AVONDALE, Ariz. — Brad Keselowski made news last week for posting on Twitter from the backstretch during a long delay in the Daytona 500.
But his reasons for keeping a phone in his car have nothing to do with his Twitter account.
"The reason why I keep a phone in my car — it's a lengthy story," said Keselowski, who picked up more than 100,000 followers of his Twitter musings during the two-hour stoppage Monday that followed Juan Montoya's collision with a jet dryer and subsequent fuel fire.
Keselowski's story goes back more than four years.
"I was in California, driving for Dale Earnhardt Jr., and I had just gotten the ride to drive his No. 88 car (in NASCAR's Nationwide series). We were running a race there, and I got in a really bad accident. They airlifted me off, and obviously, my family wasn't there … and they had no idea what status I was in, and quite frankly, neither did I."
Keselowski arrived at a hospital in Los Angeles with no phone, no clothes, no wallet and no idea where he was.
"As far as I knew, I was like in an Army test lab," he said.
Keselowski can joke now, but it was difficult. Not only was he helpless and lost, he couldn't tell his mother that he was all right until hours after the accident, when a team public relations person loaned him her phone.
Since then, Keselowski has kept his phone in a pocket of his fire suit every race.
Fast forward to August 2011 at Road Atlanta, where he broke an ankle in a testing crash. He called his mom immediately.
"The difference was that I had my phone with me," he said. "And I had my phone because testing, you know, it gets really boring, monotonous. You sit in the car for an hour while they make a change."
NASCAR has been encouraging its drivers to be active on social media and had no problem with Keselowski having the phone, or with him sending tweets during Monday's red flag.
But Keselowski, 28, has stirred a debate as to whether phones should be allowed in cars during races. NASCAR prohibits teams from having recording devices in the car that are not for competition purposes, and two-way communication devices are supposed to be analog only.
"Where does it end?" Denny Hamlin said. "Do you text or tweet during cautions, and then you look up and run into the guy behind you? There's certain parameters we've got to all play in, but if I'm thinking about winning the race, I'm not thinking about social media when I'm under that green flag or yellow flag or any of those conditions."
Most drivers asked about it in Phoenix didn't seem to mind that Keselowski had his phone or was tweeting, and didn't even realize they were allowed to have phones in their cars. Many joked about the attention Keselowski generated, and Kevin Harvick ranted about having one more thing for his team to pay attention to.
"I'm going to look for every app I can for mile-per-hour, GPS mapping and anything I can find to put in my car," Harvick joked. "I'm looking for it because I'm looking to outlaw this rule as fast as I can because I don't want to have to keep up with it. I have found a mile-per-hour app, so that'll be good down pit road."
Anyway, Keselowski's tweets at Daytona were just a matter of opportunity. "I didn't put (a phone) in my car thinking we were going to have a red flag at Daytona for a guy hitting a jet dryer and causing an explosion," he said. "I didn't have that much foresight."