Matt Kenseth leads Brad Keselowski during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Food City 500 on Sunday at Bristol Motor Speedway in Bristol, Tenn. Matt Kenseth leads Brad Keselowski during the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Food City 500 on Sunday at Bristol Motor Speedway in Bristol, Tenn. Chris Trotman/Getty Images

Brad Keselowski discusses his win at Bristol

Written by  on Sunday, 18 March 2012 22:19

Race winner Brad Keselowski spoke with the media following his victory in Sunday's Food City 500 NASCAR Sprint Cup race at Bristol Motor Speedway.

VICTORY LANE INTERVIEW: WHAT RULE WILL THEY HAVE TO MAKE TO KEEP YOU OUT OF VICTORY LANE? "I don't know (laughs). This car, as strong as it was, I'm sure there was a rule that could be made. I got on Twitter and got kind of PO'd at some people that said I won it because of the timing line. I knew this Blue Deuce was fast enough to win the race last fall with or without timing lines. It feels so good to just prove it here today in the spring race. This car here, a brand new car that Penske Racing built, everybody back in the shop did a phenomenal job. The last few races have been really good, and I knew we had a shot at winning one if we ran like we were. , we closed the deal. You know Matt (Kenseth) didn't make it easy."

YOU HAD HIM STALKING YOU WHEN YOU CHOSE THE OUTSIDE ON THE RESTART. "I know, man. Well that's his job to not make it easy and he did a good job. He raced me hard and I raced him hard. We rubbed a little bit, but that's good racing. I don't know how anyone can say Bristol racing ain't as good as it was. I think they might be right, because it's better than it's ever been. This is one of the best races I've ever been a part of and ever seen from behind the seat. I'm just thrilled to death to be here in victory lane at Bristol again, one of my favorite places for sure. If this team keeps performing like they are, we'll get more."

CONGRATULATIONS ON GETTING YOUR FIRST WIN OF THE SEASON. "A special victory for sure. The fall races was a great win, but when you win one and people tell you it was a fluke you just want to drive that much harder to win the second. I want to say thank you to everybody that supports me, out there in the grandstands, all the fans out there that make this possible. Thanks for coming out to Bristol. This place is special because of you and nothing else. Thanks for your support and hopefully we can keep bringing back great race cars like this and putting on a great show."

YOU HAD A BIG SCARE WITH ABOUT 100 LAPS TO GO WHEN YOU THOUGHT YOU MIGHT HAVE HAD A FLAT TIRE. "Yeah, the sun came out. I think everybody saw that the sun came out and it got a lot hotter. The track got slick and obviously I was nervous about it. My car started sliding around a little bit. I had to move up, change it up and got the grip back; just breathing short breaths there for a moment."

RECENTLY YOU SAID YOU'D LIKE TO GET A COUPLE OF WINS BEFORE THE SUMMER MONTHS. HOW MUCH DOES THIS HELP TOWARD THAT FOR YOU? "A lot. One win is good, two wins is really good. We need to keep winning races to lock ourselves in the Chase, but heck, I'd rather just go into the Chase in the top spot. If we run like we have the last few weeks we've got as good a shot as anybody else."

A.J. Allmendinger (No. 22 Pennzoil Dodge Charger R/T) Finished 17th

"The car was very good early, but then it got real loose. We lost track position. We never got it tightened up the rest of the race. Not the finish we wanted to have after starting out so strong. Those first couple runs my Shell Pennzoil Dodge was really fast. Then after we put on that next set of tires something just wasn't right -- felt like I had rocks under me. Thought maybe it was the tires and after a while started to think something broke. Todd (Gordon, crew chief) and the guys did all they could to make it better again and the last couple adjustments started to help. We just weren't able to get the car where it needed to be to get back to the front. I'm happy for Mr. Penske, Brad and the whole Penske Racing organization. Just wish we could have stayed up there with 'em today."

(Media Center Interview)

Brad Keselowski (No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge Charger R/T)

THIS HAS BECOME A TRACK WHERE YOU'RE VERY, VERY GOOD. "Yeah, I mean, what can I say? I love Bristol and Bristol loves me (laughs). It's a great track that really demands 100 percent out of a driver and out of a team. And today, my team certainly delivered. You probably argue whether or not I did (laughs), but it was good. Great pit stops. Had a little bit of damage early on in the race, got it fixed, nobody panicked. So, its tough racing that requires so much discipline, mixed in with some aggression obviously. My guys, they made it happen today. I told somebody before the race this is the best race car I've ever had in Cup and it showed off today. Hopefully we have more cars like this and we'll win more races and continue to move the needle forward. You know, I've said in pre-season this year that the goal here at Penske Racing is to win a Sprint Cup championship and that's where we're all pushing. One win certainly doesn't achieve that, but it's a great step and we need more of these steps. I know I'm committed to it, I know this guy (Paul Wolfe) sitting next to me is committed to it, so I feel very good about that. It always feels good to get them steps in. We're making some headway, so we're going to keep pushing. We're really proud of this one for sure. This is an earn-it place, ain't no doubt about that. So happy to earn it."

Paul Wolfe (Crew Chief, No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge Charger R/T)

CONGRATULATIONS ON THE WIN AND TALK ABOUT SOME OF THE MOVES YOU GUYS MADE ON PIT ROAD CONTRIBUTED TO THIS WIN. "Yeah, obviously coming into the weekend we felt like we had somewhat of a baseline with getting the win here last fall. So from a setup standpoint, we were real close. Everybody has worked real hard back at the shop and we've continued to build better race cars each time we come to the racetrack. I think that was key. There was no way we could bring back the same race car and setup we won with in the fall and expect the same results. I'm proud of all of the effort back at the shop. We continue to push to make our race cars better. You know those guys are responding and I think that's obviously part of the reason we were able to come out here today and win like we did. As far as the race, it got down to the end, probably the toughest decision of the race for me was whether or not we should pit or stay out there on that late caution. I have a great race engineer, Brian Wilson, that definitely helps me make some of those tough decisions. Looking at where we were at in the race and the speed that we had in our car, we felt like if we stayed out, even with guys with fresh tires, it was going to be real tough to pass us. Like I told Brad, let's stay out and make 'em have to pass us and there really wasn't anybody on fresh tires that was able to do that."

Keselowski: HOW WERE YOU INVOLVED IN THAT FIRST WRECK AND WHAT WAS THE DAMAGE? "I believe the 78 (Regan Smith) and the 5 (Kasey Kahne) got together and went up the racetrack, lost some momentum. I certainly ran into the back of the 78 car and then as Kasey spun down the track, just barely nudged him as well. You know just a little bit of contact there, enough to certainly do some damage."

HOW CLOSE DID YOU COME TO PICKING THE INSIDE LANE FOR THAT LAST RESTART? "Well, I would say very close. Obviously I did the first restart and it didn't pan out. You know, it's one of those Monday morning quarterback decisions. I almost feel like the leader has a very low percentage of being right, more so than the guys who are second. And you see that a lot on the Nationwide side as well, the guy who's running second has a pretty good advantage over the leader. I was nervous about that for sure. We made it through. I'm going to have to review it and figure out how to get better. I don't think I'm as good as I need to be there for sure, but we came out up front and preserved."

YOU PASSED A QUARTER MILLION FOLLOWERS ON TWITTER, BUT IT TOOK 30 MINUTES FOR YOUR PHOTO FROM VICTORY LANE TWEET. WHY DID YOU TWEET FROM VICTORY LANE? "It's something that I thought would be really cool to do, for sure. I know that NASCAR and all of its partners are working really hard to continue to do the best they can to provide the best service possible. When you have over 60 thousand people in a very confined area that can be difficult to do, especially an area that's probably not extremely populated or urban area I guess you can say. I know I've been to Michigan football games where they have a hundred thousand people in the middle of Ann Arbor which is kind of a tech hub, so to speak, and there's no service there. You know, it's an ongoing battle and challenge that I know NASCAR is working very hard with their partners to work on. It's something that I've been in conversation with them about and certainly, for our generation, timeliness is of extreme importance. I'd like to see that process obviously get a little bit faster and the right people are working on it to make it happen. When it does happen, it'll be less than a half hour."

YOU SAID AFTER THE RACE YOU WANTED TO PROVE TO PEOPLE THAT THIS WASN'T A FLUKE. YOU REALLY LOVE A CHALLENGE. "I do enjoy the challenge for sure. You know that's what I like about racing in general. I tell this all the time that racing is the one thing, and Paul can probably get a pretty good laugh out of this, racing is the one thing that makes me get up in the morning. That's how I know it's special. Maybe not always on his timeline, I still get up earlier than Noon (laughs). So I might get up at 9 a.m. for racing and that's because it's special to me. That's what it means to me. I love the challenge, I love the fight that you have to put up, the man versus machine or man with machine, against other machines and men and it's just cool as hell to me. When somebody challenges me, whether it's fans, media, other drivers, I think that I have the desire beforehand, but it helps me focus in for sure. Of course, it means nothing if you don't have a great team that you are surrounded by. I feel very fortunate to have that as well."

A WIN AT BRISTOL CEMENTS A DRIVER'S STATUS AS ONE OF THE TOP DRIVERS IN THE SPORT AND IT'S ALSO A TRACK WHERE GUYS OVER THE YEARS HAVE GONE ON STREAKS AND ROLLS WHERE THEY WIN SEVERAL RACES IN A ROW. DO YOU FEEL LIKE THIS IS A SIGNATURE WIN FOR YOU AND DO YOU FEEL LIKE YOU CAN WIN HERE ANYTIME NOW? "Yeah, I have noticed that this is a streaky track. There's no doubt about that, but you know I think I said it last year that this is a track where champions win at. When you look at Dale (Earnhardt), Cale (Yarborough), Alan Kulwicki, you're looking at champion drivers. Tony (Stewart) has won here; Jeff Gordon has won a lot here. The best drivers here go on and win championships and I know Kyle (Busch) is really good here and hasn't won a Cup championship, but certainly won in Nationwide. But I think it speaks volumes for this track and what it means for your career. There are other places that perhaps have a little more prestige. I said that last year as well but this place, it defines a race team. It asks so much of you, whether it's just in practice being lined up on pit road and dealing with the noise and the havoc that practice can be or the hot day of getting through tech and making those last adjustments or as a driver, 500 laps in bowl trying to keep your composure. This racetrack can really test a team and I think that the teams that come out on top, whether it's driver or whatever, I think that they show what it takes to overcome adversity. And to win championships, you've got to overcome adversity. I think it's very much a defining racetrack in that sense."

EARLY IN THE RACE YOU WERE RIGHT THERE WHEN THE BIG WRECK HAPPENED. DID YOU DO ANYTHING TO MISS THE ACCIDENT OR WAS THAT JUST A LUCKY BREAK? "A little bit of both. Last spring, I think we had a car that was really, really competitive. We qualified not so well and there was a wreck very similar to this early in the race. We got in it and it ruined our day. We lost three laps. I ended up getting 'em all back, which shows you how fast our car was, ended up getting 'em back with about 20 to go, just was too little too late. What I'm trying to say I guess is this has happened to us before. I certainly share the frustrations of those involved. We were very fortunate to get through it. There's something about this spring race where it's early in the year and I think a lot of guys got something to prove, maybe take a little more chances early in the race. I think that's kind of how I felt about it, but we were very fortunate to get through. I know we dodged a bullet there. My team helped me dodge a bullet by repairing the little bit of damage there was."

YOU'VE WON AT A VARIETY OF TRACKS. HOW DO YOU EXPLAIN YOU ABILITY TO WIN ON ALL THESE DIFFERENT TYPES OF TRACKS SO EARLY IN YOUR CAREER? "Well, I think, I'm trying to figure out how to answer this so that it makes sense to you. But the things that the media and some of the fans rip you apart on is what's defined and built my career. And for me, I was very fortunate. I know I was very fortunate when I got the ride to drive for Dale Earnhardt Jr. in the Nationwide Series. And I spent two seasons in that series as a partial Cup competitor and full-time Nationwide competitor. During that time span, I was very fortunate to race with some of the best. I don't think that we've seen a system that's existed like that in decades past. We saw Mark Martin obviously in the '90s, but I go back to my first Nationwide start for Dale. It was in Chicago, I believe, and to this day I think that race still has the record for the most amount of Cup drivers, I think it was like 26, 25. I can't remember what it was. But that's what I had to do to build my career. I had to go against the Cup drivers when I was still trying to figure out how to run Nationwide. So I guess what I'm trying to say is, and obviously it frustrates me a little bit when I take some heat or any Cup driver takes some heat from the press, media, fans, whatever, about running the Nationwide Series because it's really a character builder. If you can run well over there, you can come here and get the job done. That series helped me build a lot of character. It helped me learn in a smaller spotlight and I feel like when I got over here, that the learning process was a lot quicker. It just came down to getting with the right team that I gelled with and believed in me. That took a little bit of time for sure, but I think that now that we have it, I have the experience base to run competitively on almost every style of racetrack. And I was able to learn that, I don't want to say in obscurity, but in a time and place where it was acceptable to make mistakes, which is what the Nationwide side was for me. That was maybe a longer answer than what you were looking for, but what I'm trying to say is that the training and the lower level series of NASCAR and the way they're structured right now certainly helped me when I got to this level to be perhaps more prepared than many drivers in the past."

CAN YOU SPEAK TO YOUR GENERAL COMFORT LEVEL ON SHORT TRACKS? WHERE DID IT COME FROM? "You know, I never considered myself a great short track driver. What there was for me, was the tracks that I ran, this was really important to me and to my Dad and he taught me this very early on, was that it was important not to be a one track jack. Growing up, I got my ass kicked in late models (laughs). I mean, I'm not going to sugarcoat it; I got it kicked pretty hard. And you know, to kind of further that point, my Dad made me travel around a lot and not stay at one place and become that one track jack. And when you go to all these places, my Dad used to say that you could take Jeff Gordon to some local racetrack and he'd probably get beat by the local guy 'cause he knows the place so . I think he's right. But it also helped me build up a little bit of that base to where when I got to a touring series like NASCAR, I was more prepared. But specifically Bristol, there's this track I raced growing up in Toledo, Ohio. I ran the super late model and it was a half-mile track, medium banked, not quite as high at Bristol, but I ran this really fast super late model division. We ran around that place in 15 seconds. To me, the first lap on this racetrack I ever took felt just like I was in that late model car in Toledo, Ohio and that made me really, really comfortable here from day one. Whether it was my first truck race or first Nationwide race or Cup race here, I've always felt very comfortable here and picked a feel for it very quickly that has given Paul a direction he needs to make the right adjustments and so we're both good here. The car, the team, the driver, everything is exceeding well and I think that's part of our success."

YOU WERE QUESTIONING WHAT WOULD BE THE RIGHT CALL UNDER THE LAST CAUTION. YOU STAYED OUT THEN TOOK OFF ON THE LAST RESTART. DID THAT SURPRISE YOU? "No, not at all. Matt Kenseth is the best long-run racer in Cup. I'll just go ahead and say that. There's not a question in my mind. I've had a year or two now in Cup to kind of evaluate some of the drivers and I was not very comfortable that we were going to be able to win. I mean, I didn't feel bad about it, but I was maybe 50-50 that was going to be able to pull off a win with him behind me with a very, very long run to finish the race. So you know that being said, I knew that when the caution came out, as long as I could beat him on the first lap that I had a good enough car and I felt like I was a good enough driver to drive away."

WHEN YOU FIRST SAW BRISTOL, WHAT DID YOU THINK OF THIS PLACE? WHEN DID THINGS FINALLY CLICK FOR YOU HERE? "I thought man, that's a lot of people and that's a really big hill, 'cause I was really young and climbed up the grandstands and snuck in and watched the race. I hope the track got back the ticket fee that I cut 'em out on (smiles). It was good. I don't think that fence is around anymore that I snuck in, just in case somebody gets ideas."

WHEN WAS THAT? "That was '95. Remember there used to be the press box in Turn 1? I remember that, that was really cool, but as far as the first time I got comfortable here, the first race. I don't know, just something about this place I really liked."

YOU WERE TALKING ABOUT THE WAY YOUR DAD PREPARED YOU. HOW DID YOU GET THROUGH THAT STAGE OF MY FAMILY KNOWS BEST? "Well, they didn't give me a lot of choices (laughs). If you've met my Dad and Uncle, you'd understand that. It can be frustrating. When I was running late models I would not have called myself a dominate driver by any means and I didn't get to run with the frequency that I would have liked. I was learning more on the car side and approach than anything else. Spending the time with my Dad who, to me, is one of the smartest racers whoever was. And so I learned a lot from 'em, more so on the approach side than the driving side. I guess if that makes any sense to you, approach as far as what your car needs to be better and how to learn from it more so than hey, you need to be in this gear and you know, drive this line 'cause I wasn't very good about listening to 'em about that kind of stuff. But he was just a really good teacher and I felt very lucky to have both him and my Uncle along the way, still do."

Wolfe: THIS IS PENSKE RACING'S TENTH WIN HERE AT BRISTOL. WHAT AT PENSKE RACING MAKES IT SO DOMINANTE HERE AT THIS TRACK? "It's kind of weird how that is. From what I know in the past, I feel like it's more just coincidence more than anything. The Blue Deuce has always been successful here and you know from a team side of it. I don't know there's anything you can point at that says oh, that's why Penske has always been good at Bristol. We've just had good drivers and good teams and with that, we get the results. For myself, I don't know that there is one thing that stands out."

Keselowski: "I THIS IS PENSKE RACING'S TENTH WIN HERE AT BRISTOL. WHAT AT PENSKE RACING MAKES IT SO DOMINANTE HERE AT THIS TRACK? "I think Rusty and Kurt were really good here. That's about all I've got for you. It's hard to really define success. It's important too if you're going to repeat it, but I don't know. I don't think Roger (Penske) puts any more emphasis on it. I'm pretty sure he'd like to win everywhere; me too. It's great how the Miller Lite community, the Miller Lite brand embraces this track as well. We were talking the other day; this is the best track for it so that's really cool. Just sometimes things work out like that and it doesn't make any sense."

WHAT WOULD THAT RACE WITH KENSETH HAVE BEEN LIKE ON THE OLD TRACK HERE AT BRISTOL? WOULD IT HAVE BEEN A LOT ROUGHER? "He didn't get by me this time either, so he would have had to have bumped this time. I think that if he was going to bump me on the old track, he'd have bumped me on this track. I don't see a difference, to be honest. I don't really get all the hate for new versus old Bristol 'cause to me this, I'm very biased, I know, but to me this was one of the best Bristol races I've ever seen. We ran side-by-side for the lead, for 20 laps. There was some good beating and banging, some wrecking, a lot of side-by-side action, two and three-wides. I don't know what's better than that. I mean short of a 30-car wreck every damn week, I don't know what to ask for. I think that this place got a bad label for some reason that it really didn't deserve 'cause what I've seen over the last year or two, it's been great racing. Again, I think it's better than it's ever been. There's an old saying that the heart grows fonder with time and I think we'll look back 10 years from now and say 'We miss the old Bristol from 2012. That was great. Why'd they ruin that?' I think that's how we'll look at it. It's interesting 'cause I'd like to have been around this media center specifically in the mid to late '90s to see what that atmospthere was like, to see if they were saying the same thing of 'They should have never made this place concrete, it should have been asphalt. It was great' 'cause I suspect that was probably said. It's just one of those things that people look back with nostalgia for things that were. I think those that don't like the new Bristol are missing out on something great, I really do, and they'll figure that out 10 years from now."

THERE WAS SOME DISCUSSION ON THE LAST RESTART OF WHETHER MATT BEAT YOU TO THE LINE TWO RESTARTS FROM THE END OF THE RACE. WERE YOU AWARE OF THAT? "I mean, I knew it was close. Like I said, I don't know if I said that in this session, there's been a couple of media sessions already, but the guy restarting second has a substantial advantage if he wants to. It's such a ball-strike call that I don't know. I'd hate to be on NASCAR's side trying to decide that he beat you to the start-finish line. I can tell you that there's two yellow lines on the wall and visually, you can tell if somebody goes 50 foot before 'em or right at 'em. It's damn near impossible to visually tell that even if you had telementary. It'd be very hard to tell it. So it's very, very subjective and I think when things are as subjective as that is, a no-call in the right call. The view inside the race car and beyond. I know I've seen moves on restarts without picking any one particular guy, where guys have jumped it by a mile. I mean a hundred-some foot and you watch it on TV and I know what I saw in the car, and I go back and watch it on TV and it doesn't look it. I can't imagine that the perspective of an official up in the pit box or press box or wherever they're at or even TV, from what I can tell can pick that stuff out. I think there has to be some leniency. If there's a guy that beats you by a full car length to the start-finish, something's going on but I don't think we're seeing that. I think if you're close, NASCAR's been cool enough about it to let it go and I respect that."

WHAT WOULD YOU DO TO CONVINCE PEOPLE TO MAKE THIS THE TOUGHEST TICKET IN NASCAR AGAIN? "That's tough because I don't necessarily agree with everybody wants to label it as a problem. You look at the TV package and I think just the attitudes and trends of the fan base has changed. There's so much access provided through social media, through the TV networks, through you guys yourself (media). I think that the best racing action in the world

might not matter. And don't get me wrong, I think this was great racing, and there's probably some little way to make it better, there always is, but at some point you have to accept the fact that the world has changed a lot over the last five to 10 years and live spectator events are stuff to sell tickets to. We're looking at great ratings in my mind. You can compare to whatever year you want and say they were down two percent, five percent, and the next race they're up five, or down 10. It's always a see-saw battle there. I think if you look at the amount of NASCAR, per se, that's consumed during the week, it's still pretty damn high. It's just consumed in different ways than ever. I know I read all the stuff about and how it's numbers are way down and think that's just a case in point. I just think you're seeing a shift to where it's harder to sell tickets but there's still a lot of interest in the sport. I think you have to be very careful of how you read into that because obviously each person is different but I still think the sport is very strong and very healthy. It's tough because everybody looks up at the grandstands and says 'Well I remember five years ago there was this for ticket sales.' Well I remember when gas prices five years ago were a lot cheaper, too. It's a different world."

YOU CALLED YOUR SHOT LAST NIGHT WHEN YOU TWEETED THAT YOUR CUP CAR WAS THE BEST THAT YOU'VE EVER HAD IN CUP. "I'm always mindful of jinxing it, but I just said it was the best car I've ever had. I just say what I feel like is real and if I think I've got the best car I've ever had, I'll tell people I've got the best car I've ever had. Some people appreciate that and respect it. Other people make a big deal out of it and say 'You're being negative' or 'You're being cocky.' How about just being truthful? I don't understand why when you tell people what's good or what's bad you're being cocky or negative. How 'bout you're saying what you really think? Whatever happened to that being cool? I said last night what I really thought, that I had the best Cup car that I've ever had, and I'm thankful that we were able to back it up today as a team because having the best Cup car or best anything in the world doesn't necessarily guarantee you a win. Everyone on this team had to execute and they did. It's not always the guy with the fastest car that wins. Sometimes it's the guy who refuses to lose and the team that refuses to lose and the Miller Lite team got it done today. They refused to lose."

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Last modified on Sunday, 18 March 2012 22:36
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