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Saturday May 23rd, 2015 4:54AM

Keselowski speaking up behind closed doors

By Jenna Fryer, AP Auto Racing Writer
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DAYTONA BEACH, FL (AP) - Brad Keselowski estimates he's paid between $75,000 and $100,000 in NASCAR fines in the last four years.

Signing those checks hasn't changed Keselowski's desire to be an outspoken driver pushing for change in NASCAR. He's found that since winning the 2012 Sprint Cup title, there are more avenues to voice his opinion.

Keselowski admits his approach has changed a bit in the last year, but denied he's been muzzled by NASCAR or Team Penske.

"I don't have a muzzle on my face right now, but maybe I should have," he said, laughing. "I think quite a few back channels have opened up within NASCAR over the last six to eight months that have given me the ability to not have to go to the media to get something done.

"That fits my personal and professional agenda, and out of respect for that I think it maybe creates a situation where what might look like a muzzle to (the media) or to the outside is perhaps more a moment of opportunity I just don't want to (throw) away."

Keselowski admitted there are things he could have handled differently in the last few years. Among his most outspoken moments were a rant against NASCAR's move to electronic fuel injection (he was fined $25,000), a diatribe about other teams poaching Penske employees (Roger Penske later said "Brad had some misinformation" after rival team owner Rick Hendrick blasted the drivers' claims), and a strong stance against NASCAR's requirement that all drivers undergo baseline concussion testing.

"Are there things I could do better? Absolutely," he said. "But the mistakes are what builds your character and helps you become the person that you are and that you can learn from. They're only a mistake if you don't grow and learn from them."

While Keselowski insisted he still speaks out about issues, he now often does it in private discussions with NASCAR or Penske. A year ago, comments he made to USA Today Sports about the direction of NASCAR caused a small firestorm in the days leading up to the Daytona 500. He was summoned to a private meeting with NASCAR Chairman Brian France and International Speedway CEO Lesa France Kennedy.

He described his ongoing dialogues as "healthy" and has made him "much more informed" before he speaks. He also said he participated in conversations with NASCAR prior to the overhauled Chase for the Sprint Cup championship format.

"I don't want to sit here and try to take credit for things that I didn't do on my own because that would not be fair, but I feel confident that I had at least some small role in some of the changes that have gone on in this sport over this off season, and I'm very happy for all of them," Keselowski said.

"I'm still going to be vocal about something that I disagree about that there's no progress or no change being made on. But if there's progress or change being made, then why be a (jerk)?"
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