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July 9, 2016

Brad Keselowski

Sparta, Kentucky

THE MODERATOR: We have our race winner here, and that's Brad Keselowski. He wins at Kentucky. It's his 21st win of his career, his fourth win in 2016, which leads our series. He clinches a spot in the Chase with multiple wins.
THE MODERATOR: Yes. And his third victory at Kentucky Speedway. Talk about the drama that was involved in tonight's race. Certainly you had a great car. Things were going great, but it got down there towards the end and it had to get a little nerve‑racking. Take us through the last few laps.
BRAD KESELOWSKI: Well, rolling right into them last few laps, gosh, that was something. We weren't the best car tonight. That's for sure. The 78 car, he was really good. I thought the 4 car looked really good, 19, 20, 18 looked really good. We seemed to kind of hover right in that fifth‑to‑eighth‑place range, and we came down pit road fifth with 72 to go, 73 to go, and left pit road fifth. I thought, well, you know, who knows how these things are going to go but then the 78 got the penalty, moved us into the outside line on the restart, which I think we saw all night was the preferred line. I was able to clear the two inside cars. I don't remember who they were, and get into Turn 3 behind Kevin and I was about half a car width back, which, I had a pretty good ideal that if I could stay within a half a car length of him that I could create an aero wake behind his car and loosen him up a little bit without touching him, and sure enough, we went down in the corner and it looked like he got really loose and I was able to make the move and get by him.
That's kind of a product of this package, just how hard the cars are to drive with somebody behind you, and that worked out beautifully. We had a great car on restarts to kind of complement that, and once I got to the lead there, I was like, okay, well, we'll see how this all plays out. I kind of expected another restart, and our car was really fading on long runs. It was losing grip kind of rapidly, and with about 20 or 30 to go I thought I'm going to be in trouble here and I was probably not going to be able to hold off the 78 and the 20. That hadn't been our strength. I think Paul Wolfe, my crew chief, he saw that, made an aggressive call to go to fuel mileage. I knew we were way short of being able to make it, so I got as aggressive as I could, and somehow we made it. I'm not even sure you can really say we made it because we ran out with about two to go, and it was‑‑ by running out, I mean it stumbled really, really bad, and I was able to just somehow limp it around the last two laps and stay ahead of Carl and bring her home.
That was something. This is a night I'm not going to forget. Last year we came, and I thought we were the best car, and we didn't catch a single break, didn't execute, and those two things kept us out of victory lane, not just here, but a lot of times last year. This week we caught some breaks, we executed, and we were able to win. Not the fastest car, but still a hell of a team effort to be proud of.

Q. I wanted to ask about the racing tonight in general. It wasn't as good as last year's Kentucky race maybe; what's the bigger factor in that? Was it the surface or the lower downforce package just didn't work?
BRAD KESELOWSKI: Well, any time you have a repave, the track gets a lot narrower. I think we saw that tonight. Tonight was one of those nights where I think everybody is challenged to define what great racing is. I would probably say that of course Kentucky last year was an incredible race. It would be tough to beat that ever on a mile‑and‑a‑half racetrack.
But I would also say that the cars are‑‑ the new rules package makes them harder to drive and requires a lot more precision as a race car driver, and I can appreciate that about the race. We're still facing and fighting the same dilemmas in our sport of the lead car having a significant advantage over other cars in the field, but that advantage seemed to go from maybe on a 1 to 10 scale, from an 8 to a 6 or a 7 here, which I think is good, but until the track widens out and gets multiple grooves, I honestly think this is the best race you're going to see on a repave.

Q. Late in the race but before you and Paul and Joey were talking about fuel mileage, you said something to Paul, you had a discussion that he had done or you thought he had done everything he could to the car as far as changes, but you needed something on the outside to happen. Was it a change‑‑ were you referring to kind of what you were talking about, a change in circumstances or getting that opportunity to be in clean air on the outside?
BRAD KESELOWSKI: I was referring to we needed to start the weekend over with a different car. That's kind of what I meant, because the changes we were doing to the car, we just were kind of maxed out. You've got all these knobs in the car and adjustments you can do to it. Once the race starts we kind of turned them off, and it was kind of like, well, there's nothing left to turn here, and all we were going to do is make ourselves worse in one area. It was like, well, leave it alone, let's finish the race off the best we can. That's kind of where we were.
Like I said, we were not the fastest car. We have a lot of work to do from a speed standpoint after tonight. That's not what won us the race. The 78 car I think was heads and tails above everyone else, and there were probably a handful of others who were maybe a touch better than us, as well. We still have a lot of work to do when tonight is over.

Q. Brad, you kind of touched on this, but from your point of view as the driver, what impact would you say the lower downforce package had on the race, especially considering it's just been repaved, the track?
BRAD KESELOWSKI: Well, it won me the race. Without the lower, lower downforce package today, I don't think I would have won the race. I would have never made the move I made on the 4 car, and that would have been it.
There were certainly moves you could make today that you couldn't make before with respect to getting behind somebody and being able to alter the way their car drove, and that's a part of being a race car driver. That's a part of this package.

Q. How much did the track being repaved play into the race itself?
BRAD KESELOWSKI: I mean, dramatically. It played into everything this weekend, the line you ran on the racetrack was significantly different than the line you would normally run here. Normally we would run in the middle of the racetrack because there was a progressive hitch to the track, but that hitch never took the full rubber that it would need to grip up to optimize the speed and dictated that the cars run on the bottom.
I expect that to change over the next two or three seasons and the groove will move up tremendously back to where it was.

Q. There seemed to be a fair amount of issues in Turn 3. What was your experience like there, and did you kind of anticipate that there would be another caution late because of all the problems?
BRAD KESELOWSKI: Well, I certainly anticipated another caution. I don't think we had a stretch in the race that long before that one to my knowledge. And yeah, I anticipated a lot of problems in Turn 3. It's designed that way. The track is specifically designed for Turns 1 and 2 to be fast, somewhat easy to drive, and 3 and 4 designed to be slow and very, very difficult to drive. That's one of the design features of this racetrack, and I think you saw that today. I think most of the accidents were in 3 and 4 because of how difficult that corner was. That's not a bad thing. That's how it was meant to be, and it contributed to the race we saw today.

Q. I'm going to read you a quote from Carl and then I'm going to ask you a question about it. Carl basically implied that you really did a great job playing it perfectly over the last lap and a quarter, whatever it was. He said, "He waited, he basically shut the car off and then went right off of four and matched it perfectly to where I couldn't get it by him down the front straight away and then he ran like heck through 1 and 2, and then I thought maybe he'll run out down the back straight. Man, I drove it down in there trying to catch him into 3 but I couldn't even get to him."
When you radioed in that you were out, did you really think you were out, or was that for someone else's benefit?
BRAD KESELOWSKI: If the question is did I think I was out, yes, I thought I was out. I did not think I was going to win the race based on what I felt in the car.

Q. Did this race play out more like a short track tonight compared to an intermediate track? Seemed like a lot of drivers were using a lot of brake.
BRAD KESELOWSKI: Tonight was a very disciplined race for sure. Maybe you can make an analogy to short track racing. I'm not sure, but it took a lot discipline to run this track tonight. If you got into Turn 3 and 4 the least bit wrong, you wrecked. That's just the way the race was, and I think that's what we saw. There's arguments to be made good or bad for that. I think it's a good challenge. We're professional race car drivers. It shouldn't be easy. It wasn't tonight. It was very, very difficult. You had to certainly be very smart.

Q. Earlier Paul was saying that he was really praising your coolness and just how you can just stay focused, but when you have a finish like that and you're wondering whether you can even get to the checkered flag, do you recall a time that was more tense than that, and how did you keep your focus?
BRAD KESELOWSKI: Well, it's a pretty helpless feeling being out of gas and seeing guys behind you running you down and knowing that you're not at full speed. There's nothing you can do about it and freaking out ain't going to help anything. I can tell you that. That just makes it worse. I guess that's the way I look at it and approach it. What was the second question?
Yeah, a lot of them are that way. Daytona and Talladega feels that way because you know at any given point, the cars behind you can always develop a run to pass you, so leading there at the last lap is not very fun.

Q. Could you see what was going on when you and Logano came off of 4 and he slapped the wall?
BRAD KESELOWSKI: Yeah, I think from my view, it looked like Joey got into the corner and slipped up about two foot off the yellow line and I had just a tiny run on him. I was about three or four‑foot back, and he kind of climbed the hill on the gas and either the aero wake off of my car got him loose or he was just loose. He got loose off of 4 and brushed the wall. I knew I didn't hit him. I knew I was probably three or four‑foot behind him, but I still hate to see that happen to my teammate.

Q. Can you talk about what that sensation was like in Turn 3 when you come into there? Do you guys lift or are you just trying to get control or get your car pointed in the right direction?
BRAD KESELOWSKI: You're just trying to survive 3 and 4. Every time you go in there on a restart, it's as harry as it can get. It's extremely challenging for sure to go into that corner as a pack and try to make it out of there. I think we saw quite a few times where we didn't.

Q. Penske won all three of the low low downforce races, All‑Star, Michigan and Kentucky now. Can you talk about‑‑
BRAD KESELOWSKI: Well, I'll All‑Star real quick. I don't think All‑Star was low low downforce, I think that was low skew, not to get technical on you.

Q. But anyway, at least Michigan, the low, and Michigan and here, can you talk about the testament to Team Penske‑‑
BRAD KESELOWSKI: Yeah, it's good. To be clear I thought we were much better at Michigan than we were here at Kentucky for all the cars. Today we were not the fastest car. But I'm still very proud that we were able to get in victory lane. We're very competitive. Rules changes are always tough. But I still think the Gibbs cars were still a touch in front of us and probably the 4 car, as well.

Q. Kentucky Speedway there was a lot of talk about trying to age this repave so that it wouldn't drive like just a brand new track. From your perspective did that work to any extent?
BRAD KESELOWSKI: Yeah, I think the track did all they could do. They brought that tire machine out here which was unsung hero because without that this race would have been a flat‑out disaster, and that somewhat opened it up to where you could run the second groove without wrecking. Hopefully that machine will make it to a few more tracks this year, but I thought that was a critical step by the racetrack that they probably got about 20 percent of the credit they deserve for making that step.
But beyond that, there's other challenges we have. We need the tracks to take rubber faster. We've got some things we've got to work on there with respect to getting tires to do that. That would help out tremendously if the tracks laid down rubber or the tires laid down rubber on the track. I'm not sure there's a lot the track can do about that. This track is located fortunately or unfortunately, depending on how you're looking at it, right in that frost belt where it freezes and unfreezes many, many times over the winter. That should help significantly with the curing and aging process, but I think really the key is will the track take rubber here over the next two or three races to where it widens out, and if it does and when it does, I think you'll see the racing get very similar to what we saw here last year.

Q. What are you going to do with the second juke box?
BRAD KESELOWSKI: Well, it's a bigger juke box. I'm going to get rid of the first one. No, just kidding. You ever see Indiana Jones, the Ark where it goes in the basement to never be seen again? That's going to happen to the smaller juke box, and the big juke box is going to be put out front somewhere.

Q. Going back to Friday, your media availability, saying you were going to be here‑‑
BRAD KESELOWSKI: I said I wanted to be here to say goodbye to The Commander. He's done a lot for the sport and we're proud of you. Thank you, Commander.
THE MODERATOR: You did what you needed to do.
BRAD KESELOWSKI: So did you. Congrats.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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