IN THE DRAFT: Drivers with desire
"I want you to listen to me now, but hear me later!"
It was a line from a classic Saturday Night Live skit involving Hans and Franz, but please pay attention because being a defending champion makes it difficult to repeat as champion. Brad Keselowski and myself, we have that in common.
This past weekend was my annual golf trip with Howard, Robert and Jerry. I have mentioned them in the past so we won't go into a lot of details. All I want to say is I was the defending champion. Due to some family health concerns, we were unable to go last fall, so I had held onto the trophy for an extra year. I didn't realize how important that hardware was to me until today.
I think Keselowski might know how I feel, or maybe I know how he is going to feel in five weeks. His reign as Sprint Cup champ will be over. However his win on Saturday night in Charlotte may show notice he will be a force to be reckoned with next season.
I think it has taken Roger Penske and his teams some time to adjust from Dodge to Ford. Evidently there are more differences then we know because this has been a season for Brad to forget. The only luck he has had has been bad. Bad pit stops, fuel mileage issues, engine failures and poorly-timed caution flags. Some of it, he couldn't control, but most of it was that others stepped up their games.
I believe all of the other teams saw how hard Brad worked and the others picked it up a notch while Keselowski may have been resting on his laurels. I will never say Brad didn't want to win, but others wanted to a little bit more and that is the big difference between teams. Desire.
I saw more desire from Keselowski Saturday night than I have seen. He worked with his crew to make changes. He didn't mind mixing it up and taking a chance. Heck, he even made a lap with the jack still under the car from a pit stop. There was a chance that jack could have caused some serious damage but luckily he was able to make it around while under caution and all was saved.
I still haven't figured out how he went unpunished for that equipment being under the car. I've seen wrenches still attached to the car where they were trying to make chassis adjustments and get a penalty or the gas catch can still be stuck on the rear.
It was good to see Brad win and it was very satisfying to see someone other than a Chase driver win a race. That was the first time since 2011 someone not in the Chase won a Chase race. I have asked for years how that could happen and I was beginning to wonder if it was ever going to happen again.
Now what does all of that have to do with me? I lost the trophy this year. No, let me rephrase that. Howard won the trophy this year! He was the best of our foursome this past weekend and I couldn't have been happier.
Howard has practiced more and has played more. He had a game plan when we arrived at the Legends Golf Course and he played it to near perfection. He never wavered and thus he won the GGO. It was actually fun to watch him. If he hit a bad shot, he would think it through before making a hasty decision. In the past, that might have led to bad hole or a high score.
His determination to play a better game is similar to the other Sprint Cup teams making strides in their programs that allowed them to catch and pass Keselowski. He really hasn't done anything wrong this year, but none of it turned out right until Saturday.
I played my normal game, but this past weekend Howard was the better golfer.
Congrats to Brad but mostly congrats to Howard. It was a fun weekend for both of them. My only advice to both is don't look over your shoulder because someone may be gaining on you!
See you after Talladega and to Howard, see you at Myrtle Beach next year. I will be ready!