BRAD KESELOWSKI (No. 22 Miller Lite Dodge Charger R/T)

Brad Keselowski
Brad Keselowski

Photo by: Action Sports Photography

HOW’S THE ANKLE FEELING? TALK ABOUT RACING AT BRISTOL? “Glad to be here in Bristol. It’s one of my favorite places. It’s arguably one of the best races on the year, it not. I’m glad to be here and excited about this weekend and the things that we’ve been up to lately, all good stuff. I feel like last spring, when we were here, that we had a really strong car and just got caught up in a wreck from not qualifying really well. I’m looking on improving on that effort and I feel really good about our condition and our opportunities this weekend. Coming to Bristol, we’ll do our best to not be on the truck early. You never know what’s going to happen. I feel really good about this weekend and I think that we can get it done. We’ll just have to see how it all goes down. I kind of wish that I was out there with the Nationwide cars. It should be a good weekend.”

HOW HAVE YOUR HANDLED THE RECENT SUCCESS AND TEMPERED YOUR EMOTIONS DURING TOUGH TIMES WHEN YOU STRUGGLED? “I’ve enjoyed it thoroughly and I feel like, most importantly, the team, crew guys, etc., they deserve it. That’s great. But I haven’t gone out and bought a new houseboat. Nothing is guaranteed in this sport. A streak of good runs feels great, but it doesn’t mean that it’s going to continue. I feel like we have a good shot at continuing it and continuing the path (of current success). At Indy, we ran ninth and I felt like we were a top-three car there at the end of the race. I guess you just have to keep things in perspective and know that not every day is going to be a top-five or top-15 day. We need to make them top-15 days, especially if it boils down to us making the Chase. I think that it’s going to come down to good, consistent finishes that win the championship. They’re going to have to be solid, consistent finishes. Any finish outside of the top 20, you’re pretty much doomed. I think that if you look at the path that it’s going to take to be successful in this sport – with the new points system and new Chase system – obviously, this run that we’ve been on has been great. But if you go back to five races ago, we had a 35th-place finish. We can’t have those and we know that. I think we look at the months to come and the races to come in the Chase and know that sometimes you have to run seventh instead of third and 35th two weeks in a row. That’s what it’s going to take to have a shot at it, to make it.”

HOW DO YOU THINK YOUR COMMENTS OF “KYLE BUSCH IS AN ASS” HERE LAST YEAR HAS PLAYED INTO YOUR IMAGE A YEAR LATER? “Well, I think it’s a better question for the fans than me because I can’t honestly sit here and understand my fan base, or what my fan base thinks of me. I know some of it. I hate to speak for all of them. It’s hard to generalize a whole fan base. Every autograph signing that I go to, there are two comments that are always made: One, wreck Kyle Busch. And two, Kyle Busch is still an ass. I get that at every autograph signing that I go to. Before I get the. ‘go win this week’, I guarantee I’ll get the, ‘this week I’m going to be in the stands, go wreck Kyle Busch.’ You’re like, ‘OK, alright. I didn’t want to win this week, I just wanted to cause a wreck this week.’ So, it’s kind of difficult and funny at the same time. You can kind of see some of the fans passion that they have. It’s very interesting. I want to have a fan base that likes me for who I am and what I do performance wise. But I understand that there is more to this sport than that.

“I don’t try and hide from that. As far as that perception, as I continue to perform better, I would like to think that I get more recognition for performance and that’s a large goal of mine.”

WHEN YOU THINK OF BRISTOL, WHAT MOMENTS STAND OUT FOR YOU? “There’s always the ‘Dale and Terry’ show. Everybody remembers those. I still remember the night right after Indy when Kurt (Busch) won and you could hear the boos over the TV. I still remember that. I kinda feel bad for Kurt at the time; I ended up being his teammate. Those are probably the ones that I remember the most.”

THE TREND IS GUYS FIRST THROUGH FOURTH STATISTICALLY HAVE WON THE CHASE CHAMPIONSHIP. HOW REALISTIC IS IT THAT GUYS WHO ARE GOING TO GET INTO THE CHASE FROM FIFTH ON BACK, CAN THEY THE CUP SERIES CHAMPIONSHIP THIS YEAR? “That’s the track record, certainly, without a doubt. But records are made to be broken. I feel like we have the strongest shot with the No. 2 team at breaking that record. Again, that’s not a guarantee, but I feel like we have a strong shot at it. There’s a reason why the wild card was installed. I feel like it fits teams like mine perfectly and what we’re capable of doing. We’re a team that’s capable of showing drastic improvement throughout the season. Still, it’s going to be very difficult to beat those guys. Jimmie (Johnson), Kyle (Busch), Matt (Kenseth), Jeff (Gordon), my teammate Kurt (Busch), they’ve got a lot of continuity in their team and are reaping the rewards. There’s continuity in their team, which gives them continuity in their finishes and their standings to date. We’re getting there. Obviously, we weren’t there at the start of this year or we’d be in the top-five. I think in 10 races, you’re going to find the best race team in 10 races. No doubt about that. As we look at it, we’re either going to win it or not. Or we’re going to run 15th or 10th (or 12th). Being in (it) is still a huge honor either way. I feel like we have the strongest shot of any team that’s not in the top-five.”

ARE YOU ON THE KIND OF RUN WHERE PAST STATS DON’T MEAN ANYTHING? “I think that’s exactly how I feel. I get a chuckle out of, right now, everybody is looking at every past stat that we have. All the, ‘he’s not going to make the Chase’ or ‘the next 10 tracks that he goes to, he’s got an average finish of 18th.’ Quite honestly, I don’t think those past stats mean shit. I look at it very similar to when I became very competitive in the Nationwide Series and people would look back at my first two starts at Nashville where I finished 33rd and 36th. And then the next seven starts, I finished fourth or better, some stat like that. Stats are easy. They want to put stats in a box. They want to say, ‘we’re going to this race and this is the guy to beat. This is the guy that’s going to run 33rd.’ Stats make that easy for people. Much like everything else I do, I’m not that easy to label.”

IS THERE A TEMPTATION TO BE MORE CONSERVATIVE NOW THAT YOU’VE PUT YOURSELF IN CHASE CONTENTION? “No. There’s no temptation for me. Obviously, I can’t speak for everyone on the race team. For me, from a driver’s standpoint, I want to win the Bristol night race. I want to go next week and win Atlanta and see if I can’t win that $3 million and go to Richmond and win that one. If that means that I could win one of them and wreck out of the next two, so be it. I feel pretty good about where we’re standing right now and would feel really good if we had another win. I think if I did the math correctly, if we just won another race, we’d be locked in. I’m just digging hard.”

CAN YOU TALK ABOUT THE ‘HAVE AT IT BRAD’ MILLER LITE BILLBOARD SIGN AS YOU DRIVE INTO BRISTOL. “I pointed it out. Actually, I drove here to Bristol and when I saw it, I saw it from a distance and pointed it out. Joey Meier, my spotter, was driving at the time and I punched him and was like, ‘look at that, look at that, look at that!’ That’s pretty cool. That’s one of the many perks of having Miller as a sponsor. Knowing that they’re behind you and like some of the drama, so to speak. There’s more perks than that. Those are the good ones and the ones that I can talk about. It’s a lot of fun and I look forward in seeing how they continue to grow and do things like that. It was really, really cool.”

YOU SAID EARLIER IN THE TELECONFERENCE THAT SUCCESS BREEDS RESPECT. SUCCESS IN THE FACE OF ADVERSITY OFTEN BRINGS ANOTHER LEVEL OF RESPECT. HAVE YOU NOTICE THAT AMONG FANS OR EVEN YOUR TEAM? “Definitely, amongst my team, absolutely, which has been really good. It’s a huge honor when you feel like you have a group of guys that are behind you and really believe in you. I felt like I’ve had that all year long, but it’s another step to really have their respect. It’s hard to explain.

“One of the coolest feelings in the world for me was when I drove the 88 Nationwide car and I had Tony Eury Sr. as a crew chief. Anytime there was any little ruckus going on, he was right there with the team ready to fight. And you knew that when he felt that way, which I had a pretty good read on his personality, you knew that he had respected what you had done and what you were doing. It was just one of the coolest feelings in the world. Sometimes we had to tone him down a little bit. It’s just so cool to have a group of people behind you that just believe in you and more or less will stand up and fight for you. It’s an honor. I certainly have gotten that feeling from my guys, which is really cool.

“From the fans, I’ve gotten a lot of comments. I go on the souvenir and sign once in a while. I went out last night and got a lot of comments from people that were there. People were, ‘wow, I thought that was pretty cool.’ It’s just great. To me, I just look at it like I was doing my job. I’m happy that there are fans that recognize it and appreciate it. To me, that was my job; to make it work even if it’s not the best of circumstances. I think that’s what a race car driver does. Whether the car isn’t in the best of shape, or the strategy wasn’t the best of shape or your own body, it’s making the most of the circumstances. I just view that as my job.”

CAN YOU TALK ABOUT THE COMMENTS THAT YOU MADE HERE LAST YEAR AND THE FANS EXPECTATIONS OF YOU SAYING SOMETHING AGAIN? DO YOU HAVE ANYTHING PLANNED? “No. I have a good habit of pulling something out at the last second. Certainly, last year was no different and I didn’t have that planned. Maybe it would be a better story if it were planned, probably not as good of a story. Obviously, the events of the night before, I was still pretty riled up from the Nationwide race. I felt like I had been done wrong. I don’t feel any differently about that now. I think you know the rest of the story from there. I don’t know what I’m going to say to top that. I don’t even know if I should try. I almost feel like it has its own moment, its own space and there was an authenticity to it that you’d hate to ruin just to have another moment, to have one when there’s nothing behind it. I think moments like that, that are authentic, are moments that our fans appreciate. I certainly got a lot of reaction from that, and still do. I don’t have anything really to say this year. We’ll just have to wait and see.”

HOW MUCH DISCIPLINE DID IT TAKE TO STAY OUT OF THE NATIONWIDES SERIES CAR AGAIN THIS WEEK? “I’m still playing that by ear. If I had it to make the decision completely coming off of my mind and my heart, I would have never got out of it. I would have run every race. Obviously, there’s a bigger picture than that. This race track is a place where you can take a really jarring hit and the odds of doing so are pretty high. We certainly don’t want to risk that. That would be potentially a catastrophe. I would like to be back in (it) next week. We’ll just have to wait and see. From a discipline perspective, it was very, very tough. I relied on people like Roger (Penske) to help me out with those decisions and he certainly did.”

WHAT KIND OF REACTION HAVE YOU GOTTEN FROM YOU COMMENTS YESTERDAY ABOUT DANICA COMING TO NASCAR FULL-TIME? “I got a lot of, ‘couldn’t have said it better’ reactions which is pretty interesting. I rely on a pool of friends, family and some fans to help me kind of assess things like that in my own mind. I think most of them agreed to what I said. I would say over 90 percent. If you can bat over 90 percent in anything you do in public opinion, I think you’re doing pretty damn well. I said what I meant.”