Ford Performance NASCAR: Keselowski Wins Charlotte XFINITY Race

by Official Release On Sat, May. 26, 2018

Photo by David Yeazell

Ford Notes and Quotes
NASCAR XFINITY Series (MENCS)
Alsco 300 (Charlotte Motor Speedway; Concord, NC)
Saturday, May 26, 2018

Ford Finishing Results:
1st – Brad Keselowski
2nd – Cole Custer
10th – Kaz Grala
11th – Chase Briscoe
16th – Austin Cindric
22nd – Ty Majeski
29th – Ryan Reed
33rd – Dylan Lupton

COLE CUSTER, No. 00 Haas Automation Ford Mustang – HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT SECOND? “I wasn’t happy because you want to win, but our Haas Automation Mustang was pretty good all weekend. I think they kind of got lucky on the strategy and how the cautions flew, but I think we probably had the best car. It is what it is. You give up the track position, but it was fun racing. It’s a real edgy race track and fun to move around the VHT and stuff, so it was a fun race for sure.”

DID THE RAIN CHANGE THE TRACTION COMPOUND AT ALL? “It seemed like, I don’t know if it was just our car because I think we did tighten up a little bit, but it did seem like it was a little bit tighter and it seemed like it almost had more grip for some reason. I don’t really know why. It’s hard to understand, but it was definitely fun to figure that out and I think we’ll have some wins with our Haas Automation Mustang soon.”

KAZ GRALA, No. 61 NETTTS Ford Mustang – WHERE DID THAT COME FROM? “I don’t know, but that was a lot of fun right there. A huge shout out to everyone at Fury Race Cars, Ford Performance, Roush Yates Engines. I don’t know how this is possible, but it was and it’s fantastic. It was a great debut for us. I can’t say enough about how hard everyone has worked. I don’t think anyone has slept I the last week-and-a-half and I hope they’re excited now and I hope this will make their hard work pay off. I’m looking forward to the next three races here. We’re gonna have a blast.”

THIS WASN’T A RACE TEAM 14 DAYS AGO. “Unbelievable. Honestly, I don’t even know what to say about it, but this car was great from when we unloaded and we only got it better. Our balance at the end of the race was perfect. I had Kyle Busch out my windshield and that’s always fun. There was a lot to be excited about in that race, and I know that I am, and I think I speak for everybody, that this was a wildly successful debut for us.”

DID YOU JUST FOLLOW KYLE THROUGH AS FAR AS YOU COULD? “If I could pass him, I’d pass him, but I was more than content just riding around behind him and watching him weave his way through. That last restart I think I was on the top, someone ahead got checked up, so that probably cost us a spot or two, but top 10, I mean, really, what more could you ask for for the first race with the team?”

WHAT WERE YOUR EXPECTATIONS COMING INTO THE WEEKEND? “Make the race. That was our first little check mark there for the day. We were really worried when it was raining because we wouldn’t have made it in on owner points, but, luckily, we started 16th, which I was happy with, but I knew I missed turn three in qualifying. I think we could have been a couple spots better and I’ll take all the blame for that, but in the race Shane Wilson and everyone on the box did a great job with our adjustments and got us, honestly, neutral balance by halfway in the race, which, if you can accomplish that, then you’re gonna have a good day. It was a really, really great job by them and from there it was just slowly, methodically trying to gain track position once we had the car handling the way we wanted it to and at the end it was perfect. If we had another pit stop, I wouldn’t have told them to change a thing.”

KAZ GRALA CONTINUED — DID YOU TAKE ANY LESS RISK KNOWING YOU DIDN’T HAVE A BACKUP CAR, OR ONCE YOU GOT IN THE RACE WAS IT AS AGGRESSIVE AS YOU COULD BE? “Not in the race. In practice, yes. On mock runs, yes. Even qualifying I had to be a little bit careful, but in the race absolutely not. I was aggressive as much as I could be and really going for it because I knew these guys deserved a good one. I didn’t want to be the reason they didn’t get it, so I was driving my guts out there and if you ask them, I think I asked for like six different water bottles during that race because I literally was leaving nothing on the table, but that’s the way you have to race in the XFINITY here. Everyone is just too freaking good to not go all-out every single lap, so I’m really proud of everybody. I can’t thank everyone enough. This is a dream come true for me.”

CHASE BRISCOE, No. 98 Ford Performance Ford Mustang – CONSIDERING WHAT HAPPENED MIDWAY THROUGH THE RACE WITH THE 18, YOU STILL FINISHED 11TH. YOUR THOUGHTS? “I felt like we definitely had way more speed than what we were able to show. I just wish we could catch a break in one of these races. Every time I’ve been in the 98 we’ve had something happen and just keep getting caught up in other people’s mess, but, overall, we continue to fight hard all day long. We could have easily given up and we almost had a top-10 there with 30 lap older tires than everybody and a ton of damage. It’s a testament to how good the cars are that those guys bring and I just wish we could have shown what we had. I feel like we definitely had a top-five car, but wasn’t able to show it.” IT WAS REALLY HOT OUT THERE TODAY. “It was definitely a long race. I haven’t run very many of these 300-mile races, so it was certainly hot today. I’m sure it’s gonna be hotter throughout the summer, so this was a good tune-up. I’ve been out of the XFINITY car for a couple of weeks, so it was kind of nice to get back in a rhythm of doing the long races again and I’m looking forward to the next one.”

COLE CUSTER PRESS CONFERENCE – THOUGHTS ON THE OVERTIME? “We knew it was gonna be crazy, I guess. I was mostly trying to get going in the restart zone and how all of that was going to play out because it was so important to get momentum and try to get a run, so I was just trying to do that and get yourself clear and get yourself some clean air. It was definitely pretty tough, but the 22 obviously had the most clean air there, so they won.”

WHAT WAS YOUR BIGGEST CHALLENGE TODAY? “I guess at first it was figuring out the PJ1 that they put down. It seemed like there were times you could just drive it in there as hard as you wanted and there were times where you had to kind of back it up and try to hook it as good as you could, so figuring that out first and when you wanted to run it and when you wanted to run the bottom was probably the biggest thing, and then our car was pretty good all day. It was just trying to get track position from that point. When we had clean air, it was huge. It was a big difference compared to the middle of the pack. That was the biggest thing, but the way the cautions fell didn’t really work for our strategy, but it is what it is and we’ll go to the next one.”

COLE CUSTER CONTINUED — WHAT ABOUT POCONO AND MICHIGAN COMING UP WITH THE INDY PACKAGE FROM LAST YEAR? “I don’t know, it’s interesting. You can have some fun with that package. Obviously, you dice it up a lot and everything, but I liked Pocono how it was before and honestly how it was kind of tricky. Three different corners and going really fast, but I think it’ll be dicey for sure with this downforce package, but we’ll see. Michigan, I’m all for it. I’m not a big fan of Michigan, so I’m looking forward to the downforce package.”

WHAT WAS THE STRATEGY BEING DISCUSSED DURING THE RAIN DELAY? “I think at first it was just how aggressive you wanted to be, I guess, because you didn’t know how that PJ1 was gonna come in right after rain, so, at first, I didn’t really know I was gonna be able to go that aggressive, but once I kind of got out there and felt it under caution it actually felt like it had more grip to me for some reason, so I was able to be pretty aggressive there and kind of just think on the fly.”

BRAD KESELOWSKI WINNER’S PRESS CONFERENCE

BRIAN WILSON, Crew Chief, No. 22 Fitzgerald Glider Kits Ford Mustang – HOW DID THE WEATHER PLAY INTO YOUR RACE STRATEGY TODAY? “The strategy was kind of all over the place, definitely and up-and-down day for us. To be honest with you, when we pitted last for tires I didn’t know it was the right call. I kind of regretted it at that point. We talked about doing the opposite of the leaders, and I knew that was the right call at that point, but I was really hoping it was gonna be those guys pitting and we would have a set of tires to put on later because we seemed to be a really good short-run car, but with the way circumstances played out, the red flag, multiple cautions, it seemed like it equalized when those guys took their tires. The rain definitely helped us. It was a tough one to call from that standpoint because the radar it wasn’t like you just had one storm cell, so typical summer here in North Carolina. You’re watching to where the pop-up storms are gonna come from.”

BRAD KESELOWSKI, No. 22 Fitzgerald Glider Kits Ford Mustang – THIS IS YOUR 30TH SERIES WIN. THOUGHTS ON GOING TO OVERTIME? “It’s a lot to talk about from today. It’s hard to pick a place to start, to be quite honest. It’s kind of an eventful day from the rain and everything that happened there. Strategies, the car handling and things going on this week with Roger and the Hall of Fame, but so far it’s been a great week and I couldn’t ask for a much better start for Memorial Day Weekend than to bring home a win. I’m really proud of everyone on the team, Brian here and the sponsors, Fitzgerald Gliders and Ford for the car that was well-prepared and in a spot to be able to execute a day like today, but I think it was definitely a perseverance day. It was brutally hot out there. The humidity was just killer. I don’t usually get that hot in a race car, but it was smoking out there. There were a couple times where I swear the inside of the car was burning from the water and the humidity, but that’s just part of the challenge of racing on days like this and glad to bring it home first, that’s for sure.”

WHAT DID YOU SEE WHEN THE 18 HAD HIS INCIDENT? “I didn’t see it, it was behind me. I don’t know if my mindset really changed that much. I knew the same things were gonna hold true. I needed to execute the restarts and just needed to be flawless and that was really important there at the end, whether it was him or anyone else.”

YOU ARE THE FIRST REPEAT WINNER IN THE SERIES. THOUGHTS ON THAT? “It is interesting. It’s kind of strange that I think we’re 11 races in and it’s the first repeat winner. It’s a Tale of Two Cities there between here and Cup, where there have been a lot of repeat wins, but this is my second race in this car and it’s been good. I’m just looking to keep it rolling.”

CAN YOU RIDE THIS MOMENTUM INTO TOMORROW? “It’s good. Winning is a good thing for a driver’s psyche, it’s a good thing for a team’s psyche. It gets everybody kind of up on our heels. It’s interesting. When you win one or two times everybody gets better, and it feels like when you win six or seven times everybody gets a little worse because maybe you take it for granted.

BRAD KESELOWSKI CONTINUED – “But when you win one or two times early in the season, the team starts to really build confidence and they seem to look a little bit harder for that last little bit that really separates good from great, and that’s so important is to not settle for good and reach for great in this sport, so I look at that today and I see that’s where this team is on the XFINITY side and hopefully they can keep it rolling. That’s the biggest challenge for Brian and the team, but for me on my side, it’s certainly good timing. We didn’t have a great run in the All-Star Race and it’s nice to go out there and put down some good laps here and have a good showing.”

WHAT WAS THE DIFFERENCE FOR YOU OUT THERE TODAY? “The short-run speed. We had all those short runs at the end, but we were not good on long runs. We were a 5th to 10th-place car on the long runs, to be honest, but the short runs we were a top two or three car that showed off in qualifying and showed off in the short runs at the end of the race. It was just a matter of getting that track position to take advantage of it and Brian had the right pit call to do that.”

WHAT’S THE BENEFIT OF HAVING YOUNGER GUYS IN XFINITY RIDES AS OPPOSED TO VETERANS? “I think a lot of teams right now are in a position where they’re developing drivers. We’re in a position at Penske where we’re developing people – crew chiefs, engineers, tire changers. We’re still developing, it’s just a different kind of development, and we’ve been on the flip side of that too, where I got started in this XFINITY Series and I was the one being developed. I think that’s just ebbs and flows. We’ve developed a lot of great people in the program. All three of our Cup Series crew chiefs came through the XFINITY program. I think that’s something Roger Penske holds in very high regard as he should, and so we want to keep that going throughout the whole company, whether that’s tire changers or whoever that might be – engineers – there’s a lot of people that make a race team possible. This is truly a team sport. I know that sometimes the driver is the face of a team, and that’s okay, believe me I like that a lot of times, but there’s a lot more to it than just the driver.”

HOW TOUGH WAS IT TO PLAY STRATEGY AND THE TRACK POSITION GAME IN THE SECOND HALF? “That’s probably a better question for Brian. He’s the one that had to make the call. I’m sure it wasn’t an easy one, but that’s why he makes the big bucks on top of the box.”

BRIAN WILSON CONTINUED – HOW TOUGH WAS THE STRATEGY? “Honestly, that was one of the tougher calls I’ve had to make in my crew chiefing career where I didn’t know that there was gonna be a perfect answer there. A lot of times when you’re making those calls you know what your strengths are and you just decide this is the way we’re gonna go, but we didn’t seem to have an overwhelming strength to where it led me one way or another. At that point, it was more of we’re just gonna do the opposite. We kind of called it off our competitors and fortunately it worked out.”

BRAD KESELOWSKI CONTINUED – TWO STARTS AND TWO WINS. HOW IMPORTANT HAS IT BEEN TO CAPITALIZE ON YOUR STARTS IN THIS SERIES? “It’s certainly important to me personally and obviously professionally. I’ll get four starts in this car this year. This is my second one and I think I have two more remaining at Loudon and Darlington, so we want to make those count as well. We’re off to a good start and the way we’re going we’ve got a shot at winning all of them, so that would be really cool.”

DID THE HEAT CATCH YOU BY SURPRISE? “Yeah, I’ve got to be honest. This is the hottest I think I’ve driven. It’s not all that hot outside, but I think a lot of factors play into it with the rain and the cars soaking up some of the rain. The first few laps on the restart there was water coming out of the rollbars and I’m sure that was going right down on the exhaust and putting together a nice steam bath, but it’s part of the challenge and kind of what you have to live through.”

WHAT WAS IT LIKE WITHOUT JOEY MEIER ON THE SPOTTER’S STAND? “It’s a little different, but Jefferson Hodges did a good job. Joey Meier, my normal spotter, is off watching his son graduate from basic in the Navy, so that’s great. It kind of seems fitting for him to miss that on Memorial Day Weekend, but that’s really cool and it’s special for him. I’m glad that we were able to go to the depth chart and not get in a situation where he couldn’t be there with his family on such a really big weekend for him.”

WILL HE BE BACK TOMORROW? “No, he won’t.”

HOW DID THE VHT AFFECT THE CAR AND WILL IT PLAY A ROLE TOMORROW? “I think it’s really dynamic. Dynamic meaning it changes a lot throughout the run, which makes it tough. It’s tough to predict. The rain really killed it there at the end. It cooled it off and the temperature has to be up to work, like a really, really hot temperature at that, and moved the groove back down to the bottom. That probably helped us a little bit, but in the race mode it just really changes the car’s handling and puts a lot of load and wear on the front tires and makes a lot of headaches for drivers and crew chiefs alike. It’s interesting. I felt like the PJ1 was really good in the All-Star Race and thought it enhanced the racing, and I think for this scenario it’s probably the opposite of that. So we’ll see where we go from here on that, but small changes in the car, small changes in the track kind of changed the whole landscape for us and that was definitely a change.”

WOULD YOU EVER DO THE TRIPLE? “I would have loved to. The problem is, to be quite honest, is this sport is so over-reliant on sponsorship and corporate partnerships that the ability to do that nowadays is pretty much extinct with respect to there’s only one of the car manufacturers in NASCAR that’s involved in Indy Car and that really shrinks the pool, and the car owner pool I think the only that runs in both also competes with two different manufacturers, both of them – Penske and Ganassi – so it just doesn’t work. The manufacturers won’t let us for the most part. They get really upset and they kind of make the house payments.

BRAD KESELOWSKI CONTINUED – “You don’t want to make them mad, but it’s just kind of the reality of where it is right now as a sport, where we rely on those guys being happy to be able to eat, so we don’t want to make them angry.”

WHICH XFINITY DRIVER SEEMS TO BE THE MOST IMPROVED SINCE THE LAST TIME YOU RAN IN THE SERIES? “I thought I saw two or three drivers that looked really good to me. I thought Christopher Bell looked really good. Daniel Hemric is just making nice strides. It’s interesting, I thought he was one of the better cars for sure, and Cole Custer I thought had a great day. Those three all look primed for the next level.”

HOW WILL YOU RECUPERATE IN TIME FOR TOMORROW’S RACE? “Drink and eat. That’s the game. I feel good about it. I’ve had a couple really good runs in the 600. We’ve had some bad runs in the 600. I don’t feel any of them I’ve fallen out of the seat, so it’s gonna be good.”

BRIAN WILSON CONTINUED – HOW DO YOU DEAL WITH ALL THE DIFFERENT DRIVERS YOU HAVE AND REMAIN SUCCESSFUL? “Honestly, working with Brad it’s kind of like second nature. I worked with him so long, but the other drivers I observe them and I scan them quite a bit, so when it comes to working with Joey or Ryan it’s not quite as easy as working with Brad, but it’s definitely close to it where you know their terminology and that, to me, is the biggest thing. When they say something and describe something what changes in the past have worked and what do they respond to. Working with Austin Cindric has definitely been a learning curve. He’s learning as fast as I’m learning his terminology, so his terms change quickly, what he needs changes quickly, but I’ve also got a history with him. We did several ARCA races together and next week we’ve got Paul in the car and that’s probably gonna be the toughest one because obviously I didn’t get to observe from the outside with him on one of our teams like the other guys. I really haven’t worked with him that much, so next week is gonna be a challenge, but fortunately we have really strong cars, so a lot of times when you have the car that’s a large part of the potential of it is just bringing a car that’s fast, that is lightweight and has the good aero and has a good engine and all that. At that point, you just get to the track and try to maximize it and that’s what we have really tried to focus on it just unloading really close and then just trying to maximize the setup from there.”

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