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February 15, 2013

Media Day features relaxed champion, dating drivers

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — Brad Keselowski strolled through the Daytona 500 Club with his cellphone in one hand and a half-empty bottle in the other.

Nope, not beer. Not this time.

Keselowski was drinking orange juice Thursday at Daytona 500 Media Day, which officially kicked off Speedweeks. Still, the reigning NASCAR Sprint Cup champion was his usual, laid-back, outspoken self, offering up some of the best one-liners during a daylong event filled with playful jokes, repetitive questions, canned answers and optimistic outlooks for the upcoming season.

For Keselowski, it wasn’t all that different from his last moment in the spotlight. He just didn’t have a little buzz going.

“If you drink enough orange juice, you can drink a lot of beer,” said Keselowski, who memorably chugged away in Victory Lane after clinching his first Cup championship at Homestead-Miami Speedway in November.

Three months later, he was fielding questions about defending his title, tweeting from his race car — which he famously did during last year’s Daytona 500 — the budding relationship between competitors Danica Patrick and Ricky Stenhouse Jr., and his plan to purchase a tank.

“There is just something very rootsy about it,” Keselowski said. “A man should own a tank.”

Where would he put it?

“Right in my driveway,” he said.

The tank talk was just one of the many topics addressed by the 50-plus drivers who took part in the eight-hour event at Daytona International Speedway. No surprise, the Patrick and Stenhouse saga — they announced they were dating last month — took center stage.

“It some respects, it’s just a relationship,” five-time champion Jimmie Johnson said. “Clearly, there’s more to it. It doesn’t hurt anything. It will keep people looking and watching and curious as to what that dynamic is on the track, I’m sure. ... We’ll all be watching with great curiosity.”

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