NASCAR Sprint Cup Series post race press conference Pocono Raceway
An interview with: Brad Keselowski and Paul Wolfe
THE MODERATOR: Okay. Let's roll into our post race-winning team for today's 38th Annual Good Sam RV Insurance 500 here at Pocono Raceway. Our winner is Brad Keselowski. He drives the No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge for Penske Racing, joined by his crew chief Paul Wolfe.
Brad, a couple of thoughts. First of all, just the series of events this week, racing as you had to, with your physical condition, that's one. Second, with the second win now of the season for you, puts you in good stead for the wildcard berth certainly as you moved up to 18th in points, I believe.
And, third, with this victory here today, you qualify now for the Sprint Summer Showdown, if you can win in Atlanta. Based upon this win today, you know, it's not only a big payday for you but also for your charity and a lucky fan with that Sprint Summer Showdown. I know I'm only supposed to ask you one question but I asked you three. But obviously what a terrific deal here for you today. Just talk about your emotions and about winning today, overcoming what you had to overcome.
BRAD KESELOWSKI: Well, there's not really any time for emotions. It's been a hell of a week. From last Sunday, what a great car at the Brickyard, and we're almost in position to win it. Didn't quite catch the right breaks and felt really good about that. Certainly brought a lot of confidence into this weekend.
And I felt like we could run strong here. And I guess I was a little surprised that we weren't exactly a little faster than we were at the beginning of the weekend.
But I knew some of the struggles I had gone through with wreck and so forth that that was probably holding everybody back a little bit. So I guess we tried to work around that the best we could, and did a good job of that.
About the end of the first run of the race today, I felt like we were really, really strong and had a good shot of getting a solid day out of it. I wasn't sure we were going to be able to win. But I felt we could win somewhere around fifth.
But this guy here, Paul Wolfe, adjusted on it, made it a little bit better. We got that rain delay, which was a great recharge session for me, and it's what we needed.
Everything kind of came together here, and we were able to overcome adversity, and I think when we look back at this years from now I think that's what I'll think about, overcoming adversity.
And I say this to Paul and everyone on my team, that nobody gives us anything. And they sure as hell didn't give us anything this weekend. This was an earn-it weekend. And I've always wanted to win a Cup race and earn it, not fuel mileage, not Talladega, a real win. And today feels like that.
And for that I'm real proud. And I can't wait to see what the next few months bring us.
I think winning two races is probably really good for our Chase hopes, gives us pretty high odds if we were playing poker, but nothing is 100 percent until it's 100 percent. So lots of races left. Keep plugging away. Maybe if we keep running like this, maybe we can get a third win and we'll be damn near immune, unless we fall out of the top 20. Going in the right direction with this 2 team, and proud of everyone on the Miller Lite Dodge Charger, this is a big win for us. This is somewhat of a validation, I think.
THE MODERATOR: Crew chief Paul Wolfe is up here. And, Paul, talk about you had the long rain delay. Almost two hours. And then it seemed like after that rain delay the car just came alive. So talk about how things transpired out there for you today.
PAUL WOLFE: Well, I think the biggest thing was getting the track position. Like Brad said, we knew we had a pretty good car there. We were able to hang 8th to 10th there the first half of the race. I remember Brad coming on the radio at one point and just asking for some track position. And he thought we'd be okay.
So we felt like we had a good enough car that if we had some clean air, we could run up front.
So we got close looking at the weather. My engineers did a great job at monitoring the radar all race long, and we got down there at that point in the race, it was like they were pretty confident that it was going to rain, but we were going to -- it was going to clear out enough where we could finish the race.
So it's all about those two wins to get into The Chase. We knew that's what it was going to take. I felt like it was somewhat of a gamble to come down at that point. But at the same time we felt like it was an educated gamble at that. It wasn't just a shot in the dark.
And it ended up all working out how they had said it would. And once we got the car up front, obviously we showed we had the speed as much as anybody. And there on that last restart, that was the deal. It was whoever was going to get out front. The 18 and ourselves were pretty equal there, and it was all about making it happen on the restart, and that was all Brad there on that last restart, being able to get out front. And at that point I know the 18 was driving the wheels off his car to try to get by us. But just wasn't able to do it.
THE MODERATOR: Questions for Brad or Paul?
Q. Can you tell us, 1 to 10, what the level of pain was that you were enduring? And did that break just give you time to relax the foot, just to kind of get it back and go on? And also you mentioned the soldiers in Afghanistan. I think you have a cousin or something that you said you kind of used that as something to drive you this weekend?
BRAD KESELOWSKI: Well, certainly I guess I'll start with the last part. I do have a cousin in the Navy Seals. One of the guys who died over there was someone he knew, was friends with. Told me a little bit about this week and it kind of put things in perspective.
I might not be feeling great, but those are the guys that are really making sacrifices. We're just driving race cars for a living. We're not curing cancer or saving the world like those guys are.
So that's kind of -- it was inspirational for me. Whenever I got in the car and felt like this hurts, I don't want to do this, I want to get out, that was good inspiration on what it means to man up and make it happen, because it's really not that bad.
So, I mean, as far as the pain scale, hell, I don't know, I'm not real good at those pain scales, I guess, because I don't know what everybody calls what. But I know it just hurt. And felt a whole lot better when they waved that checker flag, until I had to get back out of the car. That didn't feel better. But it all worked out today. And thankful to have good people to help me through it.
Like Paul said, we had great strategy today. Strategy didn't win us race but it gave us the opportunity to win it and we were able to win it on our own merits from there.
Q. Every driver who comes in here says, oh, yeah, we try to win every race; we try to do the best we can. Realistically, honestly, when you woke up this morning, what were you thinking and hoping was the best you were going to possibly do?
BRAD KESELOWSKI: That's you, Paul.
PAUL WOLFE: You're asking me?
BRAD KESELOWSKI: I want to hear your answer.
Q. Both of you.
PAUL WOLFE: Well, like Brad said, we felt like we had a really good car last week at Indy, and had ourselves in position for a shot to win. And it was a rough week for us. Obviously I was down at Road Atlanta when we had that wreck.
Just for Brad to be able to be in the car this weekend I thought was an accomplishment after seeing how tore up he was after that wreck and what he had to go through.
But like Brad said, at the end of the day we're just lucky to be able do what we love to do for a living and I'm sure he can talk about it a little more. But did I feel like we were going to come out here and win with the condition Brad was in? I thought we could put ourselves into position, but really proud of what he was able to do there. And I saw how tired he was and whatnot after the first half of the race.
But we're racers, and we want to win racing. We work really hard. And I think that's what we showed today.
Q. When you woke up this morning, realistically, what did you think was the best you could do?
BRAD KESELOWSKI: Going to win the race. I came here to win. When you let the pain get into your head that far that you don't believe you can win anymore, you'll never win.
And I woke up this morning feeling like we could win the race. And at the end of the halfway break, went into my motor home, had my doctor with me, and took care of me a little bit. I told him, all right, let's go win the race. And that's how I felt about it.
If you don't feel that way, you're never going to win at anything you do.
Q. I assume there is going to be a furor around the end of this thing, on that restart, Kyle Busch, best restarter in the business, I think, maybe you probably think, too, he's on the inside, he likes the inside. You got Jimmie Johnson back there. What were you thinking on that restart? Because you're getting out front on that restart was the key to the race.
BRAD KESELOWSKI: Well, yeah, I think I really had some bad restarts at the first half of the day and kind of took something from that to make sure I had a better one at the end.
And at the end of the day you come to tracks like this where there's really long straightaways, and it's much like this in the Nationwide car, probably more often, your fate as the leader of the restart is determined by the success of the car directly behind you and what he chooses to do.
And Kyle's fate was sealed the second the 48 made the move that he did. And there's no way for him to know that. You know, I think probably the best way of explaining it is if you go back to the restart before that, with me and the 22, I think, were on the front row. I think the 31 was behind Kurt and the 20 was behind me.
If you go back to that restart, we were pretty even all the way through turn 1. We had equal help coming through the gears. And Joey, up off of 2, was able to clear the 31 car and get down in the lower lane and give Kurt a push.
Now, that sealed the fate of what was going to happen for everybody. And so at the end of the day, the success rate of the car behind you is really the difference-maker at tracks like this. And it's probably hard to explain. Probably hard to see and understand, but that's just the reality of it with the way racing works. And that's the deal.
Q. Paul, how tough a call was that to bring the two Penske cars in for fuel and tires right before the rain was supposed to get there? Did you have second thoughts about taking a risk like that, given the fact that it could have rained and stopped the race at that point completely?
PAUL WOLFE: Absolutely. I think there's always a risk in any call like that. As we've seen here of late, everybody's getting more aggressive on their calls and how we're playing the fuel strategy game.
But I had pretty good confidence. My engineers, they seemed like they were pretty confident that we were going to go back green. So at that point I know it's going to take calls like that to get us in The Chase. And we've got cars that are fast enough now at this point in the season to race in The Chase.
We've just had a rocky start to get here. So I feel, like I said, we're good enough to be in The Chase, and I knew it was going to take a call like today to get another win to get us closer to that opportunity.
So, yeah, it was --
BRAD KESELOWSKI: Just tell them, Paul, you got balls this big. (Laughter ) just tell them. Because if it wouldn't have worked out, man it would have been rough, whew. (Laughter)
PAUL WOLFE: So try to make calls like that that are somewhat educated. They might seem a little more risky to people who don't have all the information in front of them, similar to what we were able to do at Kansas.
But we're sitting here with a win today. And I feel like we've still got some tracks coming up here before The Chase where we have an opportunity to win another one.
This track has always been very special to my family...
Q. Brad, what gave you the most discomfort in the car? And how did your injury, how did you have to adjust?
BRAD KESELOWSKI: What gave me the most discomfort? I think probably the biggest thing for me was, since I've been laying in a bed laying around for two or three days, the energy that you lose from that. Just complete zap of energy loss was probably the biggest thing.
I just didn't have any energy in the car. And I'm wearing a foot brace, which was helpful. But, again, you lose some things and still hurt to push the pedal, but it didn't hurt as bad it would if I wasn't.
And to add into that, I cut my hand open shifting from a blister, because I didn't get it taped because I forgot about that worrying about my leg. It was about every damn thing you can think of, other than having to pee. But it's just the way it goes.
Q. Brad, I don't know if this is quite the same as John Menard and Paul Menard, but your dad won here a number of years ago.
BRAD KESELOWSKI: Yes, he did.
Q. Could you talk about how that feels to win here, the fact that he did that a number of years ago as well?
BRAD KESELOWSKI: Absolutely. My dad won here in ARCA, made his one and only Cup start here and random stat time in the media room. But my uncle ran a race here in USAC, back when they ran USAC here. This track has always been very special to my family and treated us very well.
Didn't treat me very well in the three other starts I made here. So it's nice to kind of make up for it.
Q. That was my question, get your reactions Brian Keselowski winning a 500 mile --
BRAD KESELOWSKI: Was it 500 miles?
Q. It was 500-mile USAC stock car race. 1974, the last year --
BRAD KESELOWSKI: Were you there?
Q. No. I was at Martinsville.
BRAD KESELOWSKI: He was there, wasn't he?
Q. Everybody thinks I'm old. I was at the first three USAC stock car races. But the one I didn't cover was the one that Brian won.
BRAD KESELOWSKI: I'd like to see a newspaper clipping of that, because I've heard the stories and seen pictures of the car, but --
Q. Buddy Baker was in that race. He had the pole. He had that 71 car.
BRAD KESELOWSKI: The way my uncle tells the story, he smoked the field. So I've always wanted to know if he really smoked the field or not.
Q. We'll have to look that up.
BRAD KESELOWSKI: I'd really like to know that because if he didn't, boy, would I give him hell.
Q. Paul, we all heard Brad say that he was definitely racing today, he wasn't getting out of the car. I was curious if you have any say?
BRAD KESELOWSKI: I said I wasn't getting out of my damn car. (Laughter)
Q.I was curious, Paul, do you have any say in that? And was there any time where you thought you may need to talk to somebody and say, hey, maybe he shouldn't run?
PAUL WOLFE: I hope I have enough respect and Brad has enough respect for me that if I felt that way that he would. But there were no signs of that this weekend. I had some people talk to me on Friday and ask what I was going to do in the car to make it so Brad could drive the thing with the pain he was in and the trouble with his foot.
He sat in the car Friday before practice and felt real good about it and didn't want us to do anything different than we would normally do. And basically what I thought the best thing we could do to help his foot was give him a fast race car. And all the guys worked really hard on the Miller Lite Dodge to do that this weekend. And I think giving him a fast race car took care of anything that we could have ever done to help him inside the car.
Q. Brad, you talked about today you woke up thinking you were going to win the race. When you had the accident on Wednesday, you know, sitting in the hospital, sending pictures of your ankle, what did you think about this weekend? Did you think, A, you were going to get in the car? Could you imagine that you were going to be standing in victory lane?
BRAD KESELOWSKI: I knew I was getting in the car. I just wasn't sure how I was going to convince Paul and Roger that I was doing it. Thankfully the doctors handled that part for me. And I'm glad of that. But it just all worked out.
Q. Were you doubting at all?
BRAD KESELOWSKI: No. Not for me. I don't know about him.
PAUL WOLFE: He's lying.
BRAD KESELOWSKI: There was a moment where I said all right what doctor am I going to have to bribe. Never a moment of doubt. For the record, I didn't, because I know you'll try to write that story. I didn't have my wallet (smiling).
Q. Brad, have you spoken with Roger yet, and what was the substance of that conversation, if you have?
BRAD KESELOWSKI: Yes, I did. And they're in mid-Ohio today. I don't know how it went. But not good. Okay. Well, I'm glad we could carry the banner, do the checkered flag flying. Glad we could fly one for them.
But, yeah, I did speak with him. I can't remember much of what he said to be honest, there were a lot of people yelling and really kind of turned off my memory bank. We talked a little bit about the soldiers in Afghanistan and that was actually what I do remember of the conversation, and I think that he feels the same way about it as I did and what I said in the media center. Not media center, where were we? The Victory Lane. And so that meant a lot to me that he would say that.
Q. When do you guys think what you've done today will sink in? Basically if you don't test between now and Richmond, you're virtually in?
BRAD KESELOWSKI: I don't know. Hell. Probably be under a couple of beers, probably sink in real good then. Hell, Paul, when do you think it's going to sink?
PAUL WOLFE: I don't know. I just feel this team's come a long way. And I'm just excited to be able to be part of it. And I feel like we're only going to get stronger as we start visiting some of these other tracks for a second time. Obviously Pocono being the first one of those, and to be able to have somewhat of a notebook now. We still have a long ways to grow and be better and that's the encouraging part. To have already won two races this season and know that we're not operating at our max potential yet, I think it says a lot about the team and what we're capable of, and everybody at Penske Racing has done a great job of giving us the tools we need and it's our job to go out here and do what we did today.
So excited about what we've done, and like I said, just can't wait to get back to the next race.
Q. Both of you -- Brad, you said this earlier, the magic words: If you're able to stay in the top 20. Any strategy now changes where you kind of try to protect your position a little bit to making calls, that kind of stuff? Do you still kind of go after it these last five races?
BRAD KESELOWSKI: Hell, I don't know. I haven't really thought that far yet. Shoot, we just need to go out and do what we've been doing, everything will be fine.
PAUL WOLFE: I agree. Like I said, we've had cars fast enough to be in the top 20 easily in points. We just gotta limit the mistakes. Obviously the two wins is huge.
And, like I said, I feel as a team we're capable of more before The Chase, but we just gotta keep doing what we're doing, and try and limit any mistakes.
We take a little less of a risk on some calls, yeah, possibly. But like I said, today was a little bit of a gamble, but it was -- I feel like we made an educated decision on that call. And if we feel like that's what we need to do to have a shot at another win, I see us doing that.
THE MODERATOR: Congratulations.