Points Leader Brad Keselowski Talks California Racing

March 22, 2013:

Brad Keselowski heads into Sunday’s Auto Club 400 at Auto Club Speedway with a nine point lead in the Sprint Cup Series standings over Dale Earnhardt Jr. Keselowski’s move to the top spot this week is the first time Ford has led in 2013, but last season either Matt Kenseth or Greg Biffle were leading the points after 22 of the first 26 races with Biffle holding the top spot after Richmond before the points were reset for the Chase.  In 2011, Carl Edwards led the standings for 21 weeks and was the series leader after 15 of the first 26 events. Keselowski spoke about the lead and more during his media time at the track Friday afternoon. 

Brad Keselowski waits for practice to begin.

2013 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Fontana
March 22, 2013 Fontana, California USA.Brad Keselowski waits for practice to begin.© 2013, Brian Czobat.autostock USA..

BRAD KESELOWSKI, No. 2 Miller Lite Ford Fusion –  YOU ARE OFF TO A GREAT START, TALK ABOUT RACING HERE AT AUTO CLUB AND THE SOLID START YOU GUYS HAVE HAD. “Yeah, it has been a solid start. We have done everything but win a race. That is where our focus is at this weekend for sure. We’ve certainly got a strong, consistent start but we have been in position on the final restart of each race to win and have come up just a little bit short. Hopefully we can close that out this weekend. I think we have got the car to do it and the team to do it. We are ready to get on track and get going. We have practice and qualifying here today and I am curious how this race is going to play out. I honestly think this is going to be an exceptional race. I think this new car, the Generation 6 car acts and reacts a lot like the Nationwide car does. You combine that with a track that has multiple grooves in the corners and a car that I think has a potential to draft really well and I think it could be a great race. I am pretty optimistic about it. I am glad I am running the Nationwide race because it will be good experience before hand. There are a lot of things to look forward to for sure.”

HOW MUCH WILL AERO PLAY INTO TIGHTENING UP THE CARS HERE? “A lot. It plays into spreading them out and bringing them together. This track is almost in the sweet spot of age where it is just new enough where it hopefully won’t need to be repaved for a long time and just old enough where it produces tire wear and the ability to run multiple grooves in the corners. That ability to run multiple grooves kind of eliminates some of that dreaded aero push that you feel in the corners. If you are in another lane you don’t get that. The fact that it is a big long track as far as straightaways are concerned when the cars merge back into each others pass aerodynamically they are going to draft really well. It should be interesting to see how that plays out.”

PLANS FOR THE EASTER WEEKEND? “I am one day at a time, not even one week, one day. I haven’t thought that far, I probably should. I don’t have any plans so far.”

WE HAVE ALL SEEN YOUR NEW MILLER COMMERCIAL. HOW DID THAT COME TOGETHER? “After last year I had a lot of fun at the banquet and after the Homestead race and I felt like personally that countering that with a responsibility message was not a bad thing to do. I jumped at the opportunity when Miller gave it to me to do something responsibility wise. I think it is a great spot as far as that is concerned. It is good for the sport to have sponsors that activate and put drivers out into the mainstream. I think we all reap the benefits of that. Hopefully we will continue to see more of that. I think we have a lot more commercials in the sport five years ago and that was really healthy for it. I am glad to see Miller step up and do that and I think it is really healthy for all of us.”

WHO WERE THE OTHER THREE GUYS? “Just actors. I met them and they are good people. I follow a few of them on Twitter. They were cool dudes.”

AND THE WAITRESS? “She is a singer. She is actually really good. She has a hit out here in California.”

DID YOU GET HER NUMBER? “Maybe. She will be at the race track this weekend.”

CAN YOU TALK ABOUT THE PARODY YOU HAVE SEEN BETWEEN THE THREE MANUFACTURERS SO FAR? “I would agree that there is a lot of parody right now and I think Jimmie (Johnson’s) comments I haven’t seen but he is probably right with the exception being the restrictor plate tracks where I think it is pretty obvious the Chevrolet’s are a little bit ahead of everybody else. I think on the non-restrictor plate tracks there is a lot of parody and it is really a case of each team and how strong they have come out with their package.”

WHAT IS MORE IMPORTANT HERE, HORSEPOWER OR HANDLING? “I am not really sure which one will be more important this weekend. We are still learning how this car will react to this style track. We haven’t run a two-mile track yet. This is the fifth weekend and fifth different style track. I am learning with you guys. In general this used to always be a handling track over horsepower but that might be different with this car.”

ANY CONCERN ON THE ENGINES WITH THE SUSTAINED RPM’S? “There is no doubt that this new car is so fast that we are carrying more speed that we have ever carried pretty much at every track. I would not be surprised at all if we broke the track record this weekend because of that. That isn’t a bad thing but it puts a lot of stress on the engines. There is a certain gear ration we use to dictate what RPM band the cars are in and to this point in the season we have been using last year’s model which has put more stress on the engines with more speed. Maybe that is a good thing too, I don’t know. I think it pushes the teams to make their stuff a little better and that is what this sport is about, constant evolution.”

YOU ARE JOEY LOGANO’S TEAMMATE. WHAT IS YOUR INTERPRETATION OF WHAT IS GOING ON BETWEEN HE AND DENNY HAMLIN? “All I saw is they got in an incident at Bristol. I don’t know any of the history before that. I haven’t asked Joey, I can tell you that. Maybe there was some and maybe there wasn’t, I don’t know. My interpretation is Joey had a really fast car and got spun out and didn’t get to achieve the result I think he felt like he was capable of and I felt like he was too. As a driver I know that is frustrating. He has had great cars and little things keep popping up to hold him back. It is very reminiscent of where I was at the start of 2011. I know how that eats at you and you just get madder and more frustrated. Maybe that was good. Maybe that was the release he needed last week and maybe he can put that behind him and capitalize on the strengths he has.”

WHAT DO YOU THINK THESE FEUDS DO FOR THE SPORT? “I hesitate to say it is just feuds. I think it is authenticity. It is emotions shown with authenticity. Whether it is joy or anger that is what the fans crave. They want to see us be human and humans are emotional. They want to see it done in an authentic way. Certainly a fight is one way but I think of some happy moments too. I think of Darrell Waltrip doing the Ickey Shuffle. Those are things that stick in my mind. I don’t think it just has to be a fight. I think a fight is a water cooler conversation but I just think fans enjoy seeing us show emotion and doing it in an authentic way.”

WERE YOU TAKEN ABACK AT THE CRITICISM YOU GOT LAST YEAR FOR YOUR CELEBRATION BEING IRRESPONSIBLE? “No, not really. I believe in life and balance and if you are going to have some fun you have to balance that with something else. Don’t get me wrong, I had fun doing the commercial, but it is good to spread the message that when you do have some fun to do it in a responsible way. I have no regrets.”

CAN YOU TALK ABOUT YOUR EXPERIENCE AT AMERICAN IDOL? WAS IT AWKWARD SITTING THERE? “I learned a lot and I think it is good to get out of your element and American Idol is certainly not my element I can tell you that. It is good though. Fox is a partner of the sport and Ford is a big partner of American Idol and when the opportunity came open I thought, ‘why not, let’s try it.’ I have to admit I had a lot more fun that I thought I was going to have. It is just good for any of us in the sport to kind of branch out and bring people in from other areas.”

DID YOU GET RECOGNIZED AT ALL? “Yeah there were fans which was cool. There were a lot of people there you wouldn’t expect to see. It was definitely a younger demographic which I think we could always use in this sport. It is interesting to see their reaction and the difference in culture between that world and ours.”

YOU HAD TWO TOP-TEN FINISHES AT MARTINSVILLE LAST YEAR. CAN YOU TALK ABOUT GOING BACK THERE IN TWO WEEKS? “Martinsville is a place where I have really mixed emotions about. Early in my career that was a place where I really couldn’t find my ass to be honest. Now the last few times we have been there I feel like we have been exceptionally strong. We didn’t qualify as well as we wanted to last fall and started in the back but by the end of the race we came on really well. I think going back to Martinsville we are a lot smarter, I am a lot wiser as to what I need and I think this year I have to be honest I am going in feeling like we can win the race and might be one of the favorites. We have really turned a corner at that race track and I am really encouraged by it.”

YOU ARE THE BEST PERFORMING FORD SO FAR, IN THE POINTS LEAD. WHAT IS WORKING SO WELL FOR YOU? “I can tell you it is a big weight off our shoulders to come out of the gate so strong. It is a quick way of quieting all those that said when we switched to Ford we were going to be in a lot of trouble. That is really big for us at Penske Racing and big for me personally. It shows the strength we have at every layer, whether as a company, as a team or as a driver and crew chief combination. It is something I am exceptionally proud of. Looking at that and knowing we still haven’t reached our potential as far as our Ford relationship is concerned – and that will probably take some time – it makes me feel like when we do reach that potential that we can be an elite team for years to come.”

IN TERMS OF SIDE DRAFTING IS IT MORE OR LESS WITH THESE NEW CARS AND HOW HAS IT BEEN AT THE VARIOUS TRACKS? “That is part of the learning process for sure. So far the tracks that we have been at, Daytona was as much side drafting as I thought it was going to be. That might change this weekend with this being the first two-mile track and longer straightaways you have more opportunity to do that. So far I haven’t seen a huge difference compared to last year’s car. I am still learning. It could be out there and I just haven’t found it yet. In general I think that the cars handle really well and have a ton of grip. Sometimes I think they have too much grip. That is not necessarily a good or bad thing because we are all learning and there is a certain grip threshold that puts on the most competitive races that fans want to see and that is the spot we are all trying to find and dial in. It is going to be different at each track. It is hard to create a package that is perfect for every track but I don’t think we are far off and we are certainly further ahead than either I thought we were at the beginning of the season.”

WILL YOU RELY ON YOUR SPOTTER MORE HERE BECAUSE THERE ARE FOUR LANES? “I think you look at this track and with so many different especially when someone runs the top that you can really easily clear them through the center of the corner and they can be in a very compromising position by the time you get to the corner exit and that is all in your blind spot. You definitely rely on a spotter here more so than any other track. Especially if it turns into a race with a lot of drafting down the strightaway. I would put this track maybe one step below Daytona and Talladega as far as how much you rely on a spotter.”

CAN YOU UPDATE US ON YOUR TRUCK TEAM AND HOW INVOLVED YOU ARE ABLE TO BE WITH YOUR SPRINT CUP RESPONSIBILITIES? “I have Ryan Blaney driving the truck. I have two trucks this year, one with Ryan Blaney and the second one that is split up between me and Joey Logano and Ross Chastain. We might even sneak in Dave Blaney for Eldora. I think we are all looking forward to that race weekend. I keep hearing how he is one of the winningest drivers there. If he is listening, no pressure Dave. We are really excited about the program we have with two full time trucks. That program is my way of kind of giving back to the sport with trying to provide opportunities for future drivers and not just that but crew members and car chiefs, mechanics, over the wall guys. To see that program run is a lot of fun for me. Hopefully to see it be successful is really the end goal. That will provide future opportunities for all those people. That is what I really want to see. Not just for my own brand but for theirs as well. As I look at that I can’t micromanage that program because I have a lot of other commitments and I think that is good. I think that means that any success that the group has they have earned on their own and I want it to be that way. Hopefully that will happen and hopefully I provided the resources they need to do just that.”

HAVE YOU GIVEN JOEY ANY ADVICE ABOUT THE DISTRACTION OF GETTING INTO IT WITH DENNY HAMLIN AND KEEPING HIS EYES ON THE PRIZE BECAUSE IF HE IS DISTRACTED IT ISN’T HELPING YOUR EFFORT EITHER? “Not really. He is obviously younger than I am but I think it would be foolish to underestimate him and his maturity. I think he has a good handle on that himself.”

Posted in: Events, Motorsports
Michael "Beach Mick" Hudson

About the Author:

Michael "Beach Mick" Hudson is the founder and Editor of Beach Carolina Magazine. Living along the coast of North Carolina, Mike has a passion for the beach and loves to bring news and events of the Carolinas to others around the world.

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