BRAD KESELOWSKI, NO. 88 DELPHI IMPALA SS, met with media and discussed winning at Talladega, the end of the Talladega race, his future career plans, Cup races he will run this season and other topics. A BUSY WEEK AFTER WINNING THE TALLADEGA CUP...
BRAD KESELOWSKI, NO. 88 DELPHI IMPALA SS, met with media and discussed winning at Talladega, the end of the Talladega race, his future career plans, Cup races he will run this season and other topics.
A BUSY WEEK AFTER WINNING THE TALLADEGA CUP RACE: "Yeah, it was a great week and I thank everybody who was responsible for it from James Finch to the Hendrick engine department for giving me a solid engine. It just makes me want to do it again. I'm looking forward to more opportunities down the road to do that. I've got my next Sprint Cup race next week at Darlington with the No. 25 car, so I'm looking forward to that with the GoDaddy team. As far as here at Richmond goes, not really any change to the approach. I'm still trying to run the Nationwide car for the championship and have closed a lot of ground on that with the JR Motorsports team. I think I've got a legitimate shot at it. It's still very early in the year. And I'm trying to make up for the first part and we've done a good job of that. We've got four top 10's in a row now so that's what you need to do to run for that. I think we've got something going today to continue that momentum and get another good finish."
DID YOU SELL YOURSELF TO THE DEVIL OR WHAT HAS TURNED EVERYTHING AROUND FOR YOU? "Oh, is that like a Joe Namath question (laughter)? No, it's just the racing roller coaster, man. You're on the bottom and then you're on the top and sometimes you're in the middle. We're back on the top. That doesn't mean I won't get back on the bottom before the year's over. You just try to time the ride to where it's on top as long as you can be, but you've got to take it when it's on the bottom. And it was certainly on the bottom the first few races this year and it seemed like it didn't spend any time in the middle. It's interesting how that works out. As far as changing my mindset, nothing significantly, I don't feel like. Things are working out now and I hold the strong belief that you put yourself in position for good things to happen to you. And I had been doing that at the start of the year and good things just didn't happen. And at Talladega, although I wouldn't say wrecking Carl (Edwards) was a good thing to happen, but being out of the big wrecks and being in front of them and being in the top 10 or the top 5 in the closing laps, that's how you put yourself in position for good things to happen."
WHAT ARE YOUR POSSIBILITIES FOR A CUP RIDE NEXT YEAR, AND WHERE DO YOU THINK YOU'LL END UP? "Well, I'd like to be in Cup full time next year. I sat out this year because I didn't think that the timing was right and I didn't think I was ready for a full schedule. And I wanted to do this right as far as the Cup level goes. I wanted to come into it as someone who could run competitively and I kind of even shocked myself on how competitive I could run. The other ways of doing it last year was not the situation, so I didn't take them. So now I'm looking at it. I guess to backup, when I look at where I was a year ago, I had the opportunity with Penske to so that deal, and I turned it down because I felt like on any given weekend, I was anywhere from a 15th to 30th place Cup driver. And I feel like I've made some progression toward the end of the year last year, and toward the start of this year, to where maybe I'm a 10th to 20th place Cup driver.
"I know that to make that next step, I need to run full time. I need to have a full time ride at the Cup level to be a guy who can run for the Chase or take wins. So it's a matter of making that line up.
"Opportunities or situations to make that work? I don't think you guys have time to hear them all. I've put some thought into it, but not a lot. The basics of it are that we still have a few months to work some other things out. Specifically I'm working with HMS and owe it to them to see what they can work out. I think the key part about this whole situation of where I'm at with contracts and next year is that you stick with what got you to where you're at. Having competitive cars and having support from HMS and being able to look at their data and talk to their drivers is what got me into victory lane on Sunday. It's hard to run from that, you know. But at the same time, at this point and at this time, there isn't a clear opportunity there. So we'll have to see how that plays out."
IN THE DAYS SINCE THE TALLADEGA VICTORY, HAVE YOU HAD A CHANCE TO REPLAY HOW YOUR RACED? WHAT IS YOUR MINDSET NOW FOR THE REST OF THE YEAR COMPARED TO WHAT IT WAS BEFORE YOUR BIG WIN? "That's a good question. It's hard to say. I look back at Talladega, and I'm my worst critic. And I keep looking back to Talladega and I look at it and I go, 'Man, if it wasn't for this, I wouldn't have won. If it wasn't for that, I wouldn't have won'. And I really can't find anything that I feel bad about or that I messed up. And so that gives me a lot of confidence. I feel like it was a dream weekend. I feel like I can have more weekends like that if I continue to align with the right opportunities. I look at the No. 25 Cup car as being that same opportunity with Lance McGrew and GoDaddy and that opportunity is just a week away. So I'm excited about that. I've tried to put myself in a position to have good opportunities when I do run on the Cup level. Certainly when you win, hopefully you gain more confidence and respect from your competitors, so it gets easier. Because I can tell you, it wasn't easy at Talladega. I didn't have anybody to run with all day. If I wouldn't have picked running with Carl (Edwards) I would have never even gotten up there. So I hope that answers your question."
DO YOU THINK YOUR TALLADEGA WIN RAISES THE STAKES FOR A RIDE WITH HENDRICK MOTORSPORTS? DOES THIS CHANGE ANYTHING WITH YOUR NEGOTIATIONS? "Oh, I know it can't hurt (laughs). I've only talked to Mr. Hendrick very briefly. So I haven't had any detailed discussions on next year with him. But that's down the road and I'm not going to try and rush that. We're going to take our time and stick with that because like I said, that's gotten me where I'm at, that relationship. So I don't want to run from it because there's a different opportunity or whatever or so to speak, and that goes the same on the JR Motorsports deal on the Nationwide side and with Dale and I don't want to run from that either because the things I was able to learn there are what got to me to where I can run competitively at the Cup level. Does this strengthen the negotiations? I'd like to think it does.
"I know that winning can't hurt. I guess that's probably the easiest way to put it. And I haven't had any detailed discussions any further than that with Mr. Hendrick on how to make all that work."
IS IT FRUSTRATING SITTING HERE KNOWING AFTER YOU WON LAST WEEK YOU'RE NOT GOING TO BE RUNNING IN THE CUP RACE ON SATURDAY? "Frustrating as far as not running, it really hasn't soaked in that I won. It's hard to get frustrated when you don't even picture yourself as a winner yet. I feel like I can run over there right now and be competitive but the opportunity isn't there and until the opportunity is there it is what it is. There's a lot of talent over there and you can't take that away from those drivers that run over there every weekend. I'd love to be running over there. I've raced against 15 or 20 of the same guys over here on the Nationwide side so it's very similar and I think I could run competitively but the opportunity is not there so I'm not really thinking about it. I'm thinking about the Nationwide car.
"As far as how the past week has been, I just haven't had any time off. I'm going to try to schedule my next win for when I have an off weekend afterwards. Work on that or at least not a short week. So I'll write that down. It is what it is so you take it and you're happy to even get it."
I UNDERSTAND NOW YOU ARE GOING TO BE RUNNING THE ALL-STAR RACE BUT CAN YOU KIND OF TELL US WHAT YOUR UNDERSTANDING WAS PRIOR TO THAT BECAUSE I THINK YOU WEREN'T EVEN GOING TO BE ELIGIBLE TO RUN THE PRELIMINARY AND WHICH CAR ARE YOU GOING TO DRIVE? "At this time we haven't got the All-Star situation figured out as far as what I'm driving and so forth. No I wasn't planning on it. I don't think I was eligible to run in the Open, I think it's called the Open. I don't know what they call it now. So at this point I haven't figured out which car I'm driving or how that situation is going to work. I shouldn't say that I haven't figured it out I should said that the two teams that I driver for on the Cup side haven't figured it out. Yeah I don't think I was eligible for it before. So I went from being not even eligible to run the Open to locked into the big show. That's pretty awesome.
"One of the biggest things to me excluding the All-Star race is the teams that I drive for, they're not locked in. The situation of rain-outs, I was in a situation before where I was going home. Now with the way the provisional system is and a rain-out basis I'm locked in so that's pretty cool. I don't know about the All-Star race stuff."
DO YOU HAVE A BUSINESS AGENT AND WHAT IS YOUR SCHEDULE FOR THE REST OF THE YEAR, HAS IT CHANGED AT ALL AND IS (JAMES) FINCH BACK FROM THE PARTY YET? "I have an agency I work with out of Michigan. For the most part I like to talk to people like Mr. Hendrick myself. I use the agency more for business dealings outside of the specifics to the race team whether that's endorsement or sponsorship relations. When it comes to me and Mr. H it's just that, me and Mr. H and I think he respects that and I respect that out of him that he doesn't bring somebody with him.
"You know that schedule was changing every week before I won so it's still changing every week. Originally we were going to run here at Richmond and that didn't work out. A couple of weeks ago that actually got cancelled. As far as knowing locked in what all the rest of my races are I do not know. There's a couple that I would like to run that we just haven't figured out how to run them. I'm trying to run Watkins Glen but we don't have that figured out. So there's a couple of races like that we just don't have figured out but I'm trying to run them.
"I saw James (Finch) on Tuesday and he was having a good time. A real good time. It's funny to pair James and I together because we are in so many ways opposites that it's unique. You know I don't drink and James, he enjoys some beverages (laughter). So it's funny for me it's a unique relationship."
TELL US ABOUT THE SPECTACULAR POST-VICTORY CELEBRATION THAT YOU HAD WHEN YOU GOT HOME. "You know what I did? I got in my truck and I drove home. When I got to my house and went straight to sleep because I was tired. I always get tired after a race. It wasn't big believe it or not. I haven't had a chance. I've been busy or tired. You know I'm kind of glad I'm not running Saturday because I think I'm going to go watch the race and maybe have a party while watching it. So that's going to be fun. We're going to have a bunch of Nationwide guys over. We're going to make up for it we just haven't caught up yet."
WOULD YOU FORGO YOUR ROOKIE STATUS FOR NEXT YEAR IF THE RIGHT OPPORTUNITY CAME ALONG? "I think I already have or I'm intending to. I haven't because I haven't ran enough races but the way we're trying to schedule it out we're going through that process. When it comes to the rookie situation, I knew at the start of the year we were going to run somewhere around 16 races and the maximum I think is seven or eight, I can't remember specifically. I didn't file for rookie of the year because the last thing I wanted to see was my name at the bottom of that list knowing that you probably couldn't win it unless you ran the whole deal. That's the cost of doing business. Look at Carl Edwards, I think he did the same thing. It's unfortunate, I would have liked to have been a part of that program but it just didn't work out.
"It's about taking the right opportunities when you can get them and I think that's working out."
IN THE SPLIT SECOND THAT YOU HAD TO MAKE THE CHOICE WHAT MADE YOU REALIZE THAT CARL (EDWARDS) MIGHT BE YOUR TICKET TO THE FRONT OF THE FIELD AT THE END OF THAT RACE? EVERYONE WE'VE TALKED TO THIS MORNING SAYS YOU DID ABSOLUTELY THE RIGHT THING AND CARL DID ABSOLUTELY THE RIGHT THING, WITH THE YELLOW LINE RULE AND THE CARS CONFIGURED AS THEY ARE WAS THERE ANY WAY TO PREVENT THAT WRECK? "I'll start by saying I really respect Carl for taking the large portion of the blame. I thought that was cool to see. I don't think there are many people in this sport that would do that.
"I got to say I've got a respect for him, a lot of respect for him for that reason. As far as the actual maneuver and what the sport should do, I'm of the opinion they should just build bigger fences and we'll just drive them. Because we're driving the safest race car there ever has been or ever will be and if we can continue to put shows on like that we're going to get those ratings back up and get those fans back in the stands and that's what we need to do. That's what we need to focus on. I think you have to start with making the fans happy then build everything else around it. You know the safety and so forth because I think it's a heck of a race. Even if I wouldn't have won it I would have still said Talladega was a heck of a race, I'll watch it.
"The decision to drive with him (Carl Edwards) up to the front well it really came from I couldn't get no help from anybody else. I'll find somebody else and push them to the front and when the end comes I'll make my move because nobody else was going to push me. It actually kind of started three laps before that. I had originally intended on pushing Casey Mears to the front because he was in another Chevrolet but that didn't work out and I just happened to run into Carl and went to the front."
NOT THAT ITS GOING TO HAPPEN TO YOU, BUT YOU ARE AWARE PROBABLY THAT SIX OF THE SEVEN PREVIOUS FIRST-TIME TALLADEGA WINNERS NEVER HIT A LICK THE REST OF THEIR CAREER. "I'm very aware of that."
IS IT A JINX? "It's only a jinx if you let it be a jinx. That's why the whole contract negotiation is very pivotal to the future of my career and I know that. HMS (Hendrick Motorsports) is what got me here and what's got me talking to you right now. I need to be a part of that if I want to continue to talk to you guys and continue to have the shot to win races."
YOU REFERED TO THERE IS REALLY NOT AN OPPORTUNITY AT HENDRICK RIGHT NOW ESPECIALY IF MARK (MARTIN) COMES BACK NEXT YEAR, HAVE YOU TALKED TO THEM ABOUT POSSIBLY PUTTING YOU IN A STEWART-HAAS CAR WHICH HAS A HENDRICK ASSOCIATION OR MAYBE JUNIOR MOTORSPORTS MOVING UP TO CUP AND PUTTING YOU IN ONE OF THEIR CARS? "I really didn't get an opportunity to talk to Mr. Hendrick about it. He's been feeling under the weather this week so we're schedule to talk about that in the near future but I haven't had that conversation yet with him."
IS IT A POSSIBILITY? "I would say anything is a possibility. I wouldn't write anything off. I'm not sure I understand in the entirety the relationship of how it would work with Junior Motorsports because Mr. Hendrick owns half of that and I think there is some rule within that where he would have to sell off his part to do that. So I don't understand that and I kind of stay away from that but I'm not sure exactly how that piece works. It will be interesting to see how it goes from there."
-credit: gm racing