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September 16, 2018

Brad Keselowski

Las Vegas, Nevada

THE MODERATOR: We're now joined by the driver of our race‑winning car, the No.2 Autotrader Ford, Brad Keselowski. We will open it up to questions for Brad.

Q. On Thursday I talked to you about how special it would be to win three in a row, especially with this being the first race in the playoffs. Now that it's happened, what do you think you're doing or your team is doing that has turned your season around so quickly?
BRAD KESELOWSKI: Well, I don't know. I'm not really in a great frame of mind to answer that because I'm so caught up in what 500 wins means for Penske, what three in a row means for us as a team and what the last three weeks has meant to me personally and professionally. It's just really, really special.
To go with that, a lot of things have come together. They have to come together to win. Winning is more about being‑‑ is more than being the fastest. Winning is about being the best in all facets and taking advantage of opportunities. We probably weren't the best today with respect to being the fastest car. But my team was the best today with respect to executing on the pit stops, putting us in a position to control the race, and then getting through the chaos that I think you guys all saw over the last 20 or 30 laps.
To this date in the season or to date before these three races in the season, we hadn't been able to do that. I don't know if I necessarily think we're any faster than we have been the rest of the season. As much as I would say we're finding ourselves taking advantage of opportunities at a much higher level, and with that in mind, that's what great teams do, and I'm still thrilled to death to see this team do that here over these last few weeks because I can tell you that today, last week and the week before, we weren't good enough to just dominate a race. It took a total team effort, and that's what our guys delivered here today to win in Las Vegas.
Did that answer your question? Close? Okay.

Q. There were six cautions the last 57 laps of the race.
BRAD KESELOWSKI: Is that it? It felt like maybe 30.

Q. What was it like for you out there on the track trying to wait that out, and did you know you had the car to win, and what went through your mind when you got to the checkered flag?
BRAD KESELOWSKI: Well, the cautions were frustrating, but the only thing more frustrating than that was that red flag. God, that was‑‑ I've heard stories about living in an oven before, and I think I've lived it now. But with that in mind, it's a challenge. This was a mentally grueling race because when you get hot, when you're stuck in those situations and then you add the chaos of the restarts and all those things come together, it really tests you and challenges you mentally, and our team was able to make the most of that.

Q. And also, the win gets you beyond the Roval; have you thought about that at all?
BRAD KESELOWSKI: No, I'm just happy for today. I haven't really thought big picture beyond the Penske side of 500 wins and how special that is to me and everyone in the organization, and to be a part of that in some small way is really an honor.

Q. In a time where sponsorship is so critical for our sport, you've been able to do it with three different sponsors the last three weekends‑‑
BRAD KESELOWSKI: I like that. He's thinking outside the box. I like this.

Q. How important is that for you?
BRAD KESELOWSKI: I think it's really important. I was talking to Joey Logano before the start of the race, and we got to looking at our uniforms, and I think I counted 23 different sponsors on my uniform of some kind, and we need every one of them. Motorsports will always be an arms race, no matter what you do. We can try to put caps on it, we can try to come up with any rule, but it will always be an arms race, and sponsors enable us to be one of the best in the arms race. With that in mind, we have some great partners. Autotrader was on the car today; MGD was on the car in Darlington; and of course last week Discount Tire. Each one of them brings something unique but also very important to our team that helps us be competitive, and we couldn't do it without them. We're very fortunate to have great partners like that, and it means a lot to them to be in Victory Lane, by the way.

Q. Two questions for you. One, how vital was it that you had a couple restarts toward the end with Joey alongside?
BRAD KESELOWSKI: Yeah, I don't know if that was vital. He's really good. Yeah, I just knew it was going to be a heck of a battle with him because he's one of the best restarters if not the best restarter in Cup, and he made us earn it.

Q. And this is Las Vegas; despite two consecutive wins, you were still 15:1 early in the week‑‑
BRAD KESELOWSKI: Did you have money on it?

Q. No comment.
BRAD KESELOWSKI: Oh, man, that's‑‑ is that a no or a yes?

Q. No comment. But you got that down to five. Do you pay attention at all to that?
BRAD KESELOWSKI: No, no. Brendan Gaughan told me in Victory Lane that that was the numbers, and I had no idea. I've been so busy since I've been here in Las Vegas, I had four sponsor, media, fan dinners, appearances, etcetera, and I haven't had a chance to breathe since I've been here, let alone look at all that kind of stuff. I snuck around and got on the blackjack table for about 30 minutes, and that's about the only experience I've gotten to have here in Vegas other than the dinners. I do enjoy coming to this town, and I'm glad that those things are there. I wish we would have got a little more respect than that, but that's okay, we're glad that we're going to earn someone a lot of money today.

Q. All season long, especially during the first 21 races, we've been talking about that big three, but it seems like they've fallen off the past few races. When we asked that to Larson and Truex, Truex made a comment that it's about the big four going into Homestead. Do you feel like this win has solidified your team to be part of that conversation?
BRAD KESELOWSKI: No, I don't. I feel like we're proud of this win, but it's one win in a long grind, and there's nine weeks of long grinding left. 2014 we won the first race, I think, in Chicago, and that was terrific. I wouldn't trade that for anything. But we were eliminated out of the playoffs four or five weeks later. So you know, it's a grind, and you look too far ahead, you get in trouble.

Q. You used the word chaos today. This track isn't necessarily known for chaos, maybe a couple of highlights but not the type of chaos that we saw today. Is that because it's the playoffs, or is it because it was just like 100 degrees and nobody really knew what they had?
BRAD KESELOWSKI: I'm sure 100 degrees plays a factor in that. It's so darned hot that cars were blowing tires and things were happening that probably wouldn't have happened if it was cooler out. Beyond that, I can't really speak‑‑ I haven't seen what happened in the individual accidents, and I would probably try to break them down before giving you a great answer to it. But I certainly understand where you're coming from.
Like I said earlier, I've tried to think of the playoffs as one week at a time, and I've tried not to get too far ahead. I think I've made that mistake in the past, and so whether it comes to the Roval or Phoenix or Homestead, you've got to get there first, and the pathway to there is one week at a time.

Q. Is there ever a sense when the race is unfolding and like the nature of the race changes based on how‑‑ what drivers see other drivers doing? If everybody is getting aggressive, does everybody else raise their aggression level and that can contribute to something?

Q. Is that one theory, I guess?
BRAD KESELOWSKI: Well, I mean, a certain element to motorsports will always be that we play a game of chicken. Whether it's on restarts or whatever scenario it might be, understanding who has what stakes on the line is really important. When you get to a race like this, everyone pretty much has equal stakes on the line. But when one person pushes you hard and then you let them in or let it go, then eventually someone else does it, and now you find yourself in the back playing from behind, and now you start to do it. It creates an escalating effect.
With that in mind, eventually both guys don't lift, and things happen. That's always going to be an element to motorsports that is a part of it at every level, and so with that said, the playoffs, of course, when you're playing from behind can make you take more risks.

Q. Do you think that other drivers will change their strategy to win, and if so, how?
BRAD KESELOWSKI: You know, I don't know who's in what points situation, but one of the things about this format is it definitely changes people's strategies as you get towards the cutoff races if you're from behind or if you're way ahead, and it's‑‑ every person has their own unique scenario. Of course our scenario right now is very good, but some are not as fortunate. We've been in that spot, as well, and when that happens, you definitely put all the chips on the table.

Q. I think the first nine restarts the leader took the outside. The last three restarts you took the inside. Why?
BRAD KESELOWSKI: I just felt like it was working better and felt like I was able to control it a little better on the bottom. Maybe that was right, maybe that was wrong, but we're here now, so I'm glad we did.

Q. I want to get your opinion on this. Martin Truex Jr. was asked about you winning three in a row, and he said that "Brad clearly found a horseshoe...three races in a row he's won, and he's not had the best car. If you really want to talk about the sport being what it is, you've got to look at that." Is that a fair‑‑
BRAD KESELOWSKI: Yeah, he's spot on. We have not been the best car the last three weeks. This week we were probably a top‑three or ‑four car. I didn't get to see the 4 car before he had his issue, but I thought he was running pretty good. He was obviously in front of me at one point. And him and the 78 were very strong. The 78 was clearly the best car, and we put everything together when it counted, and kind of stole it today. Same scenario the last two weeks. I thought the 42 was the best car in Darlington, and we hit the strategy right and executed the last pit stop and that put us in position to win. And in Indy we were nowhere near probably even a top‑10 car. We were probably a 15th‑place car, and Paul Wolfe hit the strategy right and I hit the restart right to make all the passes when it counted and won that race. With that in mind, no, I feel like we stole the last three races. We're not complaining, but we still have a lot of work to do to go out there and win heads up without those issues.

Q. Indy was a milestone, it was a big one, one Roger wanted for a long time, and now of course the 500. Tell me about the conversation you had with the Captain after Indianapolis‑‑
BRAD KESELOWSKI: We really haven't talked yet to be honest. I've been on the media tour and all that. I had one quick phone call with him in Victory Lane, and he was in a business meeting that was really important, and then I had one real quick phone call with him yesterday morning I think it was. I guess yesterday afternoon. And he's completely off the front windshield. He's not looking back at all. We did not talk about Indy, we talked about winning today and what we were going to need to do to do it. Those that have been around Roger Penske know that's who he is.

Q. You were fast on the track today, but I don't think you did 271‑‑

Q. Can you talk about your dad?
BRAD KESELOWSKI: Yeah, I'm so proud of my dad to be getting it on the salt flats not terribly far from here, and he hit 271 today. I know he had been working really hard on that. I'll tell you what, he's got me thinking really, really hard about taking that car to Talladega and trying to put up a number. But if I could find a sponsor to do that, I don't know if there's anybody out there, I'd go do it, because the record right now is setting at 251, I think, a closed course with AJ Foyt somewhere on a test track here on the West Coast, and I think his car can hit 270 at Talladega. So if I can get someone to help me make it work, I'd love to go do it. That's my quick endorsement.
But I think there's an incredible opportunity out there, and I'm so proud of him for building it and having a dream and vision and putting it to good work. He'd been there the last three or four years, and I think two of the last three it's flooded out or rained out, however you want to look at it, and hasn't been able to run. He was so disappointed. He called me about a month ago and he said, I really want to go back to Bonneville, can you help me get there. And so I was his sponsor for him to get there. I think he borrowed a trailer or something, a truck, and towed it all the way out there, and of course as you saw, he hit his number. His goal was to hit 271, and I think he hit 265 the last time he was there, and he just keeps toying with it, tinkering with it. He's not retired but he's semiretired, and this is his hobby, and I'm thrilled that he's having success with it.

Q. (No microphone.)
BRAD KESELOWSKI: Couldn't be any worse than today. No, I think it would be really fun. The hardest part is getting tires because the tires are only good for about 220 miles an hour. Grant Lynch, I'm sure Grant is still around. He's probably listening right now. Grant, we've got to figure this one out. But we'll see how it goes. Might have to get a hall pass from the Captain, too. I'll have to work on that one, too.

Q. Just curious if you can just kind of talk about the team morale the last few weeks compared to what you've seen the last couple weeks now.
BRAD KESELOWSKI: Yeah, I haven't had a lot of time to spend with the team, and I feel terrible about that, but the week being what it is with media and sponsors and fan requests, appearances that we have to do, that's just the way it goes. But what I've seen out of them from in the driver's seat while they're working together, they're certainly hitting all the marks. I'm very, very proud of them for that.

Q. Have you noticed any difference from like three or four weeks ago to now?
BRAD KESELOWSKI: We're just faster. We're faster on pit road than we've ever been.

Q. This is sort of a similar question; you mentioned it a little bit in Victory Lane, but whether or not you think you have the speed to compete or you lucked into some of the wins, where do you feel your team, obviously without the team that was behind you today or the last couple weeks, you wouldn't have been able to capitalize on the circumstances. Where do you feel your team ranks as far as some of the others that are the best?
BRAD KESELOWSKI: Well, I mean, the last few weeks we've been a top two or three team on pit road. I think I look at our season, and I look at this season, I look at seasons past, we find a way to win as a team when we have at least one strong card, right? That strong card might be a fast car, it might be fuel mileage, it might be pit road. Over the years we've always found a way to take our strong card and put it in Victory Lane, and quite honestly, the only strong card we've had this year until now has been the plate tracks. We've had good speed there, good tactics, and we were able to win the Clash, but other than that, we haven't been able to put together the wins for a number of races, from crash‑fest races that have kind of tied us up to some mistakes on my part.
With that in mind, the pit crew before these last three weeks has never been the strongest suit of the 2 team. Right now it's the strongest part of our equation part of our team, and with that in mind, we're putting that to good use with these past three weeks, because without it, we couldn't have won.

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