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BRAD KESELOWSKI

PAUL WOLFE

 

Chris Graythen/Getty Images

 

 

             THE MODERATOR:  We are now joined by the winner of tonight's Digital Ally 400, driver of the No. 2 Wurth Ford, Brad Keselowski, and crew chief Paul Wolfe.  If you have a question, please raise your hand.

 

             Q.  Brad, I think at some point this season you said that Kansas would kind of determine on where this package would fit.  How would you -- how happy are you with the package, and where do you think it will go for the rest of the season?

             BRAD KESELOWSKI:  Well, it's hard to say.  I think it's hard to say where it'll go.  But I feel like the season breaks down into thirds, and maybe I'm repeating myself to some of the people in the room.  But you have your first third, your second third and of course the final part with the playoffs.

             With that in mind, Kansas is kind of like to me a break point between the end of the first third of the season and the beginning of the middle stretch.  I think we really see kind of things settle out by then.  You have the West Coast Swing at the start of the season; there's a lot that comes and goes and trying to understand the rules and the new -- and all the engineering behind it is a little bit tough.

             But when we get to this part of the season, I think you really have to shine because this is what you've got.  So it's nice to be able to win right here today, and of course it's always nice to win, but in light of those thoughts or beliefs, I guess, it's a good sign for us for sure.

 

             Q.  I'm just kind of curious where you came from because you started fourth but then you guys dropped back and you were like in attack mode over those last 26 laps.  Was the car set up -- I guess Paul, was the car set up for night?  And can you talk about that restart where you got like seven spots in five laps?

             BRAD KESELOWSKI:  Yeah, that was pretty cool.  But no, I think Paul and the team, they made some great adjustments to the car.  I was struggling a little before that, but about 100 laps to go roughly the car really started to come together.  Before that I felt like I was kind of hanging on in that 10th to 15th place range and we just worked on the car, or the team worked on the car; I sat in the driver's seat and watched.  But they got it dialed in where it needed to be, and then I was able to be aggressive and make moves.  So kudos to them.

 

             Q.  Can you talk about the setup, Paul?

             PAUL WOLFE:  It was a tough night.  I mean, we were off quite a bit to start the race, and I think to Brad's point, we're far enough along in the season now where it seems like a lot of guys are starting to figure out where they want to be.  We won some races early in the season, and I think the mile-and-a-halfs early in the year we were pretty strong.  I think all the Penske cars were.  But now you look and the Stewart-Haas cars and the Hendrick cars are really strong.

             It's a lot -- none of these races are easy to win by any means, but it's tough right now.  Tonight was a tough night, and you weren't going to get away with a car that was off a little bit, and that's where we were at the start of the race.  Our balance wasn't right.  We couldn't keep the throttle down, and we worked hard.  It took a while.  The car wasn't responding early on, and like Brad said, I think after the second stage or for the final 100 laps we finally got it tight enough where we were able to put some good laps together, and then it's just working the draft and all those other things on the restarts, which we were able to do really well at the end.

 

             Q.  I know there was some craziness that kind of jumbled the lineup, but there were seven Chevys in the top 10.  Do you view them as having improved at all, and do you see them as maybe more of a factor as far as teams to beat?

             BRAD KESELOWSKI:  Yeah, the 88 the last two weeks has looked very, very strong.  He looked -- when I was behind him here today, very, very strong.  I think they're definitely starting to hit their stride for sure, and we can't let our guard down.

 

             Q.  When you're chasing Bowman down like that, is it any different with this package than it would be in like a more traditional package?  Like is the mentality the same, or are you having to try to force him into a mistake more?  How does that go?

             BRAD KESELOWSKI:  Yeah, it feels different in some ways, and it feels the same in others.  You know, I think I ran the last 20 or 30 laps wide open, and in a lot of ways that's frustrating because it felt like before at least when you were lifting like there was something you could maybe do different, but when you're running wide open behind somebody and you can't make the pass, you're like (growls), so it's frustrating.  But on the other side, it actually is just a touch easier to pass in some ways, too, because the draft helps pull you back to somebody and all those things.  It's just different.  I don't know if there's a right or a wrong.

             I felt like going into this race that this would be a good -- especially with it being a night race and being cool temps, this would be a strong showing for these rules and for the ability to pass and do those things, and obviously I'm a little biased because I won the race, but I felt like it was.  I feel like you saw the cars run closer than they probably ever have here and saw some pretty good battles throughout the day.  And that's definitely because the rules package.  It has its strengths and weaknesses, and if there's going to be a strength, it's going to be races like this, and I feel like it delivered.

 

             Q.  Given the racing that happened over the last 40 laps after the restarts, it sure feels like at some point at the end of the season -- before the end of the season is over, someone is going to get wrecked throwing a block near the front of the field.  Has the conversation surrounding blocks changed, in terms of how you view blocking someone on the racetrack, and is that going to be simply how it is going forward?

             BRAD KESELOWSKI:  Well, I think that the word "block" gets maybe used sometimes fairly, sometimes unfairly.  I always feel like a block is when you move down in front of somebody that has a run that's fast enough to pass you.  I don't think of blocking when you're switching lanes in front of a car that's slightly faster in order to get the draft off him because you can get a draft being in front of someone just like you can get a draft being behind someone.

             But it's hard because, much like in your passenger car, you're making those judgments in split seconds, and you're using a mirror to do it, which naturally doesn't give you great vision, distorts your vision, and so when you make those moves, you don't always know if you're making it as a draft or if you're making it as a block.  But you have to make it.  If you don't, you're just going to easily get passed.

             Yeah, you're going to see some wrecks like that.  That's just part and parcel with these kinds of rules and another added challenge.

 

             Q.  This being your third win on the season, is this where you thought you'd be, where you expected to be as far as in the rankings so far?

             BRAD KESELOWSKI:  I don't really probably put it that way.  I'm happy to have three wins at this point in the season.  I'd be happier to have four.  (Chuckles.)  I just want to make the most out of each and every weekend, each and every opportunity, and the chips will fall where they fall from there.

 

             Q.  When you're on the track like that, as easy as it was from your position behind the wheel, what was going through your head in those closing laps?  Like you said, you passed Bowman --

             BRAD KESELOWSKI:  Just trying to create an opportunity and capitalize on it.  I had a little run on Alex entering Turn 1, and he moved down to cover it, and when he did so, he was just slightly out of balance, and I was able to pounce.  You know, it feels a little bit like watching a football game and watching somebody, a corner versus a wide receiver and watch them kind of work each other.  It felt a lot like that to me, at least in my mind, and you're just trying to get him off balance and cut and go the other direction and get away from him.  And that's what we were able to do.

 

             Q.  This is one of those races that really the intensity was like tangible through the TV.  Do you feel that as a driver, and was this race any different?

             BRAD KESELOWSKI:  Yeah, oh, absolutely.  I felt like in practice it was much more intense than a normal practice here.  The cars undoubtedly are easier to drive by themselves than they used to be, but the demands of being able to run in the pack are very, very high, very strenuous.  Your peripheral vision gets tested, all those things, your proprioception, to know where you're at in space and be able to make all the right moves, it really challenges you both mentally and physically in a different way than before.

             Physically I felt like especially last week, this has been way more challenging physically because the cars are going so fast through the corner.  I got out of the car last week and I felt like I was three inches shorter, just from all the G-forces.  I went and tested at Chicago and I thought it was just me and then Ryan Newman came up to me and explained the same thing, and I was like, You too?  Yeah, me too.  Saw about three or four other drivers and they all said the same thing; Man, I have never, ever felt that deep in the race car before.  And this was a more physically challenging race than I can remember here, just because of those increased loads.  But that's part of the game.

 

             Q.  This question is for both of you.  I think you are now fourth in the points standings, obviously tied for the series lead in wins.  You divide the season by thirds.  What does this middle third look like in terms of balancing, maximizing playoff points and getting ready to be really, really good in the final third?

             BRAD KESELOWSKI:  Why don't you take that one, Paul?  I've been hogging them.

             PAUL WOLFE:  Well, I think as we look at the start of the season, we're just trying to understand the rules package, and I think we're at a place now where to be where we want to be when the playoffs start, we need to do some things different and explore a little bit with our cars and try to understand, because with this new rules, there's a lot more options I feel like, when we talk about where we want to be on downforce or drag, and I think we saw a different spread of that, as you look at qualifying.  With the impound qualifying you kind of have what you're going to race and you can see the different speed in cars, and how that races in the pack is different, as well.

             We're trying to figure out where we want to be.  I mean, we were strong to start the season, but like I said earlier, you saw some teams that have really stepped up over the last few weeks and kind of figured out where they want to go in a direction, and I think we've got to continue to explore a little bit to maximize everything we can and put ourselves in a spot.

             Having three wins is nice, and that gives us that opportunity to continue to try some new things and see if we can find a direction that has a little more speed.

             BRAD KESELOWSKI:  Yeah, the season is dynamic and teams are going to learn things and get better.  We certainly can't rest on our laurels, and I don't expect we will.

 

             Q.  Going into this race, what were kind of your expectations?  Did you feel like we were going to see single file with this package, or did you expect what we were going to see tonight with the --

             BRAD KESELOWSKI:  No, with the cool temps I expected it to be side by side.  I don't know if I expected our performance to be as strong as it was at the end, but I'm happy for it.  You know, I think the way the race played out, the way the weekend played out, with it just being a really cold weekend -- I think I told somebody today that it used to be we wanted daytime races because it fit the rules.  Now it's the opposite.  Nighttime is the new daytime for NASCAR as far as the racing being better I think during the night because it gives you the grip to be able to take advantage of what this car or rules setup is designed for.

             With it being cool temperatures and being a night race, I think that's exactly what we saw, and that's part of why the cars were double file a lot of times in a race where normally they wouldn't be.

 

             Q.  Erik Jones said you jumped the restart.  Did you take off a little early?

             BRAD KESELOWSKI:  No, I was right at the line.  The first line.  (Smiles.)

 

             Q.  At 35, I hate to -- I'm not calling you old, but you had a couple of 20-something kids behind you.  Can you speak about them, maybe even Bowman?  Bowman has finished second three weeks in a row --

             BRAD KESELOWSKI:  Has he really?  I didn't even know that.

 

             Q.  He's trying to close, and like you said, there was a little bobble, you took advantage of it.  It seems like experience won out tonight.

             BRAD KESELOWSKI:  Yeah.  When you finish second three weeks in a row, you're going to win a race.  He's got a lot to be proud of and he's doing all the right things.  You know, they have the speed and all those things.  So that's certainly impressive.

             But you know, there were some opportunities there, and I just took advantage of them.  You know, it's not probably really even his fault, just part of how the chips fell.

 

             Q.  What do you think about even his talent, though?

             BRAD KESELOWSKI:  Well, I think if you finish second three weeks in a row in the Cup Series, you're definitely earning your position and showing your talent

 

 

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