BRAD KESELOWSKI (No. 12 Penske Dodge Charger) WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON POTENTIALLY CLINCHING YOUR FIRST NASCAR NATIONWIDE SERIES CHAMPIONSHIP? "That's pretty cool. Awesome. I never thought that I'd get to that level. To be there and...
BRAD KESELOWSKI (No. 12 Penske Dodge Charger)
WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON POTENTIALLY CLINCHING YOUR FIRST NASCAR NATIONWIDE SERIES CHAMPIONSHIP? "That's pretty cool. Awesome. I never thought that I'd get to that level. To be there and insight of it is a pretty awesome goal. I'm still running worse case scenarios through my mind like don't break a leg getting out of a rental car and stuff like that, hope that the airplane doesn't crash or something. But it looks really good and I'm proud of what we've done to get to this point."
IS THERE ANYTHING ABOUT CLINCHING THE CHAMPIONSHIP AT TEXAS THAT WOULD MAKE IT MORE MEANINGFUL? "A couple things that I like about Texas. Obviously, it a great place to race at and we seem to get great crowds. I certainly want to win for the fans, as many fans as possible. That would be cool, kind of unique. I made my first Cup start there. That track has a few things that I really enjoy about it."
HAVE YOU TALKED TO ROGER ABOUT THAT IT'S GOING TO BE PENSKE'S FIRST NASCAR CHAMPIONSHIP? "A little bit, yeah. I think he's along the same lines as I am, you don't count your chickens before they hatch. They're ready. There's a crack in the egg; they're not hatched yet. I feel pretty good about it."
EVEN AT THIS STAGE WHEN IT LOOKS LIKE YOU COULD CRUISE THE REST OF THE WAY? "Yeah, you know me. I'm not going to cruise. You just don't count anything. Anything can happen. I could break my leg tomorrow and not be able to drive the last three races. That doesn't mean that I'm going to do anything stupid. It is a pretty awesome accomplishment. I hope it's something that I can look back on for years to come and think about how awesome this year has been. I'm pretty proud of it."
WHAT DO YOU THINK HAS BEEN THE KEY? "The consistency. It's still the old point's format in the Nationwide Series and I've always been a big fan of it. It rewards smart racing. Smart racing is finishing and getting the best finish that you can every week, setting yourself up for strong, consistent runs week after week after week. It's about average finishes. We have a great average finish. Obviously, we've won six races which helps. It might not be as many as Kyle (Busch), but you set yourself up for when you have that one race where it's like, 'man, I can really drive way over my head to win this race and the odds are that I'll probably crash and finish 30th or 35th.' That's all offset by if you win four of those races instead of finishing second or third and you have that one wreck, it wipes it all out. I think that there's a style that comes with running a race with that mentality."
IS THAT A LEARNING PROCESS THAT CAN CARRY FORWARD FOR YOU? "Yeah. It's a lot different over here (in Cup) from the standpoint of how the Chase affects the way that you race. There are some things that you can carry forward. I think more or less, the commitment and the drive that it takes to run the whole season, that's probably the largest part that you can take.
"I still have moderate respect for everyone in the Chase because with 10 races to go, it's easy to be ready for the off-season. I'll give everyone the runs in it, especially Jimmie (Johnson). He seems to be able to turn the wick up where everybody else seems to be sinking. That final charge, where if you were a runner, there's that last two or three miles where it's going from running eight-minute miles to six-minute miles and he's able to do that. It's like everyone is running a mile in 7:35 and fall off to an 8:30. That's pretty special."
DO YOU FIND YOURSELF IN THAT POSITION? IT'S A LONG SEASON. WHAT DO YOU DO TO MOTIVATE YOURSELF AT THE END OF THE SEASON? "There's not one thing that you're going to be able to do. You have to have fun at what you do for it to be tolerable. There's going to be spots where it's just not fun. There are races that we all have where you say, 'God dang, get me out of here.' You need to have fun. You need to enjoy the people you work around; that's probably one of the major keys. You take a vacation when you can. The biggest thing that makes it fun is when you have fast race cars. You just need to execute. It keeps you from stressing out. I think the guys up front have way less stress than the guys in the middle of the pack just from that standpoint alone."
WAS THERE ANY POINT AT THE BEGINNING OF THE SEASON THAT YOU HAD DOUBTS IF YOU COULD WIN THE NNS CHAMPIONSHIP? "I expected to run good. But there was an expectation that breakdowns would be a problem. Normal problems with a new team, parts left loose. Without testing, you don't have a real chance to really R & D things or look for failures. You would think that those things would pop up, but knock on wood, they haven't. I would say that there was an expectation that it's going to be hard to win a championship with a new team from that standpoint alone. Who knows, maybe those gremlins will jump up at the end of the year or even next year and I'll have to pay for this later down the road. I think that it was a lot to ask coming into the season to win the championship this year. It just makes it that much sweeter."
HOW COME YOU AND CREW CHIEF PAUL WOLFE SEEM TO CLICK TO WELL? "I think that we have good communication and he builds fast race cars. Between the two, that's what it takes. I think the approach that I have towards racing is quite a bit different than a lot of drivers and for some reason, we just complement each other. Some of the areas that I think about are different areas that he thinks about. I feel trapped when I don't have a fast race car because I don't necessarily know how to make it fast and Paul knows how to make it fast. The way that I go about racing and breakdown the races, I try to be a step ahead of the race, there's not a lot of drivers that do that. I think that it's very helpful to Paul. There's not one magic thing, it's everything. You do everything right and it just clicks. You have to have chemistry and Paul and I have that."
HAS THAT MADE IT MORE FRUSTRATING ON THE CUP SIDE? "Absolutely. Don't get me wrong, we've had weeks where I've felt that we've run good, but the majority hasn't been that way. We still have a lot of work to do."
HAS THE NATIONWIDE SERIES TAKEN ANYTHING AWAY FROM YOUR CUP PERFORMANCE? "I think that I get stronger by running the Nationwide car. There have been races, like Loudon for example, that I qualified on the pole and thought that was a direct reflection of not running the Nationwide car and being able to focus on a qualifying run. But I noticed that as soon as I got to the race, I felt less prepared as usual. So I think that there's a tradeoff there. You might gain something one part of the weekend and lose it at another part."
WHY DO YOU THINK THAT THE PENSKE TEAMS HAVE BEEN SO STRONG WITH THIS NEW NATIONWIDE CAR? "I think the Dodge in general is a really good car, the way that it's been designed. There were concerns about it at the beginning, the way that the front fascia has this huge gap inside the headlight area, that inside the wind tunnel it would create a downforce discrepancy against the other makes. But we've seen that hasn't been an issue. We were really worried about that. I don't have a great answer for that other than the approach that we've taken with the program, the crew chiefs have taken and engineering has taken, almost treating it likes it's its own identity. I think a lot of other groups and teams have treated it as an old Cup car. We've treated it as its own entity because it is different than a Cup car and requires different things." (more)
KNOWING THAT EVEYONE IS CHASING THE PENSKE CARS, HOW DO YOU GUYS KEEP DIGGING AND MOVING FORWARD? "You just keep working. You keep your eyes open and stay sharp and you have to keep finding speed. It's a never-ending challenge. They only way to do that is to work your butt off 24-7, whether that's testing or whatever it may be."
IS IT HARD TO BELIEVE THAT ROGER HASN'T WON A NASCAR CHAMPIONSHIP? "It is. It's very strange to walk through the building and see all those Indy 500 pictures where's he's won and not see a NASCAR championship. Don't get me wrong, there's pictures of him with Ryan (Newman) or Kurt (Busch) throughout the years and even Rusty (Wallace). It's unbelievable that there's not one of him holding a (NASCAR) championship trophy. When I came to Penske Racing, that's what I wanted to do. I wanted to win him a championship. That makes it more special."
HOW GOOD DO YOU HAVE TO BE INSIDE THE CUP GARAGE NEXT YEAR? "I have this question in my mind a little while back with leaving Hendrick. You always talk about your stock rising and dropping. I try to look to other people and get their opinions and asked them, 'Where do you think that I am in this sport right now?' I was like, 'Winning this championship is pretty cool.' I think winning the championship on the Nationwide side kind of keeps my stock level. If I was solely on the Cup side and judged, I think a lot of people would say the stock has dropped. It kind of levels it back out which is something that I appreciate. From a garage perspective, not just my team, but it keeps everyone thinking about it from the point that this sport is about attracting top people to your team, whether it's pit crews or over the wall guys or mechanics, or spotters. And when you win and your stock is at a high level, it's easier to do that. It's easier to get the 12-second tire changer because of that. That's really important for a driver to be successful because this is such a team sport and when you run well and they see that, you attract talent and it keeps you going."
YOUR WIN AT TALLADEGA LAST YEAR HAD A HUGE IMPACT ON YOUR CAREER? "It did have a big impact. I don't know how my career would have been different if I hadn't won it. I wish that I could say that I had it planned that way, but I really didn't. I would have rather just passed him cleanly and just won the race. Looking back at it, every time growing up through the sport, from the Late Model level to the Trucks to the Nationwide to the Cup, there was always that instance where you're rocked back on your heels and you're like, 'This sport is about to kick me out.' You're like a prize fighter, you're dizzy. You've taken a couple punches and when that moment happens, I don't know how, I consider it pure luck and things have just worked out in my favor. I got an opportunity to win a race or to get in great equipment and kind of fell back forward and something has happened. I had that opportunity in 2007 to drive that Germain truck when I feel like my career was over. And then 'boom' instantly back on the map, but I didn't win a race. I was right there leading a race and got wrecked. I was like, 'Alright, there will be other days.' It was about a year and a half later driving Dale Earnhardt Jr's Nationwide car when I was leading at Vegas and felt like I had a strong shot at winning and got wrecked again. Every time that it happened, whether it was those two lows or at another level, the people that were involved always said the same thing, 'Hey man, I'm sorry. You'll get another opportunity. You'll get another break.' At that moment you don't know that. At the moment, you're on the back of your heels. You're like that could be it. What if I never get the opportunity to win again? What if my cars go to hell? What if I lose an edge? You don't know. So when that moment came at Talladega last year, the same thing ran through my mind."
-source: dodge motorsports
-source: dodge motorsports