Dodge's Keselowski takes points lead with sixth place finish in Phoenix 500

Brad Keselowski (No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge Charger R/T) Finished 6th

HOW ABOUT THE FINISH AND EVERYTHING YOU HAD TO DRIVE THROUGH TO GET THERE? “You know, I raced pretty hard last week at Texas and a couple guys gave me flack for it but there’s a difference between racing hard and what we saw today. That was borderline ridiculous. But we survived and I’m proud of everyone on the Miller Lite team for that. We had a great car and things just didn’t quite play to our strengths but that’s okay. I felt very lucky to make it through all the cars today.”

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

Photo by: Action Sports Photography

YOU HAVE A 21-POINT LEAD IN THE CHAMPIONSHIP. WHAT WAS YOUR INITIAL THOUGHT WHEN YOU REALIZED THAT JIMMIE JOHNSON HAD BEEN INVOLVED IN THE ACCIDENT? “My initial thought was that I heard he blew a right-front tire and I was thinking what conspiracy theorists are going to come up with a theory on this one and then you realize that the same thing could happen to you. And so you try not to let that get into you too much and try to just focus on what you got and make sure you don’t have the same problem. That was really what I was thinking. Obviously there are no guarantees. We could go to Homestead and have the same problem and Jimmie, you know, takes the point lead back over. No guarantees but very proud to have that points lead heading into next week.”

TAKE US THROUGH THE RUN HERE TODAY ESPECIALLY THAT LAST LAP. “Yeah, we had a really, really strong car on the long runs but I wasn’t very good on the restarts. That’s something I’ve got to get better at. The team did a great job giving me an awesome car and we survived the carnage, specifically on the last few restarts. I felt very lucky for that.”

WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS AS YOU HEAD INTO THIS CHAMPIONSHIP RUN? “Nothing is over until it’s over. And the same problems that Jimmie had today we could have next week at Homestead. So we just need to keep our head down and focus on what lays ahead.”

THIS WAS A CRAZY RACE TODAY. “It’s really tough to just survive a race like that physically and mentally and I felt very lucky to do so. It makes me feel like that could happen the other way around next week and we could be right back out of this thing. You can’t take anything for granted in this sport.”

WHAT WERE YOU THINKING WHEN THE RED FLAG CAME OUT? AND YOU COULD HAVE HAD AN ISSUE WHEN DANICA SPUN ON THE LAST LAP. “Yeah I don’t know what happened that she came around. I guess it laid oil down and we all hit it and wrecked. Just one crazy deal after another.”

THIS WAS NOT AN EASY RACE TODAY. WHEN DID YOU KNOW WHAT HAPPENED TO JIMMIE? “Quite honestly I’m disappointed. I felt like we had a car to win the race and things just didn’t fall our way to be able to pull that off. So that’s quite honestly how I’m feeling. But the points stuff, I feel good about that. Don’t get me wrong, but I also don’t feel like anything is guaranteed.”

WHAT ARE YOU THINKING AS YOU GO TO HOMESTEAD-MIAMI? “I don’t know if it’s what the fans like. You know, like I said, I just felt very lucky to survive today.”

WHAT WENT THROUGH YOUR MIND WHEN YOU SAW JEFF GORDON AND CLINT BOWYER GET MIXED UP RIGHT IN FRONT OF YOU? “I wasn’t surprised but I was. I was disappointed that that’s the way it went down.”

YOU SAID YOU WERE DISAPPOINTED YOU DIDN’T WIN THE RACE. DO YOU FEEL LUCKY YOU DIDN’T GET ANY MARKS? “Oh absolutely. I felt very, very lucky to not get caught up in a couple of those incidents. You know, sometimes you’ve got to catch breaks and we’re catching breaks this year. I’m very thankful for that.”

THERE WAS NO BETTER EXAMPLE OF THIS BEING A TEAM EFFORT THAN YOUR SPOTTER TALKING YOU THROUGH WHAT WAS GOING ON BETWEEN BOWYER AND GORDON. WHAT WAS THAT LIKE? “Well, you know, if we don’t survive that we obviously don’t come out of there with the point’s lead, so that was very critical. All year long we’ve had a team that’s rallied around each other and found a way to persevere through adversity. I’m very, very lucky to have them and I know that. This is a team sport. NASCAR racing doesn’t get the credit for that but it really is a team sport. We rely on each other and fall back on each other in times of weakness and boost each other up in times of strength. Joey (Meier), my spotter, had my back on that and Paul (Wolfe, crew chief) had my back on the pit calls, giving me a fast car. Obviously, it’s my job to do all I could do to stay out of all the wrecks today and that’s why we’re in the position that we’re in.”

WHAT IS THAT LIKE FOR YOU WHEN YOU SEE ALL THIS GOING ON AROUND YOU? “You know, you’re just thinking what next, that’s all you can think and trying to put yourself in position to not be a part of it. I hate laying up in a race car. I’d rather go for the win and do all those things we did with that late-race pit call to come in and put tires on and try to drive through the field. And it kind of backfired because it put us in the midst of all the carnage. But that’s part of the sport and shows the commitment we have to winning races.”

YOU HAVE A LITTLE BIT OF DAMAGE TO YOUR DODGE CHARGER. WHAT HAPPENED? “We got caught up in that last wreck and I felt very, very lucky to just make it past the start-finish line.”

WHAT WAS YOUR THOUGHTS ABOUT THE 48 (JOHNSON) HAVING SOME ISSUES? “Well, I was wondering what conspiracy theory was going to come up for that one (smiles). I felt bad for him and I know that the same thing can happen to us next week and this is why it’s not over until it’s over.”

YOU SAID EARLIER THIS WEEK THAT WHEN YOU THINK ABOUT HOMESTEAD YOU THINK ABOUT GOING THERE AND WINNING THE RACE. WHAT IS YOUR PLAN NOW? “Same thing – we go to Homestead and win the race. We’re going to do all we can to make that happen. When you run up front, you control your own destiny.”

WHAT WERE YOUR THOUGHTS WHEN YOU SAW WHAT HAPPENED WITH THE 48? “Yeah, I was wondering what conspiracy theory was going to come up. Those things happen in this sport and it’s hard to understand or accept sometimes but it’s just part of it. It’s very unfortunate for that to happen to Jimmie. I don’t want to win the championship that way. I want to earn it as best I can. We caught bad breaks and he caught a bad break. But quite honestly, those same things could happen to us. We can get a flat tire next week and put him right back in it. So, that’s why you never count anything until it’s over.”

AT WHAT POINT WERE YOU TRYING TO BACK OFF OR GO FOR BROKE WITH ALL THE CHAOS GOING ON AROUND YOU? “I think if you look at the late-race pit calls that we made to come in and put tires on, that shows our commitment to go out and winning the race. We wanted as much of a points cushion as we could get and winning the race was going to do that for us. Obviously, that didn’t work out but we still put in a solid effort.”

WHAT WAS GOING THROUGH YOUR MIND WHEN DANICA PATRICK HIT THE WALL AND CAUSED THE BACKUP AT THE START-FINISH LINE? “Well, we just all hit the oil that she layed down. We were all out of control and I saw it happening and thought ‘Oh boy I’ve got to get all the way to the start-finish line.’ But I got clipped and made it through sideways. That just shows you when you have good fortune on your side, it’s a good thing.”

HOW CLOSE WERE YOU TO THE BOWYER-GORDON INCIDENT? “Well, it looked close but it wasn’t quite that close. I’ve got to thank my spotter for, you know, keeping me posted about what was going on.”

WHAT ARE YOUR FEELINGS GOING INTO HOMESTEAD? “It’s definitely not bad. It’s good but it’s not over.”


KESELOWSKI: “Well, certainly if you have the choice you always want to be in the lead of the points, especially in the closing races, so I'm thankful for that. But I also know that the troubles that they had are the same troubles that we could have next week, and so you try not to take anything for granted. You try to just focus on what lies ahead, and we've got to do the best job we can at Homestead. That's where my focus is.”

Q. What went through your mind when you threaded the needle right there at the end? There was just crazy stuff going in every direction. “Yeah, I mean, I thought I had gotten this close and I was going to wreck and stop before the start finish line, so I just hit the gas as hard as I could thinking that I would just bounce off enough walls like a game of pong to make it across the start-finish line, and that would be it. Somehow the car straightened itself back out and I made it back around. I don't even know what happened; I've got to watch the replay of that.”

Q. When did you learn about Jimmie's condition? Did Paul radio you? “I didn't know until I drove by and he was on pit road. I knew somebody had blown out a right-front tire based on the marks on the wall and the damage, so I didn't know until I drove by and saw a black car on pit road and saw the right side tore up on it, and I put two and two together.”

Q. What were you thinking? “I was saying I can't wait to hear all the conspiracy theories. That's what I was thinking, yeah. Because I'm sure maybe five years from now if I end up winning this thing, there will be somebody that goes remember Phoenix when such and such laid down thumbnail tacks and blew out Jimmie's tire? That was what I was thinking; what conspiracy story is somebody going to come up with? It might be (Mike) Mulhern, I don't know. (laughter) I was just trying to think what's the wildest one I could come up with, and then I thought, well, that could very easily be me, and I'd better manage my car and my tires to make sure it's not.”

Q. You seem unusually subdued for having this big a points lead. Would you be happier if you would have won the race and Johnson would have finished second or third? “Absolutely. I felt like we had a race winning car and I wanted to take the point’s lead by winning a race and not relying on a failure. But sometimes that's not how the sport works and you have to accept that. I'm more disappointed in the quality of racing that we saw today. I thought it was absolutely ridiculous, and I was ashamed to be a part of it.”

Q. You were in the car and said something like if I ever do something like that just come out here and slap me in the face or hit me in the head. What most offended you about what happened out there? “Well, it's the double standard that I spent a whole week being bashed by a half a dozen drivers about racing hard at Texas and how I'm out of control and have a death wish, and then I see (expletive) like that. That's (expletive). That's all you can call that. These guys just tried to kill each other. You race hard and I get called an asshole for racing hard and called with a death wish, and I see shit like that, and it just pisses me off.”

Q. I'm wondering where to go with this. “I would hope that Mike is probably in the hauler saying the same thing. Maybe not. I don't know. Well, he was, I hope.”

Q. You got hit there at the end. You said why we have to kill ourselves to get a good finish. What should have been done differently there? “Well, I mean, the retaliation is out of control in this sport. We've got a bunch of drivers that feel like they have to retaliate or they're being challenged as a man and that's ridiculous. It's not what this sport needs. I don't think it's good for anybody and it's going to get somebody hurt.

“You know, I've said before we walk a line between chess players and daredevils, and we're not walking it very well. I don't know why that is. I certainly don't blame NASCAR for that. They're not driving the cars.

“But it just drives me absolutely crazy that I get lambasted for racing somebody hard without there even being a wreck and then you see stuff like this, and that's okay, from the same people that criticized me. And that's okay. It's okay to just take somebody out, but you race somebody hard, put a fender on somebody and try to go for the win, and you're an absolute villain. That’s ridiculous.

“But then we can just go out and retaliate against each other, come back in and smile about it, and it's fine. That's not what this sport needs. It needs hard racing. It needs people that go for broke, try to win races and put it all out there on the line, not a bunch of people that have anger issues. That's not good for anybody, and it really hurt my feelings to be a part of a Chase race for the championship and have that jeopardized from people that can't keep control of their emotions.

Q. I'm not certain because of the crazy number, the sequence there, but I think at one point there was supposed to be two to go there and you were told over the radio expect the worst. “Yeah, something along those lines.”

Q. As a driver what are your instincts there, because there was a couple times there where with Jimmie out of the race and in the garage, you probably shouldn't have been mixing it up, so with the way everything was going, what are your instincts there? Are you fading back? What are you doing? “Well, I mean, you're just trying not to be the cause. It's like running at Talladega. You can complain all you want about pack racing and being in the big wreck, but you don't have to cause it. And that's where I was at. I was just trying not to be the cause of my own undoing. You can't control whether it happens or not and you certainly can't play defense in this sport because it will bite you. I wasn't about to play defense but I was just trying not to be the cause of my own demise.”

Q. What I wanted to ask you about was in the previous wreck, just the fact that as a race car driver it had to be a little bit unusual when you come out and you're racing for position and a car that is much slower than everybody else, you barely missed that wreck, but it's not the usual thing you come across when you race the guy in front of you. Was there anything panicky about coming along there? That doesn't happen every day. “I mean, I try really hard not to panic in the car. I didn't panic in that situation. I just put myself in a position where no matter how it went down I was going to be okay. That’s thankfully how it played out, to where I was okay. I'd been briefed I guess two laps prior that that was going to happen, and so I was prepared.”

Q. It's the last year, the last season with the Dodge and Chrysler group. I'm sure it's a little bit bittersweet. Can you tell us the emotion of Chrysler or the Fiat group, you win the championship and then they are gone, they're leaving the series? “Yeah, I don't know exactly how they feel about it. I would hope that they come back as soon as possible, but I really haven't had those conversations. I would love to see that happen. I think it's important for the sport to have as many participating manufacturers as possible, especially one that fits the sport as Dodge does. I don't have a good feel for their vibe on it, but I hope to see them back soon.”

Q. A lot of right-front failures sending guys into the wall. Any concern about right front failures? “Absolutely, I was concerned the whole race. It's funny you say that because in the back of my mind, we had a long run where I think I was chasing down the leaders, and I thought to myself, well, we haven't seen any right front issues in a while and I can probably push the car really hard here and not have to worry about it. As soon as I said that to myself and ran about another three or four laps, that's when somebody would blow out a right front tire. So yes, certainly I was very concerned about it. I know Goodyear is, as well. That's why we had the tire test here a couple weeks ago, to try and be better for next year, and hopefully that will be the answer.”

Q. There was no chance that (inaudible) could go wrong? “Oh, there's always a chance that things can go wrong, but it's my job to manage that.”

Q. I just want to clarify, was there anything that went on before the Gordon turned into Bowyer thing that had angered you even before that? “No, I mean, I think just the way the race finished was.”

Q. Just the fact that because this is a championship and you could have almost gotten caught up in it? “Absolutely, yeah. I think we all have to have a certain level of respect for each other in order for this sport to put on the quality of show that our fans deserve. But we also have to have an inner passion and desire to win, and those two have to be balanced with each other. They're here and they're here, and it's out of control.”

SRT Motorsports

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Brad Keselowski
Teams Team Penske
Article type Race report
Tags dodge, keselowski, penske, srt