Keselowski top Dodge at Martinsville

Brad Keselowski (No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge Charger R/T) Finished 6th

IF YOU GO ON AND WIN THE CHAMPIONSHIP, IT MAY BE BECAUSE OF THE 'MIRACLE OF MARTINSVILLE': "This team has a tremendous amount of heart and I'm just proud of them. This championship is going to come down to Homestead. You just have to be in position where you've got a shot at it and we're doing the things it's going to take to be in contention at Homestead. We've got Texas coming up, very similar to Chicago. I'm sure it's going to be a duel.

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

Photo by: Action Sports Photography

“I feel really confident going into Texas and Homestead. I feel like those are two races that we can race the 48 car heads-up in speed and maybe even a little bit better than them. I’m not quite so sure about Phoenix but you know the execution we have in this team right now is second to none. If we’d have had just a little bit more speed this week and last week, I think we could have been in victory lane. Like I say we’ve got a couple races coming up where I know we’re going to have speed and I’m feeling great.”

DOES THIS FEEL LIKE A WIN? “No, it just feels like you live another day. It’s like being in a war and surviving a battle. It’s not necessarily a win, you’re just happy to still be living.”

YOU SOUNDED CONFIDENT AFTER YOU QUALIFIED POORLY HERE. “All year long, we’ve qualified terribly. I mean, I think our best qualifying effort has been a fourth or a fifth except for the rain at Bristol. It hasn’t been our strong suite and I know that. If I had an answer for it, I’d fix it. Obviously, we don’t have an answer and I don’t have an answer. But I’m going to keep working on having great race cars, which we’ve had throughout the season and great race cars, those are what matters.”

IF YOU WOULD HAVE HAD SOME HELP THERE ON THAT LAST PIT STOP WITH OTHER CARS STAYING OUT WITH YOU GUYS, DO YOU THINK IT WOULD HAVE MADE A BIG DIFFERENCE? “Yeah, we needed about three or four more cars to stay out and we needed to catch a yellow, which we did catch, and that would have evened it back out. That didn’t happen and I’m not upset about that. That’s just the breaks. We haven’t really caught any good breaks the last three or four weeks and when we do and you match it with execution that we have, we’re going to be really tough.”

IS THAT THE REASON YOU DECIDED TO STAY OUT, THINKING MORE CARS WOULD STAY OUT? “Yeah, it’s at the end of the race and half the field had just pitted 20 or 30 laps ago. If I was running 15th, I would have stayed out. I would have put ‘em in my shoes and said by golly, I would have stayed out. None of those guys did and I don’t know why. Well Dale (Earnhardt) Jr. did. He had some sense. It just wasn’t meant to be.”

HOW HARD IS IT TO MAKE THOSE CALLS FROM THE SEAT? “That’s just my job, you know (laughs). Paul (Wolfe, crew chief) does his job, I do my job. He’s got to make a thousand calls he doesn’t get any credit for so I don’t deserve that much credit for this one.”

YOU WERE SAYING THIS WAS GOING TO BE THE TOUGHEST TRACK IN THE CHASE. YOU SURVIVED LAST WEEK AT KANSAS AND SURVIVED AGAIN TODAY. “We need to do more than survive to win the championship. We’ve done that the last two weeks but we know we need to win. And I’m not surprised at all that Jimmie won today. He had a fast car, he had the fastest car all weekend so we need to take the weekends where we’re not the fastest and execute, get solid finishes. We did that this week and last week. Now, over the next three weeks we need to make sure that we have the speed to match the execution. And if we can do that, then we can win this thing.”

CAN YOU RUN AND BEAT THE 48 HEAD-TO-HEAD OVER THREE RACES, STRAIGHT UP? “Well, I feel like we’ve got a great shot at it. Like I said, I feel like Texas is very similar to Chicago and Homestead is not that far off of those are as far as how they drive, the way the tires fall off and so forth. I feel like our cars have been really strong at those style tracks, the high fall-off, mile-and-a-halfs where the pace drops significantly. That’s been our strong suite and I think that we can keep that going. I’m really confident in that. You know Phoenix, I’m not so sure about. We know that we’ve got a great shot at beating them heads-up at two of those three races and wish we could have done it here today but we just didn’t have it.”

HOW DO YOU LOOK AT THE POINTS? DO YOU JUST FOCUS ON JIMMIE OR DO YOU JUST DO YOUR OWN THING? “Well, I mean I think if you’re more than about 20 points back, you don’t really have a realistic shot at it after today. I think there’s only one guy, Clint, which might be like 22 or something back. He’s still in it but I think you’ve got to look at Jimmie for sure.”

HOW MUCH OF A GAMBLE WAS STAYING OUT AT THE END OF THE RACE? “No, there wasn’t much of a gamble there in my eyes. That’s why I said I was shocked at the guys that are running 14th or 15th and at the tail end of the lead lap didn’t try it. They had nothing to lose. I guess it wasn’t good and it wasn’t bad for us but we had the potential to catch a break and didn’t get it.”

IS IT ACCEPTABLE TO WALK AWAY FROM HERE WITH THIS FINISH? “Top fives, top sixes or sevens, are break-even weekends. Those are the weekends where it’s almost like a draw. Obviously, you can look at Jimmie winning and say ‘Well, how was that a draw?’ He’s our competition and we’ve got to beat ‘em. We know that but at some point you’ve got to do your own thing and just rely on what gets you to where you’re at and what’s got us to where we’re at is just solid finishes when we don’t have a shot to win the race. And we didn’t have a shot to win today and we got a solid finish, so I feel confident about that.”

IS THIS A BETTER FEELING THAN HOW YOU FELT LAST WEEK AT KANSAS? “Yeah, I mean, reasonably, similar.”

WHY WAS THE CALL AT THE END OF THE RACE UP TO YOU AND NOT PAUL? “I wanted the shot. When it comes down to the end of the game, I want the shot. Like basketball, it’s the same thing in racing: I want the shot. I took it. I wouldn’t say we made it but we didn’t miss it either. We broke even. I know you can’t really do that (in basketball) but I want the shot.”

WHEN YOU SAW THOSE GUYS COME IN, DID YOU HAVE A CERTAIN NUMBER THAT IF THEY CAME IN, YOU’D STAY OUT? “Yeah, but I’m not going to go into that stuff. That’s our own stuff to worry about.”

YOU HAVE AT CERTAIN TIMES TALKED ABOUT JIMMIE JOHNSON BEING THE STANDARD BEARER OF EXCELLENCE IN THE LAST SEVERAL YEARS. IT LOOKS LIKE YOU AND HE AND THE TWO GUYS GOING FORWARD WITH THREE RACES LEFT. DOES JUST BEING ON THAT LEVEL SAY A LOT ABOUT YOU AND PENSKE RACING IN GENERAL? “It shows the potential we have together and that we’re still growing together but I believe that we can do this, I really do. We’ve got work ahead of us and I know that but we’re doing all the right things. If you do that long enough, good things will happen to you and good things are happening to us. We certainly want the championship and even if that doesn’t happen this year and I don’t want to talk like a defeatist, but even if that doesn’t happen, to your question, we’ve had a tremendous season and I feel like we can get it done. And to your point, I’m very proud of how far Penske Racing has come in the last two or three years since I’ve been here.”

YOU GUYS AREN’T REALLY SUPPOSED TO BE HERE. WHAT’S KEPT YOU FROM BLINKING AT TRACKS LIKE MARTINSVILLE AND DOVER WHERE YOU’VE TRADITIONALLY STRUGGLED? “We’re able to crank out some finishes. It’s just a solid group. I don’t know how to answer that other than we treated the regular season like it was the Chase and I just feel like we’ve been going the same way. You believe in each other over time when you produce results and we’ve produced solid results over the last 16 or 17 races. It’s that stretch that gives us the confidence that we can go out there and repeat them and have a strong shot at this.”

DID YOU HAVE A SIXTH-PLACE CAR TODAY? “We probably had more like a tenth or eleventh-place car. I think Denny (Hamlin) was really, really strong and he certainly deserved a solid finish or shot to win. And there was probably one or two behind us. I know we beat Jeff (Gordon) and I don’t think we were better than him or the 55 car (Brian Vickers). I’m proud we were able to find a way to get a decent finish around those guys but certainly we’d have liked to get more spots yet. It’s always good when you out-finish what you have for a car, speed-wise.”

WITH DENNY NOW KIND OF OUT OF CHAMPIONSHIP CONTENTION, DOES IT CHANGE HOW YOU LOOK AT THINGS? “I mean, it’s still going to be the same for us. We’re going to go out there, get the finishes and have the speed whether we’re racing one car, be it Jimmie, or five or six cars with Jimmie, Denny and some other guys. It’s still the same. You’ve got to go out there and have a shot at winning races and run up front. We’re probably going to need to win one of these next three races to have a shot at it. But like I said, I feel confident with the stretch of runs that we’ve had throughout the Chase and going to two of those three tracks that are very similar in nature to where we’ve won at this year that we can produce those results.”

DID STARTING THAT FAR BACK IN THE PACK HANDICAP YOU IN THE FIRST PART OF THE RACE? “I think just not having elite speed handicapped us. We just needed more speed. With a little more speed we could have got up there. There were several times I restarted next to the 15 (Clint Bowyer) and 24 (Jeff Gordon) and they drove through and same thing with the 11 (Hamlin). I restarted in front of him several times and he drove through the field and passed us. If you have speed, you find a way around those things.”

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

DO YOU FEEL LIKE YOU DODGED A BULLET TODAY? “As bad as our car was in practice and in qualifying, yeah, I feel like we were able to minimize the damage for sure. Didn’t really know what we were going to have going into today. We made some more changes this morning and you know, for starting 32nd to finish sixth was a solid day for us. I felt like we needed to come out of here and be within 10 points of the 48 to feel like we’re still in this. We’re within two, so I feel good from that standpoint.”

WAS THE CALL TO STAY OUT AT THE END OF THE RACE YOUR ONLY CALL? “It’s tough when you get in that situation. A lot of times I’ll tell Brad what I’m thinking and then leave it in his hands because he’s obviously the one that can see who’s pitting and who’s not. He’s smart enough and understanding the race and what’s going on around him that I have confidence in him making those decisions. Today when I saw the 48 line up right behind us I knew we were probably in trouble. I think we all saw how important tires were today and you know if we could have had two or three cars stay out with us, I think it maybe would have helped our chances a little bit. But I knew it was just a matter of time with that many laps on our tires.”

WERE YOUR SURPRISED MORE CARS DIDN’T STAY OUT? “I don’t know. I guess you could say that but then again I mean tires were important today. I mean we were pitting when we only had 15 laps on our tires. I can’t really say I’m totally surprised by that but that was our situation and I think he showed that last run there when he didn’t have tires that he’s not giving up. He’s going to run this hard all the way to the end. He proved that to me there those last few laps.”

BRAD SAID AFTER THE RACE REGARDING MAKING THE CALL THAT HE WANTS THE BALL AT THE END OF THE GAME. IS THERE A DANGER IN GIVING UP TOO MUCH CONTROL BECAUSE THE DRIVER’S WORLD IS SMALLER THAN THE CREW CHIEF? DOES IT GET TO THAT POINT? “I think it could. I don’t feel that we’re at that point in our relationship. Like I said, I’ll give him what I think, what I’m thinking, and then kind of leave it to him in certain situations. Brad studies the sport, he understands what’s going on and I think there are only a few guys in the garage that do that. I think if you didn’t have a guy that understood what was going on with his race car I think those calls could be a lot more risky. He understands what’s going on. Was it the right call today? I don’t know. I mean, we were seventh I believe when the caution came out and we finished sixth. It’s kind of a wash if you want to look at it from that standpoint. We got the opportunity to lead a lap by that call so that gained us actually another point so potentially it could have been a couple point net-gains. I’m not disappointed in it. I think what we showed today is that we didn’t give up all weekend. We obviously had poor qualifying and really weren’t much better in both practices. We were able to make some changes this morning, stay focused, keep our car clean and come out of here with a respectable finish.”

CAN YOU PUT IN PERSPECTIVE THE CHANGES YOU MADE WITH THE CAR BEFORE THE RACE? HOW BIG OR SIGNIFICANT WERE THOSE CHANGES? “I wouldn’t say there was any Hail Mary plays leading up to the race for sure. Just studying real hard at what we’ve done in the past. You know we spent some time testing at Little Rock prior to this event and it’s a lot of hard work really trying to understand changes and what they do without going out on a limb too far. The one thing we didn’t want to do is try to hit a home run and then it could be a disaster. So it was kind of taking what we had run here in the past and run well with and making some changes from there.”

Sam Hornish Jr. (No. 22 Shell/Pennzoil Dodge Charger R/T) Finished 13th "It was a solid run for our Shell-Pennzoil Dodge, but we wanted more than we got out of today. It's frustrating to be running up in the top 10 and see it slip through your fingers like that. You wonder if maybe two tires would have been the best way to go instead of the four we took there at the end. We were really strong on long runs and the car was the tightest it was all race long during those last few laps. The guys did a great job on pit road today and we had a strong car. We just wanted more than what we got out of the day."

Source: SRT Motorsports

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

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