Sunday, November 18, 2012

'What part of no brakes don't you understand?'

   During Sunday's Ford 400, Joey Meier, the spotter for driver Brad Keselowski, made a comment over the team radio referencing a quote, "What part of he doesn't have any brakes don't you understand"?

   After clinching his first Sprint Cup Series championship, Keselowski was asked the meaning behind the statement. It turns out, it relates to a story from a race early in Keselowski's career.

   Let him tell you the story:

   “Joey (Meier) is my spotter, and the first time I worked with him was -- it might have -- it was the first couple races I worked.  I'm not going to say it was the first time but really close to the first time, I was at Charlotte in 2007 in the spring race, and my dad was crew chiefing, and we were driving -- I was driving, I should say, this car for this guy out of Kentucky, and it was really underfunded and we made the show.  And keep in mind 2007 was a really tough year to make the Nationwide races with all the double digit cars and so forth, and we made the show and it was great and it was anything I could have dreamed it of, and it was just one of those starting to break in.

   “So Joey is alluding to that because we were together as we were breaking in, or he had already been part of the sport but I was breaking in with him and that's when our relationship really started. And so anyway, this race -- there's two parts to this story.  We changed our right front spring once in practice, and Paul will appreciate this because he's a crew chief and a car guy, but in order to put a right front spring in you've got to lower the suspension down, and these cars have brake lines in them, and it's flexible brake line, but the way the spring went in the brake line was too short and it broke.

   “So we changed the spring and I went out on the track, and about that time, the yellow came out for practice, somebody wrecked, and it was right at the end of practice, and so practice got canceled right there, but I was already out on the line. And for those of you that have been to Charlotte and know how that works, at the end of Nationwide practice, Cup qualifying begins, and so for whatever reason, I don't remember exactly why, instead of doing a lap around the track and returning to the garage, everybody did like this half lap backwards down that quarter-mile track they have at Charlotte.  Well, I didn't realize I didn't have any brakes.  We grabbed like second or third gear, we're going like 65 miles an hour backwards around this racetrack, and I make this right-hander into the quarter mile, and the whole Cup field is there for qualifying, and I mean the whole Cup field, and I'm going like 60 miles an hour, and I go to hit the brakes. Nothing.

   "All I can see is all these people, all these cars, and Jeff Gordon's car is right in front of me.  I've got no brakes, and I'm out of control. So I make this hard left and go through the infield, and I just tear this car all up, and the wrecker driver comes and gets me, and he yells in the window in this very southern voice a couple obscenities, basically saying what were you doing. I'm like, I didn't have any brakes. So as it would happen, we replaced that brake line with another brake line that just happened to be even shorter and broke in the race. So we get in the race and we do this first run in the race, and I'm running pretty good, I'm running like 15th or 20th, which again, for where I was at in my career was great, it was awesome. That was all I could ask for.

   “And there's a green flag pit cycle, and getting ready for the green flag pit cycle and I pushed the brakes, we're halfway through the run and the brake line breaks off this car, and so this car won't stop, won't stop.  So we talk about it for 15, 20 laps, and we're talking about when this green flag pit stop comes we're going to have to get the car stopped because the car is not going to stop, it's got no brakes. And we get on pit road and I go to pull into my pit stall and everybody jumps across the wall, jack in hand, everything, and everyone forgot that I had no brakes, and I just, vroom, right through the pit stall.

   “So I go -- this is in the middle of green flag pit stops, so I am like 20 boxes down, no brakes, so the whole crew runs over and starts to push the car backwards, and I get -- Joey is spotting the whole time, and Joey is over the radio, oh, my God, and Joey is real exaggerated about it.  They're pushing my car backwards really, really fast, and I get five stalls away, and they're pushing me backwards, and they do this like push off motion like a bobsled. So what happens?  I still have no brakes.  So I'm going down pit road at what feels like 35 miles an hour.  I know a human being can only run like 10 or 15, but it felt like this car was going 30 miles an hour backwards under green in the middle of green flag pit stops, no brakes.  And of course so what happens, I go flying through the pit box backwards and almost end up on the racetrack backwards.

   “My dad comes over the radio at that moment and goes, 'What part of no brakes don't you understand?'  And he just goes off on these crew guys. For me and for Joey, that was one of those moments where we bonded together and just have told that story, and Joey has been with me almost ever since. So that's how far Joey and I have come together. But we still tell that story all the time. So now you know the story. That's my racing story.
   “I don't think you guys have heard that, either, have you?"

   Not until now.

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