An interview with: Brad Keselowski and Gregg Biffle
KERRY THARP: Let's roll right into our post race press conference for the second race in the 2011 Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup here at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. We're joined by our second- and third-place finishers.
Our runner-up is the driver of the No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge, Brad Keselowski. He also moves up to third in points currently. Our third-place finisher is Greg Biffle. Brad, talk about another strong performance. You're inching your way up, third in points. You started the Chase in 11th. Just talk about how this race team continues to progress.
BRAD KESELOWSKI: Yeah, it's funny because 10 races ago, we left Loudon 23rd in points. Whoever thought we would be third in 10 weeks.
I'd like to see some kind of stat for that, that's for sure. But it's been a good road here to travel down the last few weeks. Today was no exception. We weren't the fastest car. I'd be lying if I tried to tell you we were. But we made good adjustments to our car. Got to where it was a solid top-10 car. Drove up to fourth or fifth there about 100 to go, 80 to go, whatever that was, right in that range. That's what you need to do. You need to make good adjustments on your car. We were clicking on that, Paul and I, working really hard on this. Still got a long ways to go on a lot of different things. But proud of the finish we were able to get today and proud of the effort, for sure. We did get a little bit of help from the fuel mileage. But, hell, we were going to have a fourth or fifth place today. Instead we had a second place day. All in all, I felt we were in the majority of our good fortune. Decent day. Exactly what we need to do in this Chase, plugging away with finishes like this.
KERRY THARP: Greg Biffle, I heard you on the interview after the race, you said for once you had a finish as well as you ran throughout the day. Congratulations on that. GREG BIFFLE: Thanks. It was a great day for us. We've had a lot of good days this season, just not a lot of good finishes.
It felt good to finish where we'd run all day. I think the worst we'd been on the racetrack was seventh or eighth, maybe sixth, probably the worst it was ever lined up. We ran from second to sixth all day. Just stayed there. Wish it wasn't a fuel mileage race. Think we had a fast enough car to catch the 33 and 14 possibly and race with them. But real excited about the top-three finish.
KERRY THARP: We'll take questions.
Q. Obviously both of you were helped somewhat by the fuel mileage. Do y'all think this was a fuel mileage race that sort of shouldn't have turned out that way in that the 24 car might have had everybody so covered? Did that car look like it was the dominant car to either of you before they had their foul-up on their last green-flag stop?
BRAD KESELOWSKI: I'll let Greg answer because I never saw the 24 all day.
GREG BIFFLE: I don't know. We were catching the 24 about a 10th and a half, 2/10ths a lap. I don't know if he was saving fuel at that point. The 33 and 14 were out there. We were running them down. I got within probably 15 car lengths of him and he just like plug checked it, put it in neutral, moved over, just started saving gas all of a sudden. It was pretty apparent when he did.
So he did have a good car. I don't know if the 33 and 14 could have ran with him. I think all of us in the right position, the top three or four of us, were probably pretty dang equal. But I'd say the 24 was fast at the beginning and middle part of the race. I don't know about at the end. Like I said, that last run, I was catching him, then he just pulled over and started saving massive amounts of gas.
Q. Greg, can you talk a little bit about, you're out there to win, it's going to take whatever it takes to do that, and secondly Tony Stewart is the first guy since you won the first two races in the Chase in 2008, can you talk about what kind of momentum builder that is for him?
GREG BIFFLE: It's certainly a helluva momentum builder to win the first two races of the Chase. Like you said, we were able to do it a few years back. It just means so much to your team, gives you so much confidence going into all the races, the next races.
It was great for us. I'm sure it's good for that team. They'll continue to probably put down some good races.
Q. Yesterday in the final practice session everybody was working on fuel mileage stuff. Has this fuel mileage and track position evolved into being something that's kind of gotten I don't want to say out of hand but it's become too prominent, too important all of a sudden?
GREG BIFFLE: Yeah, it's funny how every race kind of comes down to it. But if you just take a little snapshot of our season, people think that a fuel mileage race is the last run of the day. It sets up, you're going to be three or four laps short. For us, we've had the new engine, we've struggled a little bit with fuel mileage as a group this year.
What happens to us is on that green run, anytime you have a green flag pit stop cycle, no matter what racetrack you're at, that turns into a fuel mileage run 'cause we have to stop three or four laps short of the field and then the caution comes out and you're a lap down.
So that happened to us I don't know how many times this year. We were running second at Michigan, pit, came out, were a lap down, took a wave-around with 35 laps to go. Just killed us. We had to start 25th, got back to like 15th.
Fuel mileage for us has been a big hurdle this year. We've gotten really good here at the end of the season. But really truly every race is a fuel mileage race if it has a green flag pit stop in it because who can go the furthest and if the caution comes out at that particular moment, it can trap certain guys.
Look at the scoreboard, David Ragan is second. It shuffles the deck when that happens.
BRAD KESELOWSKI: I just think every race has its own personality. With this particular car and the way it's designed, it's going to lean towards this personality a little bit more.
I don't know. It doesn't bother me. I don't think it's bad racing personally. I know there's people that do. I think for the most part the fastest car still ends up winning the race, not always, but for the most part. I think if you looked at the odds on how many fuel mileage races there's been, I would say over 50% the fastest car still wins the race.
Both Tony and Jeff were fast. Tony ended up winning it. Probably could have made a case for either one of those two being the best car. But that's just not the way it played out.
I don't know. I try not to read too much into it. I know there's been a lot of people talking about fuel mileage racing dominating the sport or being bad for it. I still think there's been a lot of races that haven't been decided on fuel mileage. I guess it just doesn't seem like too big of a deal to me.
Q. You both have won fuel mileage races. I know this sounds silly, but do you treat any of those wins any less than the wins when you're able to blow people away?
GREG BIFFLE: Well, I mean, sometimes you can chalk it up to a fuel mileage win and sometimes you're leading and it comes to stretching it and you just make it, kind of like sort of what the 14 did today.
Now, there's been true fuel mileage races where a guy is runs at the back of the pack, ducks in the pits with one to go, fills it up, that guy wins. That's a fuel mileage win, when you're a 20-place car and you win. When you're a top three or four car and you win, really isn't any different.
So like I won at Daytona, which could have been a fuel mileage run, but really wasn't 'cause there was about 15 cars on the same pit cycle we were. So we were set up. Kansas, I was leading the thing. I had I don't know how many second lead, 10-second lead, when a caution came out and it was too dark to go back green again.
Just all depends on where you're running.
Q. You're not going to give any of your trophies back?
BRAD KESELOWSKI: No. I only got one and I'm not giving it back (laughter).
Q. Brad, over these next eight races, you're third in points, could you kind of assess what you think the rest of the season would look like based on whether you think a lot of it is strategy or fastest car wins, either case?
BRAD KESELOWSKI: Well, coming into this race, I guess this morning I would have said I was really, really nervous about this one, knowing that we've struggled at the Richmonds and so forth, the other short tracks of this nature. You could say we won Bristol, but I would say it's a lot different short track than a Loudon or Richmond or whatever. It's a style of track we've really, really struggled on. So I was really nervous about this race.
But I feel like our best races in the Chase are going to be our last five or six races, to be quite honest, maybe with the exception of Texas. We'll have to see how that one goes.
So to me if we get through these first four or five, I think we've got a really good shot at it. To get through Chicago with a fifth and here a second today, it's a huge boost of morale for my team and momentum for Penske Racing. I just hope we can continue to capitalize.
I think we've been able to capitalize with good execution on pit road, good adjustments on our car, not getting caught up in somebody else's mess. That stuff can go the other way just as it's gone the right way for us over the last few weeks.
I'm still very proud of what we've done. We still have a long ways to go, a really long ways. There's eight big races left. Then, of course, you can throw in Talladega. I don't think anybody can tell you what's going to happen there, so...
KERRY THARP: 15 different leaders today, ties a track record originally set July 14, 1996.
Back to questions.
Q. Greg, a follow-up on how you look at the Chase, what your role is as a non-Chase driver. And can you talk about your relationship with your new crew chief and how that's evolved.
GREG BIFFLE: My role being a non-Chase guy is to try to win the last eight that are left. As far as Matt and I, Matt and I get along really, really well. I think he does a great job getting the cars prepared. Makes really, really smart calls. He's calm. He knows what he wants to do. He's got a decision made when the time comes. He's going to be a really good crew chief and we're going to win a lot of races together. Pretty confident.
Q. Brad, kind of the irony the last time you were at this track and where you are now. The turnaround, people thinking you're a sleeper. You said you made some adjustments at this track. What kind of things did you tweak there?
BRAD KESELOWSKI: Well, yeah, like you said, it's been a great turnaround. We're 20 positions better in points than we were 10 weeks ago when we left. So that's pretty cool, I think. But it's been a turnaround because of hard work and focus. I'm very appreciative for my team for that.
This particular weekend compared to the last time we were here is no different. We focused on what I needed to do better. I thought that I could do a lot better job, hit on some things. I felt like the car could be a lot better. We might have got a little bit better, we certainly made some adjustments in the race that made us a lot better.
It takes all those things to get better and get a result like what we got today. As a team, that's what it means to be performing at a high level, it's to hit those things. My team's doing that.
KERRY THARP: Brad and Greg, thank you for a great show today.