Ford Performance NASCAR: Keselowski Claims New Hampshire Cup Pole

Ford Performance Notes and Quotes
Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series (MENCS)
Friday, July 19, 2019
EVENT: Foxwoods Resort Casino 301, Loudon, NH. (Qualifying)

Ford Qualifying Results:
1st – Brad Keselowski
5th – Ryan Blaney
8th – Joey Logano
9th – Aric Almirola
11th – Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
13th – Daniel Suarez
14th – Kevin Harvick
16th – Clint Bowyer
17th – Paul Menard
20th – David Ragan
24th – Michael McDowell
26th – Ryan Newman
29th – Corey LaJoie
30th – Matt Tifft


American Muscle

BRAD KESELOWSKI, No. 2 Alliance Truck Parts Ford Mustang – WHEN DO YOU START THINKING ABOUT THE PLAYOFFS? “I think for me personally, I can only answer for myself, I start thinking about the Playoffs the second you get your first win and you’re locked in. And for there it’s kind of ‘how can I have the most amount of points, bonus points, whatever it might be, to enter those Playoffs.’ That’s why it’s such a big advantage early in the season because you can really focus your eyes on the big prize.”

DO YOU CHANGE YOUR STRATEGY AT ALL? “I think you’re willing to take more risks because you know you’re not reliant on the overall season points to get you in, so you can focus more on those bonus points and what it takes to accrue them.”

HOW BIG OF AN OPPORTUNITY IS THIS TO BANK SOME PLAYOFF POINTS STARTING ON THE POLE? “I always personally hesitate to under-value qualifying, but with that in mind there are some tracks that are less impactful to win the pole than Loudon, New Hampshire is. Certainly, the restrictor plate tracks come to mind, but that doesn’t mean you don’t enjoy them as much at those tracks and that they don’t mean something to you. They certainly do, but as you look to rank the tracks for where qualifying well matters this is certainly towards the top. I think probably the only track I can think of where it’s maybe more important would be Martinsville in the fall, or the two races we have there in the spring and fall, but we’re happy with that effort. It certainly bodes well for our shot to get those stage wins and of course the overall race win come Sunday, but we still have to go earn it. You’re happy for it. You take a breath. You celebrate it and then you get your head back down and go to work.”

HAVE YOU WATCHED ANY OF THE SPECIALS ABOUT THE 50TH ANNIVERSARY OF THE MOON LANDING AND HAVE YOU SEEN ANYTHING THAT CONVINCES YOU ONE WAY OR THE OTHER? “Yeah, I saw some really good stuff and it looks great and makes a lot of sense. Yeah. I think it’s cool, but I’m not gonna put my head on the line. I know from the little bit of experience I have working with the government that I would be completely shocked if they were able to pull that off as a hoax. If you’ve ever been to the Secretary of State to get your license renewed, you know how hard it is for our government to achieve those things, so with that in mind, I feel like it happened. It was good, but I’m not putting my first-born child on the line. How about that?”

DO YOU HAVE A STRATEGY AT THIS TRACK? “I don’t feel like I have a strategy. This is a really hard track to have a strategy for because every year we come here something gets changed. They change the PJ1. They change the bodies on the car. They change the rules on the ride height. I don’t feel like I’ve been here for more than two straight years where the cars have been anything alike. And every time they make those changes it affects the way the car is driving and how you maximize lap time on it, so it’s part of the challenge of being in the Cup Series, evolving to the dynamic rules and dynamics of the cars and the teams and evolution of engineering and so forth, but I wouldn’t say there’s one trick that served us through those years.”

HARVICK SAID IF DRIVERS RACED LIKE THIS 10 YEARS AGO THEY WOULD END UP WITH A FIST IN THEIR MOUTH. HAMLIN SAID IT CHANGED IN THE BRAD KESELOWSKI ERA WITH YOUR AGGRESSION. DO YOU THINK THAT’S THE CASE? “Certainly, the drivers change over the years and the tactics change over the years. The side drafting since I’ve been a part of the sport has become more prevalent. The moves just have changed. The game has changed. It evolves and there’s a lot of reasons for that. It’s not all the drivers, in fact most of it is not the drivers it’s the rules and what’s at stake. I’d agree 100 percent with Kevin that things have changed dramatically in that what was acceptable 10 years ago would get you pushed out of this sport if you were a driver that did it today because you’d lose your ride. So this sport is dynamic. It always has been. I think for me I look for inspirations and I tell people my job as a race car driver is I always feel like I’m 10 percent of the equation and I get 90 percent of the credit. And if you feel like you’re 10 percent of the equation, then what’s the other 90 percent of it? Well, it’s the pit crew, the engineering, the mechanics that bolt the car together. All of those things have to come together on any given weekend to be successful. With that in mind, my job as that 10 percent person or the role that I play as a driver is to take the days where our total effort is not good enough to win and still find a way to win. And that means applying tactics that help advance us and so I think if you look at guys like Dale Earnhardt and the mystique that he has, part of that mystique came from his ability to do just that – was to take the days where he didn’t have the fastest car and make something happen. I give a lot of credit to a guy like Kyle Busch. I think he does that a lot. He takes cars that maybe aren’t the fastest and finds a way to run up front and win with them. That’s part of what makes him so good, and that means advance tactics, it means being the best down pit road as a driver, it means making moves and maybe side drafting is an example of just one of a list of things you can do to help differentiate yourself to create that advantage when you’re at a deficit. But as a whole my philosophy has always been that you’re not a great driver unless you can take a car that shouldn’t win and win with it, and that’s gonna come through advance tactics. Some of those tactics are less controversial than others. Some of them evolve the sport in good ways or bad ways, but the reality is that’s what separates the best from the good. And that’s what guys like Dale did that led to their mystique. Dale took cars on superspeedways that were probably fifth-place cars and dominated with them because he knew advance tactics that nobody else knew. He figured them out and kept them to himself and beat people with them. If you go back and watch videos in the nineties of Dale, the moves that he’s pulling and then you look back at the other guys it’s like, ‘Why aren’t they pulling those moves?’ And I think that’s some of what was going on 10 years ago is those moves were out there and the drivers just weren’t taking them, and you could argue there was a different code back then. I would say there’s probably some truth to that, but I would also say that I didn’t come in this sport with the opportunity to have the best cars and equipment and I raced against drivers that had been in this sport for 10-15 years and quite honestly were probably in better equipment and found a way to survive and thrive, and that’s my job. So, if I’ve played a role in that, I’m thrilled to death to have done that because I know personally what that means. It means that I did more with my equipment than I should have done and I earned my spot in this sport.”

WHAT IS YOUR OPINION ON CUP DRIVERS SUPPORTING THEIR LOCAL SHORT TRACKS? “I think it’s good. There’s certainly a gap there between the local tracks and the upper echelon of the sport. There are a number of reasons for that. Some are just innocent and some are not. I would say that at the end of the day though we need the grassroots. The grassroots are important to our sport and I feel fortunate to have played a role in supporting that with owning some late model teams. Maybe the Truck Series isn’t the grassroots, but it’s somewhere in between. It’s a nice, intermediate step and owning a team there it was certainly a pleasure to be a part of and I’ve had a lot of fun with that and was able to get five or six drivers up through the ranks with that and I look at those drivers today and I’m really proud to see their success and know that I had this small of a part, but still a part in their success. I think ultimately it’s in all of our hands, and that’s not just drivers, it’s everyone who enters this garage area from the fans that maybe bring their kids to the race and experience it for the first time to media members to reach out on social media to new fans and tell them whether the track has lights or not, to us drivers and NASCAR officials. Those interactions are how we pay it forward to this sport for the privileges and opportunities that it’s given us and I think they’re very important and the grassroots level is just one of many ways for us to pay it forward and it’s good to see some of those guys become successful because they’ve certainly earned it.”

DO YOU GET MORE EXCITED WHEN KYLE IS ON THE FRONT ROW OR WORRIED BECAUSE YOU GUYS HAVE HAD SOME ISSUES? “I don’t think about it that much because that’s just not the type of person that I am, and the reason I don’t think about it is not out of any kind of disrespect or anything like that, but it’s out of a feeling that to win the race tomorrow we’re one of 40 cars. He’s one of 40 cars. Do the math and that means I have to beat him and 38 other cars, and I’ve always felt like if you put too much focus on one you’ll forget about the other 38. I could finish 39th and him finish 40th and I could tell you I still would not leave this track happy. My goal is to beat everyone and not just one.”

RYAN NEWMAN, No. 6 Oscar Mayer Ford Mustang – “I didn’t really push it very hard there. I wanted to get through qualifying. The brakes need to be bled and a bunch of stuff wasn’t really prepared 100 percent, but I was surprised we ran as quick as we did with me not pushing it as hard as I did. We’ll just take it for what it’s worth and work on race trim. I surprised myself, obviously, in practice. I’ve been here quite a few times and never hit the fence, especially there, but it just caught me off guard and we’ve gone to a back-up car and try to get the Oscar Mayer Ford up front on Sunday.”

HOW MUCH DID THE PJ1 HAVE TO DO WITH THAT? “I don’t know. I just was really stranding in it and I caught the bumps wrong and ended up above it and there still wasn’t enough grip to save it, so I don’t know. I don’t know if they used a tire dragon or a spray or what they do. It’s a science project every time we come to the race track and they start putting chemicals on it. I’m not a fan of it.”

IT WAS THE SAME TURN DENNY HAMLIN SPUN OUT ON. “We’ve both won here quite a few times and we both ran out of talent within about five minutes of each other. I don’t know. There were people asking me if there was oil on the race track and I don’t think so.”

PAUL MENARD, No. 21 Motorcraft Ford Mustang – “The car drove pretty decent, really. I have to go back and look at it on where I lost some time. I felt like I attacked the corner pretty hard. Maybe I used a little bit too much brake just to get it to point, but I was fairly happy with how it drove and all that. I don’t know how it’s going to shake out, but we’ve got all day tomorrow to get it right for the race and that’s what we’re here for.”

RYAN BLANEY, No. 12 Menards/Sylvania Ford Mustang – “I just kind of got loose in one and two and I jumped the cushion my first lap. I got in the fourth lane, so that laps junk. And then you’re worried about doing it again the second lap, so you kind of don’t have the best feel for one and two, but I thought our car in three and four was awesome. I was just a little bit too free in one and two, and it should have been a lot faster than that, but I didn’t really get the best couple of laps.”

ARIC ALMIROLA, No. 10 Smithfield Ford Mustang – “I thought that was a good lap for us. We struggled in practice and changed quite a bit of stuff going into qualifying, and didn’t really know what to expect. But I thought that was a good lap for us. I’m really proud of everybody on this Smithfield team and I feel like this is a place we can win at. We ran really well here last year. I know it’s a lot different with the car and the rule changes and everything, but I really like this place. I like racing here and I feel good about what we’ve got.”

WE HAD TWO CARS SPIN IN PRACTICE. ANOTHER ONE HIT THE WALL IN QUALIFYING. IS THAT INDICATIVE OF THIS TRACK? “Yeah, I don’t know. Right now, I just feel like there’s a real fine line between the grip and the PJ1 on the new asphalt, and the PJ1 when you transition over onto the old asphalt. You just have to be really, really careful and there’s a delicate balance between how much grip there is in those two different surfaces.”

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