Ford Performance NASCAR: Brad Keselowski Atlanta 1 Media Availability

Ford Performance Notes and Quotes
NASCAR Cup Series at Atlanta Motor Speedway
ambetter 400 Qualifying | Saturday, March 18, 2023

Brad Keselowski, driver of the No. 6 Kings Hawaiian Ford Mustang, comes into this weekend’s NASCAR Cup Series race ninth in the point standings. He visited the infield media center before today’s Cup qualifying session to talk about his season to date and expectations for tomorrow.

BRAD KESELOWSKI, No. 6 Kings Hawaiian Ford Mustang – DO YOU HAVE A CLEAR IDEA OF WHAT YOU CAN DO AND CAN’T DO AS FAR AS INCIDENTS ON THE TRACK? “You’re talking about the Denny Hamlin penalty? Clear idea. I don’t know. I honestly haven’t even thought about it. Generally, wrecking somebody on purpose will get you in trouble, but not always. I don’t know if I have a clear answer, but it’s not something that I really concern myself with.”

YOUR THOUGHTS ON THE MODIFIED PARTS PENALTY FOR HENDRICK THIS WEEK? “I have not seen the parts that came off of the Hendrick cars. I’m not educated enough to say, ‘Hey, they did this and shouldn’t have’ or ‘I understand. They should have.’ I can really only speak to ours. The penalty we had last year was about a year ago this week. It was tough. Immediate emotions are to be frustrated and angry, but I don’t feel that way today. In fact, when I saw NASCAR a couple weeks ago, we had a car get inspected after Daytona, I made a comment to them and I said, ‘Thank you. It’s one of the best things to ever happen to us.’ We came out of it better. It was good for the industry. From our perspective, it changed our culture inside of the company to where we had better behaviors. I thought it set a tone for the industry – again, I can’t speak for Hendrick, but with our issues. I think I made a few comments a month later about the importance of penalties in the garage. They serve a purpose. I think it’s really easy and I’ve fallen victim to this as well – to look at NASCAR as the boogieman. In a lot of ways, they’re trying to help us and trying to help the sport and make sure that it can be healthy. Whether or not NASCAR is right or Hendrick is right with their penalty, I don’t know to that specific situation, but as a whole, I do understand the inclination and the emotion behind the teams and maybe the fans getting fired up over a penalty, but in the end penalties are there for a reason. They’re there to make this circus somewhat manageable and sustainable, so as to what ends up happening with Hendrick, I can’t speak to hit again, not knowing enough, but from my perspective and kind of having lived it, I’m probably 180 from where I was a year ago on it and I understand it at a high degree.”

HAVE YOU HAD ISSUES WITH PARTS NOT FITTING LIKE THEY SHOULD? “Yeah, there’s always a part somewhere that’s not what you want it to be and there’s a portal that NASCAR has to submit those parts to and there’s usually some dialogue and communication around that. Generally speaking, I feel like NASCAR has been amenable to work through those and has gotten significantly better over the last year. We have parts here and there that are issues and NASCAR has come up and said, ‘Hey, you can do this or you can’t do it.’ It’s more less about the communication with them.”

WHAT DO YOU HAVE TO DO TO GET BETTER RESULTS FROM THE SPEED YOU’VE SHOWN? “We haven’t got the finishes, but we certainly ran really respectably and it’s been a number of different things. At Daytona, we got caught up in a wreck and I didn’t really feel like there was anything we could do differently there. Las Vegas, I felt like we had a pretty strong run going and it kind of fell apart with some different things that happened towards the end of the race with restarts and pit road and then Phoenix we had an issue with the car at the end, so it’s been a mixed bag of everything, to be honest. Probably the only race I feel like we got the finish we deserved was Fontana, but along the way, thank God for stage points. We’ve been able to score a lot of those that have propped us up in the points and put us in a good position, but I would rather be running well and not getting the finishes we want than running bad and kind of picking off the bottom with some finishes at the end. That’s the bright side and I’m confident if we just keep running well, we’ll get the finishes we deserve over time. It just hasn’t happened yet.”

WHAT’S IT GOING TO TAKE WITH DENNY AND ROSS TO STOP THEIR ISSUES? WHAT DID IT TAKE BETWEEN YOU AND CARL A FEW YEARS AGO? “I’m not sure I really have an answer as to what it takes. NASCAR, I can only speak to my own personal experience, but NASCAR came and had the sitdowns and all those things and those were helpful, I think, but as a whole it kind of worked its way out over time. I think more so because the power dynamic shifted and my team was running well every week and, at that time, Carl’s team started to perform less well and we just didn’t run around each other. I think that probably had as much effect as anything, but as far as Denny and Ross, I think they have to figure that out and if NASCAR gives them a helping hand here and there, then I don’t see where that’s a bad thing. I feel like the line is when your issues with each other start affecting others. That’s a pretty clear line to me. If that’s, ‘Hey, you guys are wrecking and taking half the field with you’ and things of that nature. I think that’s generally a pretty good line that NASCAR has held over the years. I don’t know if that’s the line now or not. That’s probably better for them to answer, but it just seems like one that has the most precedent.”

WHAT DID YOU LEARN GOING THROUGH THE APPEAL PROCESS FOR YOUR PENALTY? “The appeal process, honestly, I thought it was more fair than I anticipated. It was a pretty fair process. I can’t say there was a key learning about the process itself. The learnings were more introspective and more about us as a company and who we are and what our culture was. That’s why I made the comment I made just a minute ago. It was one of the best things to ever happen to us because it forced us to look within and improve ourselves.”

HOW COMFORTABLE ARE YOU WITH HOW THESE MEETINGS ARE GOING WITH THE DRIVERS? “Drivers always have a lot to say, so it’s never a shocker when a meeting lasts longer than it’s supposed to. I think it’s productive. The industry as a whole and different sections are collaborating at a higher level than ever before. It’s not just the driver group. I see it with the owners as well and I’m sure there are probably other factions that I’m omitting, but it takes a lot to put on one of these races. You’ve got drivers. You’ve got teams. You’ve got sponsors. You’ve got the sanctioning body. You’ve got rights holders. You’ve got you guys with the media. We’re facing different times now than in the past just by the nature of time and I think we’re all trying to optimize the industry or the realities of today. Some are better than what they were in the past. Some are worse, but in order to do that we need everybody’s brain power and trust and so those sessions are really reflective of how we put together the best ideas and make them actionable.”

HAVE YOU NOTICED HOW MUCH YOUR PERSPECTIVE HAS CHANGED ON SOME OF THESE ISSUES BY ADDING THE OWNER HAT TO THE DRIVER HAT? “Yeah, naturally I sit in different meetings than I sat in before and I’m enjoying it. The rewards for being a driver/owner are much higher, but so are the penalties on bad days, but I enjoy having a deeper role in the sport. I find more meaning in it. I feel like I have more purpose as a person and that’s something I’m taking satisfaction out of. At the end of the day, it does give a perspective that can be helpful if used in the right ways, and I’m trying to be cognizant of that and what that will require of me in the right environments, but, as a whole, I think I would certainly agree that I have a different perspective now.”

HAVE YOU HAD ANY FEEDBACK THAT YOU’VE BROUGHT TO NASCAR ABOUT THE LONGER RESTART ZONE? “I hadn’t really noticed a difference, to be honest. I’m pretty neutral on it. I think there was a thought that initially it would help get rid of some of the rock, paper, scissors restarts and give the leader a little better advantage. I don’t know if that’s really played out over the last few weeks. Maybe it would with time, but I don’t know if anyone has really seen anything that could prove or disprove that. I don’t have a real strong opinion right now.”

AFTER THREE WEEKS ON THE WEST COAST DOES IT SEEM YOU GUYS ARE GETTING BETTER ON WHAT YOU NEED AND WANT IN THIS NEW CAR? “Yeah, 100 percent. I think our people, our tools and everything that we’re working with has gotten significantly better and we’ve been able to apply those in ways that we weren’t previously able to and that’s showing results on the track. We’re not where we want to be. We want to be dominating races. We want to be having races where we lead the most laps and although we were able to do that at Daytona, we haven’t done that since, but we are solid in the top 10. Our average running position really shows that and that, again, is massive progress from where we were last year. Last year, we came to tracks like Phoenix or even a track like here at Atlanta and I felt like we were consistently three to five-tenths off and now it feels like we’re a half-a-tenth to a tenth off of where we need to be to be able to dominate races, which is a really significant improvement, but it’s not our goal. Our goal is to be where we have race-winning speed week in and week out, so the last bit of that is the hardest part, but at least we can say we’ve taken a little bit away from it.”

EVALUATE THE DOWNFORCE PACKAGE FROM LAST WEEK AND HOW THAT CHANGED FROM THE PRESEASON PACKAGE YOU TESTED? “I enjoyed the race last week from the perspective of how hard the car was to drive. I thought that was a massive gain here in the Cup Series. When I first came in the Cup Series these were some of the hardest cars I ever drove in my life. In fact, they were the hardest car I’d ever driven in my life. You would come off the corners and they would wiggle and they would wobble and you would really be out of control and you’d spin the tires and then drive back down into the next corner and you’d about back it into the fence. And then over time the cars have gotten easier to drive. I think some of that was gaining experience as a driver, but the reality is that most of it was the cars over time developing into a series where they were easier to drive by the specs that NASCAR allowed us to utilize, so as that has progressed I feel like over the last two or three years specifically, the cars on the short tracks had just turned into cars that were too easy to race, too easy to drive and not becoming of what we would expect a Cup Series driver to have to endure. So, the step last week was really a big step at getting the Cup level cars to where they’re difficult and challenging to drive and really take advantage of the level of driver we expect to have in the Cup Series to be able to drive these cars. The car that we raced last week, if I put a local short track vet in it from anywhere in America, he would probably have struggled to drive. He would probably spin out on corner exit. He would probably have a handful of problems with it. The cars that we had with the downforce package before that, I feel like I could take any local short track driver in the country, put them in there and they’d probably get in a good car and run pretty well. That’s not what we want at this level. That’s not what I think is indicative of what our fans and our sport has as an interest for what drivers should be at this level. So, I think in that sense last week was a significant gain that we can hang our hat on. As to whether we saw the amount of side-by-side racing that we would like to see or the fall off and things that we’d like to see of the cars, I think that’s probably largely debateable, but the other piece to this is not – that the cars need to be hard to drive. You should not be able to go from a local short track or the Truck Series and get in a Cup car and be immediately successful. It should challenge you in new and more difficult ways, so last week was a big gain in that fashion and I think it’s important to our sport and our industry.”

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


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