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Mar 16, 2013 - 05:29 PM
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2013 Bristol Q&A: NASCAR Sprint Cup - Brad Keselowski
Posted by: ASkyler on Mar 16, 2013 - 05:27 PM
2013 Bristol Q&A: NASCAR Sprint Cup - Brad Keselowski

Brad Keselowski, driver of the No. 2 Miller Lite Ford Fusion, has started the 2013 season with three straight top-five finishes and is coming off a season-best third at Las Vegas Motor Speedway last weekend. The defending NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion spoke about his start, along with a variety of other issues.

BRAD KESELOWSKI - No. 2 Miller Lite Ford Fusion - DO YOU THINK THIS UPPER GROOVE IS GOING TO COME IN THIS WEEKEND? "I tried and I hit the wall, so that’s good. I hope that lane doesn’t come in at all. I hate that groove."

DO YOU THINK IT WILL? "The tires aren’t reacting because it’s a lot colder and this car itself has a lot more grip. It’s probably a combination of those two as to why it hasn’t come in so far. It would have to get a lot hotter to have a chance for that to happen."

SO THIS RACE MIGHT BE LIKE WHAT THEY INTENDED LAST YEAR WHEN THEY GROUND THE TRACK? "Isn’t that ironic? Yeah. I think having that winter to sit because I think they ground it right before the race - give or take a month - but they ground it right before and I think it was really fresh. The pores were really fresh at the surface and it took rubber. Obviously, the warmer temperatures effect the way the rubber comes off the tires and the way it sticks into the concrete as well, so all of those things added up and it was something that I don’t think anyone could have ever predicted as far as how the grip came into the race track. That doesn’t seem to be the case this time around, which isn’t a bad thing."


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DO YOU THINK BRISTOL DID THE RIGHT THING MAKING THE MOVES THEY DID WITH THE TRACK SURFACE? "There’s a lot of different things. I think a lot of things that fans like isn’t necessarily what a track has for grooves or what tire compound. They don’t know those kind of things, but what they do know is unpredictability. And when you have a new car you have unpredictability. When you have changes to a track surface you have unpredictability. And I think those things add up. I look at a track like Kansas and how it had been changed in the fall and I don’t know if we made one green flag run where we had pit stops because we wrecked so much. I think a lot of fans liked that race because of its unpredictability. Unpredictability kind of lends itself to drivers making mistakes and drivers making mistakes lends itself to action, so those are the things I think people look for. I think that can still happen, whether you have to run the top groove, the bottom groove or whether this track was multi-grooved to begin with."

SO YOU THINK SUNDAY COULD LOOK LIKE LAST AUGUST WHERE ITS CRASHES? "You always have that potential. You just don’t know what drivers are going to show up (laughing). With this being a new car it can be easy or hard to overestimate your grip or underestimate it and that’s when the trouble happens."

DOES THE CRITICISM OF THIS NEW CAR MAKE THIS A BIG WEEKEND? "Every weekend is a big weekend for our sport. Everybody is on egg shells. Drivers are on egg shells. I think the fans are on egg shells. The media is on egg shells. The sanctioning body is on egg shells. You get the collective sense in this sport that everyone is feeling a lot of pressure and if we don’t have a perfect week every week everybody just kind of shakes down in their boots. So I think, right now, every week is a big week in this sport."

BRAD KESELOWSKI CONTINUED -- JEFF FOXWORTHY WILL BE HERE TODAY. DO YOU HAVE ANY FAVORITE FOXWORTHY JOKES? "It’s hard to pick a favorite. I really like Jeff. I don’t know him personally, but I like his jokes. I can’t say I really have a favorite. He has humility and that’s good. We could use more of that."

IS THE TIMING OF THIS BRISTOL RACE GOOD FOR YOU? "Yeah, it’s really good. I think our practice session proved that we have the speed to hopefully not let this one get away. It didn’t show up as well as we would have liked in qualifying, but I guess that’s just par for the course for us. If they would have had qualifying last week at Vegas, I think we would have been 30th, so it felt really good to not have to go through that last week. This week, to come out here with a solid qualifying effort lends itself to us having a great race."

YOU’VE WON TWO OUT OF THE LAST THREE HERE. "Yeah, I just really love coming here. I love what this track stands for and I love how it races. I think embracing that challenge is part of our success."

WHAT DOES THIS TRACK STAND FOR? "I think this track, probably more so than any track I’ve ever raced at in my life, is just extremely demanding. I always feel like when I come here I’m playing Tetris, but I know that if I screw up somebody is gonna hit me over the head with a hammer. That’s what this track reminds me of because it’s such a mental and physical challenge. You never get a break. When you finally get that one puzzle piece to fit the next one is coming, and when you think you’ve got it all figured out it just keeps going faster and faster and faster until it just breaks you down mentally, and I love that challenge. I like how it’s an in-your-face race track, where if you just ride around here, you wreck. If you get too aggressive, you wreck. If you try to fall somewhere in-between, you just have a bad day, so that mental challenge - the window is so small - and I love that about it."

SO DOES HAVING SUCCESS HERE RECENTLY GIVE YOU AN ADVANTAGE OVER EVERYBODY ELSE? "This track requires confidence to run well. I think it’s really important here because the task at hand is such that if you have any self doubts you make a mistake. If you have any self doubts about who you are or what your approach is to this track, you always find yourself with such a small reaction time to do things that that lack of confidence will show up."

HAVE YOU HAD A CHANCE TO THINK ABOUT THE FACT THAT THE 2 AND 48 ARE STILL AT THE TOP OF THE SPORT AFTER THE BATTLE LAST YEAR AND THE WAY THIS SEASON HAS STARTED? "You know the 48 is gonna be tough to beat and it’s flattering to be in a league where we can compete with them week-in and week-out. I think very easily the rolls could be reversed. If a yellow comes out one second earlier or one second later at Daytona, I feel like we would have won the 500 and we’d be the points leader right now, but it didn’t. I feel like we’ve been tit-for-tat each of the last three weeks. I felt like we might have been a little bit better at Phoenix and obviously we were a little bit better at Vegas, but we know they’re not gonna just fall over, either. We’ve got to keep pushing forward. It’s flattering to be in the same league as them, but I’m not so naïve to think that we can just keep our feet still and not be caught or passed by anyone in the field."

BRAD KESELOWSKI CONTINUED -- ARE YOU PROUD OF THE FACT THAT YOU WERE ABLE TO WIN THE TITLE LAST YEAR AND WITH ALL OF THE CHANGES DURING THE OFF-SEASON HAVE PICKED RIGHT UP WHERE YOU LEFT OFF? IT HASN’T SEEMED TO PHASE YOU. "Sure. It’s definitely a new challenge, but we’ve got a great core group of people from car chiefs to crew chiefs to pit crews. We did have some turnover, which was unfortunate. One of the hardest things about winning a championship is a lot of people kind of check that box that they had in their mind and they either retire or go after something else in the pursuit of things, and we lost one or two people, but, for the most part, we kept our core group and a lot of things carry over the way we approach this sport. Whether it was the Generation 4, 5, 6 or even it was the 7 car, and that’s what makes my team special."

DO YOU THINK ABOUT HOW EVERY WEEKEND IS A BIG EVENT? "I think there’s more pressure right now in this sport. I’m just frustrated that I wasn’t around in this sport in ’05 and ’06 when it seemed like there was a license to print money and there was no such thing as a bad race. That would have been really nice."

HAVE YOU DECIDED AT ALL ABOUT YOUR TESTS? "I know there have been discussions. I haven’t been in on all of them. I’d be surprised if we didn’t have at least some significant rules change with this car before the midpoint of the season, and that would definitely affect your approach."

DO YOU THINK THEY’RE GOING TO PUT A SPACER ON THERE OR ARE THEY JUST GOING TO MAKE ANOTHER AERO RULE CHANGE? "I think that most likely from the feedback I’ve heard that a lot of drivers are lobbying for a smaller spoiler."

DENNY WAS ASKED IF HE WAS DISAPPOINTED IN SOME OF THE DRIVERS NOT STANDING UP AND SUPPORTING HIM MORE. WHAT IS YOUR REACTION TO THAT? "I think there are a lot of people in this sport that take the easy road and that’s more than just drivers. He certainly chose not to do that, which I can respect, and I wish more people would - maybe not in the way that Denny has - but I wish more people would do things not because they’re easy, but because they’re hard and because they’re the right thing to do."

SO YOU’RE IN THE 10 PERCENT THAT SAYS WHAT THEY THINK? "That’s not for me to judge, that’s for you and him."


BRAD KESELOWSKI CONTINUED -- WE ALWAYS KNEW WE WOULD BE LUMPING YOU AND DENNY TOGETHER AT SOME POINT. (Laughing) "It’s funny how things go full circle, and maybe that’s where this sport is at. I like to look back at the history of this sport. It’s not talked about much, but the 1980s were really tough on this sport, and there are a lot of interesting parallels between that era and where we’re at right now. Hopefully, it’s a cycle - the late 70s to early 80s - and hopefully it will cycle back around for this sport with interesting stories to tell and better and better competition. I was talking to Darrell Waltrip for a while about when they first came out with the short wheelbase car in 1981. A lot of people don’t talk about it, but there were short fields and there were tough times. You look at a track like Pocono and a lot has been made about how it has two events, but a lot of that is out of appreciation NASCAR has for them taking two races when they couldn’t get tracks to take races. I think that shows you how hard of a time it was for them in the 80s and maybe that’s where we’re at now - maybe it’s gonna cycle back around and in 10 years it will be like 1992 all over again and we won’t be able to miss the dart board. I hope so. It’s difficult because we’re looking at other things, and I think the measuring stick we put ourselves up against, whether it’s right or not, is the NFL. But if you look at some of the other major sports, they’re struggling too. You look at the NHL and the issues they had with the lockout. You look at MLB and if you go to one of their games, there’s nobody there. And then I’ve gone to several NBA games this year where attendance has been dismal. Maybe we should be comparing our sport to them, instead of the NFL. I don’t know, but I think things are probably not as bad as they seem, and they’re probably not as good as some people would like to make them out to be. It’s probably somewhere in-between."

DID DARRELL WALTRIP TELL YOU ANYTHING ABOUT HOW THEY GOT THROUGH THOSE TIMES? "They were made as hell, but it’s a different era where them being mad as hell didn’t make it into the social media or into the newspaper like it does now. He did share some great stories from back then and there are a lot of interesting parallels and probably lessons to be learned that we can apply to the future."

IS THE POSITIVE OUT OF THIS THE FACT GUYS LIKE YOU AND DENNY ARE SPENDING TIME WITH BRIAN FRANCE AND GETTING TO KNOW HIM BETTER? "I think the better the relationship can get from the highest level of the sport to whatever level you would consider to be a driver, I think that’s probably better for everyone. I don’t think it’s any different than a major corporation. You see these shows like Undercover Boss, and I don’t think it’s any different than that, where you see a CEO that lives in New York and makes $30 million a year - can he really relate to the guy that is on the factory floor? That’s difficult, and the only way for him to do that is to really dig down deep and talk to those people that make it happen, and that’s how you turn things around when they’re not going as well. If that’s what happens out of those situations, then certainly that’s gonna be a huge positive for everyone in this sport."

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