April 25, 2021
An Interview with:
THE MODERATOR: We are joined by our race winner, Brad Keselowski. Thank you for taking some time with us. Congratulations on the win. We'll get right into questions.
Q. Nothing makes up for the Daytona 500, but does this make up a little bit for what happened in February?
BRAD KESELOWSKI: I think I heard you about Daytona.
Yeah, I mean, Daytona, that's a big one. Man, it stings still. This is a good one. We'll take it. Beggars can't be choosers. Certainly I learned some lessons from that race, tried to apply them. It came together at the end. Michael McDowell gave me a great push, kind of like he did at Daytona. I was a little bit smarter how I handled it so it all came together.
Q. Joey has been frustrated, two big wrecks now. He feels like the spoiler is a little big. Is there much difference in this package versus what you had before the Daytona 500 last year? They made some changes following the Newman wreck.
BRAD KESELOWSKI: Yeah, there's been so many rules changes that I don't even remember which ones are which, to be quite honest. I felt like the rules from three or four years ago, the cars were harder to get side-by-side, you had to earn it a lot.
Now I feel like a dang teenager. I got to learn all these new technologies all the time. Once you got one type of format or rules package figured out, then the rules get changed. It's kind of frustrating.
I felt like I had the rules figured out, 2009, 2010, then rules changes. Then 2012, '13, then changes. Got really good around '14, '16, another rules change. Kind of got really bad there for a while. One point I didn't win a plate track race for four years.
The rules kind of take some catching up to get used to. I feel like that, where there's an older guy coming into the high school saying, How do you do fellow kids? Every time they change one of these rules packages, just such a start over. All the moves you work on to accumulate are kind of kicked in the butt.
This particular rules package, my feelings on it, it's so easy to build a run, incredibly easy to build a run. I don't know if you have to have quite as much tact. But it does make for more side-by-side racing. I think the fans like that. There's some tradeoffs.
As for whether or not it causes the cars to go airborne or not, I would let the aero guys probably answer that better than I could.
THE MODERATOR: We are now also joined by our race winning crew chief, Jeremy Bullins.
We'll continue with questions.
Q. Brad, I'm wondering what Roger, on the call he had with the drivers this week, how he told you guys to race, and if you think you needed to be told how to race.
BRAD KESELOWSKI: Well, I think really the only thing that Mr. Penske told us was just don't wreck all the cars. You guys need to figure something out, but don't wreck all the cars. I think that was probably the biggest thing.
I don't know if there is a clear answer on that. I think we talked a little bit about staying in line at the end of the race and all that kind of stuff, but no real consensus on that.
With respect to him, I'm glad we were able to win and we didn't wreck all his cars.
Q. It's overtime, the end of the race, what are you doing there? Staying in line? Is your thought process to stay in line until the very end?
BRAD KESELOWSKI: Thankfully the way the race played out, we had a double-file restart at the end and we didn't even have the chance to stay in line, right? I'm glad we didn't have to figure that out.
Q. Jeremy, from a crew chief's perspective, what is it that makes Ford and Team Penske really good at superspeedways, Talladega?
JEREMY BULLINS: I think the race teams have put a lot of emphasis on making the cars drive well. The obvious answer when you come to Talladega and Daytona is that your car needs to be fast, but it also needs to handle well. I think we've done a good job of having a balance of both. I think that showed in the fact we were able to get all the cars towards the front as many times as we did.
I think the drivers and the spotters put a lot of emphasis in it. Coleman Pressley and Brad have worked so well together. To Brad's point of learning how to make the moves to get where you need to get at the end of these things. I thought they did a perfect job at the end of putting themselves in a position to where opportunity came about for us to get to the front. They do that by studying these races and understanding what it takes to make those passes at the end.
Q. Brad, what did you expect McDowell to do off of turn four? Did you notice him falling back trying to get a run on you?
BRAD KESELOWSKI: Yeah, I saw he was getting a run. I was just praying I would get to the start/finish line before it was too late, and thankfully it was (smiling).
Q. Basically wondering now that all three of the Team Penske Fords are in the post-season, does this kind of give you an advantage to start working on that while still trying to accumulate wins throughout the rest of the regular season?
BRAD KESELOWSKI: I think it's good for everyone that works at Team Penske that all three cars are in the Playoffs. My phone is blowing up from the shop, members of the team that are just ecstatic.
When COVID happened, there was a really big realignment of the way people work on the teams. We kind of went to a format where half a dozen or a dozen people that were maybe specific to each team with the roster limitations are now kind of working on all the teams, whether it be at the shop, even sometimes at the track as we rotate for different things or reasons.
With that, it's so easy for them to kind of get torn and pulled apart between the different cars and teams, whether it be the team they used to work on, whatever team they're working on any given weekend.
When we have wins like this, when we have wins onboard with all three teams, it becomes really easy to kind of keep everybody pulling the rope the same direction. I think it's a big win for us. Certainly has a lot of ramifications further down the line with respect to Playoffs and all that stuff, which is great. We're very happy for that.
Also cognizant of that first part.
Q. There were a couple aerodynamic situations that stuck in my head. You said this is really behaving like a handling track. Usually we think of Daytona as a handling track. The second one was Blaney said something about there's such a bubble between he and Hamlin that he couldn't get to Hamlin's bumper. Talk about some of the handling and other characteristics you experienced today.
BRAD KESELOWSKI: Yeah, I don't know why, but the spring Talladega race always seems to be a little bit that way. This year it was, Whew. You would think these cars with the spoilers had on them, what Dale Jr. called a big-ass spoiler, you never think the cars would be so loose, out of control.
I think it just goes to show you that we just iterate around it, the teams find ways to get the cars back to on the edge, because that's where the speed is, even with a spoiler that looks like it came off of a wing Sprint car.
Q. Brad, did you anticipate DiBenedetto leaving your line? Was that a pleasant surprise, that he jumped to the outside, left an open path for you?
BRAD KESELOWSKI: Yeah, I don't know if I really have an answer on what I anticipated there. I just knew I was going to run the bottom and play it out, see what happened. I knew I was beside him. Damn, I sure hope you don't turn down, it's going to be a big mess. I'm glad he didn't.
Yeah, that was hairy, for sure.
Q. 11 straight seasons now with at least one win. That's not a Johnny-Come-Lately record. That's pretty straight up good.
BRAD KESELOWSKI: I'd be lying if I didn't tell you I was thinking about that. It's very special to me. Kind of gives me some chills. I started out racing just hoping I could have a job, be able to race in the Truck Series with my family. I never envisioned winning at the Cup level, let alone even being at the Cup level.
To win six races here at Talladega, it's an incredible feeling. Have 11 straight winning seasons, that's pretty cool, too. Is it Tony Stewart or Ricky Rudd that has the record? I'm sure I'm a long way behind those guys. Hopefully we can catch up.
Q. When you won your first Talladega race back forever, could you imagine you would be sitting here tonight tied with Dale Jr. and Jeff Gordon and looking forward to and having a chance to tie the record set by Dale Earnhardt Sr.? How does that feel?
BRAD KESELOWSKI: It's more than I ever dreamed, I can tell you that. I would pause and say Dale's record is so far out there, yeah, I have a shot at it, but it's a distant shot. I think you got to get seven before you can even think about 10.
Still pretty cool to be on the same list with him on anything, that's for sure, even if it's second.
Q. You talked about winning 11 straight years. Was frustration starting to set in at all that it hadn't happened yet at this point in the season?
BRAD KESELOWSKI: Yeah, you get frustrated when you're not winning. That's my job, right? I feel like we had a car to win last weekend. Things didn't come together. Felt like we had a car to win the Daytona 500. Didn't come together. I start wondering is it ever going to come together.
Then there's years where you run third or fifth, race wins just fall in your lap. You go, Yeah, it's easy, what's so hard about this.
This has been a tough year to start because I feel like we've had some really strong runs, things have fallen on us that were somewhat within our control, some not.
I'm glad we keep putting ourselves in position. I do believe strongly that if you do that, good things will come.
Q. It had been a few years since you won at Talladega. There was a stretch there where people said that Brad is one of the best at Talladega, this type of racing. That conversation had gone to some other drivers in recent years.
BRAD KESELOWSKI: Sure.
Q. From an ego standpoint, you probably don't care what I think or some other people think, that you're no longer the best, people praising you for a while like they were, what did that do to the ego, to you personally? 'Vindication' is probably not the right word, but how do you feel in that sense?
BRAD KESELOWSKI: Obviously it's frustrating. I did win the Clash in between here and my last Talladega win. But still you'd like to win two or three of them a year. You need to win two or three of them a year to in my mind be thought of as one of the best.
Certainly has been a drought, without a doubt. I go back to kind of what I was saying earlier. I feel like the last two years we had some incredibly strong runs. Shoot, I was in position to win the Daytona 500 the last two years and wrecked. Probably could argue my fault or not. Certainly subjective wreck.
I think the Talladega race, we've led a lot of laps, won stages, finished second in stages. At the end we kind of fell on the bad side of the deal. Those things are going to happen. I don't like them. I'm not going to pretend I like them.
I think you try have some perspective. Someone once told me when I first started racing: Never believe your own press clippings for good or bad, your own PR reports, whatever it might be, or even the media reports. Usually the good stuff is greatly exaggerated, so is the bad.
I always feel like there were other plate track drivers beyond myself, even three or four years ago when people were saying that. I felt like I was probably better than what people were giving me credit for the last two or three years. Just try to balance that out.
Q. We heard Pressley on the radio. Your relationship with Coleman, what you're expecting out of him, especially on the speedway races? He gives you a lot of information. Does that make it a little difficult, get overrun with information sometimes?
BRAD KESELOWSKI: No, I mean, I think I always have the ability to tune him out. I'd rather have more than less. I put a fair amount of significance on that role over the years. I suspect I'll continue to do so for years to come.
Coleman has stepped up and continues to push himself to be the best. He's grown a bunch. I'm really happy for him.
Q. How big is his former experience as a driver in that position?
BRAD KESELOWSKI: Oh, it's huge. I'm almost expecting him to know what I'm thinking before I know what I'm thinking. Having come from a driver role in the past, I think it's easier for him to do.
Q. Jeremy, William Byron was talking to us a little bit ago. He mentioned after the changes that were made to slow the cars down, the teams have more or less reengineered whatever speed has been taken away back into the cars. What has been done? What do you think NASCAR should do with this rules package to slow the cars down considering what happened with Logano early in the race?
JEREMY BULLINS: I think any time you get a car upside down, NASCAR historically has done a good job of going back and looking at what led to that. That's the last thing we want, right? They've done a great job historically of going back and looking at how do we keep them on the ground. A lot of that is speed related.
I think there's a fine line. Brad alluded to this earlier. If you go back to '14, '15 and '16, the way the races were, you could see a guy get the lead, be able to manage both lanes when we were racing two-wide because the runs weren't as big. I think that has a lot to do with it.
There's a fine line whether the accidents are caused by the speed we're running or the runs we get. It's the driver's instinct to defend that run. If the driver defends a run, there's no defense for, you wind up in a bad spot. That's not what happened in Joey's case at all, but that happens a lot. There's a lot of things that go into that.
You're right. If they slow us down, we look for ways to go faster because that's our job. That's just how these speedway races evolve, right? It's just a matter of looking at where we are, where we've been, trying to figure out what the best way forward is.
Q. Is this a bit of redemption from last week with the pit call at Richmond?
JEREMY BULLINS: You win some, you lose some, right (smiling)?
It's like I told some folks this week, we've never shied away from trying to make a strategy call that separates us from the field. We tried that last week. One of them worked and one of them didn't. It didn't in a big way.
I kind of laugh. When things go wrong like that, you just have to learn from it. Obviously that didn't play out like we wanted it to. At the end of the day, there's 36 of these things for a reason. Sometimes you get it wrong and sometimes you get it right. Fortunately today we're having a couple of Keystone Lights because we got it right.
We'll learn from last week and won't make that mistake again. It's just part of it. You're always going to lose more than you win in this sport. I don't think there's been anybody yet that won more than they got wrong. That's just part of it. It certainly feels good to bounce back this week.
THE MODERATOR: Jeremy, we're going to let you get back to inspection. Brad, we'll keep you for a couple more questions.
Q. Tying Dale and Jeff, what does it mean for your name to be mentioned with those guys?
BRAD KESELOWSKI: I never thought I'd even have that chance. It's tremendous to me. I grew up loving the sport, still love the sport. We fight sometimes, like husband and wife, but I still love the sport. I love the challenge every day of getting up, trying to find excellence, reinventing yourself as the rules change, people change around you.
It's hard. It's a hard sport. Any success you have means the world. So I think to have my name on any list that has Dale Earnhardt, Jeff Gordon, Dale Earnhardt Jr. at Talladega, that's a pretty big deal. I'm super happy and super proud to be there with them.
Q. Does this kind of feel full circle, tying your former team owner who gave you a shot in this sport years ago?
BRAD KESELOWSKI: Yeah, yeah. Again, the word 'surreal' comes to mind. I never thought that would have been the case.
Q. You mentioned earlier how easy it is to build a run here at Talladega with this package. Jeremy talked about it as well. Do you feel like anything needs to fundamentally change with superspeedway racing as we shift to the NextGen car next year because of the pack racing, cars getting airborne? From a safety perspective, does anything need to fundamentally change going forward?
BRAD KESELOWSKI: I mean, no doubt we got to find a way to keep cars on the ground. I don't care what the rules package is. We start there. Can't have cars leaving the ground.
We're pretty good drivers, but none of that stuff works when we're in the air. The gas pedal, brake pedal, steering wheel, shifter. We're not rudders. When that thing gets in the air, it lands where it wants to. What goes up must come down. It's not a jet-propelled airplane. We have no way to control where it comes down, so we absolutely have to find a way to keep them from coming off the ground.
Q. It seems throughout the race the Fords were able to push stronger as well as had the better ability to get together in groups. Do you feel there's a manufacturer advantage or how strong the teamwork is right now?
BRAD KESELOWSKI: That's a good question. I felt like at one point in time actually the Chevys were doing the best at that. They took the lead a couple times working together really well. I think Ford works really hard at it. I think there's probably some drivers that are known for their prowess on the plate tracks. All that comes together and creates some pretty strong results. But I wouldn't rule out some of the other guys, as well.
Q. Now that you basically put yourself into the Playoffs with this win, what do you feel you and your team need to focus on heading towards September?
BRAD KESELOWSKI: Just put more wins onboard. Need the bonus points, stage points, need all those things. They're really important.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you for taking some time with us. We will let you get to your other obligations. We will see you at Kansas.
BRAD KESELOWSKI: Take care, guys. Thank you.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports