Brad, congratulations. Excellent race here today. Talk about how things finished up. You certainly had to overcome some adversity, and then the pass you made on about lap 252 was one that I’m sure will make many highlights. Talk about how things played out for you today.
BRAD KESELOWSKI: I guess you couldn’t ask for a better way to start the Chase other than starting up front. Just phenomenal with the way things played out. I don’t know if we were the fastest car. There were some runs where I thought we were really fast and then some runs where I thought the 4 and the 42 were really fast. It was so hard to tell. Whoever had the cleanest air was really at such an advantage.
But towards the middle part of the race, that’s when we lost track position. That was something that we all thought was awful at the time, but I guess it worked out. Then from there we just fought, just climbed and clawed.
I think we got up to eighth, and Paul made the call or decision to pit a little bit late. It worked out perfectly. We were able to be on pit road right as the yellow came out. That put us from eighth to fourth, I think. We were able to take advantage with that on the restarts, get up to third.
I just saw a hole and I went for it. The 4 and the 42 were racing really hard, doing all the things they needed to do. It just opened a hole. I didn’t know if my car would stick or not, but I knew I’d regret it if I didn’t try it. I tried it, it did. That got us into the lead.
Even that was going to be close. I think the 42 was quite a bit faster as the long run went. We got that yellow. Things evened out. We were able to take advantage from there.
Q : Paul Wolfe, talk about how this race unfolded. Certainly a lot of decisions and strategy and quick calls today. Talk about some of the things you thought were key.
PAUL WOLFE: I think the big thing was Brad staying focused, being patient. Obviously he showed that early in the race with having to start 25th. We didn’t get a good lap in in practice. Unfortunately qualifying being rained out got us behind a little bit. We were still confident that we had enough speed in our car in practice that if we stayed focused, kept our car clean all day, we could still have a shot at it.
We had the issue on pit road. Got us a little bit behind. But it was good that the issue we had, we came down and fixed it before we went back green. The changer felt like he didn’t get ‘em tight. I think that was key, that he stood up and said, I feel like we’re going to have a loose wheel here. To come in and fix that under yellow was much less of a penalty than if we got going green and had a vibration. That was key there to being able to overcome that loose wheel.
From there, we saw we had pretty good speed in our car all day. Like Brad mentioned, there were times in the race where I felt like we were the best car, then times I felt we were off a little bit. Overall I knew if we got our adjustments right at the end we still had a shot at it.
The way the caution fell there at the end we were fortunate to get a good break there that gained us a few more spots, like Brad said, and lined up within range of the leaders.
He did a great job on that restart. I’d seen our strength there all day. Seemed like off of two we could really gain on those guys. When I seen the gap open up, I felt good when I saw him going for that, that would give us our shot.
Q: Roger, Brad and Joey had solid finishes today. Had to be a good way to start off the Chase for you.
ROGER PENSKE: As you look at the new format, the first thing we wanted to do was get a win for one of our cars so we’re automatically in the next round. Obviously that happened today. With Brad and Joey finishing fourth, it gives us momentum.
I think it’s a credit to Paul and Todd Gordon that they’re working closely. Brad has pushed Joey and vice versa. I think the relationship we’ve developed now with Ford after the second year has really paid off because they’re committed to see us get the best.
I think the engineering team back at home continues every weekend, this thing is so close, you just can’t bolt something on. So Paul and the team back at the shop are just doing a helluva job.
Today, as Paul said, the real winner today is the young man that changes the rear tire, put his hand up and said, Hey, I screwed up, the wheel might be loose. Paul had the guts to say on the radio, We’re not going to go out and run to find out, we’re coming in now.
With Brad being able to split in between the 42 and 4 was the winning move.
Q. Brad, twice today, starting back, then the loose wheel, did you ever lose any confidence at all or were you certain the way the team is built you always had a chance to get to the front?
BRAD KESELOWSKI: I knew we were going to need to catch a break to get to Victory Lane from there. That was going to be tough. We did catch a small one. But I was really surprised how much speed we had to get as close as we did to the front there. That was amazing.
I think we drove up to eighth. We restarted 16th or 17th in position, but probably had to be 30th or something in car order. So to get by that many cars, get close to the front, was really an incredible run, and put us in position to capitalize when that yellow came out. That was something that all came together.
From there, I knew once we got to fourth with 30 or 40 to go, it was going to be about executing the restarts. We had an okay one the first time where we just really held serve. The outside groove was very, very difficult to get a good restart in with wheel spin. Then we had a great one there the last one. There were three of them. I can’t remember there were two or three of them. The last one, once we had gotten the lead. We just put it all together, and that was very, very special.
Q. Earlier in the week you talked about your performance at Richmond, how much you thought that meant to you and your team coming into the Chase. Now after today you overcome some adversity during the race, you get a win and lock yourself into the second round. What does today’s victory mean for you in terms of the actual Chase?
BRAD KESELOWSKI: It means a lot. My boss would say don’t read your own press clippings. I want to enjoy the moment but I still know there’s nine weeks to go. We have a bit of a hall pass for the next two, which I’m very appreciative. But those other seven, nobody cares that we won Chicago, nobody cares that we won Richmond or the other three races. It keeps resetting. You have to reset yourself. You have to keep developing the car and pushing as a team, whether it’s on pit road, the car handling, spec, whatever it might be, or driver tactics.
So I want to be thankful for today, but I know there’s a long ways to go. Today was about as much of a statement as you can make on a week one with ten weeks to go. I don’t want to understate it but certainly don’t want to overstate it. It’s a hard balance.
Q. Brad, you won here two years ago. You said it was a statement victory because you beat Jimmie Johnson. Obviously the circumstances are a bit different. Is this a statement in any way to you?
BRAD KESELOWSKI: I think kind of like I was saying before, it’s a statement for this week. After we get done with Dover, everything resets. I still don’t think we were the fastest car. It was probably pretty even between the 4 and the 42 and maybe the 24. It was about the clean air and restarts.
But I’m still very thankful for what we were able to do today and we got to keep pushing.
Q. Brad, you talked about how the next two weeks kind of gives you a hall pass. I’m wondering if you and Paul could explain what that means to you. How is this going to change what you do on a week-to-week basis, knowing it really doesn’t matter what you do at New Hampshire and Dover?
BRAD KESELOWSKI: I don’t know. I guess that’s something we have to sit down and discuss as a group. I can’t really say I’ve thought about that in detail.
I think there’s potential with people. There’s potential with pieces we might be worried about from a reliability standpoint, things of that nature that come to mind.
But I don’t know what those opportunities are. A guy like Paul, Travis, Tim Cindric, they know that best and could probably answer that question better, but we still have a lot to talk through and work on. Certainly don’t want to lose focus on the seven races after that, as well.
PAUL WOLFE: I think there’s a couple things that it does. One, from a race strategy standpoint, obviously we can be a little more aggressive and maybe play a different strategy. There were points in the race today where I knew it was important to just get a solid finish. We felt like coming into this, we don’t need to win these first three races to advance to the next round, we just need solid runs. That was our goal. Obviously we want to win races and that’s what we go out for. If we can’t, it’s salvaging a good finish.
The next two weeks I think maybe we can look at the strategy a little different, maybe roll the dice a little more and go for a win.
So from that standpoint, I think that’s a little different for us now. It allows us maybe to focus a little bit more on the next round and those tracks. Each round is going to continue to get tougher. If now not having to stress so much over the next two races we can put a little more focus on how we can be better at the three races in round two, maybe that helps us a little bit.
We’re going to continue to work hard. We’re not going to go on vacation here for the next two weeks. We’re going to continue to try to make our racecars better and be prepared really well for round two.
Q. When the 43 engine failed, and with what happened to the 22, did you have any indication at all that something might be going on? Were you worried at all you might have an issue?
BRAD KESELOWSKI: Yeah, I didn’t know till you just told me, so I’m glad I didn’t.
ROGER PENSKE: The 22 had one of the windscreen tear-offs cover the whole front of the car. We got that call about five laps to go. With one or two to go, he said, I got no water at all. We were fortunate that blew up after we crossed the finish line.
Q. Roger, describe Brad’s perseverance, coming back through the field. He and Paul never seem to give up. There’s something about this crew that continues to push on.
ROGER PENSKE: Well, I think the word we’re using is ‘big picture’. I said that to Brad before the last restart, what we didn’t want to do is run as well as we had and end up in the fence somewhere.
I think Brad is certainly a thinking-man driver. He has confidence in Paul, Brian, the whole team. I think when he went back, he said, Look, let’s go. He knew he had a fast car.
In some ways, that keeps his mind focused. Running up there fighting with the 4, the 42, running up there, gave him confidence how good the car was. When it was time to go, he was really in position to make a move.
Q. Paul, will you be able to choose different cars now for the next two races? Also, when you did have the loose wheel, was there some damage to the car on the right side?
PAUL WOLFE: From the car standpoint, I guess we could. The processes and things we do back at the shop, all our cars are the same. You know you hear different teams talk about they’ve saved this car for the Chase or that car for the Chase. Hats off to the guys back at the shop. The consistency in these racecars, what we bring…
I get the question a lot of, What car are you bringing here? To me that’s irrelevant anymore. I have confidence in all the guys back at the shop that every car I bring to the racetrack is going to be the same as the one I raced the week before.
I don’t know that we’ll change our car schedule a whole lot because of this. That’s just kind of the way we’ve done it. It seems to work for us.
Q. Was there some damage to the car?
PAUL WOLFE: No, I haven’t seen it. There wasn’t any damage from the wheel. Maybe something from going down on the apron on the restarts here. When you go down on the flat, a lot of times that will cause a little bit of damage. That could have been what you were seeing there.
Q. Brad, on the final restart, Kyle Larson had a tire issue. He said it was from contact between you two when you were cleaning your tires before the restart.
BRAD KESELOWSKI: Yeah.
Q. Can you talk about that a little bit.
BRAD KESELOWSKI: We were both swerving to clean our tires and we made contact. I was already on the bottom groove. The debris really builds up about a lane and a half to two lanes up when the yellow comes out. If you’re the outside car, you try to stay out of it.
He was, from my perspective, trying to clean his tires in my groove. I was warming up my tires. He came down in my groove right where I was swerving and made slight contact. It left a little bit of damage on the right side of my car. I don’t know what happened to his.
He had like three lanes outside of him he could have been in. I didn’t have any more to go as far as down. We made contact. It wasn’t a huge deal, but certainly was an eye-opener when it happened.