NASCAR Sprint Cup Series: Aaron's 499
Topics: Aaron's 499
April 26, 2009
THE MODERATOR: We have our race winner today, his crew chief and team owner. Congratulations to Brad Keselowski, team owner, James Finch, and crew chief Marc Reno, driver of the 09 Miccosukee Indian Gaming and Resort Chevrolet. Brad Keselowski's first career win in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. And also Brad, want to make sure you knew that you are now in the 2009 NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race at Lowe's Motor Speedway.
So congratulations, Brad. How does it feel to have your first NASCAR Sprint Cup win?
BRAD KESELOWSKI: Well, I didn't -- you just don't know. Talladega is such a crapshoot. You can't expect anything. Can't expect to win, can't expect not to win. I knew that I had to get locked into somebody's rear bumper if I was going to run up to the front, and even though you don't know if it's going to work out.
Ryan was doing the same thing he was doing yesterday in the Nationwide race where he was not running wide open, he was just trying to hold Dale back there; and broke their momentum for a lap or two, and by the time they saw me coming it was too late. Carl and I are were coming with a full head of steam and there was no stopping us. I'm sure he probably regrets that now, but I certainly don't.
The 60 car and I got together and we were going, and he had a good car, I had a good car, and I guess my Chevy was a little better. We made a run on him there, and I made him move up high hoping that he would block high; he did, as his momentum was still carrying him to the right, I came across him to the left knowing that he would not be able to maneuver as fast.
I got under him, barely, but enough to have position on him. And it was up to him on whether he wanted to run me down or not, and he did, and I was not going to allow myself to be in that same spot as Regan was last year and I just held my ground. I was here to win and I've got no other reason to be here than to win and put these guys in victory lane.
Holding your line was the way to do it, and I'm sorry it caused a wreck and sorry for those that are hurt. But that's just the situation with the rules and the way it is, and either way, it was a great show, and I hope the fans had fun with it. This is NASCAR racing at its finest. This was a great show. I really hope everyone enjoyed it, because I had fun. I found myself laughing in the race car halfway through the race, and I hope the fans were cheering and having fun, too. ?
THE MODERATOR: Thank you, Brad. Let's talk to crew chief, Marc Reno. Your thoughts about this win today?
MARC RENO: It actually still a little bit in shock here. We knew we could run in the Top-10 in these races, done it at Daytona a couple times. Probably didn't have it in our vocabulary and we didn't work on our victory lane stuff really well. It's pretty neat.
I'm excited for James because he's been in the sport for a lot of years, more so than the owners around here and spent his own money and excited to get him the Sprint Cup win.
THE MODERATOR: James Finch, how about this win today?
JAMES FINCH: Oh, this win is the best thing -- best thing to ever happen to me. I'd really like to dedicate this race to Neil Bonnett's family. Neil died in my car in '94 trying to do what we did today. I would really like to dedicate that to them and everybody that helped me throughout the years.
Q. You mentioned Regan Smith; is that something that as you were going through the final lap, if certain things unfolded, you were conscious of: 'If I get to that point, I am going to hold my line,' because it looked like it was the exact same scenario only Regan moved down a little bit to prevent Tony from getting wrecked. You by NASCAR rules knew you had to hold your line to win. It could you clarify that?
BRAD KESELOWSKI: Regan last year did the right thing. He did the smart thing. He did the cool thing. And he did, he did something that I would be proud of if I was him. You know, he took the bullet. To be honest, I didn't. I wasn't going to take the bullet. I'm not in a situation in my career where I can afford to take the bullet and I had nothing to lose.
I felt -- I thought I knew Carl well enough to know that he wouldn't go all the way down; apparently I did not. But I knew I had to hold the spot. You know, certainly, I was thinking of Regan Smith more than just when the moment came, but I was thinking of him the whole weekend. Not necessarily specific to winning the race, but running anywhere in the field, whether that's for 12th on the last lap or not.
So we all know the rules, and we know how to take advantage of them, and I guess we all have to look in the mirror and decide what we are going to do when we are faced with those decisions. I've said right along that I am not in a position to lift. I was not going to lose. I was not going to lift and hold my ground and consequences be damned.
JAMES FINCH: That's a good thing. (Laughter).
Q. Brad, when you hooked up with Carl, it meant that you were going to have to put your Nationwide owner, it was going to come at his experience. Did you think of that, or do you believe on Monday he would have told you: Don't ever back down; do whatever you have to do to win?
BRAD KESELOWSKI: You know, actually, when I had that run on him and I could tell that the 39 was not running 100%, he was not in a position, I don't think, to win anyway. Maybe I'm wrong, I don't know.
But the way -- the way he was lined up, he didn't have any help. The 39 kept checking him up. It's really hard to get a run like that anyway. I don't think he could have won it in that scenario. All the 39 did was put them in a situation where neither of them could win, which was kind of confusing to me but I'll take. It we capitalized on it. He did the same thing today as he did yesterday. It was the same exact shoes, and you don't win races like that. I knew that when I was passing the two of them that you can't win like that.
So, you know, I just was lucky to be in the right position and to have hooked up with a fast car and to have a fast car myself to give that push. I just can't believe it worked out, I really can't. I knew we could at least get to second. I just didn't know if I could finish the move off on Carl.
Q. (No mic).
BRAD KESELOWSKI: It occurred to me that I was passing him for a second. It didn't occur to me that I was keeping him from winning the race. I don't think he could have with Ryan doing the move he was doing. Ryan basically eliminated any chance of the first, second cars had of winning the race by doing what he was doing which was the same thing he did yesterday, but that's the way it goes.
Q. I know you said that you didn't think Edwards would do that, but just for your information, Edwards said that when he blocked, when he went left, he didn't know that you had already done it. Do you buy that, or do you think he was saying that to cover himself?
BRAD KESELOWSKI: It's hard to tell. It really is. That's a split-second decision based on information that isn't all there. You know, we have spot mirrors on these cars but the depth perception on them is terrible.
So it hard to tell how far someone is up on them. You know, it's also hard to tell how good that car is behind you, because if I would not have had as strong a car as I did, I would not have got as far up on them as I did; and when he made that move it would not have spun him out it, would have pushed him forward.
But I had a strong enough car to where it inched up probably no more than six inches on his left rear quarterpanel, but that's enough. That's enough to be there and that's enough to cause an accident like that and by the time he could make his maneuver, I was too far on the side of him to back down.
I don't know if he knew I was there or not. It's hard to tell, and I'd hate to speculate on that. But either way, I didn't really expect him to turn down.
Q. Eight people hurt, one woman with a broken jaw, could have lost a couple race car drivers, you talk about this being cool and great racing and a great show; is it worth it?
BRAD KESELOWSKI: There has to be some element of danger into it. No different than a football player. Who doesn't love watching football players hit each other head-on as fast as they can? I think that's how John Madden made his career, saying boom. That's what the fans want. They want contact.
If we would have ran all race without a single lap of contact everyone in the media center would have wrote about how boring of a race it was, and instead we ran one of the best races you could ever watch on TV with full contact the whole time. Thankfully no one did get seriously injured. And I do want to emphasize that, I'm thankful for that.
I don't want to wreck anyone, but to say a no-contact sport is fun, I don't buy that. These guys want to see contact just as much as I want to give it and take it.
Q. How close did you come to losing control there with the car, or did you just stay in it the whole day and did you think you were going to risk the chance of losing control?
BRAD KESELOWSKI: I was right there, there's no doubt. It's hard to tell with these cars, because I'm not sure -- I really don't understand why Carl's car did what it did. I think that's something we need to look into. Those cars should not go airborne like his did, and I think that kind of confused me. I just thought his car would spin into the triangle. I think we ought to look at that and do some wind tunnel testing on that and see if we can't fix that.
These cars in general are very stable, even when you do get them sideways, which is why the races here are so good. And I was a little sideways, I don't know how much more I could have been. All I was looking at that was that checkered flag, and if I had to hit the outside wall to do it, I was going to hit the outside wall. But all I wanted was that start/finish line and to come across it first.
Q. In view of the way the last few, couple races have ended, last year if you had been able on the last lap -- Regan Smith would have won, and today if you had been able to go below the yellow line, it's quite possible there would not have been a wreck. There are pros and cons on this, but without the yellow-line thing, would the ending of this race, would it be a little bit safer right there?
BRAD KESELOWSKI: Yeah, I don't know if that's really a question. I think that's probably more of a statement of fact.
The yellow line is there to prevent us from running underneath us and prevent us from being crazy. But the bottom line is, that's who we are. We are all crazy racecar drivers and we are going to run into each other. That yellow line could be six-foot high or six-foot low and would we run into each other. That's what we do. It's a give and take sport and as races go on, it's a challenge of who is going to lift and who is not, and it's testing each other every moment.
That was a test on Carl's side. Whether or not he knew I was there or not, I'm sure he felt like I would let him in even if I was there, and I was not gonna. It's a test of character. Like I said I'm not sure I did -- I did the right thing to win, but I guess you can always look about it different ways if you did the right thing in life.
But if the yellow line was not there, I would have gone underneath it, yeah, for sure. But he probably would have blocked even lower and it would probably have been the same thing. So, who knows?
I would probably have blocked to the grass, I guess is what I'm trying to say. At some point you're just going to keep going and going and going, and if I could have gone to the grass to win it, he would have gone to the pit road to block me. That's just what racing is, that's what we do.
Q. Came in late, apologize if you talked about this, but about how many laps were left, if you remember, when you hooked up there in the two-car draft? And did you expect at that point that it you were going to be able to catch the front by the end of the race?
BRAD KESELOWSKI: You know, I knew we would at least get to about first, because I saw a separation growing there. There was a gap growing there and I'm not really sure I understand why, what was going on with third place.
But as far as knowing that I was going to win the race, no, I didn't know that until probably about the back straightaway on the second lap to go, that we had a shot to win the race, because we had such a run, and like I said, Ryan and Dale, I think Ryan was checking Dale up trying to keep Dale to have the run I had on Carl obviously. That situation is what it is.
Q. You said there's always an element of danger for a driver and we know that, but with injuries in the stands, I don't know if you want to take a stab at this or not, but this track, as it is, is it safe for fans to watch a race?
BRAD KESELOWSKI: I don't know. Define what safe is.
I don't know, this track is always kind of weird. A couple of years ago, I guess it's been a long time ago, a guy ran ASCA Series got killed driving a street car around here just through the parking lot. You can get hurt doing anything. I can get hurt stepping off this -- stepping off this platform here.
What is safe? I don't know. I'm not the guy to define that.
Q. You've had several drivers in your cars. How did you get hooked up with putting Brad in the car? Obviously your impressions of him as a driver?
JAMES FINCH: I'm more impressed today than I was yesterday. (Laughter)
I've had several drivers. Throughout the years, you know, I've been racing and I've raced with Brad's dad years back, and when he was real little. But Rick Hendrick, he's the one that helped me.
And I said, "Well, Rick, I need to get me a driver." I said, "I keep using the older ones, and the older ones, they want to slide back in the rocking chair and get paid at the end of the race."
BRAD KESELOWSKI: Don't get me wrong, I still want to get paid. I want to get paid, too.
JAMES FINCH: But the older ones seem to not want to race as much. I don't know, I'm old myself.
So Rick said, why don't we try to do something with Brad and I said I would love to. And I do some with Sterling and Mike and some of the rest of them, but I'm going to do eight or ten races with Brad. We were supposed to race next week, but I think his crew chief canceled that one. So we are going to put somebody else in the car next week in the Cup race.
BRAD KESELOWSKI: We are back again at Daytona same car and fix it up, how about that.
JAMES FINCH: But I really thank Rick for helping me and for Brad. I've run a third, a fourth, a ninth, a 12th at Daytona as an independent, and I said I've always dreamed about winning one of these races. And then I would race a while, work a while, build up some money and then comeback and race. Some people try and do it the other way, and, balm, in a year or so, they have to fold up or whatever because it's really, really expensive to do this.
Winston Cup racing, or Sprint racing, is the hardest racing in the world. I had a friend, when I run third at Daytona with my car and Bill Davis won, first time I seen Bill Davis, he was gassing for Mark Martin and Mark Martin was 15 years old and we were at a short track. I said Bill I've won 400 or the short-track races, I would trade all of those for one of these races. That's how hard they are to win.
My team has not won in like three years. We won a Busch race in the Nationwide Series three years ago in Milwaukee and I said: "I don't know if I'm ever going to win another race." And then when Regan won yesterday, he said he had run 85 or 90 races in Jack Roush's stuff and he had not won, and that made me feel a little better.
Q. Do you remember how many Sprint car drivers have won their first race at this track, and can you give us some details on your contractual race?
BRAD KESELOWSKI: James said seven, so I'll go with that. Is that right?
Q. Do you have a contractual relationship going forward?
BRAD KESELOWSKI: I guess. I don't even -- I don't understand. I'm no lawyer. I don't know where I'm at to be honest. I know I don't have anything locked in. That's really all I can say. I don't have a ride secured for next year. I don't have a job secured for next year, and everything to this point has been wait and see. I know this certainly can't hurt.
To be honest, I've put it off myself, personally, because I don't even know what I want to do. I feel like I'm ready to run at this level full-time, and hopefully there are some that agree with that after today. It's a matter of getting on the right teams, the right sponsorship and all of the stars aligning, and that's not something you can rush.
As far as contracts and all that go, you know, I don't know. I don't understand them. I know I don't have a ride for next year.
Q. Are you familiar with the number of drivers who have won their first race here?
BRAD KESELOWSKI: I'm familiar with the Talladega curse, and I sure hope I don't have that. A lot of drivers have won their first and only race here. I don't want to be that guy.
JAMES FINCH: I think you're No. 8.
BRAD KESELOWSKI: Hopefully that won't be the case. Hopefully after today I earned a lot of respect from my competitors and next time I come back here, I'll get some help from them to be honest. I didn't get think help all day today.
If I didn't push Carl up to the front I would have been 30th. I made my own breaks today with the help of my spotter and a great car that these guys gave me. Hopefully, you know, coming back here, I'll get a little bit more help.
Q. Dale Earnhardt, Jr. went out of his way in his second-place interview to thank you. I don't know if the casual fan knows your whole story. Can you talk about why you only race; you talked about picking and choosing. Can you just sort of give us your career in a nutshell?
JAMES FINCH: I've been NASCAR racing for 21 years, and I have over 500 starts in the Busch Series, and I've got four wins at Daytona.
But I like to race, and Winston Cup racing is so expensive, or Sprint car racing, Sprint Cup, and so I would have to watch what I'm doing for this money-wise because I'm in the construction business to be able to run. As far as racing, I love to race. I had a car in the ASCA race Friday, I had a car in the Busch race Saturday, and won the race today.
I run 40th yesterday with my car, or Mike did, and burned up the motor, which was not real good and wrecked Friday and won today. So that's what's racing is about.
BRAD KESELOWSKI: One heck of a roller coaster, ain't. It.
JAMES FINCH: It's up and down.
Q. Did you see Carl get up in the air --
BRAD KESELOWSKI: Oh, yeah.
Q. -- in your rear-view mirror? How much did you see?
BRAD KESELOWSKI: As soon as I was corrected and knew my car was all right, I wasn't looking for Carl, but I looked in my mirror I was looking for the 49 and 88 to be able to block them at the last minute on a big run. And as I glanced in my mirror and saw there were not any cars close to me, I watched Carl flipping there and felt really bad it, for sure.
I'm glad that no one is hurt any worse than they are and I guess I can't emphasize that enough, and I hate to see that that happened. But yeah, I did see Carl flipping.
Q. Somebody who shall remain unnamed, somebody came on the radio and said, "Brad is going to wreck the entire field."
BRAD KESELOWSKI: Whatever I did, it was working, or it worked.
Q. How much on the edge, how much control do you have out there? Are there times when you literally just don't know what the car is going to do?
BRAD KESELOWSKI: I wouldn't say that there was any time where I didn't know what the car was going to do, other than when I was getting pushed, which as I said earlier, was not very often. I didn't get a lot of help today.
But I mean, if you're on the edge a little, but not too bad here, mostly you are just trying to be smart and you are just playing a chess match, all day, playing a chess match, and you're challenging your opponent, which in this case there's 42 others to see what they have got and whether they will help you and whether they won't.
I'm sure I made a few people angry, but there's a few people that made me very angry, too, and so it goes in circles.
Q. Can you explain how far this has come from a few years ago at Rockingham, people kind of pointed fingers at you then, to where you are right now?
JAMES FINCH: I think we were up at Rockingham and they used to have two-day qualifying, they would have qualifying on Friday and a second round on Saturday. And they didn't have enough cars. I said, "Well, let's get a Cup car and come in and start the race and try and get the purse money."
I think we won the race on Saturday, and got like $16,000 for first place, and we started the race on Sunday and got $74,000. And then we went and got us a better motor for a Busch car and went on to Charlotte. It not like we were robbing NASCAR. We were just trying to help out. (Laughter)
Q. You're 25 years old. Was there any point in that race where you actually felt scared?
BRAD KESELOWSKI: Actually felt scared, I guess when I was pointed toward the infield. I don't know if they got that on camera or not. Dale gave me a pretty good push there, and I was not quite in the right position for it. I about wrecked the field, like I think someone was quoting me. I would say at one point for a split second, but you ain't got time to be scared. How does that saying go, 'I ain't got time to bleed'? You'd better go, and if you're scared, this is not the right place to be, because that's when you make poor decisions.
Q. How old are you? Do you have a residence in Spartanburg and how many people do you have working at the shop?
JAMES FINCH: How old am I? I've been to all the Talladega races, okay. (Laughter).
I think we have about 25 or 26 employees to run a full-time Nationwide Series and a part-time Cup Series, and we help out someone on the ASCA car every once in awhile. I've had a lot of people help me and so we try and pass it down to some of these kids in the ASCA series and all that, because there's no testing.
It's really tough now. The short-track races, 30 years ago, was paying $600 to win and they are paying $600 to win now. So the expense of the tires and racing, if there's some way we could generate money on the short-track races to get people up here, I guess I'm one of the only independents to race on regular basis, eight ten or 12 races a year. Some of them come in and race a few races and leave because it's so expensive, and there's no glory. I mean, that's a long time since I've had a trophy, and I thank bad I got one here today.
BRAD KESELOWSKI: Thank you, James.
JAMES FINCH: I have a house -- I'm from Panama City. I'm in the construction business in Panama City, but I have a house there at the shop. I bought a shop in Spartanburg. Raced in Panama City for years and we were going to move to Charlotte. So Buckshot Jones' dad called me up and made me a deal to buy his shop and I bought his shop in Spartanburg, and I bought a house across the street for when I go up there. That's been four years ago, and I've never spent a night there.
THE MODERATOR: Congratulations, Brad, Mark and James. Thank you.
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