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

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

Photo by: Ashley Dickerson, ASP Inc.

COMMENT ON YOUR STRATEGY AND PLANS FOR THIS WEEKEND IN RICHMOND. “Last week was good for us to finally put it all together for the clinch spot. It’s good for us to get that out of the way and come here to Richmond and just focus on seeing if we can’t get in the top 10. It’s going to be a little difficult but we’ll give it our best shot. It should be interesting. Got really two guys we’re racing for there with Tony [Stewart] and Dale [Earnhardt Jr.]. Just have to see how it all plays out but just our normal approach to any race weekend and try not to treat it differently than that and see if we can’t find our way to victory lane at the end.”

ARE YOU PLAYING OFFENSE OR DEFENSE SATURDAY NIGHT? HOW BIG IS THAT TARGET ON YOUR BACK? “I don’t think I have any target. In fact, I think I’m the one without a target. I think it’s the other two that got targets on ‘em ‘cause they’re not just racing me they’re racing. Is there 14 guys that are eligible? ‘Cause if I get in those other guys are in really good shape. If I get in the top-10 I’m in really good shape so I think they’re the ones with targets on their back, not me.”

CONSIDERING WHERE THIS TEAM WAS EARLIER IN THE SEASON, WHAT DOES IT SAY FOR THE PENSKE ORGANIZATION? “I think you look back to Richmond, what was that, four or five months ago, we were on a path to where both cars were not going to make the Chase to be quite honest. I think most everyone would agree with that at Penske Racing but certainly we’ve been able to change the course with a very big operation over the last few months. It certainly hasn’t been an easy undertaking. I think it’s a credit to the structure; it’s a credit obviously to Roger [Penske, car owner] to being able to make that happen. It’s a credit to the commitment that we have to each other as team, whether it’s Kurt [Busch] and myself working together or the crew chiefs working well together. Sometimes you need that moment where just everything is wrong so you can tear down the fence so to speak and build it up the right way. We’ve been able to do that so it’s been great.”

YOU ARE IN AN INTERESTING SITUATION WHERE A GOOD RESULT BY YOU HELPS A LOT OF GUYS OUT. ARE YOU EXPECTING MAYBE GUYS TO CUT YOU A LITTLE MORE SLACK? IS THIS A LITTLE BIT MORE OF A WEIRD SITUATION THAN WHAT YOU ARE USED TO? “Yeah, you know that is something that I’ve thought about. Certainly there are a lot of people who have my best interest in mind but whether they can remember that in the race car or not was yet to be seen. We’ll just have to figure out how that works. I’m not quite sure how each and every one of ‘em will react to it. Everyone reacts differently to the pressures that making the Chase entails. We’ll just have to see. I mean, I hope they give me some breaks. It’s in their best interests. It would be kind of dumb if they didn’t but we’ll just have to see how they all react. You don’t know. Each driver is different.”

HOW MUCH OF A DIFFERENCE TO YOU WOULD THERE BE IN QUALIFYING FOR THE CHASE AS AN AT-LARGE OR GOING IN AS A TOP-10 GUY? “It’s a difficult question to answer. I’ve already crunched all the stats and so forth and looked at all that myself and over the last 10 races I think we scored the third most amount of points behind Jeff [Gordon] and Jimmie [Johnson]. The nine bonus points that I would have had I been able to capitalize on it or if I am able to capitalize on it, if you look back over that over the last 10 race stretch that would move me from being third to second but it wouldn’t win the whole deal. What would win the whole deal is if I was able to avoid races like what we had at Loudon. That’s what it’s gonna come down to and I don’t think it’s any more complicated than that. It’s nice to be able to say that you have those nine points but at the end of the day that’s just nine finishing spots or if you win the race it’s not even that. You just need to run well. If you run well those points aren’t going to mean anything.”

WHAT KIND OF A TRACK IS THIS FOR YOU? “This racetrack, I’ve kind of had a love-hate relationship with it. Been able to qualify really well each and every time I’ve been here and in the race we’ve just been terrible. Hopefully we can get that turned around. I’m excited to be coming back here for the second time this year because I think if you look at our team we’ve ran a lot better at tracks that we’ve come back to a second time in a season and kind of expecting the same here at Richmond.”

YOU TALKED EARLIER ABOUT HOW EARLIER THIS SEASON IT DIDN’T LOOK LIKE EITHER CAR WOULD BE IN THE CHASE. NOW A LOT OF PEOPLE LOOK AT YOU AS A POTENTIAL FAVORITE. HOW CAN YOU CONTINUE THIS ON BECAUSE WE HAVE SEEN THIS INCONSISTENCY. HOW DO YOU KEEP THIS MOVING FORWARD? “I can completely understand what you’re saying but I don’t think I would call it inconsistency. Inconsistency to me would be if we were good and we went to bad then back to good. Quite honestly I haven’t been good since I’ve been at Penske until the last few months so I don’t think I would call it inconsistency. I would call it growth. I don’t think it’s overly complicated that we must continue to grow on the path that we’re on and we must sustain the growth that we have. Obviously those are very challenging. I know that personally I need to grow another step to have a shot at it and it’ll be interesting to see as a team if we can do that. The fact that we’ve been able to grow like we have over the last few months is a great indicator but it’s not a guarantee that we can make it happen but I feel like we have a legitimate shot and that’s all I can ask for.”

KEVIN HARVICK SAYS HE’S PRETTY MUCH OUT OF FIELDING TRUCKS OR NATIONWIDE CARS, STARTING NEXT YEAR. AS A TEAM OWNER YOURSELF IN THE TRUCK SERIES, HOW DO YOU FEEL WHEN YOU HEAR SOMEBODY LIKE THAT WHO HAS BEEN SUCCESSFUL AS AN OWNER PRETTY MUCH GETTING OUT WHEN YOU ARE STARTING? “Well it’s certainly discouraging but I’m sure if you looked back at Kevin when he was just starting up there was a mass exodus of owners at that time period, too. I’m not in entirely different shoes than him. It’s interesting to watch how the sport is going to grow and react to a loss of car owners like Kevin ‘cause they’re important and he’s done a lot for the series that he’s been in, whether that’s Truck or Nationwide. Hopefully it sends the right message where we learn from it and grow as a sport. That’s really what I think when I hear about things like that. I still think it’s important for me to be involved personally. I feel like that, even though it’s a lot of work, there’s some personal and business growth that I am awarded with for putting those efforts in.”

YOU HAVE RACED UNDER THIS NEW POINTS SYSTEM ALL SEASON BUT HAVE YOU GIVEN ANY THOUGHT TO HOW IT COULD PLAY OUT COME CHASE TIME AND HOW IT MAY AFFECT HOW THINGS GO? “Well you know it’s interesting, you think about every Chase and you hear different drivers talk about ‘You can’t have the bad finishes.’ Well this year you really can’t have the bad finishes and I think if you break down the point system, percentage-wise, the penalty now for having a bad race is substantially larger and that’s just what it’s going to come down to.”

HOW MUCH OF A RELIEF IS IT TO RACE IN THE NATIONWIDE SERIES TONIGHT? “Well the Nationwide race here has always been kind of a staple of Richmond and the race weekend. It’s a great chance for me to learn something and hopefully walk away a little bit better as a driver and prepared. I enjoy it for that reason. The races have seemed to have really changed a lot since the new car has been brought in so hopefully there’s something to be learned. Either way it’s exciting to get a chance to race. I love racing here and the more opportunities I can have to do that in quality rides the happier I am.”

HAVE YOU LOOKED FORWARD TO CHICAGO? TALK ABOUT THE OPENER OF THIS THING NEXT WEEK AND WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ABOUT RACING IN CHICAGO. “Well certainly we have our eye on Chicago and ready to go there. We’re as ready as we can be. I wish we had another two months to prepare for it but we’ll all still be locked in. But as far as Chicago is concerned it should be an interesting race. I think the weather there is not much different than where I’m from in Michigan and I know it’s starting to cool off. I don’t think we’ve ever raced Chicago where it’s not 95 degrees and 95 percent humidity so it should be a completely different race than we’ve ever seen in Chicago. I don’t know if any of us really know what to expect. That’s going to be a good weekend.”

WHAT DO YOU ATTRIBUTE YOUR IMPROVEMENT TO OVER THE LAST FEW MONTHS? AND WHAT IS YOUR TAKE ON THE VALUE OF CHASE EXPERIENCE? “Starting off with attributing the rise that we’ve had, I think that we’ve just been able to execute at a really high level. This sport, I think there’s several keys to success. Obviously you’ve got to have fast race cars and all those things and you’ve gotta have a little bit of luck but the biggest percentage of the pie, so to speak, of success here in this sport, is to execute and we’ve done that very well over the last few weeks. We have decent speed, probably not the best speed, but top-10 speed and we’re executing at above top-10 level. I think that’s been our strength. We’ve figured out how to execute better. I think that each Chase is different when you look at it, each year is different of who the players are and sometimes experience can be, you know, good. Sometimes you can learn from it and know what you need and then there are some years where it can be bad; you build up those pre conceived notions. With the new points standings being what they are and some of the things change of this sport I don’t feel like I’m at the large of a deficit not having Chase experience. I’m not concerned about it.”

THERE ARE A LOT OF PEOPLE WHO CONSIDER YOU CHAMPIONSHIP CONTENDERS. THERE HAVE BEEN MANY GREAT TEAMS WHO MANY PEOPLE THOUGHT WERE GOING TO SUPPLANT THE 48 [JIMMIE JOHNSON] AND THEY FAILED BECAUSE OF THE MENTAL CHALLENGE THAT’S SO TAXING WHEN YOU GET TO 10-RACE PLAYOFF. IS THE 2 MENTALLY MATURE ENOUGH AS A GROUP TO REALLY CHALLENGE FOR A TITLE? “That’s a really good question. The 48 is perhaps the mentally strongest team there is out there. I don’t think anyone would argue that and they have speed. That’s a lethal combination because when you the mental focus that they have you can execute, like we talked about earlier, and when you have speed, that’s two of the three parts of the pie with the third one being a little bit of luck. They’ve had that too over the last few years. I think with the exception of wrecking out of Talladega in ’06 they’ve been able to get out of the wild card races without getting wrecked so they’ve got all three pieces of the pie. Certainly nobody knows if they’ll have the luck this year too. It doesn’t mean it’s going to be easy for anyone to beat them but as far as time’s concerned, eventually they’ve got to lose one, right? [smiles]. Eventually it’s got to happen. But as far as where we’re at with our team, I’m trying not to focus or prepare on just the 48. I think that’s where everybody screws up, personally. As far as where we’re at, I think we have a realistic shot. The one piece that I see we need to get better at we know we need to be just a little bit faster to run with the 24 [Jeff Gordon]. Obviously he’s got the fastest race cars right now and I feel like we can execute at a very high level and have the mental focus that it takes to win the championship where we’re at right now. I really do.”

YOU TALKED ABOUT YOUR CONTINUED GROWTH. YOU FEEL LIKE YOU NEED TO MAKE ANOTHER STEP AND BE ABLE TO CONTEND FOR THE CHAMPIONSHIP. WHAT ARE THE PARTS THAT YOU NEED TO GROW ON, PERSONALLY AND AS A TEAM, TO MAKE THAT NEXT STEP? “I make it point to not count directly on what we need in specific areas to improve. We just need to continue the rate of growth that we have. Each year that I’ve been doing this at the Cup and Nationwide level I feel like I’ve been able to grow a little bit here and a little bit there and sometimes it’s pronounced, like it’s been over the last few months and sometimes it’s not. And I think the areas that you’ll see that we need to improve on to be a championship team are perhaps the less pronounced areas. That’s the key for us, I believe. I make it a point to not go into specifics.”

COMMENT ON THE IMPORTANCE OF THE FIRST TWO RACES IN THE CHASE. HOW MANY BAD RACES CAN YOU EXPECT TO HAVE? DO YOU NEED 10 REALLY DECENT RACES AND NO BAD RACES AT ALL? “I guess to answer the last part, I think first you have to define what’s a bad race. A bad race to be is pretty much anything 20th or worse and I think if you have one race worse than 20th you’re done. I think that’s just the way the new points system is. That’s the way I feel about that. And you’re asking about getting off on the right foot, I think that’s they whole key to the Chase. You can over-think it all you want and try not to do that. If we can just do what we’ve done over the last 10 races and not focus on the hoopla we’ll be fine.”

YOU SAID YOU THINK EVERYONE SCREWS UP FOCUSING ON THE 48. WHY SO AND HOW HAVE YOU SEEN THAT IN YOUR TIME? “Well I mean I don’t think we’ve seen anyone with the mental composure that the 48 has. I don’t believe in playing to other people’s strengths. I play to their weaknesses and that’s kind of where I was going with that.”