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A tale of two Penske teammates

CONCORD, N.C. — To hear Kurt Busch talk, his team is struggling and maybe some behind-the-scenes changes will save the season. Then there's Brad Keselowski, excited about three weeks of progress.

That's the enigma that is Penske Racing's Sprint Cup team. Keselowski starts today's Coca-Cola 600 from the pole, and defending winner Busch goes off 26th.

Keselowski doesn't sugarcoat things, saying the NASCAR side of Penske's operation has areas that need improvement. But he does it with an eagerness that implies good things are coming.

Busch is the opposite. His outlook seems dreary, and he's angry with the media for harping on his in-race radio communications, which have gone from maniacal rants to near despondency over the past month.

"To be honest, if (Busch) didn't have that approach, I probably would adopt it, because you keep trying different things until you get what you want," Keselowski said. "I spent all last year being quiet and not saying, 'Hey, this car is really, really bad' to the media. But they were really, really bad.

"At the same time, Kurt was running well, and I didn't have a leg to stand on with that. This year my cars have gotten better. Kurt has had his struggles. But it's somewhat refreshing to have someone that can speak up have a voice, have the credibility of being a past champion and past winner, and those around him, perhaps, listen more intently."

Busch apparently does make things happen behind the scenes.

His radio tirade at Richmond this month was epic, and the fallout led to organizational meetings. Less than two weeks later, technical director Tom German left in what the team called a long-planned opportunity to attend an elite graduate program at MIT.

It's a far cry from Penske's IndyCar operation, which goes for its 16th Indianapolis 500 today and has Will Power leading the points standings.

Busch opened the season as the driver to beat at the Daytona 500 after winning the Shootout and one Duel. Top-10 finishes in the first four races made him the points leader for two weeks, but he hasn't had a top-10 since.

"I feel like we have to go into each race optimistic and positive so that you can find good results," Busch said. "At the end of the day, Roger Penske and I agree that as long as you put yourself in position to do well, no matter what the outcome is, those are good days. But when you're running 15th just clawing to hang onto the lead lap, those aren't days that we need."

Keselowski started miserably, including finishing 33rd and 36th at Talladega and Richmond, respectively. He responded to comments Busch made about not having teammates who can outrun him with a third at Darlington, a 13th at Dover and a second in the All-Star race.

"You go through spikes, and then you have your plateaus. Some are high, and some are low. It's really hard," Keselowski said. "You get out of the car and say, 'What am I doing? We're terrible. I'd rather work at McDonald's than run 40th in Cup.' I hate it.

"It's that drive that keeps you going. You need moments of inspiration or motivation for no other reason to kind of shut up that devil on your shoulder that's saying, 'I need to do something else.' "

A tale of two Penske teammates 05/28/11 [Last modified: Saturday, May 28, 2011 10:15pm]
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