Brad Keselowski went from 10th to first in the final five laps of tonight’s Ford EcoBoost 300 to win his seventh race of the season and give Ford the 2013 NASCAR Nationwide Series Manufacturers’ Championship.
“That was an amazing performance by Brad and the entire Penske team to make this happen. What an amazingly close battle it was today,” said Jamie Allison, director, Ford Racing. “To watch Brad come from that far back in the pack to clinch the manufacturers’ championship was just amazing. I couldn’t be more proud of everyone that helped Ford get to this moment tonight.”
Keselowski led the way to Ford’s manufacturer title with those seven wins while Penske Racing teammate Joey Logano followed with three. AJ Allmendinger captured two road course wins while Ryan Blaney and Sam Hornish Jr. capped off a strong season for Team Penske with one victory each. Roush Fenway Racing’s Trevor Bayne also contributed to the title with his victory at Iowa in June, which happened to be Ford’s 200th all-time series triumph.
Ford won NNS manufacturer championships in 1995, 2002 and 2011 prior to this season.
POST-RACE PRESS CONFERENCE
BRAD KESELOWSKI – No. 48 Discount Tire Ford Mustang – “Obviously, anytime you win it’s a great night, but to put those other things together and I’m sure some of you have heard it on TV, but we came here with four goals – win the driver’s championship with Sam Hornish, the owner’s championship with the 22, win the race and help Ford to secure the manufacturers’ title. We accomplished three out of four, which I guess ain’t bad, but I want to make the remark that I’m really proud of Sam and even though he came up a bit short I thought he put in a great effort tonight and this year, so I’m proud of him and happy to win the race. Like I said, I’m happy for Ford. It’s a really big deal for them to win the manufacturers’ championship on Ford Championship Weekend. I think that’s something that can’t be understated, and then for the 22 team we came up a bit short in 2010 on the owner’s championship and that’s something that was kind of left open on the RP bucket list, so it was nice to check that one off for him and get him another leather jacket this year. I’m proud of that and proud of the effort not just tonight but all year long for everybody and from everybody at Penske Racing.”
PAUL WOLFE, Crew Chief – “Obviously it was pretty special. For me, I just filled in. This Nationwide program at Penske Racing is phenomenal and these guys do a great job. They have great race cars and, for me, they just asked me to fill in and call the race, so from my side of it it was pretty easy. I was glad I could be part it and help out, but real proud of what we have going on with this program. It develops a lot of great guys that can continue to move up the ladder and we can put them in spots on our Cup program, which is important as we continue to build things at Penske, so I was a small part of what went on tonight, but I was willing to help out and brought back a few memories of a few years back, and it was really neat to be in victory lane against with Discount Tire as we got the program started back in 2010, but I can’t say enough about all the guys at Penske and this whole program.”
ROGER PENSKE, Car Owner – “First, I want to congratulate Joey and Brad and what Paul did tonight. We had a manufacturers’ championship on the line, we had the car owner’s and the driver’s championship, so there was a lot of pressure but when you think about it, Brad came to me two or three years ago and said we’re gonna build a team and part of it was through the Nationwide. When you think four drivers helped us get to where we are in this championship is really something, and I think tonight’s win was something we didn’t know until the last couple laps. I think that’s the way this NASCAR business is, and certainly for us we didn’t get the owner’s championship back a couple years ago, so this, as I said to Brad, kind of finishes off. But without Joey and without Brad and without certainly Sam when you think about 14 wins in a season in any series is outstanding and really a credit to the entire team – everyone back at the shop. We talk about the engine builder, we talk about Ford, obviously, Discount Tire and Hertz, Alliance Truck Parts and just so many – AAA – the people who have helped us are committed to us going forward, so, to me, it was the night it should have been. I felt very sorry for Sam. I have to say I’ve never seen a race that was so important that you wait 15 or 16 laps before you have five laps to go. To me, that was very disappointing from the standpoint of the fans and certainly we as competitors came out fine, but when I think about it it could have gone any way.”
JOEY LOGANO – No. 22 Hertz Ford Mustang – “For my rookie season with Penske Racing what we wanted to do was go out here and win this owner’s championship. I was fortunate to win it before and to win it for Roger means a lot to me and that whole 22 team. They deserve it. Twelve wins with a dominant race car and coming down to the last lap with that 54 team was insane. We were sitting there, I think we were 12th on that last restart with five to go, and you really don’t have an option at that point. You’ve got to go and we had a set of tires on the thing and coming down to the last laps was just crazy, but Jeremy Bullins and all the guys on that 22 team, Hertz, Discount Tire, every one -- AJ, Ryan Blaney, Brad – the guys that have driven this car this year, we’ve all won a race in this car and that goes to show how lucky we are to get to drive this car, so I have a lot of fun doing it.”
BRAD KESELOWSKI CONTINUED – HOW WILL YOU LOOK BACK ON THIS YEAR. A LOT OF UPS-AND-DOWNS. “There are a lot of ways you can look at it as an optimist or a pessimist, I guess are really the two that stick out, but, for us, certainly it’s not the year we want on the Cup side. I’m not gonna hide or run from that, but we did achieve some success in different forms this year and this owner’s championship is a reflection of that. I think as you look at how we got to success with the Cup side, a lot of it the guy sitting next me, Paul, was sitting up here three years ago as a champion here on the Nationwide side as a crew chief and there’s probably guys working on this car today, whether it was Joey’s 22 or the 48 that I drove or even Sam’s 12, will be a part of our next effort moving forward and will help us rebuild to come out next year and the years after stronger. You look at where we were then and last year was incredible to win a Sprint Cup championship in your third season. That’s very, very difficult to do and we’ve gone through a lot of different changes and a lot of different transitions, and that’s not making any excuses, but we’re going to grow and we’re going to become stronger and this Nationwide program is a reflection of how bright our future is at the Cup level as well.”
PAUL WOLFE CONTINUED – HOW MUCH DEBATE WAS THERE TO GET TIRES OR NOT GET TIRES? “It really started back a couple stops before that when we stayed out, so we had the option at the end. Obviously, we didn’t want to see all those caution laps at the end winding down, and weren’t really sure if we were gonna be able to take advantage of them, but it’s a little different game on the Nationwide side than what you get used to on the Cup side, where tomorrow night you’re gonna see every time a caution comes out it will be kind of a no-brainer to come down and put tires on and work on their car, but definitely a little bit different deal here, but it surely is a lot of fun to be part of it tonight and to watch Brad drive to the front there at the end.”
BRAD KESELOWSKI CONTINUED – CAN YOU DESCRIBE YOUR CHARGE AT THE END? “Quite honestly, I’ve got to see the replay because I don’t even know what happened. I just know I was on the gas and pointing forward.” JOEY INTERJECTS: “Brad just said you shut your eyes and hope for the best.” BRAD CONTINUES: “I think he’s right because I don’t even remember what happened. I just knew we were gonna win the race or I was gonna bring back the steering wheel. That’s what I told Paul before the restart because with five laps to go that’s the only attitude that can win the race. If we get that restart with 20 laps to go and then I wouldn’t have had to have that mentality, but it was checkers or wreckers and sometimes you make it through and sometimes you don’t. Today we did with a lot of aggressive moves. It almost felt like a video game passing 10 or 12 cars in two or three laps, but that’s what you’ve got to do to be able to win at this level.”
HOW DID YOU TRY TO BALANCE WHAT YOU SHOULD DO WITH THESE NEW RULES AFTER THE RICHMOND ISSUE? “I don’t know, I don’t have a great answer for that. I knew that the best thing we could do was win the race and not have to answer that, and at the end of the day I don’t know how to go any more 100 percent than winning the race. If there’s another 100 percent, I don’t know where it’s at, but I definitely pulled it out at the end. It’s difficult. It’s funny while Roger was talking and Paul I was reading some comments and half the comments you get are, ‘Why didn’t you let Sam go at the end and he would have won?’ Or things like that, so you can’t win either way. I think everybody sees it with whatever colored glasses they wear on that day. For me, at the end, it was running 100 percent and winning the race.”
ROGER PENSKE CONTINUED – DID NASCAR EXPLAIN WHY THEY DIDN’T THROW THE RED FLAG AND DO YOU THINK IT COST SAM THE TITLE? “It’s hard for me, as I said earlier, to believe that we’d sit there for 15 or 16 laps with so much at stake, not only for Sam but for Dillon and for Ford and Toyota and Chevrolet. It was hard for me to believe, but I didn’t get into it.”
BRAD KESELOWSKI CONTINUED – HOW DO YOU DEAL WITH THE PRESSURE LIKE THAT? “You don’t have a choice. It’s win or go home. That’s how this sport works. You find a way to win or you get replaced by somebody else that will. Does it worry you? Only if you’re not capable of winning, but, at the end of the day, the only answer I have is to give 100 percent, put everything I have into it and the cards fall where they may. There’s no point in worrying about it further than that.”
ROGER, ALL SEASON LONG YOU'VE BEEN SAYING HOW BADLY YOU WANTED THE OWNER'S CHAMPIONSHIP. AFTER HAVING DRIVER'S CHAMPIONSHIPS, INDY CHAMPIONSHIPS, WHY WAS SPECIFICALLY THE OWNER'S CHAMPIONSHIP SO IMPORTANT TO YOU? ROGER PENSKE CONTINUED – “Well, I think to me, as we set out at the beginning of this season, it was one that we had such a great group of drivers. The expectations within the team and the sponsors was to win this championship. I wanted to see if we could rise to the occasion to beat Gibbs. J.D. and Joe are world‑class guys. We respect them. We like to race with them. Kyle Busch obviously is one of the best guys out there. I think it was just in our DNA from the beginning of the year. Joey and Brad, it was one thing we could bring them together, drive the same car, get the speed out of it, consistency and the wins, I think brought our teamcloser together. To me, that was part of the reason when Joey came on, Brad came on. Said, We want to run Nationwide, we think it makes us better. The goal was to win. Last year was a great year. Brad was pretty humble on the job he did last year. We had a good year this year. Obviously it wasn't what we want. This is a sport, we're in it for a long time. We got to build. Part of building is winning at some level. I think Paul could step in today. We made the call on the 48 car last week after we got wrecked, Let's put the 48 in. It was just like turning a light on. Our guys just knew what to do. We came out here. That's the spirit we have within the team today, Sam, AJ, a chance to get him back on track, one of the most satisfying things to me this year, to see him back on track. These guys picked up the ball and ran with it. Like I said, it's part of our DNA from the beginning of the year.”
CAN YOU TALK ABOUT YOUR PLANS FOR NEXT YEAR? “At this particular time, I think we've said we're going to run one Nationwide car at the moment. We have a sponsorship to run a couple other races. Sam has some options right now, which is good. Erwin obviously is contracted with us for next year. He'll work with us in Nationwide and some other things we're going to be doing, also work with us on the testing. He's a real talent. Can't get guys like that very often. We got a seat for him, for sure.”
ROGER, I PRESUME THIS IS THE LAST RACE WITH SAM. “Correct.”
IS THERE ANY EMOTION THAT COMES WITH THAT? YOU HAVE BEEN TOGETHER A LONG TIME AND ACCOMPLISHED A LOT TOGETHER. “I have to look back and say, to see Sam race tonight at the level he did with Kyle, right there all night, shows what a great racer he is. My issue with myself is I started him in the Cup level with no practice. One of the greatest open wheel racers we had in IndyCar. I think maybe I started his career backwards. I think people today want him. I think he's going to have a chance to drive something next year. A couple things out there look quite promising. I would support him always. He needs to have a good ride because he's a quality guy, a family man. Remember, he won an Indy 500 for us. That's pretty special.”
YOUR THOUGHTS ON DARIO FRANCHITTI LEAVING? “Dario is a guy, I knew him when he was running for Mercedes‑Benz over in Germany. Came over here. Don't win the Indianapolis race three times unless you're a great driver. A bit disappointed. At his age, the things he can do in his profession going forward, quality person, great racer, I really admire him for making that decision.”
JOEY AND BRAD, CAN YOU TALK WHAT YOU'RE GOING TO MISS MOST ABOUT SAM LEAVING PENSKE RACING? JOEY LOGANO CONTINUED -- “I only got to work with Sam obviously for this year. I got to know him very well over this year working together on this Nationwide program. Him and Greg over there on that 12 team, they do a great job. To hear his feedback, the directions they go, build a relationship like that. Like Roger said, he's a great guy. Probably one of the best dads I've seen. Being a racecar driver, being away from home, he's always with his kids. He's always showing us pictures of things he's building for his kids.” He's a great person. I've learned a lot from him from that aspect. As a driver also. He's a very fast driver. He's putting the car on the edge every single lap. I think it's what you see with Sam as he's gotten better throughout the years, is he's able to control that even better. That's why he's in contention to win this championship. Before, you see how fast he can go, but I feel like he's cleaned up the mistakes, done a very good job this year with some really fast racecars. He'll be missed, but he'll still be around. We'll still see him around, for sure.”
BRAD KESELOWSKI CONTINUED -- “Yeah, I think obviously you look at what Sam has done. He won the Indianapolis 500, IndyCar championships, he's a successful driver. There's a certain level of respect that other drivers are going to have for him, including myself, because of his credentials. He's got a lot of class. I'm sure wherever he goes he's going to be in great shape for what happens to him next. I've enjoyed the time I've worked with him.”