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NASCAR Media Conference

American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

Stock Car Racing Topics:  NASCAR

NASCAR Media Conference

Brad Keselowski
November 15, 2012

Q.  What's the mindset as you go into this weekend?
BRAD KESELOWSKI:  Well, when I look at the mindset of Homestead, it's to do the same things we've done to get to where we're at right now, and that is putting out strong, consistent finishes and taking advantage of opportunities when we have them, whether that's to win the race or to get a solid finish, and I think we've done that this season, and we'd be foolish to change our approach.

Q.  (No microphone.)
BRAD KESELOWSKI:  Well, obviously I can't say there's no pressure, but there's no more pressure to me at this moment than there was when we started the Chase.  Start of the Chase is a lot of pressure, too.  I think all 10 races pay the same amount of points, and that's intentional, and if we keep up what we've done over the last 10, then we'll be in good shape.  Or last nine of 10, how about that?

Q.  (No microphone.)
BRAD KESELOWSKI:  Am I superstitious?  Naked actually is very accurate.  I do feel naked when I don't have my phone.  It's my security blanket.  But it doesn't really matter how I feel about it.  It is what it is at this point, and I'm going to move on and focus on the weekend at hand.

Q.  (No microphone.)
BRAD KESELOWSKI:  I'm confused a lot, so just add that to the list.

Q.  (No microphone.)
BRAD KESELOWSKI:  Well, I don't know if that's him using that as a tactic.  That might be more of his team but not necessarily Jimmie.  I look at the Chase, and up until maybe last weekend, I would say the majority of the events, there was a Hendrick car that picked pit stalls around us and things of that nature, so I expect things like that.
But as far as on the racetrack, I think the drivers themselves have enough code to where they'll race respectfully.

Q.  (No microphone.)
BRAD KESELOWSKI:  Well, I don't know how to answer that.  I mean, it's one of those things that you have to see.  I haven't seen that so far, but that could change.  Certainly something to pay attention to.

Q.  How often do your mom and dad come to the races?
BRAD KESELOWSKI:  My mom comes to probably half a dozen, maybe 10 races this year I should say, but my dad hasn't really been to any.  You know, to get him to come to a race, it's got to be a big deal.

Q.  (No microphone.)
BRAD KESELOWSKI:  No, because he has a way about him of not being a hindrance, which is something I really respect about him.  He got a lot of flak over that whole Gateway deal a few years ago, but in reality he's never been that up front, into‑your‑face‑type of a little‑league coach dad.  He's never been that way.  I don't see him being any different this weekend, and if he is, we brought a second bus to throw him in, and we'll just lock him inside of it.

Q.  (No microphone.)
BRAD KESELOWSKI:  Ooh, man, it would be maybe Martinsville last year, but he was there working.  So that's the thing about my dad.  He won't go to a race unless he's working.  That's just his style.  I was talking to Doug Yates the other day, and Robert is the same way, his dad.  He won't come to a race just to watch, he'll come in he has something to work on, and that's the way my dad is.  To get my dad to a come a race weekend to actually watch is a big accomplishment.  It feels pretty good to have him here.

Q.  Was what you did last week an insurance move?
BRAD KESELOWSKI:  No, it was a move to win the race.  We felt like we were running third, we'd seen substantial tire wear, and we didn't feel like we were going to blow a tire out by any means, but we felt like there would be an advantage at the end of the race to have tires.  The way the race played out with everybody wrecking each other, there was enough yellow laps run to where it was actually a disadvantage.
At the end of the day, it was a calculated risk that didn't pay off but a move to try and win the race.

Q.  Does that mean‑‑ when you say the approach is the same, obviously is your approach to win the race, I don't think you'll gamble on fuel and stuff like that, but‑‑
BRAD KESELOWSKI:  Well, I can't speak for Paul on that.  I'll let Paul answer questions of that nature.  But I know that we still plan on coming out here and running well and trying to win the race.

Q.  Can you just speak to how far you have come since you started‑‑ by the time Dale Jr. had found you, then two years later running a full season, then winning your first title?  Can you just expound how your development?
BRAD KESELOWSKI:  Well, it's been a long road from where I started to where I'm at now.  I look at that and say if you evaluate drivers when they first come into the sport and say, well, such‑and‑such, Tony Stewart, Jimmie Johnson, they're here, and if you evaluate drivers, look at a Ryan Blaney let's say, it's a great example, who started out right here, which is really good.  He's obviously not at Jimmie and those guys' level, which is really high.  I did not start out right here, I started out way down here, and my success story is attributed to a constant desire to improve, and that's how I've got to where I'm at, and that's how I feel like I'll continue to be successful.  A commitment to improvement every day.  I want to be better tomorrow than I was today and better in the future than I was tomorrow, beyond that.
So I think it's that commitment that took me from that level to get up to here, and I don't know, maybe here is where I'll top out and maybe where I'll fall down.  But I certainly didn't start out as high as I would have liked to, and when I look at guys like Ryan Blaney that's what impresses me so much is I know they're starting out right here, and if they're able to improve at the same level I've been able to improve they'll be way up here, which is so impressive.  But like I said, for me it's been a long road.

Q.  Given how hard you had to work to get to this point, if you do win the championship on Sunday, what will it mean to you?  That sense of accomplishment for you, for Roger, what will that mean?
BRAD KESELOWSKI:  Well, it's a question that's a lot easier to answer specifically what it means to me after it's been done, and that's the benefit of hindsight and time.  I can speculate what it's going to mean to me now, but I really don't know.

Q.  (No microphone.)
BRAD KESELOWSKI:  I did, yeah.  Well, I won one.  I felt very confident that if Roger and I worked together that it was just a matter of time before we'd be successful, if we truly worked together, not just hire me, throw me in the seat and let's go.  But truly worked together with a common goal of improvement like I just talked about in the previous question.  And I feel like that's how we've been able to be successful.

Q.  I'm just curious, from the IndyCar side, how much contact have you had with some of those guys?  I know Helio lives here.  Is he coming out to support you?
BRAD KESELOWSKI:  I haven't spoke that much with the open‑wheel guys.  I saw Will a couple weeks ago, but that's about it.

Q.  So no words of advice or encouragement?
BRAD KESELOWSKI:  No, they've got their own lives and things like on, and I don't want to intervene in their lives and they don't really get in the middle of our stuff.

Q.  I guess I meant just for the organization.
BRAD KESELOWSKI:  Oh, they know how significant this is to RP, absolutely.  They've got to.  But I can't speak to what volume of appreciation they have for it.

Q.  How do you stay away from guys that you know have a grudge and not get caught up in it on Sunday?
BRAD KESELOWSKI:  How do you stay away from it?  It's not really easy, you just try not to give them a reason to be mad and you hope they can be adults about it and realize that it's a different day.  But there's no guarantees of that.

Q.  Can you race more conservatively?
BRAD KESELOWSKI:  I mean, you have to be careful about that.  You've got to try to race everybody the same or bad things will happen to you in general.  So that's kind of my rule of thumb.

Q.  (Inaudible).
BRAD KESELOWSKI:  What did I get out of the Ray Lewis video?  What I like about Ray Lewis, and I know he's got a lot of people that don't like him, so I'll acknowledge that.  But what I like about Ray Lewis is that he brings a level of passion that is really unparalleled in his sport, and he's successful because of it.  It's kind of this mix of old school, mental prep that just fascinates me.  So I've read a lot about him and obviously talked about that video and so forth, and I'm just constantly impressed by it.  I want to bring that same level of passion, that same level of intensity to NASCAR that he's brought to his respective team in the NFL.

Q.  (No microphone.)
BRAD KESELOWSKI:  Oh, probably the night before.  I don't usually watch that kind of stuff on a race day.  There's usually too much going on.

Q.  When you were down at that level, was there a moment where you got really down thinking this is‑‑
BRAD KESELOWSKI:  Oh, absolutely, absolutely.  There was plenty of moments where I thought I wasn't going to make it.  But good Lord willing, I caught the opportunities and was able to capitalize on them and progress.

Q.  (No microphone.)
BRAD KESELOWSKI:  Yeah, I don't know.  I didn't really think they were, either, to be honest.  They were just kind of neutral to me.  Other than the money, I would really like to have that back.  But from that perspective, I think‑‑ I didn't really apologize per se for the remarks, I apologized for the vulgarity.  But the remarks I stand behind, and I believe with a passion that the sport needs a level of intensity that we saw at Phoenix but that it needs that on the track in a battle for the win and in a battle for position, not in a battle in the garage.

Q.  (No microphone.)
BRAD KESELOWSKI:  No, I really haven't seen anyone.  Other than Dale Jr. I haven't really seen anyone.

Q.  (No microphone.)
BRAD KESELOWSKI:  I see all sides for sure.  It's a tough situation because technology in this sport is obviously limited to allow the drivers to really show case their talents.  It's a bit ironic the way the sport has developed over time, that I think the sport doesn't get the credit it deserves for the amount of technology that exists in it because people look at the car and think of that as a product of the technology or think of that as the technology, where the teams and the way the sport is set up, the car is the product of technology but not necessarily the technology itself.  Does that make any sense to you?
This of it this way:  It would be like holding up an iPhone versus looking at a skyscraper.  The skyscraper doesn't look that complex, but if there's a bunch of 3D models and years of surveys and all tons of technology involved in building the skyscraper, it actually had more technology put into it.  And so that's, I guess, the analogy I'm trying to make, is that in the sport the car itself is not really all that technological, but the process of building it and so forth, there's a ton of technology in the sport.
So from that standpoint, it's a bit ironic with what you're saying about the phone, and I guess that's how I look at it.

Q.  (No microphone.)
BRAD KESELOWSKI:  No, you have to understand how that system works to know that that's not a possibility.

Q.  (No microphone.)
BRAD KESELOWSKI:  I want to finish the question about, with the technology that we have with the current system, that's not possible.  With technology in general it is possible, but not with the system that NASCAR utilizes.  Kathy Penske being at the racetrack is really phenomenal because I think she knows how important this is to Roger, and she doesn't come to a lot of races, but when she does come to a race, we know.  It's a showing of the whole family's commitment that he has, and it shows how strong a base he has to be successful because he, too, has a family and a support system that's very strong.

Q.  (No microphone.)
BRAD KESELOWSKI:  I mean, I think it's pretty self‑explanatory what you just said, that he has a motivation behind his comments, that discredits them of credibility, and that's pretty easy to brush off when you think of it that way.

Q.  Harvick said the same thing about the death wish comments.  It was the same thing, they were all trying to get to you because they know that you're a formidable opponent right now.
BRAD KESELOWSKI:  Sure, I don't disagree with that.  It's probably part of my motivation of the rant.

Q.  (No microphone.)
BRAD KESELOWSKI:  Well, somebody asked me how I felt when he blew a tire out at Phoenix, and I think they were expecting me to where I about it.  It was the opposite of that, I was really disappointed, because I want the pressure.  I want the pressure of‑‑ I wanted the pressure.  I don't have a choice in the matter.  I wanted the pressure of coming down here and having to win the race to win the championship, because that's the type of person I am.  I want the ball.  I want to be on the field on the last play with the ball thrown to me, and that's what that moment is.
So I guess that shows you that there's definitely some pressure, but I like it.  I thrive in it.  That's what I want.  You look at the career opportunities that I've had that I've succeeded in, they haven't been any easier.  I can remember the first time I drove for Dale Jr. and some of the stuff he told me, don't wreck the car or you're out, and I remember the first race I ran for Dale Jr. was in Chicago 2007, and to this day that race has the record for the most amount of Cup drivers in it, and I had never ran Chicago in my life.  I had no idea what to expect, and here I am thrown in this car, don't wreck it, make the show, run well, most amount of Cup drivers ever.  It was like, wow, now that was pressure.
Moments like that make this not seem so bad, and they also build up a level of confidence that I feel like this is quite a bit easier than those moments.

Q.  (No microphone.)
BRAD KESELOWSKI:  I had a beer with him the other night, and that was‑‑ or morning, however you want to view that, and that was great.

Q.  When was that?
BRAD KESELOWSKI:  It was Sunday night, Monday morning.

Q.  What did you talk about?

Q.  (No microphone.)
BRAD KESELOWSKI:  Yeah, I mean, he says stuff that's true to himself, and that's why I think we respect each other, because he knows I do the same.

Q.  It seems like you have had to wrestle respect for yourself away from other drivers.  Right up until last week, here you are on the precipice of a championship.  Is respect earned or is respect taken?
BRAD KESELOWSKI:  Well, I look at that situation, and it's a bit of a difficult question to answer because to your credit, I would say that at the Cup level, I've been here not necessarily a short time but not a long time by any means.  When you compare it to the drivers I'm surrounded by, which is a product of the low turnover rate that we're seeing right now from a driver perspective.  So I'm naturally at the bottom of the pecking order.
To be a championship driver, you can't be at the bottom of the pecking order, you have to fight your way to the top, and these guys aren't just going to throw away their seat and allow you to get to the top of the pecking order, so certainly to some extent you have to take it.  And the best way to take it is to have success over a period of time, continuous period of time, and that comes with it.
It's in the nature of any competitive sport, thanks fly, and I'm happy for this, for the competitors that are like that because they want to beat you and they want to be the best, and that's what makes it so tough but it also is what makes it so great and such an accomplishment when you have success is the fact that you know those guys don't want to see you be successful.
It's with a grain of salt that I take those things because I know to some extent it's a validation of everything you're doing and why you participate in a sport.

Q.  (No microphone.)
BRAD KESELOWSKI:  I would say probably not.

Q.  (No microphone.)
BRAD KESELOWSKI:  It doesn't matter what it is.  It is.  It exists, and I have to work around it.

Q.  (No microphone.)
BRAD KESELOWSKI:  Yeah, I'd rather stay out of that line.

Q.  (No microphone.)
BRAD KESELOWSKI:  Well, there's two types of pressure.  Remember this press conference?  I think I said that to you once.  There's pressure applied and pressure felt.  Certainly he's trying to apply pressure.  Certainly I don't feel any.

Q.  Jimmie seems to say over there when questions come up about your family and starting out in an area back home in a small shop, that's when the pressure comes in, keep asking those questions.  Himself, he kind of dreaded those.  It's the questions of the news conference that bring it all back to being real.  Does that put pressure on you?
BRAD KESELOWSKI:  I think you missed the part I answered before.  I want the pressure.  That's what I want.  That's what makes it worth something.  Without those questions, why am I doing that?  I'm just driving a car in a circle.  Without having a motivation, it doesn't mean anything.  You can't strip away your motivation just to remove yourself from pressure because then you can't justify your existence.

Q.  When you go back to 2007 (inaudible).
BRAD KESELOWSKI:  I am a product of a lot of breaks from a lot of different people, and to name one specifically is not fair to any of them.

Q.  But a lot of young drivers don't get‑‑ I guess never get that chance.
BRAD KESELOWSKI:  A lot of young drivers get that chance and just piss it away and think they didn't get it.

Q.  You don't think there are a lot of guys‑‑ do you think talent always is found or discovered?
BRAD KESELOWSKI:  No, I think a lot of people get opportunities and like to use is it as an excuse that they didn't.  Certainly some people don't, and that's unfortunate.  Obviously I did, and I'm thankful for it.  But I think when I look back at a lot of those people that say that, at least the ones that you get to interview, they've probably had an opportunity.

Q.  Does the unpredictable make you nervous, that I think you're a little unpredictable to him, and if you're a control person that throws you off.
BRAD KESELOWSKI:  Well, racing by nature is unpredictable, which is part of what makes it so great.  I put a quote out there on Twitter about who would have thought at the start of the year we'd have a jet dryer accident.  Those are the type of things that make the sport so unpredictable, and so that, again, could happen here at Homestead.  Something unpredictable could happen that has nothing to do with me.  You don't know.  So you have to roll off those things and think of them as force majeure, and if they're meant to happen, they're meant to happen.

Q.  (No microphone.)
BRAD KESELOWSKI:  Well, it left a big mark on my ankle, I can tell you that.  It's still there, but it left a mark on my team, and that's probably most important, because now that moment showed I think a level of toughness that my guys appreciated because I knew they had it all along, but maybe there was some questions in their eyes.  That's probably a better question for them.
But from a performance perspective, I felt like as a team we had already started turning the corner, and it was a little bit of a culmination of those events where the cars were getting faster and we were building and getting stronger and the accident just kind of happened in that time period.  But maybe not.  There's no way to ever know.

Q.  (No microphone.)
BRAD KESELOWSKI:  Yeah, I don't think there's any doubt when you overcome adversity you become a better person and when you become a better person you become a better racer.  They're intertwined, and that was a moment of high adversity.

Q.  (No microphone.)
BRAD KESELOWSKI:  Well, I think the example I used with Ayrton and what happened to him at Monaco in 1988 was an example of what happens when you adapt your game to somebody else, when you get outside of your own comfort zone.  Bad things happen that way, and that shows the importance of focusing on what you've done to be successful to that point, and what we've done to be successful to this point is be very aggressive, we take shots to win the race, and I foresee us doing the same thing here in Homestead.

Q.  (No microphone.)
BRAD KESELOWSKI:  There's not one thing that makes a championship special.  There's so many things, and there's‑‑ it's nearly impossible to weigh one over the other.  I would have to really think about that, and I would really need the benefit of the time first to do that.
So I don't really have a great answer to that, but there's a lot of things, winning a title for Roger, obviously beating Jimmie is a big deal, able to get my family a NASCAR Cup championship is a big deal, as well, so there's a lot of things that make it special.

Q.  (No microphone.)
BRAD KESELOWSKI: Sometimes I do, yeah.

Q.  What do you think it takes for a contender to rise above and become a champion?
BRAD KESELOWSKI:  Ooh, well, I think earlier I was talking about a constant commitment to improvement because you have to continue to progress throughout your career and every moment, every opportunity and seize it and learn from the mistakes, and I think that's probably one of the most important attributes of a championship driver or a champion in any sport.

Q.  Jimmie thought that you display a little bit of that anyway.
BRAD KESELOWSKI:  Well, thank you.  Thank you very much.

Q.  And also, is it one lap at a time?
BRAD KESELOWSKI:  Well, I haven't figured out a way to do more than one lap at a time, so do you know something that I don't?

Q.  Is it run race at a time for you?  How far ahead do you think?
BRAD KESELOWSKI:  I mean, I was at the shop yesterday talking about the 2013 car.  When you're committed to continuously improving, your timetable is whatever it needs to be to do that.

Q.  (No microphone.)
BRAD KESELOWSKI:  Well, you have to understand that as a race car driver you race what you've prepared for, so if a head game can affect somebody's preparation then certainly that will be something.  But actually when you're in the moment, you're in it.  When you're in the zone, you don't know what the other person just said.  When you're in the zone, you're in it.

Q.  (No microphone.)
BRAD KESELOWSKI:  We have different personalities, different builds and different interests outside of racing, obviously, and that makes us two completely different people who don't really share some of the same passions and aren't necessarily that related in a mental sense.  Obviously in a physical sense we are.
So for us it's hard to find common ground, and to feel those moments where you know someone cares about you is a little bit more difficult to come by when you don't share that common ground.  But for me I can see it in actions, and with him having a desire to come out here, it's a big deal to me.

Q.  For somebody who was at Gateway and saw your dad, does that tell you how your father‑‑
BRAD KESELOWSKI:  Well, I can tell you he wouldn't have acted that way if I was right next to him.  He doesn't let me see that.

Q.  Why do you think that is, that a lot of fathers of race car drivers are not‑‑ the sons want their respect and it seems that they're always searching for it.
BRAD KESELOWSKI:  Sure.  Well, I don't know if that's just race car drivers, I think that's every boy and dad.

Q.  Well, those who reach a certain level are kind of always‑‑
BRAD KESELOWSKI:  Sure, I mean, you're always trying to do things for your family that impress those, and those are hard to come by.  At least they are for me.  And even when you accomplish them, sometimes they don't really‑‑ at least my dad doesn't show you what it meant.  But it's in moments like that that we talked about that you can see them and feel them and you realize what your motivation was for choosing this style of life to begin with.

Q.  (No microphone.)
BRAD KESELOWSKI:  I'm the baby.  Yeah, they finally got it right with me, so they stopped.  My siblings don't react very well to that when I say it, which is hilarious.
Now, as the oldest, what you should say is they kept trying and just couldn't do any better.  You've just got to learn how to spin it, man.  This is PR 101.

Q.  It's the end of the season.
BRAD KESELOWSKI:  You're worn out, you don't have anything to pull from?  Well, I just helped you out.  You're welcome.  Thanksgiving is coming up, turkey, you've got family around, just go ahead and tell them.
Who's next?

Q.  How many siblings do you have?
BRAD KESELOWSKI:  Three sisters and a brother.

Q.  Which sister is living with you?
BRAD KESELOWSKI:  Well, she was living with me.  She's been kind of traveling back and forth between my house and Charlotte and her house in Michigan, my sister Dawn.  She is 10 years older than I am.  She's the youngest daughter.  I'm the baby.  My family is spread out, big age gap.

Q.  When you were talking upstairs you mentioned your team, you mentioned the car specifically, you didn't mention yourself.  Was that an oversight or‑‑
BRAD KESELOWSKI:  Well, I mean, there's no I in team.  There may be an E, but there's no I.  So I guess I look at it as I'm a product of those other things, and from there it's a matter of not screwing it up from my end.

Q.  (No microphone.)
BRAD KESELOWSKI:  Well, I mean, you look at this genre of track, it's quite a bit different how it uses the car, and it's probably a better question for Paul, but my understanding of the car is that this is quite a different set of variables where that's not a‑‑ well, obviously at Phoenix it's not common, either, but it's even less common at a track of this makeup.

Q.  (No microphone.)
BRAD KESELOWSKI:  Maybe.  Yeah, maybe.  We'll just leave that at maybe.  Cannot confirm or deny.

Q.  (No microphone.)
BRAD KESELOWSKI:  I am, yeah.  Actually I use it all the time in my team competition.  We text each other when somebody says something we thought was really dumb, and we make fun of each other.

Q.  (No microphone.)
BRAD KESELOWSKI:  Exactly.  It's like being at a dinner table.  Can you believe he asked that question?

Q.  Have you ever considered trying to be an advocate to try to get the phone allowed back in the car?
BRAD KESELOWSKI:  An advocate?  No, I've got enough things I'm trying to advocate.  I don't need any more.  But if you want to, go ahead.

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