CAN YOU TALK ABOUT YOUR MINDSET THIS WEEKEND AND COMING TO A 1.5-MILE RACE TRACK HERE AT TEXAS? Brad Keselowski (No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge Charger R/T): “Here we are in the stretch run, the last three races or last one-third of the Chase.
It’s been a great run. I feel like we’re in a strong position to control our own destiny as far as the Chase is concerned and having a shot at winning it.
That’s about all that you can ask. Certainly you’d like to have a big lead, not really realistic when you’re racing the best of the best in any sport. I’m happy with our position. Happy with my car this weekend. I’m just feeling good about everything.”
WHAT WOULD IT MEAN TO YOU TO GIVE ROGER PENSKE A SPRINT CUP CHAMPIONSHIP? “First one, I have thought about it a lot. It’s an answer that’s really not very easy to give in this forum.
I think that I can describe it in experiences, things of that nature. From grandfather and his start In this sport to my father and his struggles along the way, obviously my car owner Roger Penske and everything that he’s done, to not have a championship, there’s so many different levels that I don’t know how you answer that question in this setting.
But I can tell you that I’m very hungry for it and I have a lot of reasons to want to win it. There’s not a day that goes by that I don’t think about what it’s going to take and how big it would be to my life to do it. It’s just not something that you can answer in a setting like this and really give someone the sound byte their looking for because it’s so much bigger than that.
It’s basically the culmination of a life’s worth of work, and not just one, but three or for or even more than that when you count in my crew chief and mechanics, family, car owner, and so forth.
The best way that I can probably answer it is that it’s a culmination of several lives worth of work.”
DO YOU THINK THAT IT’S OK TO THINK THAT YOU’LL HAVE MORE CHANCES TO WIN A SPRINT CUP CHAMPIONSHIP? “That doesn’t mean that I don’t want to waste them (laughs). Yeah, I do feel that I’ll have several more chances.
Like I said, I don’t want to waste them but I also feel as a group that I believe in everyone that I’m around.
I believe that they’re going to be around long term, there’s an opportunity for us to grow and get even stronger with the resources that we’re surrounded by at Penske Racing and with other additions.
Whether it’s the addition of Joey Logano next year, there’s a whole list of reasons, I only see us getting stronger. I don’t see fading, how about that?
For that reason, it doesn’t mean that I wouldn’t be happy if I don’t win it this year, I’d feel like there’s potential to get it done for year’s to come. I’m very proud of where we’re at and that’s part of the reason why I’m in such a happy state of mind.”
IS IT DEFEATING AT ALL TO SEE JIMMIE 27TH IN PRACTICE AND GRAB THE POLE? ON THE FLIP SIDE, HOW IMPORTANT IS IT TO HAVE A GOOD QUALIFYING EFFORT TODAY AS COMPARED TO THE LAST FEW WEEKS? “It’s certainly helpful for us to have better qualifying effort but it’s still not what we’re looking for.
We’d like to be on the pole. But improvement is something to be proud of and we’ve shown that today in qualifying.
But more so than that we’ve spent a lot of time working on things to run really well in the race and were extremely confident in our pace during the runs that we made and that feels good.
Other than that, I really haven’t paid much attention on what they’ve been working on. We know that if we do all of our things and do them right that we’ll be tough to beat, not just for a race, but for a championship.”
YOU DIDN’T NOTICE THAT HE WAS 27TH AFTER PRACTICE? “Yeah, I think that it gets read into quite a bit more than it should.
There are so many variables that exist in practice that don’t exist in qualifying and in a race that you can’t almost look at that. You have to look at it some; it’s usually never enough to feel good or bad as everyone wants.”
WHAT’S THE MOOD OF THE TEAM WHEN YOU GET INSIDE THE TRAILER ONCE THE SEASON GETS TO A CLOSE? “I think based off of last weekend’s run and the course of events over the last 16 or 17 races, naturally, we’re at 34 or 35 and some guys are tired for the season to be over.
And then there are some guys that are proud of what we’ve done and want it to come to the strong close that we feel that we’re capable of. So I feel that each and every person is different in how they react to it.
I think last week was a big shot in the arm because I sense a few guys were a little bit demoralized after qualifying.
Then to have the effort that we had in the race, I think that confidence of knowing that we can overcome almost any obstacle has shown in the mindset of everyone that we have on the team to that they feel pretty good.”
I WAS WONDERING HOW YOU’RE HANDLING THE SPOTLIGHT ON YOU. THEY WERE TALKING ABOUT YOU ON ESPN DURING COLLEGE FOOTBALL. WHAT IS THAT LIKE? HOW DO YOU DEAL WITH IT? “I thought the college football thing was pretty cool.
When you see it inside of your own walls, I’ve become immune of that over time. The tracks are kind of our own walls, our own hangout. You just kind of glaze over it.
When you get recognition outside of the sport I think that’s when it really starts to set it. But I haven’t spent a lot of time focusing on it, that’s for sure.
When we do get recognition, not myself but the sport in general outside of our walls, the Chase certainly does that. I think that’s great.
I’m proud of the position that we’re in as a team to receive those, but I also know that you can easily be distracted by those things and not remember the task at hand and there’s still a large task at hand.
Our ultimate goal is not necessarily to be the one who is most recognized racers, but to be the best racer that we can be and to live up to our potential. I think it’s that drive and focus that we have that keeps us from perhaps focused on those things.”
JIMMIE WAS THE ESTABLISHED GUY WHEN YOU BROKE INTO NASCAR. DO YOU REMEMBER MEETING HIM? HAVE YOU DEVELOPED A RELATIONSHIP OUTSIDE OF THE ON-TRACK COMPETITION? “Yeah, I still remember where I met Jimmie. He was doing a two or three race stint at JR Motorsports when I was just getting started over there.
I remember him coming in and sitting in the cars and doing all those things. I think we ran our first race together in Charlotte, I think It was Charlotte, and I remember getting out of the car because it had rained and I walked over to him for advice because he was out-running me.
Charlotte has always been Jimmie’s best track so I told him, ‘I can’t hold on to this thing, my car is driving all over the race track and I feel like I’m going to spin out on any lap.’
And he told me, ‘Well man, just slow down and take it easy. Make sure you finish that race.’ I said man that’s good. I probably just need to slow it down and if I can’t finish 10th, finish 15th; don’t wreck this car.
We went back green and there was a wreck and I slowed down to see who it was, I came back around and it was Jimmie. And that was my first real racing memory of him.
It was him telling me to slow down and not wreck on my own. And that happened. We shared a small joke, laughed about that the next time I saw him.
Certainly I have a large appreciation for the things that he’s done and obviously the championships that’s he’s won and his approach. He’s done a great job.
It’s time to set those things aside and go after the task at hand which is essentially being able to beat him.”
CAN YOU TALK ABOUT YOUR VICTORY CELEBRATION WITH THE AMERICAN FLAG? “Well, first off, I don’t think that I came up with it. Some other people have done it before I have and I know at least one comes to mind, I know Dale Jr. (and) quite a few more.
I think it was a great celebration. It seems like everything else, every other victory celebration was more self-serving in a way where the American flag to me always felt like it was a unified celebration.
Whether it was as a county or as everyone who attended the race today, or however you want to label that and for that reason it has always been very special for me.
Obviously it has some effect on our fans, which is great as well.
It’s a great time to spend a message to remind people how lucky we are to get to do what we do and celebrate a great time together whether you’re a Jimmie fan, Carl (Edwards) fan, Brad fan, Kyle (Busch) fan or a Tony (Stewart) fan, Dale Jr., whoever you are.
We got to do really something on race day, which is something decadent…driving cars in circles. And we’ve been able to do that because of the privileges that we’ve had.
That’s my way of celebrating with everyone else and it’s something that I’ve really enjoyed.”
IS THERE ANY DANGER OF DISCOUNTING SOMEONE LIKE CLINT BOWYER? “I think you look at last weekend and Denny Hamlin. A moment like that put a shockwave through the Chase contenders. You’re like, ‘Whoa, this can happen at any moment.’
I really felt bad for him. That’s a terrible thing to have to go through knowing that you have shot at being a championship contender and winning the race to finishing 30th and falling way back.
So you look at moments like that because you can’t out guys like Clint and Kasey (Kahne) and few of those guys in those positions. On the flip-side I feel like Jimmie and I are in control of our own destiny and that’s a position of strength.
So I think that experience tells us that it’s probable going to come down to the 2 and the 48. History has a way of not showing us all its cards and it could be a little bit different.”
YOU HAD A PROBLEM AT MICHIGAN MENTIONING WHEN THE 48 HAD PROBLEMS. HE CAME INTO THE MEDIA CENTER AND SAID THE PRESSURE IS CLEARLY ON YOU. THEY AREN’T OVERT JABS OR PERSONAL JABS, BUT THEY ARE MESSAGES TO THE OTHER GUY. HOW AWARE ARE YOU WHEN IT COMES FROM HIM? “How aware am I? How aware do you think that I am?
I have fun with it. It’s supposed to be fun, but at the end of the day you race what’s on the race track and not what you say. You race what you do and that’s what makes the sport so much fun to follow and to participate in.
You can see somebody do what they said that they’re gonna, but it’s also great sometimes to watch somebody not be able to say what they said they’re going to do.
And that’s part of the fun it and I understand that. Certainly I’ve been having a little bit of fun partaking in that experience. But at the end of the day it’s easy to say those styles of things when you can back them up.
Over the course of time Jimmie has a proven track record of being able to back it up anything he says with results and he deserves respect for that.
I probably don’t focus too much on those styles of things from Jimmie, maybe I should focus more on it but I do enjoy partaking on it on my own end.”