Sunday, June 5, 2011
Dodge Motorsports PR S
NASCAR Sprint Cup Series
BRAD KESELOWSKI (No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge Charger) Finished 1st “It was hot out there. We’ve been so close. We’ve been plugging away. We had a car that I thought was capable of winning. I had a car last week that sat on the pole and had a shot at it and just caught the wrong line on the restart. The same thing at Dover and Darlington, we could just never catch that good break. You can only put yourself in that position so many times before you’re going to catch the right break. We caught a great break today because of all the hard work by the Miller Lite team that works on these Dodge Chargers. We got great gas mileage and that doesn’t hurt either.”
HOW DID YOU SAVE FUEL TODAY? “There are some secrets to it and I just maximized them all. I had plenty (of fuel) left. The 14 car pitted the same time that I did and came out first and I thought for sure that I was going to run second. I was just hoping to hang on to second. Nobody really told me that we were leading. I don’t know when I took the lead. The scoreboard is right in the middle of the race track and I looked over and saw my name on the top with two to go. I started shaking. I’m glad that they didn’t tell me. It’s because of the hard work. It’s because of the bad finishes and the struggles that we had to get here that I really appreciate this win. I really appreciate what this means to my whole team and everybody that has helped me to get here. And to Roger Penske who put me in this ride and stuck with me through a bad year last year. We’re in good shape. A few more wins like this and we can make the Chase.”
YOU STARTED 25TH; YOU DIDN’T BACK INTO A TOP-10 RUN TODAY. “We were a top-10 car, maybe the bottom half of the top 10, but a top-10 car. You look at our runs this year, we’ve been top-five, top-10 cars at a lot of races this year and caught bad breaks. You can only put yourself in position for so long and not have something good happen to you eventually. It did today.”
ROGER PENSKE (Owner – Penske Racing) “I think we’ve made a lot of progress the last several weeks. People haven’t really noticed it, but bad break there when the 4 car stalled at Charlotte with the 2 car there and the 22 has run well. This is a real step-up for us. These are the tracks that were tough for us, the one-and-a-half miles. It looks like we have a handle on these now. We’ll see what happens.”
KURT BUSCH (No. 22 AAA Dodge Charger) Finished Ninth “I’m proud of the way that this team has run. To have a car to lead laps today and be very competitive, I was all smiles. I felt coming into the weekend that if we could pace ourselves, have good team communication, we would be competitive. it was great. There was always something in the back of my mind today that we weren’t going to win, but I’m glad that Brad Keselowski got this win for those Miller Lite guys, for Dodge. We’re really happy to keep AAA up front all day today. It’s just one of those days where you’re on the right side, sometimes you’re not. For all my guys, we’ll take this one and the points. I’m not discouraged at all.”
MEDIA CENTER POST RACE Brad Keselowski, Crew Chief Paul Wolfe, Roger Penske
WITH THIS WIN, YOU HAVE QUALIFIED FOR THE 2012 NASCAR SPRINT ALL-STAR RACE. KESELOWSKI: “I didn’t think of that one. That’s four years in a row. We’ll take that.”
TALK ABOUT YOUR WIN, NOT ONLY YOUR ABILITY TO CONSERVE GAS BUT YOUR ABILITY TO TAKE IT DOWN TO THE WIRE AND WIN. KESELOWSKI: “It was a team victory today. We had Kurt Busch, my teammate, who led the majority of the race from what I could see, and had good speed and the 2 car had great speed as well. We just kind of caught a bad break on qualifying when we went out. But it’s a team effort. Kurt had them covered on speed. We had them covered on strategy. And together one of us two was going to win. And I’m proud in general that it was a Penske car that won. It was so hot today, long, tiring. It feels good to soak in a victory and a beer and some water afterwards and be sitting here in front of you with a trophy and some great guys in victory lane.”
ROGER, TALK ABOUT HOW IT ALL PLAYED OUT FOR YOU TODAY. PENSKE: “Well, it’s great to see Dodge back in the winner’s circle, and certainly you know when Brad came on point with us last year, and we put Paul Wolfe as a combination crew chief and driver, and 13 races now they’ve got a victory. Exactly, to me, it’s what we worked on. We didn’t get the finishes we wanted. We could always say we had bad luck last week. We were in third place getting ready to go on that restart and Kasey Kahne ran out of gas, when we got in that wreck. But I think it’s a credit to Paul Wolfe and Brad.
“They’re talking all the time. They’re working, there’s nobody more committed. The good news is to hear Kurt say even though he really wanted this win, to say it was great for the team and that we finally think we have a combination that we can run on the mile-and-a-halfs, because we struggle on the mile-and-a-halfs.”
PAUL, THIS IS YOUR FIRST SPRINT CUP WIN; TALK ABOUT HOW IT HAPPENED. WOLFE: “Obviously, being my first win, I’m really excited about all the effort that’s been put in so far. And to be able to get the Miller Lite Dodge to victory lane was pretty special today. Brad and I talked, I think this week or the week before that, man, if we just keep putting ourselves in the top 10, it’s not always the fastest car that seems to be winning these races. So we’ve kept working on our program since the beginning of the year.
“It was kind of embarrassing of how we ran at California and Vegas earlier in the year. So to see the progress that we’ve made and put ourselves in position to win these races now just says a lot about all the hard work and everything that’s going on at Penske Racing. One point in the race, I don’t know, we were still running 15th and Kurt was out there leading the race. It was pretty cool, because we knew what the leader had in his car, we knew what we had. It’s just been a good team effort here of late, just really trying to understand how to get these cars better. Running similar geometries and front ends have definitely helped, I think, both of us to get our cars better.”
IT SOUNDS LIKE YOU FELT A LITTLE STUNNED YOURSELF IN THAT POSITION AT THE END. KESELOWSKI: “Well, I don’t know. I didn’t see the coverage. But I know that I didn’t know I was leading until two laps to go. Kind of stretched my neck out, barely caught the board to see I was leading, I was instantly mad at my guys for not telling me, but you get over that. We’d been doing everything we could to save gas. It didn’t really affect me whether I knew I was leading or not. It was probably really smart of them not to tell me that because I probably would have drove it really, really hard. It all worked out at the end, and they talk about you when you’re in victory lane, that’s all that matters.”
EARLIER YOU SAID IT’S EASIER FOR GUYS TO RUN IN THE MIDDLE TO CONSERVE FUEL AND NOT UP THERE PUSHING FOR THE LEAD. IS THAT IND OF HOW THINGS PLAYED OUT TODAY? KESELOWSKI: “Yes and no. I was pushing really hard the run before and drove up to seventh- or eighth place I think it was. And we were a legitimate, probably top-five car. We needed to get the clean air to be a car to win the race. I quite honestly felt like Kurt and I were pretty equal. It was just a matter of being up front and having the right track position. But you know we didn’t qualify as well as we’d like to. So we never really found that. So like I said, Kurt had them covered on speed. We had them covered on strategy. And at the end, a Penske car was going to win and that’s just what happened.”
AT WHAT POINT IN THE RACE DID YOU GUYS CONSCIOUSLY MAKE THE DECISION THAT YOU WERE GOING TO TRY TO STRETCH THE FUEL MILEAGE AND GO FOR IT, AND AFTER YOU DID, HOW CONCERNED WERE YOU THAT A CAUTION WOULD COME OUT AND THAT WOULD BE THROWN OUT THE WINDOW? KESELOWSKI: “Hell, I wasn’t sure. I didn’t know what was going on. I’d like to know.” WOLFE: Around lap two, we knew if we could make it to (lap) 210, from there we were close to being able to make it the rest of the way. As guys started pitting, we kind of I kind of looked at where our lap times were, and it seemed like we started picking up a bunch of speed there. I don’t know if we got some clean air or what. But it was almost a no-brainer for me because we were only losing three to four tenths to the guys on new tires. Normally, when guys start short pitting, it seems like you’re losing over a second a lap and you just lose so much track position. But it was like as everybody started peeling off and pitting, we just kept getting faster and faster. We were still running mid, I guess 33s or whatever it was, and guys were running low 33s. And it was like, well, we’re not losing much, so it got us in a position where there were so many cars a lap down, even if the caution came out, we were still sitting okay. It was almost a no-brainer for me once I saw how much speed we had in the clean air.”
DRIVERS TALKED ABOUT WHAT THEY DID TO DEAL WITH THE HEAT. HOW BAD WAS THE HEAT FOR YOU? WHAT DID YOU DO TO DEAL WITH IT? WHAT DID THE HEAT DO FOR YOU ON THE TRACK? KESELOWSKI: “Nobody loves it. Some people tell you they love it just so they can look tough. (Laughter). But I don’t know anybody that really loves it. But there’s a part that certainly plays in. You know obviously how you condition yourself and so forth. And I don’t really want to go into any details on that. But I’ve been coming to Kansas for a long time. Used to be I ran the truck race here every June and July. So I got used to that pretty quickly, back five, 10 years ago. It wasn’t that long ago I was working with my mom and dad and coming to these race tracks, outside all day and the air conditioner never worked so I guess I built a little toughness to the hot Kansas weather. And certainly being from the Midwest, you get toughened up by some people that don’t own air conditioning. But it all worked out. And it’s not easy. I can tell you that. You lose weight. And when you lose weight you get drained down physically. And it seems like that pulls you down mentally. When you get tired physically, you make mental mistakes. When you get tired mentally you make physical mistakes. And they all play into each other, but that’s why we’re all driving these cars, because it’s not easy. And we’re working hard to do the best we can at it. And that’s what it takes to find yourself in victory lane at the end of the day. To get in victory lane, you have to run a no mistake race. And that’s what we did today.”
DOES THIS FEEL LIKE YOU’RE STARTING OVER FROM SCRATCH PAUL, HOW MUCH DO YOU SHARE WITH THE 22 TEAM? KESELOWSKI: “As far as starting over from scratch, I sat down the other day and was thinking about it. I guess it was at the start of the year, and I think I’ve been in Cup for two and a half years. I’ve had something like seven crew chiefs, from doing the partial deal with Hendrick, partial deal with Phoenix Racing, and I’m sure there was one or two others in there I can’t remember. It’s been a lot of people. And we’re finally hitting on a good combination here with Paul and I. And we’re on the same wave length, and that’s really what matters the most.”
WOLFE: ‘As far as the information sharing between the teams, it’s definitely obvious that we do share all the information. I think you can see that in how well both cars ran today. And it seems like here of late, we’ve made some gains, and I think it showed up in both cars. And we’ll continue to work together to make each of us better. That’s kind of how it’s supposed to work. And I feel like the relationship between Steve and I and our communication’s real well. And between the drivers, I think this says a lot for Brad and the respect that he deserves, and I’m sure Kurt gives him now. He’s proven that he’s as good as anybody out there.”
THIS MOVES YOU FROM 25TH TO 21ST IN THE POINT STANDINGS. WHAT’S THE OUTLOOK OF GETTING IN THE CHASE? KESELOWSKI: “I have the boss telling me seven points. It’s certainly doable. It makes you certainly look back at races like Daytona and Talladega here earlier in the year where we wrecked out and those are wild-card races. We’ve hit the bad side of the wild-card. Just one or two of those races back and we’re easily in the top 20. But that’s not the way it is. So we’ve caught some bad breaks over the last few weeks that have kept us out of it. And certainly we caught a good one today. So at the end, it will all average out. If we deserve to be in it, we’ll get in it. If we don’t, we won’t. But right now, we’re on a good path to deserve to be in it. That’s really what matters the most to me.
“I’m a big fan of the rule NASCAR implemented, putting winners in the last two spots. I think that serves the sport very well. And hopefully, we’ll be able to capitalize on it. But there are no guarantees of that. I feel pretty confident that it’s going to take two wins to guarantee your way into it. So obviously, we’ve got to do this again, and that ain’t easy. I like the system. And I feel good about our chances. We just gotta’ keep moving forward and that’s what it’s all about.”
ON THAT LAST RUN, HOW MUCH FUEL DID YOU ACTUALLY SAVE? WHAT WAS THE NORMAL EXPECTATION FOR A FUEL RUN? WOLFE: “We were only about three quarters of a lap short. So we didn’t need to save much. But the way it played out, there was nobody really pressuring us. So we went into a really conservative mode. And I can’t really answer how much Brad thinks he saved. Only he knows that.”
KESELOWSKI: “I didn’t save any.”
WOLFE: “We knew it wasn’t it really wasn’t close. I didn’t feel it was a very big gamble. We had ourselves in a pretty good position.”
YOU SAID EARLIER THAT YOU HAVE NOTICED LATELY THAT THE FASTEST CAR HAS NOT ALWAYS BEEN WINNING. DO YOU SEE THAT, IS IT JUST A COINCIDENCE, OR DO YOU SEE IT TAKING PLACE MORE OFTEN? WOLFE: “It might be a little of both, guys taking gambles or whatnot. But like Brad said, everything has to be perfect to win one of these races. So when I say the fastest car doesn’t always win, I mean you can have the fastest car, but if you don’t have good pit strategy or you don’t keep yourself out of trouble or put yourself in situations, it really doesn’t matter. What I’ve seen is if you can put yourself in the top 10, you give yourself a chance, at least. And we feel like that’s what we did today. And I think our car is maybe a little better than what it showed. We did put ourselves in the top 10, but I think if we could have been up, you know, the farther we got up (in the field) the faster we got. It’s just so hard with these cars, you know, when you’re back there in traffic, to see what speed they really have. Everybody just fights the same thing.”
WE HAVE WELL OVER A THOUSAND ETHANOL PRODUCERS AND CORN GROWERS HERE. WHAT IS YOUR PERSPECTIVE ABOUT USING 15 PERCENT ETHANOL BLEND? KESELOWSKI: “I think you have to applaud NASCAR and the efforts they have on the Green initiative. I know there’s some fancy word for it. The NASCAR Green initiative, isn’t it called something? That program. But I thought it had some really cool name. You guys need to work on a really cool slogan. But I think you’ve got to applaud them for pulling that rope and working really hard on that. And it’s just an added benefit and something that comes from America. I guess I didn’t even know that. I guess I should have known that. But that’s really cool.”
WOLFE: “It really hasn’t changed as far as the performance side. The fuel mileage has changed a little bit. But it’s the same for everybody. So it seemed to work out, pretty good fuel for us today. So we’re just excited that we can be part of it.”
PENSKE: “I think if we look at oil and availability of fuels as we go forward, the opportunity to combine petroleum products with this product, ethanol, I think is going in the right direction. And NASCAR has been committed many years to look at these opportunities. And we spent a lot of time on our dynamometers getting the engine back to power. But at this point, the reliability is there, the fuel mileage is there, and you can see the performance. So I think it’s a win win for everyone.”
BRAD AND ROGER, CAN YOU QUANTIFY THE IMPROVEMENT IN THIS TEAM FROM 2010 TO 2011? PENSKE: “Well, you know, it’s interesting. You grade your team probably every week. And I think that you’ve got to be committed to stay on track. And I think one of the things that we’ve done with Brad and Paul, and obviously with Kurt and Steve, we said, look, we’re going to stay on track here. It’s so easy to get going in a different direction. You see something that another team is doing and you go back and forth. And I think we’ve pretty much stayed together. I think the integrity and the transparency that Paul talked about, you know, with the 22 car has really paid off. And the cars are better. The drivers. Obviously the more that Brad runs in this series, he’s going to get better. You can see it. His restarts, the way he’s coming in the pits here. I watched it today. The pit crews, this pit crew today, when you look at it, we started 25th. Just every stop, we moved up. So I heard him say on the radio one time it’s a lot easier to pass in the pits than it is on the racetrack and you could see that.
“So I think it’s working in a number of areas. The engines we’ve had good power. We need more. And we need better handling. But these guys are testing every single week. That’s one of the things that I am always concerned about with NASCAR is that we can’t test at the tracks that we race on so we spend all this money to go to other tracks, and we would have a much better chance, better show, if we could test at the track. So that’s one of the things, if you’re a team trying to get to the front, it’s so difficult. You got to use simulation, and that doesn’t really give you all the factors that you have on a day where the temperature’s going up, you’ve got clouds coming over, correct, and overall it’s just a lot of hard work. We’ve got 350 people that are committed to these two guys and these two teams, and Paul has brought a commitment that we’ve never had in detail. And he just won’t let up. And he got a payoff today for doing that.”
KESELOWSKI: “That was a good speech, by the way. It was really good. Yeah, we’re getting somewhere. It’s going to take time. I think the biggest thing that everybody seems to overlook in this deal is you look at the average driver age, and some of you guys have heard me speak about this, some of you haven’t. We saw about five to 10 years ago a complete reset in the driver pool. I think you should really look at that. I think you turn on a race from 10 years ago, and look at who was on the track, who was driving and you’re only going to find less than 15 of those drivers on there now. And those are drivers that were young at that time, they were the Jeff Gordons, whoever you called young at that time. I think what we’re seeing is a very loaded field of youth, talent, experience. And to come in as a driver, like I have myself over the last year or two, is an uphill climb. It’s a real uphill climb.
“With the new car coming in, the lack of testing, the fact that there’s so many good drivers out there right now, it’s a huge uphill climb to catch them, let alone beat them. What I’m trying to say is the measuring stick of success for a new driver like myself or a Joey Logano or Trevor Bayne is different than what it’s ever been. It’s going to take I told someone the other day that the true determining factor of our success from a timeline perspective, for me at Penske Racing, really isn’t, in my eyes, even this year. I’m sure the sponsors want it to be right now. But the measuring stick for success for drivers before was one to two years. The measuring of success for new drivers now, I think it’s more like three to five years because of that. It’s going to take you longer to figure out these racetracks, to figure out these cars.
“So I’m excited to see where we’re going to be over the next year or two. I’ve seen a lot of progress in our team. And I’m really, really encouraged. But we have more room to continue to progress. I have a lot of room to continue to progress. And I think that we can continue to do that. On an added note,, I think people are going to look back 10, 15, 20 years from now and look at Jimmie Johnson and Chad and say they were maybe the best team ever and it took them five years to win their first championship. So I think you gotta put all those things in perspective and realize how far we’ve come in just two years here at Penske Racing. Paul and I, how far we still have to go, but we’ve come a long ways. We have a ways to go. I’m proud of where we’re at and we’re going to keep working and moving forward.”
AFTER KURT’S COMMENTS AT RICHMOND, HAS THERE BEEN ENOUGH TIME TO HAVE THOSE CHANGES MAKE AN IMPACT AT THIS POINT? PENSKE: “Well, I don’t think that anyone making comments publicly or internally are going to turn the team around in two or three weeks. I think Paul would probably be the best to answer that. I mean, he’s seen the meetings. He’s listened to what we’re trying to do. He’s been a great contributor to the things that we’re trying to make better. Remember, when you’ve got two drivers and probably 30 cars, you can’t just do things overnight, because we don’t run the same car like we do on the IndyCar side. I think it’s progress. It’s the crew chief and the driver working together. I think it’s the transparency between the two teams. We’ve added more engineering capability this year. I think we’re starting to see it now that we didn’t have last year. But this is 13 races. Remember, we’ve got another, what, 13 to go before we get into the Chase. So if we’re sitting six or seven points out and we’re starting to see some momentum here, I think that he’s got a great chance to get in. And Kurt’s sitting obviously in sixth position.”
WOLFE: “And, honestly, I don’t feel like staying out today was a huge gamble. But I think at this point, we just want to continue to put fast race cars out there. And I think if you put yourself in victory lane, that will take care of the points. One works with the other. Like Brad said, it’s probably going to take another win to get that spot. So I think we just keep approaching it like we have and that’s trying to make our race cars faster and when you do that the results come.”
KURT IS THE ONLY DRIVER THAT HAS BEEN IN THE TOP 10 IN POINTS EVERY WEEK. CONSIDERING THAT, HOW DOES THAT SPEAK TO THE PROBLEMS AND PROGRESS YOUR TEAMS HAVE MADE? PENSKE: “I think when you look at the performance of the 22 team, you look at the big tracks, we were strong. We got in accidents there. The consistency, I think, the reliability. Kurt’s a fantastic driver. I don’t think that people realize how good he really is and sometimes it’s going to be the best horse. And sometimes he doesn’t realize the horse he’s on he’s got to tame it to get it to go where he needs it to go. It’s like today at the beginning of the race, he was concerned about his car and I think the splitter was hitting the ground. All of a sudden the tire pressure comes up and he took off like a shot past the leaders and went on and led most of the lap. I think it’s a learning curve. And I think his confidence now with Brad being able to show the speed and Paul working with Steve has made a huge difference.”