Bristol II: Brad Keselowski race report

KESELOWSKI SCORES 2ND WIN OF THE SEASON AT BRISTOL, CLOSES IN ON POINT LEAD BRISTOL, Tenn. (August 23, 2008) - Brad Keselowski, driver of the No. 88 Navy Chevrolet for JR Motorsports, scored his second win of the 2008 season on Friday night...


BRISTOL, Tenn. (August 23, 2008) - Brad Keselowski, driver of the No. 88 Navy Chevrolet for JR Motorsports, scored his second win of the 2008 season on Friday night in the NASCAR Nationwide Series Food City 250 at Bristol Motor Speedway and with only nine races remaining this year, he closed to within 122 points of series leader Clint Bowyer.

Notes of Interest:

- FROM THE BACK: Keselowski started the Food City 250 from 37th position. In the 52 prior Nationwide Series races at the track, only one other driver has scored a win after starting that far back in the field. Kevin Harvick started 38th when weather cancelled qualifying at Bristol for the spring race in 2005. Only 9.4 percent of the Nationwide Series races at Bristol have been won by drivers who've started outside the top 20.

- MOVING UP: Despite starting 37th, Keselowski methodically charged toward the front of the field. He broke into the top 20 on Lap 32 and was inside the top 10 by Lap 90. Keselowski took over fifth position on lap 111 and moved into second place on Lap 192.

- HOW IT ENDED: Keselowski passed Bowyer on Lap 226 and led the remaining 24 laps. He took the checkered flag in the No. 88 Navy Chevrolet 1.025 seconds ahead of Bowyer's No. 2 Chevrolet. Keselowski became the 38th different driver to score a Nationwide Series win at Bristol Motor Speedway.

- FOURTH FOR JRM: The No. 88 Navy team's victory was the fourth win of the season for JR Motorsports. Mark Martin scored the company's first win in the Sam's Town 250 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway in March. Keselowski visited Victory Lane at Nashville Superspeedway in June, and earlier this month Ron Fellows picked up a win at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve.

- MORE OF THE SAME FOR KESELOWSKI: Keselowski's two Nationwide Series wins have come at Bristol Motor Speedway and Nashville Superspeedway this year. Both trips to Victory Lane have come at concrete tracks in Tennessee.

- GETTING CLOSER: Keselowski is now just 122 markers behind point leader Clint Bowyer. This is the closest the championship battle has been at this point of the season since Martin Truex Jr. led Kyle Busch by 105 points after 26 races in 2004. Keselowski is 109 points ahead of third-place driver Carl Edwards, and continues to be the highest-ranked Nationwide Series-only driver.

- STAT LEADER: Keselowski continues to lead the Nationwide Series in quality passes. He's made 723 green-flag passes while running in the top 15. That's 34 more quality passes than Bowyer who has made 689 this year.

Keselowski joined team owner, Dale Earnhardt Jr., and crew chief, Tony Eury Sr., in the Bristol Motor Speedway media center at the conclusion of the Food City 250 to answer question for the members of the media in attendance. Below is a transcript of that Q&A session.

MODERATOR: Tony Eury Sr., What are your thoughts on Brad picking up his second win here tonight?

TONY EURY SR.: "The last time we were here we ran really well and thought we had a shot to win the race, but the rain came and messed us up. We ended up finishing fourth, but we knew we had a good car. We came back this time and knew what adjustments we needed to make to be a little better. We worked on those this morning. We weren't sure we had it. We were a little concerned because we thought the track was a little different than when we were here in the spring, so we were a little concerned and made some changes that we didn't think we were going to have to make. I think that's why we qualified so badly. The car was really loose in qualifying, but it came around in the race. I'm tickled Brad did a good job. It's hard to start in the back here and not get lapped, but I told him, ‘You've got to race hard, but you've got to be patient with these guys too.' He did both. He did a good job and here we are now."

MODERATOR: Dale Earnhardt Jr., that first win that Brad had in Nashville, I don't believe you were able to see in person. You were certainly able to see this one tonight. Congratulations. What are your thoughts?

DALE EARNHARDT JR.: "I'm just really happy for Brad. He's so deserving. He's done such a good job. He's done such a good job for us this year. We're really proud of what we've accomplished. I'm happy for Tony Sr. It certainly means a lot for him for all the effort he puts into his team to go out and be able to perform like he expects to. Having worked with him for so long, I know how important these wins are to him. The team is doing really well. They're putting up a good showing for themselves in the last third of the season here and we're just trying to keep the momentum going. This is a huge win for our company. The future of the company really depends on us having finishes like this. I don't know. I didn't get to see the expressions on all their faces after the first win. A lot of those people have been with our company since we started. It's not that old of a company, but it seems like we've been together for years now trying to trudge through and get this thing off the ground. We brought in a lot of key people that we have to give a lot of credit to -- obviously my partner, Rick Hendrick, and all the resources that he brought to the table at the beginning of the season for us really helped our program tremendously -- giving us great equipment, engines and engineering help. It really gives Tony Sr. and those guys the tools to go out and compete like they did tonight."


Q: Did you have any potential sponsors here tonight watching the race? What does this do for sponsorship in the future?

EARNHARDT JR.: "We don't have anyone that we're entertaining specifically here this weekend. Things like this definitely help our chances of putting together a bona fide program for next season. It's really important like I said in the last statement - runs like this really help our program and the future of our program. I feel like this season we've really risen toward the top. We compete with the best week-in and week-out in the Nationwide Series. I feel like we justify a full-time sponsorship and that's definitely what we're working to put together for next year."

MODERATOR: Let's hear a few comments from our race winner, Brad Keselowski, driver of the No. 88 Navy Chevrolet for JR Motorsports. Brad, let's hear your thoughts on picking up the win here tonight.

BRAD KESELOWSKI: "Awesome. This is Bristol, man. This is cool. I've always loved this place and ran well here. I don't know why we struggled like we did here in qualifying, but it didn't matter because our car was just so good in the race. I have to thank everybody on my team for a great car. The pit stops just made it that much easier for me. We gained spots on pit road both times, big spots - ones I was going to have a tough time passing. I knew Kyle [Busch] was going to be really tough to pass and they got him for me on pit road. They got Denny Hamlin for me on pit road. All guys that were great and I was going to need some help with and they got it done on pit road today. That was big. And I got some help from Clint [Bowyer]. I'm not sure what exactly happened there. I felt that if I put some pressure on him, I might catch a break, and that seems to be what might of happened there."

Q: Dale and Tony Sr., can you talk about Brad's development through the season?

EURY SR.: "We saw a lot of development last year in the little bit that he drove for us when we made a driver change. I think Dale Jr. had watched him before that and knew this guy had a lot of talent and that's why we made the change. We were running out of cars for one reason. We had to do something to help the company out, so we made a change. Dale Jr. is the one who spotted him. He'd been watching him. We put him in the car and he did exactly what Dale Jr. thought he was going to do. We're really happy. Some of the race tracks we've been to this year he's been a rookie at, and he hasn't performed like a rookie. We're charging hard for this championship. We are going to give Clint [Bowyer] and Carl [Edwards] a run for. We might not win it, but they're going to know we're there. We're going to run for it for sure."

EARNHARDT JR.: "Brad has a lot of intangibles as a driver. To be able to compete and succeed under a pressure situation like this evening, running second to Clint. Clint looked pretty strong, strong enough to win the race. Brad stayed calm and didn't make the mistakes that you might typically see in a guy with the limited experience that he has. So, he has a lot of intangibles that you really can't teach. I think working with Tony Sr., Tony is a great mentor. I've experienced that myself. I think those two things especially are good for Brad. Having Tony on his side and a guy like that to help him and have his back, because Tony definitely has your back at all times. I saw a lot of things in Brad, early, that you can't teach and rarely pick up over a course of experience or a course of years. He already kind of had those. I think growing up in a racing family really paid off for Brad in really understanding how things work. I think the incident in Charlotte really forged a bond between the entire team. It melted those guys together and welded them together pretty tightly. They felt very strongly about having some injustice there at Charlotte. I think that motivated them and made them charge harder and work harder. A lot of credit has to go to Tony Sr. just for being a good leader. He really gets people underneath him and within his team to want to do well and want to work hard. Under any situation they put forth all the effort and that has to motivate Brad as a driver to see those efforts coming from his team."

Q: Brad, coming from a short-track racing background, what does it mean to win at a place like this? Dale, how soon do you think it'll be before we see Brad run a Cup race for Haas this year?

KESELOWSKI: "Haas? Did you know about that? You must have some surprises for me. We haven't been all that strong on the short tracks this year, but these high-banked places like Bristol -- I just seem to have taken a liking to Bristol and Dover. We were really good here in the spring. I was really shocked that we qualified 37th, but that makes for a great stat to win a race from starting 37th. There aren't many people who can claim that. As far as short tracks, I grew up racing tracks that probably had a little more banking and were aggressive like this track and I think I learned a lot from that and was able to apply that here when I came here for the first time. I love racing tracks like this. This is cool. Like I said before, this is as cool as it gets - 100,000 fans in a bowl watching 43 maniacs go around."

Q: Brad, in an interview right after the race, you said something like ‘The first one they know you're here…' and I didn't catch the rest. What is it about a second win that you think sets a mark for a driver?

KESELOWSKI: "A second win is really important, especially in the same season. There are a lot of drivers who can claim they've won a race, but there are not a lot who can claim they've won two. To win them in the same season kind of puts your foot not just in the door, but it gets you all the way in the door. It was important to me. It was important to my team, and it was important for my fan base to know that I wasn't just a one-race wonder. It doesn't seem like it, but we've been racing for like 17-straight weeks now and Nashville was almost 10 races ago. We were on a mini draught of sorts. We ran well at Watkins Glen, but we struggled a little bit at ORP and a couple of other places, so we needed to do this to get our confidence back. It was very important."

Q: Brad, can you talk about what you saw when Clint wiggled? Were you concerned that he might totally lose it in front of you?

KESELOWSKI: "Yeah, I was really concerned. If he'd have hit me, he would have wrecked me for sure. This track is very, very challenging and I think we saw that in qualifying for the Nationwide cars. The Nationwide cars are a handful. I've got blisters on my hands from driving tonight. That's how hard these cars drive. They're tough. I think they might even be tougher than the COT cars. You go through the corner so fast it's hard to really explain it to you. They're out of control. They've got a short wheel base, nice front ends and a lot of down force. The way they go through those patches, they're very unpredictable. I also feel like the tire we run is made more for a COT than ours, so it's a little less forgiving than what we need. All those things add up and make these things a challenge to drive."

Q: The Gibbs cars have won so many races, but haven't won in the last four. Do you feel like the other teams are catching Gibbs, or why have you been able to put a dent in the season they've dominated so much?

KESELOWSKI: "That's a good question. They've had good cars, but they just haven't caught any breaks. They caught a lot of good breaks at the start of the year and now it seems like it's the opposite for them. I don't know. They're still just as good as they were. I don't know if anyone has caught up. I don't know if we were even behind. Sometimes you just miss it by that one adjustment. You had a great car, but you were just one adjustment away. It's funny how that works out."

Q: Tony Sr., you've been racing here for a long time. What does it mean to you personally to win at this track?

EURY SR.: "I love this place. I'm kind of like Brad. When you set down in here and you turn a 360-degrees in a circle and you look at the people who are sitting up there watching you when you come to perform in front of these people, it's big. All Bruton's tracks are big, but this one right here has always been a special place to me. I actually came here in 1986 to do a tire test for Goodyear with Dale Earnhardt Sr., and when the test was over I got to drive. It was blacktop then, that's how long ago it was. Ever since the first time I came here I fell in love with this place. We've always run well. The cars we've brought here - me, Tony Jr., Dale Sr., Dale Jr., everybody that we've been involved with, all the cars we've ever brought here have been good for some reason. We just work hard and love this place. When you love something I think you work harder at it. I think that's why we run well here, because we love it."

Q: Brad, can you talk about the points and where you see your chances?

KESELOWSKI: "I guess Carl [Edwards] had some problems, so that was big. Carl's really been performing very strong on the mile-and-a-halves. It kind of caught me off guard. He was struggling there earlier this year and then at Michigan he killed everyone. We need all the help we can get with that. I think we've been equal to, if not just a little better than Clint [Bowyer] across the board. Everything that goes on with that Chase and over there on the Cup side might get to him a little bit over the next nine races left, so 122 points is certainly something I think we can overcome. I said before today that we had to win races to have a shot at that and we did exactly what we needed to do. It's kind of unfortunate that he finished second right behind us, so we didn't gain much on him. Still, this is what we need to do. We need to keep plugging away. I'm really excited about it. This is going to be a nail-biter. I really feel like all three of us are going to come down to Homestead, really close. It's going to be a battle."

-credit: jrm

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About this article
Drivers Dale Earnhardt Jr. , Kevin Harvick , Ron Fellows , Gilles Villeneuve , Martin Truex Jr. , Carl Edwards , Clint Bowyer , Brad Keselowski , Denny Hamlin , Mark Martin
Teams JRM Racing , JR Motorsports