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NASCAR MEDIA CONFERENCE
April 7, 2009
TRACY JUDD: This year you're back as the defending winner with a different team. Can you talk about the changes you've gone through since the end of 2008, and your path so far in 2009?
SCOTT WIMMER: Well, it's been a struggle this year. It's about a week before Daytona, I didn't have a ride secured. I was fortunate that enough that Curtis Key came along and gave me the opportunity to drive his car, and to be driving it this week and in Nashville.
Our season hasn't been going that well. We've missed two races. We've run good in the other ones, but had two unfortunate missed races. But going back to Nashville, hopefully I can lean on some of the notes I've learned there for the last two seasons with Richard Childress Racing.
You know, I'm excited about the race there. It's been a special place for me for a long time. Hopefully I can go back there and run strong.
TRACY JUDD: A little added incentive for you guys in this race this weekend. It's the inaugural dash for cash race from Nationwide Insurance. $25,000 on the line as a bonus for the eligible driver if he wins the race. How hard do you think guys will go after that money?
SCOTT WIMMER: I think they're definitely going to go after it hard. That's quite a program that Nationwide has put together to help teams cope with the cost of racing right now and the way the economy is with the lack of sponsorships.
So I'm excited to be part of it. I've got a pretty good track record at Nashville, so hopefully we can be up there and compete for the win and take a little extra money home, too
Q. The last several seasons you've raced with RCR, and most teams would fall short on a resource level of that team, but you've been there. So as a driver, how much do you bring to Curtis Key's team in terms of helping them maybe in directions they need to go to lift up the entire program?
SCOTT WIMMER: I feel like I bring quite a bit. I'm very fortunate I get a lot of support from RCR. I also get a lot of support from John Dysinger and everybody up at Triad Engine Development. My brother-in-law has worked up there since the start of that, so they really help us out a lot.
But right now where I'm at with Curtis Key's team started about a week ago and we're trying to build cars and get people lined up. Once we can get rolling we can run fairly competitive and get the car in the race, and start getting it up towards the top 15 and top 10. But it's just so hard to build a team on such short notice.
I'm fortunate that RCR they really help me out a lot with anything that I want. You know, they pretty much have a good relationship with me and some of the guys on the team. So they try to help us out as much as they can.
Q. It seems like what would you say has been the most pleasant part of these first five races starting in the circumstances that you did? And what's probably the one biggest area that you guys still need to get caught up in?
SCOTT WIMMER: You know, we made opener at Daytona, and I thought that was a rally big accomplishment for the team. We were the last car to make it. We struggled through practice and were able to ask a few of my friends over at RCR to help us out, and they did that and got us in that race. We finished 11th at Vegas.
There have been some really good bright spots. The disappointment has probably been missing the races. The last race I missed was probably in 2000, and then the race at California, and missed the race last weekend at Texas.
But you've got to be optimistic. It's a start-up team. We've got probably three guys in the shop working on the car. Trying to get motors lined up, trying to get cars lined up. So you've kind of got to sit back and look and say there are going to be some bumps in the road. Hopefully we can get those straightened out and get back to where we can get up front and compete.
Q. You've certainly got experience in that area. Have you yourself been working in the shop at all to pitch in and help out?
SCOTT WIMMER: Yeah, I definitely have been. It was an area I really missed about racing. Growing up I used to build my own cars, engines and everything. When you start driving for RCR and places like that, they've got such a work force that you're not needed in that capacity.
But I've been down there. I try to get down there at least once a week, depending on my schedule, just to go through shock stuff and look over the cars and see anything that I think might help us run better.
So I think if we get another few weeks under our belt, get some more employees in the shop and can compete up front, we'll have a good shot at running the rest of the season, and hopefully running towards the front.
Q. Can you talk a little about the emotions of winning there at Nashville last year and what that felt like after all the ups and downs you've had?
SCOTT WIMMER: It was huge emotions. I've been going to Nashville since as long as I can remember, I think, competing down at the old fair ground speedways since I think '95, and I've been out there since it opened in 2001. I've been close several times, you know, just never could quite get it done.
We just had a great race car, we had a great race. We did everything right. We're fortunate enough to win that day.
It was probably I'd say my biggest win, it took me a long time to get back to Victory Lane. I came close a few times in '07 with RCR, but never could get it done and go to the fifth race of the year, fifth or sixth race last year. To win the race really made me feel good. I know the team felt good.
They were working really hard to build me great race cars. You know, just after waiting so long it felt good to get back into Victory Lane and to do it at Nashville.
Q. How tough or frustrating is it when you've tasted victory and you know what that feels like. How tough is it to struggle as you have at point this is season?
SCOTT WIMMER: It's a real struggle. A lot of times you just question what you're doing. What your role is in the sport and how far you're going to keep going. But I'm fortunate I've been through situations like this before where you're maybe not with the many most competitive team, but if you keep building and working hard you can eventually get that team more or another team to look at you and say, well, he maybe deserves another shot.
I got that with RCR. You know, Curtis who was good enough to give me an opportunity to drive his car before I drive Dale Jr.'s car at Darlington. So I've really got to thank him because he's getting me into some races before that I probably wouldn't have had the opportunity to do.
Q. As a final question, something you mentioned there, looking ahead to your upcoming races in the JR Motorsports car, how tough is it not to sort of look ahead to that knowing that you're going to probably be in maybe a little better equipment over there?
SCOTT WIMMER: It's really hard. You know, especially after having a disappointed weekends where things didn't go the way we needed them to go. You know, it would be pretty easy just to say, well, I'm not going to drive anymore until I get in that car.
But I think it's really important to be in a car each and every weekend. I look back at really my last two seasons. I think I've ran 36 races in the last two years. And the guys that have won championships and won races, they're running anywhere from 70 to 80 a year. So there is something to be said about running laps and just being there each and every week.
Now I want to be as good a driver as any to get in that car, and I think running these races, even though we're struggling and we're not real competitive right now, just running them is going to keep me fresh. Hopefully, I can get in that car and show that I deserve to be in that kind of equipment and can run up front.
Q. At this stage of your crier are you sort of content to make your mark in the Nationwide Series from here on out? Or are you still looking at Cup in the back of your mind?
SCOTT WIMMER: I'm still looking at Cup. You know, I'd like to start running full-time again, and I think the Nationwide Series is a great place for me to do that. You know, maybe look at just starting to get back into cup racing like on a four or five race basis.
But, you know, it's really tough right now. This winter was a hard off-season for me. I didn't know what I was going to do of the where I was going to go. We're fortunate that JR Motorsports put some races together for me, and then Mr. Key came along and wanted me to help him start this team up, too.
So I'd love to be racing. I want to do it full-time, I want to be competitive. Whether it's the Nationwide Series or the cup series, it doesn't really bother me, I just want to be in there each and every week and running up front.
Q. Along those lines a couple weeks ago Jeff Burton was saying when he was a kid he idolized like Jack Ingram and Tommy Ellis. Do you think you can still build a strong fan base today in the Nationwide Series alone?
SCOTT WIMMER: I think we can. I think the biggest thing is we need to go out and beat the guys that are winning right now. We need to go out and beat Kyle Busch, and Carl Edwards and Clint Bowyer. Back when those guys were racing, they were. They were beating Dale Earnhardt, and Bobby Alison.
You know, right now with the way the Cup teams are the super teams, they take all their information down to the Nationwide programs. It's hard to beat those guys.
Hopefully in the near future here we can start doing that. And I think it would start building some identity back in the sport. When I got in it, it was Jeff Green, and Jason Keller, and Todd Bodine was running full seasons back then, and those guys were the name of the sport. So I'd like to see it get back to there where these guys, this is what they run and this is their series.
Q. Is it any easier to compete with them now that they run in a vastly different car on Sundays?
SCOTT WIMMER: I don't really think so. I think it boils down to track time. I think a lot of it is confidence, these guys are running good in their Cup cars and they come down to the Nationwide cars and at times they make it tough to win races, whether it's tires or other things to do.
But if you can run good on Saturday, I'm sure it helps you on Sunday. So I think they just really have a lot of confidence and have a lot of feel for the track by the time they start racing the cars. I think that's what makes the difference.
Q. Do you consider adapting one of your most important skills in racing on and off the track?
SCOTT WIMMER: I definitely think it is. I've been in this going on eight seasons now. The way it kind of changes and the way the sport changes and the cars change, you really have to adapt a lot. I think a lot of guys have seen it with the C.O.T. car coming in to the Cup series, that they've really had to adapt the way they drove. I think we're going to see that in the not too distant future with the Nationwide Series, too.
So, the way I've dealt with sponsors in the past and deal with them now is vastly different than it was three or four years ago. So it's definitely, you know, a sport you have to adapt to. You have to change a lot and kind of keep your eye on which direction it's going and you try to keep yourself going in that direction.
Q. Do you still get a big charge in every race when you get the opportunity to race at this level in every race?
SCOTT WIMMER: I definitely do. There is nothing like going out on pit road and hearing all these cars fire up and sitting behind the wheel. Just trying to figure out how you're going to beat 43 other cars each and every week. It's definitely exciting.
I think that's what keeps you going in the sport. You know, there's a lot of drivers that have called it quits or said they're never going to get another chance. It keeps you wanting to go out there and do better, and get that ride to where you can compete each and every week.
Q. When that helmet goes on is it for all drivers, is it a totally different world, do you get a new personality or is it the same old guy, different circumstance?
SCOTT WIMMER: Yeah, I think a lot of people they all have their own way of looking at the race and what they're thinking and how it plays out in their head.
I try not to let my emotions come over the radio or to my guys too much. I try to keep it inside and talk to them after the race. Some drivers have a lot of emotion during the race. I think it's just how you deal with things and how you get your point across.
TRACY JUDD: Scott, we appreciate you taking the time. I know you've had a busy day, safe travels home and we'll see you at Nashville this weekend.
SCOTT WIMMER: Sounds great, thank you.
TRACY JUDD: We're now joined by Brad Keselowski, driver of the GoDaddy Chevrolet for JR Motorsports. And after a pretty tough start to his season, Brad is now ranked 7th in the standings. That is the first time he's been in the Top 10 this season. And he comes to Nashville where he won his first career series race last June.
Brad, it probably feels like a long time coming. But you've gotten yourself back into contention. Can you talk a little about the obstacles that you and the team have overcome to get you to this point?
BRAD KESELOWSKI: Yeah, we've been through a stretch, and some good, some bad. We haven't gotten the finishes we deserve, but we've ran extremely competitive, and that's encouraging. I feel like we had tools. You know, we've had a couple of bad races there, and if you just eliminated one of those bad races, we'd be third in points. So we'd be right where I feel like we can run every week and run with Kyle and Carl and them.
You know, it's trying to stay focused on the long haul here. It's a long season, and, you know, it's tough because you try not to get down knowing that we've got 29 races or something like that, which is a lot of races. But there's no chase in the NASCAR Nationwide Series. Every week is important. It was a shame to give up the first few weeks with bad finishes.
But it was encouraging to run competitively and know that if we could have just finished where we ran all day, we'd be right there where we want to be.
Still it was exciting to get back to Nashville. I think we can go there and repeat what we did last June. We've got the effort to do that, the car to do that. We've made some gains here in the last few weeks which are encouraging to me to go to Nashville. So we'll see.
TRACY JUDD: I asked the same question of Scott, so going to Nashville especially a great track for you. What are your thoughts on the opportunity to have the chance to pocket that extra $25,000 bonus if you win that first dash for cash race? Do you think that reward will make some tight racing even tighter?
BRAD KESELOWSKI: Yeah, yeah. $25,000, that's a lot of money. I was really surprised. It's kind of great of Nationwide to do that. It's going to be awesome. I'm excited about that whole program. I look at the four races, Nashville, Iowa, Kentucky and Memphis, and I think we've got a good shot of winning the whole thing. So that's encouraging. I can't wait to get that. I'd sure like to hold that checkup in Victory Lane, that's for sure.
But we're going to have some tough competition to do it with, Kyle, Carl, and a couple of the other guys running well. I really think Kelly buyers is going to run strong too at Nashville, I'm kind of excited for him. So I'm sure I'll have some competition for it. But there is some motivation for sure to go out there and get that.
Q. It seems to me I heard you say last weekend you wouldn't mind doing 38 or 40 races a year with Dale Jr. as your teammate. But since you're the full-time guy at JR Motorsports, talk if you would about having different drivers come in and working as your teammate? And since you're kind of the senior guy, how does that whole relationship work?
BRAD KESELOWSKI: Well, it's unique having as many different teammates at the Sprint Cup level I've got four great teammates with Dale, Mark, Jimmie and Jeff, and superior talents for sure, and you learn a lot from them.
At the Nationwide level I have Brian Newman, Tony Stewart, and Scott Wimmer who you talked to, as well as Dale Earnhardt Jr., and Mark Martin as well in the Nationwide Series. But there are a lot of teammates, lot of different skill sets. Each one of them brings something different to the table that you can learn from, whether it's their demeanor, the way they treat the team or react to adversity or just their specific driving talents.
So there is something to be learned from each and every one of them, and it's kind of interesting to see. Because as a driver, sometimes you get in a rut of where you start doing things and you don't think about the consequences or maybe you don't even think about different ways of doing things until you see somebody else coming to do it that way, and you go, wow, maybe I can do a little better here. So I've got that with all these teammates, and that's cool.
So there are some downsides to it, as far as continuity and being able to work with one guy over and over again which is kind of what I was saying with Dale there after Texas. I think that we work strongly together as teammates, and I wish he was my teammate every week in the Nationwide Series, if it that was possible. So that's kind of how I feel about it.
Q. It seemed like you had a terrible run, and wasn't long after that that Dale Jr. picked you up. Could you talk about the lows and highs that you've been through at the track there?
BRAD KESELOWSKI: Nashville was my last race that I drove for the Nationwide Series. I drove for a different car owner back then. And that was the end, man. That was it. I was done right there, man. I sat out for about a month or so until July when I got to ride in Dale's car in Chicago.
But, yeah, I thought Nashville was going to be the end of my career right there. We went there, it was an embarrassing situation. We had a road course car and no motor. It was a bad situation all together. And there was no money to be had around there. And that team folded up right after that race, so that was a struggle.
To come back there exactly one year later and win was very rewarding. Now we're going back there again with that trophy in hand and looking to do it again.
So I've been through struggles there. And Nashville was kind of strange like that, because I can go there and think of the bad times and the good times all at once.
Q. Did you come up with some sort of plan for your career in the weeks between those races when your team folded and you got something going? Did you come up with some other plan? What were you thinking in that period of time there?
BRAD KESELOWSKI: Heck no, man. There was no Plan B. I was going to figure out how to make this work. I didn't give up on it. And that's how I got the opportunity I got is because I didn't give up on it.
I never really looked at doing anything else or was not willing to accept defeat when it came to that. Looking back at it now, that was kind of key to getting the opportunity I got.
Q. As far as adapting, you've had to adapt quite a bit coming up to this level. Can you talk about adapting to this competition at this level? And also, if you could, about this sponsor changes, you've had a couple of really good sponsors, but they've changed on you.
BRAD KESELOWSKI: Yeah, well, I guess first off starting with adapting to the competition or the cars? Which one were you talking about?
Q. At the competition level, basically, as you move up. It takes a little bit more adjusting than say it would in ARCA, right?
BRAD KESELOWSKI: Yeah, obviously as you go up the levels, the competition gets tougher. It demands more out of you. You know, your ability to make mistakes and get away with it goes down severely. You know, you're just -- I tell you what, to beat Kyle right now you've got to be perfect. You have to run a whole race and not make a mistake. You have to have a good car and do everything right.
That speaks volumes for the series. Because I think right now it's the toughest it's ever been as far as to be able to run with Carl and Kyle, two of the best talents. Not just in the Nationwide Series, but in the Cup series. You know, they're tough. You've got to do everything you can and figure out a way to beat them.
Like I said earlier, there are some young talents in there with Justin Allgaier, who I view as being similar to myself. He's going to be a tough guy to beat. Wouldn't be surprised if he's won some races this year. He's going through that same transition I went through last year as far as adjusting to the competition and what's acceptable and what's not on the racetrack. This is a tough transition, and a tough series with some very skilled competitors.
Q. As far as the sponsorships go, you've had to make those changes, too?
BRAD KESELOWSKI: Yeah, that's kind of unique. You know, we've put together a program here at JR Motorsports with several different sponsors. As far as is that situation goes, it's unique from I see the same thing going on over at Kevin Harvick's company. And it just allows us to reduce the expenses of each sponsor, and play an active role in our sport without having to pick up the whole tab.
I think the sponsors get what they're looking out of it. If you look at the consumer brands we have with Unilever, Klondike, Hellman's and Lipton Iced Tea, it allowed them to kind of meet some of their goals you know for reaching out and leveraging their NASCAR partnership without a huge expenditure of the whole season because they can use our names now, and they have licenses and all of that to use our names on their products and so forth, and to advertise in stores. So I think it works out well for the sponsors.
But there are additional challenges. Our paint shop works overtime now, and my car that I'm actually running at Nashville was affected by it because it was the only car we had painted in a Go Daddy scheme. So, you know, it makes it a little difficult, but we find a way to make it work, and it's working, and we're just happy to have them on board.
Q. What has humbled you most about driving at NASCAR level?
BRAD KESELOWSKI: Humbled me most? Hmm? Well, I think the biggest thing is you know I see it all the time with other drivers. You can be on top of the world one day and on the bottom the next. I think you see that with guys like Jeff Gordon who last year went through his struggles, and pretty much everybody wrote him off.
I think there were some people out there calling on him to retire or fire his crew chief and all of that. And that is a very humbling experience. To see that come full circle to where he's at now is kind of encouraging that you can make it through those struggles.
TRACY JUDD: Great job, B.K. Appreciate your time. Good luck this weekend. We'll see you in Nashville.
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