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MONSTER ENERGY NASCAR CUP SERIES MEDIA CONFERENCE
November 16, 2017
BRAD KESELOWSKI: I guess I got to kick this thing off. Hold on, let me get my microphone. I need sunglasses. That way you guys can't see my eye rolls. No, I'm just kidding.
Thanks for being here, guys. Did you have like a draw sticks to see who could go first? No.
Q. Everyone is forceful.
BRAD KESELOWSKI: Everyone is forceful?
BRAD KESELOWSKI: You don't like that, Bob? Would you like me to pick so everybody's not so forceful?
Q. Sure, you pick. Who's first?
BRAD KESELOWSKI: We'll go from right to left. Go ahead, Bob. You got your camera rolling over here.
Q. I'm curious whether you‑‑
BRAD KESELOWSKI: How many races have you come to this year?
Q. Like 32.
BRAD KESELOWSKI: 32? So besides Claire, has anybody been to more races than you?
Q. I have no clue. We don't really‑‑
BRAD KESELOWSKI: You don't count? You guys count. Spencers? Where are the Spencers at?
BRAD KESELOWSKI: 37, all right. You get next question. Go ahead.
Q. Are you happy that you have fewer tires, or do you think it's silly that in the top series that you have to manage tires in this race?
BRAD KESELOWSKI: Am I happy about it? Happy is definitely not a word I would use to describe it. I'm not sure how those decisions get made, but I'm told that it's by people a lot smarter than me. So I'm just going to go ahead and trust that they had a really, really good reason for it.
Q. Isn't that something that actually favors you and your team because you guys are always outside the box? If you guys do something different than the rest of the competitors, you could be in a great position.
BRAD KESELOWSKI: It could be, yeah. I'd like to think that we'd do well with that. Probably the reality is that it doesn't favor anyone. It just disfavors those that might have trouble early in the race. So if you run over something debris‑wise or if you have a loose wheel, it could be catastrophic.
So for us, the championship four teams, I think that means you're going to see the pit crew go a little slower and make sure you get the wheels tight and all that because you just can't have an issue. Because remember with tire sets, you lose a set when you have a loose wheel because you have to come in and change them, and now that set's junk. So when you don't have enough tire sets, having a loose wheel is the same as having a flat tire. So you can easily fall behind.
With this track, the surface being as coarse as it is, tire sets make a huge difference. It's almost like in Atlanta now. So you definitely are going to have to be extremely mindful of it this weekend.
Q. So is this blowing up on the drivers council? This has been around for a long time.
BRAD KESELOWSKI: It's not a drivers council decision.
Q. I mean, just something to be brought up.
BRAD KESELOWSKI: I just found out about it yesterday. So I didn't know until then.
Q. It's been out for a long time. So I mean, I guess shame on you guys if that's the case.
BRAD KESELOWSKI: I guess. I was worried about running Phoenix. Then I got the news, all right, let's try to have a strategy for Homestead. Wow, we have no tires, okay. But I guess that's part of the deal.
Q. Can you beat the other three teams straight up through sheer speed, or do you need to do any out of the box strategy?
BRAD KESELOWSKI: I have no idea. I'll have a much better answer for that Saturday after all the practice is done. You know, sitting here in this moment right now, it's kind of like everybody's got a poker hand and we haven't seen any cards. The cards will start to get played Friday, and then with qualifying Friday night and again on Saturday with race practices and happy hours and so forth.
I need to see some more cards before I can tell you. I know Vegas likes to have odds and all that going into it, but this is‑‑ and the people that have been around me long enough have heard me say this. This is a very dynamic sport. Although it may not seem like it until you step away from it, things change all the time. The drivers are changing. The sponsors are changing. The tracks‑‑ well, those maybe don't change as much as they should. Who has speed and who doesn't have speed changes a lot.
And so I don't know. If we looked at, you know, the midpart of the season and tried to draw some conclusions, absolutely not. If you looked at the start of the season, we won Atlanta and probably should have won Vegas the first two mile and a halfs, you'd say, yeah, definitely. And then if you kind of rewound to Texas and Phoenix, I'd say, yeah, we‑‑ not Phoenix. Kansas. You could probably make an argument that we were within range. Certainly not enough to dominate.
So I don't know what we're going to have this weekend. There's quite a bit of unknown for everyone, and the racetrack will answer it for us piece by piece. Friday and Saturday, I'll be able to give a much better answer. I know that's probably not what you're looking for, but it's hard to give an answer for that on a Thursday when things are changing the way they are.
Q. What would becoming a two‑time Cup champion mean to you?
BRAD KESELOWSKI: Well, it's a huge opportunity, this weekend is, to add to my legacy. I shouldn't say mine, add to my team's legacy, because there's a number of people that have been on my team since 2010‑‑ crew chiefs, car chiefs, mechanics, spotters, and engineers. The list goes on. And I look at that and can't help but think that winning one championship is really great. It's a special thing to do. But you don't really have legacies until you have multiples, and that opportunity's in front of me right now.
It's a bit of a strange feeling. I feel, in a lot of ways, that we were more competitive the last three years than we have been this year, and we didn't make the final four. So in some ways, it almost feels like there's a bit of divine intervention with the way everything went last week to be where I'm at here today, and I'm hoping that we can see that through.
But I know it's a big mark. There's only 15 drivers in the sport that have won multiple championships, and we're 60‑some years into the sport now. What are we, 69 years, something like that? What is it, the 69th season? Yeah. So if you think about it, there's only been 15 multiple champions, and two of them are‑‑ or at least one of them's active now, and another one hasn't had a chance to get in the Hall of Fame, but it's pretty much a certainty that those drivers will be in the Hall of Fame. Multiple championship drivers always will be. And it's a chance to really make myself a Hall of Fame driver. That's not something that anyone takes for granted, I don't think. Not something I take for granted, I know that.
And that opportunity is one race in front of me. I mean, I literally only have to beat three people. So it's a little bit kind of, in some ways, hard to really digest or comprehend for me with all the different circumstances that are in front of me. But it's one that I'm thrilled to be a part of.
I've had a lot of gratitude for it, and I think probably having the last four seasons between winning the other one has been a chance for me to really reflect on what it really means. In a lot of ways, winning the first one so early in my career is like I was spoiled. It's something you kind of take for granted.
So I'm in a different place in my life with family and maturity and being in my 30s instead of 28, that I think makes you appreciate those things a lot more.
Q. You don't think you're a Hall of Fame driver right now with a championship?
BRAD KESELOWSKI: I don't know. I feel like‑‑ if Dutton was here, he had this article once I really liked. He said it better than I did. It's the Hall of Fame for a reason because you're supposed to do major things, and winning multiple championships is a major thing to me. I don't know. I kind of feel like, in my own way, to your point, that to be a Hall of Fame driver, you need to win multiple championships, or I would need to win multiple championships.
I've been lucky enough to win one at the Cup level and one at the XFINITY level, but this would be‑‑ this in a lot of ways would mean more to me than the first one did. It's a good opportunity and a good feeling.
Q. What was your range of emotion last week as you saw the race play out in front of you? Denny at one point in, Chase passing, he's in, Kenseth passes him, he's out, you're in, that sort of thing?
BRAD KESELOWSKI: I think probably for a while I thought, if it's meant to be, it's going to happen, if it's not meant to be, it's not going to happen. I just for damn sure am not going to be the one that doesn't make it happen. Didn't want to be the guy that ran into the wall or ran the brakes off of it or blew a tire and screwed it up. So that was really‑‑ for a long time.
And then when Denny blew a tire, it was like‑‑ you know, I think I said oh, my goodness. I couldn't believe it. And then it looked like Chase was going to win it. Like, well, I guess, again, it wasn't meant to be. And then he got passed there at the end, and I didn't know until probably two or three to go. And then it kind of felt like, well, I guess this is what's meant to be.
There was certainly some unease with all that, but I can't spend too much time looking in the mirror. I've got to look out the windshield this weekend and just kind of be thankful for what I have. I've been on both sides of that. The last four years, I felt like we've been just as good, if not better. We've broke parts while leading and going to win a race, and we've blown engines. We've blown gears. We broke axles, just random stuff that should have never broke.
And it kind of felt like the exact opposite, like it wasn't meant to be and there's nothing I could do differently. But this year, for whatever reason, it's come together.
Q. How often do you think about that first championship? Do you remember everything from that night?
BRAD KESELOWSKI: I don't think about it that much. Every once in a while. I don't keep the trophy anywhere in public. I don't keep it in my house. I have it just locked away and kind of hidden. Every once in a while, I'll walk by the box, and I don't even open it. It's almost like a reminder, like, oh, yeah, I won the championship. I don't think about it that much.
There's going to be a time for reflection in my life for these things, but at the moment, you're just so busy just trying to make today happen that you don't really have a chance to sit and think about yesterday. I guess that will be cool one day if I ever have grandkids that will want to hear my story. Maybe not.
Q. Brad, could you imagine the Cup without stage racing?
BRAD KESELOWSKI: No, I think that stage racing is‑‑ if I could redo the sport‑‑ nobody asked me to build the sport. I wasn't alive in the '40s to do it. But even with that said, if I built the sport in 1948, this is how I would have built it. I would have built it with stages. I think‑‑ and I stick to it‑‑ that this has been a very healthy addition to the sport.
So for me, it's not hard to embrace. I believe in it, and I think that it was certainly a much needed addition. I know there's some people that probably don't like it with respect to history, tradition, but I don't know how you can objectively look at the sport and say that the stages haven't added an element of, not just entertainment, but of competitive balance to the races that didn't exist before.
I feel better about it, not just as a fan of the sport, but also as a competitor because I feel like the right people are leaving the weekends scoring the most point, and I feel like it gets rid of this element of the guy who runs around in the back all day and watches everybody wreck and finishes fifth and who didn't really race all damn day. That was maybe more of a problem on the plate tracks than what it's ever been on the other tracks, but sometimes you look at the last wreck that happened at Martinsville, you know, in a lot of ways it happens every now and then at all kinds of tracks.
So I feel like it was the right thing to do for the sport. Does that mean the sport's perfect? No, not at all. But I don't think that you could ever expect one change to be everything the sport needs, but this one was, in my mind, without a doubt, a move forward for the sport.
Q. I wanted to ask, because Gluck has been asking guys whether you and Kyle, like do you even talk or anything during these days when you're all together? Do you try to talk to him at all? I know you've tried‑‑
BRAD KESELOWSKI: Talking is a little overrated. You know, I'm like communicate by grunt, you know, Tim "The Toolman" Taylor. Probably get caught up in all these relationship things and forget about the reality of what this stuff is supposed to be all about, and that's going on the racetrack and racing.
I think everyone wants to talk about that stuff, and not to say it doesn't have an effect on what goes on on the racetrack, but it's not the primary factor. The primary factor is always going to be getting the cars right, being an influencer for your team, to lead them to give their best, and then as a driver on the racetrack, making your best moves.
Yeah, you're not on the racetrack by yourself, but a large part of the capabilities and moves doesn't really have anything to do with another driver. So you spend all your time worrying about all those deals there, then I think you lose sight about what does matter.
Q. Your vocal point this season has been Toyota has the horsepower advantage‑‑
BRAD KESELOWSKI: I never said horsepower.
Q. They have an advantage at some level. Do you feel like that advantage is still there? Has it shrunk?
BRAD KESELOWSKI: Well, they've definitely been really good on the mile and a halfs, and I would expect that to not change for the next few years with some of the stuff they've got going on. I mean, I don't know what I'm going to see this weekend, or I should say, what we're going to see this weekend, but I expect them to be a formidable foe here with the parts and pieces they have for seasons to come.
Q. Did you watch the Chase Elliott, Denny Hamlin replay stuff after that?
BRAD KESELOWSKI: Yes.
Q. And what did you think of how that unfolded?
BRAD KESELOWSKI: I didn't really form much of an opinion. I was kind of torn. I really kind of saw it from all sides. I thought it was a little bit strange. I would not have expected everyone's reaction to be as big as it was. I was a little bit caught off guard by that. That's probably my biggest reaction, which maybe I'm a little tone deaf.
I knew Chase was really popular from doing the camp ground trips and seeing his flags and things like that kind of pop up and his T‑shirts and so forth. But I didn't realize that he had such a strong and popular base as he does. So I think that was‑‑ if there was one big takeaway I took from that, it's just kind of learning how popular Chase was is probably my biggest takeaway.
Other than that, it was just the nuances of, it seems like every season, once or twice, there's the spats that happen, and add that one to the list.
Q. I was talking about more Phoenix, though, than Martinsville. Did you perceive that as payback? Was that a fair thing?
BRAD KESELOWSKI: It's hard because I can't read into the minds and hearts of those that are involved to know what their intentions are. Like I don't know if Denny meant to wreck Chase. I don't know if Chase meant to run into Denny. I know what the results were, but you don't ever really know the intentions. So it's hard to draw conclusions.
I mean, even being a race car driver that does this every day, I mean, it's really a game of inches and feet, and it's a game of feel. So that makes it so difficult to always be able to judge somebody's intentions. So I don't know who intended to do what. To draw any conclusions off of what happened‑‑ I mean, like, any conclusions that I would feel comfortable testifying to the court of law, like if I was ever in that position.
So it makes it really tough, and I'm not comfortable saying he did this and should have got that because I don't know. There's part of me that thinks Denny didn't mean to wreck Chase. Then there's part of me that says he did. And I can't draw any conclusions from it. There's part of me that says, well, maybe Chase at Martinsville held the brakes down, and then there's part of me that says, no, maybe he just got turned.
So I don't know what happened. It's such a school of fish when the cars are out on the racetrack. Not just Martinsville, but everywhere we go, or Phoenix, but it's hard to draw any kind of conclusion as to why the fish run into each other sometimes.
Q. The three guys you're racing against in this championship have been here at Homestead under this format with a shot to win it. You haven't. Does it matter?
BRAD KESELOWSKI: No, that doesn't matter. I mean, it feels good, yeah. Believe me, I'd much rather have been in all of them, but there's no experience factor. This group here, we've raced against each other 30‑some times this year. It's not like, oh, I've never seen this guy before, you know.
Q. I thought it was more of just like the circumstances. You've come into Homestead with a shot for the championship. They've had that under their belt. When you came here in 2012, you kind of had it locked up.
BRAD KESELOWSKI: It doesn't feel much different to me than any of the other playoff races. Phoenix felt no different than it feels to me. There's elimination races. This is just another elimination race. It's just the one that pays the most.
Q. You're good in those elimination races.
BRAD KESELOWSKI: So far, knock on wood. So far.
Q. You have not only yourself racing for a championship, but a driver in Austin Cindric racing for the truck championship and Brad Keselowski Racing. What would him winning the championship mean for you and that organization as you guys say your final farewell?
BRAD KESELOWSKI: It's interesting. Kyle and I both have an opportunity to play a role in winning all three championships this weekend, with ownership at the truck level competing, and XFINITY level for the Owners Championship with what we've done cumulatively throughout the season, and then the Cup Championship. So it would really, really be special to win all three. I don't know if anyone has ever done it. I don't think anyone's ever won all three championships or played a role in winning all three championships in a season. We both have that opportunity.
It will be tough for Austin, without a doubt. He's still in his rookie season, and I think he deserves a lot of credit for making it as far as he has. But if he were able to do it, gosh, it would‑‑ I couldn't think of a better way to go out. I'd feel like Matt Kenseth last week at Phoenix as an owner, for sure.
Q. How much do you have to rely with Joey this weekend on information, having him do things‑‑
BRAD KESELOWSKI: Which Joey, Meier or Logano?
BRAD KESELOWSKI: Okay. Problem with too many Joeys.
Q. You've got Joey in (inaudible), but other guys‑‑
BRAD KESELOWSKI: Look, it's always great to have teammates on your side, but I'm not counting on them playing wing man. They have their own race to run, and I respect that.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports