Ford Performance – Brad Keselowski Transcript

BRAD KESELOWSKI, No. 6 Castrol Edge Ford Mustang – HOW DOES RFK RACING APPROACH BRISTOL THIS WEEKEND, HAVING EXPERIENCED GREAT SUCCESS FROM LAST SEASON? “It’s good to have both cars in the black, and not in the red when it comes to points. Of course, the No. 6 car having a good 30-something point cushion, which is enough to feel pretty comfortable as long as we just don’t have a complete disaster of a race. The No. 17, still having a cushion somewhere over 10 points – I think he’s 12 or 13 up – that’s better than nothing certainly and better than being in the red. But, not as much as we’d hoped – with Chris [Buescher] having the failure there with the tire at the end of the race in Kansas really shook things up. So that was unfortunate, but I’m pretty confident that we can have two strong cars and good runs this weekend. Looking forward to repeating our results from last Fall at Bristol. A lot of energy, a lot of excitement for RFK with both teams, and certainly pumped to go to Bristol this week – it’s one of my favorite tracks.”


THEY ANNOUNCED SOME CHANGES TO THE CHARLOTTE ROVAL, WHICH INCLUDES USING THE FRONTSTRETCH CHICANE FOR RESTARTS. WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS? “I had the opportunity to meet with NASCAR sometime last week or the week before – it’s all running together – to discuss it all. You know, I think the restart thing is trying to avoid some Turn 1 calamity. These cars are just so durable that they race a lot differently. They need to be stretched out a little bit just to keep everybody from running over each other on the restarts. So, I think it’s a pretty welcomed move. It’s hard to find someone who doesn’t like that restart zone change, at least from my perspective.”


TIRES BECAME A TOPIC AFTER THIS PAST WEEKEND’S RACE AT KANSAS. AS THE WINNER OF THE OPENING STAGE AND RACE LEADER UNTIL A TIRE FAILURE LAST SEASON AT BRISTOL, HOW MUCH ARE YOU LOOKING AT THE TIRES FOR THIS UPCOMING RACE? “Yeah I think we look at these three races – Kansas, Bristol and next up Texas – and they’re just tough tracks on the tires – really tough tracks on the tires. You try to be smart, which is always a double-edged sword. You lay off too much and slow down, and you have no chance at winning. Push it too hard, you blow a tire and that’s not good. So, there’s certainly a line to walk, and we’re all trying to figure out where it is in real-time. Sometimes you step over and sometimes you don’t push hard enough. So, it’s just really questionable where to be on that. I think going back to last year at Bristol, I was certainly very happy that Chris was able to win the race. But also, very frustrated that there were two or three guys that blew out tires and got a yellow, and when we blew out a tire, we didn’t get a yellow. I think it significantly changed the outcome of the race. Really in that sense, all you can really hope for is just consistency with that – either nobody gets a yellow or everybody gets a yellow when they blow a tire out. That’s easy to ask for. I know when I’ve watched races from up-top, it’s harder to do. There’s a lot going on. But, it’s part of the game.”


HOW DO YOU BE AGGRESSIVE BUT NOT LET THESE SITUATIONS AND FAILURES AFFECT YOU? “Thankfully, our points position does that for us. But, it’s difficult. You look at these scenarios and there’s a lot of opportunities to be aggressive and gain some positions, but they come at a higher risk. You’re just constantly doing risk analysis. In real time, it does make it harder but again, it’s part of why the drivers make the money they do and what makes them special. They have to always be performing in real-time risk analysis, the moves that we make and how hard we drive the car. That’s a lot of the fun for me.”


HOW DO YOU STAY COMPOSED AND RELAXED THIS TIME OF THE YEAR? “Last week, I got to go to the Lions game with my friend that I haven’t seen in a long time from Detroit, which was an incredible experience. My wife has some things planned while we’re in Bristol, and one of the benefits of having the limited practice time is having some down time during the weekend for reading and some family getaways. This weekend, my family will be with me at the racetrack. MRO has the National Anthem with the kids at Bristol. Certainly a great family event. The points position I’m in just really affords us to take a breath as a team. We can’t go to Bristol and lay up – we aren’t planning on doing that. We plan on going there to compete for a win. But, it also allows us to run a race without a lot of stress, and that’s important, because there is plenty of induced stress throughout the season – especially the playoffs.”


WHAT’S IT LIKE SWITCHING FROM DAD MODE DURING THE NATIONAL ANTHEM TO DRIVER MODE PRE-RACE? “It is interesting. I find myself having two girls, and I don’t want to miss the moment with them – it’s a really special moment for our family. And then you have to high-tail it because the cars are on the backstretch, like six minutes before the race starts. I find myself quite often asking NASCAR, ‘Hey, can you give us an extra minute or two so maybe we can not sprint to the car?’ They’ve been accommodating the last few years, but certainly it’s a big mental transition. But, it’s also a privilege when you get to do those things with your family. Not everybody gets to do it, and I enjoy those special moments. Once you get in that car, you have to put your game face on and go to work.”


WHERE DO YOU FEEL YOU STACK UP AGAINST THE COMPETITORS, AND DO YOU THINK THAT YOU’RE GOING TO HAVE ENOUGH SPEED ON THE BIGGER TRACKS? “Yeah, it’s going to be difficult. The Toyotas: I don’t know. They have a little bit more speed than we do, but mostly, they just don’t seem to slow down. Our cars seem to slow down over the course of a run. Certainly they have front-end speed, too. You look at qualifying and how fast the No. 20 was – that was really impressive. But, the mile-and-a-halfs, we’re not where we want to be. We’re excited about next year’s car, and we think fundamentally, it’s going to make us a lot closer to the other OEMs. So, we’re not where we want to be right now, for sure.”


IT SEEMED TO BE A BIG RUSH TO GET OFF OF PIT ROAD AFTER THE FINAL STOP AT KANSAS. CAN YOU TAKE US THROUGH THAT MOMENT? “Honestly, I didn’t know what happened until after the race, when I got to see the replay. I have such a limited view in the car, and that makes it really difficult. I had the No 20 car in front of me, who was still performing his pit-stop, and I launched into the furthest left lane – I don’t know if that’s the first lane or third lane, depending on which way you’re looking at it. But, I launched into the furthest left lane from inside my pit box, and I saw that I was really close to the No. 5 car once I got up to speed. I didn’t realize that those guys made contact. It’s just part of the deal when you have a late race pit stop and you have four cars that leave their box at the same time. None of us really know where everybody else is, and you just try to feel it out – it’s a little bit driving by braille. Sometimes, it doesn’t work out as smoothly as you’d prefer.”


IN THE NEXT ROUND, WE HAVE TALLADEGA. HOW IMPORTANT IS IT TO GO INTO THAT RACE WITH A POSITIVE MINDSET? “That’s important anywhere you go, but especially for a track of that nature. I’m going there thinking that I’d like to have that seventh win. It’s been a good track for me there, and I dream about winning there all the time and I actually dreamt about it last night. It’s one of my favorite places to go. It’s a gigantic chess match. You just want to be there at the end to have a chance to play the game. I think last spring, I had a chance to win it – one or two little moves that likely made a little difference. Hopefully, I’ll get a chance to do that. You look at the plate tracks for RFK this year, to say we had the nice one-two at Daytona… but beyond that, we have had great runs at all and had a chance to win all these plate races. It’s been a lot of fun. I haven’t got the win at Talladega in two years, but I’m ready to bring home another one. We’ve certainly been in position and primed to do so.”


WE’VE SEEN HOW DRIVER-OWNERS BALANCE THE RACE WEEKEND. HOW DIFFERENT HAS THE LAST TWO RACES BEEN FROM THIS PERSPECTIVE, WHILE YOU’RE RACING FOR A CHAMPIONSHIP? “Usually, I don’t that much track on Chris during the race, but when it’s over, certainly want to know. It’s a balance. I have to focus on my race. I can’t run his race and my race at the same time, right? I just tell people at the time that I just feel like I have more opportunities to win on any given weekend. It might not always be as a driver, maybe it’s as an owner and a driver. That’s a good thing. We know we’re entering the playoffs with two cars that can win the championship, and I hope I win it with my car. If I don’t, and Chris wins the championship, I’ll still feel like I’ve won.”


THE NASCAR XFINITY SERIES PLAYOFF STARTS THIS WEEK. HOW MUCH DO YOU FOLLOW THAT SERIES AND WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT THAT PLATFORM? “I’m not a huge consumer of the Xfinity series. I used to be when I was allowed to race in it, but it’s a different series now than what it was. It’s gone through this huge identity change with kind of the banning of the Cup drivers and the severe reduction of what they can run. You’re seeing the team owner model change, and now you’re seeing the TV model change here in the next 12 months… 24 months or so. It’s a completely different identity from what I once knew it as. But, it’s still racing and we love to watch racing. So, we try not to miss it. It’s certainly different.”


YOU TWEETED AFTER SUNDAY ABOUT “SURVIVING” IN THE PLAYOFFS. BUT DON’T YOU FEEL LIKE YOU ARE INSTEAD THRIVING WITH THESE RECENT RESULTS? “Surviving and thriving may not always be the same. But, sometimes surviving is thriving in the playoffs with the way these things are set up. I guess I have a different perspective on it. I want to get through each round the best we can and then move on. Ultimately, if you get to the Championship Four, nobody else cares about the nine races before that. Conversely, you can win two or three races and not make the final four and it still not be considered a good year. I think the way that this thing is set up, you have to just continuously survive. It’s a survivorship mentality.”


AT DARLINGTON, THE REAR TIRE CHANGER ON THE NO. 17 HAD A SPARK FROM THE AIR GUN THAT INFLAMED. THERE WAS A SIMILAR INSTANCE AT KANSAS WITH ANOTHER TEAM. HAVE YOU TALKED TO NASCAR ABOUT THESE CONCERNS? “I think fires on pit road kind of go hand-in-hand unfortunately, but we’re doing everything we can over the years, innovations to try and mitigate the risk or the damage along the way. I think the design of the Next Gen wheel and nut lends itself to more fire risk. There’s no easy solution to it. We just try to make sure we have good equipment to cope with the fires, and we’ve done a good job with that – knock on wood. We try to practice for it and prepare for putting it out. Last week, we implemented a new training policy at RFK for how to put fires out faster. I think that was a good success for us. I don’t know if we’re ever going to get away from having fires. It would take a significant design change to do so. But we can try to mitigate the damage and try to put them out as fast as possible. I think our focus has been more internal with what do we do to put out a fire when it happens, and what do we do to prevent someone from getting hurt when it happens. Not necessarily external with respect to NASCAR. A redesign could certainly and their ball, in their court could play-in.”


WHY ARE THESE WHEELS MORE CONDUCIVE TO FIRES? “There are a couple things to go on. I think first-off: There’s one big nut rather than five little nuts, which is a change. The socket needed has many different points so the shower of sparks is different. Then last but not least – and this may be the most important – whether it be the Xfinity car or Truck, the old wheel we used to compete with had a really deep dish to it. The sparks would tend to roll in that dish and stay inside the wheel assembly, whereas this car has a really shallow dish to the wheel, and it tends to shoot out the sparks or expel the sparks onto the ground, where there’s going to be a little fuel spillage.”


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Speedway Digest Staff
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