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October 15, 2017

Brad Keselowski

Lincoln, Alabama

THE MODERATOR: We are now joined by the race‑winning driver of the 49th annual Alabama 500, and that is Brad Keselowski, driver of the No.2 Miller Lite Ford for Team Penske. This was his fifth victory in 18 races at Talladega Superspeedway. That's a pretty good ratio for superspeedway racing and any racetrack in general. Walk us through how you were able to get it done today, please.
BRAD KESELOWSKI: Yeah, of course it's a special day any day you can win, but to win at Talladega for the fifth time is something I was never sure I'd ever have the opportunity to do. Just winning here once felt pretty incredible, and it's hard to believe that was eight‑some years ago. To win here again, it still feels pretty darned good. It doesn't feel much different. I'm a little older now, but yeah, you never know when your first win or last win could be, and I want to of course soak this one up and be thankful for it, and of course there's a lot of carnage and other things that we were able to survive that give me good reason to be thankful for, as well.
I think we made it through three big wrecks, and the races here at Talladega in the spring and both Daytonas, we got caught up in all the big ones. This one we made it through all the big ones. I thought we were probably pretty strong at those other races and didn't have the luck. Today we had the luck that we needed, and then we were able to execute at the end with the moves on the last two or three laps, so just really, really special win to be able to put it all together at the end.

Q. Paul was in here earlier and I pointed out that your first Cup victory came at Talladega in 2014, you were in a must‑win situation. He told you at Charlotte that you had to come here and win. When you are in these positions, what is it that makes you able to step up and rise to the occasion and deliver in big instances?
BRAD KESELOWSKI: Well, you'd love to be able to pat yourself on the back and say it's all skill, but there is some luck that's involved in this. 2014 we were in one of the big wrecks, and it just hit us in an area that didn't damage the car to affect its performance, very similar here today where we made it through the wrecks.
But I feel like what's critical to be successful here, whether it's a cutoff race or a must‑win or a not must‑win, you know when you come here that probably three out of every four races you're going to get caught up in a wreck or something like that happens. But the races where you have the good fortune, where you don't get caught up in a wreck or you don't have something break or any of those things, you have to take those races, run up front and win them. And I think that's what we've been able to do.
We've wrecked out of the last three plate races, which really stunk because we had great cars at those and I thought we made great moves and led a lot of laps. So coming here it's kind of felt like a hand of cards where you're like, well, I can't keep getting the bad cards so I'm going to get some good cards, and when you get them, you'd better make a good play with them, and I think we probably felt that coming into today.
And being able to put that all together, I would say you have to take the races where you don't have bad luck and win at them, and that's what we've been able to do. Today it was one of those days for us.

Q. After some of these races you've talked about being a gladiator and cars have been flipping and everything. There were a lot of hard wrecks but all the cars stayed on the ground but yet there were only 14 cars running at the end of the race. Is that less ridiculous than cars getting up in the air?
BRAD KESELOWSKI: Yeah, I don't know. I feel like some weeks we race, and it's probably a little bit easier than it should be, and some weeks we race and it's probably a little bit harder than it should be, and you could probably average them all out and it's probably about right. Talladega definitely brings it back to the more aggressive side, but I don't think that's necessarily a bad thing. There's some weeks where I kind of feel a little bad about the paycheck I earn for the workload, but Talladega ain't one of them, I'll tell you that right now.
I kind of take it in stride and just thankful to have the position I have. As far as the carnage is concerned, this year in particular we've seen more carnage on the mile‑and‑a‑halfs than I think we did last year, and I think there's ebbs and flows to that that are hard for me to explain or make any sense out of because I felt like the last two years there wasn't a lot of crashes.
I don't know exactly what to make of that, but I was glad to come out victorious despite it.

Q. Do you think the fact that‑‑ nobody being able to lay back because of stage points and everything increased the number of cars that‑‑
BRAD KESELOWSKI: No, not really because I thought the spring race at Talladega and Daytona in July especially had a lot of carnage and not a lot of cars left at the finish. I don't know if I would say that.

Q. Your teammate was also up there making moves. Were you wondering what his agenda might be because there were times where it looked like he was going for it, there was other times where he was throwing big blocks on people. What was his agenda there?
BRAD KESELOWSKI: Well, Joey and I are good friends and I think great teammates, and I think that we have an understanding between each other that no matter what the scenario is, we don't expect each other to hurt themselves to help each other, but if you have a way of helping each other without hurting yourself, you try to take it. You know, I think he made the block he made on the last lap or so, I don't know exact timing because it was the right move to help his day, not necessarily to help mine. And at the end he made the move to win the race, and I just was able to execute the block. He didn't let up at all. He could have chose a different lane for sure and probably had an equal shot at winning. He chose the one he did, and if it didn't work, it was going to benefit me, and that's kind of what happened, or in my opinion from what I could tell.
I don't think I would have won the race if he would have picked a different lane. I don't think he was trying to make sure I won the race, I think he was trying to make sure he won it, and it just didn't come together for him.

Q. Fords have won all four restrictor plate races this year; what makes them so good on these type of tracks?
BRAD KESELOWSKI: A number of factors. You know, I would say the reliability is good. We have some pretty good drivers for these type of tracks. That doesn't hurt. The deficiencies that we seem to have on the mile‑and‑a‑half tracks lend themselves to probably proficiencies at these type of tracks, with the power ban in the engine is at the very high rpm, the way the motors have been limited on the other tracks to very low rpms, so that benefits us here, hurts us at other tracks, and the cars are quite a bit down on downforce for the mile‑and‑a‑halfs compared to the rest of the field, but also quite a bit better on drag, which makes it advantageous for these type of tracks.
I think the strengths and weaknesses throughout the field right now are quite a bit different between the manufacturers, with this being the strength of the Ford package at this time, and you probably could say the Chevrolet package, as well, with how they qualify and race here.
So in that light, we know we have to come to these races and make something happen because this is our opportunity, and we like to find more to be more competitive on the mile‑and‑a‑halfs, but that's not the opportunity as it stands right now, so we'll have to make the most of these.

Q. You talked about the advantage Roush Yates horsepower has here and the disadvantage it has going to other tracks. How do you feel going forward?
BRAD KESELOWSKI: Well, the good thing about Martinsville is you spin the tires there, so the engine from a horsepower standpoint is not as critical when you can't put the gas pedal down. I think that's why we run so well there. If you look at the tracks where the Fords have won this year, it's been the tracks where you have very little rear tire grip, a lot of wheel spin, Sonoma, Martinsville, and it's been at the superspeedways, so I don't think that's a mistake by any means. But then I look at Texas, Kansas and probably even Homestead and Phoenix, and we know those are tracks that we're not as good as we want to be. The 4 car seems to have found a little bit more speed than the rest of the Fords, and he's close, but I think even he would say he's probably not exactly where he wants to be.
So you know, we can get caught up in deficiencies or we can make the most of what we have, and I feel like we have a lot of opportunities in front of us, and I want to make the most of what we have.

Q. I talked to Joey after the race, and it was on his 300th start he got a win. On your 300th start you got a win. Some other drivers have gotten a win on their 300th start. How does that make you feel, that stat?
BRAD KESELOWSKI: Yeah, I'm not real big in numerology. I know some people like it. I don't. If this was No.299 I'd be just as happy, I'll be honest with you. But it is still nice.

Q. Do you feel that Martinsville is a must‑win situation, and if you can win there, do you feel like you've almost kind of stolen a spot in the Championship Round?
BRAD KESELOWSKI: Yeah, Martinsville at this moment as it stands I would say is a must‑win for us, and we know that going in. We tested there, and we feel like that's the type of track that we have a lot of strength for. At this point, yes, but you know what, that could change. You hate to say that; it's still three weeks away, right?

Q. You had the "cheers to Dale Jr." on your car; how much did that mean to you, and what was the mindset to do that?
BRAD KESELOWSKI: Yeah, there was a lot going on this weekend, and that was one of the special ones for sure. At the start of the year, we were very fortunate because not everybody gets these opportunities, but Miller Lite told us that we could take the car for two races and put whatever paint scheme we wanted to put on it. They gave us here and Phoenix, and we were able to take our car for Phoenix and do something with our charity to be able to celebrate Veterans Day that we're really happy about, and then take the paint scheme here at Talladega, and we were trying to come up with the right idea, and it just was kind of a "duh" moment when we said Talladega, and we get a special paint scheme, we should do something to honor Dale for that with respect to the opportunity he gave me early in my career and the white 88 Navy car. So it was kind of a perfect fit and was nice to be able to show some love and respect to him for everything he's done for me and for the sport. I think that's something that we can all be grateful for in a lot of ways.
I was happy to do that. I knew coming in here it was going to be tough because people saw me running that paint scheme, and I think they expected I was going to let Dale win. But one of the great things about competition and I think about Dale is that I think he respected the car and what it meant to run that kind of paint scheme but didn't expect for us not to try to beat each other, and that's exactly what we tried to do. He pushed me to the limit and did a great job.

Q. I guess it was at Daytona in 2016 we sat upstairs in the press box and we watched the Toyotas gather together, work out a game plan, and Denny Hamlin went to the finish of the Daytona 500. Since then the Ford camp has won the last seven races. You guys came in with a strategy this weekend. Can you just talk about how that evolved to have that kind of gamesmanship among you all and push you to the seventh consecutive win for Ford?
BRAD KESELOWSKI: Yeah, that's a big number. You know, I think in other things that happened, we got beaten and kind of embarrassed at Daytona in 2016 for the 500, and I think we all felt like at that point we hadn't done enough homework and that we needed to get back to work, and in a lot of ways that's exactly what we did. So you know, that was definitely hitting right between the eyes.
But I also think that the Ford drivers and teams are cognizant of how difficult these races are to win by yourself, and again, nobody expects, at least I don't expect I should say, anyone to pull over and let me win a race, but if there's an opportunity to help a Ford win, we want to see that happen.

Q. The fact that you guys from the weekend, when the weekend started you guys were out there practicing together, pulling together, it just seemed like one team effort among the Fords.
BRAD KESELOWSKI: Yeah, I'd say that for sure. That's a good way to summarize it. You know, there's conveniences to that with respect to not having too many cars in the packs and risking getting wrecked and so forth and pit strategies and whatnot. But it also can be difficult sometimes.
But I think in general I'm really happy with how all the Ford teammates have embraced each other because we want to see Ford be successful.

Q. The decision to pit to fix the radio, I believe Paul said when he was in here that he didn't think you could win if you couldn't talk to your spotter. Did you have a role‑‑ I don't know what you could hear at the time. Did you have a role in that decision, and what did you think about it?
BRAD KESELOWSKI: No, you know, Paul was about the only one I could hear. He had some big old honking radio that broke through all the antennas, I guess, and interference. I heard him say "pit," and I'm like, I don't want you to say pit. But I have to respect that they can see things I can't see, and I feel like that's what happened, transpired. He said it, and I was going, oh, God, I hate this. But we pitted, and it worked out. I'm still not sure what broke, but they did a great job fixing it.
THE MODERATOR: Brad, congratulations on victory No.24 in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series. Good luck on your pursuit of No.25.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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