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NASCAR SPRINT CUP SERIES: CROWN ROYAL PRESENTS, THE JOHN WAYNE WALDING 400 AT BRICKYARD


July 26, 2014


Jeff Gordon

Brad Keselowski


INDIANAPOLIS, INDIANA

KERRY THARP:  Joining us now are our second and third fastest qualifiers for tomorrow's NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race here at the Brickyard.  Our second fastest is Jeff Gordon, and he drives the No.24 Axalta Chevrolet, and our third fastest is Brad Keselowski, and he drives the No.2 Miller Lite Ford.
I'll go to Jeff first.  Jeff, obviously you won this first race 20 years ago, second fastest in qualifying.  You've got to feel good about your chances out here tomorrow afternoon.
JEFF GORDON:  Yeah, I feel extremely good, excited about it.
I was in here yesterday and talking about how good our race team is and how good I thought our race car was going to be, and today kind of proves that.  I mean, Kevin was certainly very, very quick, and it was nice to close that gap a little bit on him that third session, but I feel very confident about this weekend.  Starting on the front row is an excellent place to start.  Track position is extremely important, and I couldn't be more pleased with the efforts that we had today and in that qualifying session to get us that front row start.
KERRY THARP:  Brad Keselowski, certainly gearing up to try to get another win this season.  You have three on the season.  I know you'd like to get that fourth here at the Brickyard.  That would be a pretty good slot on your résumé, wouldn't it?
BRAD KESELOWSKI:  Yeah.  You know, I think I've been very fortunate to win a championship, but at this point in my career I don't think I have any of the marquee race wins, and when you think of marquee races, you think of Daytona, you think of Indy and places like that.  It's definitely something that sits on you and makes you feel like you need to get it done.  I think we've got a great opportunity for that.
I think I figured out why Kevin was so fast; he's working harder than anybody else.  He's got sweat all over here.  I didn't sweat that much.
JEFF GORDON:  That's because you got out of the car.  Some of us stayed in the car.
BRAD KESELOWSKI:  It works, man, sometimes.  It didn't work as much as I wanted it to today, but it's always scary when Kevin is fast in qualifying.  Kevin when he qualifies well, you know he's going to be probably a dominant car in the race, and they've been really fast all year, so we're going to have to work hard to beat him, and obviously Jeff has been really fast, so we've been right there.  We've got to keep working at it, and I think we've got a chance of pulling off a victory here this weekend, so I'm very excited for it.

Q.  Brad, your car owner has got 15 wins here at this track in the Indy 500, but he has yet to win the Brickyard 400.  Has he talked to you about wanting to win this race?
BRAD KESELOWSKI:  Oh, yeah, yeah.  It's the last thing left on the Penske bucket list, and I think that's why you see a third car here with Juan Pablo Montoya.  He wants to make it happen, and Juan is certainly known for his talents here at the Indianapolis Speedway.
He's all in, as much as you can be, right, and it would be a huge honor to be the guy that pulls it off for him, and we're going to get it our best as we do every year.  It's not just this year that it's important to him, it's every year that it's important to him.

Q.  Jeff, you were talking about the other day the years when the winner of this race has gone on to win the championship and why.  With the first three sitting there with Kevin, you and Brad, it's been some years since that happened, but is this shaping up as tomorrow could be back to being one of those indicators, whose pit crew does the best?  The three of you especially, is it shaping up as it could be that sort of thing?
JEFF GORDON:¬† I think so and I hope so.¬† I think that there's certainly more than a handful of teams right now that could win this race as well as could be a real factor in the championship, and as I mentioned yesterday, I don't know if there's an absolute clear‑cut favorite.¬† Brad, I think, over the last few weeks certainly has shown that.¬† There's been times when Kevin has shown that.¬† I think there's been times when we've shown that, times that Jimmie has shown that, and there's some others in there, as well.
But I think that I just‑‑ I'm a big believer that this race in particular, the best team wins 90 percent of the time, and I think that that's also the case when it comes down to the championship is 90 percent, maybe even more of a percentage, it's the best team that wins the championship.

Q.  Brad, you take away one plate race a couple weeks ago, and you can't get any hotter than the 2 team has been.  Different kind of tracks, but can you bring that kind of heat and momentum?  Can it apply to a place like this or are all bets off when you get here?
BRAD KESELOWSKI:¬† Oh, I think it definitely applies to a track like this.¬† Race cars are‑‑ it takes the same basic things most weeks.¬† Some weeks different categories more than others with the exception of those tracks you mentioned, the road courses and the plate tracks which seem to be a little bit more of an outlier.
But if you're fast at a place like Pocono, you're probably going to be fast here.  I thought we were great at Pocono.  And if you're fast at a place like Kentucky you're probably going to run well at Chicago and Texas.  That's a good omen.  Loudon is a race in the Chase, so obviously that carries over directly, but I think that we're in a good position to run well here and to run for a championship, and that's something I'm very proud of.

Q.  Obviously you guys represent what everybody would consider the two best teams this year so far:  Hendrick and Penske.  This race has always been a place where people point to as a marker where you see teams roll out their best stuff.  Have you guys seen any signs the last two days of other teams maybe closing the gap or is there any reason to think that story line of Hendrick and Penske won't continue for Sunday and forward?
JEFF GORDON:¬† Well, you could also argue that we've opened up the gap because we brought our best stuff.¬† I mean, I don't know.¬† I think that we certainly look at all the Hendrick cars and the Stewart‑Haas cars having Hendrick chassis, Hendrick engines and just how good they've been, and then Penske to me is the team to beat outside of what we have, and at times they've been better than us, at times we've been better than them.¬† I'm pretty sure all those groups have their best stuff here, and I wouldn't be surprised if you just keep going on down the list that everybody has brought their best stuff.
I don't know, today I was wondering what Kevin had because he had us all beat, and we've got the same stuff basically and all the data that we can tap into.  And they had the field covered.
BRAD KESELOWSKI:¬† Yeah, you know, it's hard to answer.¬† When you think you really understand what's going on‑‑ you never know what somebody else has in their hand, much like if you were playing a game of poker.¬† We think that we have the two strongest hands with Penske and Hendrick, and certainly that's been the case to this date in the season, but you just don't know what's out there.
I find it hard to believe that Gibbs is going to go a whole year without having a dominant car.  That's not like them.  So I'm sure they're going to catch on as the season progresses and add to that mix and maybe even someone else.  Maybe an MWR or an RCR, who knows.  But we're a long ways from over, and I think you can look at the past, and it's an indicator to the future but not a complete premonition.

Q.  Kevin talked a little bit earlier this week about being in Chase mode and that he has to kind of worry about finishes now and just can't throw caution to the wind and gamble every week because you need good finishes leading into the Chase to have that kind of confidence and be in that Chase rhythm.  Would you guys subscribe to that theory over the next six, seven weeks?
JEFF GORDON:¬† We're doing everything we can to win the race every weekend; that's all I know we're doing.¬† I would say that at New Hampshire we took a little more risk with the fuel mileage that we would not have done in the Chase, so I think in our opinion these guys have more wins than we do, and we want to go into the Chase with as much momentum as possible, and to me that's about getting wins and just‑‑ yeah, I think our team is very consistent, and that's why we're leading the points, but I think in those final 10 races that's going to be important, but I also think we're going to need to step it up a bit to lead more laps and be in position to win more races, as well, and that's what we're trying to do right now.

Q.  Jeff, back when you won the first race, they were qualifying about 175 or so, and now they're almost at 190.  Does this come from the experience that teams have learned over the years, and is 190 a possibility?
JEFF GORDON:¬† Oh, yeah, it just depends on what NASCAR does‑‑ allows us to do with the cars and what Goodyear does with the tires.¬† I think we would have gone either a little bit faster.¬† Tony blew a tire here, and they probably even went a little conservative on the left side because of that so I think we could have gone a little bit faster had that not happened.¬† It's just technology.¬† The aerodynamics of the cars are vastly improved.¬† I laugh when I look at that '94 car and I've had a chance to look at it this week because we had it at our bowling tournament and it's around here, as well.¬† It's so funny.¬† You talk about stock cars, that thing looks pretty stock to me compared to what we have today.¬† I mean, today these are really race cars in its purest form.¬† I get a chance every once in a while to talk to people outside of our industry and other forms of motorsports and travel to other parts of the world and talk about racing, and people realize that our cars are no joke these days.¬† They're making a lot of power, making a tremendous amount of downforce for what they are, and getting through the corners really fast and aren't easy to drive, either.
I mean, today qualifying the cars were stuck really, really good, so conditions were great, and from one lap it was awesome.  It's going to be a whole different ballgame tomorrow in the race, but so much has changed.  Yeah, you can't even compare anything we did in '94 to what we're doing today.

Q.  Jeff, you've seen this race evolve certainly over the last 21 years.  Is there anything that can or should be done to bring back some of the juice, some of the interest that we had here when this thing started and within the first five, ten years?
JEFF GORDON:  Well, the thing that I do find so interesting is, I mean, we've got a big blade on the back, and you would think that all the things that NASCAR has tried to do to get them to suck up that they would.  In '94, I mean, if you remember any part of that race, especially there at the end when me and Ernie were battling, you didn't want to be the leader.  The leader just got so loose and the guy behind him would just suck up and draft and go right by him, and we just kept swapping the lead back and forth because we were trying to put ourselves in position to be leading basically off of Turn 4.  You didn't want to be leading off of 2 because the guy was going to go by you and probably win the race.
And so that's changed a lot.  It's aerodynamics, it's always going to come down to aerodynamics and drag and downforce.  You would think we're smart enough to understand all that and how we could figure out how to come together with NASCAR and make the cars draft better.  The IndyCars have done an excellent job here.  The Indy 500 the last couple years has been amazing with the passing and the drafting.  They're using technology to figure it out, and we've got to do the same.  But I don't know what the answer is.  I'm not an aerodynamicist.  Brad is but I'm not.  He's also an engine builder, too.
BRAD KESELOWSKI:  Yeah, I've got a lot of hats.

Q.  Brad, can you take a pop at that question?  Obviously you haven't been here 21 years, but are there some things that can be done aerodynamically or in any other way, shape or form to bring some juice back to this?
BRAD KESELOWSKI:  There's a whole list of things that can be done, it's just getting the whole industry to do it.  That hasn't happened so far, so when it happens we'll get there.

Q.¬† You guys have had all sorts of different conditions.¬† You had a morning practice, you had some sun, you had some overcast, you had the track washed clean.¬† Given all that, do you really‑‑ how comfortable are you that everybody really knows what they have as far as the race is concerned?
BRAD KESELOWSKI:  We've got no idea.  Yeah, we don't.
That's kind of what Jeff and I are probably both secretly hoping.  I don't mean to speak for you, Jeff, that maybe Kevin has something that's not going to work when it's 90 degrees tomorrow and the track temp is 120 because right now he looks so good.  Usually that's not how it goes.
I haven't ran here for 20 years at Indy, but the four or five years I have run here, I know that 9:00 a.m. practice is a lot of fun to drive, not a good indicator of what you're going to see, and I would assume it would be the same thing this weekend as the track gets hotter and the surface really loses grip and as the cars‑‑ you've got 43 out there instead of 15, 10, 20, and the air becomes such a premium and gets all mixed up.¬† It's going to be a whole different game.¬† These cars are generating the majority of their grip with the help of aerodynamics, and when they lose that, they're not as much fun to drive, that's for sure, and that's part of it.¬† That's what makes talent stand out right now in NASCAR racing is how you handle that.
JEFF GORDON:¬† He hit it.¬† Other than just being in dirty air, that's going to be the biggest factor, but the track conditions won't be the same tomorrow.¬† The race is‑‑ you always think you know what you have and then they drop the green and all of a sudden you're like, whoa, where did this come from, and sometimes you nail it and sometimes you miss it and got to adjust.

Q.  On a scale of challenge, where does Indianapolis Motor Speedway fit?
BRAD KESELOWSKI:  You know, the challenge of Indy, on a scale of 1 to 10, I think it's one of the hardest tracks we run.  Tracks that come to mind when you say that, I think of Sonoma I think is probably the hardest place we run.  I think of the plate races and trying not to make a mistake for so long and cause the big one, which I've done.  I think of those type of places, but Indy is right up there with them with the challenge of trying to get yourself to keep up with the track as it's changing.  The track has so many spots where you can get in trouble.  Pit road stands out being so narrow and always an issue, restarts in Turn 1 blind, and guys going through the grass.  There's a lot of challenges here at Indy, and I would say it's definitely in the top probably 5 or 10 percentile of different tracks.  Maybe not the hardest but right up there.
JEFF GORDON:  Yeah, it's definitely a very challenging track.  I think the more corners that you have at a track the more challenging it is, and then if you throw shifting into that, then that makes a whole 'nother set of challenges.
I think the road courses are the most challenges I'd say, then Pocono which has three corners, not four, but three, and then you have shifting there, so it's a pretty challenging racetrack, and then I would say this would fall after those.  So yeah, I'd say top four or five as one of the most challenging.
I love the challenge that this track has.  It's difficult sometimes to pass aerodynamically, but you can do some things on how and where you pick your spots to pass at, and I love that challenge.
KERRY THARP:  Jeff, Brad, thank you for a good qualifying effort.  Good luck tomorrow.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports




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