NASCAR Media Conference
August 11, 2010
HERB BRANHAM: Good afternoon, everyone. Thanks for joining. Welcome to today's NASCAR teleconference. We're in advance of this weekend's NASCAR Nationwide and NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races at Michigan International Speedway. Saturday, we have the Nationwide Series, the Car Fax 250, then on Sunday it will be the Car Fax 400 for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series.
Special guest today, guy that's going to be in both events, Brad Keselowski, from nearby Rochester HILLS, Michigan., he drives the No. 12 Penske Dodge in the Sprint Cup Series and the No. 22 Ruby Tuesday/Discount Tire Dodge Challenger in the Nationwide Series. Brad leads the Nationwide Series in points coming into Michigan.
Brad, thanks for joining us. Big weekend on this we can obviously call this your home track. You want to win every week, obviously, how important would it be to win at your home track?
BRAD KESELOWSKI: Thank you, Herb. I appreciate that. Thanks for your time everybody on the line. It's such a big weekend like you said. Speaking of the importance of winning, last year I was fortunate enough to win a Nationwide race, and really catapulted some of the contractual stuff that I was working on to sign with and to run in both series.
So winning is always important in this sport, obviously, and another win would certainly help everybody here on the race teams but especially being good for Dodge being in the hometown area, and to be -- I'd like to win with the new Dodge Challenger. That is a pretty cool car, and it would be an honor to be the first guy to win in that car.
So a win would mean so many different things on so many different levels; being able to do it in the Dodge Challenger to being able to justify our position on top of the standings and give us more momentum through the end of the season.
HERB BRANHAM: Thank you for that opener. Questions for Brad Keselowski.
Q. A while back ago you said that it was a big deal for you to be the first in your racing family to lead the points. But I kind of wanted to know if you thought that it was overshadowed a bit by all of the incidents with Carl and what not. Have you been able to enjoy it?
BRAD KESELOWSKI: That's a very good question. Thank you for your time. You know, it's kind of a fine line, I guess. For me it's like you said, an honor to be leading the points on the Nationwide side and do something that obviously my family has been in the sport for quite some time and to be able to do something that hasn't been done by my family. It's an honor and something that all my family has been very proud of.
There are some things that have overshadowed it, and although it's a little unfortunate. I try to spend the time focusing on the positives and not dwell on the negatives. Seems like there is always something negative in this world if you just look for it.
A little bit of overshadowing maybe with the media, but for me I think about it every day. I think about it every time I watch ESPN and see the name cross the ticker. I mean, oh, that was my name. What was that? And, oh, I'm first in points. To me that's like a win every week. The smile that that brings to my face and hopefully to that of my family is something I'm very proud of.
Q. I was wondering how do you approach a Nationwide practice this week or tomorrow with not really having a notebook or anything on the new car at the two mile track?
BRAD KESELOWSKI: I think a lot of folks in this series that are competing with this new car are very lost. Even at Penske Racing with the resources that we have, it's kind of a free-for-all.
So you've got to start somewhere. Fortunately, I have a good place to start with our success at Daytona having two strong cars that qualified on the front row. Hopefully some of that will carry over.
I'm sure there will be several differences on what it takes to work this car on the mile and a half or two mile tracks as opposed to the speedways like always. We're going to have to work and dial it in.
To be quite honest, we don't really know where to start. So it's almost more of a trial-and-error system, and the approach is to just go out there and work our butts off like we always do.
Q. Your season on the Cup side hasn't been what you would have preferred. How do you look at it at this point and what is the realistic expectation of where you can be at the end of the year?
BRAD KESELOWSKI: Well, certainly we want to perform better on the Cup side. We'd like to be in contention to win races. Haven't gotten there yet. We've had several runs I think that could have easily been Top 10s or Top 5s.
Just hasn't worked out for one reason or another whether it was Atlanta and how that went down at the end, or the three plate races we ran great at all of them and had some terrible luck.
But the reality of it is the bread and butter tracks we need to be better at. The bread and butter, mile and a half tracks that make up the majority of our schedule, we haven't been super competitive at.
I felt like the best race we ran this year on the mile and a half was the All-Star Race, and we ran sixth or seventh there. So we did some things there that don't necessarily show up in the stat book. But from the standpoint of looking at our bad races which has put a big dent in us as far as the points go, but we need to make our good races better too.
We've got room to improve everywhere as a team, and myself as a driver I see a lot of things that I can be better at and we've got to grow together. So you kind of dissect that and look at it, and know that we're all on the same page. We all want the same things. As long as we continue to work forward on that, we'll get better.
We're seeing some small gains in the last few weeks. We kind of went through a rough stretch in the month of June and July. Our performance was quite a bit down.
So we seem to have recovered from that, and we're a consistent Top 20 team. But as anyone will tell you, that's not quite good enough.
We want to get up there and be a consistent Top 10 team, we've got to continue to make progress. I feel like we can get there. I don't feel like it's unrealistic for us to get up in points. As rough as our season has been, it will be somewhat of an accomplishment before the year's over.
Q. The schedules seem like they're you shaking out for next year, it seems like Road America Nationwide race should lineup with the June Michigan Cup weekend. I'm not sure about your double duty plans for the future, but as someone who did that Sonoma to Elkhart Lake commute this year, what do you make of this difference?
BRAD KESELOWSKI: It would be great for me. I've had a really rough weekend to go back and forth between Sonoma and Road America, and you know, it's a lot of travelling and so forth. I felt some of the stress from it come Sunday. So I'm sure that would help out as far as that's concerned.
You know, I'm interested in it either way. I'm very much looking forward to running both series next season. At this point it's quite an honor, so we'll see how all the rules stuff works out.
Q. Brad, with all the changes in the schedule and what's going to be happening with the chase format, do those changes worry you? Because it's something going to be the same for everyone anyway, is it just another part of your job for you?
BRAD KESELOWSKI: No, I'm strongly encouraged by the change that NASCAR's made to the schedule. Again more than just because it's the party line, but I think it shows a need to address things in our sport and that there are people working on it.
I'm really encouraged by the fact that Kentucky's getting a date. Having family from the Dayton area, I can tell you there is a large NASCAR base of fans in that area. So I'm excited for them and that community.
Some of the other things that have been done, I think it will be good for our sport. If anything, I feel there is a positive action at least from my end.
Q. Want to touch bases with you with the possible changes coming to the Nationwide next year, would your 327 points made and four of the Top 5 leaders being Cup regulars, do you see the danger of a chase format coming Nationwide or will there be some other changes coming to the Nationwide championships?
BRAD KESELOWSKI: I don't know exactly what to expect. I know there's been some talk about it, and I have mixed emotions about it. I look back the last few years and running in the Nationwide Series and without the Cup drivers running the championship, and, you know, that just wasn't the way the rules were.
So now that the shoes on the other foot, it's kind of like I can see both sides. Certainly drivers like Trevor Bayne and the drivers on the Nationwide side, could probably say the same thing I'm saying right now or saying a year or two ago.
You can't help but look at that and wonder. Somewhere in the loop someone's going to be frustrated with whatever decision is made. So it will be interesting to see how that works out.
But as far as the Chase format is concerned and the Nationwide Series, you know, I'm fairly happy with the rules package even if I wasn't running the Nationwide Series because, you know, the Chase format is something that's special and you need in the Cup series.
It almost elevates it to the next level. For that reason alone, I feel like it should stay in the Cup series along with some of the additional expenditures to the team to prepare for those races.
I think at this point the tradition of the series and the success in the past with the point system, even though this year might be a little different, I don't think you can throw away the system any time it doesn't work out as planned.
Q. You've been involved in a couple of payback situations on the track this year. We've got a pretty long list of drivers who could be looking for payback on any number of folks over the next few weeks with the things that have happened recently. Do you expect that to become a problem as we're racing to begin the Chase and on into the Chase? Are people going to have to be watching out for guys looking for payback on the track?
BRAD KESELOWSKI: I think it's something to watch out for any given week in the Chase certainly coming in or looming in the next few weeks. I would not doubt for one second that at some point some kind of payback scenario will affect how the Chase unfolds.
HERB BRANHAM: Thank you, And thanks to Brad. Best of luck this weekend at Michigan your home track. I know you're ready to roll. Hope you have a good weekend.
BRAD KESELOWSKI: Thank you to herb and all the media that attended. Appreciate your support and we'll see you this weekend at the track.
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