Brad Keselowski says that NASCAR should consider a system where drivers are removed from Cup when they have repeated on-track issues.
Keselowski made his comments after Sunday’s race at Texas Motor Speedway when he was asked about rookie Quin Houff causing a caution on Lap 307 of the 334-lap race. Houff cut down from the middle lane in Turn 4 to head to pit road. He made contact with Christopher Bell and Matt DiBenedetto to bring out the caution.
Austin Dillon took two tires during that caution and restarted second to teammate Tyler Reddick, who took fuel only. Dillon took the lead and held the field off on two more restarts to win his first Cup race since the 2018 Daytona 500.
Asked about how a random incident such as Houff’s changed the race’s outcome, Keselowski said “there are two ways to look at it.”
Keselowski acknowledged the incident helped create “a more entertaining finish, so if you like chaos, then that was good.”
But Keselowski had another view of the matter.
“I think on the other side of that there’s the, ‘Hey, I’m a professional race car driver that’s worked my entire career to get here,’ ” he said. “Had to jump through a lot of hoops to make it and would like to think that those efforts have created a spot for me in this series to be joined with peers of similar talent levels.’
“I have nothing personal against anyone that has an issue like that because they do happen from time to time, but there are certainly a handful of drivers that kindly I wonder exactly how they got to this level. Part of it plays into all the rules. When you’ve got this rules package with cars that are super easy to drive by themselves, it’s very hard for NASCAR, I think, to be able to tell who’s got it and who doesn’t.
“So it kind of puts them in a box until you actually get in a race, but one thing I would like to see, and I think I’ve been pretty consistent with this, is I would like to see drivers be able to graduate into this level and equally I’d like to see them be able to be removed from this level when they have repeated issues.
“I can’t speak enough to the gentleman that had that issue today, but I have seen in the past where drivers that have had this issue multiple times somehow are still here, where I think they should effectively be placed in a lower series or asked to go back to a more minor league level to prove their salt. But that’s ultimately not my decision to make. It’s what I would like to see, but it’s not my decision to make and until it is, I guess I should probably just shut up, but I certainly think there’s some merit to it.”
Houff posted a video on social media taking blame for the incident with Bell and DiBenedetto.
“We were trying to get to pit road and I didn’t get called off in time and the guys that were committed underneath me were already there and that’s my fault,” Houff said. “I had a spotter mirror that we use in the window on the left side of the car and it had fallen off, so I couldn’t see out of that. Rookie mistake. It’s one of those really tough learning instances. It’s unfortunate because it was a new car for us. … Only way to go is up.”
Really tough one to swallow… Hate this for my team and those I got into trying to get to pit road too late. Will just learn from this and move forward. I can’t thank @StarcomRacing and @Permatex enough for all their hard work and support. Onto @kansasspeedway pic.twitter.com/HEIcMIwvFf
— Quin Houff (@P1_Houff) July 19, 2020
The incident was the third time Houff has caused a caution in the last nine Cup races. He had an incident in the first Pocono race where he spun while underneath another car and hit the inside SAFER barrier. The StarCom Racing Twitter account stated that Houff was alongside another car and the air sucked the car around. Houff tweeted that day “Embarrassing my @StarComRacing guys don’t deserve that. We will be back stronger tomorrow!” Houff also was listed on NASCAR’s race report as being in an incident at Martinsville in June.
Houff also has had better moments on the track this season. He finished a season-best 23rd at Indianapolis, a race that saw Ryan Newman, Erik Jones, Alex Bowman and Denny Hamlin crash because of right front tire issues.
The 22-year-old Houff has 35 career Cup starts. He ran 17 races last season and has run all 18 races this year for StarCom Racing. He had 10 Xfinity starts, no Truck starts and five ARCA starts before he moved to Cup in 2019.
Kyle Busch raised a similar concern about some drivers at Las Vegas in last year’s playoffs. Busch was upset after contact with Garrett Smithley. Busch said after the race: “We’re at the top echelon of motorsports, and we’ve got guys who have never won Late Model races running on the racetrack. It’s pathetic. They don’t know where to go. What else do you do?”