Ford Performance NASCAR: Brad Keselowski Looks To Defend Last Year’s Sprint Cup Win at Kentucky

Ford Performance NSCS Notes and Quotes
Quaker State 400 Advance – Kentucky Speedway
Thursday, July 9, 2015

Brad Keselowski, driver of the No. 2 Miller Lite Ford Fusion, has one victory this season and is the defending winner of this weekend’s Quaker State 400.  He visited the infield media center to talk about a variety of issues, including NASCAR’s new rules package that is debuting here at Kentucky Speedway.

BRAD KESELOWSKI – No. 2 Miller Lite Ford Fusion – CAN YOU TALK ABOUT THIS TRACK AND ABOUT THE NEW RULES PACKAGE?  “My first thought was I walked in through the other room and there are three really nice jukeboxes over there and I’m told that if you win the race you get the jukebox.  Where was that last year?  New sponsor.  I want a jukebox.  I like that.  I think more tracks should work to have cool, unique trophies, so thank you Kentucky Speedway for that and hopefully I can take one home.  I know Martinsville has the clock and California had that Woodie vehicle, so I’d really like to get something cool and unique.  This is a great track for us.  I look at it as one of those places that we kind of circle on the calendar for our team.  I saw something pretty interesting that this is the last mile-and-a-half before the Chase starts.  That just really hit me hard because to win the championship you have to win the mile-and-a-halves.  The championship is the mile-and-a-halves.  Literally, the last race is a mile-and-a-half.  Every bracket has a mile-and-a-half in it.  If you’re going to win the championship, you have to win the mile-and-a-halves and this is the last one before the Chase.  Whoever is strong here this weekend, this is really their last chance to work and evolve into a spec or an iteration for their team to showcase strengths for what’s gonna count in a championship stretch.  So I think that hit me really hard and, for that reason, we’re looking for some really big things out of the 2 car this weekend.  It’s my goal to win another championship.  We’re not 100 percent where we want to be to do that, but we’re in position in the sense of having a win and being locked into the Chase and having some great tracks ahead for us.  I’m really pumped about this part of the schedule.  I’m pumped about being here in Kentucky.  I’m not really sure how to answer the rules package question other than it’s the same for everyone and may the best team and driver that’s up to the challenge win, and I think we have a shot at being just that.  I’m kind of just ready to go, ready for the rain to blow out and, all in all, very enthusiastic about this weekend.”

CAN YOU DESCRIBE WHAT YOU SAW THROUGH THE WHOLE ACCIDENT AT DAYTONA?  “Kind of the sad part is I was honestly embarrassed that I hit Austin that long after the wreck.  A bunch of people asked me questions about it, but there was just so much debris that even being as far behind as I was you couldn’t slow down from 200 miles an hour.  That was frustrating.  I felt very, very lucky when I got out of my car and went to Austin and saw that he was OK.  I think those are really the thoughts that stick out to me the most.  It’s just not a good deal.”

DID YOU SEE THE WHOLE INCIDENT?  “Yeah, I had a little more than probably I wish I would have had.  It was a spectacle for sure.”

YOU DON’T LIKE TALKING ABOUT IT, DO YOU?  “It’s easy to get caught up on last week and forget the task ahead that’s this week.  Whether it’s good or bad I try not to do that.  The reality is that’s a restrictor plate race track.  There are four of those races on the schedule and we’re through three of them.  I still want to go to Talladega and win, but I’m not spending a lot of time thinking about a restrictor plate race.  I’m thinking about this race for the reason stated earlier.  This is a really big race for seeing who is gonna have what it takes to win the championship over the next few months when we get to crunch time.  I’m ready.  I’m thinking about that.  I haven’t thought that much about Daytona.”

WHAT WILL IT BE LIKE FOR THE TRUCK RACERS WHO ARE NEW TO THIS TRACK AND WON’T HAVE ANY PRACTICE BEFORE THE RACE TONIGHT?  “I went through that situation once personally in 2004.  I went to Kansas Speedway for what I think was my first mile-and-a-half truck race and it just rained and rained and rained.  We finally got to race with no practice and no qualifying and when they dropped the green I just remember how crazy it was.  None of the trucks were set up for the track because we didn’t have any practice.  The drivers weren’t really ready, and I think we wrecked like 10 or 15 times in that race.  I got caught up in one of them, which was pretty devastating personally because we didn’t have a big budget or even another truck at the time.  Now when I look at it, I went and told my two drivers – Tyler Reddick and Ryan Blaney – about that experience and told them to be ready because they’re not set up for the track.  When the drivers aren’t prepared usually these are the craziest of races, so just try to be prepared and get through it – survival.”

THE ONLY MISTAKE YOU MADE LAST YEAR HERE WAS IN VICTORY LANE.  GIVEN THE DOMINANCE OF LAST YEAR IS THERE ANYTHING THAT WORKS FROM LAST YEAR THAT CARRIES OVER TO THIS YEAR GIVEN THE NEW RULES PACKAGE.  “First off, Paul would tell you I made a lot more mistakes than that.  We re-watched the race in the hauler yesterday while it was raining and he pointed out a bunch of them.  I get a good reminder of those from both my dad and Paul, but as far as how the package carries over I think it’s pretty similar.  Although the aero balance is a little different in the car – aero balance meaning how much downforce they make in the front and the rear – I’ve always kind of thought of this as more of a mechanical grip track because of the bumps, and none of those rules have changed that should affect us.  The cars are still on the ride height rule, where they’re let down and all that, so I think most everything carries over, or at least we hope because that’s how we’re going to approach it.”

WHAT ASPECTS OF WHAT YOU CAN LEARN HERE MAY PROVE USEFUL IN THE CHASE, ESPECIALLY WITH THE POSSIBILITY OF HAVING NEW RULES PACKAGES FOR SPECIFIC TRACKS?  “Certainly if NASCAR goes with this aero package for the Chase, which I can’t speak for them if that’s the plan or not, then there’s a lot to be learned that will carry over, which is probably the biggest thing.  You said something at the start about varying packages for different tracks.  I’m in that camp and on that team that says that’s what’s gonna take our sport to the next level as far as the quality of racing is concerned is developing genre-specific packages for the tracks with the realization that when the Car of Tomorrow and the Generation 6 car came out, I think it was designed to perform at a higher level at the plate tracks and, in some way, whether it was intentional or not, the road courses and we’ve seen the road course races and the plate tracks in that time – the last seven or eight years – kind of turn into some of what I think most of the industry and its fans would recognize as the best racing our sport has to offer right now.  That, to me, is a huge marker for rules development for the car’s packages.  We feel like as drivers we know the package that we need to put on the best racing and it’s somewhere around the marks that we had 10 years ago, downforce-wise, power-wise, etc.  But the reality was that was not perhaps the best racing for road courses and superspeedways in terms of both the quality of racing and the safety perspective.  So I think what that comes back to is kind of a self-awareness that the sport is starting to grow, that I’m very supportive of, that running the same rules package or car at every race track, despite glaring differences in layouts, is probably not in the best interest of this sport.  To see us grow self-aware of that as I’ve seen over the last month, I think, is a very bright spot for the sport and its future in terms of the quality of racing.  I guess to circle back to the start of your question, I’m really supportive of that and think that could be very significant for our sport going forward.”

THE 22 TEAM IN THE XFINITY SERIES HAS BEEN SO SUCCESSFUL WHETHER IT’S YOU, JOEY OR RYAN BEHIND THE WHEEL.  WHAT DOES IT SAY ABOUT THAT TEAM?  “If Roger Penske or Tim Cindric were here I would tell them that means he’s got three bad ass drivers, but they’re not and the reality is to be successful in this sport you’ve got to have everything.  You’ve got to have great drivers, great team, great car.  All of those pieces have to be right and there’s a lot of depth for Penske at the XFINITY level.  Greg Erwin has taken over the team from Jeremy Bullins and he’s done a great job.  Jeremy did a great job.  Joey Logano has taken more races over the last two years.  I think I’ve run 15-20 over the last few years and that number has dwindled down to 10-12 over the last two, where Joey has taken a few and Ryan Blaney has taken a few, which is on purpose and they’ve both done a great job.  I think it’s just that everything is going right.  We’ve got great partners and been fortunate to have Discount Tire come back for this is year six, which is hard to believe.  I can still remember year one, so all the pieces are really together right now for that program.  The 22 car at the XFINITY level has really, to me, developed into a dynasty of a team and I’m very proud to be associated with and to have the three championships that we do.  Hopefully, we can continue that and turn that into a fourth championship this year.”

WHAT PORTION OF THE INFORMATION YOU LEARN AT A TRACK DURING A TEST GOES OUT THE WINDOW WHEN WE HAVE RAIN LIKE THIS?  “Not that much, honestly, because when we test at a track in general it’s green.  It takes a little bit of time for us to get it rubbered in and get going, but most of it carries over.  Perhaps that’s part of the confidence for me here is I was part of the test.  I subbed for Joey Logano, who had to attend to some other things, and the track was just as green as it is now when we started and we got up to speed fairly quickly and I thought it all went very well.  It’s not too much of a concern for me, personally.”

HAVE YOU FOUND ANY POTENTIAL DRIVERS FOR NEXT YEAR IN THE TRUCK SERIES?  “I’ve still been looking at a few people, but I haven’t found anything that has really grown any legs.  Our program is in the midst of moving into a new shop in Statesville, North Carolina, which kind of has expanded our capabilities.  Right now, we’re at two teams and have the potential to grow to more, which I would kind of personally like to see, but we’re not committed to, which is a good spot to be in.  And we don’t have any of our driver lineup set for next year for either of the two teams we have or potentially if we were to expand, which, I would say at this point we don’t have plans to expand, but I’m certainly open-minded to it.  We don’t have it figured out yet and we’re kind of in a somewhat unique position of having some sponsorship for our programs, which we’re very thankful for, but not 100 percent of what we’re looking for.  Solving that funding equation is always very difficult and factors in very heavily into what we do and, at this point, we don’t necessarily have all those chips figured out, which I think kind of precedes the driver lineup.”

WHEN WILL THE NEW SHOP BE READY?  “I think we’re in stage one of moving in.  We’re kind of moving in in three stages.  I want to throw a really big party when it’s all done, but we’re still working on when we’re gonna get to the all done stage.  We’re in the just moving in stage.”

DO YOU REGULARLY REVIEW RACES WITH PAUL AND DO YOU GET TO BE CRITICAL OF HIS TACTICAL PROWESS AS WELL?  “He would tell you there’s no shortage of criticism both ways (laughing).  I wasn’t gonna say that here because I have the mic and he doesn’t , but we try to.  It’s tough.  We both have somewhat demanding schedules.  Mine, obviously, growing more demanding with having a baby, but we work really hard to try to find some time to spend together to go over that stuff.  Some weeks are better than others and rain delays always help communication.”

ANY THOUGHT ABOUT WHAT HAPPENED IN VICTORY LANE LAST YEAR?  “I seem to keep getting reminders about that.  My hand is almost healed.  I’ve got a really nasty scar, so that doesn’t look like it’s going to go away.  Most all of the nerve damage went away, which is really good, so I can move it really well.  That was interesting.  Someone came to one of my appearances.  I can’t remember where, but they just showed up to get an autograph and it was this lady.  She had something in her pocket and she pulled it out and it was a sword.  She said, ‘I’ve got to show you something.’  And I didn’t know what to think.  She said, ‘I want to show you how to open a champagne bottle with a sword.’  I said, ‘This is something I’ve got to see.’  She told me she didn’t want me to hurt my hand again because it didn’t look like much fun.  She was a fan, so she grabbed a sword and opened the champagne bottle.  I don’t know if you’ve ever seen it before, but it’s a really cool trick.  I have a sword now.  She gave me a sword.  There’s a problem though because it takes like a really special champagne bottle and it’s got to be like the right temperature to open it up with a sword.  So I haven’t quite got the guts up to open a bottle with a sword, but if I was going to try it this would be the weekend.  I’m still contemplating that for like redemption because I feel like that video could end up on Tosh.0 or something.  I need to do like a web redemption, if you’ve ever seen that show.  Instead, I’d like to do a race track redemption, so it has entered my mind.”

SO YOU COULD DO SOME SWASHBUCKLING IN VICTORY LANE?  “I think it would be really cool, don’t you?  I was kind of embarrassed by that one (injuring his hand last year).  That was a low light.  Every once in a while I’ll get these things that come across my Twitter feed that will say, ‘Top 10 Worst Victory Celebrations’ which is not a list you want to make and I’ve made quite a few of them for that moment specifically, so I better not bring a sword and bring another one to the table.”

THE BEER WAS BETTER IN VICTORY LANE.  “Yes, I did have a lot of fun.  That was one of the best victory celebrations.”

DO YOU NOT WANT TO REFLECT ON LAST WEEK’S ACCIDENT BECAUSE YOU WERE SHAKEN OR SCARED ABOUT WHAT HAPPENED AT THE TIME?  WHEN YOU HIT HIM DID THAT FRIGHTEN YOU A LITTLE BIT?  “Yeah, probably.  Race cars are very, very well designed and built for high impacts.  They’re not ever going to be very well designed for multiple high impacts, so when I hit Austin the second time – I saw his first impact and I knew when I was gonna hit him the second time that his odds were a lot lower of walking away, but thankfully he did, so it worked out.”

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of SpeedwayMedia.com

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