THE MODERATOR: We are joined now by the winner of the first duel race tonight, and that was Brad Keselowski. Brad, with the race going on right now, we'll go right to questions.
Q. (No microphone.)
BRAD KESELOWSKI: I'm going to keep learning about these cars every time I get in them, and there's a lot to learn, and they keep changing so much. We came down here for the test, and our car was not very good, didn't have a lot of speed, drove really bad. I knew we made a lot of changes from the test to come down here and learned a lot accordingly, and I was trying to kind of reset my brain from what I had at the test session because what I had at the test session was hey, if you can just make 200 laps you'll be doing good.
We made some good changes, Matt McCall and the team did, and I think I needed to put those to the test for sure.
Q. (No microphone.)
BRAD KESELOWSKI: Yeah, yeah, there's always little nuances. I think the bumpers are something -- I'm more worried about the hood flaps than I am the bumpers and how they bounce back and forth and come out of the cars. But in theory it's the same for everybody, so it's just another thing for us to manage, and that's our job as race car drivers is always to understand the risk versus reward of every move we do, and to be right on the edge but not over it.
That's everything from how the car handles to the mechanicals of the car and keeping it in one piece. We want to push all the mechanicals to the edge the same way, and the driver has a huge influence on that.
Q. I'm curious if it was a benefit for you guys to only have four cars at the end in that little pack there, and you were able to kind of slingshot there for the lead. Was that a benefit of having just a small group of cars there?
BRAD KESELOWSKI: Yeah, it certainly didn't hurt. If there had been more cars, I don't think I would have done anything different. You know, the risk proposition was a lot lower when you have that many cars because I think if it didn't work I was going to finish fourth. That didn't hurt for sure.
Q. I was curious if there was any kind of spark of emotion or anything seeing the 2 car behind you coming across the line right behind you.
BRAD KESELOWSKI: No, not particularly. I'll go watch it on TV; maybe it will then. In the moment I just want to win and I don't have a chance to be sentimental.
Q. How does this feel?
BRAD KESELOWSKI: It's just really good. It's just so important. There's a lot of guys and gals on my team that have never won a race before. The company hasn't won a race in five, six years now, five and a half, something like that. That's any kind of race.
It's really important to get that winning habit built up, and the only way you can really do that is to go win. That builds confidence in each other and builds expectations. Not just the expectations, that's probably not the right word, it builds a reality that those expectations can happen. We had a really poor showing at the Clash, and we needed something to offset that, and this is a great offset for that.
Q. Do they get accustomed to believing they have a car capable of winning the Daytona 500?
BRAD KESELOWSKI: Well, they should, yeah. That should be what comes out of today. The 500 will be a lot different than this race. I think the big thing we're noticing is as the pack increases the cars change pretty dramatically, and then of course on the 500, you'll have the hotter temperatures because it'll be during the day. Good Lord willing it doesn't rain on us, which it looks pretty good for that. That'll be a whole different set of circumstances that we'll have to adjust to, but I think I've got a really solid team. Most of the team is from the 1 car last year, and they're built on a really strong foundation. This is something to just keep going from.
Q. You said you don't really have time to get sentimental, but there is this element with your father. Do you give it thought?
BRAD KESELOWSKI: Yeah, I haven't yet. Somebody asked me in Victory Lane, and I had my girls with me and we were doing the hat dance, so I didn't get to think about that. Yeah, it was special. We did get to put the decal on right before the start of the race. Ron Drager from ARCA, he had decals made and asked me if I wanted to run one, and said, hell, yeah. They came in right before the start of the race and put it on the car. I told my dad last year because I knew he was pretty sick and his prognosis was he wasn't going to make it through the summer. I said, Dad, we're going to win the Daytona 500, and you saw how that went.
It's bittersweet that it didn't happen while he was still alive, but I'm still glad it's some success.
Q. Why did you make the move with four to go as opposed to waiting?
BRAD KESELOWSKI: Well, because last year in the 500 I ended up in a wad down here, and not that I was okay with that, but I figured maybe I wouldn't end up in a wad with four to go. I thought maybe my push would be a little more handleable -- is that a word, handling? Handleable, something like that.
BRAD KESELOWSKI: Manageable, thank you. And so I got a good push from Chase Briscoe. It was just the right amount, not too much, and then I was able to just kind of block all the lanes and my spotter T.J. did a good job to manage that for the next two or three laps -- I honestly can't remember how that all played out, but it was perfect.
Q. Some drivers mentioned they were a little surprised that typically when you go single file here everybody goes up top and everybody stayed to the bottom, and they said they even noticed it in practice a little bit. Is that something you noticed? Is that a quirk or is that something that might play into Sunday?
BRAD KESELOWSKI: No, it definitely will play into Sunday. The cars are built symmetrical. Last year's car was built asymmetrical, and so this car is built symmetrical, and specifically how that affects it is when the cars were asymmetrical the side draft off the right side was really, really sensitive and the side draft off the left side was not sensitive at all -- well, it was minimally sensitive. So you never really wanted to expose your right side. If somebody got underneath you, you could come back down and grab their right rear quarter panel and just stop them.
So that naturally created this kind of gravitation towards the top lanes at all the plate tracks. With this car being symmetrical and that not being the case, I think the racing will be significantly better because that high lane freight train won't be there.
I felt like early in the race I was behind Ryan Blaney for a while early in the race, and I was ready to go, and he stayed calm, which was smart on his part, I guess. He stayed calm but I felt like we could have pushed and made the second lane work. I think all of us wanted to get through that pit stop and stretch our legs out and take it from there.
Q. Were you the one who was able to put the sticker on the car or were you already in the car?
BRAD KESELOWSKI: The team did right before I got there.
Q. Did you see them do it?
BRAD KESELOWSKI: No, I didn't. It happened while I was in driver intros, but that's okay. There's no pride in authorship for me. Just proud to say it was on there.
Q. Do you guys know how to bump draft yet? There's a lot of talk about the different bumpers and the foam in there and whether you really know the feel.
BRAD KESELOWSKI: Did we know it before? You know, shoot, we came here the last seven years and wrecked 30 cars a weekend. I don't think we really knew it before based on that.
So I think we'll pick up as much as we can pick it up and then we'll push it to its limits.
Q. Brad, as an owner how would you assess the job the driver did tonight?
BRAD KESELOWSKI: Well, he won't get fired, which is good. Got a little job security there, but there's some things I could have done better, I'm sure, but I was good at being patient, putting ourselves in position at the end, and I give a lot of credit for my crew on executing the pit stop really well to put us in position where we could kind of control our own destiny there.
Then for me it was just finding the right opportunity and capitalizing on it and working with my spotter. That was important once we did get the lead to manage it and keep ourselves there.
Q. In spite of last year's finish, in Turn 3 the fact that the drivers right behind you were all former teammates, did that kind of help or hinder how you thought the race may finish, realizing that it's a qualifying race? There's no reason to have any urgency.
BRAD KESELOWSKI: There's still urgency; there's 10 points on the line and a trophy and a check, right, so we wanted all those.
Q. You talked a moment ago about winning mentality; how do you establish and what's the balance for a team that has struggled to say it's about winning, yes, we can be happy about a top 10 or top 5 but we can never be satisfied unless it's a win, which is a mindset that hasn't obviously been there for a while? How do you establish that balance?
BRAD KESELOWSKI: Just for now, it's setting the bar really high. It's having people that hold those same beliefs, surrounded by them, and then executing around them. It's pushing in every way and every day, and not accepting less than our maximum potential, and I think that's what we saw today was our maximum potential.
There's a really good group of people here. We've assembled a great team kind of in the dark, and now we get to show it.
Q. Your brother actually pointed this out on Twitter, but there was a moment where it was you, Briscoe, Cindric, Blaney, Reddick all in the top 5.
BRAD KESELOWSKI: Yeah, a reunion tour.
Q. That obviously ties with the truck team. Did you notice that?
BRAD KESELOWSKI: No, I didn't. I'm in the car just -- you don't have chance to think about that. Honestly I can only see one in front, one behind anyway. That's cool; we kind of had ourselves our own little duel, didn't we. I'm really happy for each one of them and their success.
I played a role but it was pretty small, and they're doing a lot of their work on their own to get where they're at and doing a great job at it.
Q. When Edsel Ford came in to Victory Lane, did that surprise you? And what did that mean to you?
BRAD KESELOWSKI: Well, you know, I didn't know he was here, so it kind of surprised me in that way. Like, you're here on a Thursday? Usually those guys -- it must have been really cold in Michigan. Really cold. I feel you, Edsel; I'd have come down here a couple weeks ago.
No, I was happy to see him. He's a great guy. He's been so supportive of me and kind. We need that support. We can't do this without great manufacturer support. We need those guys to be excited and hungry and engaged, and when you win, it brings them to Victory Lane, right, but it does more than bring them to Victory Lane, it brings them to the table with all the things behind the scenes that we really need to be able to compete at a high level.
I told those guys we were going to win races this year, and I'm not sure they believed me, but it's good to see them in Victory Lane and be able to validate it really early.
THE MODERATOR: Brad, congratulations on tonight's win and good luck on Sunday.