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January 17, 2009

Brad Keselowski


ANDREW BOOTH: We're now joined by Brad Keselowski. Take us through your off-season and how things are looking for your 2009 racing season which will kick off here at Daytona.
BRAD KESELOWSKI: I don't have stories that can compete with Ron, but maybe if I had been around like he has.
Man, just glad to be back at a racetrack, I can say that. A lot of exciting things happening for myself with the Nationwide schedule, going for the championship. That's going to be great. Very excited about that. I feel like we've got a very strong team, and we weren't very far off last year from winning it, and if we could just eliminate the few racetracks that we struggled at, we can do it.
Very excited about that, and kind of a conglomerate of sponsors so to speak, but they're all great sponsors, and I think we're in very good shape to make a fun for it.
And then I've got some races coming on the Sprint Cup side with Hendrick Motorsports, limited schedule there, and godaddy.com, so that's exciting. I feel like we might be able to shock a few of you and put up some good finishes with the car and the team that we have. I think that's going to be great. So we'll see where it leads from there. But that's kind of where we're at.

Q. I kind of lost track of the program getting put together for the 88, so what exactly is your sponsorship program for this season?
BRAD KESELOWSKI: She's going to be pretty busy here. All right, we start out with godaddy.com, which is doing 16 or 18 races on the Nationwide side, and then seven races on the Sprint Cup side. Then we have Delphi, which is kind of near and dear to my heart. They're actually out of Troy, which is right next to Rochester Hills where I grew up, so that's kind of cool. I think Delphi is doing just a handful of races. Then we have the Unilever brands, which will be Lipton Iced Tea, Klondike Bar, Hellman's Mayonnaise, so that will be exciting there. Dale quizzed me before. Am I missing anything?

Q. Ragu?
BRAD KESELOWSKI: Yeah. Other than that -- yeah, that sounds good. So that kind of takes you through the Nationwide side. I feel like we're in really good shape over there. We've got a solid effort with a solid team, and having most of our key members -- all of our key members are back with our team, and we're ready to put up a solid fight with Carl Edwards and Kyle Busch being the two that we know we're going to have to race every week. It'll be interesting, and I think the Nationwide racing is going to be great. It's going to be a great battle for the championship all year.

Q. This is going to sound kind of off the wall considering it's about three months away, but what are your feelings about getting a win at Talladega Superspeedway. Obviously that's a place where your employer has done very, very well and the Earnhardt name. Talk about getting a win at such a great track?
BRAD KESELOWSKI: My crew chief, he's a master at those style of tracks, so I know I have a car going there that can win the race, and that's the most exciting part. We had a strong run there in the spring, led a bunch of laps, and I got in that big wreck. But I think we can go there and win, I really do. I'm fortunate enough to have the best teammate you can have there with Dale Earnhardt, Jr., on all the plate tracks.
Yeah, that's the exciting part, and that's just a cool place. It's awe-inspiring.

Q. Do you feel like standalone races will give you an advantage over say Carl and Kyle that will be flying back and forth, where you can be there all weekend? Is that a place where you can really make up some ground?
BRAD KESELOWSKI: Yeah, especially if there's any kind of weather situation, no doubt about that. You know, for every advantage you have there's a disadvantage, so I probably will have some advantage at the standalone, and there's going to be some companion races where I'm at a disadvantage. It all equals out in the end, but yeah, certainly in the standalone races they're a little easier for guys like myself, yeah.

Q. A lot of people are talking about Kyle Busch and Carl Edwards being the favorites to win the Nationwide series this year. Obviously that leaves you kind of in a little bit of an underdog role, but you had such a great year last year. How do you see yourself in that mix of that trio?
BRAD KESELOWSKI: I kind of relish the underdog role to be honest. It's inspiring to me. It drives me to prove that we can do it. You know, I kind of like it in a way.
You know, that's a tricky situation because you're looking at probably two of the best drivers in the sport, period, and for them to be in the second level is going to be tough to beat them, and we know that. You know, it wouldn't even be so bad if they were with non-Cup teams, but both of them taking their Cup teams down with them to do it. So that's a little frustrating. But it is what it is, and we're going to go out there and race them, and it's our responsibility to find a way to beat them.

Q. How much trash talking or whatever goes on between you and your car owner? He doesn't race that many races in the Nationwide series. I think I'm thinking back to Lowe's where at the front of the field you guys had a really great race. What's the exchange with him like after that or even before races after that?
BRAD KESELOWSKI: I think we do a pretty good job of keeping the mood pretty light. Sometimes we might go a little too far, but yeah, man, we can joke with each other pretty well. But we're both real good at sarcasm, I think. Most of us could attest to that, or most everyone around me. Yeah, it's good to race him. It's really fun to beat him. But I enjoy racing with him.
I think we both -- I don't know, this might sound a little funny, but I think we elevate each other. I think we push each other. I notice that when I'm racing around Dale that I feel like I do a better job. I don't know why that is. And I notice that when I get ahead of Dale in the Nationwide car he certainly races a little harder. I don't know why that is, but I can see it. You're watching in your mirror, like wow, he's taking some riskier moves and he's really getting after it now. So I appreciate that. We bring out the best in each other. I think we ran something like eight or nine races together, and the races that we were in together, our average finish or my average finish was quite a bit higher, so I think that shows that there's something to be gained from having him there and feeding off of him.

Q. Seems to me, and it would be normal since you're so young, that you have really grown up. You seem to have bulked up a little bit, and in a good way you seem like you've gained some confidence. You always were confident in your racing, but I see something different in you, and it may be, and you can tell us, that earlier on when you defended yourself against other drivers when you had the run-off that has become so famous, you said that you were trying to prove yourself in that series and you didn't have enough races that you could do that so you had to go out and race like that. Where is all the confidence and the new Brad Keselowski coming from right now?
BRAD KESELOWSKI: I don't know if I'm new, I'm just stronger. I feel like that time has served me well as far as being with a great group, and when you're surrounded by great people, which I am, I'm surrounded with a lot of talent with Hendrick Motorsports and Jr. Motorsports that it just wears off on you. They push me to be better every day. Just like I said about Dale on the racetrack, he pushes me in ways that I never imagined. I never envisioned myself being the most popular driver, I can tell you that, and more than just the fan base that comes with him but the things he taught me about how to interact with the fans is how that came about.
A lot of that is being around Dale, being around Jeff and Jimmie and now Mark, just that wearing off, and some of it was probably in me all along, and I just needed someone to bring it out in me. So that group and Mr. Hendrick as a leader, that's helped me out a bunch, having someone I could go to that is obviously very successful and talk to about some things. It's been very good. I feel more and more comfortable every day with my role in the sport, and it'll be interesting to see where it will grow to.

Q. And how will your racing be affected by that confidence?
BRAD KESELOWSKI: Hopefully positively. So far it has been. You know, I think I kind of touched on this earlier in Charlotte when I was going to make my first start there, that -- I'll try to figure out how to explain this, but being around those people, it more than just pushes me to be better. I'm trying to figure out how to explain that.
I don't know, it's just -- I feel like this step here has been the easiest step I've ever made in my driving career, to go from the Nationwide level to running the partial Cup schedule. I've always felt like when I moved up, whether it was from late model to such-and-such, I always felt like I was being pushed, like I wasn't quite there. You know, when I moved from the truck to the Nationwide car, I certainly felt like I hadn't accomplished everything I wanted to accomplish, and it was just more of a push. Well, I feel like the move from the Nationwide car to the Cup car, like man, I feel like, yeah, for the first time I feel like I deserved it and I felt like I was meant to be there. So that's been big for the confidence.

Q. You got that Nashville win last year on a night when it looked like Ruderman had the best car. Can you talk about racing him that night and also the fact that he's not going to be in the series this year?
BRAD KESELOWSKI: Yeah, that's a shame. I wish that team could put something together full time. I actually know quite a few of the team members and they're friends of mine. Hopefully they'll get that worked out because that's a solid team and a solid effort. That was a great night in Nashville and a great showing. I'm looking forward to going back there and maybe getting another guitar, I can tell you that.

Q. About a couple years ago at an ARCA Race the first time I talked to you you were sitting on the wall and wondering about your next ride for the next race. Can you describe your emotions and your experiences and the upward trend obviously that you've gone through from that point until now?
BRAD KESELOWSKI: It's been a ride, I can tell you that. You just don't know how things are going to go, you really don't. I'm a lottery winner in a sense. The best way to win the lottery is to buy a bunch of tickets, and buying tickets to me is just keeping your foot in the door and sticking around and working hard at it. That's what I've been doing.
Once the ball got in motion it seems like it's just snow balling, it's growing, and I don't know how to explain that. I don't know, it's just very fortunate, and I've been lucky to be in the right place at the right time, and I'm looking forward to more of it.
I feel like as a person, like Clair was asking there, I feel like I've gotten stronger, and that's been part of the key component to getting the opportunities I have and to taking advantage of them.
It's been a longer ride than I think most people see, but it's been very enjoyable and interesting to see where it's going to continue to go from here.

Q. Family question: Do you know what Brian's plans are for this season? And are you able to filter any information to him that might help him run the way he is?
BRAD KESELOWSKI: Yeah, you know, I'm not sure Brian has got all that figured out yet, so I really don't have a great answer for that question for him, other than I'm as supportive as a brother can be. I wish him the best with all that. I try to help him out not so much on a technical side, but I try to give him somewhat advice, keeping in mind that he is an older brother, and older brothers don't always want to hear younger brothers' advice. I try to give him some advice of what I see and where I think the sport is heading and where I think he needs to position himself, and sometimes that helps, sometimes it doesn't.
It's tough to watch him go through the things he's going through knowing that he is stuck in that same spot that I was stuck in about two years ago, and he's ready for a break. Just the times haven't worked out for him.
ANDREW BOOTH: Brad, thank you very much for coming in.

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