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February 24, 2019

Brad Keselowski

Roger Penske

Paul Wolfe

Hampton, Georgia

THE MODERATOR: We're going to roll into our post‑race availability here for the Folds of Honor QuikTrip 500 here at Atlanta Motor Speedway. We've now been joined by our race winning team with driver Brad Keselowski, driver of the No. 2 Autotrader Ford, the race‑winning crew chief, Paul Wolfe, and our team owner, Roger Penske. Congratulations on the victory today and also giving the Ford Mustang a win today, as well, for the first win of the Mustang in 2019.

Q. Roger, obviously you've watched this guy do a lot of things for you; what does it mean to see him be the one to take the Penske wins record from Mark Donohue and write that chapter of history this afternoon?
ROGER PENSKE: I think when you go back and know what certainly Mark meant to our team as we were building it over time, it really set a mark that in some cases we thought nobody would ever beat it, but Brad had that on his windshield, he's been looking at that now for a year, and he said this was the year he was going to make it happen, so I congratulate everybody on the team and certainly the job you did, Paul, putting that car together. It's in the record book now, and he's going to make it tough for anybody in the future to get there, so it was a huge win for us and obviously for the Mustang. We've worked so hard on it.
And I have to give NASCAR a real good grade on the racing today because you could race, you could come up, you could fall back. Some people obviously maybe didn't like that maybe you couldn't pass, but I felt overall it made a big difference. Brad might have some other comments, but overall I thought it was a great day.

Q. Brad, kind of same for you; you've been chasing this for a while, that 60. What does that mean not only on a day when you've been battling the flu, but I know, too, we talked about this a couple years ago, what it means to you to win one of these races with Folds of Honor, with everything you do for the military. How does all that combine together to make this day and this win so special?
BRAD KESELOWSKI: Yeah, I'd say at the moment, I think it's a little bit of‑‑ I'm in a little bit of a days. It was a long, tough race, and trying to rewind it all in my head what all happened and then think about what it means is a little difficult to do in the moment.
I think it's certainly a really big day for us, one that I'll reflect on for a long time. All wins are special. There's no wins that don't mean something, but some just mean more. And this one means more for more reasons, whether it be the win record for Team Penske; that's certainly very special to me. When you look at the list of drivers, it's a pretty big list, and it's big not just with the amount of drivers but big with the superstar power I guess you'd call it. And just to be on that list as a winner means a lot, but to be on top of it means even more.
So that's special to me. And then I think winning the first race whenever there's a major rules change I think is‑‑ it means something to me personally because I think when you look at kind of the elite race car drivers over the years, being able to win in multiple disciplines, especially with NASCAR, is really what sets them apart. So there's no maybe clearer mark than when there's rules changes as significant as this year. And so to be able to win under those terms and kind of lead that mark is a big one for me personally, and for our team, as well.
And then I would add in the Ford Mustang. It seems like since I've been a part of Ford Performance here for the last five and a half years, each year just kind of incrementally ramps up their efforts in NASCAR, and switching from the Fusion to the Mustang to me was to me a big showing of the commitment that Ford has to NASCAR long‑term, and therefore it's always great to kind of leave your mark on that legacy and to be the first one to win under those terms, as well.
A lot of different things going through my mind. I guess it's hard to put them all together. I'm hot and tired. But it's certainly a very special day.

Q. Brad, I know that you don't like to put things in hands of doctors as far as making decisions on whether you can race or not, so I'm assuming you were really, really bad yesterday. Just how bad were you, and were you ever close to not racing today?
BRAD KESELOWSKI: Yeah, I wouldn't have made this race yesterday. I was nowhere near good enough. But thankfully the team here at the care center helped me out. They pumped me with a couple IVs and got me as good as I could be for the race.
My wife was a real rock star. Whatever we had‑‑ I'm not sure what we had, it floored both of us but not my daughter, and so she was playing babysitter or playing mom I guess I should say and then taking care of me while sick herself. That's mom power right there. So she's kind of the rock star as far as I'm concerned.
But no, it wasn't in very good shape. I lost five and a half, six pounds in less than 10 hours, and I was going the wrong way quick. Thankfully it all turned around late yesterday afternoon, and I appreciate the help of those in the care center to make it possible.

Q. During the course of the race, how did it affect you at all, or how were you feeling once you got into the race car?
BRAD KESELOWSKI: Well, whenever you have a fast car it's funny how those things kind of disappear. Early in the race we were kind of stuck in that 10th place range, and we started to make adjustments and we drove up to, I think, fifth or sixth there and then we had the issue there on pit road I think with the jack, and then we started to kind of climb our way back forward again.
You know, I felt like we were getting in position there with about 40 or 50 to go, I think we got up to third, and then we got some kind of debris on the grille. I haven't seen or know exactly what it is, and it got really, really hot, so thankfully the engine stood up to that, but we had to pit to clear that off, and then we lost a lap in the cycle and got the Lucky Dog, and just every one of those kind of waves of emotions kind of plays into how you feel physically.
But I'm just maybe a little low on energy and a little indigestion. Other than that, I'm good to go.

Q. Obviously some of the stuff in the past that flew isn't going to fly today like Ricky Rudd driving with his eyes taped open. Is this like the closest to like an iron man moment, a driver just like toughing it out that we'll see with this generation of drivers?
BRAD KESELOWSKI: I don't know if that's fair for me to answer. There's always somebody fighting through something, whether it be‑‑ I think we've seen drivers with torn ACLs and broken fingers and wrists and things like that. I had to race once in a broken ankle. That's just‑‑ it's always going to be a little bit of it. No, I don't think you're ever going to see guys taping their eyeballs open again, although I do think that was pretty cool. But there certainly is always going to be a part of this where you're going to have to play when you're not 100 percent.

Q. You talked about racing with a broken ankle. You actually went and won that race in 2011, so how do you compartmentalize being sick or just any sort of physical ailment when you're in a race car and go out and win?
BRAD KESELOWSKI: I think a race car driver is who I am. It's what I do and what I love. I'm not going to let anything get in the way of it. With that in mind, obviously we had the team to win today. Of course things still have to go your way, but I don't want to be the reason why they don't.
You know, I feel like you get a little bit of adrenaline in you and you can get over that stuff pretty quickly, and it might not be the most fun I've ever had as a race car driver, but once you get to Victory Lane, you're not going to remember the pain.

Q. Brad, lost in all of the macro stories is just the fact that it was pretty much a classic Atlanta Motor Speedway finish with Truex chasing you down, and it really seemed like the 19 was going to catch you. What were those five, 10, 15 laps like, especially in your condition?
BRAD KESELOWSKI: Yeah, I saw him coming with three to go. I thought, uh‑oh, I don't know if I'm going to be able to hold him off. I'd gotten really, really tight off of Turn 2 and almost hit the wall and I was pushing as hard as I could, and I was kind of running out of ideas, to be honest. I need to see the replay, but I took one swipe at the bottom lane in 1 and 2, and it looked like it maybe got Martin a little tight, and I got just enough distance on him. I think another probably two or three laps, and I don't know if I'd have been able to hold him off.

Q. Brad, last year it took you until race 25 to win and get a playoff berth. How is 2019 going to be different getting the win and the playoff berth in race 2?
BRAD KESELOWSKI: Well, I think maybe this is a better question for Paul, but it just allows the team to kind of get the monkey off their back early and really focus on getting more wins rather than having to worry about points and all those things because very little of that matters once you have a win. Obviously you still want the seeding and all that that plays out at the end of the regular season, but race wins are better than that if you look at the points counted. To be able to focus on that and to be able to run the car and the team really hard and push it even further to the edge is always a good thing, I think. Maybe Paul can answer that a little better.

Q. Roger or Paul, your team led 96 of 325 laps. Can you just talk about the development you did on the Mustang and how you felt your team was spared today with the exception of what happened at the end? They looked like they were up front for a good part of the race.
PAUL WOLFE: Yeah, I think we're excited about the new Mustang. Obviously it's shown some good strength I think not only at the speedways last week at Daytona but as we came here this weekend and saw how fast the Stewart‑Haas cars were in qualifying, and then we were able to follow that up with some really strong cars today.
There's still a lot to be learned. The Mustang is a little different for us, and we're trying to figure that out, but with that being said, the rules change for this year and the new package is as much of a change.
We're excited about it. I think there's still a lot to be learned, and any time there's a massive rules change like this, like Brad talked about earlier, there's a lot of opportunity there, and we take a lot of pride in being able to get a head start on everyone, and it was good to see all the Team Penske cars lead laps today and run as strong as they did.
There's still a lot to learn. I think you'll see some different things at some different tracks as we move through the beginning part of the season here, but today was a good start for us for sure.

Q. Brad, what role did changing track conditions, especially the shade in Turns 1 and 2, what role did that play in you creeping your way up to the front?
BRAD KESELOWSKI: Yeah, I think without a doubt, Atlanta, this is such a long race, it goes through some pretty big mood swings, the track does, and you have to stay on top of it. The best I know to do is just relay what I was feeling to Paul and to the team and to let them adapt and adjust accordingly the best they know how. That's kind of where their wheelhouse is. For me, it got really hard in 1 and 2, and I think that's probably where I ran over some debris. The glare in that corner was so awful, but the speed was all up against up high line, so you were kind of guessing where the wall was at there for a good 100 feet. At 190 miles an hour, that's always a little bit fun. But the changing track conditions are just part of it here at Atlanta every year, and it's whoever can fight them the best generally is going to come out on top.

Q. Now that you've got a taste of this new package, what did you think of the restarts today, and how do you think that's going to play out now as you look ahead to Las Vegas where everybody says this is where this new rules package is really going to come to life?
BRAD KESELOWSKI: Yeah, it reminded me a lot of the few track races I've ran over the last few years on the mile‑and‑a‑halfs. To get into drafting right on the restart is really critical and making the right lane choices and decisions and swapping lanes at the right time and kind of being able to predict all that is super, super critical, and I think we'll see that play out over races to come.

Q. Roger, what do you want to see out of these racing packages, and from what you wanted to see, what did you see today that either made you like it or feel it needed work?
ROGER PENSKE: Well, as I said earlier, I felt that‑‑ I'd have to say a solid B. No one gets an A on their first exam I don't think, but I'd say it's a solid B for NASCAR today because there were drivers, Brad included, and Joey twice could come from the back and come up so they could pass cars. I thought the one thing that was amazing to me was someone on the high line could run the low line going into 2 and stay with them and drag them back going down the straightaway. There's some things you don't see normally with the faster speeds. The cars seemed to be more in control. You didn't see any accidents, which maybe the fans like that, but I thought overall, the package showed well, and to me, it's going to be interesting to see what happens at Las Vegas.
But overall it wasn't a crash fest, which everybody said it was going to be potentially, and to me, inspection process was good. It looks like there's a lot of equal cars running out there. It's going to come up to the drivers and the strategy, which is what we want, and to me, we'll see how it plays out.
I was quite happy with the outcome personally for our team, and we'll look forward to seeing what happens in the next couple of weeks.

Q. Brad, with this new package, I'm curious, does it change how you had to make some countermoves, some tactical things in terms of blocking or holding off people behind you but also having to come through and make moves? Did it kind of change how you would have had to do things a little bit tactically in that sense?
BRAD KESELOWSKI: Well, I think taking the track bar adjuster out of the car definitely made a difference because to me the track bar adjuster always made it better to play defense, or easier to play defense. And so I thought that was an interesting change. I thought you saw more comers and goers because of that personally, so I thought that was interesting.
As far as the rest of it, I think it's still really early. Atlanta is a very‑‑ I don't know how to put it. Atlanta is not like the other mile‑and‑a‑halfs in a lot of ways. A lot, a lot of tire wear here, super high speeds and banking, super high tire wear. It kind of maxes out in all the categories, and then you take like a Las Vegas next week is probably the middle of all the categories.
So I wouldn't maybe guarantee that what you saw today is what you'll see moving forward, for good or bad. So it's hard to give great answers, but all in all, I thought it was‑‑ it was about what I expected it to be here for Atlanta, but we'll just keep tweaking on the cars, keep learning about them and keep getting better, and the racing will evolve. What direction, I don't know.

Q. Paul, obviously the Penske cars qualifying tonight goes well I'm sure as you guys would have hoped. It seems like my understanding is you guys kind of have a little bit more areas to work within or kind of decisions to make as a crew chief. I think Todd Gordon was saying he felt like he did some things that could have been done better on Friday and that kind of hurt them today. What did you learn from that, from Friday, and how much does that kind of put a little bit more into your hands into what you can see qualifying, which sets up pit stall positions and starts and things like that?
PAUL WOLFE: Yeah, it's interesting, and the thing about the new package that we see so far, what we saw this week in Atlanta, I think there's potential to see a bigger difference from a qualifying setup to a race setup. You know, there was always differences in the past, but with this package‑‑ especially at places like Atlanta, like Brad said, there's a lot of tire wear and things like that where you get in the race and you're lifting, you're getting out of the gas. For qualifying, you're running wide‑open laps with this new package.
I think there's going to be a big changeover from qualifying to race, and we're still trying to figure that out, and we definitely missed it on Friday in qualifying with that. But as you saw, our cars were very good in race trim. All of our cars led laps and were strong. It just shows you the big difference between qualifying and racing. There's a lot of opportunity. There's still a lot to be learned, and I think you'll see it change as we go to these first few racetracks and everyone trying to figure it out.
But overall, as I said, the Mustangs have been good. It was good to see Stewart‑Haas cars had good speed on Friday, and we were able to follow that up with good speed with the Mustangs in race trim. So I know there's potential there in this car, and we've got to just do a little bit better job next week at Las Vegas at getting cars closer to the front.

Q. Paul, in regards to the engine overheating, what caused it? How long did it last? I know Doug Yates said before the season started that with this package, they were seeing overheating durability factor in the engines, parts were failing. Can you address that? And did their work in the off‑season help you get through that?
PAUL WOLFE: Yeah, well, the debris seemed to be a tear‑off or something, and it blocked‑‑ it pretty much blocked the whole grille off. It wasn't on there long, but when you take all the air away, it only takes a lap and you're going to have your temps well over where they should be.
To your conversation about Doug and this package, it's similar to a‑‑ it's closer to what we do at Daytona and Talladega where you're on the throttle all the time. You're close to running‑‑ there's a lot of load on the engines, although there may not be as much power, you're in the gas more. So that throttle time keeps a lot of heat in the engines, and we weren't‑‑ I wasn't excited to see us overheating because these engines have to be used multiple times now, and it's very critical. Talking to those guys before the weekend started of being mindful of those temperatures. We're always trying to push, push the temperature limits and run that tape because it's so important for aerodynamics, but with the way the‑‑ having to use the engines twice and now with a lot of wide‑open throttle time, it's hard on those engines.
It was definitely a concern. Fortunately we were able to make it through that, and we'll have to see how that engine plays out for us as we move forward because this engine was slated to run another race, and the rules are a little funny there. I'm not sure exactly what we'll be able to do, if we'll be able to check this engine out before we run it again.

Q. (No microphone.)
PAUL WOLFE: Geez, the exact lap, I'm not sure. It was right‑‑ we were getting close to the green flag stops there in the final stage. We were probably‑‑ we were going to pit within the next five laps, so fortunately it was close to the window, but obviously then the caution came out when a bunch of us were on pit road, and that's how that sequence got jumbled up there with guys having the wave‑around, and fortunately we were able to get the Lucky Dog. But it was good that it happened when it did. Obviously I wish it wouldn't have happened, but fortunately we were able to get it cleared off, and we didn't seem to lose too much water.

Q. Brad, two races in and you're working with Coleman Pressley. Obviously the chemistry is good because you guys have a win, but what is it like for you to transition from working with someone like Joey Meier for so long and then to work with someone like Coleman Pressley and how things are going within the transition?
BRAD KESELOWSKI: Yeah, well, I'm happy for Coleman, of course. He's a great guy who's put a lot of work and effort into this, and I felt terrible for him over Speedweeks because I think we ran four races, and he only got maybe half of one race with some different things that happened worth of experience. But he certainly stepped up today and had a great day.
You know it's good when there's nothing I'm complaining about, and I didn't have anything today to complain about with him. All in all, a good showing for him for sure.

Q. Is that hard for you to adjust, hearing different voices after so long?
BRAD KESELOWSKI: It's definitely different. Yeah, there's no doubt about that. But he stepped up and did his part for sure.
THE MODERATOR: Brad and Paul, congratulations. We wish you guys the best of luck next week in Vegas.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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