An interview with
BRAD KESELOWSKI - 2010 champion, 3rd place finisher
PAUL WOLFE - Crew Chief
ROGER PENSKE - Owner
THE MODERATOR: Let's roll into our 2010 NASCAR Nationwide Series driver champion, Brad Keselowski. He drives the No. 22 discount Chad Dodge for Penske Racing. He's joined by his crew chief Paul Wolfe. And Brad, congratulations, this is your first national series championship. The first Driver's Championship and the Nationwide Series for Dodge, and it's Roger Penske's first championship of any sort of NASCAR. Congratulations, Brad, your thoughts tonight about coming away as the champion of this series?
BRAD KESELOWSKI: It's been a long ride to get right here, and it's been a good ride, lot of fun. Proud to be sitting here in front of you today, and sitting along guys like Paul and Roger.
It's pretty amazing, you know, to come from just a few years back not having a job in this sport and really thinking I was going to have to get a real job, to being out here and winning the championship and kind of establishing yourself.
Hopefully, we can carry this success over to the Cup side. But as of now we're going to soak this up and celebrate what we've done this year and very proud of it.
THE MODERATOR: Paul Wolfe, this is your first NASCAR Nationwide Series Championship, your first season with Penske. And how does it feel to be a champion in your first season?
PAUL WOLFE: Well, it's definitely pretty special time for all of us. I think it's a first championship for a lot of us on this team and a lot of people at Penske Racing. I'm just grateful for the opportunity that Roger and Brad gave me to come on board and start up this 22 team. It means a lot to me.
All my guys have worked so hard this year. You know, starting up a new team, I don't think we had -- I don't think we had any guys on the team going into December. And to be able to come out here in less than a year and win the first championship for Penske Racing just says a lot about all the guys that we put together on this team.
With all the help of great sponsors like Discount Tire and Ruby Tuesday's, it was fun to be able to celebrate in Victory Lane with both those guys this year.
You know, every day I get more emotions and think about it, but kind of a quiet guy, don't say a whole lot. But it definitely means a lot. Like I said, I'm just grateful for the opportunity to work for the two guys next to me and I think this is just a little bit of what we've got to look forward to in the future is hopefully more of these and a lot more success.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you. Owner Roger Penske, certainly very, very successful in the motorsports world. Your first NASCAR Championship, and congratulations on that and your thoughts about being officially crowned here this evening?
ROGER PENSKE: It's amazing to think we've raced so many times here in open wheel, and to come back here and have this be the site for the championship is unbelievable.
When you think just a year ago when we decided to put this team together and Paul agreed to come on board and Brad. We talked with him and said let's build something from the ground. Let's build a whole new team, and that's what we've done this year.
I think the consistency, obviously when you think about Dodge went through bankruptcy and said, look, stay with us, don't leave us. You can see today when we see Detroit and what's happened, and we're so proud to have represented that mark through the season with seven wins in this series, a number of poles.
Of course, for Brad being a Michigan guy, I think we brought this whole thing back to Michigan.
BRAD KESELOWSKI: Yeah, it's been a while.
ROGER PENSKE: But for me it's a real thrill. This goes down to something I've tried so hard with on the Cup side, and certainly this hopefully will be a preamble to what's to come in the future.
I just thank everybody in the media and all our sponsors. More important is my name might be on the door, but it's all those people that are behind that door, some 350 people, that make Penske Racing successful day-in and day-out. I just want to thank them for what they've done for me personally. Also thank my wife who has put up with me for 38 years coming to these races. So it's been pretty special for me.
THE MODERATOR: Also, Brad Keselowski sets a NASCAR Nationwide Series record for the number of Top 5s finishing in the Top 5 here tonight. 26 times this year, and that is a series record.
BRAD KESELOWSKI: I was amazed over the word preamble. I may have to borrow that one. I like that.
THE MODERATOR: Questions for the championship team.
Q: Congratulations, gentlemen. Brad, you actually clinched the championship last weekend. So what was it like coming to this race as the champion? Is it a precursor to what you'll experience next year going to each race as the champion?
BRAD KESELOWSKI: It feels really good. Obviously, for us that meant we could come here and just take a gamble to win, and we did that. We took a pretty large gamble to win there towards the end. It didn't quite pay off, but it felt good that we knew at the end of the day we didn't leave anything on the table, and for that I'm very proud.
Throughout the year I think if you look at the way we've raced, we haven't raced in a championship mode for the most part. We've raced in a let's go for wins mode. We took gambles at tracks like Atlanta and so forth. Those were gambles to win the race.
Probably lost some spots because of that, but we're all about doing what we can to win races. We kept that up and got even more aggressive with it here tonight.
Q: Was there a point during the season where you said, you know, we've got a shot at this? You put together this brand-new team and all of a sudden you're in that position. Then, Brad, what is it that Paul brings to the table that makes you guys a championship team this year?
PAUL WOLFE: Well, to be honest with you, obviously, as we put this team together over the winter, the expectations and goals everybody wants to win a championship. For me, personally, it was like, all right, I need to get in there and build some fast race cars and figure out how we're going to win races. That was my number one goal.
Didn't really have a championship on my mind. It was building fast race cars and winning races. As we got into the season and had the back-to-back wins at Talladega and Richmond, and kind of seeing how the points were shaking out. That's probably around that time I was like well, you know, I think we have a shot at this championship.
As Brad touched on a little earlier, I can't say that we approached any weekend different as we found ourselves in the points lead there. I don't remember what race we had the points lead. But we didn't really approach the weekend different from the way we called the race, from the way we set up the race cars.
I'm not going to say Brad might not have been driving smart or careful, not putting himself in bad situations which he does a really good job of not doing that. But we went out to win races and to win six races is a pretty good stat.
You look at the 18 and you might think well, they won 12, so six doesn't seem like a lot. So they set the bar high. So I feel like for a first year team to come out here and win six of them is pretty big. So just like I said, proud of the effort and it's kind of my take on it.
BRAD KESELOWSKI: I can't remember what the second question was.
Q: What has Paul brought to the table for you?
BRAD KESELOWSKI: What does Paul bring? I think he said it himself. The focus on just building fast race cars. So much of this sport revolves around speed. You're crippled as a driver when you don't have fast race cars.
When you look through the sport's history, fast race cars always set the precedent over so many other things. Even reliability and pit road and all of that. If you have a fast race car you can just overcome so many issues.
And that's what Paul brings to the table is the knowledge and guts to work hard and build those cars and not accept anything less than that. I think that's what Paul brings to the table.
Obviously, our relationship has developed throughout the year to where we have a lot of confidence in each other and that gives a little more clarity and allows us all to be very focused as well.
Q: Brad and Roger, can you talk about in the last two weeks since you've clinched the title, have you seen anything that you felt has been an impact of winning the title either in the shop or with your guys? How has being the champion in just the last two weeks kind of impacted everyone.
PAUL WOLFE: I think it's been special for everybody involved, you know. It's nice to be able to go back to the guys that work so hard in the shop that don't necessarily get time to spend in Victory Lane. We try to go back and thank them every week for what they've done.
It's pretty impressive to be a new team like this and to only not compete one lap all season says how hard everybody's worked in building these race cars and building the reliability in them, too.
Yeah, it's definitely a special deal for everybody involved, and it seals like the hard work that everybody's put in definitely paid off.
BRAD KESELOWSKI: Other than that, it's just harder to walk through the garage. But it's easier to answer this guy's phone call, I tell you that.
Q: What are your Nationwide plans for next year in the Nationwide along with Brad? Can you tell us what your plans are?
ROGER PENSKE: When we sat down with Brad and Paul, we said we had a multiple year contract running, obviously in Nationwide. We had the sponsor every Tuesday, certainly the guys that have supporting us. And the conflict with the Sprint series and the Sprint Cup and Verizon made it impossible for us to renew just based on the way the rules of the road are.
So we wanted to tell Justin early on that we didn't have a full-time situation for him. Sam has done a great job for me on the IndyCar side. We brought him in here and maybe should have brought him up a different way. But we gave him a chance tonight to run.
We've got a couple of opportunities for him. Nothing at this point for a full season. But there is opportunity out there. We've got the ability to run in the first five races on the Cup side. So what we're trying to do is can we mix and match to get somebody in for us for next year?
Again, we've got to work on it. We'd like to run two cars next year, both on the Cup side and in the Nationwide side. We certainly have the equipment and have the people. I think all of us are looking for the right kind of sponsor. Today we had a new sponsor with us on the 26 car for Sam.
These are people that are interested in the sport and what we need to do is try to close some of these deals we are working on. I'm positive we can be back. But at this point with Brad for sure. I made it clear to Paul when we talked on the phone, he said, look I don't want this to be a partial deal. I want to go for this a couple of years and obviously that's important that we live up to what we agreed to. You guys certainly have.
And the stat sheet, you just said Paul, finishing every lap but one. When you think about we got wrecked a couple of times this year and still were able to come back and have the record we had was just terrific for the guys in the shop.
Q: Roger, were will your plans alter at all whatever NASCAR decides on, whether Cup drivers can compete for Nationwide titles and your Nationwide plans?
ROGER PENSKE: No, no, not at all. Brad wants to run. I think he thinks it's helping him to become a better driver. He's learned a lot. And I think that obviously our goal is to see his game get better. We've got to have better cars.
Obviously, when you think about this, his first full-time season on the Nationwide side and then on the Cup side, I think we've got a long runway for us. So we're not going to worry about what the rules are.
Our sponsors are going to want us to win races and Kyle did that. We need to be sure that we're in a position. The Challenger we think is going to be a great car. We've had good success with that already, and that's something we're focusing on for next year.
Q: Brad, your experience this season in running for a championship, the consistency, the Top 5 record and all that, what do you take from this side of the equation that you think will make you a better Sprint Cup driver?
BRAD KESELOWSKI: There are so many things you take on any given weekend. You can kind of magnify the picture and look at whether it's one lap and one groove or one pit stop and how to get into pit road better. You can magnify it or you can expand it and look back as far as building a brand and a legacy of being able to win and what that does for your team and for your name for guys like Roger to continue to drive greater and bigger sponsors and so forth, or for guys on the pit crew or on the road, just to keep their spirits up or even to continue to bring new talent in and build depth throughout the company.
I think there are multiple ways you can look at it. For me I look at it and try to keep that in mind and feel that that's why this series is so valuable to me.
It's not just valuable to me, it's valuable to us all. If I win, Roger wins, and if Roger wins, I win. So you try to keep that in perspective. That's kind of how I feel about it and hopefully we'll get the opportunity to run next year for the championship.
Like Roger said, we made commitments to sponsors and that to do it, and I feel good about those commitments and surely intend on honoring them. Hopefully we'll have the opportunity from a rules perspective to do just that.
THE MODERATOR: Congratulations to Roger Penske, Brad Keselowski, and Paul Wolfe on a 2010 NASCAR Nationwide Series Driver's Championship.