Dodge's Keselowski maintains points lead after Charlotte 500

Brad Keselowski (No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge Charger R/T) Finished 11th

TONIGHT FUEL MILEAGE BIT YOU, SOMETHING THAT’S BEEN GOOD FOR YOU MOST OF THE YEAR. “Yeah, it’s like playing blackjack. Sometimes you’re going to get a good deal but you’re not going to win ‘em all. You know that. You hope that you’re sitting there with 13 and not have a lot of chips in the pile. We didn’t. We didn’t lose too much. We got 11th out of the day where everything kind of fell against us from cautions at the beginning to lack of ‘em at the end. We still put out a respectable effort. Good day, led a bunch of laps, which helps for not getting in the top 10. Would like to get those other few spots but you’re not going to catch those breaks every time. We still made the most of it.”

Brad Keselowski, Penske Racing Dodge
Brad Keselowski, Penske Racing Dodge

Photo by: Action Sports Photography

THEY ASKED YOU ABOUT SAVING FUEL. DO YOU THINK NOW THAT YOU COULD HAVE SAVED ENOUGH TO MAKE A DIFFERENCE? “I don’t know. I didn’t sit back and watch the race and see how it all played out. It’s hard to tell. I don’t have the whole picture yet, so it’s hard for me to say.”

THE GOOD NEWS IS THAT YOU’RE STILL THE POINTS LEADER BUT IT WAS A ROLLER COASTER RIDE. THE GAMBLE ON FUEL DIDN’T PAY OFF, DID IT? “You know, quite the opposite actually. We just didn’t gamble to the same extent that everybody else did but that’s okay. We kind of got the opposite strategy played on us and those guys played it well. We did the best we could and certainly had a solid effort where we led a bunch of laps, led the most laps which feels great, and got those bonus points, so an 11th-place finish is more like a ninth with those. Still, we would have liked to have gotten the finish that we deserved but that’s okay. Great effort, solid car and we know we’ve got something great for Kansas and all the mile-and-a-halfs coming up. We may not have won the race today but we definitely put on a message that we’re going to be a tough car to beat week in and week out.”

IS THERE A LEVEL OF SATISFACTION WHEN YOU HAVE A NIGHT WITH A MISTAKE AND YOU STILL COME OUT AS THE POINTS LEADER? “Yeah, that’s not too bad is it? You know, that’s what that point’s cushion does. We know that Denny (Hamlin) and Jimmie (Johnson) are going to win races. We just need to keep pushing to keep ‘em honest and that’s what we’re going to do.”

WERE YOU SURPRISED WHEN YOU RAN OUT WHEN YOU DID? “You know, I didn’t know enough about what was going on to really say surprised or not surprised. I had a bearing for how much I saved but I need to have a conversation with Paul (Wolfe, crew chief) to see those things.”

IT SOUNDED LIKE YOU WERE SUPPSOED TO COME IN A LAP EARLIER BUT YOU KEPT IT OUT ANOTHER LAP. WERE YOU WORRIED ABOUT THAT? “I don’t know what’s going on. I can’t see the whole picture so I have to trust.”

HOW MUCH DID RUNNING OUT OF FUEL IMPACT YOUR POSITION? “I think we probably would have finished fourth or fifth from what I can tell if we didn’t run out of fuel but that’s the way it is. I had to coast for quite a ways and it wouldn’t start when I got back to pit road. So, it’s just a combination.”

WAS IT A SOMEWHAT AGGRESSIVE MOVE TO STAY OUT ANOTHER LAP? IF SO, WHY IS IT IMPORTANT IT BE AGGRESSIVE? “This 2 team, I know I speak for myself and I think it speaks for everybody else, we’re not going to play defense. We’re not going to put the prevent defense out there. We’re going to go at you and we’re going to try to sack the quarterback every time and sometimes you’re going to miss and they’re going to get a big play off. We’ve hit ‘em a lot. That’s why we’re in the point’s lead and we’re going to keep after ‘em.”

DID YOU RUN OUT AT ABOUT THE ENTRANCE TO PIT ROAD? “I ran out coming off of four and I’d already passed pit road. That was kind of a worst-case scenario. That’s part of the breaks but we still minimized the damage the best we could.”

WAS THAT YOUR CALL? DID THEY TELL YOU TO LOOK AT THE FUEL PRESSURE GAGUE? “Yeah, we were trying to just have a good grasp of what was going on and you know everything looked good at the last point where I could still look at it. Obviously, it was just the worst-case scenario.”

DO YOU THINK YOU WERE GETTING WORSE FUEL MILEAGE? THEY HAD ALSO TOPPED OFF ON THE STOP BEFORE. “Yeah, I’m really confused on how all that played out. I need to see more info before I say something that I’m not sure of.”

THIS TRACK HASN’T BEEN KIND TO YOU IN THE PAST BUT YOU LED THE MOST LAPS HERE TONIGHT. THAT’S A BIG INDICATION OF HOW MUCH THIS PROGRAM HAS IMPROVED. “Absolutely. That just shows how strong our cars are and that our team is going down the right path. I still feel like we’re going to be really tough to beat.”

ARE YOU FRUSTRATED INSIDE AND TRYING TO KEEP IT TOGETHER? “Like I said, it’s like blackjack. You’re not going to win every hand. When you have a bad deal, you try to not have too many chips on the table.”

IF YOU HAD NOT RUN OUT OF FUEL, DO YOU THINK YOU WERE IN POSITION TO WIN? “Oh, absolutely. If we wouldn’t have run out of fuel, we would have had a shot at winning the race. The bottom line is we did, so that’s kind of moot point.”

WAS YOUR DODGE THE CLASS OF THE FIELD? “It’s hard to say who had the best car. I think the 11 (Hamlin) and the 48 (Johnson) and the 2 car were and it was going to come back to how the race played out.”

MANY PEOPLE BELIEVE THIS CHASE MIGHT BE DOWN TO THREE TEAMS AT THIS POINT AND FOR A LARGE PORTION OF THE RACE, YOU GUYS WERE RUNNING 1-2-3. WHAT ARE YOUR IMPRESSIONS OF THAT? “I was thinking they were right (laughs). But you know, obviously, Clint (Bowyer) snuck in there at the end and proved that you never count another guy out.”

YOU ARE SEVEN POINTS AHEAD OF JOHNSON, 15 ON HAMLIN, 28 ON BOWYER AND 35 ON KASEY KAHNE. “I mean basically I feel like if you can score 400 points you’ll win the Chase. We’re halfway through and we scored 214. If we can put up another 214, we’ll be in real good shape. It’s just history. You make 400, that’s what it’s going to take to win it and we’re above that.”

HOW TOUGH WAS IT THE WAY THAT THINGS WENT DOWN? “You got to look at it and say you know, we caught some good breaks and we’re bound to catch some bad breaks. When you catch ‘em, you try to minimize the damage and that’s what we did today. Your confidence comes from being fast. Sometimes things aren’t going to fall your way.”

Paul Wolfe (Crew Chief, No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge Charger R/T)

YOU WERE IN GOOD SHAPE AND ALL OF A SUDDEN YOU WENT ONE LAP TOO MANY. “We knew that to connect the windows we were going to need to save a couple of laps in each run. He thought he was getting us that. But I’m not quite sure we had the car packed full on that stop before last and I think that’s probably what got us in trouble more than anything. But what got us to this point was being aggressive with our strategy and how we run a race. We aren’t going to change that approach as we run down through the end of this championship Chase. Ninety percent of the time it works out for us and we get the finishes we want. Tonight, we missed it a little bit.”

YOU KEPT TELLING BRAD ON THE RADIO IF ITS 50, GO ONE MORE LAP. WAS THAT THE FUEL PRESSURE GAGUE? WAS THAT THE THRESHOLD YOU GUYS WERE LOOKING FOR? “Yeah ‘cause we had checked it three of four laps before that and it was at 50. So, we thought if it was still at 50 that we could probably at least get another lap out of it. I don’t know, it dropped quicker than we were anticipating.”

IF YOU DIDN’T LOSE THE TRACK POSITION, WOULD YOU GUYS HAVE HAD A SHOT TO WIN THE RACE? “Well, I think so. I mean obviously we had the speed in the car. I think we had one of the best cars tonight once we were able to overcome our qualifying effort and get up front. I don’t think there was anybody that was stronger than us. Like I said, we were in a position where we felt like we had a shot to win if we could save that little bit of fuel. You know, we just missed it a little bit.”

DID YOU THINK YOU WERE GETTING THE SAME FUEL MILEAGE AS THE 11 AND THE 48? WERE THEY ABLE TO SAVE MORE? “What happened is, they were in a position where we were leading the race when that caution came out and they’re running eighth or ninth. It’s easy to make calls when you’re running that far down the running order, to come on in and top off. So that gave them a two or three-lap cushion that we didn’t have. That was where you know we were going to have to save a little more than them. We gave it a shot the first run there and obviously running out really hurt us more than anything. It put us in a position where we lost so much time.”

WAS IT JUST OPPOSITE OF DOVER THEN? “That’s probably fair to say, you know, and like I say you win some and you lose some and nobody gave up. Brad drove a great race tonight and I’m just proud to have the fast cars and then move on to Kansas and try again.”

YOU SAID YOU WERE GOING TO STAY AGGRESSIVE BUT DID IT PLAY OUT PERFECTLY UP UNTIL THAT HALFWAY POINT AND WENT FROM 20TH TO THE LEAD? “Yeah, I think it did. To do different types of strategies like that, you also have to have a fast car to be able to maintain. That one run where he was on a different tire sequence than some of the good cars, we were fast enough to be able to maintain and that’s the key also. You can’t have a 15th-place car and try to stay out or do some of the things we do. So, I think the combination of having a fast car and Brad being able to manages his equipment, it opens up the windows to be able to be more aggressive.”

ARE YOU RESIGNED TO THE FACT THAT THESE RACES ARE GOING TO END WITH LONG GREEN-FLAG RUNS? “It seems that way (smiles). That was another part of it. We looked back at history here and there was a good probability of a caution between those last two segments. We never saw it, so I was a little surprised by that for sure but I think at this point, it can go either way.”

WHAT IS THE FEELING WHEN YOU REALIZE THAT HE’S OUT AND HE’S COASTING? IS IT JUST HEART SINKING? “Oh yeah, absolutely. When we knew we had as fast of a race car as we did, it’s tough to take but at the end of the day, we’re still the point leader leaving Charlotte which says a lot about what we’ve been able to do this far into the Chase. Just because we have an off-night and finish 11th doesn’t mean that we’re out of it or we need to hit the panic button. We’re still the point leader and we’ll continue to work hard.”

IS IT EASIER WHEN BRAD’S REACTION ON THE RADIO AFTER THE RACE IS ‘NO BIG DEAL, IT’S ALL GOOD, THIS IS FINE’? “No and I think that’s Brad, that’s this race team. We win and lose together as a team and he knows we were doing our deal tonight. Sometimes you win on those and sometimes you lose. He knows that and he’s able to keep his composure. I think that’s part of the reason why we’re in this battle for a championship.”

AS WELL AS THIS CAR RAN TONIGHT, COULD WE SEE IT AGAIN BEFORE THE END OF THE SEASON? “Yeah, this car will run again. I think it will be scheduled for either Texas or Homestead for sure.”

Sam Hornish Jr. (No. 22 Shell/Pennzoil Dodge Charger) Finished 15th “We stopped early in the race, made adjustment and got the car pretty good. Then we stopped again and took two (tires) which turned out the beginning of the end for us. That was only like 30 laps into the race but it hurt us from there on out. We lost track position and eventually went a lap down. We had to fight hard to get back on the lead lap, got the lucky dog (fourth caution on lap 168) but had to start at the back and try to get through the field. We just couldn’t go forward. We’re lucky the yellow (fifth caution on 224) came when it did and kept us on the lead lap. We restarted 14th but could never really do much from there.

“We were free off (the corners) one run; the next run we’d be really tight through the middle and a little tight off. We also had a mixed bag at times too. We didn’t have a very good car this weekend but worked hard and got a top-15 finish out of it. It’s not what we wanted but at the end of the day, that’s what we had.

“These cars are really sensitive in traffic. That’s part of what makes it so hard with adjustments. We’re too free one run. We tighten the car up and we’re in traffic and can’t move forward. Next time, we free it up a bit, come out and we’re in clean air. These cars are so aero sensitive. When you’re in and out of traffic, it really hurts the performance.”

Source: SRT Motorsports

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Series NASCAR-CUP
Article type Race reports
Tags charlotte, dodge, hornish, keselowski, penske