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NASCAR SPRINT CUP SERIES: GEICO 500


October 19, 2014


Brad Keselowski

Roger Penske

Paul Wolfe


LINCOLN, ALABAMA

KERRY THARP:  We're going to hear from our winning crew chief and car owner.  We have Roger Penske and crew chief Paul Wolfe.  Congratulations on a gutsy performance this afternoon racing your way into the eliminator eight round of the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup.
Paul, that had to be quite an intense however long we were out there today race for you all.  Talk about the gamut of emotions.  Maybe talk a little bit about the strategy that your team employed.  It certainly worked.  This was one that you really had to stand up and get it done, didn't you?
PAUL WOLFE:  Yeah, absolutely.  Told some of the guys afterwards this was pretty intense.  Ranks close up there with that race in Homestead in 2012 for the championship.  So much on the line today.
Coming into the weekend, we were confident we were capable of winning.  We've had the speed in our racecars on the plate tracks this year.  Obviously Brad has shown his ability to get to Victory Lane.  We were confident from that standpoint.
But there's so many things out of your control when you come to these type of racetracks.  So tried not to get my hopes up too much, really just kind of figured we'd see what plays out.
But had a fast car.  We had to start from the back.  He slowly worked his way to the front.  I think that showed kind of the strength in our car.  Unfortunately we got some damage there with the 1 car when he spun.  I guess he had a tire issue.  But nobody panicked.  Everyone stayed cool.  We kept marching forward, just doing our thing.
We got down towards the end and had him in position.  Then from there Brad just did an amazing job on those last couple restarts and showed what he's really all about.
KERRY THARP:  Roger, congratulations.  You have both of your cars advancing to the eliminator round, Joey Logano with his win a couple weeks ago, then today with Brad.
Talk about what that shows about this race team and the caliber of performance that Brad showed out there today, winning this race.
ROGER PENSKE:  I think when you look at the statistics, I think we've won four out of the six races in this bracket.  But I think today really showed the teamwork.  With Joey we were about 16th or 17th, and Joey pushed Brad up to the front.  We talked before the race it was going to be a team effort.  Certainly the moves at the end there, Brad's tremendous driving, gave us the win.
To me Paul called a great race.  Brad was cool all day long.  I think he asked one question to us at the end, Should I take the bottom or the top?  We had a vote, Paul or myself, we said, Top.  Certainly paid off when we went green with the 22 behind us.
But for me, I've been in NASCAR a long time, this is 11 races we'd won, 10 was our best season with Rusty.  We set a record today for the team.  Obviously put us in a position to go forward in the next bracket.
You don't like to see anybody knocked out.  But when you see the caliber of the drivers that won't be there for the next four races, certainly we feel good about having at least two going into this next bracket.
KERRY THARP:  We'll take questions for Roger or Paul.

Q.  (Question regarding last weekend's incident.)
ROGER PENSKE:¬† I told Brad not to look in the rearview mirror because we didn't like what happened last weekend.¬† I said to look out the windshield.¬† Since everybody cooled off, this is a place you can't retaliate obviously.¬† Matt was with him sometimes.¬† He was behind the 48.¬† A little give‑and‑take there.
At the end I think the big push came with the 22.¬† But obviously Kenseth is a world‑class driver, as they all are.¬† I think Newman was in a position to make it happen, but fortunately he didn't have a pusher like we had.

Q.  You and Travis talked at length on Friday about Brad's focus.  The goal was to come out and win today, which seemed like a longshot considering three guys had to win.  Coming off the week that he had in which all the things happened in Charlotte, his character was somewhat questioned throughout the garage, what is his resiliency to be able to put that behind him and step up and win in maybe the biggest race of his life?
ROGER PENSKE:  I think some of the emotion last weekend, I'd stand up for him anywhere, I watched the whole race last week.  There certainly was some banging which was maybe not called for.
We went testing this week, spent a couple days testing.  I think he knew what he had to do here.  We're focusing on the next couple of races.
I've told him a lot, It's over, it's over, let's move on.
Look, I like him.¬† He's a great driver.¬† We have a long‑term relationship with him.¬† If he wants to get a little upset sometimes, that's okay with me.¬† We'll let NASCAR figure out if he's over the line or not.¬† I guess it cost us 50 grand.¬† I'll take 50 grand and the win this week, wouldn't you?
PAUL WOLFE:  I don't think this is the first time we've seen Brad step up to the plate.  Seems like everyone is against him.  Seems like that fires him up more.  I've got his back 100%.  I didn't see anything that he did out of line last weekend.  I told him that.  He does a great job and races hard.  That's why we like him driving our car.
He sets his mind to something, he's going to make it happen.  He made the comments this week before he got here that he was going to come down here and win.  I'm glad everyone back at the shop, all the guys on this 2 team were able to give him a car that was capable of that, put is in his hands.  He did what he said he was going to do.
Just proud of the effort.  He's very deserving of it.

Q.  This is one of the most intense races I've ever seen at Talladega.  I'm sure you felt the same way.  How intense did it get in your minds for the last two cautions?  Absolutely anything could have happened.
ROGER PENSKE:  I think you watch the race, you're waiting to get to that last 10 laps quite honestly and just stay out of trouble.  But you have to run up front.  I think Brad fooled around there in the back a couple laps, Look, I got to go.  Knew what he had with his car.
When we had the green‑white‑checkered, we were up front, I knew we could win.¬† At that point it was up to him and up to his teammate.
We've been in that position before.  I was at Indianapolis.  We lost by 6/100ths of a second, so it goes either way.
PAUL WOLFE:¬† Yeah, I agree.¬† The thing about these type of races is there's so much can happen in just one lap.¬† Our typical race that we see every week, when you come down to this point in the race, you kind of know who's strong, who's capable of what.¬† Here you come down to that green‑white‑checkered, the guy in 12th can really win the race.
I agree it was very intense, very exciting.  Obviously Brad did a great job.  Happy we were able to be the one to get to Victory Lane.

Q.  Roger, considering that Brad is only 30 years old, what do you think his potential might be?
ROGER PENSKE:¬† Well, I think we see what his potential is.¬† He certainly has been the asset that we needed after Rusty and Newman moved on.¬† We went through kind of a choppy period there.¬† He came to the shop and said he could help us build a world‑class team.¬† He did that personally the way he drives, but also at the shop.¬† He and Paul got together.¬† He's a leader not only on the racetrack but also at the shop.
To me, putting his arm around Joey, getting him to come on the team, he's something that I would call the key asset of the team right now.  He's a good team player with Joey.  I guess Joey put a lot of money in the bank today for Brad.  I guess he's got some credit coming.

Q.  You won the race.  Jimmie Johnson led the most laps.  Matt Kenseth finished second.  Dale Jr. ran up front a good portion of the race.  The four guys who came into that race all in the most trouble in the format.  How much of that was a product of the system, do you think?
ROGER PENSKE:  Product of the system?

Q.  The performance of those four teams, was it coincidence or a product of the format?
ROGER PENSKE:¬† I think the format put us in that position.¬† You don't carry any benefit of winning other than getting in the next bracket when you haven't won, it puts us on the bubble.¬† Johnson had a great car.¬† I thought he would be the guy to beat, there's no question.¬† He got shuffled a little bit I think on the first green‑white‑checkered.¬† Never was able to get back.
It was anybody's race.  There's just no question that the format makes it exciting for the fans.  But I can tell you the pressure it puts on us at the shop, after you had the number of wins that Brad had, not to make it, would have been devastating to us.

Q.  Joey and Brad have proven they can work very well together.  How are things going to change if they're not locked into the next round from preparation to the race up until race time?
PAUL WOLFE:  Well, I mean, both teams right from the beginning of the season have worked well together.  We feed off of each other.  We've continued to do that as the Chase started back at Chicago.  They knew there was a lot on the line for us this weekend, seeing as how they had their win early in this round.
I don't expect that to change.  I mean, at the end of the day the goal is to get another championship for Penske Racing.  That's what we're going to do, whatever it takes.
KERRY THARP:  We'll hear from our race winner, Brad Keselowski.
Brad, you pretty much knew you had to get to Victory Lane to advance to the eliminator eight.  Paul and Roger were discussing that very fact here just a little bit ago.  Let's hear from you.  What was your mindset throughout this race?  Is this a race that you'll always look back on and say, Wow, this was pretty cool?
BRAD KESELOWSKI:  Yeah, yeah, I was just feeling my face while you were talking.  They say when you have a lot of adrenaline, your facial hair grows faster and fingernails grow faster.  I have a shadow and my nails need to be trimmed.
KERRY THARP:  Wolfman.
BRAD KESELOWSKI:  What a day.  I'm not really sure where to start.  But I guess I can just kind of recap the day for you guys.
We knew we had to win obviously coming into this week, this day.  When the weekend started, I thought we had the opportunity to do that.  We had very, very fast cars at Daytona and Talladega here and the past three restrictor plate races.  Really didn't get any of the results we thought we were capable of.  I think I restarted second at the 500, whiffed winning at the 500.  I still have some nightmares on that one.  Talladega, just kind of I fell into every bit of chaos possible here in the spring.  Then the Daytona race in July wrong place at the wrong time.
In the back of my mind, those three races that we had so much speed at and no results to show for it made me feel like we were due.  I told everybody, not everybody, but Roger, Ford, guys like Paul and my spotter, Joey, that I felt we were going to win today because of that.
I felt like those mistakes, whether it was Daytona on the last restart, the bad luck that we faced, it couldn't continue to go that way.
Sure enough, it did.  We certainly didn't just get handed this race today.  We had the incident early in the race where I think the 1 car blew a tire out, I'm not sure, that's what I heard.  He half spun, got into our door, kind of tore that up.  Pretty hard hit.  I thought the car was torn up pretty good.  I still haven't seen it.  Paul says it was good.  We maybe lost just a touch of speed, but not enough to kind of overcome the will to win we had today.
From there it was about finding the track position, making the right moves, finding the right lanes.  I thought we were in good shape having run top five, top 10 most of the race.  Sure enough on that green flag pit cycle, the yellow came out and kind of trapped us behind a lot of cars we were going to be in front of.  We ended up restarting 16th or something like that with 10 to go.  That felt like a death sentence in itself.
But we kept our composure.  I worked really well with my teammates Joey Logano and Ryan Blaney.  Made kind of the perfect move that nobody ever sees when they think about these races.  We made kind of the perfect move together to go from 16th to second in three or four laps there.  That put us in position to really capitalize on the last two yellows.  From there we did just that.
So we positioned ourselves well with great teamwork, executed the restarts kind of off the lessons learned from Daytona.  From there it was all about that last lap and choosing the lanes wisely to be able to block the cars that had runs.  All that came together perfectly.
Kind of feel like Hannibal here.  I love when a plan comes together.  Everything just felt right today.  We're here as winners because of that.
KERRY THARP:  We'll continue with questions.

Q.  Brad, you've always been somebody who has been very much of a historian of the sport, especially coming from a racing family.  I'm sure you know there's only 14 or 15 guys who have won multiple championships in this series.
BRAD KESELOWSKI:  29 I think have won more than one, something like that.

Q.  It's 14 or 15 have won more than one.  How important is it to win a second one?
BRAD KESELOWSKI:  There's 29 champions in general, right?  14 of them are single champions?  Sorry, that took me a second to catch up.  Bear with me.  It's been a long day at Talladega.
It's very important to me because I think probably one of the things I look to the most in life is kind of self‑judgment in a way, making the most of opportunities, whether that's when I first got started and was in a back marker car.¬† At that point the opportunity is to learn and to survive the day, get a decent finish.¬† As my career grew from there to having better cars, better opportunities, you try to maximize it, take a 10th place car and run fifth with it, things in those scenarios.
Today I sit before you guys with what I consider to be a championship‑caliber effort at Team Penske.¬† My own expectations or goals are to make the most of that opportunity and win races, win championships.
We've done that with race wins.  We've done it with a championship.  But our opportunity and our capabilities as a group are so much higher than that, and I don't want to miss out on it.  So it's very, very important to me personally to be able to win multiple championships and to live up to that opportunity that I'm so fortunate to have, that guys like Paul and Roger have provided.

Q.  Paul, how much of an advantage is it to use a crew chief to have both cars in?
PAUL WOLFE:  Well, like I said, both teams work so well together, whether we're in or not.  As you look through the garage, I feel like our two cars continually every week you see them with the strength.  That's just because of how well we work together.
I see that to continue here over the next four races.  At the end of the day, as long as we have a Penske car in Victory Lane at Homestead, that's our goal.

Q.  Roger, you talk about being a team effort.  Plate racing you need help from your teammates.  Then there's always the balance of team orders, Joey going on to the next round.  How did you tell Joey to approach this race?  What did he have latitude to do or not do?
ROGER PENSKE:  Well, it's pretty simple.  With the structure of the Chase, he was already committed into the next round.  So we set down we and Brad and even Blaney and said, Whatever you can do today to get the 2 car in the winner's circle, that's what you need to do.  I think he obeyed orders pretty well.

Q.  Paul, Brad talked a lot about Friday how the Charlotte incident galvanized the team.  Do you feel like the team learned a little bit about itself last Saturday going forward?
PAUL WOLFE:  I mean, this team for the most part has been together since we moved to Cup in 2011.  We work really well together.  I guess maybe I showed a little side of me that I surprised some people last week.  But I've told others this week that at the end of the day I'd stand up for anyone on this team, including the driver.  I believe in every one of them.
I guess maybe looking at it from that standpoint, yeah, definitely didn't hurt, and showed that we're going to stick together as a team no matter what happens.

Q.  Brad, I'm sure it wasn't lost on you that the guy following you to the checkered flag was also the guy who had you in a headlock last Saturday.  Roger told you to look out the windshield, not the rearview mirror.
BRAD KESELOWSKI:  You can't drive Talladega without looking in the mirror.  I think I more just kind of laughed in an irony way, appreciating the irony, that is.  You probably have a better word for it than that.

Q.  Actually not irony.  It's a coincidence.
BRAD KESELOWSKI:  It's a coincidence, okay.  There's something there, I don't know what.
But to me it was funny how this racing world works out.  I don't know why it is that way.  I don't know why it seems like every week where there's either a fight in the garage or a mishap or something like that happens, those two cars and people end up together, whether it was our cars were parked together in the garage area, or on the racetrack for the win in the closing laps at Talladega.  I don't know why that happens.
I got a chuckle out of that personally.  I didn't feel uncomfortable in the least bit.  The cars, the way they work, it was just a matter for me personally to kind of manage the three lanes with car movements and keep an eye ahead.  Your eyes get tired from that.  Try to manage all three lanes.  It just so happened to be that Matt was leading his lane, and his lane had the best run at the end.  I came down and blocked it.  That was enough to seal our fate as a winner, seal his fate as second.
It's kind of funny to me personally how that stuff works out.  I'm sure we'll race each other some more.  Maybe something bad will happen.  Maybe it won't.  That's part of it.  But for today we're happy with the result and we'll move on.

Q.  In searching for the right word, maybe Bowyer looked at Kenseth and said, Do you realize you pushed Brad Keselowski to the win?  Said that was a bitch, wasn't it?  In all seriousness, could you have pulled off this win without that?  You get the great push from Logano on the restart, but you couldn't sustain that.  Could you have done it without that push from Kenseth?
BRAD KESELOWSKI:  Oh, I don't know.  I'd have to replay the film to see all the variables.  I don't know.  Probably not.  But it's hard to say.

Q.  Brad, I asked this earlier of Roger.  Coming into this race, you, Matt, Dale Jr. and Jimmie Johnson pretty much were the four guys who most needed to do well or win.  The four of you either ran really strong, led the most laps, in your case won, Matt finished second.  Is that a coincidence or the performance of those four teams, is it a product of the system?
BRAD KESELOWSKI:¬† That's a really in‑depth question.¬† First off, I'd say Dale Jr. is a phenomenal plate racer, one of the best ever.¬† For him to lead a bunch of laps and be up front would probably be the case no matter what the system is.
I would say in a very similar nature Matt's a really good plate racer, as well.  Under any system I would say those two guys you would expect to lead laps and finish up front, barring accidents.
I felt like Jimmie found another level today for sure and ran a really, really great race.  That's probably the best plate race I've seen him run.  So he probably found another level that was most impressive to me.  Maybe that was the system for him that made him put a lot of focus on it.  I don't know.  I'd hate to answer for them.
For us, I thought we didn't really approach this weekend any differently than I think we would have had we been running second or third in the points or had a 30‑ or 40‑point lead.¬† I felt like we had an opportunity to win, and that's what we came to do.¬† Under any system that's what we needed to, wanted to do at the very least.¬† We were able to pull it off.
I think the system probably more than anything else just makes the win that much sweeter than anything.

Q.¬† Brad, in the last 10 years or so we've really seen one driver, Tony Stewart, be able to climb out of the corner, off the wall, with self‑inflicted jabs or wounds.¬† You seem to be able to do that yourself, get yourself into a lot of trouble, then rise out of it the next week.¬† How do you do that?
BRAD KESELOWSKI:¬† Well, first off, racing's kind of funny to me like that.¬† The trophy was put on there, they'll put a plaque on it.¬† It will say Brad Keselowski.¬† That means something to me, don't get me wrong.¬† But this is not a one‑person sport.¬† A lot of people think of it that way.¬† But I personally don't.
In some ways or on some days it's mildly insulting to me that it's considered that.  The trophy should say 'Team Penske' on it because we're surrounded by great people, whether that's the captain sitting next to me, my crew chief Paul Wolfe, my spotter Joey.
I hate comparing myself to other sports, but if you took a football team and said Peyton Manning won the Super Bowl, he would probably think that wasn't right, because everybody had a role in it.
Everybody had a role in today.  Maybe I have more after role when it goes bad, but maybe the other guys don't get enough credit when things go good.  But everybody plays a part in our success.
I'm very hesitant to sit before you and say I did this one thing and that's why we're in Victory Lane today because of this, this and that, pat myself on the back.  It's not really about that.  It's really about us working as a collective group to persevere over countless obstacles and adversity that this sport puts up everybody week.  For whatever reason, I seem to need to climb over bigger ones than other people.  That's certainly something I don't want to have to do.  Like I said before, it makes winning that much sweeter.

Q.  I respect what you said, but you were under attack so much throughout the garage, how do you not let that get you down and defeated?
BRAD KESELOWSKI:  Well, it's not something I enjoy.  I don't look to go out there and have to fight those battles.  That just makes life a lot harder.  But there's a part of me that's come to accept that this isn't going to be easy, that I didn't come into this sport in an era where it was going to work out any other way.
I mean, look at the drivers that came through my era.  I came into this sport, my first win was 2009, first full season 2010.  Besides my teammate Joey Logano, what other drivers came from that era and are successful?  There isn't one.  There's not one that came through those four or five years.  That's for good reason.  They've been ran out of the sport.  I'm not going to let that happen.
For me, that means sometimes there's going to be some uncomfortable moments.  Certainly there were some uncomfortable moments this week.  There's been some uncomfortable moments in the past.  I hope there's not any more uncomfortable moments in the future, but there probably will be.  Until that cycles in my own eyes, until that cycles and the drivers that kind of have the old guard feel from the late '90s and early 2000s are still around or aren't around, I should say, that will probably continue to be the case.
I've took in some ways solace on that.
ROGER PENSKE:  Number one, these guys are jealous of the job he's done this year.  He's won six races.  He's made poles.  He's been up front.  Nobody likes to see a guy win like that.  The fact that he has a little edge on him, he's continually delivering, obviously I think makes a difference.
If everybody understood what happened on the racetrack last week, when you get your rear fender knocked off on a restart, you get your front fender knocked off on a pass‑by, I want him to get mad.¬† I don't want him to take it.
So to me coming back, we talked about it Sunday night, I said, Let's just go on, do our test during the week, move on here.  Brad, I said, Put it in the rearview mirror.

Q.  Brad, you mentioned you didn't have time for that garbage last week.  Specifically how do you filter all of that out, especially you're in cyberspace quite a bit, that was a lot of noise.
BRAD KESELOWSKI:  To answer your question, I got a lot of help with that having a test scheduled in Martinsville.  Paul put me to work.  That's the easiest way.
Then beyond that, I think it's having the support structure behind you, kind of like I was saying.  I guess in specific terms, that's knowing that you listen to your team guys.  I guess that test was important because it was a chance for us to bond together.
I feel like I have a great group of people around me that are willing to tell me the inconvenient truth sometimes.  In this case the inconvenient truth would be if they felt I was wrong.  The people around me weren't saying that.  That way, that feeling, those guys giving me the support that they did, helps me turn the page.

Q.  Brad, saying that you're going to win, obviously it's the good thing to say to the team to motivate them, but going out and doing it at Talladega is borderline insane.  Now that you've done it, what confidence does this give you going forward for the rest of the year and your career?
BRAD KESELOWSKI:  I might have said it to my team, but I'm not trying to be Babe Ruth.  I felt like we had the opportunity.  As I was saying when I walked in here, I felt like, you know, almost like a gambler.  If you counted the cards, the cards were in our favor.
Talladega is not a place where I think anyone, if they were going to call their shot, would call it.  But I felt like the odds were maybe not for us in the championship, but they were for us in the sense of Talladega and plate racing.  It certainly played out today.
As far as what that means going forward, I don't know.  We all hit the reset button as soon as we leave this track.  The six wins that we have mean nothing.  Everyone has zero points within the top eight.  We still have to go out and perform over these next four weeks, especially Homestead.  We got to get to Homestead first, right?  Got to get in that top four, then get to Homestead and really deliver.
That's going to be a huge challenge, and we know that.  But as far as what today says for that, it says that we're capable of a lot, but nothing more.

Q.  Brad, you said before this round started, this round scared the hell out of you.
BRAD KESELOWSKI:  It did.  Still does.

Q.  What are your thoughts for the next round and the next three tracks?
BRAD KESELOWSKI:¬† I think we're in a really good spot for these next four races, but we've got to still execute.¬† We've tested at two‑‑ we're going to have tested at three out of the next four races, two in the next bracket, with Texas and Martinsville.¬† We have a Homestead test in two weeks, week and a half, something like that.
We're in a very good position.  It would be nice to go to Martinsville and win, get a grandfather clock, have three weeks to really think about Homestead.  That's my mentality moving forward.
But if that doesn't happen, we still have any one of these four tracks, which I think are good tracks for us.

Q.  Brad, can you take us through your emotions from Saturday night?  Were you at a point of almost being devastated where you were in the points?  Then compare it to today.
BRAD KESELOWSKI:  I don't know if 'devastated' is the right word, but certainly 'frustrated' is.  We entered today 22 points back, something like that, 19.  I can't remember exactly what it was now.  That's not good.  That's not good at all.  Entering the race 19 points to the good wouldn't have been where we wanted to be.  But, like I said, it is what it is.  We had to move on.
The great thing about this type of format is that at any given point, we knew if we came here and won, it didn't matter what happened at Charlotte, didn't matter what happened at Kansas with the blown tire.  None of that stuff mattered.
So there's always a way out with this format, which is something I can personally take as a point of pride and a method for justifying the mental capacity to move on and look forward.

Q.  This was billed as being a Hendrick versus Penske battle.  Rick lost three cars today.  Does that make it any easier for you guys?
BRAD KESELOWSKI:  I'm still caught up in what we did.  There's a lot of racing left to do, a lot of great teams.  I think it's a mistake to really focus on one thing.  The 4 car has been so strong.  It's not going to be easy I guess is probably the short answer.  No matter who gets eliminated, it's not going to be easy.

Q.  As you go into this Chase knowing how it's been, how much emotion has come up, would this one be higher on your list than the first one?
BRAD KESELOWSKI:  I don't know.  I think it would probably soak in a lot more.  The first one still feels like a dream.  I think any racer would tell you that one win is great, but it doesn't really sink in, whether that's a race or championship.  It's when you get to multiple wins or multiple championships to really start to almost appreciate where you're at, understand the significance, think about it that way.
For me, I'm very, very proud of our 2012 championship.  I know, like I said earlier, the opportunities that are in front of us.  I want to make the most of them.  Beyond that it's hard to say how I would feel if I won another one.  I sure would like to find out.

Q.  Mr. Penske?
ROGER PENSKE:  Well, the first one took many years to get there.  To do it with Dodge was pretty important to us, because they left the sport after that.  To me once you win one here, you set your sights higher.  The caliber of the people that we were able to pull together for that first championship are the same people that we've galvanized now around us.  Then adding Joey, having two cars that can run for the championship, gives us, looking at basic statistics, a better chance.  If we can get two cars into the final, it would be amazing.  As I said to both these guys, One of you might win, but if one does, the team wins.  That's how we try to run the business.
KERRY THARP:  Congratulations to the No. 2 Ford over at Team Penske.  Good luck in the eliminator round and we'll see you in Martinsville.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports




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