NASCAR driver Brad Keselowski is speaking out on tactics used by Joe Gibbs Racing and Hendrick Motorsports (Jerome Miron, USA TODAY Sports)
DEARBORN, Mich. - Rochester Hills' favorite racing son Brad Keselowski met with Ford Motor Co. employees in Dearborn on Thursday and signed autographs and answered questions.
The defending NASCAR Sprint Cup champion also found time to chat with reporters and take a sharp jab at Chevrolet-backed Hendrick Motorsports and Joe Gibbs Racing, which runs Toyotas. Keselowski, known for his no-nonsense approach and saying what is on his mind, criticized Hendrick and Gibbs for "stealing away" employees and information from Ford Cup teams, including his own Penske Racing outfit and Roush Fenway Racing.
Keselowski, who has gotten himself in trouble several times with NASCAR brass for his comments, didn't mince words about Hendrick and Gibbs' recruitment techniques when he was asked by the media about the recent efforts of Ford teams like Penske and Roush coming together and sharing information.
Heading into Sunday's Quicken Loans 400 at Michigan International Speedway, Chevrolet has won seven, Toyota five and Ford just two races, promoting more cooperation between the Blue Oval teams to narrow the gap.
Keselowski, who is currently ninth in points and without a Cup victory in 2013, wasn't so sure that opening up communication between Penske and Roush, for example, would work without leaks.
"There are little things you can do," Keselowski said of Ford-backed teams opening up lines of communication in an effort to improve performances on the track.
"What keeps it from going too far is the fact that Hendrick and Gibbs have this nasty little habit of going to other teams and outbidding other people and taking those employees and stealing our information, and, when that happens, that puts walls up between the camps because you are giving up more than one piece of information - you are giving up two companies' information and trying to protect yourself against that, it forces you to put up walls.
"It doesn't necessarily lend itself to working together. But still, we are going to put in a valiant effort where we can and where it makes sense to put Ford in a position to have the best results possible."
Keselowski cited two incidents where he claimed Hendrick and Gibbs - who between them run the likes of series points leader and five-time Cup champ Jimmie Johnson, Jeff Gordon, Kyle Busch, Denny Hamlin and Dale Earnhardt Jr. - lured away Ford team employees with big offers.
"Gibbs stole the Roush aero director and took all the information," said Keselowski, who drives the No. 2 Miller Lite Ford Fusion.
"And Hendricks took three employees from our Chase-winning team last year." Keselowski likened it to baseball.
"There's a reason those two teams (Hendrick and Gibbs) are higher up on the boards than us - they have more money and sponsors to do so; it's almost like Major League Baseball in that sense. The Yankees and Red Sox are always going to outbid the Oakland Athletics. That's just part of the deal. So, you find yourself trying to play moneyball to beat them."
Not so good for racing?
"It is terrible," said Keselowski. "But it is what it is."
Mike Brudenell, USA Today