NASCAR Media Conference
July 15, 2008
TRACEY JUDD: Good afternoon, everyone. We've got two guests today to assist in advancing both Friday night's NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series race at Kentucky Speedway and the NASCAR Nationwide Series event at Gateway International Raceway on Saturday night.
We'll be joined by NASCAR Nationwide Series driver Brad Keselowski. Then he'll be followed by Rick Crawford who will be representing the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series.
First off, we have Brad Keselowski, driver of the No. 88 U.S. Navy Chevrolet for JR Motorsports in the NASCAR Nationwide Series.
Brad, welcome and thanks for joining us today.
BRAD KESELOWSKI: Thanks for having me on, Tracey.
TRACEY JUDD: Saturday's race at Gateway kicks off the second half of our stand alone season in the NASCAR Nationwide Series. And you made quite a splash in the first trio of stand alone events over the last month. You captured your first win, your first career pole and moved up to second place in the standings behind series leader Clint Bowyer during that time. Can you talk about your season to date and basically the last month in that time span?
BRAD KESELOWSKI: The season to date has been a great season. We've had a lot of fun, a lot of accomplishments, specifically over the last month and a half, and looking forward to continuing that through the end of the season.
We started out our first two races not quite the way we wanted to and we've rebounded here, and we've been steadily making gains on the point leader Clint Bowyer. And hopefully we can keep our performance up and make a run for the championship for the end of the year.
TRACEY JUDD: All right. William, why don't we open up to questions from the media for Brad Keselowski.
Q. Hey, Brad. Just kind of curious, what's your reaction last week to, you know, Navy saying they were going to get out the series, at least next year? I mean, I know you spoke before the Kentucky race, but you had just come off giving them their first win for that branch of the service and down there in Nashville; just what was your initial reaction?
BRAD KESELOWSKI: My initial reaction is always disappointed. We had a great relationship with the Navy and still do have a great relationship with the Navy and look forward to finishing out the year and winning the championship for them. The performance has been of such to where it was somewhat surprising. But those issues are out of my hands and there wasn't much I could do about it. So that's just the way it goes, you know. Life goes on.
Q. Any concerns though about, you know, going forward looking forward to next year? I mean, obviously looks like Mark's getting in the No. 5 car. I mean, what are your initial plans, I mean, looking forward to 2009?
BRAD KESELOWSKI: Well I'll be driving the 88 Chevrolet for JR Motorsports again. And we haven't exactly figured out the sponsor for that yet, working on a few things. But I know that's locked in stone and look forward to that.
Q. Little surprised by what happened with Navy, only because, I mean, obviously, hey, you are giving them plenty of ad time with the way you are running this season?
BRAD KESELOWSKI: Certainly. You know, just really proud to have the chance to represent them. That's been one of the coolest things you could ever do as a driver is represent a branch of the military. And, you know, certainly hate to see them go. But got to do a lot of cool things with them. And it's just part of the way it works, you know. There's no -- sometimes you can't do anything to control that situation, and it's just out of your hands.
Q. Good afternoon. I was curious you mentioned earlier about making a run on Clint Bowyer for the championship. Are there certain tracks you looked at on the schedule coming up where you think you might have a better chance than others of making some gains on him?
BRAD KESELOWSKI: Yeah, exactly. There's a couple tracks that really stick out in my mind. The mile-and-a-half tracks we've been really running strong at, really proud of my team on those races. And Clint hasn't been as strong as we have. So all those races are great opportunities for us to gain on points.
On the flip side of that, the road course races, you know, we need to just survive them and try not to lose any points to Clint. Those are definitely not my strong suit. So looking forward to any of the mile-and-a-half type tracks. All the way down through Homestead at the end of the year.
Q. Hey, Brad, thanks for being on us with us today. Appreciate it. You are certainly one of the feel-good stories in NASCAR the last couple years. Can you believe the progression of things that have happened to you just over the last couple years from where you came from all the way up to the relationship you have with Dale Junior, Hendrick Motorsports now?
BRAD KESELOWSKI: You know, it's really tough to sit back and reflect on all that. You know, because you're always worried about the next step and winning the next race. But there are times where you sit back and you think and you go, Wow, this has really been a dream season, really been a great year so far. Just the past 12 months specifically a lot of good things have happened to me, and I've been very fortunate.
And, you know, as far as being able to believe it, I mean, this is what I've driven for my whole life, was to get this opportunity. And so I'm trying to the best I can to make the most of it and just trying to soak it in when you get a chance. But that's hard to do with our schedule.
Q. Joey Lagano is make his return this weekend. Apparently you guy has had almost identical stats for the four races you raced together this year. Is there any sort of rivalry there; or maybe you guys want to one up each other in each race?
BRAD KESELOWSKI: Well, I don't really know Joey all that well to be honest. Our main focus is on winning the championship. His focus on winning races. So we have different goal sets there, which, you know, sometimes conflict with each other.
You know, Milwaukee, for example, was a conflict there. But certainly I'm looking forward to years of racing him. He is a good racer and it's going to be fun. It's going to be something to look out for the next few year.
Q. Have you had an opportunity to jump inside a Cup car yet either for testing or whatever to look toward the future?
BRAD KESELOWSKI: I have had that opportunity to do some testing. Did some testing with Hendrick Motorsports on their COT testing program with Lance Mcgrew. Had a lot of fun driving those cars and looking forward to future opportunities to come.
Q. Good luck this weekend.
BRAD KESELOWSKI: Thank you.
Q. Good afternoon, Brad. Just two questions. One, can you pinpoint the reason for your success this year? And, two, what do you expect from the field of competitors at St. Louis and the track in particular?
BRAD KESELOWSKI: As far as pinpointing success, that's, you know, never easy, but it comes down to people. You know, this sport is about people. It's about teamwork. And, you know, the cars are better, yeah, but that's as a result of the people and the relationships that we've built and been able to solidify some talent and it's really starting to show off. I think that's the reason for the success.
Looking forward to Gateway this weekend. You know, it's a track I ran twice, I believe, in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series, but not one time last year in the Busch series, now the Nationwide Series. And, you know, we didn't quite run the way we wanted to.
But the way we ran at Milwaukee and Phoenix and turned around our program, so to speak, on the one-mile to half-mile flat tracks. I think we should be very strong this week at Gateway.
Q. Just a follow up there. Brad, does Gateway compare to any track you have run at or how would you describe the track?
BRAD KESELOWSKI: It actually reminds me a lot of Phoenix. Other than the fact the straight-aways are much longer, the corner entry speeds are higher. You use a lot of brake there. More than you use Phoenix. So uses a lot of brake temperature, uses up the car a lot, but it's great track to run at, and I'm really looking forward to it.
Q. Brad, Richard Boswell picked up a big win over the weekend for the JR Motorsports late model program. I was wondering if you think there's a late model driver there with the team that has the potential to maybe follow had in your footsteps up to the Nationwide Series?
BRAD KESELOWSKI: Well any one of them could. All of them are running great over there from Curtis, Richard Boswell, also Davin Scites and Jamey Caudill. All of them are very talented drivers. And it's good see them running well and getting victories that, you know. I think they might get some opportunities here in the future too. Be interesting to see how that works out.
Q. Have they sought your advice at all as far as ways to sort of accelerate their careers?
BRAD KESELOWSKI: Yeah. You know, all of them are really talented, like I said, and have great ideas behind their careers and goals to go with them. And, you know, I'm really proud of Richard. He's done a great job working on his car every week and making it better and asking a lot of questions. I think that's showing off with his victory this weekend.
But, you know, it's very interesting to see because it wasn't a few years ago where, you know, I was in the same shoes they're in now and trying to look at them I feel like all of them are very talented and can take it.
Q. This is the last question. Looking at Dale Junior and knowing him the way you know him, how important would you say the late model teams are to Dale Junior?
BRAD KESELOWSKI: I think the late model teams are to Dale as important as the Nationwide teams. It's a way of giving back to the sport, specifically on the grassroots level. Because we're very fortunate to do what we do. And Dale is in the same shoes, even more so than I am, to where you know we've caught the right breaks and we've been fortunate. And there's others around us that we feel like are as good and deserve those same opportunities and just haven't gotten them. So it's way for us to pay it back.
I have my own late model team that's along the same premise. So, you know, it's funny how that works out, it's our own charity, so to speak, running the late models and supporting the grass root level.
Q. I was wondering if you could kind of tell me what it is that makes the Nationwide Series enjoyable for you as a driver?
BRAD KESELOWSKI: The competition. It's all about the competition. I love to compete. That's what racing's all about to me. You know, I just -- I love racing side-by-side. You know, that's what it's all about to me is the competition. I love the venues we go to. I'm looking forward to this week at Gateway. I love racing across the Midwest. That's where I'm from. And Michigan.
So, you know, it's -- there's a lot of great things about the series. The television package with ESPN and the credibility that brings to the series along with Nationwide, those are all things that there's no other series out there other than the Sprint Cup Series that, you know, can say that. So it's a great feeling. And I just love the sport to death.
Q. Do you feel like that NASCAR has it set up perfectly for drivers to get such great experience before they get to the Cup level?
BRAD KESELOWSKI: Yeah, that's the intention of the Nationwide Series is to develop drivers and to develop not only drivers but team members in general. Whether that's a guy that goes over the wall or an official or, you know, a guy that works in the shop. So I think it works very well for that purpose. I like the way it's set up personally. But of course I have gotten some breaks to get to where I'm at too.
Q. What so far would be maybe the one or two best moments of the year for you?
BRAD KESELOWSKI: Certainly winning Nashville was a great moment. That was, you know, a dream of mine to win a race at the NASCAR level. And to finally be able to realize that is a great feeling. But, other than that, it's any time I race around my teammate Dale. That's a great feeling for me.
It's great to show him that he has good equipment and that we can run together and we just have fun racing with each other so it's cool.
Q. Can you talk about what kind of role Dale Junior has played in your development as a driver and as a person?
BRAD KESELOWSKI: Well the biggest thing is the opportunities he's given me to work with good people. And Dale has his own commitments which seem to be a lengthy list, and he doesn't have a lot of time to be with me and to explain things with me. But, you know, there are certainly times where he'll help me out.
Going to Daytona he helped me out a tremendous amount. Watching footage from Talladega and showing me what I did wrong and what I did right and trying to explain that to me. So it's just small things like that that seem to help me out a lot.
Then there's some of the other behind the scenes stuff. How to deal with the huge amount of responsibilities that a driver has. Not only to his team and to his sponsor.
Q. Great. You said earlier it's tough to look back and reflect on how well things have gone, but do you ever think about how this has all happened so quickly for you? Do you ever have to pinch yourself?
BRAD KESELOWSKI: Certainly, yeah. I mean, it's been a great year. I mean, just everything is coming together. And, you know, it's what you dream of. And, you know, we'd like to be winning some more races and I think we have a great shot at doing that. And I really feel like we have a shot at running for the title. So we're excited about it. We're excited to see what the future will hold.
Q. Your reaction please to being called one of the young guns of the sport, one of the guys who is being called the future of Sprint Cup racing?
BRAD KESELOWSKI: Well it's an honor. There's a lot of talent, like I said, between Joey then there are other drivers in the Nationwide Series that I feel like are very talented whether it's Marcus Ambrose or Lee Byers. All of them are great drivers as well that I think can compete at the same level. So it's great to be told that or hear that, but, you know, we're trying to stay focused on competing in the Nationwide Series.
Q. Lastly, what's it like when you get on the track in the Nationwide Series and you're going against some of the guys you grew up admiring? What's it like going against some of your heroes from yesterday?
BRAD KESELOWSKI: It's great feeling, especially when you are passing them. I have as much fun with that as anything else. That's the fun part of it, like I said, is the competition. The stronger the competition, the more fun it is. So it's great to race with them. I have a blast. And, you know, I wouldn't trade it for anything else.
Q. I want to ask you, Brad, about re-starts, which seemingly, you know, everybody's watching the drivers on the re-starts, how they study them, young drivers coming in and being really cagey and smart about re-starts. How much have you studied re-starts and talk about the art of the restart?
BRAD KESELOWSKI: I've studied them but I'm certainly no expert. It's probably one of my weak spots is, you know, re-starts. But re-starts are, you know, all about how aggressive you are as a driver. I personally am not a big fun of the crazy restart, so to speak. I like to get going and get racing. But there are other drivers who aren't. So that always puts you on defense.
It's an interesting time, so to speak. And a lot can happen on a restart, obviously, with everybody being jumbled up. But I've studied them an certainly don't consider myself to be an expert or a Ron Hornaday, so to speak. But, you know, I need to learn it a little better because obviously Kyle showed us all how it was done the other night.
Q. How do you get better at them? I don't know if studying tapes of Ron Hornaday, which some have done, works. I don't know how you actually get better unless you just try things. How do you get better at it?
BRAD KESELOWSKI: It's trial by fire. You know, I've tried some things that have worked and I've tried some things that certainly haven't worked. You know, that's one of the interesting things about re-starts is it's a lot like playing poker. It's not about the hand you have, it's about the hand the guy behind you has and trying to take a guess how he is going to play it. So, you know, a lot of it is just studying the personalities of the drivers that you are surrounded by.
Q. Last question. The what's the biggest surprise for this year, Brad?
BRAD KESELOWSKI: Biggest surprise? Ooh. You know, I'm surprised about how strong the Gibbs cars have been. I knew they would be strong but I guess none of us really guessed they would be that strong.
Q. I was just wondering if you could comment about how you think you are a better driver now than you were a year ago?
BRAD KESELOWSKI: It's all about track time. It's race as much as you can every week, that will continue to make you a better driver. And that's the biggest thing for me. The more you race, the better you are going to get at it.
Q. You mentioned, you know, the things that Dale Junior talked to you about, the stuff not only just on the track but off the track and, you know, I mean, what are some of the things that maybe you hadn't, that surprised you that were part of the responsibility at racing at this level?
BRAD KESELOWSKI: Well, you know, coming into it you'd like to think you understand how it works but you really don't. You know, when it comes down to the responsibilities to the sponsors and to the fans and how to balance all that and how to, how to live your own life, is so to speak, and have your own free time and fun time and balance that with the needs of the fans or the sponsors. It's a constant juggling act. So, you know, there's no right or wrong on it, but it's trying to find that right balance and that right harmony, so to speak, to make that all happen. And, you know, he is a great role model to show me that.
Q. Do you have much of a life right now, outside of the car?
BRAD KESELOWSKI: It's tough. I would say no. 35 weeks a year is a grueling schedule. To be honest I think the Nationwide schedule is tougher than the Cup Series schedule. So, you know, it presents its own set of challenges. And, you know, my life right now is racing.
Q. With you being second in the points right now, and I know points are a factor for you, how would you feel if the Nationwide Series had some sort of chase similar to what the Sprint Cup series has? Would it help, would it benefit or would you not prefer it?
BRAD KESELOWSKI: I really don't have any strong feelings either way on that. The I trust, you know, the sanction body of NASCAR to make the right decisions on that. It's just not a big deal to me. If they want to put a chase in the Nationwide Series, it's not going to affect me either way.
Certainly the way my first two races went it hurt me a bunch in points and it's going to be tough to catch Clint because of that. But, you know, I respect both sides of that. The Chase is great, but I also respect the fact that it takes a whole season to determine a champion. So I really don't have any strong feelings on that either way
TRACEY JUDD: Brad, that about wraps it up for you for this afternoon from the questions from our media members here so we thank you very much for joining us. Glad you are feeling better for one thing and best of luck to the you this weekend at Gateway.
BRAD KESELOWSKI: Thank you
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