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May 21, 2011

Dale Earnhardt, Jr.

Brad Keselowski

David Ragan


THE MODERATOR: We welcome here into the media center Brad Keselowski. Brad finished second in today's Sprint Showdown. This is your third All-Star start. Raced your way into the big show. Tell us about the race today.
BRAD KESELOWSKI: We weren't quite as good as we were hoping. But we kind of hung in there, made sure we were there at the end. Made the right move on the restart, kind of timed that just right.
From there, was trying to run away with it with the clean air. Quite honestly, David was just hauling. His car was certainly the car to beat. From what I saw tonight, he's the car to beat. We'll have to see how that all pans out.
I was telling somebody on TV I think he ran the fastest lap of everybody in qualifying. Wouldn't think of anything different for him tonight. Happy for him, as well.
Just on the cusp of getting things running well for everybody at Penske with this 2 team, strong runs over the last two weeks. Starting to capitalize on some momentum. We know we need some more speed, but have to execute. We executed tonight with perhaps not the fastest car, but as a team we got it done. Hopefully we can execute in the next race.
THE MODERATOR: We'll open it up to questions.

Q. Brad, can you talk about that three-wide move you used to get to the lead? Did you think you won the race?
BRAD KESELOWSKI: No. I didn't think I'd won the race, not then. I thought I won the race on the last restart when I had the clean air. Was really shocked to see David run that much faster. I mean, quite a bit faster than anybody.
That was pretty amazing to me.
But I thought I had it won on the last restart. You knew there were going to be more restarts to come. I knew I made the move to give myself a shot later on. Was happy to do that. Like I said, things just worked out.
I was lucky I didn't end up in a big ball with a whole bunch of cars in turn one. That would have been interesting. That's when we were going for it.
This race, you either make it into the next race or you might as well not have even came. Took a chance being three-wide on the restart and I'm rewarded by being here right now.

Q. (No microphone.)
BRAD KESELOWSKI: Absolutely. I went through the grass to do it. But that's what you got to do. You got to take chances. I felt like I could execute it as long as the 6 and the 27 didn't run me down. They did a little, but it wasn't quite enough.
So it worked out and I feel pretty good about it. Got a little doughnut on the side of this car. I think that's what this race is all about.

Q. When you got passed by Ragan, because of the nature of this race, was there less anxiety knowing you were still in?
BRAD KESELOWSKI: I certainly didn't let him go, I can tell you that. I saw him coming. I was trying to not let him go. I didn't want to lose the race, but I wasn't going to wreck myself to win it when I knew I could transfer in second.
I certainly didn't let him go. His car was that strong to drive right by me, dirty air and all. That was impressive. I really wanted to win the race. I'm not the type of guy to lay up and take second. I don't think there was anything else I could have done that was an extremely low-percentage move to win the race.
Thank you, guys.
THE MODERATOR: Good luck in the next race.
We're welcoming into the media center David Ragan, who finished first in the Sprint Showdown tonight. This is his first All-Star Race that he qualified for.
We're also welcomed by Dale Earnhardt, Jr. who, as we previously announced, was the winner of the Sprint Fan Vote.
We'll get opening statements from both and then take a couple questions.
David, talk about the showdown, your thoughts going into your first All-Star Race.
DAVID RAGAN: Clean air was everything. I felt like those restarts was going to determine who was going to win and who wasn't. If you would have threw a guy running sixth and seventh in the lead, I think they would have had the speed to stay up there.
Just fortunate we were able to get through the restarts, not lose a lot of ground. Our car was pretty good there at the end. So it was cool to get the win.
There for a little while I was going to be happy running second, but the car was just a little bit better than Brad's and it feels good.
THE MODERATOR: Dale, 2.4 million votes cast. Talk about what that means?
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: I thank not only my fans, but all the fans that voted. I know my fans worked really hard. I kept up on the Internet about the temperature they had about it. They were committed pretty hard. So I appreciate the help.
We did struggle a little bit today. We hit on some things right there at the end that made the car a good bit faster. I was really happy with the speed on the last run.
Just a short race, starting so far back, we knew we were going to have to probably take no tires on that halfway break. I knew the guys were in front of me, if I couldn't get by them in the first 20, were going to do the same thing. That dirty air was pretty bad.
Running pretty good on the second segment. David and the 27 were side-by-side in front of me. I started plowing, getting real, real tight, ended up losing the nose. Got a break to change it under caution with 13 to go. The last run was really good.
THE MODERATOR: We'll take some questions for David and Dale.

Q. David, what does this do for your confidence that you can do this?
DAVID RAGAN: Yeah, it does a lot for our confidence, for myself, for the team, for the competitors that we race around. We've been so close to closing the deal and haven't been able to do it. There for a few laps tonight, I thought we were going to have to run second.
But we kept fighting. Everything is a lot easier if you have a fast racecar. I just tried to not make any mistakes the last few runs. It will give us some extra confidence just to be out here in this All-Star Race. This is a race we've had to watch the last three years. It's been pretty tough to go back home and watch it. It will give us some confidence being out there.
I'm more than proud for my team to be a part of it. They've been working hard. We didn't get a chance to go down to the All-Star Pit Crew Challenge. Really happy for my guys, it means a lot to them.
THE MODERATOR: David, thank you for your time. Good luck tonight.
We'll open it up for questions for Dale Jr. in the media center.

Q. Now that you have it in the bag, was there ever any doubt that you weren't going to win the fan vote in your mind?
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: Sure. Generally anytime there's a contest, they don't announce the winner, there's no guarantees.
I see it a whole lot different from this side of the fence than a lot of people do. I didn't take it for granted. I knew my fans were working really hard. They've done a great job over the last several years of locking up the most popular driver award. All the credit goes to them. They do all the work, support us so much, really believe in what we're trying to accomplish.
It makes going out there and working harder and harder to try to get where you want to be, be more successful, be a better competitor when you got that many people behind you.

Q. Do you think your car is good enough to challenge in this next race?
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: That last run was pretty fast. Last lap was a 55. It was about a second quicker than the people behind me, half a second faster than the two guys in front of me, about 3/10ths better than the leader.
I think we made it better. The speed's there. We were practicing yesterday, and my biggest problem right now, and I think I'll still have it going into this race, is we don't have any speed the first four laps. For some reason, I don't like the way the car feels on sticker tires. So we run about the same lap time. The car doesn't fall off too bad. It doesn't in practice.
We just cycled it so many times there. We had that caution in that first 20 lapper, that's a cycle. We didn't pit for tires. We were behind about three cars in front of us in the dirty air once we got restarted. It kills the front tires. As we saw yesterday, every time you go back out, you make big changes to free the car up, just gets getting tighter, and tighter every time you'd come in the garage and go back out.
Hard to tell if you're helping your car. That last run, the lap times were really, really good. I think the track is coming in that direction as far as how my car handles, gripping up front a little bit. We'll go out there and run hard. Practically we'll get out there and mix it up a little bit.
There's going to be some really fast cars. We pretty much know from this last race that we didn't have the speed to go out there and win that race. So that's definitely stating the obvious: I don't know if we have enough for some of those guys in the field for this race. We're going to go out there and try. We did improve the car. We'll make some more changes. We have time in this race.
As much as I think that first segment is really kind of unnecessary, it's going to give an opportunity for a team like us to work on the car and get it better.

Q. Rick said before the race you are close on a contract extension.
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: Did he say something?

Q. Yes.
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: Whatever he said is probably true (laughter).
We've been talking on the phone a little bit, just kind of saying what we think. I'm excited to be where I am. From my heart, it's an amazing organization. There's some great, great people there. I've learned a lot being around there. It's made me a better person.
We still got a lot of things we would like to accomplish on the racetrack. If I get the opportunity to stick around, I'm definitely excited about that. We've just been talking about it. Hopefully I don't think we'll have any trouble working things out.
THE MODERATOR: Dale Jr., thank you very much. Congratulations on the 2011 Sprint Fan Vote. Good luck tonight.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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