asked Keselowski if he was tempted to do the wrong thing, and he countered with the sort of oddball exchange that makes him so engaging.
“Well, there’s always temptation, yeah,” he told me. “You’re a married man. I’m sure you look through Maxim magazine — maybe something a little more vulgar than Maxim magazine.”
My wife, Lee Spencer, who writes for FoxSports.com, was sitting beside me.
“I’m right here, Brad,” she protested.
“I’m just saying there’s always temptation,” Keselowski said to Lee. “I’m just saying that he (meaning me) 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.”
I guess that’s why Keselowski didn’t dump Kyle Busch.
Last year, of course, he did.
On the next-to-last lap of last year’s race at the Glen, with the frontrunning cars sliding on an almost invisible glaze of oil, Keselowski turned Busch at the bottom of the esses only to lose a thrilling battle to Marcos Ambrose on the final circuit.
To Keselowski, the circumstances were entirely different.
“I felt like last year was a racing deal,” Keselowski explained. “He went off the track. I filled the hole when he came down. If I would have wrecked him today, in my mind it wouldn’t have been a racing deal. It would have been just wrecking, and there’s a huge difference.
“When somebody blocks you, that’s different. When somebody runs off the track, pulls down in front of you, that’s racing. Those are all just racing deals. When you just run into the back of someone and drive them head-first into the wall, that’s (BS) racing, and I just don’t like it.”
Realizing he couldn’t beat Busch without sending him into the fence, Keselowski took the high road and avoided the sort of drama that has followed him though much of his career.
Though Busch still remembers 2012 vividly, he acknowledged that Keselowski’s restraint on Sunday might change his perception for future races.
“Certainly, when you get wrecked by somebody, you’re not all too happy with it,” Busch said. “But then, when you come with races like this, and you come towards the end of the race, and a guy can get in the back of you and spin you out (and doesn’t), I guess, yeah, you cut that guy a little bit more slack maybe the next time you race him.”
So Keselowski bought a little good will from one of his rivals, and that’s not a bad thing with the Chase on the horizon.
From a racing perspective, and from a strategic point of view, Keselowski did the right thing when he resisted the temptation to win the race with his bumper.
And, for the record, I’ve never once thumbed through a copy of Maxim magazine. As the king of social media in NASCAR circles, Keselowski should know that.
Who needs a hard copy? Maxim has a website.