KERRY THARP: Let’s roll right into our race winner for tonight’s second annual Quaker State 400 here at Kentucky Speedway. Winning for the third time this season in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, which leads all competitors is Brad Keselowski, the No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge for Penske Racing.
Brad, congratulations on this victory. Again, you wanted all three, but like you just said, you’re glad you got this one, and getting three wins now has really got to be a big boost for you as we head down the stretch run.
BRAD KESELOWSKI: Yeah, I wanted all three, but sometimes that ain’t meant to happen. But I was proud of the effort we put in all week long, and the heat with all three teams, Truck Series team, Nationwide team, 2nd, 7th and a 1st ain’t bad at all. Who would have figured my best finish would have come in the hardest race. But that just shows the importance of teamwork, and the group of guys that I have on this Miller Lite Dodge that are just badasses. They are. They’re badasses.
I tell you what, they put together a back-up car from last year in 100° heat in an hour’s time – not even an hour. It was like 40 minutes. I wish I had a stopwatch for that. Got it on the racetrack and got to run our laps for practice to make the adjustments we needed to be fast today. And that’s what badasses do, and that’s what got us to victory lane today, and I’m proud of these guys for it. I’m proud of them. Damn proud of them. I think that sums it up.
KERRY THARP: Crew Chief Paul Wolfe is here. Paul, congratulations. Brad was just commenting on –
BRAD KESELOWSKI: How big of a badass you are, man.
PAUL WOLFE: All I heard was Bad Brad was back this weekend. I don’t know if that’s good or bad.
BRAD KESELOWSKI: I called you a badass, and if I’m bad, that makes us all bad.
KERRY THARP: Maybe talk about some of the things that you had to overcome this weekend, obviously, and maybe some of the things that you had to do to the race car where it was racing so well tonight. Also the fact that you’ve got three wins now. That leads all Sprint Cup Series drivers. We’ve got nine races to go now before we get to Richmond.
BRAD KESELOWSKI: Teams man. We’re a team.
KERRY THARP: I know you are. But talk about these things and what you were able to accomplish tonight.
PAUL WOLFE: Well, it was probably the toughest weekend as a team that we’ve ever had up to this point. Not only did we have obviously really high temperatures. But having trouble on the first lap of the racetrack always sets you back. One thing about all the guys on the Miller Lite team is it seems like we’re able to find another level to work when it comes to adversity. I think you see that with the driver as well as you look back to last summer when Bad Brad had a broken foot. And we were able to take that and I don’t know if he thrives off of that or what, but it seems like when some people might think we’re down and out, we’re able to find a whole other level to compete and find ourselves in victory lane.
Just says a lot about everybody on the team, and some of the things we do back at Penske Racing. The process that we go through to build our cars. Knowing that when we bring out a back-up car, there really wasn’t any concerns for me. The biggest thing was there was a lot of work to do with changing the engine and not being able to have all the practice time that everybody else had.
But I knew the car we had was still capable of winning. So says a lot about that, and for us we just need to continue to work hard. I think there are a lot of good racetracks coming up for us, and we’re definitely up for the challenge. I think we showed that tonight.
Q. Paul, you said that this was the hardest win you’ve had to work at and you did a great job. Can you talk about the resolve of your team and the heart that your driver has? He send responsibility for what happened on the track, and he was sitting there working furiously with you, and isn’t that what makes a team?
PAUL WOLFE: Oh, absolutely. There were some choices we could have made and some things we could have done that maybe would have been a little easier on everybody as far as changing the engine. We didn’t have to do that. We did it because we knew if we did that, that was directionally going to make our race car better. There is no one on the team that would ever question anything we want to do or changes we want to make. They all just seem to work hard.
Like I said, there were points on the day Friday where some of the guys looked like they were ready to flap out. Nobody checked up. We continued to work hard. We were able to get our car in the inspection line in time to get our qualifying spot, which allowed us to start where we were versus starting in the back of the field.
Q. Brad, you said after the race that there is no looking back at this point. That all you need to do is look ahead. Does looking ahead mean going all out for wins in the next nine races, or does it mean being a bit more conservative to make sure you’re in the Top 10?
BRAD KESELOWSKI: I think looking ahead means trying to make sure we just stay in the Top 10. I think you all got the points backwards. You look at who is leading with most points earned. That don’t mean anything. The only thing that means anything is what’s going to restart when the Chase is going, when it starts. That’s going to be based off of who is in the Top 10 and who has the most wins. That is the only thing that matters.
That’s where my heart’s at, and that’s what I want. I want to be the guy with the most wins and inside the Top 10, and I want to look forward to making sure that we stay inside the Top 10, and hopefully can climb up a few more spots to be safe. But wins and being in the Top 10, that’s all that matters.
Q. Your last pit stop, you’ve got 59 laps left before the rest of the race, how were you able to stretch your fuel level? Were there any things that you did to the car to make it last that long?
PAUL WOLFE: I think one thing to point out is everybody’s worked really hard on this EFI project at Penske engines. And I feel like for the most part we’ve been as good or better than most teams when it comes to fuel mileage. That’s big in a lot of these races. Any advantage you can have whether it’s fuel mileage or power, you take anything can you get, because you never know when you’re going to need it.
From that standpoint, we knew we were as good as most or better, and from there it was just Brad saving a little bit.
My biggest concern at the end of the race was somebody else running out of fuel with two or three laps to go and the race get extended. From that standpoint, that’s what we were saving our fuel for. We had plenty of fuel to make the scheduled distance.
Q. This is for Brad, but I’d like Paul to answer after. How much of everything that took place from lap one of the first practice can be attributed to a little bit to not Bad Brad but a hacked off Brad?
BRAD KESELOWSKI: What’s that mean?
Q. Just kind of ticked off or maybe trying to make up a little bit for whatever transpired?
BRAD KESELOWSKI: I don’t know.
Q. Was there anything to that? Not to say that you had anything to prove, but just anything extra that came out of that whole incident that lasted through the weekend?
BRAD KESELOWSKI: Well, I don’t like being pushed around, and I felt like what happened on the racetrack, that someone was pushing me around, and I don’t like that. I hate that. I can’t stand it, and I won’t stand for that. I can’t stand it. I don’t know if that creates a level of desire that makes us better. I would look to Paul and say my race car was just fast this weekend, and we had a lot more speed than we’ve had over the last few weeks. But I know that doesn’t make a very good story.
But I would probably say that’s more the reality. This car was fast from the second we unloaded it. It was fast – the primary car was before I knocked the wall down with it. The one corner I had in one and two was so good, and when I got to three and four and somebody pulled up in front of me at half speed, I didn’t want to lift, and I wasn’t going to lift.
So I think that’s as big a part of it as anything else. Then from there, certainly there’s always that little bit extra you get when you’re fired up. A lot of people would say that’s a bad thing in a race car. The adrenaline is the worst thing that can happen to you, because you don’t focus as well. Well, maybe it’s not. I don’t know. I ain’t the one to answer that.
But I do like the result, and whatever way, whatever I’ve got to do to get them, I’ll get them. But I’m not going to be pushed around, and that’s one code that I’m going to continue to live by. That’s how it shaped out in the beginning, and for whatever reason it worked out the way it did in the end, and I’m not sure why. But it did, and I’m thankful for that.
PAUL WOLFE: For us, I feel like as a team, we ran really well here last year. I feel like we continue to show that when we come back to places for a second time as a team, we continue to get better. So I think whether it was in the primary car or the back-up car, we tried to be smart about what we were doing and felt like we brought back a better race car.
Maybe it’s human nature that when you’re ticked off or whatever, that you’re able to find another level, and you definitely look at that sometimes and there are definitely a lot of instances where I’ve seen Brad be able to find speed in the race car when he is ticked off. Whether or not he’s doing it, it seems like it happens.
Overall we felt like we had a good race car, whether it was the primary or the back-up. We definitely did a great job executing in the race tonight.
Q. Brad, on Thursday, you said the new rules could be a game changer. Did you feel they changed the game tonight for you?
BRAD KESELOWSKI: I felt like we were a lot closer speedwise than we’ve been over the last few weeks. I don’t know if that’s it. Obviously the 48 car was still very, very fast, and you can’t take that away from them. Kind of like the time the 5 car was as well, and the 11 car has been fast all year. The same cars are still fast. It’s just maybe the delta between what we’re missing between them is a lot closer and I feel good about that.
Q. You lead the series in wins now and pretty much locked in the Chase. What do you have to do to win a championship this year?
BRAD KESELOWSKI: Got to win races. Tony proved that last year. You’ve got to win races. You don’t back your way the Chase. Don’t rest on your laurels. You’ve got to have fast car when’s the Chase starts with great reliability and great execution. It’s going to take all three, and those three are going to win races. Just throw that to the side.
I think you’ve got to go out and win races. Luck stuff, everybody says luck stuff in races. If you go out and have good cars and win races and execute and do all those things, Tony proved that you’ll win a championship. And that’s what it’s going to take.
Q. A follow-up on did you come to find out that when something happened to Juan’s car or did he intentionally get into you?
BRAD KESELOWSKI: I don’t know. I’ll let Juan answer that one. We never talk, so only he knows the answer to that.
Q. What happened to your steering wheel before the race that could have been a disaster?
BRAD KESELOWSKI: It broke. I don’t know. I’ve never seen that happen before. It was a standard MOMO wheel that you would get off at the racetrack here or a typical vendor. It had a lot of miles on it. I don’t think it was the wheel on the car that wrecked, but I put it on before the race started, gave it a tug, and it broke in my hands. If that would happen on the racetrack today we’d have been obviously not winning the race and potentially worse. So I’m glad I back-checked it before the race started and glad we were able to get a new one on the car.
Q. Brad, you seemed like you never run out of energy. You’re always bouncing around. Did the three events in a row in this heat take anything out of you?
BRAD KESELOWSKI: Hell no. Do I look like I’m missing any energy?
Q. You don’t look like you could lose any weight either, but was it an issue at all for you?
BRAD KESELOWSKI: No, it’s good. I feel great.
Q. Did you lose weight?
BRAD KESELOWSKI: I don’t know. I didn’t weigh myself.
Q. What do you weigh, anyway?
BRAD KESELOWSKI: Not enough (smiling).
Q. So no issue at all?
BRAD KESELOWSKI: No, I’m great, man. I feel good. I’m going to sleep in tomorrow, but I would have done that either way.
Q. Brad, you lead the series with three wins, but you’re 10th in points. Is that a good thing or a bad thing? Is there concern?
BRAD KESELOWSKI: Like I said, I’m looking forward. Not looking back. If you’re worried about being 10th in points, then you’re looking back.
Q. Why are you 10th in points when you lead the series?
BRAD KESELOWSKI: Tenth in points because we had the reliability issues early in the year. You take out our two or three reliability issues – was it two or three? I can’t remember what it was – if you remove those, we’re a legitimate top 5 team, and that’s the way it’s been all season long.
We’ve just got to remove those. Look at Kyle Busch. Kyle Busch is not a – was he 14th or 15th place? They’re not a 14th or 15th place team, but they had three races where they blew up. And the penalty for those races is catastrophic. So he doesn’t deserve to be 15th in points where he’s at. He’s a good driver and that’s a good team. So I think you’ve got to look at that and say that’s why we’re where we’re at.
We lost anywhere from 50 to 70 points in those two races. Give us those points back and we’re 20 out of the lead at best, and maybe 30 or 40 at worst. I just feel like we’re a good team and we just had those issues. We can’t have those in the Chase. We had them in the early season, and we’ve moved on and we’re looking forward.
Q. (No microphone) in the trailer the other day, did he give you an explanation that you thought was satisfactory as to what happened on the track? Have you talked to Juan Pablo Montoya to clear that up?
BRAD KESELOWSKI: No, I haven’t talked to him. I tried to, he didn’t want to talk. So we’ve moved on. Jeff said what he had to say to me, and I’ll leave that between me and him.
Q. I see you checking your phone. How many tweets are you getting and text messages?
BRAD KESELOWSKI: I couldn’t keep up, man. Y’all are asking so many questions, I can’t look down. Do you want to look for me?
Q. I’ll leave that to you?
BRAD KESELOWSKI: (Laughing) that’s good. I like it a lot. I like how the fans engage us back. I mean, hell, that’s what y’all are. You’re the voice of the fans, right? Sometimes I’ve got the way to go direct to them and I like to do both. I think it’s fun.
KERRY THARP: Congratulations on your win here tonight.
An interview with:
THE MODERATOR: For tonight’s second annual Quaker State 400. Joining us right now is Kasey Kahne. Kasey drove the No. 5 Quaker State Chevrolet for Hendrick Motorsports. Kasey, coming on strong there at the end. I know you wanted to get that win. But talk about your run this evening.
KASEY KAHNE: Yeah, it would have been great to win in the Quaker State car. But we had a really good Quaker State Chevy throughout the whole race. Yesterday in practice I was worried, and Kenny Francis and Keith Rodden made some really good adjustments. We felt like our teammates were pretty good. So we looked at some of the things they were doing. And it’s nice to have as good of teammates as we had. So we were able to put a nice package in the car and it worked really well. We got a lap behind there with the loose right front, and then we had another slow stop later. The pit crew is really good at times and they’re solid. We’ve got to keep working on it and got to be a little stronger throughout. But my car was fast. And I think the longer the run went, the better we seemed to get. The better I could move around on the racetrack anyways.
THE MODERATOR: Joining us now is Denny Hamlin, and he drove tonight the No. 11 FedEx Express Toyota. Denny, talk about your run out here this evening.
DENNY HAMLIN: We had a good run. Our car was pretty good through the middle stages of the race. We lost the lead with 70 to go or so. It seemed we had to go into fuel save mode and our car started going back towards the lead. And we came in and once we did that pit stop, we made a charge to the front. But we knew we had to save fuel the entire last run. There was nothing I could do. As much as I wanted to keep the 2 honest and run him hard, I had to run a certain pace, and that’s all I was allowed to do if we were going to make it to the end.
So kind of anticlimactic for our day. We try to spend all day working on your car, and you can’t run it to its full potential. So that part of it is a little frustrating.
Q. Kasey, you finished well, the whole Hendrick team finished well. How encouraging is that for you knowing that you had to run pretty much every weekend to make the Chase is a top 5 finish good this season?
KASEY KAHNE: Yeah, top 5’s good, probably not going to get us in the Chase. We need to win a race or two more to make the Chase. But to see how well the Hendrick cars are right now, I mean, it’s great to see. Great to be part of that. All of the guys should be really happy because they’ve prepared us some pretty nice cars and our engines run great. It is nice to be part of that organization.
THE MODERATOR: Denny Hamlin has moved up to fifth in the points.
Q. For either one of you or both of you, which part of the track was working the best? It looked like some cars were running high while others stayed low?
KASEY KAHNE: For me, I had to run the bottom, and as soon as I’d get off the bottom I’d just slide, a four wheel slide. I couldn’t make it work. I kept trying outside, but later on I was able to make a little speed on the outside corners, both ends, and could still run the bottom pretty well. But for probably the first half of the run, I had to be on the bottom.
DENNY HAMLIN: Yeah, same thing. You just kind of move around wherever your car seems to work. The tires just didn’t drop off like you would hope that they would. I think that Goodyear needs to re-evaluate the tire that they have here and get us something softer so it falls off so there is more passing. Because right now during green flag runs, it’s just you catch someone, and it’s very, very hard. We ran left side tires for, gosh, almost probably a hundred laps on lefts, and it’s still just nowhere. I talked to Goodyear, and they said they were going to come back, so we should have some better racing when we come back here.
Q. Denny, you said you were a little disappointed with how your car finished tonight, but still you had a Top 5 run and got a new deal to boot. What kind of a day for you has it been in general?
DENNY HAMLIN: A great day. When you know you’re locked in and know you’re going to race where you’re going to race for a really long time, and honest people at Joe Gibbs Racing and FedEx have your back a long time, it’s a good feeling.
We’re really blessed to have the partnership that we all have the championship winning team, and a team that’s capable of winning a championship. That’s all I can ask for. So it’s up to us to get that done from here on out. Now that it’s all settled, it’s just been a good day, and you can breathe easily.
Q. Kasey, did you think all along that you could catch Brad or was there a stage that you thought boy he’s making good time?
KASEY KAHNE: I just hoped he’d run out of gas. There was no way I was catching him. We had enough gas to run as hard as I could all the way to the finish, and I was hoping his would shut off, off of two or something.
Q. Denny, has the FedEx team done as well, and if so, how many years is that for you?
DENNY HAMLIN: I don’t know about theirs in particular. I just know about mine. But it’s a long time.
Q. Is the FedEx deal part of the contract signed or just your contract with Joe Gibbs?
DENNY HAMLIN: Mine with Gibbs? I really don’t know where FedEx stands with Gibbs. But I think that they’re talking. So they should – everything should be done. Me, FedEx and Joe Gibbs, hopefully will all be together for a really long time.
Q. Denny, last year you were pretty outspoken about some of the track problems and some logistical problem that’s surrounded this race. How happy were you to see this go a lot better?
DENNY HAMLIN: I mean, you’re 50-50. Traffic problems mean crowd problems, so I don’t think that they had as many people here this time around, which is understandable. The heat probably deterred some, but still a very solid crowd out here tonight. It’s good. Any improvement that they can make to the facility is going to be better. I know they’ve put a lot of effort into the traffic issues and spent a lot of money working on it. So truth be told, it’s going to be told tonight. In these next three hours, just seeing how it flows out.
Q. The only thing we knew about was the loose wheel. But on the post-race it was referred to problems on pit road. What happened?
KASEY KAHNE: I don’t know what the other one was. We came in with a group of cars, and went out and I couldn’t see that group. They went full straightaway and that the next corner. And we were sitting there on the jacks for a while. I’m not sure what happened, but there were two stops that just slowed us up. Like I said, my pit crew is solid. They’re a really good group of guys that work as hard as anyone, probably harder than everyone or most. We just had a couple of bad stops. The runs we’re going and things, I’m sure losing a ton of time on pit road, you’ll never catch up.
Q. Brad was one of the guys that said the sway bar rules changes would be a game changer. So I don’t know what he’ll say when he comes in here, but I’m curious if you thought it impacted what you were doing in your races?
DENNY HAMLIN: It didn’t impact us, maybe them.
KASEY KAHNE: I felt pretty good tonight.
Q. All the Hendrick cars were running well, and the Gibbs cars were running well early. It seems like Kyle Busch has been snake bit lately and Joey ran into a problem too. How frustrating is that to see your teammates are struggling?
DENNY HAMLIN: Yeah, I mean, you know it’s tough: You want everyone running up front as much as possible, because that is more information you can use when they do have problems and things like that. Can you pretty much throwaway all that data from that point on. But it’s tough. They’re all having their separate issues and things that are going on, and engine stuff, and wrecks and things like that. So it’s very frustrating. But law of averages should all work out. We had a really good run at the beginning of the season, and two straight DNFs. I think everything kind of works out in cycles, and those guys are just in a bad one right now.
I’m not sure what happened to Kyle. It looked like he ran out of gas off turn two. I saw him shaking his car. Once you get back in traffic here, can you have the best car in the world, and you’re just not going to make up any ground. You’ll pass one or two cars, but you’re not just going to charge to the front like you would at other racetracks.