2012 champion believes 'a new era' has come with current Chase format Play: NASCAR Fantasy Live CHARLOTTE, N.C. – It's hard to determine if Brad Keselowski relishes his "anti-establishment" image in the world of NASCAR, but one thing is clear – the former Sprint Cup Series champion remains unapologetic for the way he races and the fallout that’s been known to follow. "You know you're doing something … right in this sport when you're racing the establishment and you make them upset," Keselowski, 30, said Wednesday during the annual Charlotte Motor Speedway Media Tour presented by Technocom. "When you make them upset under the terms that I did – I made guys mad racing for the win, it wasn't racing for 20th. "If you get in a wreck and a fight racing for 20th, that doesn't make SportsCenter. You get in a wreck and a fight with a previous champion racing for a championship, going for a win then you're probably doing the right things." The Team Penske driver won a career-best six races last season and he and teammate Joey Logano were consistently fast throughout the course of the 36-race season. But it was incidents during the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup with Joe Gibbs Racing drivers Denny Hamlin and Matt Kenseth at Charlotte, as well as a post-race brawl at Texas with four-time champion Jeff Gordon , that thrust Keselowski, and the sport, into the glare of the national spotlight. Kenseth and Gordon both questioned not only Keselowski's actions on the track, but his unrepentant attitude after such incidents. Hamlin simply described he 2012 champ as "out of control." Keselowski said such episodes either during the race or afterward didn't affect him personally. Taking a big picture view, such altercations showed that "there's a new era coming in this sport with this Chase," he said. "Honestly, it's already arrived. You're going to have to be very aggressive to win championships under this format. That was probably the lesson I learned – more so about the sport than anything else." That others were angry, he said, wasn't surprising, noting "you should be upset when you don't win." The Chase format – which consists of four rounds with wins in any round by a qualified driver guaranteeing advancement into the next round – increased the on-track intensity and aggressive nature of the competition 10-fold. Evidence was impossible to miss. "We certainly saw that with some moves I made, and I wasn't the only driver," he said. "We saw that out of Kevin (Harvick) at the end; and Ryan Newman at the end. And I'm sure there was more than that. I don't view that as a bad thing. I think that's great for the sport. I think our fans will respond to that in the long term; that's what we should be aiming for is what makes our fans happy." Racing defensively and protecting one's position went out the window with the new format, he said, noting that, "when that … mentality disappears from how the races play out, you see more aggressiveness. "I think you see more heated moments. You see a lot of different things that I think are, in general, good for the sport." FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule
Organization to utilize Team Penske alliance in 2015 Play: NASCAR Fantasy Live Leavine Family Racing team owner Bob Leavine recalls when he signed his driver Michael McDowell with a fondness that stems from respect on and off the track. "We interviewed four drivers and I had seen Michael in the garage,” Levine said during Charlotte Media Tour on Wednesday. “The time he took with fans was in line with our family values, the way he treated people. “A good driver, and he wasn't driving the best cars in the world. I knew that we didn't have many, but what we were putting on the track was good. So I just thought that it would be a good fit from what we were trying to accomplish." Fast forward a year and the small family-owned Sprint Cup Series team is headed in a direction that both the driver and team are excited about. McDowell, 29, is expected to run a minimum of 20 Sprint Cup Series races in 2015, trumping last year’s number. Last season, he qualified for all but three Cup events that he attempted, nabbing notable finishes at Daytona (seventh) and Bristol (18th), a victory that McDowell said he would have celebrated by popping champagne at his hauler if any had been available. “The thing about that (Bristol) race for us is we ran where we finished most of the day,” McDowell said with a smile. “For a small Sprint Cup team to be in the teens and the low 20s, that’s a great day for us. “For us, to run where we’ve run all night and to finish it off was definitely a confidence builder and momentum for us.” The No. 95 driver appears to be sticking with the big boys for now, despite his strong finishes in the few races run with XFINITY Series in 2014. “I love running in the XFINITY Series. I’ve had a lot of great runs in the last few years,” McDowell said. “… I hope that I’ll have a few opportunities again to run some races, but there’s nothing permanent on the schedule right now. But having a part-time schedule in the Sprint Cup Series gives me a little bit of flexibility. “Now with a tighter alliance with Team Penske and a tighter alliance with Ford, it’s eliminated some of the opportunities with Joe Gibbs Racing and Toyota and those things.” This season marks the second season of the organization’s technical alliance with Team Penske , a partnership that Leavine thinks will aid the 14-person team on improving from last season. “It’s just a different mindset,” Leavine said. “… Roger (Penske) wasn’t willing to accept anything less than perfect. And that’s contagious." The fever seems to have spread to the organization's shop in Concord, North Carolina, as Leavine describes the team’s readiness to improve and be even more competitive next season. And that’s just what McDowell plans to do. “We want to be in the mix and we want to be in the conversation and we feel like at the end of the year last year, we were getting to that point,” McDowell said. “But we’d just like to be able to do that more consistently. And that’s the focus this year. "You can’t always hit home runs, but if we could hit doubles every game and eventually we’re going to get a few home runs in there and that’s really what we’re focused on.” FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule
After rejecting 'easy' decision to leave, veteran embraces team's new outlook Play: NASCAR Fantasy Live CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- For all the change that Roush Fenway Racing has undergone entering the 2015 NASCAR season, Greg Biffle remains the organization's constant, a cornerstone driver who first started his career with team owner Jack Roush in the Camping World Truck Series in 1998. But with the team firmly in rebuilding mode after its recent slide toward substandard performance, Biffle shed light on just how close he came to following the path of two prominent former teammates out the door. Biffle plumbed the depths of the company's recent low points Wednesday during the annual Charlotte Motor Speedway Media Tour presented by Technocom, saying that he had fielded offers from "great teams" to drive elsewhere. Ultimately, the 45-year-old driver made the choice to stay, in an effort to help lead the team out of its dark days. "You know, loyalty in this world only goes so far," Biffle said. "… I felt like I had to wrestle with the decision on whether I leave or not. It makes it easy to leave, it's easy to kick a guy when he's down, right? So we were having tremendous trouble last year, and I've been there through three of these cycles, and we're not going to sugar-coat it -- last year, we were at the bottom of the heap compared to the teams. We just were, and no light at the end of the tunnel, and so it would've been an easy way for me to leave at that point. "But knowing that the stock is at the lowest price that it's been at, sometimes that's the opportunity. It's going to go up. It doesn't have to, but logic says it's going to go up, and so I wrestled with it and sat long and hard about it and said, 'I want to be the guy that brings this organization back out of where we're at. We're in a bad place. I could jump ship right now.' And I decided I didn't want to do that. I was going to give it another opportunity." Biffle's tenure with Roush Fenway includes an enviable collection of career highlights -- 19 victories in the top-level Sprint Cup Series and championships in both the XFINITY Series (2002) and the truck circuit (2000). Even though he managed to qualify for last season's Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup playoffs, his losing streak stretched to 57 -- nearing the longest dry spell of his career. Only Carl Edwards won races at the Sprint Cup level for RFR last year, and he departed in the offseason to restart his career at Joe Gibbs Racing . That move followed a similar career shift by Matt Kenseth -- another longtime Roush Fenway competitor -- just two years earlier. Biffle could've been the third domino to fall, but even with all the frayed emotions, the connections he'd established over the years kept him from severing those ties. "I stayed for relationships and things that I had built for a long period of time that I really cared about, and that was one of my decisions that really weighed on me to stay," Biffle said. "After I elected to stay, other people didn't and so I was left holding the bag a little bit, but I can't say enough about the partnerships that we've created since then. "I can talk forever about what's gone on, and I hate to keep -- so to speak, the cliché -- beat the dead horse. We all recognized the position we were in last year. We were drowning and we were trying to get to the surface, and it was difficult on all of us. All the relationships were all taxed, between me and my crew chief, the other drivers, the team engineers, the simulation group, and then fabrication, the guys hanging the (car) bodies. We were all taxed because we were not performing." Roush Fenway president Steve Newmark admitted that the offseason mission of rebuilding the team's stature in the sport had come with some soul searching. The organization has made plenty of offseason strides to meet the goals -- primarily through digging to the root cause of what went wrong in 2014 and closing the gap on its rivals in the technology department. But it's also revamped its mindset in more subtle ways, freshening the look of the shop and bringing it up to more state-of-the-art standards. Even though the overhaul has been dramatic, Newmark said losing Biffle was a change the team couldn't afford to withstand. "It was critical," Newmark said. "Greg and I spent a lot of time talking. He was solicited by a lot of teams, which I would expect with a driver of that caliber. After a lot of the discussions, I think he felt like Roush was the right fit for him and the right place, and he and Jack had some unfinished business. But he brings an element that we wouldn't have had without him. We have a lot of other talented drivers, but none of them has had the history with both our organization and the championships, so he's been fantastic." Though Biffle cracked in his opening remarks that Jack Roush, 72, had been racing Ford products since 1901, it's clear the team has begun to skew younger as it enters its 28th year in NASCAR. Biffle will race alongside third-year driver Ricky Stenhouse Jr ., 27, and 23-year-old Trevor Bayne , promoted to his first full season in the Sprint Cup Series. Change isn't all bad, as Biffle was quick to mention the championship fruits of the first-year partnership between Kevin Harvick and Stewart-Haas Racing last season. Taken a step further, Biffle said Roush Fenway's expectations equal those of the title-winning No. 4 team. "We're all that confident," Biffle said. "We all feel that good that that's the position we're in now. Everyone's so excited about the way our company looks, about how everybody's getting along and how excited everybody is to work together again, and on a common goal. We all feel really good." FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule
There appears to be room for improvement between Toyota teams RELATED: Latest from Charlotte Media Tour CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Clint Bowyer disagreed with Kyle Busch 's style of delivery, but when Busch said the Toyota teams of Michael Waltrip Racing and Joe Gibbs Racing were "idiots" for not working as closely together as other alliances, Bowyer couldn't deny the importance of that type of collaboration in today's NASCAR Sprint Cup Series racing. The success of teams like Hendrick Motorsports and Stewart-Haas Racing working together has provided a strong example to follow, with drivers from each of those four-car super teams claiming the past two championships and three of the past four. And like it or not, that could be putting more pressure on others to follow suit. "I wish we could go back to no simulation, no testing, show up with a group of guys and get the most out of a weekend," Bowyer said Tuesday at the Charlotte Motor Speedway Media Tour presented by Technocom. "Unfortunately, those days are over. ... The success, I'm afraid from here on out, is going to be in numbers." Those numbers grew when Joe Gibbs Racing expanded to four Cup cars for the 2015 season, adding veteran driver Carl Edwards to a team of Busch, Denny Hamlin and Matt Kenseth . Between JGR's four Toyotas and Michael Waltrip Racing 's two full-time cars, the teams appear to be better positioned to work together. But that's not what's happening, according to Busch. "I'm very vocal about it because I feel like we're idiots by not continuing to work in the right direction in order to put our companies together and do the right things for Toyota and for all of us collectively," Busch said Monday. "Nothing has happened where Joe Gibbs Racing and Michael Waltrip Racing are going to collectively work together as in-depthly as Stewart-Haas Racing and Hendrick Motorsports are." Bowyer admitted HMS and SHR are setting the benchmark for team alliances, because, as he says, you're racing against eight cars and their collective information when you take on those teams on a weekly basis. So what is it that MWR and JGR can do better? "No doubt, more data points would be potentially more helpful," MWR co-owner Rob Kauffman said. "That's something that if we can work with our fellow Toyota teams to collaborate in that regard, we'd certainly like to do that. It's really a three-legged stool between MWR, JGR and Toyota TRD as they call themselves. That's kind of how we're organized amongst ourselves as we look at all of those three points and what can you do to raise the level of those three together." Michael Waltrip agreed with Kauffman that more could be done between the two teams. "Could we collaborate on more? Yes, and I think that's ultimately the goal," Waltrip said. "I think everyone sees the success that organizations have by working together." But Waltrip pointed out that the super-team approach isn't the only way to reach success in Sprint Cup . "Well, then you look at Roger's (Penske) two cars and they do pretty good and there's only two of them," Waltrip said. "We feel like that there's going to be some advantages by collaborating with Gibbs more and we continue to work toward that." Of course Bowyer, in his own tongue-in-cheek way, had a suggestion for better cooperation between the teams. "If we could get Kyle to work better with us, I think it would be beneficial for sure," Bowyer said with a laugh. MORE: Bowyer on Gordon: 'It's kind of like a divorce' FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule
Busch says he hasn't 'spoken to' older brother regarding domestic abuse allegations RELATED: Monday's best quotes from the Charlotte Media Tour CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Kyle Busch said Monday that he has steered clear of involving himself in older brother Kurt's recent legal issues, even though reporting mistakes have confused the two. Kurt Busch has been the center of an investigation for allegations of domestic assault by the Dover (Del.) Police Department since November, two months after an alleged incident took place at Dover International Speedway . The elder Busch has not commented on the incident or investigation, except through court testimony or statements from his attorney, Rusty Hardin. The younger Busch, speaking Monday at the Joe Gibbs Racing portion of the Charlotte Motor Speedway Media Tour, said that he has taken a hands-off approach to the developments. "Haven't spoken to him," Kyle Busch said. "Don't know nothing and I'm trying to stay away from it all and let him handle his business. "Obviously, it's got to be painful for him and you don't ever want to see anybody go through this sort of thing, but I don't know. Besides not wanting to get too far involved in it, that's about all I want to say." But the younger brother has been indirectly involved through erroneous reporting. Kyle Busch said he bristled at seeing his name attached to tweets or reports concerning the case. "I think it's stupid," he said. "I think people need to do a little bit more background before they write names or say names if they don't know what the heck they are talking about. It's not that hard to differentiate between two people that have the same last name. I think people need to do a better job and not be so slackish." FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule
All the members of Joe Gibbs Racing take the stage to talk about the upcoming 2015 season, starting off the NASCAR Sprint Media Tour in Charlotte.
Get all the latest news from NASCAR.com Nearly 250 journalists have gathered to take part in the 33rd annual Charlotte Motor Speedway Media Tour presented by Technocom from Jan. 26-29. You're invited to watch team presentations live on NASCAR.com. NASCAR Chairman and CEO Brian France's state of the sport sets the tone. In addition, key executives will provide updates on the 2015 racing season, Daytona International Speedway 's Daytona Rising initiative and the 2015 NASCAR Drive for Diversity class will be introduced. Get the full schedule below and stay tuned to NASCAR.com for stories, video and more. Monday, Jan. 26 1:30 p.m. ET: State of the Sport with NASCAR Chairman and CEO Brian France NEWS: -- France talks Chase, Gordon in State of Sport address -- France: No changes to Chase format for 2015 -- NASCAR to police flared skirts in 2015 -- Rolex 24 provides trial for new pit technology -- Drive for Diversity Class of 2015 revealed " Official NASCAR release -- Best quotes from Day 1 of Charlotte Media Tour 4 p.m. ET: Joe Gibbs Racing NEWS: -- Hamlin revisits feud with Keselowski -- JGR enters four-car fray with optimism -- Edwards eager to keep latest trend going -- Ky. Busch comments on brother Kurt's situation Tuesday, Jan. 27 9 a.m. ET: Michael Waltrip Racing NEWS: -- Moffitt to sub for Vickers at Atlanta -- Vickers back from health scare 'to win a championship' -- Bowyer on Gordon: 'It's kind of like a divorce' -- MWR reacts to Ky. Busch's 'idiots' statement 11 a.m. ET: JTG Daugherty Racing and HScott Motorsports NEWS: -- Annett joins HScott Motorsports -- Best quotes from Day 2 1 p.m. ET: Stewart-Haas Racing NEWS: -- For reigning champion Harvick, pressure is off -- After two tough years, Stewart ready to win again -- Gordon news catches Stewart off-guard -- Danica doubts she'll ever do the double -- Busch faces press at Charlotte Media Tour 3:15 p.m. ET: NBC Sports NEWS: -- NBC Sports 'thrilled' to be part of NASCAR coverage -- Burton, Letarte weigh in on Gordon's final season -- Toyota's NASCAR stars team up with NFL legends Wednesday, Jan. 28 9 a.m. ET: Roush Fenway Racing NEWS: -- Staying put, Biffle aims to lead Roush reversal -- Stenhouse has own version of 'beast mode' -- New team ready to roll for Roush Fenway -- Bubba Wallace takes hobby to new heights 11 a.m. ET: Richard Petty Motorsports NEWS: -- Hornish looks to build at growing RPM -- RPM lands sponsor for No. 9 at Daytona -- Almirola predicts 2015 to be a breakout season for RPM -- Air Force returns to sponsor No. 43 1:30 p.m. ET: Wood Brothers Racing and Leavine Family Racing NEWS: -- Wood Brothers expands to 18 races -- Leavine team extends with Thrivent -- McDowell, Leavine on the rise 3:15 p.m. ET: Team Penske NEWS: -- Best quotes from media tour -- Keselowski unapologetic for aggressive style -- Logano already on second wedding ring Thursday, Jan. 29 9 a.m. ET: Furniture Row Racing NEWS: -- Furniture Row adds associate sponsor -- Pearn prepared to be Truex Jr's crew chief -- Truex: 'Wild ride' with Pollex nears normalcy 10:30 a.m. ET: Richard Childress Racing NEWS: -- WIX re-ups with RCR, Grainger joins up with Newman -- Newman eager to build off late season gains -- Dillon looks to apply rookie season lessons -- With brother Ty married, will Austin be next? 1 p.m. ET: Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates NEWS: -- Sabates guarantees Chase for CGR fleet -- McMurray, Larson talk Rolex 24 3 p.m. ET: Hendrick Motorsports NEWS: -- Elliott to drive No. 24 car in 2016 -- Gordon: 'Elliott is the 'total package' -- Bruce: Hendrick shows no hesitation -- Junior, Kahne discuss crew chief changes -- Gordon, Hendrick reflect on decision -- Gordon open to Stewart's Eldora offer -- Gordon says No. 24 team in good hands FULL SERIES COVERAGE • Latest news • Standings • Schedule
Title contender, team owner have long and unique history together RELATED: Follow your picks in the Chase Battle Grid Presented by Toyota HOMESTEAD, Fla. -- It's a moment Denny Hamlin still remembers vividly, when as a bright-eyed 11-year-old fan of the NFL's Washington Redskins, he famously told Coach Joe Gibbs that he'd love to win a championship driving for him someday. Come Sunday, he'll have another great opportunity to make good on his childhood dream. Hamlin enters Sunday's season finale (3 p.m. ET, ESPN) at Homestead-Miami Speedway as one of the four drivers vying for their first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series championship. As he has for the duration of his nine-year career in stock-car racing's top division, he'll be carrying the flag for Joe Gibbs Racing behind the wheel of his familiar No. 11. "It would mean a lot. I'm still with the race team that gave me my start and not only that, the sponsor, too," Hamlin said. "We have a long relationship with Joe Gibbs Racing and FedEx and even the team members that work on my race car that have been with me from the very, very start -- it would be so gratifying to win the championship for them. They've worked their guts out and even though this year hasn't produced results that we expect and the expectations that we expect to hit when we hit the race track, we find ourselves in a winner-take-all type format for one race and we know anything can happen." In 1992, Hamlin was impatiently waiting at an autograph session to meet Gibbs , who had just finished leading the Redskins to their third Super Bowl title. The team owner was also getting his fledgling single-team stock-car racing operation off the ground with Dale Jarrett, now a NASCAR Hall of Famer, as his driver. That's when pre-teen Hamlin saw his chance to tout his still-developing go-karting skills, drawing what he characterized as a "there, there, now run along" type of response from the veteran coach. He also got the autograph on a hat he cherished, only to have the keepsake fly out his school bus window during one of his spells of restlessness on the ride home. Hamlin said he "cried for two weeks" after the autographed cap went missing, but that he never lost his loyalty to the man who would one day become his car owner. "He's a great guy and what I love is that I'm driving for a family organization," Hamlin said. "I want to win it so bad for them because they are all in this sport. If their race team goes under they got nothing -- they have nothing. To race for an owner that lives and breathes racing like Joe does and he's at the race shop every morning when that shop door opens and that means a lot to me. There would be no other person more gratifying to win this for than him, especially a guy that I looked up to as a kid." Hamlin's best shot at a championship before this weekend came in 2010. He led the Sprint Cup standings entering the Homestead finale, but an early race spin left his car with splitter damage and an uphill climb. Jimmie Johnson capitalized and went on to secure the fifth of his sixth titles. Gibbs said Hamlin was "absolutely devastated" by the defeat, taking the brunt of the blame. This time around, the coach says he sees a more mature driver on the cusp of a championship. Hamlin, for one, says he notices a considerable difference in his approach, four years later. "Just playing this game way more relaxed," Hamlin said, describing his self-induced tension on the eve of the 2010 finale. "I didn't do anything that night, didn't want anyone coming in -- just wanted to focus on what I needed to do, but that wasn't what got me to that point. It was being myself and having my friends and family around -- playing cards before driver intros, whatever it took to loosen me up. That's what I did for 35 races and I changed that for one race and it won't be the case this time around. Just racing much looser and having fun with this moment. You never know, especially with this type of format. Live it up and have some fun." MORE: READ: Latest Chase news PLAY: Monitor your Chase Grid Game picks WATCH: Latest NASCAR video FOLLOW LIVE: Get RaceView FULL CHASE COVERAGE • Chase hub page • Chase Grid games • #MyChaseNation
Joe Gibbs Racing history, full crews of Denny Hamlin, Kyle Busch and Matt Kenseth
Rutledge Wood sits down with Joe and JD Gibbs to discuss safe driving and the importance of taking the Safe Driving Pledge from Toyota.