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April 2, 2017
THE MODERATOR: We will continue on with today's Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series post‑race media availability for the STP 500, and we are joined by today's race‑winning crew chief Paul Wolfe and winning team owner Roger Penske. We'll start with you, Paul. That 2 car has found Victory Lane before with a different driver but now having Brad Keselowski behind the wheel in Victory Lane, it has to be something sweet for you and the team.
PAUL WOLFE: Yeah, absolutely. This is such a neat racetrack, and we've worked so hard here the last few years. We've been so close, contended but haven't been able to break through, and gosh, the guys back at the shop continue every time we come here to build a little better race car, and we've worked really hard on this, and what a relief to finally be able to get that first one here in over 10 years. I don't know, I think at the drivers' meeting today, it was like this is the 70th anniversary or something for the speedway, so special day, and Brad just drove a great race.
There was a little mistake early with speeding on pit road, but after that, he passed a lot of race cars. We had good pit stops, and just executed all day. Thought our strategy was pretty good, and at the end of the race, I was waiting for that caution to fall, and what were we going to do then. It was tough today. The tire that Goodyear brought seemed to hold on more than what we're accustomed to here at Martinsville, so it made those decisions on whether to pit for tires or not a little tougher today, and definitely a tough race to win, like I said, and proud of the effort.
THE MODERATOR: Roger, when Joey Logano was in here the other day, he said that the team new full well about the winless streak for Ford performance here at Martinsville Speedway. How sweet is it for you to be able to deliver that victory today for Ford?
ROGER PENSKE: Well, I think they said the last time they won was in 2002, and our last win was with Rusty Wallace in 2004, and to think this was our 1,000th start in NASCAR, so when you put all that together, it's a great day, and certainly the duel between the 18 and the 2, it was clean, it was good racing, and I think it was a real credit to Paul for adjusting the car as the track changed and picked up rubber. Obviously the temperatures went down. Those were things you had to take into consideration.
I didn't see‑‑ I sat up near the top and watched it. I didn't see Brad make a mistake all day, so it was a flawless effort, and certainly the speeding on pit lane, we wonder why we seem to be the king of that, too. We have to figure that out. Overall it was something that you can dream of.
Q. Roger, you credit Paul with making adjustments. Obviously you made a choice this week to appeal and Paul is here. Do you win this race this week if Paul isn't here?
ROGER PENSKE: Listen, I don't know about that. That's a great question. Look, I need him on that box every weekend. I told him I'd pay him to be on that box every weekend not to be sitting in his motor home looking at a bunch of monitors. But I think the fact that we were able to‑‑ really the strategy was that we'd take a race off last week and then make the appeal and I guess we'll be coming back here in a week or so, so it was good to get the experience here on this track, obviously, because it'll be in the Chase.
Q. (No microphone.)
PAUL WOLFE: Well, I'd first I'd like to say that we have a great group of guys and a lot of support back at the shop, and when something does happen like did at Phoenix, it allows us to still be competitive. You saw how we ran last week at Fontana and overcame the adversity there. But it's tough. It's tough when you're not there. You try to communicate the best with the guys, but there's that little bit that you miss when you're just not sitting on the box and being able to communicate with Brad during the race.
Yeah, it's tough not being there, and that's part of why‑‑ that's the penalty they hand down, because they know it is. Just proud of the effort today, like I said. It was a good way to come back after not being on the box last week.
Q. Roger, this is a special place. We talk about all the success that you've had over all facets of Motorsports over the years, but knowing that this was the 1,000th race for you at NASCAR's premier level, and to come here to a track where traditionally you guys admittedly haven't had a ton of success, especially recently, to win the clock, which is one of the most famous trophies in NASCAR, does that add a little bit of a special moment to this and put that up there with some of the big moments in your racing career?
ROGER PENSKE: I think when you think about this track and places like Darlington and North Wilkesboro, these are the tracks that formed the foundation of NASCAR for so many years. You know, watching Richard run here and Darrell Waltrip and certainly when you think about the 21 car, so it's pretty special to think that we could get into Victory Lane. We've been close but never were able to really close the deal.
Certainly a great thing for us, and especially with our 1,000th.
Q. It seemed like until, what was it, Tuesday or Wednesday that there was a chance that Paul wouldn't be here. What was the thought process in deciding that you would appeal the Phoenix penalty after Paul missed Fontana?
ROGER PENSKE: Well, you get the call that you failed the certain metric on the car, and we wanted to get the car back and look at it ourselves. We put data together, and I think that there's a procedure which we were able to go through, and we huddled and decided that we think it's going to be better for everybody if we can state our case and maybe overall they'll change some rules so we won't have‑‑ maybe we'll have a level playing field. During that process, we think about people that won races last year that were able to run across the plate twice or three times, we weren't allowed to do that at all. One time and you're out.
I think that the consistency is really important to me from an officiating perspective. We'll have a chance to go and talk about our side of the story. We might get nothing, but I think at least maybe we can make the sport better.
Q. Was it possibly the timing, West Coast race, Fontana, that you guys didn't have a chance‑‑
ROGER PENSKE: Well, it was so close, and we said, look, until we get a chance to study this thing, Paul said you can take off from California and then we'd decide whether we'd appeal it, and then we appealed, and I think we'll have our hearing here in a couple of weeks, which is fine.
Q. Paul, Brad said over the last three or four years that you all have really put a lot into the evolution of the Martinsville car because he had been so‑‑ I guess it wasn't his best track in the past. I was wondering, was there specific areas that you looked at to improve your program?
PAUL WOLFE: I think it's everything, really. We've done a lot just in our car setup. When you talk about shocks and springs and things that we can change at the racetrack, and then overall as a company when we build our cars from the chassis, the body, the whole process, the engine shop, it's everyone really putting a focus on it and trying to make their area a little bit better. That's kind of what we've done every time we've come here over the past two years, say we feel like we've brought a little better race car every time, and that's what it takes.
We've been able to put ourselves in position, I guess, the last three or four times, saying we had a car fast enough to win the race, and we felt like if we just continued to run top 5s and put the pressure on that hopefully we'd get our opportunity here, and today it was.
Q. For Roger, what do you think it meant to Edsel after not having a Ford in Victory Lane here since 2002, what kind of a bump it was for them because Ford Performance seems to have really picked up its game over the last couple of years.
ROGER PENSKE: Well, I think the commitment that Ford Performance has made is a byproduct of Edsel's commitment to the program, and bringing on Stewart‑Haas and the partnership that we have with the 21, which is obviously supported with Ford, I think that it was terrific. To have him here driving the pace car, you couldn't plan anything any better.
For me, delivering for Ford was special, and to see the cars and how competitive we've been here since the beginning of the season makes us feel good about the next several weeks. But as we all know, win early is great, but you've got to win late.
THE MODERATOR: We are now joined by today's race winner, Brad Keselowski, driver of the No.2 Miller Lite Ford for Team Penske. Brad, this is your second win in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series this season and your first here at Martinsville Speedway. That has to be special for you.
BRAD KESELOWSKI: It is. You know, the two wins this year have both come at tracks that I haven't won at before and we haven't won at as a team before, so certainly that feels really good to be able to check something off the list, and with everything else that goes into today, there seemed to be a lot of numerology today with this being the Penske team's 1,000th start here in this series, and it's been a long time since Ford won here. I couldn't tell you how long. '02.
A lot of numbers stacking up, and I felt like they were stacking up in our favor because we've been coming here for the last probably two or three seasons, and running up front, running in the lead and leading laps and kind of being in that top two or three in the critical stages of the race, and different things kept happening where it didn't come together, which is oh, so frustrating.
But it felt like we were due, and if you ever can be, this is probably one of those tracks, and today was one of those days where we persevered in a special way with the battle there at Kyle at the end I thought was a lot of fun to be a part of. Hopefully it was a lot of fun to watch and kind of harkens back to the legacy of this sport on short tracks and why this track has been around for 70‑some years because of battles like that.
Very special for a lot of reasons. This is one I'm never going to forget and going to be thankful for for a long time, and one clock is nice, of course, but I'd like to have another later down the road when we come back here in the fall, and winning at another track we haven't won at before is great. We've still got to win at RP's home track and my home track here in Michigan. Haven't won that one, either. That one would be really special. We're doing the things we need to do here early in the season. We've had pretty strong speed, running up front, leading laps, and a lot to be proud of today, and really for the duration of the season that we've had so far. We just want to keep going.
Q. Roger and Brad, it was a little bit of dÃ©jÃ ‑vu, Roger, you mentioned earlier the 2004 race which was run by Rusty Wallace, his last win. Did you get that feeling of dÃ©jÃ ‑vu because when Brad was racing with Kyle Busch it was an 18 car that Rusty Wallace beat for that win, and Brad, you being a short track guy and having cut your teeth on the short tracks in Michigan and in ARCA, what's this mean to you being such a fan of the history of the sport?
ROGER PENSKE: Well, I don't think I remembered the 18. I remember that the 2 of Rusty won, and he did a great job for us. In fact, we built the team around his success. But it's just amazing, every time you win a race, it sets the stat and metric that maybe you haven't had, and we just continue as a team to pull together, and the competitive juices around this garage area are just tremendous. To see the young guys out there, the 24 and the 42 just to mention a couple of them, these guys are on it, and to me that's what's making the sport so exciting.
To me, Brad has been such a key part of the success of this team when he came on board, and obviously talked to Joey to come on board and Paul and Todd Gordon and the whole team, and the sponsors we have have stayed with us, so continuity and low turnover has made a big difference.
BRAD KESELOWSKI: I think you had a second part.
Q. My question for you was you're such a fan of the history of the sport, and having cut your teeth on the short tracks really coming up the hard way into the sport, having to run the short tracks in ARCA for many, many years, what's it mean to you to take home the grandfather clock, one of the historic trophies of NASCAR racing?
BRAD KESELOWSKI: Yeah, you know, short tracks, they built this sport. You look at the sport as it is today, and this is‑‑ I think it's the oldest track on the circuit. Was it 1948, I believe? Yeah, it's been 70 years. The legacy of this sport is attached to tracks like Martinsville.
So I think that makes them special places.
And for me, you know, of course you want to win everywhere you go. You wouldn't be a competitor if you didn't feel that way. But there is something extra that is added when you win at tracks that are tied to the legacy of the sport and tied to the legacy of NASCAR.
Even the trophy itself has some special meaning. I know it's made back in my home state of Michigan, and that's something I'm going to take back and be real proud of. I don't like to keep trophies at my house. This one is going at my house. I can tell you, that's how special it is.
I'm looking forward to bringing that one home and hoping I can add a few more clocks along the way.
Q. Brad, I just watched this video here; apparently you went into the stands afterwards. I don't recall you doing that before, and especially here. I don't know that you got the best reaction before the race, so these are probably some of the same people. What prompted you to go into the stands and celebrate?
BRAD KESELOWSKI: You know, Martinsville is a special place, like I said, and there's special fans here that this might not be the track where I get the loudest cheers, but that's okay. That's part of what makes this sports go around, too. I just felt really good about it, and I just saw a couple people that I knew up in the grandstands, and I had some extra friends and family here today, and I wanted to say hey to them and a couple of fans that have been coming to this race for a long time of mine, and I saw them up there, and just thought it was worth saying hey.
Q. Kyle parlayed this one last year into a win at Texas. Do you feel pretty good about your chances of getting another first next week?
BRAD KESELOWSKI: Yeah, Texas, that's been a track very similar to Martinsville for us where we've led a lot of laps and been up front and I've made some mistakes at the end and haven't brought it home. But I think the way we're rolling right now, we can win anywhere, and that's something that we're certainly going to carry into next week. It'll be a bit of a wild card, of course, with the new asphalt. I don't know if anyone knows what to expect. But I think it's supposed to be designed with a lot of similarities to Kentucky, which of course we were able to win last summer. So that feels pretty good.
Q. Nothing against Brian Wilson, but do you win this race if Paul Wolfe isn't here?
BRAD KESELOWSKI: Who knows. I ain't thinking about that, I'm just glad I got a checkered flag and a clock.
Q. What kind of impact does he have on the Martinsville race?
BRAD KESELOWSKI: I mean, a crew chief is important everywhere you go. I can't think of a track where it doesn't matter. He made a lot of calls and adjustments there at the end. I don't know what they are, but I felt like I was faster at the end. I'll give him the credit and say that was good. It might not have changed anything as far as I know.
Q. Brad, going back to the speeding penalty you had at the beginning, you said, I think, on the radio afterwards you thought you were in the clear in that section, right?
BRAD KESELOWSKI: Mm‑hmm.
Q. With the timing lines being closer, and I know you and Paul have done a great job previously of maximizing your speed in those zones, how do you sit there and change what you guys do and what you do as a driver now knowing that, hey, even if I think I'm comfortable, I may get a penalty because it seems like somebody says that every single week.
BRAD KESELOWSKI: Yeah, you're right, and it's very frustrating. I had this lofty goal before the season started to go a whole season without a speeding penalty. Every time I get a speeding penalty I get a not so subtle reminder from someone the next week, and I really hate that phone call.
I had that lofty goal going into the year, and when I got the speeding penalty, I was really disappointed, and so there's nothing you can do other than just slow down. It's frustrating because there's so many variables, the radiuses in the corners, the engines, they're surging up and down on rpms so you're kind of trying to steady it out, you've got traffic, you've got all these different things going on, and of course you don't have a pit road speed limit and the dash has a lot of lag to it. You add in all these variables and then you kind of combine that with the competitive element that exists on pit road where every car length can make a difference literally between winning or losing this race, and it puts you in a position where you're just forced. You're forced to live on the edge, and no matter who you are and what you do, when you live on the edge, you're going to step over. You're going to fall off. And I think in a lot of ways, that's what this sport is about. This sport is about living as close to the edge as you can without going too far, without falling over, and knowing that when you do that for a living that there's going to be those moments where something happens where you go over and you have to recover from it. And that's really what defines greatness in the most basic concept of this sport, and when you look at guys like Jimmie Johnson and their ability to win seven championships, that's what they do so well.
We were able to overcome it today, and that's a testament to Paul and the team's work to give us an excellent car and the patience to be able to get through traffic and not get caught up in somebody else's ordeal, so I'm proud of that. But you're not always going to get away with that for sure. It's part of it, but not always the fun part.
Q. Brad, last night you said on Twitter that you couldn't sleep because you were so excited about today, so I was just wondering if you did get any sleep and what made you more excited over any other Martinsville race.
BRAD KESELOWSKI: You know, sometimes you just go to races time over time, and you know you've ran so well here, and you just know that it's eventually going to come together. I mean, it can't not come together. You look at even guys like Dale when he ran Daytona for so long and he led and had all those opportunities and things just went wrong for him. You knew eventually he was going to win it, and I think that's how race car drivers feel, that if they keep doing the right thing time over time that eventually they'll get the results. I feel like our team has done the right thing time over time here at Martinsville, and we haven't got the result, and we knew eventually we could. We showed great speed in practice, and I was really happy with the way the car was driving, and I felt pretty confident coming into today, and of course it show cased in the race.
Q. Brad, you briefly mentioned the battle with Kyle with about 50 to go. Obviously that type of close racing is, as you talked about, what people come to see, but‑‑
BRAD KESELOWSKI: Did it look cool?
Q. It looked cool.
BRAD KESELOWSKI: It felt pretty cool in the car.
Q. Were you able to be patient‑‑ I understand with 10 laps to go you'd treat that situation differently, but were you able to be patient and why? Did you feel like you saw Kyle's car not handling as well and you could wait him out?
BRAD KESELOWSKI: I can't give away all the tricks.
Q. How about a few?
BRAD KESELOWSKI: A few? I was confident that we could come out in front. We had passed Kyle earlier in the race. We had show cased a lot of speed, and I think it was the second segment where we drove from 20th to third, and we had started to run him down, and I felt like if I just gave it some time that it would come our way, and it did.
Q. I've got two for you, and I'll start by kind of following up with the battle between you and Kyle. I actually asked Kyle about this earlier. You two it seems like the last couple weeks since the season started haven't been able to get away from each other, whether it's XFINITY or Cup, you've been‑‑ I don't want to say at each other's throats, but you guys have been battling really, really hard. For someone like him who you've battled with and you said yourself in a column a year or so ago on your website have kind of had a rivalry with before, does somebody like Kyle push you to be better, and how does that work for you when you guys are just scrapping and trying to one‑up each other all the time?
BRAD KESELOWSKI: Yeah, there's definitely some gamesmanship there, and Kyle is one of the best race car drivers out there. He's driving for one of the best teams, and he's going to be someone that I am going to have to beat for my entire career if we're going to win races and championships. I know that, and it's not something that I feel bad about. I feel good about it. I want to race guys that are great, and I think the team wants to compete against teams that are great. That's what makes this series special. That's what makes it the series that it is.
And then I would still hold fast and say that there is no other sport or series out there that has the degree of competition and the depth to have to beat, and so that's what makes winning matter for me. That's what makes it special. I don't want this to be easy. I want to go back home tonight, and I'm going to fall in my bed and I'm going to be tired because I worked my butt off, and I used every move I had in my head and then some. Came up with a few on the racetrack as we were on the fly, and that's what makes it mean something to me, and I think that hopefully he feels the same way when the shoes are reversed.
But I thought we raced each other really well. There were a couple of light taps, but that's short track racing, and I think that's a good thing. That's what it should be, and we were able to really navigate the track well together.
Q. You were talking earlier, too, about how special this day is, all the different layers to it. But I felt like there was a little layer of redemption because I remember you saying last fall when you finished second to Johnson, I just want a clock. Did you feel like you were‑‑
BRAD KESELOWSKI: Yeah, I finally got one.
Q. Did you feel like you were able to redeem that coming so close last year?
BRAD KESELOWSKI: No, you never get those losses back. They don't ever come back. I'll probably remember that one equally as I'll remember this win today. That's the nature of a competitor. But I'm still very proud to have this one and still driven as ever to get another win here in the future.
It'll be hard to forget this one. This is a special day.
Q. Brad has won twice now, Hendrick and Gibbs haven't won a race. Are you taking the sport over pretty much?
ROGER PENSKE: There's a quick answer. The answer is no. We're just delighted to see the fast start, but you saw the ability in the cars and the drivers from both those teams. They set the standard day in and day out. I think that Paul and the team and Travis and Mike Nelson and the guys back at the shop have just done a terrific job, and not to mention the Roush Yates Power, they've just really stepped it up.
Look, I think we're very competitive right now, but you look at the 42, how strong he was the last couple of weeks, it's handling and it's power and it's of course driving. I'm sure they were there today, and Brad took it away from them, and I hope we can continue to do that, but I certainly don't think they're out of the mix at all. It might look like it for a moment, but I have the highest regard for those guys.
Q. Brad, I don't know if you saw what happened at the end of the second stage when Stenhouse bumped‑‑ he got Kyle Busch loose so that he could stay on the lead lap, and Kyle ended up losing the stage to Chase. I'm curious if you think you'll see more and more of those type of moves at the end of stages as people start kind of knowing what their points position and playoff position are closer to Richmond.
BRAD KESELOWSKI: Yeah, I mean, that was kind of the intent, I think, having sat in those meetings. Maybe not for that specific move, but in general, was for there to be more moments that mattered, more moments that make the SportsCenter highlight reel. I haven't seen SportsCenter, but if they don't put that moment in there, I'm sure they missed something, I can tell you that, because that was a key moment in the race, and it'll be a key moment in the season as we get into the playoffs.
But that's what this format is supposed to be about is having moments like that. Whether you agree with specific moves is really neither here nor there, but when you put things on the line, when you put more on the line throughout the race, you get more moments like that, and I think in the end, the fans win and the sport wins.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports