SRT Motorsports — Dodge NSCS Brad Keselowski Open Interview Transcript – Phoenix

Friday, March 2, 2012

Dodge PR

Phoenix International Raceway

American Muscle

NASCAR Sprint Cup Series

Brad Keselowski Open Interview

Brad Keselowski (No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge Charger R/T) TALK ABOUT YOUR MINDSET AS YOU GET OUT ON THIS TRACK FOR THE SECOND TIME IN THE NEW CONFIGURATION.  “Well my mindset was, right away, I couldn’t find the media center and how to get up here so that tells you how I run here (smiles).  I think we had a decent run going last fall and had a little bit of trouble there towards the end and didn’t get the finish that we were capable of.  You know, this place is a lot different.  I think in the past you know a lot of people will go back and look at stats and say ‘Well he runs good, he doesn’t run good here.’  With the new pavement job and the reconfiguration, it’s not the same track.  So I think we’re still going through that process. These cars out here, the West cars, I think they are changing the track drastically.  We’re just going to continue to see that every time we come back here for the next year or two.  We have two events each year that the track is going to keep changing rapidly.  So, you know, I think that’s not necessarily a bad thing.  You could see where it’s getting darker in the groove and starting to really wear in, which I think is a credit to Bryan Sperber and his team for what they’ve done with dragging tires and so forth.  And I think that as the track keeps getting wider, it keeps putting on better and better racing.  I thought the very end of the Cup race and the Nationwide race here in the fall, I thought that you distinctly had two different grooves that you could really get racy with.  So you know for those reasons, I’m excited about coming here despite not maybe having the best stats in the past.”

GIVEN THE ANNOUNCEMENT YESTERDAY, DO YOU HAVE ANY CONCERN AT ALL GIVEN THE TEAM IS LAME DUCK STATUS WITH DODGE ABOUT YOUR COMPETITIVENESS FOR THE REST OF THIS SEASON?  AND HAVE YOU TALKED TO ROGER AT ALL ON THAT SUBJECT?  “No, I don’t have any concerns about it, to be honest, and I think there are a lot of reasons and it’s hard to answer that question without getting to some of the proprietary things that it takes to get support from a manufacturer.  But the things that I do see, I’m not worried about or concerned.  You know, I think the reset the field is going to go through for 2013 with the new body style keeps us from falling behind and actually makes the timing of the change as good as it can be.  So for those reasons, I’m not concerned.”

A LOT HAS BEEN MADE OF THE 100,000 FOLLOWERS THAT YOU PICKED UP ON TWITTER DURING THE DELAY AT DAYTONA.  A LOT HAS BEEN MADE OF THE FACT THAT NASCAR DID VERY WELL THAT NIGHT IN THE 18-49 AGE GROUP.  DO YOU THINK THAT YOU WERE REACHING A BUNCH OF NEW FANS BECAUSE OF THE MONDAY NIGHT PRIME-TIME RACE?  AND DO YOU THINK THAT MAYBE THAT’S SOMETHING THAT SHOULD BE CONSIDERED AS A PLANNNED EVENT AT SOME POINT IN THE FUTURE?  “Well, I think there’s two parts there – the young demographic and then the Monday night.  As a fan of the sport, and obviously I’m in that demographic, the 18-49, you know, I find myself asking the question of what would I want to see.  And to that end, that’s what I try to show, that’s what I try to be as an athlete/entertainer, race car driver, whatever you want to call me. And you know to me, the things that I did on Twitter that night was something that I would want to see.  You know, there are people that I follow on Twitter, if you were to ask me what I’d want to see from ‘em, that’s what I would want to see, so that’s all I did.  I don’t think any harder than that and I’m glad that people liked it and enjoyed it.  It was really cool to pick up my phone and see, I think as of last night, I gained 160,000 followers.  You know that was crazy and that’s great, that’s great.  I think at the end of the day, I’m just trying to show people what I would want to see if I was in their shoes.  And obviously, my generation is obsessed with technology and access.  So that was a chance to use both and I think you look at the timeline being on Monday, you know that probably helped a lot, too, you know, being in prime-time, etc.  I think we’ve seen how well that’s worked for other sports and I think that probably opened up a bit of a Pandora’s Box for the sport where we have to decide, you know, the trade-off.  We have to re-evaluate the trade-off between track attendance and TV audience.  That’s difficult because obviously we have a lot of people who make major sacrifices to get to the track when gasoline is, hell, I can’t keep up with how expensive gasoline is but it’s outrageously expensive, so we have a lot of people that make major sacrifices to get to the track.  It’s important we keep them as well, so it’s tough to make everybody happy and obviously the TV audience is part of that.  So I think you look at that and for years NASCAR has won the attendance battle compared to other sports.  You look at the Super Bowl and you compare it to Bristol and there’s no comparison.  We blow ‘em out of the water and that’s the NFL’s marquee event.  And then you look at the TV ratings and it’s the other way.  I think it’s a chance for us to reevaluate: do we want track attendance or TV ratings?  Where do we want the sport to be in? And I don’t know if I necessarily have the answer to it, but it certainly opens up a question maybe we never asked like we should have before.”

FOR THE LAST COUPLE OF YEARS AND MAYBE AS RECENTLY AS A FEW WEEKS AGO, WE KEPT HEARING ABOUT HOW THE DODGE ALIGNMENT WHERE THEY JUST HAD THE TWO TEAMS, YOU GUYS GOT ALL THE RESOURCES, THAT THAT WAS A POSITIVE. JUST WHEN YOU WERE WINNING EVERYBODY OVER WITH WHAT HAPPENED LAST YEAR, NOW COMES THIS ANNOUNCEMENT.  HOW LONG HAS IT BEEN IN THE WORKS TO YOUR KNOWLEDGE AND HOW DO YOU ADDRESS THE CONTRADICTION THERE?  “I hear what you’re saying.  Personally, I still feel like it’s not a disadvantage, but I don’t speak for everyone at Penske Racing. Personally, I don’t feel like it’s a disadvantage to be the only car with a manufacturer.  There were some things about it I liked, so I’m going to stick with my story (smiles) as far as that’s concerned.  As far as how long it’s been in the works, you know, I don’t know. That’s more a Roger question than mine.  I think if you backup, I think it’s important to backup two to three months and maybe not even that far.  Let’s backup a month ago to media day in Charlotte where obviously we made the announcement that Miller Lite extended and two or three before we made the announcement that I had re-signed and that Paul Wolfe (crew chief) had re-signed.  I think you look at that and there’s a big picture going here and that’s that Penske Racing wanted to have every duck in a row for long term so you have sponsor, driver, crew chief, obviously the owner is already there, and what’s the last one left?  The manufacturer.  I think that the goal that we all have is to win the Sprint Cup championship at Penske Racing and to be able to do that, I feel like we have to have the best people possible. It’s a team sport.  And in order to have the best people possible, we have to have a consistent platform of resources around them.  That means having a platform that they know for years on end is going to be there, from finances to, you know, pay for their house at home or whatever, their kids going to school.  All those ducks have got to be in a row.  I would imagine, that accordingly, those negotiations were probably in that same timeline and obviously it took longer to come together than the other pieces did.  The goal and the rationale behind the decisions made all starts around this core approach of having one platform where everything’s together in a line, all of our ducks are in a row for multiple years, long-term years I should say, and with this announcement or yesterday’s announcement, that was the last piece to do that.  That was the piece that I feel like puts us in a position to make a run for the championship for the next few years.  And so, I think, that’s where I think the approach comes from.  I think that there was also some limitations in making that happen with you know the road that we were on, so you know we changed roads.  I knew there were talks going on.  As far as a specific day, well heck, as far as I’m aware, the contract wasn’t even signed until this week.  You know I was obviously aware that there were talks going on, but it all happened very quickly.  You know RP called me a couple nights prior to last, I can’t remember exactly, and told me he was going to sign it. Certainly that came together very quickly.”

YOUR THOUGHTS ON DANICA PATRICK.  YOU’VE SPENT AS MUCH TIME AS ANYONE ON THE TRACK WITH HER IN RACE AND PRACTICE.  WHAT KIND OF GROWTH HAVE YOU SEEN FROM HER SINCE SHE FIRST HIT THE TRACK?  AND IN YOUR OPINION, BASED ON THAT, WHAT DO YOU THINK WILL BE HER BIGGEST OBSTACLES MOVING FORWARD THIS SEASON?  “Well, I mean, obviously, the only real thing you have to compare with her is her teammate.  I felt like several times last year that I was impressed by how she out qualified or ran right with her teammate, which she had Aric Almirola and someone else, I can’t remember.  I think it was Josh Wise.  She seemed to run right with them.  I think that’s all you really have to compare off of.  And that’s just in the Nationwide Series.  It’s hard to say.  You go to Daytona and you can’t really go off anything at Daytona.  There’s very little to go off of at Daytona.  I don’t think her season really starts at the Cup level until Darlington so that’s going to be really hard.  You know, going back to Daytona, I don’t think you can go off anything there, good or bad.  Obviously she qualified well in that one race and that was a quick media hit.  I think every driver would tell you that they don’t worry too much for that.  And then I’d look at the bad parts, you know, the wrecks, I’d probably say they weren’t her fault.  You know I don’t think there’s a whole lot to judge off of as of yet, that the body of work, it’s going to take her more than just a few races to judge her body of work that she has.  At the Cup level not racing, she needs to be in a car every week and at the Nationwide level, I don’t really see any obstacles, just go.”

THERE IS THE THOUGHT THAT HAVING A PHONE IN THE CAR IS LIKE HAVING A COMPUTER IN THE CAR THAT A DRIVER WOULD HAVE ACCESS TO.  SHOULD THAT BE A CONCERN?  DO YOU THINK THAT NASCAR WILL NEED TO CHECK DRIVERS OR DO SOMETHING TO MAKE SURE THAT THERE’S NO SHANANAGINS GOING ON?  “I mean, I’m sure we could bring out airport scanners (laughs).  You know, for me, some people ask me why I keep my phone in my car.  It’s a bit of a lengthy story so bear with me.  I have to back up about four or five years ago.  I was in California driving for Dale Earnhardt, Jr.  I had just got the ride to drive his 88 car and we were running a race there and I got in a really bad accident.  They airlifted me off and obviously my family wasn’t there ‘cause the race was in California and my family was back in Michigan.  And they had no idea what status I was in and quite frankly, neither did I (laughs). So you know they airlifted me off to some hospital and I don’t know if you guys know this or not, but LA is a pretty big city (laughter).  So I had no idea where I was at.  I’m wearing a uniform that they cut off me, so I didn’t even have that.  So I’m wearing this whatever hospital outfit.  No clothes, no phone, no wallet, and no idea of where I’m even at.  It was a miserable, miserable experience.  So I got through all that and eventually a PR person showed up after like an hour and a half, and you’re like ‘Where am I?  What in the hell is going on?’  I mean I wasn’t knocked out or anything like that, but you’re strapped on a helicopter and you got no idea where it’s going.  As far as I knew I was like in an Army test lab (laughter).  I had no idea.  At that time the PR people show up, I think it was Annette Randall who now works with Kevin Harvick.  She showed up and she didn’t have any of my stuff.  She just rushed to the hospital.  Here I am still with nothing and I think she let me borrow her phone and I was eventually able to call my Mom, but that was after hours.  The race had gone off the air so I really felt bad for my Mom and I, myself, was in a very bad position.  I tell you that story to fast-forward to this past year.  At Road Atlanta, I got into another serious accident and again got airlifted off and the difference was that I had my phone with me. And I had my phone with me because testing, you know, it really gets boring, monotonous.  You sit in the car for an hour while they make a change.  So I go through the incident and so forth and they put me on a helicopter and all that same stuff.  I have my phone with me and so I just send a message to my Mom like ‘Hey, just want you to know that you’re going to read this in the news, but I think I’m okay.’  And so that kind of put the fire out before it really got started and I think she really appreciated that.  It put me at a lot more ease because when I got to the hospital and there was nobody there I knew, how far away they were and I could hit Google Maps and figure out where I was.  So from that moment on, I decided I was going to keep my phone with me in the race car.  I know that’s probably not where you thought I was going with that story, but there was actually a practical purpose to having it with me.  So I had a pocket put inside my car to be able to keep it there.  I didn’t put it in my car thinking that we were going to have a red flag at Daytona for a guy hitting a jet dryer and causing an explosion (laughter).  I didn’t have that much foresight. That was kind of how the story all played out.  You just can’t plan moments like that.  They just happen.”

CAN YOU ADDRESS WITH THE MOVE TO FORD THE FORD POWERHOUSE AND HOW POWERFUL YOU THINK THAT WILL BE?  HOW DO YOU SEE ROGER PENSKE AND JACK ROUSH INTERFACING?  “Well, the easiest way to explain why I’m encouraged by the decision, I think you just look no further than again, a month ago, or a month and a half ago, when Ford made their announcement on their ’13 car.  I think that’s obviously at least a month and a half, two months ahead of every other manufacturer and I think that shows the spirit that they have for this sport and the commitment they have for NASCAR.  And I want to be aligned with someone that wants to be the first one out the gate that shows me that they want it that bad.  I thought that was a key moment for me in drinking the Kool-Aide, so to speak, of why that’s going to be the right way for our company to go.  I don’t know much about how Roger and Jack get along.  I’ve never really asked them about that.  I would imagine, you know they’re both big supporters of the Detroit community.  There’s got to be some common ties there, but I don’t know how that works in action.  I guess we’ll see how that works, we’ll kind of play that as it goes but I’m pretty open-minded.”

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