Brad, we’ve seen you recognize some of the folks that supported you and helped pave the way for you. Among them, the legends in our sport, Roger Penske and Dale Earnhardt Jr. We’ve also heard you recognize your sponsors, especially the folks at Miller Lite. As you know in January, Miller-Coors announced a multi-year partnership extension with both NASCAR and Penske as a primary sponsor to the No. 2 Blue Deuce building upon an alliance that began back in 1991.
Certainly great to hear those established names in our sport affiliated with an exciting new champion. I know you’ve answered a lot of questions about your amazing 2012 season so far, so I’d like to get us started by asking you a question about the 2013 season. Certainly we have a lot to look forward to next year, not the least of which are the six generation race cars, new digital platform with NASCAR.com, our new TV deals with FOX, and FOX Deportes, and the tracks being focused on enhancing their live experience.
Among all of those things, does anything stick out that you’re most excited about in the 12 months ahead?
BRAD KESELOWSKI: Yeah, thank you, David, and thanks to everybody that’s tuned in to listen to me talk today. I know you’ve heard a lot from me lately, so it’s good to have you back. I think looking into 2013, it’s hard overlook the 2013 car as it comes out. I think it’s going to be a real game changer for the sport.
It’s an opportunity for us to identify with some of our roots as far as manufacturing car identity and have cars that really stick out as being authentic to what you see on the streets and authentic to what our fan base drives on a daily basis. So I’m looking forward to that part. But mostly what I’m looking forward to increases in competition that are sure to come with this car from the standpoint of less aero dependency and more passing on mile-and-a-halves and drivability. I think that’s going to be a huge hit for the sport as well.
So a lot to be said about that car. I actually really like the name, G6. That’s pretty cool. I don’t know who thought of that one, but they deserve a pat on the back.
Q. I believe you’re going to be in the Thanksgiving parade here in Detroit on Thursday. Could you give me some details on that?
BRAD KESELOWSKI: Yeah, well we’re working those details out right now. But certainly that all came together with Bud Denker and some of the Penske Corp staff. I think everybody knows that Roger Penske and his team are committed to the city of Detroit. It feels great to be able to bring a Sprint Cup Championship home to that area, and I’m looking forward to celebrating it. The actual logistics of it yet I’ve been so busy I haven’t been able to keep up on it, but I trust those guys have it figured out.
And I’m looking forward to coming back home and spending some time with friends and family that have made it possible for me to be where I’m at.
Q. I believe you might be in the back seat of a 2013 Ford Mustang convertible.
BRAD KESELOWSKI: That sounds good too. That sounds great. I’ll enjoy whatever opportunity there may be.
Q. How’s your head right now, everything good?
BRAD KESELOWSKI: Yeah, I’m doing really well. A few people were commenting on that, but it’s been a good couple of days. I’m certainly a little tired, but that just means we’ve been working hard and we’re going to enjoy this vacation when it comes up.
Q. You’re quite the celebrity now on Good Morning America and David Letterman, have you got something for David, because I know he’ll be setting a trap for you.
BRAD KESELOWSKI: Oh, I’m sure he will. I’m going to be there in about five minutes. Maybe I might set a trap for him, who knows.
Q. My question is about you growing up in racing. Before you got the deal with JR Motorsports, it’s not like you had been driving the best equipment before that, and even before that, you were driving for your dad where you guy his to really take care of your stuff. How much did that experience and learning how to take care of the race car help you once you started getting into those premier rides like with Junior and Penske?
BRAD KESELOWSKI: Well, I think it was both to the betterment and to the detriment. For the betterment to the standpoint it was the ability to drive the car like Dale Jr.’s and respect the situation, and respect the crew members and the role that they have every day to make sure you have the best possible car. When you respect them, they tend to respect you back, and things just go in a positive direction.
To the detriment was the fact that I felt like I could have taken more chances if I had been a little less influenced by my upbringing, and maybe my career would have taken off a little faster. It’s hard to really know that balance. It ended up all working out in the end.
Q. After a rough rookie season your first year with Penske in the Cup series, you really came back in 2011 and set up this championship season run in a pretty big way. Was there ever a point during that time where maybe the light switch went off and you got what you needed to do to win the championship, or was it more of a progression with all of the things had you learned?
BRAD KESELOWSKI: I had a pretty good idea what we needed to do to win the championship at the end of last year to be quite honest. We didn’t quite execute as strongly as we needed to. We finished strong and finished fifth in the points, but that process was certainly a learning process. I think we applied some of those lessons to 2012.
Q. Has the whole championship kind of sunk in yet in terms of being able to embrace the magnitude of the accomplishment, or are you still in that whirlwind celebration thing going on?
BRAD KESELOWSKI: I think I’m still in the whirlwind part. It will sink in when I get home and get to catch up with everything that’s going on. I haven’t had that opportunity yet, but I’m looking forward to it.
Q. What’s been the best since we last saw you? We last saw you at the media center there, what has been the best part of the aftermath?
BRAD KESELOWSKI: I would say the party Sunday night, for sure. My crew guys were certainly all pumped up and I was glad to be there with them.
Q. Since I cover Pocono Raceway, I want to take you back, if you would, to the win you had there last year at Pocono. Was there anything in particular about that win that planted the seeds for this championship? Because it seems ever since that point, you really just have been on a roll, top tens, wins, et cetera, et cetera. Was there anything about that day or that win that where maybe the seeds for this championship were planted?
BRAD KESELOWSKI: I think it definitely brought us together as a team, a real solid, team building moment to where we all rallied around each other. So I think that part there was certainly very, very influential. But it takes more than just that one win to create that atmosphere, but that moment was very impactful.
Q. Do you look back at that? Because that win happened days after the crash at Road Atlanta, and do you ever look back at that moment as maybe a turning point or defining moment in your career or anything like that?
BRAD KESELOWSKI: Oh, yes, absolutely. Absolutely. It changed some of the perception we all had of each other. And I would say obviously for the better. It gave us some of that never-give-up spirit that’s helped lead us to a championship.
Q. Within the next week, the Driver of the Year committee, that is an award that’s been around since 1967, is going to vote for the annual winner. I’m sure you’re going to be a leading candidate along with Ryan Hunter-Reay and probably Antron Brown and some other NHRA folks. Are you aware of the award? What would it mean to you to get that kind of a trophy on your mantle piece?
BRAD KESELOWSKI: Yeah, it’s an award that’s been around for sometime. I think I won the quarterly last year during the summer. So those awards aren’t something that you should take lightly for sure. So it would be nice to win it. We’ve done some great things this year that I’m very proud of, along with many other drivers. I wouldn’t be ashamed to not win it, but on the flip side, it would mean a lot to me to.
Q. Do you follow the other Motorsports closely? Are you aware of the other guys out there in Formula 1 even?
BRAD KESELOWSKI: Yeah, I try to keep up with it. It’s difficult to really do that, but I try. Sometimes I’m successful, sometimes I’m not.
Q. The Sportscenter interview went pretty viral and had a lot of people enjoying it. But there seem to be a segment of people who didn’t think it was the most appropriate. And I was just curious what your — do you have any regrets or anything? Or are you fine with being criticized a little bit for being a little bit –
BRAD KESELOWSKI: Yeah, I think everybody faces their criticism no matter what you do. You’re never going to get all of the people to like something that you do. It’s not possible. Someone’s always going to dislike something you do, and you have to roll that off your shoulders and move on.
But if you’re true to yourself in the long run, those things will work themselves out. I had fun and I wanted to show that fun and enjoy it with others. I’m more thrilled that people enjoyed than I am disappointed to questioning my path because someone else didn’t like it.
Q. When you were on Sportscenter the next day, they were showing clips of it. I guess you’ve probably seen it a couple of times. When you watched it for the first or second time, was there anything that you saw that you didn’t realize maybe how it came off or how it looked?
BRAD KESELOWSKI: No. It looked like a guy that was having fun which is what I was having. I’m proud of that moment. I’m proud to be a Sprint Cup champion.
Q. I’ve been seeing reports that you’re interested in purchasing a tank as one of your championship trophies to yourself. I’m wondering how much due diligence have you done on that?
BRAD KESELOWSKI: I’ve been looking into that really all summer long. It all started with Wally Dallenbach who was telling me a story about having one. I thought, wow, that would be awesome. So obviously living where I do and being around Dale Jr., I thought it would be cool if we both got a tank and chased each other around in the woods with them. It’s kind of our deal.
I promised myself if I won it, I would buy one whether Dale does or not. It was kind of a little bit of motivation, I should say. I’m not one to really buy trophies for myself, but I think a tank would be pretty cool. I want to put one together and have some fun with it. When I’m done playing with it, I’ll just park it in the driveway and scare off people who aren’t supposed to be around. I don’t know. It will be fun either way.
Q. Have you picked out a brand yet? Or how do you go about getting one? Who is selling a tank on Ebay these days, I suppose?
BRAD KESELOWSKI: I don’t know. I haven’t found the person I want to buy it from. But I want to get something from World War II to Korea area. Something in the ’40s to mid-’50s, era.
Q. With five wins this year 13 times in the Top 5, 23 Top 10 finishes, that’s just great driving on your part. However, can you explain to the average race fan how your team of crew members spend so much of their time each week preparing your car for every single different track?
BRAD KESELOWSKI: Oh, it’s a challenge. Sometimes I don’t understand it, to be honest with you. Every track requires a different set-up. Some are similar, but what works at one place doesn’t work at another. So you have to be really smart about that and have a good approach.
I think that we have great people. They adapt and they adjust and they react. They find a way to get the set-up right for each track and get the car built right. Really, it’s more communication in competition with talented individuals that find a way to make those things happen.
Q. You leave Dodge to go to Ford. It’s a challenge and an adventure, have you got any parting words for the guys up there in Auburn Hills? They put a huge effort into the season with you and Roger and the crew. Perhaps, you know, just what you thought about that effort that they put in?
BRAD KESELOWSKI: I think it’s been a great ride, and I’m very fortunate to be a part of it. Hopefully, they’ll find their way back into NASCAR very soon, and I’m sure when they do so, they’ll be very competitive as they were to end this season. I appreciate all the support along the way and making it possible.
Q. I know you like to consume the information following the race as far as watching it back. I assume you haven’t had time to do that yet. But I guess I’m wondering how much you’ve been able to gather from what happened in the race and things that you’ve been curious about. Have you gone back through Twitter or articles to try to see how things went down when they did and get a better perspective of what happened, or have you just been too busy?
BRAD KESELOWSKI: Yeah, it’s been really busy. I got about 10 or 20% of the race figured out, but I sure would love to watch it on tape and get the rest. But I haven’t had that opportunity. I would have liked to have been more competitive than what we were at Pocono — or not Pocono, at Homestead, but unfortunately that didn’t happen. So we found a way to maximize the day.
I thought it was really important that we finish 15th, because we wouldn’t have to hear those jabs for the foreseeable future about if things wouldn’t have happened to Jimmie. That made me very proud.
Q. One more thing. Earlier in the race, Jimmie was kind of right on your tail and harassing you almost staying really close behind you. Just lap after lap you guys were really — I don’t know, it was tight racing, but it was like he wasn’t trying to pass. Do you recall that moment? Were you thinking that he was playing with you at that time?
BRAD KESELOWSKI: Yeah, we were both fooling around with each other. I ran him really hard for a little bit, and my car fell off, and then he ran me really hard for a little bit. That was a fun part of the race for me, yeah, for sure.
Q. Given the exposure of the last couple of days, what do you think this does for a brand and a partner that you have like Miller Lite?
BRAD KESELOWSKI: Well, I think obviously we’ve had a good time together. Our car has a great legacy with everything it’s done, and it’s thrilling to me to be a part of a run for the Chase let alone a championship. To win it for Dodge and Miller Lite and Roger Penske and all these guys who have such a great story to tell, makes it that much sweeter, so to speak.
For Miller, in particular, to get that first win for them as a championship and to know they’re committed to being a part of this program for years to come, it’s a great time in our lives and it’s great to be partnered with a brand that is so authentic to the sport.