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NASCAR MEDIA CONFERENCE


August 11, 2015


Brad Keselowski


AMANDA ELLIS: Good morning, everyone. And welcome to today's NASCAR CAM. We are joined by Brad Keselowski, driver of the No. 2 Miller Lite Ford for Team Penske. A Rochester Hills, Michigan native, Keselowski has earned one win and 14 top 10 finishes this season as he returns to his home track of Michigan International Speedway, the site of Sunday's Pure Michigan 400. In addition, Brad Keselowski's Checkered Flag Foundation has partnered with Cooper Standard as the presenting sponsor for Saturday's NASCAR Camping World Truck Series race, Careers For Veterans 200.
Brad, you have a busy and exciting week ahead of you. Tell us what it means to return to your home state and have a chance to race in front of the hometown cloud?
BRAD KESELOWSKI: Yeah, boy, we sure do, Amanda, but it's a good week. It's busy, but it's a very good week to be back in Michigan. Starting tomorrow we're going to get in there early and do some autograph signings and parent signings with the fans, spend some time with the Woodward Dream Cruise, which, those in the know, know it's a bit of a staple in the community as far as race week is concerned.
So we're looking forward to that, and then of course the two races. First with the Camping World Truck Series, and as you mentioned earlier, with Cooper Standard and my foundation teaming up with the Careers for Veterans 200, which is always an exciting race with the trucks and the way they race around Michigan and draft and do all those crazy things.
That's always one of my favorite races of the year to watch, and certainly a pleasure and honor to be a part of being a presenting sponsor, and kind of showcasing how important the veteran cause is for both Cooper Standard and myself and our foundation, the Checkered Flag Foundation.
So that's going to be really exciting. Hoping that Tyler Reddick and Ryan Blaney can have two good runs, with Tyler Reddick leading points and having a tremendous season. We want to see that keep going and just want to have a great race there Saturday.
Then kind of transitioning to the Cup race Sunday, certainly it will be a bit of a wildcard race with the aero package. That will be similar to what we race at Indianapolis with the Sprint Cup Series. We're not really sure what to expect. Indianapolis was certainly a trial version, but Indianapolis and Michigan are two very, very different racetracks. So we really don't know what's going to happen, but we're ready for the challenge. We have a great race with the previous aero package at Michigan in June where I thought we were probably a second or third place car, and kind of got shuffled a little at the end to a sixth place finish.
But we've had a lot of speed in general in the last month or so with Team Penske, with obviously what you saw at Pocono as well as Watkins Glen and some of our performances with the 2 car at Kentucky and Loudon. So I would expect us to be very fast.
I'm really excited to have the opportunity to win a race in my home state, at my home track in Michigan at the Cup level. We've done it before at the (Indiscernible) level winning two races. We've come very close at the Cup level finishing second with quite a few top 5s and top 10s. But haven't been able to punch through and get that win. I think this could be the time and this could be the year.

Q. At Indy it seemed like cars got loose when they were starting to kind of pick up the draft behind somebody. Why would Michigan be any different?
BRAD KESELOWSKI: That's a very good question. I don't expect it to be much different as far as the way the cars handle behind each other. Perhaps the only difference could be between the two tracks is Michigan has a much wider groove in theory and the potential to run different lanes in the corners. The way the aerodynamics work specifically a high‑draft package, you certainly want to be in line down the straightaway so you get the maximum effect of the loss of drag. But you want to be kind of staggered in the corners to try to keep the downforce in the corner where you need it to keep the car going through the corners as fast as possible.
So Indianapolis you don't have a lot of width to really pull that off. But I think at Michigan there is quite a bit more width to the track, especially down in turns three and four to where you could possibly pull that maneuver off.

Q. Did you say there is more width? I'm sorry. We're having trouble hearing you.
BRAD KESELOWSKI: Yeah, width. Sorry, width of the track. Sorry about that.

Q. No, I think it's the line. Also, do you want any changes to the aero rules for the Chase or would you like things to stay the same?
BRAD KESELOWSKI: Well, I'd say first off I'd like to see a lot of changes on the aero front, but not changes that we're uncertain about. So I don't think we've come up with the platform that we would all believe as being perfect with the testing we've done so far. So we still have a lot of work to do. I'm not in favor of making changes unless we have something that everyone that's inside the industry feels confident is a noted improvement.

Q. I'm just wondering, obviously, Indianapolis was one test of this high‑drag package, and people were still like we don't know how it's going to handle in Michigan so kind of reserve judgment. After this race, if it looks the same or feels like it handles the same as it did in Indy, will those races be enough for the drivers to make a judgment on whether or not it worked?
BRAD KESELOWSKI: Oh, yeah, I think clearly if you have two races on this package, that really was made for Michigan and Indianapolis, we should have a very strong indication as to the success factors for this package. Yeah, I would say after these two races we'll know exactly where we stand.

Q. Is it fair to say you somewhat know about the other package yet? I know you touched on it a little bit. But at least the lower downforce package, or will Darlington dictate the success of that one as well?
BRAD KESELOWSKI: Yeah, I think I'd like to see a second race at Darlington to give that a complete answer as well. Kentucky has always been a little bit on its own as a racetrack. Certainly I think Kentucky was better than it's been in years past. But I would say one race at any track is not a large enough sampling size to really brand the whole series to a specific package.

Q. Following up on what Bob and Jeff were asking about, so if NASCAR does the low downforce at Darlington and that's a huge success and say Michigan doesn't quite produce the results maybe that they want, is it too late to try low downforce again in the Chase given that you've got a two‑race sample size then if it goes well? Or do you think NASCAR just needs to set the rules, or like Steve O'Donnell indicated today, here's what we're going to run during the Chase and stay that way?
BRAD KESELOWSKI: Well, I don't believe, and I've never been of the belief that it's too late to do anything the right way. And if everyone believes that one package is heads and tails above another package, then we've got to find a way to make it work and get it in front of our fans.
I don't believe it's ever too late. Certainly there are some considerations to Goodyear as our tire supplier and some of their time lines of constructing tires to really fit these packages. So, yeah, certainly there is consideration there. But my understanding of that is it's a two‑month process. So if you make that decision inside these two‑month windows for these Chase races, we should be more than capable of executing it. I think that's what I'd like to see. But at the end of the day it's not my call. It's NASCAR's call.

Q. Following up on what you were saying about punching through and trying to get that elusive victory. It seemed when you won the championship in 2012, the hallmark of your run was a perfect execution, especially on strategy. It seems like the strategy in the pits, there have been some, for your team, some uncharacteristic miscues the last month, whether it be at Kentucky or NewHampshire or Pocono. Is that something you guys have talked about or do you feel like it's just more circumstances than execution that's kept you from the wins lately?
BRAD KESELOWSKI: I would say it's a bit of both, to answer your question perfectly, circumstances and execution. Certainly at Kentucky I would say we did not execute, but then I would look at Loudon and say there was oil on the track for ten laps. We ran through oil for ten laps. One car pits, puts on four tires, and with those four tires passes the leaders, gets his lap back, and NASCAR decides to throw the yellow. In that particular instance there was really no strategy that was going to beat those circumstances.
So I look at that one and say circumstances in Kentucky and say execution and probably a mixture in between looking at Pocono, I probably cost us a shot at the win with the slide through the pit box and hitting my pit crew guys early in the race. We were able to recover to a second without wondering what might have been had we not had those issues.
Then Watkins Glen this week, probably complete circumstances, you know. The 1 car hit somebody and drove around the track for a lap with oil lines leaking, and we had a five‑ or six‑lap yellow flag period that opened up the window for Joey and even the 4 car and those guys to be able to make it on fuel.
So those particular circumstances are outside of their control. We know that. We try to control what we can, but certainly the ones that are out of our control, the execution issues, that was my fault at Pocono, and some issues where the guy is falling down in Kentucky on a pit stop, those are things that we can control.
So we need to focus on the things we can control. We know the speed is good, which is great and that's where you start. We look at 2012 and our speed was just as good as it was then. Our execution is not quite where we want it to be. But with the way we've chased back, it's work. I think we've had the opportunity to get that execution where it needs to be for when it counts. All we really need to do is breakthrough each bracket and get to Homestead and knock it out of the ballpark, and I know that my team's capable of doing it. I know that I'm capable of doing it. We just have a few things to clean up for sure.

Q. Two questions, this new initiative with the interior pit wall at Michigan this weekend, I just wanted you to perhaps comment on that. Also, I'm glad Scarlett is doing well, and my granddaughter had a similar situation. But does that make you and Paige stronger couple? Does it teach you‑‑ I guess it teaches you a lot about life's lessons.
BRAD KESELOWSKI: For sure. I'm sorry to hear that first off, Mike. I hope your family is doing well. I'm pleased to say that mine is doing very well. Certainly that is a tough experience to go through, but I guess I kind of count the blessings on it and think of how all those things kind of came together perfectly with off weeks. The way things could have unfolded as good as they can for the situation.
So certainly those are very galvanizing moments that probably affect you in ways you don't realize until many years down the road. But I feel lucky to have a great family and support structure to get through it, whether it's Paige or guys like Roger who help me get in the hospital and get her taken care of, I felt very, very lucky and fortunate.
So I think it was certainly a very difficult but, like I said, galvanizing time for Paige and I, and in some ways it was an incredible moment for me and the Penske family to kind of galvanize together as well with the help that they gave me through the process. It was certainly not the most enjoyable in‑the‑moment situation to go through, but I think it's a moment that we'll certainly take something away from for the rest of our life, and has brought me closer to my personal life and professional life all in one instance. Kind of an incredibly difficult, strange, but inspiring thing to go through.
As it pertains to Michigan and the pit road wall, I haven't seen it, so I'm not sure exactly what to expect. I like the ideas behind it, and I appreciate any track that kind of takes their own steps, as it appears Michigan has done, to take their safety to the next level.
Safety is always a moving target, especially as the cars change, as they get faster, as new rule packages come out. Things happen that we've never seen before. This year alone we've seen multiple incidents on the track that we've never seen before, and we'll continue to see incidents like that in the future that we've never seen before as the racing continues to migrate into different forms with different tactics, this week in particular, we know we're going to see different tactics with drafting and all those other different things.
Those are, I'm sure, going to open up even new things that we haven't thought of. At Indianapolis, it was cockpit temperatures. At Michigan it could be something else we've never thought of. In order to get through those moments or those developments from a safety perspective, tracks seem to be on the cutting edge and they need to be thinking a step ahead of the sport and its rules packages.
So when I see a track like Michigan kind of go out on a limb and make changes to improve the safety without necessarily a large voice in the garage demanding it, it makes me very proud and very happy to see and certainly Roger Curtis and his staff at Michigan deserve a lot of credit for that.

Q. Frank Kimmel's coming up on 600 career starts in the ARCA Series and he's also closing in on Iggy Katona's record of most starts in that series. You and your family have known him for a long time. What is it about him that's made him so successful and able to last as long as he has in that series?
BRAD KESELOWSKI: Oh, Frank. One thing I know is Frank is actually the guy that introduced me to my girlfriend, Paige, so we have a very close connection. Frank has done a lot of tremendous things. I can remember him from as far back to the first time I met him when I was 8 years old, and we used to call him the big kid because he was a big guy, right, and he would walk around with squirt guns and squirt us as kids. We'd play with him back and forth and we had a grand old time.
But I can remember that, heck, that's been almost 20 years ago. In fact, it has been 20 years ago. To see his success from then I always felt like I knew him before he was a big shot. So he'd probably say the same thing to me.
But to see Frank be as successful as he is now and to have all those starts, all those wins, championships, I just feel connected to him and feel lucky to know him as a friend of the family and just an all‑around great guy. His success couldn't have happened to a better person.

Q. A quick follow‑up, how did he introduce the two of you? I understand he was also your babysitter every now and then at the track, or at least once at the track?
BRAD KESELOWSKI: (Laughing) yeah, he babysat at Indianapolis. He had a good time.

Q. How did he introduce you and your girlfriend?
BRAD KESELOWSKI: Well, he introduced Paige and I‑‑ actually, I saw him in Kentucky, and I went over to say hello and Paige was with him as a friend of the family. I asked him later, "Who was that girl? She's really pretty cute." And that's kind of how it all started.

Q. I was just checking in about you come away from Watkins Glen and everybody talks about we should do more of that. Would you be open to running the longer layout using the boot layout in future races there?
BRAD KESELOWSKI: I'm a NASCAR race car driver which means I have no choice but to be open to whatever NASCAR says we're going to do. But if you're asking for my opinion, I think it would be a bad move to change the track. The track's very successful right now. Our lap lengths are perfect. I think Watkins Glen is the best road course in the nation, and in some ways probably in the world. So I would make as little changes as possible to it if I were them.

Q. Okay. Have you squared things away or tried to reach out to Matt Crafton after the run‑in you guys had at Pocono or do you really try to do that as a matter of course?
BRAD KESELOWSKI: Yeah, he and I obviously spoke very briefly after that incident at Pocono, but at the end of the day we wrecked. I mean, you can't really change any of that. It's my hope that he'll get a chance to look at the replay and get a better idea of what exactly happened and understand some of those situations are just kind of racing deals.
I know that I didn't make contact with him on purpose on the other side. I'm pretty sure he didn't make contact with me on purpose concerning where he's at. I destroyed a truck that I have to pay for, so I wasn't particularly all that pleased as both an owner and a driver, and I'm sure he's probably not pleased as a driver who lost a lot of points. I don't think either of us really won in that situation. I think that kind of speaks for itself.

Q. I was thinking about the manufacturers at Michigan and the battle that is the manufacturer battle. A lot of fans talk about it, Joey Logano won in 2013, and the sweep that year to the Manufacturers' trophy award. Can you talk about that battle? You think about Pearson and Ford's first win at the track. You as a driver, how much engaged are you in that Ford performance battle?
BRAD KESELOWSKI: It's an incredible battle for the manufacturers and one that they take very, very seriously, I can tell you. Joey and I have both done all we can to score as many manufacturer points as possible in the last few weeks. It's my understanding the battle is fairly close. I don't have the numbers sitting in front of me right now. But I know it's something that Ford talks about a lot.
I think it's amazing Ford is doing as well as they are considering the limited amount of teams that they have there competing for wins right now across all three series. So we're proud to be a part of that, and hopefully we can carry them to that manufacturer's title this year in all three series.

Q. Do you feel the pressure of that? Do you feel like‑‑ do you get the feeling from Ford that you guys got to step it up here because this is a manufacturer's deal that's pretty big here?
BRAD KESELOWSKI: I don't feel any particular pressure for the Manufacturers' Championship beyond if we go out and win the Sprint Cup Championship we've done all we can do for them. So I put the Sprint Cup Championship at the top of the podium, and I think everything else falls in line if you're able to make a solid run at that.

Q. When you got out of the car with the first run at the high‑drag package at Indianapolis you talked a little bit about the heat, and I know the heat affected a lot of different drivers that day. What type of precautions have you and Paul taken to kind of soften it, or do you think because there will be more drafting or they're anticipating more drafting at Michigan, that heat won't be as much of a problem?
BRAD KESELOWSKI: Oh, no, I think the heat's going to be even worse this weekend. There is a large amount of concern across both the teams and the drivers, really all members, for this rules package coming up to Michigan. Specific to the fact that even though the track is wider and bigger, the significance of the draft is going to be even more important, so you're going to have to stay in line as much as possible. As you stay in line, the car gets less and less air because that's essentially how the draft works. And the speeds at Michigan are higher than they are at Indianapolis, which means the parts, specifically the drivetrain, are going to be even hotter.
So I know the team is very, very concerned about the drivetrain, everything from the engine all the way back to the axles because they're really not made for these temperatures. We kind of build our cars at 110% rule, which is if 100% is what you expect a car under normal loads to carry, you build in another 10% safety margin. Well, that hundred percent was based around the rules package that we began the year around, and this particular iteration of that rules package has more than eaten up that 10% margin that we theoretically work around with the cars.
So I would not be surprised to see a lot of car failures this weekend specific to heat relation as it pertains to the aero package and it's kind of cause and effects. And inside the car I would not be surprised to see a lot of hot and worn out drivers after the race. We all know we're in for a handful of a race. We kind of got a hall pass at Indianapolis with race day being a little bit later than normal with scheduling, and it was very cloudy most of the day and not quite as hot as we've been accustomed to in Indianapolis, where it appears that Michigan when we last checked the weather radar, it's going to be full sun and mid‑80, so that's going to be the toughest race probably of the year physically with this rules package.

Q. I've been in the car with you before, and I know you don't like to use your air conditioning in the passenger car, but what will Paul do from a comfort standpoint to get more air to you and make it a little less taxing?
BRAD KESELOWSKI: He's going to tell me to suck it up is what he's going to do. If we have to route any extra air, it's going to go to the parts on the car that we're very much concerned about.

Q. Question about you and Joey Logano as teammates. You seemed to have welcomed him to Penske Racing. I'm just curious how well you knew him beforehand and your thoughts on how you guys are both having great seasons? It seems to be working out pretty well.
BRAD KESELOWSKI: Yeah, thank you. It has been working out very well. Joey's done a great job. Joey is on the path to winning the Sprint Cup Championship. He'll win one over the next few years for Team Penske. I think Roger knows that, everybody knows that, everybody's feeling that right now with his performance. So he has a lot to look forward to in his career.
A high tide raises all ships, and I felt like just kind of watching Joey as a race car driver that he would get to this level where he's at right now. I told Roger that two or three years ago right before he hired him I wanted Joey to drive that car, and I think Roger knew that. The reason I wanted him to do that is just what I said, high tides raise all ships.
As Joey continues to run better, it can't help but make my team better whether that's with the business model with respects to sponsors or with the manufacturer level, with respect to their support or even the team level in recruiting continuously better employees as ones are displaced over time.
I think we're fortunate. Joey has certainly made me a better race car driver, and I'm thankful to have him as a teammate.

Q. A lot is made about Kyle Busch's recent streak and what that feeling is like when a driver has everything going their way. But on your side you keep saying that Penske's not where they want to be. So from your perspective as a driver going on the racetrack each weekend, where's that put your mindset when you're trying to breakthrough for a second win of the year, but at the same time you keep saying you're not where you want to be in terms of matching up with the competition?
BRAD KESELOWSKI: Yeah, we aren't where we want to be. This point last year we had three wins and right now we're sitting at one. We'd like to have three or four more than we've got right now. I think we've had opportunities that we just haven't been able to capitalize on. But I think we can hit those.
I think we're very close to being where we want to be. We have to make a few noticeable gains to get there, and those gains are inside. There is light at the end of the tunnel, but until we're there, we're not there.
We've got a few steps to make. I want to make sure we keep pushing as a team and as a company to get there because we're not there.

Q. Does that do anything in terms of how that changes your mindset? I'm sure the team is still confident you're going to win and you're going to get there, but as a driver, is it a little bit more frustrating or just kind of where is that mindset for you right now behind the wheel?
BRAD KESELOWSKI: Yeah, it's frustrating to not have the wins I feel like we're capable of. For me I look at tracks that I've never won at and felt like we were really strong at and didn't quite close it out like Watkins Glen this week. Indianapolis we were really strong and a few others.
I think of what could have been and certainly want to win at some of those tracks I haven't won at. You want to win every week, but more specific to the ones you've never won at. But I know that we're on the cusp. As frustrating as it is to not win when you think you have an opportunity to do so, I think you have to temper it with the knowledge that you're really close.
Sometimes everything has to just go your way and it hasn't, but when it does, you can get on one of those streaks. And I think that's what we're seeing out of Kyle is some good breaks and he's done a great job of executing along the way across the board as a team driver. We need to do all those things as well.
We've had weeks where we've had, if there are four pieces of the puzzle, whether it be speed, execution, a little bit of luck and so forth, we've been able to hit three and not four. It seems like a different piece of the puzzle that we kind of miss. It's just part of the game. I know we can hit it because we have hit intermittently each one of those pieces. We just have to put it all together.
AMANDA ELLIS: Brad, thank you for joining us today, and best of luck to you this week in Michigan.
BRAD KESELOWSKI: Thank you, Amanda. Thank you to the media that came out and we appreciate your support.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports




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