Ford Charlotte Thursday Advance (Keselowski)

Ford Racing NSCS Notes & Quotes:
Coca-Cola 600 Advance (Charlotte Motor Speedway)
Thursday, May 23, 2013

Brad Keselowski, driver of the No. 2 Miller Lite Ford Fusion, held a Q&A session at Charlotte Motor Speedway and discussed a variety of topics prior to qualifying for Sunday’s Coca-Cola 600.

BRAD KESELOWSKI – No. 2 Miller Lite Ford Fusion – WHAT WOULD IT MEAN FOR YOU TO WIN THE COCA-COLA 600?  “You’re right, this is a huge weekend for NASCAR, it’s a huge weekend for all of motorsports.  Obviously, there are other races going on, but, for me personally, I think for the point of this discussion I feel like this is a big race and this is one of those races with the events of last night with the Hall of Fame, you can see that and what people think of race winners from this event.  They think of them as people that have a spot potentially in the Hall of Fame and receive some kind of accolades from winning this event, so I think that signifies, at least to me, how big a win this would really be for me or any driver and how important this event can be to your career.  I really personally enjoy this.  It means a lot to me to race on Memorial Day Weekend and the patriotism that’s shown in this sport.  Obviously, there are a lot of cars with special paint schemes and a lot of different things that the track does as well to really embrace what it means to race on Memorial Day Weekend, and what the weekend means in general.  That’s something I hold in the highest regard and just proud to be a participant.”

American Muscle

HAS THE TWITTER INCIDENT AFTER TALLADEGA CHANGED YOU AT ALL?  “I don’t think so, no.  Look, I’m not perfect.  I know that, and I don’t pretend to be, but I think what makes Twitter great is it’s a way to really reach out to our fans and really express how we feel and they have access to that.  Some people aren’t gonna like what I have to say and what also makes Twitter great is if they don’t like it, they don’t have to follow it, but that’s how I felt in that moment and, like any human being, I have the right to change my mind about it and I did.  But I think that’s part of Twitter and that’s what makes the experience great for me is you have an opportunity, whether it’s yourself or for someone else that you’re following, to really read into how they feel about things that maybe you wouldn’t have had the opportunity with before, whether it was with the media or just being able to get that close to the action, so I think you have to take the good with the bad.  Was that the brightest moment?  Certainly not, but there are other things that happen that are obviously very impactful and very strong that have made fans happy, whether it was the moment at Daytona or something else.  So I think that you take the good with the bad and move on.”

WHAT DID YOU THINK OF THE RACING HERE LAST YEAR AND WILL THE GEN-6 CAR AMP THINGS UP A BIT THIS YEAR?  “I’m not sure exactly what the expectation is.  With any mile-and-a-half race track you’re never gonna have as close of action as you would at a short track, and if the expectation is to have the same kind of racing at a short track to a mile-and-a-half, then just point to the basic rule that there is more room and there’s gonna be more distance between cars – whether that was Generation 6, Generation 5 or all the way down the list.  There is just more room at these tracks and you’re gonna have less side-by-side racing because of that.  That said, in comparison to last year, it’s hard to really say what’s gonna play out.  We’re still very early on in learning these cars.  We’re not obviously fresh, we’ve got a dozen races or so under our belt, but this track has always been a bit unique, specifically the 600 with the transition from daytime to nighttime and different cars and comers and goers and so forth.  So that lends itself to more passing, whether or not that will work out to create the type of finish that fans want, I couldn’t tell you.  That’s why you have to watch.  Some races it might and others it won’t, but I think this track has produced some compelling races.  Looking back to two years ago with what happened with Dale Jr. and Kevin Harvick, I thought that was a pretty strong race.  Not every race is gonna be that way, so we certainly would like it to be that way and maybe some fans would like the finish to turn out differently, but, obviously, mile-and-a-halves are just gonna be more spread out.  That’s just part of the deal.”

HOW DO YOU KEEP YOUR FOCUS IN THE MIDDLE PART OF THE RACE WHERE YOU’RE JUST KIND OF MAKING LAPS AND NOT REALLY FIGHTING FOR FIRST PLACE OR WHATEVER?  “You can’t win the race at mile marker 300, but you can sure as heck lose it in those segments – whether that’s blowing through your pit stop and having a loose wheel, or any of those things.  So you can’t win it in those segments, but you can definitely lose it – missing a shift, blowing a tire – anything like that.  So at some point you have to put yourself into that protection mode of, ‘Hey, I need to just get through this segment of the race and not lose it right here,’ which isn’t all that much fun for me personally.  I’d much rather play offense than defense, but that’s part of it because I think what makes racing special to me compared to other sports or really anything is you look at what it takes to be successful as a race car driver and you have to be good on short tracks, you have to be good on road courses, you have to be good on mile-and-a-halves, good on superspeedways.  You go through all those genre’s of tracks and they’re all drastically different and then you add to it and you have to be good on restarts, you have to be good on short runs, you have to be good on long runs, you have to be good on short races, you have to be good on long races.  There are all these different things that you have to be good at across the board, so, basically, it’s saying as a race car driver you have to be able to play defense and you have to be able to play offense.  And in a long 600-mile race, that middle section you’re referring to is essentially your time to play defense and you have to get through that.  Although you can’t win the game playing defense, you can certainly lose it.”

IS THIS RACE GOING TO COME DOWN TO THE LAST PIT STOP AND WHO COMES OFF PIT ROAD FIRST?  “If you can get the lead and be within a tenth, maybe a tenth-and-a-half speed-wise of other cars in the field, the reality is you’ll probably win the race and that will shape itself out via the last pit stop or the last pit sequence.  That’s really your largest chance for that to shake up.  Certainly there are other variables that could shake it up – lap traffic, yellows, who knows.  There is always something else that could shake it up, but, realistically, that will be the last shake up of the running order and if you can get the lead and be within a tenth-and-a-half speed-wise of everyone else, you have the winning hand.”

HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT BEING ROUGHLY HALFWAY TO THE CHASE AND NOT HAVING A WIN YET?  “I’d like to have one, and I feel like this is the week to get it done.  I feel like we’ve been very, very fast and very under the radar because we haven’t, one, qualified well, or, two, executed in the race.  I think if you sat in my right side seat, which I know there isn’t one, but if there was a right side seat in my car and you rode with me through the last two or three mile-and-a-halves, you’d go, ‘Damn, we’re the fastest car out here.’  Unfortunately, we haven’t produced those results and that’s on us to get right.  There are a number of reasons for that.  I’m not gonna sit here and make excuses, but I know the speed is there and speed is building block one of winning the race, and then you obviously have to have execution and luck and we haven’t put two and three together to really build the house that it takes to win.  I feel like this weekend, along with any other weekend, could be that chance and that opportunity.”

DO YOU WORRY YOU’RE LOSING CHANCES TO WIN ONE BECAUSE YOU’VE HAD TO RALLY FROM SOMETHING ALMOST EVERY WEEK?  “Yeah, rallying is certainly not an optimal situation.  I’d love to just start on the pole and lead every lap, but that’s not realistic either.  You have to be in position.  You have to have the speed.  It wouldn’t bother me if I started 43rd come Sunday knowing I have as fast a race car as I’ve had over the last few weeks because I feel that confident that if we can just execute, we could overcome that deficit.”

AT WHAT POINT IN YOUR CAREER DID YOU BEGIN A WORKOUT ROUTINE?  “I’ve never really been big into the whole workout routine thing.  I’ve always felt like if you’re strong enough mentally, that you can damn near overcome anything.  I don’t know if you ever read any of these stories about people that can pick up a car and save someone, I feel like if you have mental strength, that you can do anything.  That doesn’t mean you can jump off this building an fly, but it does mean that you can overcome pain and you can essentially turn off your body’s sensitivity to it.  So, quite honestly, I’ve spent all of my focus on being as mentally strong as possible once I get behind the wheel.  And once you can do that, the rest doesn’t matter.”

AS A CHAMPION, DO YOU BECOME A TARGET FOR MORE CRITICISM THAN BEFORE?  “I would assume so.  When you’re in the position that I am in, which is being the reigning champion, it’s a good position to be in, but there are some small downsides and certainly everyone wants to beat me, but they have to essentially have to beat 41 other teams as well.  If they lose sight of that, they’ll be in trouble as well, so I can’t say I’ve been spending a lot of time.  I notice it, but I don’t spend a lot of time worrying about it.  I know at the end of the day if we go out and do our jobs, execute, have speed in our cars, and I don’t make any mistakes, that I can continue to win and be successful in this sport.  That’s what really concerns me.”

BRUTON SAID THERE’S A 70 PERCENT CHANCE THE CHARLOTTE OCTOBER RACE COULD GO TO VEGAS.  WHAT WOULD THAT MEAN TO YOU?  “I think it would be important to recognize that we would still have two races.  I think it’s more about what it would mean to the fans and I think it’s more a fan question than a driver question.  For me personally, it would obviously be another trip to the west coast.  The turnout and attendance in that area has been very strong the last few years.  That doesn’t necessarily mean that it would be again, but I’m assuming that Bruton and his team would have researched all that and have a pretty good idea of how successful it would be.  I’m an open-minded person, and I’m not necessarily sure if Bruton means that or not, but I don’t really have any strong feelings either way on it.”

CAN YOU TALK ABOUT YOUR FOUNDATION EVENT ON MONDAY AND WHY THAT’S SO IMPORTANT TO YOU?  “We’ve had a few of them this year and had one this past weekend that could have gone a little better with the rain and breaking down on lap one, but, either way, having those events, to me, whether it’s at the track here with the Race to Recovery rides or this Monday, where we just have our Memorial Day celebration, is a great chance to really reflect on how lucky we are to be in this sport, whether it’s as a driver or participant or really even for you guys – media and so forth – and putting into perspective some of the other sacrifices that are being made.  It’s pretty damn inspiring for me and makes a bad day not seem so bad, I can tell you that.  So I feel lucky to get to do them, to be quite honest.”

DOES THE MENTAL CHALLENGE OF COMPLETING THIS RACE TRUMP PHYSICAL WEAR AND TEAR?  “Yeah, I believe mental strength overcomes all and will always be your strongest asset, so, yes.  I don’t know how to add anymore to that, but, yes.”

DID YOU DIAGNOSE WHAT HAPPENED LAST WEEK AND DID THAT SHORT RUN HAMPER YOUR PREPARATION FOR THIS WEEKEND?  “Yes, we found a broken driveshaft.  That knocked us out last week.  It’s hard to say exactly why, whether it was a faulty part or just from fatigue from the qualifying competition, but, certainly we would have like to have had that additional track time to be better prepared.  Fortunately, we had a teammate who ran pretty well with Joey Logano, so we’ll have some information to decipher, but, obviously not an optimal situation.”

HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE JIMMIE JOHNSON’S CAREER?  “It’s pretty damn good so far (laughing).  I guess that’s about all you could really say.  It’s been pretty good.  I know there are a lot of people that would like to have it.”

HALFWAY THROUGH YOUR REIGN AS DEFENDING CHAMPION, HOW WOULD YOU ASSESS WHERE YOU ARE, WHAT YOU’VE DONE AND YOUR ROLE AS BEING A CHAMPION?  “It’s still very early six months in.  I would certainly like to be in a better position than where I’m at right now, and I would like to see the sport continue to grow and be stronger than where it is right now.  It’s hard to really say that I’m happy with where I’m at because I’m not, but I’m not unhappy either.  Winning a championship is step one to have that opportunity to become a leader, but there are several other steps.  I’m a big believer, by the way, that anything you really want, you need to go out and really reach for it, and I’m the type of guy that reaches sometimes a little further than what I have for length in my arms.  But if I could win another championship, win some more big races, do some other great things, certainly that goal of being a leader of the garage is obtainable.  But step one is making sure that everybody knows what that goal is, and I hope that it’s known.  But I’m smart enough to realize that I still have steps to go.”

SO DO YOU NOT FEEL LIKE A LEADER IN THE GARAGE?  “Certainly there are other drivers that have been around longer and have a stronger reign and deservedly so have a stronger voice, but I would like to be with them, absolutely.”

SO IF YOU DON’T WORK OUT PHYSICALLY AND BELIEVE MORE IN THE MENTAL ASPECT, HOW DO YOU WORK OUT MENTALLY?  “Mentally, you’ve either got it or you don’t.  The big chunk of what it takes mentally to be successful in this sport, I think, really doesn’t come from training it comes from the experiences you’ve had growing up – good or bad – and I think that’s why you look at drivers – one of the first ones that steps out in my mind is Tony Stewart.  You look at where he’s come up and how he’s come up in the sport and how he’s had to fight, dig and claw every step of the way, and that experience, I think, builds you tougher more so than anything else.  I’m 29 years old and I didn’t get my first opportunity to really run in Cup until I was 27.  At that same time I was watching other drivers – the Kyle Buschs and Joey Loganos who had their first Cup opportunities in their early twenties and I think at least one of them at least at 19, and you see that and it makes you madder than hell because you feel like you could do it if you had the opportunity and you didn’t get it.  I think that fuels some of your mental strength and fuels your drive to have something to prove.  When those moments come that we all have, where you’re starting to break down mentally, that’s in the back of your head, that’s in the back of your mind, and gives you the fuel it takes to keep going and keep burning.  That, to me, is what the mental strength of this sport is all about.  Where do you find that extra bit of fuel for the fire?  For me, that’s not the only place it comes from, but that’s one of the places.  But to answer your question about how do you ascertain that, I don’t know if you can necessarily find that all on your own.  I don’t think you can really find any of it on your own.  I think you find it through those experiences and you can use those to self-destruct or you can use them in those moments where you need that extra bit, and that’s where I feel like I use them.”

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