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May 1, 2016
THE MODERATOR: We are joined by members of the winning team. We are joined by the crew chief, Paul Wolfe. Paul, this is the second victory of the year, your fifth top 10. Talk about the run out there today.
PAUL WOLFE: Yeah, it seemed like a bit of survival at points. I think the key today for us was, first off, having a pretty fast Miller Lite Ford, and qualifying well, getting a good pit stall. From there, it was about keeping the track position.
We kept the track position, were able to stay out of the wrecks. There was a lot of good cars that got caught up in that. As I talked to Brad in the closing laps, there was a lot of cars in the top 10 that we hadn't seen all day because so many good cars had gotten caught up in the wreck.
From there a lot of it came down to the spotter and the driver and their communication of getting the lead and managing the lead. I think they did a great job of doing that today and found ourselves in Victory Lane.
THE MODERATOR: We're also joined by Bud Denker, Team Penske executive vice president. Talk about what this win means to Team Penske.
BUD DENKER: He had a great car today. We had some great Ford Performance power today. I stand up in the top of the grandstands, watched the race. Anytime we were by a Toyota or side‑by‑side with a Chevy, we had strong power today. Paul, you saw it.
In fact, I think our car was better today than we had in Daytona. I think the fact that Brad could stay out in front, manage low, high like he was doing.
And Joey, the spotter, he did a terrific job today. He's one of the MVPs of our team today.
Paul executed great pit stops, great calls on pit lane in terms of two tires or gas as well.
Timing is everything. We also have the CEO and his wife from MillerCoors, Gavin Hattersly, down from Chicago today. So I think timing is great, isn't it?
THE MODERATOR: We'll take questions for Paul and Bud.
Q. Paul, you talk about being a race of survival. How thankful are you that you weren't involved in anything? Two cars that got upside down today. Anything that can be done about that?
PAUL WOLFE: Like I said, it did seem like somewhat of a survival race, as we saw a lot of what I would consider some of the top cars or faster cars get caught up in wrecks.
It just seems like everyone is very aggressive. I think there's opportunity for a lot of cars to win races. The key to that for us today was just keeping the track position, like I said.
That comes from I think a little bit of it can start in qualifying with pit selection, having a good day on pit road. I think I saw the 11 car get knocked around on pit road a couple times as an example of how pit road can go the other way.
We had a good pit stall. The guys did a good job on the pit stops. We were able to hold track position when we had to pit.
With tire wear not being big here, the fuel dictates whether we're going to do two tires, four tires, or as we saw at the end, a lot of cars do fuel only to show how important that track position was.
Track position was huge. I don't think we ever fell out of the top 10 at all today. I think that's the first time we ever did that here and at Daytona. I think that was key to getting the win.
Q. (No microphone.)
PAUL WOLFE: Obviously NASCAR works hard at that. I don't think that's anything new. That's been going on for a long time. We continue to work on the roof flaps and things like that.
But, gosh, I'm not saying there isn't ways to do better than what we have. I'm sure there is. NASCAR does a great job of continuing to look into ways to do that.
But kind of at the speeds we're running, sometimes it seems like there's not a whole lot you can do once you get sideways at that kind of speed.
Q. Paul, what does this win mean to this team, given some of the struggles you've had this year?
PAUL WOLFE: I think it's big. Obviously we got our win early at Vegas. Felt like we had a great car there. After Vegas, it seemed like we weren't exactly where we wanted to be on the intermediate style tracks. We had a great car at Martinsville, felt like we could contend for a win there.
I think as a whole, if you look at the tracks we've run so far, we know we need to be better on the mile‑and‑a‑half style racetracks.
So getting the win here obviously doesn't mean a whole lot as we go to Kansas, other than it's kind of a shot in the arm and a little momentum. A lot of times in this sport, that's worth something.
So even though it will be totally different style racecars heading into Kansas, with a win this week, it will be huge. Hopefully we can keep that momentum going.
THE MODERATOR: Gentlemen, thank you for coming in this afternoon and congratulations on the win.
We are now joined by the race winner of today's race, Brad Keselowski.
Brad, your second victory and fifth top‑10 finish just this year. Also here at Talladega, this is your fourth victory and ninth top‑10 finish in 15 races.
Talk about that finish there.
BRAD KESELOWSKI: What can you say? Talladega has been good to me. It's great to be back on this podium as a race winner.
Very, very proud and thrilled today. Never know what you're going to get here. Talladega has always been that way. It's always been very good to me. I'm, like I said, thankful for that.
Crazy day. Somehow we managed to stay ahead of or out of all the chaos. A couple asked me about it. I didn't see it thankfully because I was in front of it. But that's how Talladega goes.
Sometimes we run here and everybody kind of lines up against the wall, and sometimes we come here and it's crazy side‑by‑side, wreck 'em up, flip 'em. I think that's kind of the allure to coming here because you don't know what you're going to get.
As a racer or driver, you have to be prepared either way to take advantage of the situation. We were able to do that today.
Just an all‑around solid day. Nothing flashy today. Our execution was strong on pit road. We caught just a couple breaks there with getting the right pushes at the right time when we were side‑by‑side for the lead. All that added up to the victory we got today.
THE MODERATOR: We'll take questions for Brad.
Q. 35 of 40 cars were in an accident today of some kind. How did you not get into an accident? Do you like that kind of racing?
BRAD KESELOWSKI: I like racing (smiling). As far as not being in any of those accidents, we ran up front. None of the accidents today were at the front. That's your highest percentage shot, if you can run up front. It sounds real easy, it's not, otherwise everybody would do it.
We were fortunate to be second, third or better in every one of those accidents.
I hated to hear about cars flipping and doing all those things. Nobody wants that. But I think some accidents here and there, we might not like to cheer about it, but it is part of our sport and always has been part of automobile racing.
Q. With the topic of cars getting upside down, was this a topic you discussed in your drivers meeting on Friday or is this a subject that could be presented? How would you look at presenting this issue moving forward, especially with Daytona two months away?
BRAD KESELOWSKI: I haven't seen a replay of accidents, in fairness, to be able to maybe have at least a preliminary thought. I don't know what could have caused it.
Of course, it's not what we want to see. When cars get off the ground, bad things happen even more so. We kind of go beyond that acceptable risk factor. It's something we'll all have to look into and see what we can do better.
Like I said, I haven't seen them to know what happened, if they were more of a wedge‑style flip where a car picks another car up, or aero flip, I don't know.
My gut says the wedge‑style flips are just part of it, and the aero ones are the ones we can continue to science out and eliminate or reduce the risks of.
Q. You picked the outside. Discuss the strategy.
BRAD KESELOWSKI: The strategy was pretty simple. The outside lane had won the battle on the last three or four restarts to get to the lead, kind of clear up front. That's so pivotal here. Unfortunately it didn't work for us on that last restart. We fell back to second or third.
The key part, like I was talking about earlier, we got a push from the 1 car that helped me get a run to get up to the car of Kurt Busch. We were stalemate next to each other, pulling side drafts back and forth, back and forth, until eventually the 18 car came with a huge run, gave me the push we were looking for to clear and get up to the lead and kind of take ownership of that position.
All those things kind of came together for us, but we put ourselves in position all day by running up front.
Q. Throughout the race you were leading, you're blocking, trying to get drafts. First off, why did it seem like you were being so aggressive to stay in the lead throughout? Were any of those times you made a move and thought you got lucky?
BRAD KESELOWSKI: No, all the moves seemed to come together pretty well. We had good enough speed where we could make those moves. Part of this rules package, when we got rid of the tandem package, the only way we were able to do that was kind of create what the drivers all call the beach ball package, when the cars get close to each other, they squeeze a pocket of air. That makes blocking extremely successful because you can pull down in front of someone, hit that pocket of air, they beach ball push you away, for lack of a better term.
That's part of the racing, it's what works here. It's our responsibility as drivers to figure that out. Today was a day where my spotter and I worked together very well and we were able to do just that.
Q. When you take a look at today or any other plate race, is there ever a time you think that you are just insane for doing this?
BRAD KESELOWSKI: Yeah, you know, racing has always been that balance of daredevils and chess players. Some weekends we're chess players, some weekends we're daredevils. This has always been the more daredevil style of track, which probably offsets some of the tracks that we go to where we're the chess player.
That's what makes the NASCAR season so much fun and so unique. In other sports, the sports we think about, football, hockey, basketball, baseball, the field stays the same, or the court, whatever you want to call it, every week. Part of what makes racing so difficult and such an interesting dynamic is you compete against all the same people every week, and the thing that really mixes it up is the tracks are different every week. It's a different field, a different court.
This one is one where it's in‑your‑face challenging to you know if you make a mistake, it's going to be a really, really big wreck. You could go airborne, a lot of bad things could happen.
That is part of the challenge, overcoming that thought in the back of your head. It's difficult for people to do, but it's part of what makes it special, is the fact that you know that can happen. Despite it, you're going to make a move inches from another drive, cut them off, push them, you're going to drive sideways, hang it all out there knowing something bad can really happen. I think it's special under the circumstances and under that level of adversity. It's a challenge I've always embraced.
Q. Regarding safety, after the race Danica said she thinks the wall may be a little too far from the track and the backstretch. Austin said he would be in favor of anything that would help the cars to keep from flipping. What do you see at Talladega perhaps help what we saw today?
BRAD KESELOWSKI: I haven't thought of an answer to that and I didn't see the accidents. I wish I had a better answer for you. It's a question that deserves a great answer. Unfortunately, I don't have it.
I don't know really if anyone in our sport has the answer. But I would agree to some extent with Danica that the closer the walls are, the better the angles we hit at. But then it's nice sometimes to be able to save a car because you had space. Those things can go either way.
But, of course, I couldn't agree any more with Austin. I think that was the point I was trying to make earlier. We don't want cars to go in the air. There's never a guarantee where they are going to land. We don't want them to land in a fan's lap.
It's a fair question. Sorry I don't have an answer. I have an answer for a few things, just not that one.
Q. You talked about making changes to the team. Can you chronicle those for us, go into detail. You've been under the radar a little bit this season as far as being a little less demonstrative in public.
BRAD KESELOWSKI: 'Demonstrative', wow! I think the word 'monster' is in there, so it's kind of self‑explanatory. Go ahead.
Q. Can you detail the changes and talk about your change in attitude.
BRAD KESELOWSKI: A lot of things have kind of shook up Team Penske, of course. The Wood Brothers relationship is one that we're proud of. Also it required some movement. Over the last 16 months, Team Penske has brought on another IndyCar team as well. That shook some things up along with some of the interest in Australia and so forth. Seen some key personnel changes across the board.
I would kind of feel ridiculous if I went through every one of them. Some pit crew changes as well. There's been a lot of them.
I carry this picture on my wall in one of our facilities that I hung up that has everybody on my team from when I won the championship in 2012. That was four years ago.
Of that picture, we're down to maybe 25, 30 percent of those people still on the team. That's been a big change over the last few years. Of course, we want to go out and keep winning in spite of that. But I think that's maybe the easiest way to showcase it.
Q. You talked about how this is typical Talladega. At what point does it get to a point where things maybe need to change? Cars got airborne, violent wrecks, multi‑car wrecks. At some point, restrictor plate racing, enough is enough, we need to do some evaluation?
BRAD KESELOWSKI: I'm a capitalist. I love capitalism. There's still people paying to sit in the stands, sponsors still on the cars, drivers still willing to get in them. Sounds self‑policing and enough interest to keep going, so we'll keep going.
Q. I'm sure you've been asked this in the past, especially here when you've won, but listening to you and Joey work together in this race today, it seems that he gives you a tremendous amount of information. When you consider all that goes on in this race, how difficult is it to monitor what's going on but also take in everything that he says?
BRAD KESELOWSKI: I mean, my spotter is definitely an all star for sure. We did as good a job as we've ever done working together today. Really proud of that effort.
Timing the runs here is so critical. His communication, his way of kind of verbalizing what he sees, is the key for me to be able to make the right moves on the racetrack.
I don't know. That might be hard to explain. Obviously I'm still holding the steering wheel. The information turns itself into the old 'knowledge is power' equation. You can have all the knowledge in the world, if you don't do anything with it, it doesn't matter.
It's a good 1‑2 punch. Proud of him for his efforts today. We'll keep rolling on. It's a good way to go.
He's been part of three of the four Talladega wins, and I don't think that's a coincidence.
Q. This is your fourth victory here. It seems every one of them has some indelible moment of you being able to do superhuman things.
BRAD KESELOWSKI: I like the weird races here (smiling).
Q. They're weird, but you always seem to come out on top despite the odds. You're the top‑finishing Ford and the next Ford is ninth. When we talk about restrictor plate races, I don't know if you get your due, but maybe your name should be at the top of the list. Does that matter to you?
BRAD KESELOWSKI: Yeah, look, I'd rather be the guy that nobody talks about who has won here 10 times than the guy that everybody talks about who won here twice.
I never got into racing just to have somebody say my name real loud or the billboards or lights or anything like that. I got into it because I love it, I love the challenge. I love the reward of success, the reward internally.
Look, I'm not out here trying to toot my own horn or showcase my own press clippings. I just want to win. Winning four times means a lot here. It doesn't mean as much as winning another championship would be. That's my main goal at the end of the day. I found in this sport the more races you win, the easier it is to win championships.
Talladega has been a track for us that's been a great catalyst for success. I don't know why that is. It's a track where if you're capable of winning here, I think you show a certain level of attitude and swagger that carries your way through the rest of the year. It's just there in general.
I like that. But, hey, you know, if nobody wants to talk about it, I'm fine with that, too. I'd rather keep on winning and being up front.
THE MODERATOR: Brad, thanks for coming in and congratulations on your second win of the season.
BRAD KESELOWSKI: Appreciate it. Thanks, guys.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports