Brad Keselowski (No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge Charger R/T) Qualified 3rd: “That’s a little bit faster than what we ran (in practice). It’s probably going to take a 30.50 or 30.60 here to be on the pole.
HOW WAS THE CAR DURING THE AFTERNOON WHEN THE SUN WAS OUT? “I thought it was pretty decent but we can always be better.”
HOW WAS YOUR QUALIFYING LAP? “I thought it was pretty decent. I was pleasantly surprised with the speed. I felt like we’d be lucky to end up in the top 15. It’s not over yet but it looks like it’ll probably be somewhere in that range.
I’m happy with that. Qualifying has not been our strong suit, so to put on some kind of decent showing for that is important. We’re going to keep working hard to be the best we can in the race which is what counts the most.”
HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE THE DAY SO FAR? “I think it’s been a pretty simple day for us, just going through the stuff that we always go through and trying to keep the same routines that have made us successful to date.”
HAVE YOU BEEN ABLE TO BLOCK OUT EVERYTHING THAT’S GOING ON AND FOCUS ON WHAT YOU NEED TO DO? “I’m not going to lie to you and say that I’ve blocked everything out but I’m enjoying it, how about that? And that’s just as important.”
YOUR THOUGHTS ON QUALIFYING BETTER THAN JIMMIE JOHNSON? “I mean maybe some kind of mental thing. I totally expected him to out-qualify us, to be quite honest.
I was going to be fine with that. At least we were prepared for the worst and that’s not what happened so I guess we’re okay.”
WHAT KIND OF RACE DO YOU THINK WE’LL SEE ON SUNDAY GIVEN EVERYTHING THAT HAPPENED LAST WEEK? “I don’t know. I imagine it’ll be very similar to what we saw at Texas.
These tracks are probably the most similar, here Texas and Chicagoland, with the grip levels and the configurations. So, I’d expect the racing to be similar to that.”
COMMENT ON THE PRESSURE OF THE WEEKEND. “There’s always pressure. There was pressure all year long. I don’t feel drastically more than what I have. But the pressure is what makes it worth it.
That’s part of what makes it special, what makes it mean something, so I’m not going to try to run from it. But I can deal with it very well.”
SAM HORNISH JR (No. 22 Shell/Pennzoil Dodge Charger) Qualified 17th
HOW WAS YOUR LAP? "We were pretty free. We just couldn't get it through the corner the way that we needed to. The track tightened up a little bit throughout practice as everything started to cool off.
Then the track went free tonight, but we have a pretty good direction for Sunday. All in all, it wasn't a terrible lap by any means. I think that we'll be inside the top 15 to start the race.
I'm more worried about race day than I am qualifying day. We have a fast Shell/Pennzoil Dodge. We'll just see what we can do to make our car better tomorrow in practice. We found some stuff today that will help for Sunday. I feel pretty good about it."
YOU'VE BEEN A CHAMPION OVER IN INDYCAR. IS THERE ANYTHING THAT YOU CAN TELL BRAD HEADING INTO SUNDAY'S RACE? "I'm not telling Brad anything because I'd be afraid that I'd tell him something that would screw him up.
I just hope that it's a nice, smooth race and the championship is won the way it should be, racing hard and not having someone ruin your day."
WHAT ABOUT THE EMOTIONS THAT A DRIVER FACES HEADING INTO A CHAMPIONSHIP RACE? ARE THE EMOTIONS HARD TO BLOCK OUT? "I had it in different ways. I clinched my first Indy championship before the last race one time.
The second time I won a championship I went into the race with an 11-point lead and just had to finish second to win the championship. We won the race and I had a 22 point lead at the end.
When I won the championship driving for Roger (Penske), we went into the race knowing that we only had to finish third. There were a lot of variable that had to happen for me to lose the championship so it wasn't that stressful.
(Scott) Dixon made a couple of mistakes and I kept getting around him. I knew how smart Roger (Penske) was about the race and just listened to him all day."
WHEN YOU'RE IN POSITION TO WIN A CHAMPIONSHIP, IS THERE A DIFFERENCE BETWEEN BEING THE 'HUNTER' AND 'HUNTED'? "I would much rather be the hunted because you have the lead. There are fewer scenarios that you have to lose the championship.
If you're coming into the race with any type of margin, it makes things a little easier. There's just a better feel that you have and less things to worry about to accomplish your goal."
MEDIA CENTER INTERVIEWS
KESELOWSKI: “Yeah, I mean obviously this is what you want to do, you want to qualify well. I really had no expectation of putting on that exciting of a qualifying effort. I’m very happy, very thankful for that result.
It’s a testament to the guys, they pushed really hard to give me the best car possible.
We prepared for Homestead under the impression that we’d have to come here and win the race and do all those things to win the championship so the speed out of car is a reflection of that. I’m thankful that showed up and we’re going to do the best we can.”
YOU QUALIFIED THIRD, JIMMIE JOHNSON IS TENTH. HOW DOES THAT CHANGE YOUR THINKING ABOUT SUNDAY OR DOES IT AT ALL? “You know, other than pit stall selection, like I said, I was prepared to qualify drastically behind him.
I think our whole team was. You look at the race tracks that we’ve talked about being similar to here to Homestead, Chicago and Texas. Both those race tracks, I felt like we qualified drastically behind them and we were able to get up there.
And that shows that if you have a great race car, you’ll be able to get the job done. I think we all know that Jimmie is going to have great race car and he already has a great team.
They’ll find a way to make their way up there. That actual track position becomes irrelevant when you have a great team. The only real intangible thing that shows up in the race is the pit stall location.”
JIMMIE SAID THEY SPENT THE WHOLE PRACTICE IN QUALIFYING TRIM. I WAS CURIOUS IF YOU DID TOO? “Yeah I mean, we obviously worked on it but our focus has been primarily on the race.”
IF ANYTHING, YOU SET THE TONE FOR HAVING A GOOD TIME DOWN HERE DESPITE ALL THAT YOU HAVE TO ACCOMPLISH. CAN YOU TALK ABOUT YOUR TWEET AND DENNY HAMLIN’S TWEET AND YOUR TWEET BACK TO HIM. THAT WAS PRETTY FUNNY. “It wasn’t that funny (laughs). I didn’t think it was that funny.
I’ve seen a lot funnier stuff. It was kind of funny; it was as funny as you could expect from a race car driver, which I guess is good. We’re not supposed to be comedians. Some of us are, some of us act like ‘em.
But I’m trying to stay loose, I’m trying to have fun with him and with everybody else. This is supposed to be a great time and I want to treat it like that. I want to have fun with it.
This is the moment I’ve lived for my whole life, to be down to the line and have an opportunity to run for what it’s worth and I’m going to enjoy it. I’m not going to sit here and be miserable with it. What’s the point of that?
That’s not any fun. Why are you doing it if you’re not having any fun? I’m going to enjoy it and it just so happens that it actually makes me better at it when I enjoy it. That’s kind of my outlook, I guess.”
WHAT ARE YOUR SIMPLE JOYS IN LIFE, RACING RELATED OR NOT? “My phone (laughter). That’s all I got.”