DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – Brad Keselowski, who was upset with William Byron’s blocking in last July’s race at Daytona International Speedway, hit Byron and damaged the rear of Byron’s car during practice Thursday.
Byron’s team stated that it will go to a backup, forcing Byron to start at the rear of the field for Saturday night’s race on NBC.
Keselowski said he was delivering a message.
“He put me in a position to lift and I keep telling these guys I’m not lifting,” Keselowski told NBC Sports. “Hate it for his team and they’ve got to work on their car and so do ours. Just trying to send a message. I’m not lifting. I’m tired of getting wrecked at the plate tracks. I’ve been wrecked out of four out of these last five races quite honestly because I’ve let people put moves like that on me. They’re all watching. They know.”
Byron knew what Keselowski was doing but had a message himself.
“I was in the lead last year and he was second and I guess he felt like I threw a block,” Byron said. “I thought I was clear there, which obviously I was, and he just decided to kind of get me in the left rear and then really kind of gave us the damage on the right rear. It’s practice, I get it, but I don’t think that was really necessary to turn us,” Byron told NBC Sports.
“I guess it was kind of a message sent, but I still saved it. At least I didn’t put it into the fence. No harm, no foul to us.
“It’s not like I changed four lanes on the backstretch. I was really kind of in the same lane. I just didn’t completely cover the bottom. He decided there was enough room, I guess. I didn’t expect that from practice.”
Keselowski was vocal after last year’s July Daytona race, upset with a move Byron made just before Ricky Stenhouse Jr. hit Keselowski and triggered a 25-car crash.
“You got a list of drivers that are making moves that are unqualified to make, and it causes big wrecks,” Keselowski said last year. “That was one of those. It was my fault because I lifted. I should have wrecked him and sent a message to the whole field.”
Keselowski spoke with reporters in the garage Thursday night after debriefing with his team. Here’s what he said: