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February 11, 2018

Brad Keselowski

Dayton Beach, Florida

THE MODERATOR: We are now joined by the race winner of today's Advance Auto Parts Clash, Brad Keselowski, driver of the No. 2 Miller Lite Ford. Brad, you had a little bit of teamwork there at the end helping keep you up front. Why don't you take us through the end of the race there.
BRAD KESELOWSKI: It was a good day for sure. I thought it was a good race. We were able to work our way from last to first. That feels good to me. And we did that a number of ways. I think one, through making some passes there early on. We got up to, I think, third or fourth, and kind of stalled there, and right before the yellow, we fell back to right about eighth, and obviously just couldn't get the right run to break through. I needed a few more laps there, and we pitted and kind of just had a great sequence on the pit side, got to the lead, and we had those restarts in succession there. It was just kind of a dogfight, I think, between a handful of cars. The 9 was really good, the 22, and of course my teammate Ryan Blaney was really strong.
From there, we got good pushes on the restart and we were able to get back by the 9 car, who I thought he was screaming fast, and just kind of controlled the tempo of the race from there. Just deliberately working the lanes and doing what we needed to do. And of course as we got towards the end and I had both my teammates behind me, that wasn't a bad feeling at all.
But I knew that they were hungry to win, and I knew they'd make a move to win. Ryan did, he made a move to win, and that's cool, that's what he should do, but we were able to fend it off there with making the right moves. Proud to get a win here at Speedweeks. I've never won anything at Speedweeks. I feel like I've kind of choked them away, and now I got one I didn't choke away. That's good. Just hoping I can repeat this in seven days.

Q. 12 hours ago you said you and Joey would be the dynamic duo to watch. Four and a half hours ago you said, "I'm going to win this thing" on Twitter. Are you psychic? Are you going to start calling all your shots?
BRAD KESELOWSKI: I just kind of felt like we were due today. We've had great runs here, and like I said, I feel like I've made too many mistakes and screwed it up, and I just felt like today we could make it happen, and I'm glad that we did. But I wouldn't say that I was "Babe Ruthing" it by any means, but I did feel pretty good coming into today, and I feel pretty good about all of Speedweeks from here. The Duels will probably be our weaker of the races, but I think we'll be pretty strong for the 500.

Q. I was wondering, Mr.Penske kind of let slip loose that the Fords are getting a new body next year. Is that something that Penske is leading on in terms of developing, without throwing it all away, what can you tell us about it?
BRAD KESELOWSKI: Well, they don't tell me those kind of things because they know I've got a little bit of a big mouth, and they don't trust me, which is probably smart. So if he says it, I would say, go with him. He's always pretty trustworthy.

Q. Brad, you won a lot of races at Talladega, you won the summer race here a lot. You've been in contention in the 500 and haven't yet won it. Do you feel like you're due or you're there and knocking on the door?
BRAD KESELOWSKI: Like I said, I feel like I've choked the 500 away a couple times. I felt like I had a shot at it in 2014 and just didn't make the right move on the restart. Felt like we had a shot at it last year and got caught up in a wreck, and it was 2013 I was leading it, and we ran over a piece of debris, and just different things happened. Some our fault, some not. That's how racing goes sometimes. You put yourself in position, and some things you can control, some things you can't.
We've had some bad luck, and we've also had some mistakes on my part.
I feel confident that we can do it. It's just you have to not have any bad luck, and you have to be mistake free, and we'll hopefully be able to do that.

Q. I wanted to ask you, and you kind of alluded to it a little bit, but is it almost more nerve‑racking when you've got teammates one, two and three at the end of the race like that?
BRAD KESELOWSKI: In some ways, absolutely, because if you wreck with your teammate on the last lap, you've got to like explain to the entire team‑‑ not just your team, like the team, what happened, and then they all have to kind of like‑‑ it's natural. They're all going to pick sides. That's not good for a 300‑person team like Penske is, when you have different factions. What you try to do is get rid of the cliques, and when you have moments like that it naturally kind of creates cliques within a 300‑person team, which can be really self‑destructive.
Yeah, when you're in those scenarios, you certainly think about them. But then on the other side, I felt pretty confident that my teammates Ryan Blaney and Joey Logano would race me really clean and respectfully, and they did just that. Ryan had a shot, he took it, and it didn't come together. But it's fun, and yeah, it's also worrisome at the same time.

Q. Were you surprised‑‑ how surprised were you, I should say, that no run ever came? Surely you were braced for it at some point; I assumed you'd figure there would be something coming?
BRAD KESELOWSKI: Well, there was. I think with a lap and a half to go, there was a mini‑run but not a big run. I can't say I was entirely surprised. When the cars are tough to handle, it's tough to build runs. It's tough to do things. And the cars‑‑ it's interesting, you would think with the ride heights dropped down that conventional wisdom says the cars would drive better, but basically it's allowed everyone to trim the cars out so much for speed that then the handling goes away. The cars are running faster. I was looking down while I was leading the race, and I ran a 40.50 which is a 199‑mile‑an‑hour lap leading the pack. Usually when you see laps like that, that's when you're running like fifth or sixth and you time a run just right, not when you're leading. I think that speaks to how fast the pace was. And when the pace gets really fast, handling becomes even more and more important because you're putting more loads on the tires and so forth. And it's an inverse of what the car has for aerodynamic grip with this package and the way you can trim the cars out.
I guess long story short, that's kind of a lot of technical jargon to answer your question, but no, I can't say I was completely surprised.

Q. Jeff kind of had my question, but I guess taking it a step further, we saw kind of two races today, the first segment, lots of side by sides, big pushes, and then the second half of the race was single file. Which one do you think, one, is more indicative of the 500, and also, is there anything that you learned coming up through the field that you think it can teach you how to make that move late in the 500?
BRAD KESELOWSKI: Well, I don't think anything here was really a good indicator for the 500 as far as what you saw with respect to the stages are a lot different in the way they're oriented in the 500 than this is. I mean, there was a break, but there was no stage points. The stage points are really a game changer, I think. This race was more like what you would have seen before stages. Now with stages, you're not going to see this kind of racing in the 500. There's too many points on the line to do that. You'll see different strategies, which mixes the pack up a little bit more and creates different scenarios. I expect a much different look to the 500 than what you saw today, at least for the first two stages. Maybe not the third stage, it's hard to say. But I would not rubber stamp the 500 as looking this way at all. The stages and those points are just too valuable.
Last year we wrecked out, I think, with 45, 50 to go, but we finished in the top three in the first two stages, and we still came out top 20 in points. That just speaks to how important those stage points are. And so I would suspect that everyone knows that. They've learned the lessons from stages. I know there's some people that don't like the stages, but a lot of people do, and that's why, because it changes the incentives of the race and prevents some of what you probably saw right here today.

Q. You guys were running one, two, three there; it doesn't come into play so much here as it does in IndyCar and that formula where Roger lets his drivers race each other, so if it's Sunday and‑‑ and I did ask Roger his answer to this question‑‑
BRAD KESELOWSKI: How did he answer? Can I copy and paste?

Q. What is your understanding of how Roger expects you guys to race each other as teammates?
BRAD KESELOWSKI: I mean, I think he expects one of us to win if we're in that scenario, and beyond that, I don't think he really cares, which is good. He's not really a team orders guy, he just expects us all three not to wreck each other and lose the race, and I would assume that would be how he would answer. I think he wants to see the best guy win, but not at the expense of any one of the three winning.

Q. Paul talked earlier about giving up a little bit of speed to gain handling in the way the cars are now. How do you see that equation, and how is that going to play out in the last 50 laps or so Sunday?
BRAD KESELOWSKI: Well, racing is always about compromises with the setup in the cars. You know, Paul can speak better on the technical aspect of how that is done, but I did think our car drove pretty good, not perfect by any means, and I thought it had decent speed, probably not the most by any means, and from there the ball was just kind of in my court to make it happen.
You know, it really depends; with the stages, you would naturally think that a 500‑mile race, a lot of attrition, that you would care more about handling, but it's been the last few years or even the last few 500s before the stages where there's so much attrition in the race, so many short runs at the end that raw speed has won this race. I mean, it really depends on how the race plays out. I don't know. That's just one of the tough things about the 500s. It's always been just a really hard race to predict.

Q. You said you expected lots of accidents‑‑
BRAD KESELOWSKI: I got that one wrong. I was one for two.

Q. My question is after what you saw in the Clash, did that change your mind, or do you still expect lots of accidents?
BRAD KESELOWSKI: Well, you would think when the cars drive worse that the guys would wreck more, but the exact opposite happens. Everybody loses confidence and they fall in line and they don't make as risky of moves, and then they don't wreck, which is, it seems, completely backwards and counterintuitive for sure, but I think that's what you saw today. I think the cars got to a spot where they couldn't handle, and the drivers kind of fall in line, and so you see a less aggressive race, not a more aggressive race. And then, of course, you get less wrecks because the proximity is further apart.
When the proximity gets close and everybody gains a lot of confidence, of course that's when things get a little more difficult.

Q. I was just curious if you thought that the composite bodies will ever get into Cup and if it's something that you'd like to see.
BRAD KESELOWSKI: Yeah, I mean, I would assume they will. I'm not entirely sure if that's going to happen or not. I know there's been some talks. You know, I think in some ways it's good, in some ways it's bad. It's probably a net even. You know, I think that at the end of the day, it won't be a big story for the sport. I think it'll just kind of be a natural progression.

Q. And Junior has been tweeting here ever since the end of the race that he'd like to see the yellow line rule go away. What's your thoughts on that?
BRAD KESELOWSKI: Oh, well, if Dale said it, it's got to be true. (Laughter.)
I guess I've never really thought about it. You know, I'm one of those guys that I feel like you should take the rule book as it sits right now and take out like every other page. If it's odds, okay, if it's evens, okay, just less rules, better racing. I'm a fan of that. The team owners will always find a way to spend the money. Not the safety part of the rule book. Push that in the corner. But everything else in the rule book, like every other page, like rip it out and let's go, because I think sometimes there's too many rules, and it becomes kind of the fun police.
But with respect to that, maybe that's where his head is at, I don't know. But I like, in general, less rules.

Q. Brad, given the way that you guys performed today, were you a little bit surprised after the Chevys and the Toyotas qualified so well this morning?
BRAD KESELOWSKI: Yeah, I mean, they certainly look really strong, and again, I would say the 9 car was probably the fastest car today. But you know, the way this racing is set up, you just can't tell. It comes down to strategy. It comes down to making the right moves, and our team executed on those, too. Chase and his team will do that, too, and I would fully expect him to win some of these races.
But I would say for sure that they were definitely the fastest car today.

Q. Danica told us yesterday in the media center that we should never ask any driver again how it feels to be in Daytona‑‑

Q. How do you feel about that question, and what do you think about the impact she left on the sport?
BRAD KESELOWSKI: I think it feels really warm and nice. It was 30 or 40 degrees where I left. I don't know if that's a good answer or not. I think that in some ways, her legacy is probably a little overstated and in some ways it's probably understated. There's no doubt that she brought more eyes on NASCAR and continues to bring more eyes on NASCAR from maybe the typical stereotype, which is good. I think we need some diversity in the fan base, but not at the expense of the core. And I think she had that ability. I think she had the ability to bring in more fans without necessarily alienating any old ones, which I think is great.
So I think that's really good. And I hope that we'll see her continue to be successful. I know she had a lot of obstacles to fight through. I'll never forget when I was a kid racing quarter midgets, there was this girl that was way better than anyone else, and she got to 14, 15, whatever age is you can't run quarter midgets anymore, and she quit running. That's the person who should have kept going through the local levels.
I remember running into her dad one day, and he was like, yeah, it's harder for a girl to make it through this than it is a guy, and there's a lot more peer pressure and all those other things that kind of get inflicted on those‑‑ in those scenarios, and so it's just harder, right. There's no doubt about that.
So I give her a lot of credit for kind of clawing her way through all that. She probably works harder than 90 percent of the other race car drivers out there, which she deserves a lot of credit for. But then on the flipside, you know, when you look at it from just a pure who's the best racer in the world that doesn't have a Cup ride that wants to have a Cup ride, those are the people that you hope kind of get the empty seats, and I think there's an argument to be made that they're not getting those seats at the expense of people like Danica getting those seats. And that's not necessarily healthy.
So I think that you can really look at it one of two ways. It seems like there's not a lot of people that can see both sides. I know that. But I think it's important to see both sides.

Q. You were mentioning earlier when the cars don't handle as well, there's not as many of the accidents or you're not as aggressive. If this type of racing continues throughout the weekend, are you penalized for being aggressive, or how do you have to manage that because obviously there's got to be some aggressive and big moves that will be made Sunday. How does that change your thinking or the dynamics of that?
BRAD KESELOWSKI: Well, it's a tough question. Like I said, the first two stages, we'll really mix that up because they'll have natural breaks in the race, which will bring everybody together. The cars drive their best right after a pit stop, so you'll have more cars in the prime of their handling for longer periods of time in the 500 than what we saw today. The last run was almost 40 laps, I think. I don't know specifics, but that's, of course, right at the end of tire degradation and the cars are sliding around and they're kind of at their angriest and hardest to drive.
And then of course the 500 starts to finish at twilight. I think last year it finished right at twilight. The track gains a lot of grip in that period, and confidence generally tends to go up, cars tend to go up, and henceforth the more aggressive moves go up, and then the wrecking goes up. There's definitely a chain of events there, and again, that's what makes the 500 so tough to predict is it's such a dynamic race. Things‑‑ the scenarios are changing so often, and the stages just add another element to that that I think can't be understated, and I don't expect the 500 to look anything like today.

Q. Don't you have to be aggressive before twilight because a lot of people want to have that lead with 15, 20 to go because they want to be in control at that point, so the aggression starts earlier before maybe the track gets as grippy, so I'm just curious how that‑‑
BRAD KESELOWSKI: Yeah, I mean, I don't know. I don't know. I mean, look at Kurt last year. I mean, he was wrecked with maybe 60, 70 to go, and he won the race. It's probably one of the best things that happened to him was he wrecked with 60 or 70 to go and got out of the consequent wrecks that came after his, and next thing you knew there were only 15 cars left, and he wasn't looking in such bad a shape, and the twilight opened up to track to where it had plenty of grip, and he could capitalize on that and make moves.
I don't have an answer for you. I don't think anyone really knows.

Q. This is sort of around the same line: Kyle Busch had actually said out at the care center that he thought the race was sort of backwards and everybody was racing quite hard early, and then it turned into a race where people took a position. Doesn't some of that credit go towards you as far as being able to kind of control the flow of the end of the race, working with like Joey and Ryan, and is it sort of harder to‑‑ people say, oh, Brad got the lead and he did the easiest thing, he kept it, but how hard is it to actually do that?
BRAD KESELOWSKI: Yeah, it's not easy to keep the lead. You know, we got to the lead once, and we lost it really quickly, and then I learned a few things and was able to hold it from there. It's not easy to keep the lead in these races; that's for sure. And I don't‑‑ I don't expect that you'll see a lot of racing like this, but I would agree that the race was certainly an inverse to what you would expect with the first half, three wide, and then the second half kind of single file. Whoever is leading the race does play a large part in that, without saying anything beyond that.

Q. Alex Bowman wins the pole, you win the race. That kind of sets up the dynamic perfectly for the yin and yang of the NASCAR season with the influx of young‑‑
BRAD KESELOWSKI: Which one am I, am I black or white?

Q. I don't know, you're a little bit on the older side, though‑‑
BRAD KESELOWSKI: Yeah, gosh dang.

Q. But at NASCAR you're officially old now‑‑
BRAD KESELOWSKI: I'm officially ‑‑ what's the number? I'm curious.

Q. I don't know, we'll have to‑‑
BRAD KESELOWSKI: 22? 30? All right, if I'm old, what is Joey Logano? He's getting old? He's in the middle no, it's black and white, there's young and old. You've got to pick a side. He's the oldest young guy that has 10 years of Cup experience. Yeah, maybe I'm the youngest old guy and Joey is the oldest young guy? We'll go with that. That's got some reason to it. I don't know, I think we try really hard to label things, and maybe we're trying too hard to label things. Everybody is different. Everybody's scenario is different. Alex's scenario is different than his teammate William Byron's scenario or his other teammate Chase Elliott's scenario. I know we like the young gun/old veteran feel to it, but we just all have different stories, and I think that's an easy trap to fall in, and I think that maybe it's easier to tell a story that way because more people can understand it, but it's not necessarily the reality.
I asked about Joey Logano because Joey Logano has ran a year and a half in Cup more than I have, and because some of the people that are labeled young guns are just as old if not older than Joey, and Joey is not labeled a young gun. I think it's really interesting to see those labels because they're kind of a rubber stamp one size fits all, but we're not. As race car drivers, we're not rubber stamp one size fits all. We're all different people with different stories from different walks of life, and Alex should be recognized, I think, for his unique story, not because he's one of the younger guys. And he has a great, unique story that I think deserves some attention with respect to being in Cup and not making it and going back down and getting a second chance with Dale Jr. That's what I see him as. I don't see him as a young gun, I see him as a guy who is getting a second chance and had a great day today.

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