Brad Keselowski, driver of the No. 2 Redd’s Apple Ale Ford Fusion, held a Q&A session at Richmond International Raceway this afternoon in advance of Saturday night’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race. Here is a complete transcript from that press conference.
BRAD KESELOWSKI – No. 2 Redd’s Apple Ale Ford Fusion – CAN YOU TALK ABOUT THIS WEEKEND? “We’ve got a lot of great things going on. We’re off to a good start this year and I know you guys have a lot of things going on, too. We’re doing some different things, obviously, with Miller Coors branching out and doing the Redd’s car this weekend, which is something kind of new and different. I like doing things new and different, so a little change of pace for this weekend – certainly not every weekend, but this weekend and maybe a few others. I’m ready for Richmond. We’ve got the Nationwide car here, the Cup car, and I think I even have a car entered in the K&N race. All I need is a car in the late model race and we’d have them all covered, but hopefully we can come away with some victories. We’ve been really close in all the series this year. I feel like I’ve gotten a bunch of second-place finishes and I’m trying to get that one extra spot and get some wins. With the way this sport is set up, especially with the Chase on the Cup side, wins are really what matters for qualifying for the Chase and seeding and what-not. We’ve been close, but no cigar. Hopefully, we can get that done here in Richmond.”
IS NASCAR CRACKING DOWN WITH HARSHER PENALITIES OF LATE? WERE YOU SURPRISED WITH THE SEVERITY OF THE KENSETH PENALTY? “Yeah, I think there’s no doubt that there’s been a pretty significant ratcheting effect to the penalties in the sport. It takes a lot to really surprise me nowadays, whether it was the penalty we received the past week or the one that happened to the Gibbs group. I understand both sides, in a sense, but then again I don’t. I think it’s really tough. What the sport really lacks right now is a way for us to curb fair play – balance the fair play that the sport needs so that our fans can really relate to it without presenting this – I don’t want to call it an illusion – but presenting this almost like a façade as though there’s cheating in the sport. I think it’s pretty obvious that when you look at Matt’s issue the pieces and the parts were not that influential to the performance, and probably didn’t win him the race. I think anyone could probably say that, but, then again, from NASCAR’s side, they know that if you give an inch, you’ve got to give a mile. So it’s basically what we lack in the sport is some kind of proportionate response to manage that. I think that’s really what you’re seeing. It’s a pretty significant penalty. I think there’s probably other ways to take control of the situation, but, then again, I don’t know all of the circumstances. More times than not, there’s usually a series of events that lead up to such an instance and that might have been the case and those series of events are usually behind closed doors. But then obviously this situation is not behind closed doors, so it’s difficult because I don’t think any of us probably know the full circumstance and there’s a strong chance we probably never will. From my experience there’s usually a lot more than what you can see, but, then again, I feel like we need something in our sport similar to what the NBA or the NFL has where we have fouls or the NFL has yardage penalties or whatever. We need something like that in our sport – something to control people from getting too far out, but without sending this large message that I think we send when we have issues like this that make people kind of question the competitors and where they’re at. I know I personally don’t enjoy answering the questions from fans in the scenarios we’ve been presented over the last few weeks about, ‘Does this mean you’re a cheater?’ I don’t think that’s fair because you look at the best players in the NBA, Michael Jordan committed fouls and you don’t see situations where the fans in the NBA look at him and call him a cheater. It’s just kind of part of the game. When you’re pushing to the limits, sometimes things just step over, whether it’s intentional or not. It sounds like that’s what happened with Matt and, unfortunately, we don’t have as system to really keep that in check without it becoming almost a death penalty situation. Those penalities are severe enough where you could certainly put them in that case.”
CAN YOU SYMPATHIZE WITH SOMEONE LIKE DENNY WHO WON’T BE ABLE TO RACE IN FRONT OF HIS HOMETOWN FANS THIS WEEKEND? WAS THERE AN INSTANCE WHERE SOMETHING SIMILAR MAY HAVE HAPPENED TO YOU? “Racing at your home track, I think Carl Edwards said a few weeks back – I guess it would have been last week at Kansas – that winning at Kansas would be the same to him as winning the Daytona 500. I think that’s how a lot of drivers feel about their local track. It means the world to you to win close to home because that’s where all of your friends and family are. And although it may not get the same notoriety as the Daytona 500 with the media and so forth, in your own inner circle – your personal friends, your family, etc. – it does mean the world so it hurts when you don’t have that opportunity, for sure. Yeah, I can absolutely sympathize. I know what it feels like. I finished second at Michigan last fall and that was one of the most heartbreaking things in the world because you knew you were that close to being able to celebrate with your friends and family. I was fortunate to win a few Nationwide races at my home track in Michigan and those were some of the biggest days in my life, so I know exactly how he feels not having that opportunity. But, then again, he has been fortunate enough to win here in the past, so it’s not like he’s never had any success here. There are good times and bad and he’s certainly going through some difficult times. Whether you’re a fan of his or not, you have to wish him the best and I do because our sport needs him. It needs our best drivers. What makes racing so special compared to other sports – I went back, I just used an analogy earlier about the fine stuff and things that maybe we don’t do quite as well as other sports, well, there are some things we do better than other sports and that is every weekend you’re gonna see the best players in our sport at the race track. That’s one of the things we have to offer in NASCAR and when someone gets hurt, fortunately it’s been very rare over the last decade, but when somebody gets hurt we lose that little bit of luster and we need that.”
CAN YOU TALK ABOUT THE DIFFERENCE RACING TONIGHT VERSUS SATURDAY? IS IT MORE RELAXING TO DO SOMETHING LIKE TONIGHT? “I’m not racing tonight, but I’m definitely watching and, yeah, it’s absolutely a lot more relaxing because you know it’s got that rootsy feel, where I think most drivers at this level grew up in some kind of late model – not all of them certainly – but a good portion of them and being able to race and reconnect with those roots is like going home and seeing your old family dog. It’s that same kind of feeling. You just smile and enjoy it. It’s almost like a recollection of your past more than anything else and I think you just appreciate it.”
WHAT ARE YOU HOPING TO SEE COME OUT OF THE APPEAL NEXT WEEK AND HOW OPTIMISTIC ARE YOU THAT SOMETHING MIGHT BE CHANGED? “I personally won’t be sitting in it, so I don’t know exactly how the appeal goes. I haven’t really asked that many questions as far as how it works. My hopes are obviously that it gets 100 percent repealed. That’s my hope. But, realistically, I would say that’s probably not gonna happen, so I’m just gonna stand by and watch and let Roger and his guys figure it out. That’s what they’re good at. I’m gonna drive my car, they’re good at those situations, so I’m gonna let Roger do what he does and hope for the best.”
WHAT DO YOU THINK OTHER DRIVERS FEEL LIKE ABOUT MATT’S PENALTY? THE ENGINE PART WAS APPARENTLY SOMETHING THE GIBBS TEAM NEVER TOUCHED. “I think an objective driver who has experience in the sport, that really understands what’s going on, is probably gonna feel bad for him and feel like he probably didn’t deserve what he got. Certainly there are gonna be those that aren’t objective, but I can tell you that if I had what he had last weekend, I wouldn’t have finished any better. That’s just looking at it objectively. I think there are probably some drivers that won’t tote that line because they don’t want to put their name out there and make it look like they’re disagreeing with the call, but I think anyone in an objective, close setting would probably tell you that at this level. I certainly feel bad for him because at the end of the day Matt doesn’t put together the car and, heck, in this particular situation his team didn’t even put together the engine, so it’s a difficult situation at best. Again, in defense of NASCAR’s side, there’s got to be a line in the sand somewhere and, obviously, they went over the line in the sand and now it’s just a question of whether the penalty fits the crime.”
THERE ARE A COUPLE OF 15-16 YEAR OLDS IN THE RACE TONIGHT. DOES THAT START TO MAKE YOU FEEL OLD? “It doesn’t make me feel younger (laughing). I feel like looking at the history I had in the sport, growing up in it and so forth, I feel like I was really fortunate where at their age I didn’t feel that way. I didn’t get my first opportunity to really drive a stock car until I was dang near 17 years old and that was a local track – I guess you would call it a factory stock – and I didn’t get a chance to do anything in NASCAR until I was 21-22 years old – something like that. So those situations, those three or four years, even though I didn’t think it then, really helped me to mature and understand the situation and the hard work that was put into the cars and really respect that part of it. In a way, I look at them and feel bad like, ‘Hey, I wish you could just wait a few more years before you get in this situation because now you’re in the spotlight.’ And when you make mistakes in the spotlight, you usually don’t get a second chance. It’s interesting. Every once in a while you’ll see one of these really young guys like a Logano or a Larson go out there and just knock the cover off the ball, but not usually. So I usually end up feeling bad for them more than anything else because if you screw up at these levels, like I screwed up at that age – at a different level – but if you screw up at these levels you usually don’t get a second chance. So I end up feeling bad for them more than anything else.”