DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — William Byron said he spoke with Brad Keselowski on Thursday night about their contact on the track earlier that day, but Byron remains convinced the whole matter should have been handled differently.
Keselowski said last year after being in a wreck in the July Daytona race that he was done lifting off the accelerator when blocked. A Byron block caused Keselowski to slow, and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. ran into the back of Keselowski, triggering a crash.
In Thursday’s practice, Keselowski stayed in the gas and when Byron cut down, Keselowski hit Byron’s car, causing enough damage that Byron’s team went to a backup. Keselowski said he was sending a message.
Byron felt a message could have been delivered in a different manner.
“It would have been, I feel like, more professional to come talk to me about what was wrong instead of tearing up a race car and make my guys have to bring out a backup and have to work all the way through last night and show up early this morning and have to work even more,” Byron said Friday. “I don’t think that’s the way to handle it. That’s kind of the unnecessary part for me that I don’t appreciate.”
Byron said he appreciated talking to Keselowski about the incident even if he left not in total agreement.
“I wanted to talk to him because I felt like he probably didn’t expect me to talk to him, and I need to talk to him about things like that, and you need to hear where he’s coming from so I don’t draw my own conclusion, which probably isn’t going to be a good one,” Byron said. “I think it’s important. Guys don’t talk enough to people nowadays, and we need to handle things like that more often.”
Keselowski was adamant Thursday that he’s not going to slow when blocked because he can be wrecked from behind.
“We’ve wrecked in four of the last five plate races,” Keselowski said of Daytona and Talladega. “It’s ridiculous. Almost all of them have been that same exact scenario. That’s wrong for my team. I can’t drive everybody else’s car. I can drive mine, and I can say that I’m not going to let somebody pull that move again on me.”
Byron’s teammate, Jimmie Johnson, also said Keselowski could have handled the situation better on the track.
“I felt like yesterday was avoidable and didn’t think that was necessary by any means,” Johnson said Friday. “It’s a tricky position that Brad has put himself in because plate racing is all about blocking. This new rules package on the 1.5-miles is all about blocking. And he’s pretty damn good at blocking. So, that’s where I think he’s put himself in an interesting situation, and we’ll see how the next few weeks unfold.
“I don’t think he ‘sent a message’ to anybody. I think it was kind of careless and not such a smart move yesterday. But if he feels good about it, which clearly … I just watched his interview in the bus before I came over here … he feels pretty good about what he did, and we’ll just see how it all unfolds for him.”
By going to a backup car, Byron will start at the rear of the field in Saturday night’s race (7 p.m., NBC).