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March 5, 2017

Brad Keselowski

Hampton, Georgia

THE MODERATOR: We are now joined by today's race winning driver of the 58th annual Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500, and that is none other than Brad Keselowski, driver of the No.2 Autotrader Ford for Team Penske. Today was Brad's 22nd victory in 271 Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series races and his first win here at Atlanta Motor Speedway.
Brad, you had to overcome a lot of adversity out there today to take home that checkered flag. What was it like to really get your entire team through that process and to overcome that adversity and get your first win of the season?
BRAD KESELOWSKI: Well, you know, wins are always special, but early in the season they're really good. You just can't take any wins for granted. I know I don't. I always feel like before a race, you obviously always want to win, and you always wonder yourself when your last win is going to be, and I'm not anywhere near retirement age, but you still think about those things and you think about how tough it just is to win at this level and how lucky you are to have a team to win. A great winning percentage at this level is one out of every 10 races, and one out of every 10 races, if you can pull that off, you're a Hall of Famer. I think that's just a testament to how tough it is.
So today was a tough day for us, and we knew it was going to be a tough day. This is a track that really separates drivers of all sorts and teams of all sorts. It's early in the season. There's always going to be kind of those pre‑race jitters with a track that you know is tough to drive and with rules that are just coming into play with stages and pit roads. I think this track, they added a whole bunch of timing lines, and you're just getting back to being comfortable. You had the whole off‑season.
Almost like any other sport where you hear about football teams, baseball teams that have those early season penalties and things of that nature, we have those, too, and I think you saw some of those today. We had some issues, as well.
But that's part of the sport, and that's part of everything that's so challenging about it to win and making it special when you do is to overcome those things.

Q. I actually learned something that I never realized during the FOX broadcast when they mentioned that you would have enlisted had you not ended up driving race cars. I'm curious if you wouldn't mind talking just a little bit about kind of that perspective and how sweet it has to be for you to have hoisted the American flag winning the Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500. I know your work with the military is all very special to you.
BRAD KESELOWSKI: I don't really like to compare what I do to those that are in the military because they've made and continue to make incredible sacrifices and put their life out on the line. But I have tremendous respect for those that do. Our country is based on those who are willing to make the ultimate sacrifice.
I will always have respect for them. I've got a lot of family that either has served or is serving, and wishing them the best along with everyone else. You never know in this life and in this career where it's going to take you. I always wanted to be a racer, but you never knew, at least I never knew how it was going to play out, but I knew I probably wasn't going to be anything normal, and that was‑‑ 8:00 to 5:00 isn't really for me, so those type of things have always intrigued, and that would have certainly been a route, but I'm glad to be a race car driver and glad to have the opportunities I have to drive for a team that's world class where we can win races year over year and contend like we have here today and to be able to have these amazing opportunities in my life.

Q. We only had, I think, one caution for an on‑track incident. People thought you guys would be right on the edge with this package and the track. Do you ascribe that to conservative driving because the tire situation was so tough, you had to preserve tires? Was it maybe a natural reaction to all the wrecking last weekend at Daytona?
BRAD KESELOWSKI: You know, there's just going to be ebbs and flows. I think sometimes we read too much into that stuff. You know, it seems to me like on the plate tracks, like one out of every four plate races we get an incident, and you know, or a wreck fest, so to speak, at Daytona, Talladega. It happened in the 500, and it was a wreck fest. Let's call it what it is. I think a lot of people left that, saying, oh, it's because of the stages or oh, it's because of the smaller restrictor plate or who knows what. But sometimes that's just part of the ebbs and flows, and I think sometimes we just try to find correlations where there aren't always correlations.
I don't really see a correlation today to the stages as far as the lack of yellows. This was a race last year that didn't hardly have any, at least didn't have any legit yellows, and I think we saw something somewhat similar to that today. But I can tell you, I didn't feel like I was saving my tires. I was driving as hard as I could to make things happen, and a couple times I felt like I overdrove my car, and the guys I was around I didn't see that out of, either.

Q. What did you think when you heard Harvick had sped on pit road, and where does this one rank as far as maybe‑‑ I don't want to say luck wins but one where maybe you weren't the dominant car and things fell just incredibly your way?
BRAD KESELOWSKI: You have to put yourself in position. I wouldn't say a lot of things fell our way. I don't know if I would call it that way. But I would say we've had races where we've led a bunch of laps and things fall apart at the end. That's just part of how this sport works. You take advantage of the opportunities when they come, and we certainly call it an opportunity, but I don't know if I would call it a break. I didn't really think much about Kevin or his scenario because at that time I still had multiple cars I had to pass, and I was just worried about doing the best I could to make the most of our day.
So I didn't really think about that stuff or Kevin's misfortune. I thought about what can I do to get up there and have a shot at the best finish possible, and the doors opened up with making passes on the restart and getting by Kyle to do so.
You know, I hate when I lose that way, and it's not fun, and when you win that way, you just take it and you move on. It goes both ways.

Q. Brad, how relieved are you to finally get a win here? You've been so close on so many occasions on the XFINITY, truck and also on the Cup side, as well.
BRAD KESELOWSKI: Yeah, we have been really close here. I think we blew up once while leading here, and that one stung, whoo. 2013, it cost us making the playoffs, and we were leading the race and we were going to win it. I'll never forget that day leaving here for the rest of my life, and that was a perfect example of one of those races that Bob was just asking about where we were going to dominate the race and win, and something happened.
You know, when you win a race like this, you know that there's been three or four of them where you probably lost like this, and they really suck, but this one is going to feel good, and we're going to enjoy it.

Q. I wanted to follow on something that Roger said about the camaraderie he called it between Stewart‑Haas and Team Penske. Obviously Ford couldn't start this year any better in terms of the wins column, but he said you guys are kind of helping him on the chassis, even thought obviously you're benchmarking against them, it sounds like there's a lot more maybe collaboration than some of us might have expected.
BRAD KESELOWSKI: You know, honestly, I haven't been privy to those meetings or arrangements, so I'm not sure what they are, but as long as it means that Fords are winning and winning more often than we did in the last few years, I'm going to enjoy it and pat him on the back and say thank you.

Q. I noticed you brought Scarlett through the garage this morning and obviously you brought her in here. Any reason why? Is she just kind of old enough to enjoy it?
BRAD KESELOWSKI: Yeah, just having fun. It's hard to‑‑ I don't want to say it's hard. I'm really lucky to be a race car driver, but it's challenging to balance your work life and your professional life. You know, I'm no different than most everyone else. I want to have a family and I want to do all the cool things and see all the cool things you get to see when you have kids and a wife and all that, but I also want to win. You know, that means I have to be the best professional possible, and I have to put in hours that aren't always going to be fun, right. So you know, part of that and trying to maximize my work‑life balance means trying to find the appropriate times and places to blend the two, and that was my opportunity, and I'm going to always look for those opportunities with my wife and daughter and family in general.
It's part of the challenge of doing what we do, but I'm still really lucky to live this life and to have an opportunity to race for a great team and travel around the country and see all kinds of cool things and meet all kinds of cool people and have fans and all that, but I feel lucky that I have a team that's kind of letting me have some slack with all those things and try to find that right balance because I'll never forget Roger's son Greg told me, this is one of the first questions he asked me. He said to me one day, he said, how do you balance your work life and your home life, what's your work‑to‑life balance. You know what, for a lot of years, I had a terrible work‑to‑life balance with respect to just being all work. But you know, I think in general I'm the happiest I've ever been because I have a better work‑to‑life balance than I've ever had, and you know, I get the opportunity to talk to people all the time, whether it be sponsor meetings or gatherings and all these things, and people ask me that question all the time, and I would say that my time with my family is my time to sharpen the axe, and believe me, when Scarlett wakes up at 7:00 a.m. and I'm still really tired, I really want to go to work. I get some good reminders there how fun work is.
But in general, I just enjoy the time, and I'm the happiest I've ever been in my life, and I feel like I've got the best balance I've ever had, and I feel very fortunate.

Q. Looking ahead to Vegas next weekend, your first four races, your best finish was 26th, the last four races you have two wins, going for three wins in the last four races and five straight top‑10 finishes. What do you attribute your success to there?
BRAD KESELOWSKI: You know, we didn't click there the first few years. 2009 we ran okay. I wrecked, my fault. 2010 we ran terrible, 2011 we ran terrible, 2012 we ran okay, and we broke a part. I think we were running second. And finally we got kind of the‑‑ all that stuff pushed out, and like you said, the last three or four years, '13, '14, '15, '16 have been great for us. It's hard to always put a finger on that, and that's why‑‑ and I know you wear you guys out about this, past success or past failure is not always a guarantee for future success or failure.
Hopefully that holds true when we go back to Daytona for the 500 because if you think my record at Vegas is bad, the 500 record, whoo. All you can do is keep putting in the effort and not let it get you down and go there with an attitude that you're going to go out there and make the most out of every opportunity to race, and we're going to go to Vegas and think of it as a track we can win at, that we have won at, and we'll continue to look at all the tracks that we've struggled at in the past the same way and hope to find that success.

Q. SMI and Marcus came out earlier this morning and said that based on fan reaction, driver reaction, they would kind of reassess the decision to resurface Atlanta.

Q. If they came to you, what would you say?
BRAD KESELOWSKI: Marcus, where are you bud? Don't do it. We're trying to save you money, Marcus.

Q. And if they have to resurface or repave, how would you assess the recent ones at Kansas and Kentucky, and how would you tell them to go about doing that process?
BRAD KESELOWSKI: Yeah, I mean, it's tough, and I feel bad for those guys because all it takes is one race where there's weepers or where the track comes apart and you've got red flags and delays and everybody gets mad at them. So they're really in a no‑win spot. We pick on them and tell them don't do it and all these other things, but at some point you have to trust them to know their business and know their business is racetracks.
Drivers hate repaves. We want to see the surfaces last as long as they can. But the reality is nothing lasts forever, and this surface has made it a really, really long time, 20 years, I think, this season, and they should be really proud of that.
My hope is they can get another year or two out of it, and I understand if they can't, and you have to kind of leave it to their expertise and so forth.
You know, we don't want to see them repave it, but my desire to not see this track get repaved is only superceded by my desire to not see it have an issue where it comes apart or has weepers.

Q. So many speeding penalties today; what is your approach? Do you try to leave a little comfort zone? Do you try to run right up to the line?
BRAD KESELOWSKI: I mean, you don't win when you leave comfort zone in anything. I can guarantee you anybody out there that wants to leave a comfort zone, I'm going to push harder than them and I'm going to beat them, and these guys know that. Everybody knows that. You've got to run right to the limit. Sometimes you're going to go over. I thought a couple times today I might have gone over. I knew it was close. But that's what we do. That's what makes us competitors is trying to find every limit, every opportunity. The opportunity is at the margin and it's at the limit.

Q. Earlier in the race your spotter was telling you that Harvick was letting off into 1 at a monumental rate compared to other drivers. How did you change going into Turn 1 throughout the race after you heard that from your spotter?
BRAD KESELOWSKI: I tried a few things, but honestly I couldn't get my car to work like that, so it didn't really matter for me. I just tried to keep working on the car, and we got it better the last few runs, and that helped tremendously.

Q. The last couple laps, according to your crew chief and your car owner, your right front tire was giving you tremendous trouble today. What were the last couple of laps on that right front tire? How did you keep it out of your mind?
BRAD KESELOWSKI: Well, they didn't tell me, which helped. I did have that one time where I figured it out for myself and I pitted, and I knew not to ask from there because they'll tell me when I really, really need to know, and if I ask them, it's just going to scare me and I'm not going to drive it as hard.
You know, that's‑‑ I don't know if that's really a secret. Sometimes you're better off not seeing.

Q. I apologize, I was only kind of half listening when you answered the pit road speeding question‑‑
BRAD KESELOWSKI: That's okay, I don't listen, either. I'll be honest, I only half listen to the questions, too.

Q. Well, halfway, were you in the first pit stall?
BRAD KESELOWSKI: No, I listened to yours, Nate. Jeff's I didn't listen to.

Q. You guys pitted in the first stall?
BRAD KESELOWSKI: No, we were pitted in pit stall 43. First one entering, yes.

Q. Does that make a difference, or make the chances of you getting a speeding penalty any greater or not because you're on one end and you don't have to worry about going in speeding?
BRAD KESELOWSKI: You know, I don't think so because you still have to accelerate and did he accelerate to pit road speed with both stalls, so I think it's pretty even. I just like it because I'm getting a little older and it's getting harder to find that pit box. Mark Martin taught me that one. But I missed a couple pit stalls last year and I felt bad about it, so the guys joked around with me and they've started picking pit stalls that are early in, and that's helped my pit road game a bunch.

Q. Did you have any thought of arguing with Paul about whether to come in when you had loose lug nuts? There's really not a huge penalty.
BRAD KESELOWSKI: No, when I thought I had a right front coming apart, I pitted and he didn't second‑guess me, and when he told me to pit because there was a lug nut loose, I pitted and I didn't second‑guess him, and I think that's the kind of relationship I hope to maintain with my team.

Q. And in relation to Matt's question, Marcus Smith also told us that the surface is about three years beyond what their engineers say it should have lasted, so I'm curious who's more fortunate, the fact that the track didn't break up or you with this win today.
BRAD KESELOWSKI: You know, the '90s were a great time, and I don't know what asphalt existed in the '90s because it sure don't exist today because all the tracks that were paved in the '90s have put on our best racing, our most multi‑groove usages, and here's what I can tell you: If this track was repaved, I wouldn't have passed Kyle Larson for the win because the groove would have been too small, it would have been too easy for him to block my air. I wouldn't have been able to make it, and that's why drivers love tracks like this, because they open up and they allow us to make moves like I was able to make to win the race. I would not have won this race. I would never have passed Kyle if this track had just been repaved.
Now, if you're a Kyle Larson fan, that means you're pretty upset the surface lasted. If you're a fan of passes for the lead at the end of a race, you should like tracks like this that have made it and survived as long as they have and opened up to multiple grooves, because I know I do.

Q. Now that we've had two races basically underneath our belt with this new format with the stages, we did Superspeedway and then we did here at Atlanta Motor Speedway. Do you think that's what kind of helped you get your car right with the brakes in the middle instead of seeing the whole entire field get a lap down?
BRAD KESELOWSKI: No, I think the biggest thing the stages did is they kept me from getting mad at NASCAR because you knew there was going to be a yellow, but it doesn't feel bad when there's a yellow and you get points because you're running up front. You just don't get as mad. You know what the deal is going to be going into the race. It's fair, it's equal. There's no uncertainty about it, and it just seems more just to me than it has in the past.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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