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

Photo by: Eric Gilbert

BRAD KESELOWSKI (No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge Charger R/T)

WHAT DID YOU GUYS LEARN FROM THE DUEL? “The Duel is its own race and its own style of racing. I thought that our Miller Lite Dodge was good, but not great. We didn’t have the best strategy for the Duel because we had a bit of a different strategy. We’re locked into the 500 and it was important for us to shake down our car and work on some things.”

YOU RAN IN A PACK, SINGLE-FILE AND THREE-WIDE. HOW WAS THE BALANCE OF YOUR CAR? “We’re still working on the overall balance of the Miller Lite Dodge. It’s changing. We’re learning about it especially with this new spoiler. It helped to get out there and race in a pack. I think we have a better idea of where our car is at today than before the Duel.”

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TRAVIS GEISLER (Director of Competition, Penske Racing)

WHAT DID PENSKE RACING LEARN FROM THE RACE? “It’s a little hard to tell what all happened. Some guys got pretty aggressive with their fuel mileage package. We kind of took a different approach today to see how we would fare on Sunday. I thought at one point near the end, A.J. (Allmendinger) was going to make a run at the win. He still ended up eighth. Brad’s (Keselowski) car is a little iffy right now. We thought that we would be able to get out of the Duel without incident. We have to take a look Brad’s car close and see if we have to go to the back-up.”

SO AT THIS POINT YOU HAVEN’T MADE A DECISION ON IF BRAD HAS TO GO TO A BACK-UP CAR? “We’re not sure yet. A quick glance at the car shows that it has some damage. We’ll have to get it back and take a closer look to see it there is enough damage to make a change.”

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A.J. ALLMENDINGER (No. 22 Shell/Pennzoil Dodge Charger R/T)

WERE YOU HAPPY WITH HOW THE CAR RAN OR DO YOU HAVE SOME WORK TO DO FOR THE 500? “We’ve got a little bit of work to do. I don’t think we have the speed yet. The car drives really well. It’s slick out there. You can see the track is getting slicker and slicker. I thought the car drove okay. We needed to tighten it up a little, but still pretty good. I feel like coming up through the gears and when we’re trying to get up to speed, we still need a little more steam. We can’t quite stay attached. Overall, it was pretty good. It’s our first race we come out with the car looking normal, so that’s better than a lot of guys can say out there right now. It was a good day. I thought we had a chance at it again and in these races, it’s all you can ask for. Hopefully, we can get through the 500 clean one more time.”

ABOUT HALFWAY THROUGH THE RACE YOU PULLED OUT OF LINE WITH DRAFTING HELP, BUT DIDN’T MAKE A CHARGE TO THE FRONT. WERE YOU SURPRISED AT THAT? “Yeah, because I felt in the Shootout the top lane was working better, so I kept pulling out there to keep the momentum up. I don’t know if we just didn’t have enough cars lined up. They had like six or seven or eight lined up down at the bottom. It seemed like the bottom was a little bit quicker. If you get pushed it helps, but one time Jamie (McMurray) was pushing me and I got so loose off four and he saw it and backed out. I think everybody felt like the bottom was a little bit better and you could get down there. Overall, I felt like good about it.”

WAS THIS RACE AS WILD AS YOU THOUGHT IT WOULD BE? “A little bit more tame and I think that’s how the 500 is going to be. You’re going to have moments where guys get kind of antsy and they break out and they’ve got to go for the lead and then you’re going to see guys settle down. I think that’s kind of how the 500 has always been, so I felt it was about right. Guys early in the race kind of getting after it and then in the middle of the race, everybody kind of gets that lull and then that late-race yellow comes out and it’s chaos. We’ll just keep working on it. I don’t think we’re quite there yet, but we are putting themselves in position to win the last two races and that’s all you can ask for. You just hope everything works out.”

HOW DIFFICULT IS PITTING UNDER GREEN IN THE 500 GOING TO BE? “It’s hard. I’m struggling getting into the box. The thing just locks the brakes up so quickly. We’ve got to keep working on getting the car to slow down a little bit more. The pit boxes seem real greasy and trying to leave, you sat there and spun the tires. The question is how many green flag stops are we going to have? (smiles). That’s what we’ll have to see.”

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*Todd Gordon (Crew Chief, No. 22 Shell/Pennzoil Dodge Charger R/T)

“It’s just survival of the day, just making sure we get through and have something to work with for the rest of the weekend. I don’t think it’s damaged too badly, maybe a ding or two on it, but we’ll work on it and rub on it for the 500. Once you get out front, you’re going to be there. You just got to get there, that’s all.”

HOW DIFFICULT IS THE 500 GOING TO BE FOR YOU AS A CREW CHIEF BECAUSE OF THE DIFFICULTY OF PITTING UNDER GREEN? “It’s the same ol’ plate race; just kind of work your race backwards. That’s probably the biggest thing. We gathered some good information today. We were a little more conservative than we’ll probably be on Sunday.”

WAS THE RACE WILDER THAN YOU THOUGHT IT WOULD BE? “I actually felt it was probably calmer than the Shootout. Obviously the Shootout is all about winning, kind of got one of those all-star race feels to it, win it or nothing. It calmed down a little bit today, a couple of incidents, which you kind of expect. I think you’ll see the same thing on Sunday. I think you’ll see some instances, but I think everybody has got the bigger picture in mind. They’ve got to get to the end to win the race.”

AFTER THE SHOOTOUT AND TODAY’S RACE, WHAT IS THE MAIN THING YOU WILL HAVE TO OVERCOME TO HAVE A GOOD DAY IN THE 500? “I think survival and getting people to have confidence in you to go. We made a couple of moves today that I thought were really good moves, but got nobody to follow with us. You can’t do this thing on your own. Just making sure we build some faith with some partners. Hopefully, we can get with our own teammate and work that way together. We’re back to pack drafting and you’ve got to have faith through the whole field to be able to make that move because you can’t always count on having your teammate with you. Just getting people to have confidence in what we’re able to do.”

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ROBBY GORDON (No. 7 MAPEI/Menards/SPEED Energy Dodge Charger R/T

CAN YOU TALK ABOUT MAKING YOUR WAY INTO THE DAYTONA 500? “It’s big for us. We were in a position last year, it kind of sounds crazy, we’ve won IndyCar races, I’ve won NASCAR races and we were in a position we didn’t have funding to race all the races so we found ourselves outside of the top 35. I finished 34th in the driver points, owners points we found ourselves outside the top 35. Making the Daytona 500 is the big event for NASCAR racing. When you look at it, besides pure speed, I think three guys make it on speed. Obviously Terry (Labonte) takes the past champion, which I still disagree with that. I think that should be based if you were with that team when you win the championship, not just because you win a championship, because that takes a spot from teams that are working really hard and working hard to getting into the Daytona 500. Rules are rules and we made it fair and square by being fast enough. I’m proud of my guys. I’m proud of my team and I’m proud to be in the Daytona 500.”

WHEN YOU SAW SMOKE COMING FROM YOUR CAR EARLY IN THE RACE WERE YOU CONCERNED THAT IT WAS THE ENGINE? “What it was, it looked like it was…when they changed the oil, we changed in between qualifying and racing, we change the oil. And when we changed the oil, the bottom of the radiator tray gets a lot of seepage of oil into the foam as we went at speed. We were running hot yesterday at practice, so we changed it last night. We added some oil to it and changed the weight of the oil. It was in that tray. And it was splashing up onto the motor and I was like, ‘Man, this thing is going to blow up.’ It kind of played into my hand because when the race started, I wasn’t sure if I should go balls to the wall and take a chance of being in one of those wrecks, or be around for the last dance. Every time that we come to restrictor-plate races, we’re normally around for the last dance and if we are, we have a good shot at running up front. It was good for us and good for our team. It’s good to be in the Daytona 500.”

YOU DIDN’T CONSIDER PITTING AT THE START? WERE YOU RUNNING HOT ALL DAY? DID YOU THINK THAT YOU HAD TO DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT? “We’re going to have to do something on Sunday. This is our motor that we do with Arrington. If we can get a Penske motor for the 500, that’s obviously going to be our No. 1 priority for here until the 500. And for Dodge, it’s obviously the right thing because there are only three Dodges in the race and at Talladega we were strong. I’m not sure if Roger (Penske) is going to give us one; I know that’s he’s not going to give us one, I’ll still pay for one. If we can get one of their back-up motors, I think we would be in better shape for the 500. Now that we’ve made the race, and it’s kind of a crazy business to say, ‘Ok, we’ve made the race, you’re going to get $260,000. I’m going to go write a big check to Roger if he’ll give me a motor. It’s not like he’d keep the money at the end of the day in this sport.”

EVEN THOUGH YOU HAD TO KIND OF CONSERVE EVERYTHING WITH THE ENGINE RUNNING HOT AND ALL THAT, WHAT WAS YOUR PERSPECTIVE OF HOW EVERYBODY RACED WITH THESE RULES; WHAT DO YOU EXPECT TO SEE ON SUNDAY? "You know, we don't make the rules. Obviously, we play by the rules. I think right now the grill opening is too small. I don't know if other guys are running 230 all the time. We were 230 to 250 all the time on water temperature. Even if I pulled over, I couldn't get it down. An engine is happy at 220, 210. I think we might have too small of an opening to do that with the size of the radiator. We're doing all we can do, like all the teams. We're working as hard as we possibly can. Most important thing for me, I didn't care if it ran 300 degrees the last few laps, we were going to do anything we could to make the Daytona 500, which is what we did. I think when we crossed the line, it was 265 or it was about 300.”

I TALKED TO TERRY ABOUT WHY HE PARKED IT. HE SAID THAT WAS THE ONLY CAR THEY HAD, THEY NEEDED TO SAVE IT FOR THE 500. DOES THAT CHANGE YOUR OPINION AT ALL AS ANOTHER SMALL TEAM? WHAT DO YOU THINK THE ROLE SHOULD BE FOR THE PAST CHAMPS AGAIN? "Obviously, I’ve got a lot of respect for Terry. This is not a Terry Labonte thing. There are only eight cars that make the Daytona 500. He takes one of those spots, now seven guys make the Daytona 500. Four make it in qualifying races, three make it on speed. We're a small team, too. I guess I should hire Kurt Busch and I could put my other car in the show, too. It's just not right. Why take a free ride when the rest of us have to bust our butts to get into the 500? It is what it is. It's the rules. Like I said, we don't make the rules, we just play by them, and sometimes you can manipulate them.”

YOU’VE HAD A ROLLERCOASTER OVER THE LAST SEVERAL WEEKS. ARE YOU READY FOR A CALM DAYTONA 500? WHAT ARE YOU HOPING FOR ON SUNDAY? “My life right now, there’s never a calm day. You know, I think if you have a calm day in life today, in this economy, you’re going to get passed. You better be on the gas every day and that’s what we’re doing. Going back to South America, we had the fastest cars down there in Dakar and I’m really proud about that and proud of the guys for doing that. It’s amazing that a small, little privateer team can take on a factory teams like we did.”

WITH ALL THE RACING THAT YOU DO, HOW DO YOU RATE RACING YOUR WAY INTO THE 500? “You know, I get that top 35 rule. I’ve been out of the Daytona 500 because of it before. When I started my race team, I believe it was in 2005, we had Jim Beam here. Great sponsor, finished seventh, exactly where we finished today. In 2005, we went home. So it’s crazy that you can actually finish seventh in the 150s which would put you 14th on the grid and you load up your stuff and go back to North Carolina. So I’ve been in that position and I get it. And I’m not complaining about the rules. It’s just really tough these days to get in and that’s the point I was trying to make, not so much Terry Labonte, 32 car. I don’t really care about them. I focus on our 7 car. We just try to do the best job we can and we made the Daytona 500 so I’m really proud of my guys.”

HOW MANY GUYS DO YOU HAVE ON YOUR TEAM? “If you want to count the receptionist/parts lady/merchandise sales, or do you want to talk about the marketing guys or the person who makes the decals part-time? We’ve got about 10 people that do a lot of jobs. Not only do we race race cars, but we’re building the brand of SPEED and there are different groups in different towns that do that. But on the NASCAR team, I think we’re down to seven or eight guys right now too. And it’s not the fact that there are not guys out there ‘because there are plenty of very capable, good guys out there. It’s the fact there’s no sponsors out there. And without sponsors, you can’t hire people. We’re in a bad state right here. It’s tough. It’s really, really tough and we don’t have anybody on the hook.”

DO YOU HAVE PEOPLE THAT GO ACROSS FROM YOUR OFF-ROAD TEAM TO THE CUP TEAM? CAN YOU FLOAT PEOPLE BETWEEN THE TWO TEAMS? “I’m glad you asked that because on the off-road team, except when we go to Dakar, we take 21 guys to Dakar and we hire guys for the month. But when we normally race off-road, there are three guys that work in that shop, too. And the guy that runs the water jet that makes parts that we ship back and forth across country and the machinists are about all the guys that go back and forth besides when I take some of these guys to the Dakar. And we’re doing everything we can do make it go full-circle and I say it’s working. We’re not comfortable doing it, but it’s working. We’re still racing, we’re still out there putting ourselves in position to win races and we just made the Daytona 500 so I’m really, really proud of the guys that are working in the shop. You hear people talking and talking about and complaining 40 or 50 hours a week. Our guys work a half a day every day, that’s 12 hours.”

CONGRATULATIONS ON MAKING THE DAYTONA 500. “Thank you. I’m proud of be here. I’m happy to be racing NASCAR and looking forward to the 500.”