Ford Performance NASCAR: Brad Keselowski Las Vegas Media Availability




American Muscle

Brad Keselowski, driver of the No. 2 Discount Tire Ford Mustang for Team Penske, has four wins this season, including one in the NASCAR Cup Series playoffs at Richmond Raceway two weeks ago. He enters the Round of 12 opener on Sunday at Las Vegas Motor Speedway in third place, holding a 30-point advantage on the final transfer position. Here is a full transcript of his Q&A session today as part of a NASCAR Zoom media availability.

BRAD KESELOWSKI, No. 2 Discount Tire Ford Mustang — ARE YOU GLAD TALLADEGA IS THE MIDDLE RACE OF THIS ROUND OR DOES IT REALLY MATTER? “Long story short, I didn’t even think about it that way. The biggest thing I’ve been thinking about is the playoff bonus points and winning in Vegas. The best thing we can do to control our own destiny is to go win Vegas and then Talladega just becomes what it is. It’s the same thing with the Roval, so we’re hopeful to just kind of not have to worry about it that way by scoring a win. If we’re not able to do that, I’d like to get a few more playoff bonus points with stages for those races and that would help a bunch, but, certainly, this round presents a lot of challenges for us.”

WHERE DO YOU SEE THE STATE OF THESE SUPERSPEEDWAY RACES RIGHT NOW? “Somewhere along the lines of a MAVTV demo derby just a little faster. I mean, it is what it is and you have to call for what it is. The racing at Daytona and Talladega goes through ebbs and flows and evolutions, and it’s evolved so much over the last 11 years, 12 years I’ve been in Cup, and it seems to evolve in yearly sometimes every two to three year cycles. It’s really hard to keep in front of it. This latest iteration has just been the demo derby iteration, which has been frustrating for me because without being able to really do anything to protect the lead it’s just hoping that, fingers crossed, you don’t get wrecked. That said, my teammate Ryan Blaney has been successful. He’s won two races and managed to survive a couple times at Daytona and Talladega and I just look at it and go, ‘You lucky you know what,’ but he’s doing something right, but I haven’t figured out how to survive all the crashes.”

HOW DO YOU LOOK AT FRIENDS ON THE RACETRACK AND THE DISCUSSION THIS WEEK, AND THOUGHTS ON LAP TRAFFIC WHEN YOU’RE FASTER THAN SOMEONE? “There are a lot of people who think Dale Earnhardt was the best race car driver ever, and I think he was really good, but one of the things that he probably didn’t get a lot of credit for and that I respect the most about him was his ability to go out and just flat-out wreck someone on the racetrack, not that people didn’t get mad at him, but people forgot about it, like they moved on. He had it mastered, absolutely mastered. I look at that all the time and just wonder, ‘How do you do that?’ Now, keep in mind that was in an era before social media and before the super-big sponsors and maybe times have changed permanently forever, but I certainly wonder about that — how he was able to basically go out and wreck people and still be their friends. That doesn’t exist in Cup right now. Maybe it’s because no one has or will ever have the personality that Dale had, or maybe because you can’t. I don’t know, but the reality is unless you have the dominant car, you have to make bold moves and you have to do things that make people pretty angry to win. It’s not a fun part of the process, but you can’t win without it. In theory, the best way is to just go out and have the best car. The reality is on any given weekend that’s only one driver and in any given season you’re lucky to have the best car two or three times. I was thinking about this the other day as I was talking to a friend of mine who is a football fan and a lot of times what I hear from people about race car drivers is, ‘Are you the quarterback on the team?’ And my honest answer is, ‘No, I’m not really the quarterback on the team, I’m probably like a wide receiver skill position,’ because my job, in some ways, is very similar to a wide receiver that when I’m wide open, I better catch the ball. That’s the same as having the fastest race car. You better make the most out of it. When I’m completely covered, I’ve got to find a way to come down with the ball and that’s when you don’t have the fastest race car and you go out and still find a way do succeed. Let’s just put it this way, trying to come down with the ball while you’re fully covered is a scrum and you’ve got to throw a few elbows and a few people get upset. The position that we’re in and we’ve been in is one where we’re not exactly always the fastest car and we’ve got to throw a few elbows. It’s not where we want to be, but it’s the reality and the alternative is to just give up and that’s not who I am and I know that’s not who Joey is.”

SO THEN IS THE ART LEARNING HOW TO HAVE PEOPLE MAD AT YOU WITHOUT IT SCREWING WITH YOUR HEAD? “It certainly is an art. It’s one that Dale Earnhardt had figured out better than anyone else, and led to a lot of success that he deserves tremendous credit for. It’s not one that exists in Cup today.”

THERE’S BEEN SOME CHATTER ABOUT A POTENTIAL DIRT RACE AT BRISTOL. DO YOU HAVE ANY PREFERENCE? “I don’t know enough about it. I have one-tenth of the information that would be required to have a respectable opinion. I’ve got so many questions, so I kind of want to see how it unfolds before really giving a detailed opinion. My initial impressions are that change is good for the NASCAR schedule. It shows a commitment to trying to keep this circuit fresh and keep fan interest. Beyond that, I don’t know enough about it technically to have a formal opinion.”

IS THE BIG QUESTION WHAT TYPE OF SUSPENSION AND HOW MUCH DIRT? “Yeah, the tire is the big question. If they’re gonna bring a tire like they brought to the truck races, I would be very disappointed. If they bring a very high caliber quality dirt tire, I think it could be an amazing race.”

WHAT WENT THROUGH YOUR MIND WHEN YOUR POWER-STEERING WENT OUT AT BRISTOL AND HOW GRATEFUL WERE YOU THAT YOU HAD A WIN IN THE BAG ALREADY? “Yeah, I think number two probably answers number one. First thought in my mind was, ‘Thank God we won Richmond,’ but it was the power-steering that actually went out. I’m not sure why that happened. I know the team was trying to take a look at it, but my XFINITY teammate, Austin Cindric, had the same issue the night before. Hopefully, that will get solved and won’t be a source of worry as we move forward, but I am super-thankful for the run we had at Richmond and glad to move on. I hate how it hurt our average finish. We had an average finish of like 1.7 on the short tracks until then this year, and that was gonna be awesome. Well, that ruined that, but, either way, it’s over and we’re thankful to move on to the next round.”

DOES IT TEACH YOU THE IMPORTANCE OF WINS PARTICULARLY IN THE PLAYOFFS? “I think if you look through the list, the first thing that stands out is you can’t beat yourself — driver, car, team — and if you do beat yourself, you better be able to win in the other races. So, is it the importance of winning? Yes, but I think if you’re getting down to the basics of it, you can’t have breakdowns, you can’t have major driver malfunctions or major car malfunctions or you’re gonna be in big trouble.”

IS VEGAS MORE IMPORTANT BECAUSE OF TALLADEGA AND THE ROVAL RIGHT AFTER IT? “I think it’s the second most important race to win outside of Phoenix throughout the whole season because these next two weeks are very difficult to prepare for, to your point. We’d like to get a headstart on preparing for Kansas and Texas and not have to worry about breakdowns or wrecks, but we’re putting a lot of emphasis on it is the easiest way I can put it.”

WHERE DO YOU FEEL YOU AND JEREMY ARE IN TERMS OF COMMUNICATION COMPARED TO WHERE YOU AND PAUL WERE AT THIS TIME LAST YEAR? “I think the easiest way is we’re kind of graduating from the honeymoon phase into the living together phase. It’s still pretty good, everybody is happy. I’m thrilled to death with what I think our potential is for these playoffs, but we’ve got to go to work.”

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