Ford Performance NASCAR: Indianapolis (Brad Keselowski Post Race Press Conference

Ford Notes and Quotes
Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series (MENCS)
Brickyard 400 (Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Speedway, IN)
Monday, September 10, 2018

We know you’ve been a little busy the last couple hours. Just quickly maybe an opening statement just on what it means to win here at Indy, obviously very special to Team Penske for your team owner Roger Penske, but then you also mentioned that it was your first Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series win for your sponsor Discount Tire, just what it means to be able to have all those things come together today.

BRAD KESELOWSKI: “Yeah, today was obviously a big day, but for us, a number of reasons why, and I know most of you know that, but I’ll just go ahead and repeat them. With Roger Penske getting his first Cup win here and myself getting the first Cup win here, at such a historic racetrack that means so much to all of motorsports, so for us to have our name on that win list sure does mean a lot to me. I can tell you that. And then you look at some of the other things we have going on, about to enter the playoffs, of course having those few extra playoff bonus points, you never know when you’re going to need those. You just can’t ever predict it. Having five more of those sure does make us feel good about the next 10 weeks ahead. And then finally, like you said, our sponsors, Discount Tire, they’ve been with me since 2010, and I don’t know if I would be here in my career without them. But this is the first time they’ve been with us at the Cup level, and this is their first win. What a great first win to have, and I’m really happy for them, as well. Just a terrific day all the way around, and I’m really, really happy, really just very much thrilled. Today was not an easy day. We certainly didn’t go out and just dominate the whole race, but my team executed everything perfectly, caught a little bit of break, but we put ourselves in position for that break and then executed before and after it. Just very much thrilled to be here and thrilled to be a Brickyard 400 winner.”

American Muscle

Obviously came down to that final restart and you ended up getting a lead from Denny. Can you recap the last restart with you and the 11 car?

BRAD KESELOWSKI: “Yeah, I knew we’d have a shot to run with Denny, and on the last restart the inside line just had incredible grip, and we drove from third to second entering Turn 1, and then I knew it was just a matter of settling in. I was extremely loose, and so I was kind of nervous about that being so loose and around Denny because I knew I was going to have to pass him on the inside, and when you pass somebody on the inside, you get even looser. I had almost spun out right before the yellow came out before that. I got a little bit of a run on him off of Turn 4 with 2 to go and got right up behind him through 1 and 2 and eventually as able to just barely take a peek underneath him off of 2 and try to get a run. We held each other pretty tight entering 3, and I knew going into Turn 3 underneath him that with no air on the right side of the car, I was just going to wreck us both. I had to let him go and try to make another run at him for Turn 4, and that’s what we were able to do. I was able to just get in there and kind of dig position into Turn 4, and it stuck. I was able to clear him, and gosh, that was one of the best things I ever heard in my life was clear off of Turn 4 at Brickyard coming to the white flag. To me, what a day, it was a great finish, and like I said, we weren’t good enough to beat him straight up, and we didn’t. But we put ourselves in position to do it with great strategy and timing all the moves right on pit road and on the racetrack. I’m really thrilled for that.”

For as great as this moment is, how tough was it a year ago, and what was the difference in terms of the restarts? I know you were in different lanes, but it was kind of in some sense a similar situation.

BRAD KESELOWSKI: “Well, yeah, there was a lot going on here today. But certainly to your point, victories like this are sweeter when you’ve had failures beforehand, and I feel like I’ve had a car capable of winning this race two or three times in the past. Today was probably not even in the top 3 for cars that I’ve had here. With that in mind, either I didn’t execute or we didn’t execute as a team, and so you try to learn from that, and you try to be better, and apply yourself in the best way possible, and today we executed across the board. I executed the passes I needed to execute. I executed the long run there. I executed the strategy on the team’s end and the pit stop on the team’s end, and that’s why we’re here today. With that in mind, that’s part of the ebbs and flows and part of what makes this victory taste so sweet.”

Denny obviously was a little bit upset that lapped cars kind of wrecked and ended up bringing the field back. How random or how much was it ‑‑ is luck the right word?

BRAD KESELOWSKI: “Yeah, I mean, Indy has always been this way. Before I came here this weekend, I sat down and watched the 1994 Indy 500, and the announcers were talking towards the closing stages how Indy always changes right at the end, and that’s always been how this race seems to play out. There’s always something that happens with 20 to go that completely shakes everything up. I don’t know why that is. That particular race, Emerson Fittipaldi was going to win it hands down, and he got caught up in lap traffic, spun out in a wreck and Little Al did. But with that in mind, that’s been the story of this race forever, and it’s burned us, and today it probably worked in our favor. So like I said, you’ve got to take the ups with the downs, and appreciate when you’re on the upswing and put yourself in position to be on the up swing but know sometimes those things aren’t going to work out. Today it did, and we’re very proud of that and thankful for it.”

With McMurray at the end, were you wondering what type of moves he might try to pull considering ‑‑

BRAD KESELOWSKI: “Jamie is a pretty solid and smart racer, and quite honestly, we had such a great car there at the end with the new tires that I felt pretty confident we’d be able to make the most of it.”

Have you had a chance to speak with Roger yet, and if so, what was that conversation like?

BRAD KESELOWSKI: “Yes, I did. It was a very brief conversation. He unfortunately couldn’t be here today. He’s on a secret mission somewhere. If you know Roger Penske, that makes perfect sense. But with that in mind, I very much wish I was here, and I’m thinking about him. Gosh, just such a big day for Team Penske. It’s such a shame he isn’t here.”

The first one you had said earlier that getting the all‑clear was like a big matter of relief. Did you expect a little bit more resistance from Denny because you were kind of the aggressor?

BRAD KESELOWSKI: “Well, I knew I was really loose through Turn 4 and I bobbled trying to get by him and make the pass, and I couldn’t quite carry the run, and I thought he might still be there. I knew if I was still there off of 4 that the race was over, I wasn’t going to win.”

Secondly, it feels like maybe you’ll disagree, but it feels like this race more than any other is so strategy dependent that having a guy like Paul who can make those right calls is very vital. I never feel like there’s ever a moment when you ever question one of his calls. How much is it a value to have a guy that you’re on the same page with?

BRAD KESELOWSKI: “Well, I’m glad you feel that way. It’s kind of like mom and dad arguing. Mom and dad should never argue in front of their kids. I’m not going to say that Paul and I always agree on everything, but I sure did agree with that last call. We try to stay on the same page as much as possible, but these races are so dynamic, you come into them with a plan and then yellows come out and things happen, and next thing you know your plan is garbage, and that’s tough to deal with sometimes, but that’s part of racing. But Paul is a smart guy and made the most of the strategy when it counted.”

Inaudible question

BRAD KESELOWSKI: “ I think so. Strategy is so important here because cars struggle so much with the aerodynamics behind each other that you could have a much faster race car and not be able to pass. Getting all that right is very critical.”

Two wins in a row heading into the playoffs; that’s got to be a huge confidence boost and momentum boost. What can you do to keep that rolling over the next few weeks?

BRAD KESELOWSKI: “Yeah, you know, trying to look at the next 10 weeks, the next 10 weeks are races upon their own. There’s a lot of conversation based around momentum, and today is certainly great, but there’s not a lot we’re going to really take from it from Vegas other than the five bonus points and the money, with that in mind. We’re proud of this win for sure, but it’s no guarantee for any success in the playoffs. We have to go out and earn it each and every lap of each and every race.”

Obviously anything can happen in the playoffs; you understand that, you’ve been around. But with the advantage that at least Kyle and Kevin have in terms of playoff points, do you almost view it as everybody else is racing for two spots at Homestead, or do you almost feel like it’s one spot with Truex?

BRAD KESELOWSKI: “Yeah, you know, it’s tough. You can have one really bad race and lose 50 points pretty quick. And honestly, they don’t have 50 on me, I think they have 35 on me, if that’s right, roughly. It’s close, right? Nobody is going to audit it; it’s somewhere around there. It’s 31? Okay. So I mean, yeah, that’s ‑‑ a good race in the playoffs is a 40‑ to 45‑point race. So that in mind, a bad race in the playoffs is like a three‑ or a five‑point race. That’s within that window pretty quickly. There’s no guarantees ‑‑ I would want to be in the 50s or 60s to feel like I was going to have a lock to Homestead. So they’re close to that but not there. You know, and then of course those last three races you have three different winners that aren’t them, and that means there’s only one seat at the table. We’re looking forward to those weeks each one of these rounds the way the schedule has realigned has had a racetrack that I think we can win at, so I’m really optimistic about that. Probably for us, Homestead is the toughest besides the Roval, track for us. We’re excited and ready to go, but there’s a big challenge in front of us but also an incredible opportunity.”

And on pit road, Kyle Busch was asked who’s the four among the big three, and he suggested it’s you based on the last two weeks. Are you the fourth?

BRAD KESELOWSKI: “ I’d love to be the first. There’s no guarantee in any of these things. I don’t know. That’s a long ways from now, and I think you get to looking too far ahead, that’s how you get yourself in trouble. I think you’ve got to go one week at a time. And I know that sounds like the old football coach cliché, but that’s really the reality here because you can dig a big hole so fast when you get to looking too far ahead.”

There’s been some joking over the last few days that maybe this race is just cursed because of all the rain, and I’m curious if you felt from a Penske standpoint whether you guys have been kind of cursed in this race ‑‑

BRAD KESELOWSKI: “Yeah, we have felt a little cursed, but honestly, I’ve felt like I’ve made some mistakes along the way that kept us from winning, and today was a day where we just didn’t make them. We had great strategy, a little bit of luck on our side and perfect execution.”

Do you think today could be potential for lifting maybe any curse off this race when we talk about ‑‑ who knows what type of aero package you’ll have come year a year from now?

BRAD KESELOWSKI: “Well, I really like the idea of this race being maybe not the cutoff race to the playoffs but towards the fall months. I think there’s a good fit there that makes good sense to me. I’d really like it if it was like IRP or whatever that track is called now on a Wednesday and then Indy on a Sunday. I wish we could race twice in this region in the week, so you get a little dose of both. But you can’t complain. The track is trying really hard to do what they can do, and we’re very fortunate to be able to have stock cars here running at this track and thankful for that opportunity.”

After you won last week, you said you expected to run fifth to tenth. Is that about where you expected to run today?

BRAD KESELOWSKI: “Yeah, it was pretty similar. We were a little bit worse than that at times, a little bit better than that at times. Obviously in the end when you do everything right in these types of races you can execute and have a shot at it, and we did just that.”

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