The Norman Transcript

February 15, 2013

Media Day features relaxed champion, dating drivers

By Mark Long
The Associated Press

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.”

Patrick and Stenhouse were open about their relationship, clearly ready for all the ribbing. They shared Valentine’s Day plans with reporters. He called her “hot.” She joked about what would happen if he wrecked her on the track.

“He better have a really good, ‘I’m sorry,”’ Patrick said with a wink.

Four-time series champion Jeff Gordon was fielding questions of his own after filming a “Harlem Shake” video at his race shop — even climbing atop a race car to dance — and the evidence is now online.

“One of the best times I’ve ever had,” Gordon said. “Certainly the best time I ever had in my race shop with my guys in there. Luckily it was quick so it didn’t take them away from their jobs too long because there’s a lot going on at the shop. I’m a little embarrassed at my dancing, but it was still worth it. It was a great time.”

Not everyone had a blast at media day.

Juan Pablo Montoya stared down a reporter who insinuated that the driver might hit another jet dryer this season. Montoya slammed into a dryer during last year’s Daytona 500, setting off a fiery explosion that halted the race.

“People are dumb enough to think I hit the thing on purpose, like I really want to try and kill myself,” Montoya said later. “It is kind of crazy. That was a freak accident, and in a way, I was very, very lucky to walk away from that one. Not only myself, but the guy driving the jet dryer. To walk away with nothing out of that it was a miracle. I was glad it was over.”

Joey Logano, Matt Kenseth and Kurt Busch talked about being with new teams. Kyle Larson, Dylan Kwasniewski, Ben Kennedy and Ryan Blaney looked and sounded every bit like eager youngsters. Austin Dillon wore a black cowboy hat to the event. Dave Blaney donned a pink firesuit.

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