Ford Performance NASCAR: Michigan 1 (Brad Keselowski Media Availability)

Ford Performance Notes and Quotes
Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series (MENCS)
Friday, June 7, 2019
EVENT: FireKeepers Casino 400 Media Availability
Brad Keselowski Media Availability

BRAD KESELOWSKI, No. 2 Miller Lite Ford Mustang — DO YOU HAVE AN IDEA OF HOW THIS PACKAGE WILL PERFORM HERE THIS WEEKEND? “It is hard to answer. We haven’t had a practice yet and there are so many variables. It is hard to predict every one of them. We can make some educated guesses but my initial thought was that it would look a little bit like last weekend but now I am not quite so sure because of the way that the track has run in. The biggest variables are going to be how many lanes are available for the cars to have grip and to corner with. The wider the track is in the corners the better the racing is going to be. We really won’t know that until after all of the practice sessions and really into the race to see how wide it gets. The wider it gets the better the race is going to be. I can see the potential for it to do just that. But I don’t know. The variables that come into play with that are the races before hand. We have the Xfinity and ARCA races before hand and all the different tire compounds. The Hoosier compound and Goodyear compound and how they interact. There are a lot of things that come together that create the type of racing. There are a lot of variables that come into play. Some that we have control of and some that we don’t. Some that we have knowledge of and some that we don’t. It is very very difficult at the moment to predict. I think we are all very hopeful that it will look a lot like Kansas. We won that race so I am hopeful for that as well. That was a great race for sure.”

DO THE DRIVERS FEEL NEUTERED WITH A 550 ENGINE PACKAGE? “It is definitely different. There are some things you could do now that you couldn’t do before. There are as many, if not more things that you could do before that you can’t do now. I wouldn’t go so far as to say the word “neutered”. I would just use the word “different”. At the end of the day, it is still a challenge and there is still a race to be put on and there is going to be a winner and a lot of losers. The basics remain the same.”

THIS IS YOUR HOME TRACK AND YOU HAVE COME CLOSE HERE. WHERE WOULD A WIN AT MICHIGAN RANK FOR YOU? “Yeah, I feel like I have sat on this podium here the last half a dozen years after the race finishing second or third which really stinks. It is better than finishing poor. It is a huge item on the bucket list. A check mark that is not there. I feel like we have had the opportunity and we have made a few mistakes. I feel like in some ways we have been good but not great enough to do it. I think 2012 I had a really good shot at winning it. I don’t think we have ever really come here and been the best car but we were in position and I made a little mistake late that probably cost us. Other than that, we have been kind of right there. Someone once told me that to win races at the Cup level you run in the top-five and things will fall your way. We have done that a lot here. We have run in the top-five but it hasn’t fallen our way. I just have to believe in the back of my head that it is there and that it will if we keep doing the things we have been doing but it hasn’t yet. That is just the reality. It would certainly be one of the biggest wins of my career. I try not to think too much about it because you just get some bad vibes going I think and you don’t just do your thing. It is certainly always on my mind.”

NEXT UP IS SONOMA, WILL YOU PREPARE ANY DIFFERENT WITH THE ADDITION OF THE CAROUSEL THERE? “It is going to be a much, much different race. There is no doubt about that. With respect to taking out one of the key passing zones in turn seven and also turn 4 B. There are a lot of A’s and B’s and I might not have them all right. I am a C student and you are asking me about A’s and B’s. It is going to have an effect on how the team sets up the car and definitely on the racing in general.”

IT HAS BEEN A HALF A SEASON NOW WITH THIS PACKAGE. ARE YOU DRIVERS ABLE TO SHOWCASE YOUR TALENT? IF SO, HOW? “Well, it is definitely different. It is a bit more of a chess match than it was the raw talent phase. I haven’t put a lot of thought into that as of late. The reality is that the rules are what the rules are. I feel like I could spend a lot of time and energy really digesting my thoughts on all that stuff but the reality is that I am not going to be able to change it. It kind of is what it is. It is my responsibility and opportunity to maximize our performance within whatever given rules are out there. I don’t know if I have a great answer for you because I haven’t really, nor do I want to, digested or reflected upon the differences all that deeply. I feel like I have just entered a mode that it is what it is and you either get happy with it or find something else to do and I really don’t want to do something else. I want to win another championship. I want to win races like this one. I don’t want to waste any of my brain space that I have available, which is very limited, thinking about things that I can’t change.”

QUESTION INAUDIBLE: “I think there are a lot of things that can always be done. I think the blessing and the curse of this sport is that we go to so many tracks in so many different cities that are laid out so much differently. The blessing and curse of that is that of course it creates some variation that leads to new and exciting and unpredictable things. The curse of that is that it is very hard to optimize a rules package for NASCAR and the teams that is cost effective, efficient, all those good business words but also optimized for any given tracks ability to put on the best race possible. That challenge has been the case for decades and will most likely be a challenge beyond that. It seems, at the moment, that maybe we have made some trades to optimize tracks that perhaps weren’t optimized before at the expense of some that were. That just kind of is what it is. It is not really in my hands to make those decisions.”

TEAM PENSKE HAS FOUR WINS THIS SEASON AND JGR HAS ALL THE REST EXCEPT FOR TALLADEGA. WHERE DO YOU THINK YOU GUYS STACK UP FOR THE SECOND HALF OF THE SEASON? “I think we are fairly pleased with where we are at and of course we want more. To have three wins and not even be halfway through the season – I don’t think we are halfway yet are we? 18 would be halfway. There is the exhibition race. I guess it depends on how you do the math. But to have three wins for the 2 team is something we are really proud of. I think that we can make more. We had a year when we had six wins and we are on track to do that. I would be thrilled to death if we could have six wins or more in a season. That is a good mark to have as a race car driver. With that in mind I think we have some opportunities. I think this weekend is going to be an incredible opportunity and I am very pleased with some of the things that the team has shown me they are working and progressing on. We have some really good race tracks coming up over the summer that I am feeling really confident about. It is good and it is bad because when you have three wins you look back and think about how you could have had five or six if I had done this better, or if things fell a different way. That is okay. It has been a good year and we are really proud of it but we are hungry for much more.”

WHAT WOULD A SONOMA WIN MEAN TO YOU? “I wouldn’t put it above this race track but it would be a big one. I can understand why there was so much buzz about when Kyle won at all the tracks. I feel like we have an opportunity to do that. We have been close. Checking off Darlington and Indianapolis last year was two really big marks for me. Sonoma would be, in my mind, one of the biggest accomplishments of my career because that track is so very difficult to win at and so technically challenging. We have had very limited success there. I look at that as one of my worst tracks in Cup and if we were able to win there it would be quite a hurdle to overcome. I can’t say it would mean more than winning here. This is a track where we have had almost the exact opposite of Sonoma. We have run really well here for a lot of years and for whatever reason a win hasn’t come but I feel like we are in a good spot to hopefully check this one off.”

IF YOU WON ON SUNDAY YOU WOULD PUT THE MUSTANG IN VICTORY LANE AT MICHIGAN FOR THE FIRST TIME IN CUP. WHAT WOULD THAT MEAN TO YOU? “I had the privilege of having dinner with the Ford family last night. All the Ford drivers got together to do that at the Henry Ford estate in Dearborn. While we were there, Mr. Edsel Ford, or as we like to call him The Godfather of Ford Performance, got up and gave a speech. One of the things he said was that Fords winning percentage here was almost 50-percent at the Cup level and how much it means to him to have success in what they consider to be their backyard. It really struck me how much it means. Sometimes we forget those things. We are racing 30-some times a year and traveling all over and we get very much into a routine where it is one week at a time and trying not to look too far ahead but honestly you do. So you forget the significance of individual races sometimes, especially in the middle of the season and what they mean to different people. And to the manufacturers that have for so long been the lifeblood of our sport and are based here out of Detroit, it means the world to them to have success in front of their executive teams and core employees, both white collar and blue collar. It means a lot to them to bring home that manufacturers trophy. That was one of the smartest moves this track every made was coming up with that manufacturers trophy. The OEM’s that that very, very seriously. HOpefully we can help Mustang get its first win here at the Cup level and I think we will have a terrific opportunity to do so.”

WHAT HAS BEEN THE BEST THING, SURPRISING OR OTHERWISE, ABOUT THE MUSTANG AND ITS PERFORMANCE? “I think the best thing was just the forethought put into it. It was put together with a team that I feel like took it very seriously. In doing so, it gave all the drivers and teams within Ford Performance boost of confidence, I think that would be the right term, in Ford and their technical capabilities and some of the additions that were made to the Ford Performance team. I don’t want to say that was a surprise because that wouldn’t be the right word. It was a big boost, without a doubt. I think we have seen that effort pay off. The car came right on the race track and was competitive immediately. The experiences I had about a year ago when they were in the middle of the design, I felt like that would be the case which is why I don’t say surprise. I felt like the process and the people behind it were the strongest I had ever seen and a huge leap forward from what I had seen in the years past. There are a lot of people that make up that team and make it possible. From Mark Rushbrook who runs Ford Performance on down. I think that their efforts are kind of unsung sometimes. I don’t mind kind of patting them on the back. They really wanted to make sure that this car came out and lived up to the Mustang brand of excellence. I would say at this point in time that they have by far succeeded.”

IS THE REDUCTION IN SPEED HERE GOING TO HELP WITH THE GRIP? “I think so. I think he is right. I want to think he is right. I could tell you that going back to what I was saying earlier, we get caught up sometimes so much in the week to week and we had a few weeks of really big high marks for the sport with Charlotte and Kansas and a lot of confidence built up and then probably didn’t follow that up at Pocono. So it is hard to say exactly what we are going to see. I can tell you that the experience of driving a Cup car with last years rules was really unparalleled by any other track. The speed was just massive. The cars were just ripping it through the corners and down the straightaway, very much on the edge, and it is really hard to explain what that is like as a race car driver because this track was faster than any other and you really felt it. Especially when we used to have that Saturday morning practice session and the track was cool and the cars would really be flying. That feeling at 9 am was hard to explain. It is very hard to explain. It was super intense. That is probably the best way I could describe it. There is part of me that is going to miss that. The part I am not going to miss is the knowledge that if something broke on the car or there was some kind of accident of sorts, you were going to hit very, very hard. I won’t miss that part, I can promise you that, at those speeds. Or that takeoff speeds in these cars is 180 and we were going 215-220 and if anything went wrong the opportunity to fly over the fence wasn’t something anyone was too excited about. There were some trade offs there. But I will say that I would not expect the race to be any less thrilling or engaging than it has been. I would expect it to be more thrilling and engaging. As to what extent, I don’t know. I don’t know if it is going to be just a little bit better or a lot better. I think it could be a lot better and I share Aric’s optimism and I share his thoughts that slowing the cars down a little bit should increase the capabilities of the tires and side by side racing and all those things, but I just don’t know. Without having a practice and seeing all the variables come together and make up the cake that it is with all these different ingredients. We will see.”

THIS IS A LITTLE OFF-BEAT BUT NASA ANNOUNCED TODAY THAT THEY ARE GOING TO ALLOW FOR THE FIRST TIME, PRIVATE CITIZENS TO VISIT THE INTERNATIONAL SPACE STATION. ARE YOU INTERESTED IN GOING TO SPACE? “Do I want to go to space? At the moment, no. But I am 35 and haven’t had a full mid-life crisis yet so there is always time for that to change. I am limited by some of the things I can say because of some government rules that our company is involved in. I can tell you that the space sector is one of the primary interest of the companies I have and we are engaged in those things but I can’t give any of the examples or explanations of how or where but I would expect to play a key role in it along the way.”

QUESTION INAUDIBLE: “I wouldn’t say necessarily a person but more the technologies and equipment to achieve the mission.”

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