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September 2, 2018

Brad Keselowski

Darlington, South Carolina

THE MODERATOR: We're now joined by the winner of the Bojangle's Southern 500, Brad Keselowski, driver of the No.2 Miller Genuine Draft Ford for Team Penske. We'll go ahead and open it up for questions.

Q. Brad, with not being able to get a win at Darlington and now being able to sweep a weekend and have Rusty Wallace's throwback on the car today, what has this weekend as a whole meant to you?
BRAD KESELOWSKI: Man, I'm kind of in the moment right now, and I got out of the car just a little bit dehydrated and had a couple beers, so I'm not sure I've got the best answer for that. But I would say it's pretty damned cool. This is such a special racetrack. It always has been, and I think it always will be.
And when we added in all this retro stuff a few years ago, it's like a spark that just reignited this track as just being stupid cool. To win here and to win wearing Rusty's colors and driving his car, I kind of feel like I'm in a dream from when I was 10 years old, you know?
But it's something that I'll carry forever. It's probably the biggest win of my career, especially with it being a weekend sweep at one of the toughest tracks on the circuit, and today was no different. So I'm just really, really thankful, really, really proud, thankful of the team effort that it took to win this race. That last pit stop put me in position. Of course we had to capitalize on it, but we were in position, and the pit crew nailed it. I got a great launch out of the pit box. I couldn't have lead Larson by a foot. I haven't seen the pit road cam, but man, that was cool. I knew if we could get out front, we were really strong on the short runs, not as strong as he was on the long runs, but I knew if we could get out front there with 20 or so to go that we could drive away. I was just praying every lap there wouldn't be a caution. We were setting sail, and just please, no caution, please, no caution, and it came through for us.

Q. As great as Rusty was, he never won at this track. You kind of had in 2015, you had Kyle Larson's type of night where you dominate the whole thing, won the pole, led the whole thing, lost at the very end. Do you think this is kind of retribution for those two things?
BRAD KESELOWSKI: Yeah, I don't know, you could probably throw some karma words out there or whatever and what have you. It makes it sweeter to have lost it like that, and Kyle Larson is going to win this race one day, and when that day comes, he'll think about this one and how this one probably slipped away, just like the way I've been thinking about for the last few years the one in 2015. That's how the sport rolls. That's how life rolls.
You've just got to keep pushing forward and make the most of the opportunities and know that the breaks will come your way just as they fell against you previously. That's part of the perseverance, I think, it takes to be successful in not only the sport but life in general.
Certainly I'm very humbled by our failures, and it makes the taste of victory that much sweeter.

Q. You already touched on that final restart; what was going through your head while you're sitting there on pit road those 10, 15 seconds or so, and then also as you're finally coming off and with how close it was?
BRAD KESELOWSKI: Yeah, I was watching Kyle's crew, and I think our pit stop was just a‑‑ it couldn't have been a hair faster. It was just enough, and I got out of the box and I just hit the perfect launch, and I probably gained four or five feet just by executing the launch out of the box, and I got right up beside him. You're looking at him, and then you're looking at your tach or whatever that electronic crap is, and you're looking at all of it, and you're trying to maximize it to be perfect, and oh, I hope I wouldn't speeding. That was what I was saying as soon as I got to the line, I think I got him by half a foot, and you're just waiting, oh, here comes the speeding penalty, here it comes, here it comes, and the second the spotter keys the radio for that first time, you like cringe, and then he said, "okay, 19 to go." You're like, man, that's like waiting for your death sentence, and it didn't come. So I'm thankful for that.
But that turn of events was certainly in our favor.

Q. (No microphone.)
BRAD KESELOWSKI: Well, it was 19 or whatever laps there, and I knew we'd be good for that.

Q. What's the difference between going into the playoffs having won a race, not about playoff points, but what's the difference between going into the playoffs having won versus not?
BRAD KESELOWSKI: Well, if you're going to exclude the most important part, that makes it a little hard. But I would say if we're looking for a number two answer, it's just not having to think about in the last 10, 11 races of the year not winning a race this year. We won the Clash this year, but y'all don't count that. I do, I got the trophy, but you guys don't, so I knew for the last 11 weeks all I was going to get was how I haven't won this year, and now I don't get that question, and that feels really darned good because I don't want to answer that one. I've been dodging you so I don't have to answer it. To not have to worry about that and kind of keep our winning streak alive for the last few seasons is certainly really special, and with having swept the weekend, the big thing that's been on my mind, at least from a Team Penske sense, is just getting closer to the Mark Donohue win mark. It's something that I've really put a lot of thought into, and it would be really special to me. I think I was four behind entering this weekend, and now I'm two to go, and I really want to hit that mark in my career. That would be huge for myself and for Team Penske to be the all‑time wins leader in a team that's had so many great drivers, and so to pull that off, quite honestly, that's one of the first things I think about.

Q. And also, while unlikely it is possible for Jimmie Johnson to miss the playoffs, he hasn't clinched a spot yet; what's it like for somebody‑‑ you've been in that spot before. You've won a title and then you're like, oh, my gosh, I'm on the bubble. What's it like for somebody like you guys to go through this week not having clinched yet?
BRAD KESELOWSKI: Yeah, it sucks. It really sucks. I don't think he's going to miss it. I haven't seen the points, either. That would be one hell of a Cinderella story, wouldn't it? I think he'll be fine. But I'm sure he's frustrated. I would be, too. He's got every right to be. That team has been the type of team that for so many years was completely oblivious to the cycle that a lot of us have hit where you run good and then you're not good for six months, and one season comes and you're awful, next season comes and you're on top of the world. That team for such a long time never went through that cycle, and now they're going through that cycle, and I know exactly what it feels like. I'll be honest, I think they're actually handling it very well because it can be very frustrating.

Q. Looking at your season from the outside, it may look a little different on the Penske garage side of it, but it seemed like you guys were pretty strong early and have kind of taken a dip but have been steadily marching back towards the winning side of things. Do you feel like you're peaking at the right time as you head into the playoffs?
BRAD KESELOWSKI: Yeah, I mean, I'll be honest, I came into this race expecting to run in the fifth‑ to tenth‑place range. That's about what we've been on these type of tracks.
Something in the combination today clicked. There was a couple things that the track kind of threw at the field today that I think maybe caught a lot of us off guard. One of the first being that the groove in 3 and 4 never materialized on the top of the racetrack, and our car was set up to run low in 3 and 4, and we were going to be in trouble if the top became usable, and it never did. So 3 and 4 stayed one groove, and that really came to us. I think it caught a lot of other teams off guard based on what I saw in practice.
And then I would add into that that the high tire wear characteristics of this track really is an anomaly for the series. The only other race we have that's really like this in nature is Atlanta. We ran second there, and Kevin kind of dominated.
With those things in mind, this track is not like what we're going to see in the playoffs. There's no tracks like this in the playoffs. And winning is great, but there's not a lot of carryover here, and we still have a lot to work on and improve to be considered a favorite for the playoffs, and I'm hopeful today is the catalyst to get that work done because it shows that when we do hit it, we're capable of executing at the level needed to bring home trophies.

Q. Brad, you picked up the first victory for Team Penske at Darlington in a very long time‑‑

Q. What would it mean to the organization to pick up a victory next weekend in Indianapolis, a track that Team Penske has never won at in the Cup Series?
BRAD KESELOWSKI: Yeah, RP has got a lot of wins there, and I know they mean a lot to him, and he never misses that race. He loves that racetrack. I finished second there last year, Joey Logano finished second a few years prior, and I know it's‑‑ I think Rusty might have finished second there once. So he's been so close, and I hope we can push him through. We're going to sure try.

Q. Brad, I've got two for you. First, when Walt was in here a little bit ago, he was talking about how special to get back to Victory Lane for the organization winning at Darlington was. I know for you, obviously, it's your first crown jewel, but equal to that, I felt like when you were talking about it on the front stretch, the paint scheme, to have Rusty in Victory Lane celebrating with you, what was that like tonight?
BRAD KESELOWSKI: Well, not just Rusty, but I had Rusty's car, and he's a legend in the sport, he's a Hall of Famer, so you can't deny what he's done for our sport. And it's great to be able to honor him, and the best way to honor him is to make the car run good and to win the race, and that just, of course, is going to make that car even more immortal than it is already. So that's very special. I don't know what we're going to do with this car, but I hope they'll leave it together and park it somewhere special. It would be a really cool gift for Rusty and his family if we can do that. If RP is listening, it's a great idea. But I might have had a beer before saying that.
But no, I think Rusty has been very special to the legacy of Team Penske and to the legacy of Miller and motorsports. Man, it's so great to be able to honor him today and to put it in Victory Lane.

Q. To follow up on the win tonight, yesterday when you won the Xfinity race, you passed Carl Edwards for fourth all time on that list, and tonight you get your 25th Cup Series victory, first crown jewel win. Are those kind of milestones? Are those things that you think about and reflect on as a driver now, or are they things you're going to reflect on more later?
BRAD KESELOWSKI: It's tough, because the stats are great, but you have to be really careful about chasing stats because that can really cloud your vision. It can put unnecessary pressure on yourself and your team. So you really want to enjoy those moments when they happen, but you find yourself, or at least I do, trying to resist the temptation of doing so because it can almost ruin the moment, so to speak, and it can also put a lot of pressure when you're close to those moments.
So with that in mind, yeah, it means a hell of a lot. It would mean more to me when it means less to others because I'll have a chance to reflect on it. But right now, it is special, and I'm really looking forward to having tomorrow off with Labor Day and hopefully spending some time with my wife and daughter on a boat somewhere and thinking about it and staring off into space because it feels like a dream.

Q. How has this year challenged you?
BRAD KESELOWSKI: Well, it's been a heck of a year. We just‑‑ it's been really frustrating because we haven't had the speed we've had over the last few seasons, and then the races where I feel like we've had the speed, I feel like I completely screwed them up. I felt like before today that we had the speed to win Daytona and Talladega, and that's probably about it, and I messed both those races up. I made one bad move in the draft, got cycled back, and then the wreck happened. And then both the Daytonas, I feel like I made the wrong move, one where I just was too nice to someone and another when I just didn't anticipate somebody else's bad move. I feel like those were failures on my part, and so that's really frustrating. And you just never know when you're going to get a winning race car again.
And so you hope it's every week. You enter every weekend thinking that. Then you get to the race and it's not there, and you're like, oh, what if I never get another car capable of winning again. Today we had a car capable of winning, we executed, we made the most of it, and I'm so thrilled for that because I know those moments are not a guarantee. What's so difficult about those moments is early in my career, 2010, we didn't have cars anywhere close to being able to win, and then 2011 came, at least the second half of the year, and we did have cars capable of winning, and I started to kind of make a name for myself, and there's almost a point in time where you take that for granted, having a car and a team capable of winning, and then you start to see that slip away, and you think to yourself, oh, my God, this could be it, right? I might not ever get those opportunities again.
Moments like today are just so refreshing. They recharge your batteries so much because the season is such a death march, especially when things aren't going well, and this is a complete battery recharge for myself and for our team. It makes going to the racetrack fun knowing that you've won and you can win.

Q. You mentioned Daytona and Talladega as tracks that you had the speed to win. (Indiscernible).
BRAD KESELOWSKI: Yeah, I'd say so, yeah, other than those tracks this is probably the best we've been. We had a good run at Michigan here a few weeks ago, but Harvick was pretty outstanding. I think we ran third at Kentucky, but we were nowhere near Truex. I'm struggling to remember any other races, but I don't remember being close enough.

Q. I asked Joey and I'll ask you since you're sitting there, but you've seemed really subdued this season, and clearly if you're not winning, if you're not somebody that they're talking about, you might not seem as relevant as the big three, but you've kind of been under the radar this season. Does a lot of that have to do with performance?
BRAD KESELOWSKI: Yeah, I mean, there's no doubt about it, when you're not fast, life sucks as a race car driver. You're just literally going around beating your head up against a wall, hoping that, like I said, each weekend that it'll show up, that the engineering will show up and the team will show up and that everything will happen just perfect, because you have to. And that you won't screw it up as a driver when they do show up. And those things hadn't clicked until today. And so that can really drain your batteries fast, that's for sure.

Q. I don't have to tell you that Roger always circles the Brickyard 400 on his calendar because it's the one race that he's kind of missing from his trophy case. How do you guys approach this? You talk about coming in with confidence, but are you guys strong enough now where you feel like you can compete against the Harvicks and the Truexes and the Kyle Busches of the world?
BRAD KESELOWSKI: I don't know, to be honest with you. I don't know what's going to show up. We unloaded yesterday, or was it two days ago, and we practiced in the teams, and I didn't think that we were going to have it today. Dropped the green for the race, car was good, I knew we had it.
I just‑‑ I don't know. I wish it was more predictable. We're not in that spot right now where it is. We'd like it to be. But on any given weekend, we're not that consistent. That's up to us to figure out.

Q. Brad, was today's performance by Team Penske kind of a message to all the other teams in the garage to say, hey, we're still here, don't forget about us?
BRAD KESELOWSKI: Yeah, yes and no. Like I said, a lot of people view this track as one in its own, but I sure ain't complaining, and I know everybody at Team Penske ain't complaining about a one‑two finish.

Q. You said yesterday that the win gave you some confidence towards today; did you call on that at all at different parts of today?
BRAD KESELOWSKI: You know, I honestly thought, sitting here yesterday, that I learned a lot that I could apply today, and there was very little that applied today. The cars are so much different. I was really pumped. Like man, I really took a lot away from yesterday, I'm going to do this in the Cup car, I'm going to do that, and shoot, the top in 3 and 4 never came in, and I worked on that super hard with the Xfinity car and got in a good rhythm and routine there. It's like learning a dance and then you get on the dance floor and they never play the song. Like dammit, I was ready. That never happened, never materialized.

Q. Your crew chief Paul mentioned that the team kind of tried different things on pit road like choreography wise. Can you elaborate on that a little bit, and is that something you worked on during the off weekend?
BRAD KESELOWSKI: Yeah, I'm not privy to that information, so I couldn't tell you. But I'll take it, whatever it was.

Q. You kind of touched on it a little bit ago right there with the Xfinity race not really applying too much, but I was curious if that extra track time helped you?
BRAD KESELOWSKI: No, it really didn't. I wish I could say it did, but there wasn't much I took from it.

Q. Brad, you've been in the position to go for a championship several times. You've won a championship. You're talking about the inconsistencies. How do you get your head right to go into this not knowing whether or not you can bring a good car to the race to actually compete for the title?
BRAD KESELOWSKI: You know, I think the only thing you can really do is try to be the best leader you can be, try to be honest with yourself and with your team, and try to handle it with as much grace as possible. But you can't deny realities, and then of course at the end of the day, you've got to go to work and you've got to find it. You know, that's all easier said than done for sure, especially with these big race teams. They've got 400 or 500 some employees, and I think it might have been easier to turn the Titanic around than it is to change a race team on some things.
But the reality is that we have to continue to strive to be better, to be in the conversation come November.

Q. Brad, the Chase for 500, there's a chance that next weekend Team Penske could get their 500th win across all series. You talk about chasing a record like Mark Donohue's, but what would that mean, to be the guy to deliver Roger that kind of a milestone?
BRAD KESELOWSKI: Yeah, that would be cool. I don't know what the IndyCar schedule is. Are they racing next week? No? Two weeks, so Penske is two wins behind? So someone would have to win either Super Car or Xfinity. Yeah, that would be cool. I don't know, I haven't really thought that much about it. There's only one IndyCar race left, right? So kind of the opportunities are dwindling down for those guys to be the ones to get it done.
But it looks like we'll have the opportunity between the Australian cars and the Cup cars to do it, and hopefully we can be the one.

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