This is Brad’s third victory of the 2014 season and his first here at New Hampshire Motor Speedway. Brad, tell us about your race today.
BRAD KESELOWSKI: Where do I start? The team was just really on it today. It really feels like we hit our stride, and I’m kind of quiet and somber because I want to soak it all in. I don’t want this moment to go away so quick. Seems like you get in victory lane and you’re rushed around left and right you don’t really get a chance to soak it in. This was just such a phenomenal weekend, and these don’t happen that often, and that’s what makes it special, and you try to appreciate them and enjoy them and hope that there’s more but not count on it, because these are big deals, winning races at the Sprint Cup level, sweeping a weekend, and it’s all possible because of the hard work and effort from everyone at Team Penske.
I can drive the heck out of a car, but you can only do so much. You’ve got to have a good horse, and we had that today. I’m just really, really thankful and happy with the form we have.
TOM BRYANT: We’re also joined by the crew chief of the No. 2, Mr. Paul Wolfe. Talk about your strategy for today’s race.
PAUL WOLFE: Yeah, well, it was definitely a tough Cup call for us all day. When you have cars like we did today, it’s almost like your competition is always going to do the opposite of what you do, and that kind of happened the first stop when we went with four and everyone did two. Really not sure how that was going to all work out and unfold, but I think it was within 10 laps we were back in the lead.
From that point, I felt pretty good about the strength of our car and what Brad was able to do moving through traffic. I think from that point on, it kind of seemed to make it a little easier to make decisions when we come down pit road, and we kind of had a plan before the race of what we felt like we wanted to do tire wise, and we stuck with it today. I guess it probably could have went either way with as good as our car was, but we stuck with our plan, and it worked out.
TOM BRYANT: We’re joined by the owner of the No. 2, Mr. Roger Penske. Sir, this is Ford’s fourth-consecutive win, the longest streak since 2001. Can you talk a little bit about that, please?
ROGER PENSKE: Well, great. It’s certainly – I want to thank Brad and Paul for just an outstanding weekend. I missed Kentucky and didn’t get a chance to see the dominant Ford Fusion during that race. But for the weekends, certainly Saturday yesterday in the Nationwide for Ford and again today, we made the move when Dodge decided to exit the sport and came with Ford, and they’ve been nothing but supportive from an engineering standpoint, and the whole management team, Mark Fields all the way down, is just really behind this program, and that makes a big difference.
They want us to win, and they want to give us what we need to win, and I’d have to say that you couldn’t ask for a better weekend. Ironically I’ve already gotten four or five emails from the top people at Ford. They’re watching it every day. Their dealers are watching it, and to me that makes the difference.
We’re excited, and Paul, great calls today. Watching Brad today, and I got to see it from up on top. At the end of the day you can’t have a great car if you don’t have the best driver, and I can tell you today there was nobody that could beat him, and it was just great execution from everybody.
Q. Brad, when you have a good car like you do today, even if you lose track position, how awesome was it to know even if you went from first to sixth that you could pass those guys that took two tires?
BRAD KESELOWSKI: Well, I knew we had a great car, and you don’t take it for granted. I think someone else asked me the same question, when you kept falling back in the pack did you think it was going to be easy pickings to get up there? No, I didn’t. I knew it was going to be tough. It seemed like each and every time, it kept getting a little harder, guys keep working on their cars getting a little bit better. From our perspective our car was so fast you hate to do anything do it because something could happen. That was kind of how I was feeling about it, but thankfully we were able to get back up there and make the most of it.
Q. After the struggles you guys had last year when you didn’t get your first win until Charlotte in the fall, how gratifying is this season so far knowing you’ve got three wins and right now you’re sitting atop the points lead in the Chase Grid?
BRAD KESELOWSKI: Yeah, it’s gratifying in a lot of ways. I don’t think it’s just that we have three wins. I think that it’s that we’re leading laps. I think we were fast last year at this time, but we weren’t executing. This year we’re executing which is really important, as well, and we have a lot of momentum and I think we have a lot of potential still left in our team that we’ve got to keep working to get to because everybody is going to turn it up a notch when the Chase comes, and we know that, and we need to have another gear to grab to be able to run for a championship here in 2014.
I think we’re close, but I want to keep pushing, and I’m committed to getting another championship. I know Roger and Paul sitting next to me are committed to it, and we want to make it happen. It’s a good feeling for sure.
Q. Following up on that, you’ve talked a lot recently about how you feel like the team is back in 2012 form, and given Hendrick’s struggles today and the way you guys performed, does it feel a little bit like it’s starting to be like two years ago again when you guys were that strong?
BRAD KESELOWSKI: I think in a lot of ways we’re stronger than that. I don’t think we’ve had this much speed before. We had tremendous speed today, and I think there’s potential left, like I said, with different things. So that’s all very encouraging to me. I feel like I’m in a really strong rhythm right now. I think some of last year’s struggles put me in a spot to work harder and become a better race car driver, and I think we’re combining all those things and we’re seeing the fruits of that labor with, like I said, more to come.
Q. For you and Paul, usually when we monitor team radios we hear teams talking about taking two tires or four tires. You guys apparently take Jack or MGD or Miller Lite or Redd. I was wondering if you could edify those of us that don’t have No. 2 decoder rings on what you guys were doing on those stops and why you are doing it?
BRAD KESELOWSKI: We would, but Roger would have to kill you. He likes to run fast, and it’s just part of the game. We don’t want to get caught behind, and when you’re fast everybody is trying to beat you and they want to know what you’re doing, so we don’t want them to know that.
Q. How many of those do you have?
BRAD KESELOWSKI: Enough.
ROGER PENSKE: A six-pack.
BRAD KESELOWSKI: Dang, he’s good. (Laughter.)
Q. Brad, for those of us who didn’t get out there, was your victory celebration as flawless as your race today?
BRAD KESELOWSKI: Yeah, I don’t have any new cuts, so that’s good. Apparently I’ve got to win more and I’ll get better at it.
Q. Did you handle the lobster?
BRAD KESELOWSKI: We did. I think everybody got to hold the lobster and we’re looking forward to eating the lobster later this week. I hear they’re going to overnight the meat.
Q. You deserve a weekend off, but after a dominating weekend like this, does it take anything away as you head into the Brickyard?
BRAD KESELOWSKI: I think there’s a lot of different ways you can look at that. That’s kind of a glass half empty or half full, however you want to take that type of question. I think in racing, taking the positive outlook on it, we’re on the go so much that when you do have some success, maybe with the exception of the championship, you really don’t get any time to enjoy it. Three, four days later you’re back to the next track, and in between that you’re really doing media and other commitments.
For me personally, I know for the team, to have a couple of days, I think about eight days to really soak it in before we head off to Indy, I think that’s a real pleasure for us and something that we can enjoy, and then obviously a little bit of rest is never a bad thing. We’ve been hitting it pretty hard, as well.
I think that’s kind of the glass-half-full outlook. At least that’s how I look at it.
Q. You guys have the dominating weekend this weekend, you didn’t test. Hendrick Motorsports burned one of its four tests this weekend, still couldn’t beat you. Childress tested, MWR tested, Ganassi tested. In the game of this sport with being able to beat somebody like you guys did that had to burn a test, how significant can that be or how significant is that because you didn’t have to use a test this weekend and you still knocked everybody’s tail?
BRAD KESELOWSKI: Well, I don’t think it’s a test guarantees success. It just maybe highers your probability. We tested here last year. I thought we had a great test, and I thought we had great cars, and things just didn’t come together for us, whether it was execution, strategy, whatever it might have been.
So testing just increases your probability, but it’s never a guarantee. But you know, going back, I would have definitely wanted to have that test. I wouldn’t have turned it down. So in that respect, who knows, maybe they’ll come here in September and clean house with what they’ve learned.
I don’t think it’s fair to really evaluate that off of just today. I think in a broader picture those things work themselves out.
Q. Was the four-tire pit strategy borne from any concerns you had about the track and its condition at the end of the Nationwide race? And two, when you went to two tires, it seems like you were really on it and made up a huge gain on even the first corner going from ninth to fifth on the restart. Can you talk about that jump through the race when you felt like there was a sense of urgency kind of coursing through everybody?
BRAD KESELOWSKI: Well, as the races come towards the end, there’s always a sense of urgency, but I think Loudon has seen kind of an increase in that. There’s always different strategies: No tires, two tires, four tires. We saw Kyle Larson one run didn’t take any tires, and we had four. Heck, it took us 10, 15 laps just to get to him, trying to clear through the dirty air and traffic that is part of the struggles here at Loudon, but I think that’s part of why the racing is so good here, and I think looking at it, you saw the restarts two, three wide. I think I was four wide at one time with someone. I think that’s really fun to do, and I hope it’s fun to watch because it sure is from my seat.
But I think that’s part of the fun, and our strategy was obviously not the same as everyone else, but it worked out, and I’m not really looking back.
Q. Did your car handle different on the two tires or four tires?
BRAD KESELOWSKI: The cars always handle a little bit worse when they don’t have new tires. Loudon has a lot of tire wear, and four tires were definitely a pretty good handling advantage.
Q. You ran the Redd’s Apple Ale car and you won and you also dominated Pocono and almost won. Are you going to run the Redd’s Apple Ale car more often?
BRAD KESELOWSKI: Yeah, you should talk to their marketing guy. It’s been good for us so far. I kind of feel like I let Pocono get away. In that sense, let’s keep running it. Maybe we’ll save it for the Chase.
Q. Roger, you’ve been in the sport a long time, had a guy out there running second today that was involved in an accident with somebody that some people say doesn’t need to be out there because of his age. When that incident occurred, what was going through your mind?
ROGER PENSKE: Well, you know, Morgan is a good friend of everybody in the garage area. He’s a good friend of mine. We’ve tried to support him. Obviously he was not doing anything out there that he expected to have someone in an accident with him. I told Joey, look, you can’t go back and fix it. Obviously you saw when Brad up to him later in the race, he slowed down to get everybody by him. Look, you’re in the race. He’s a guy, and that’s the great thing about the sport, that if you want to tee it up here and bring your car and have a team, we let them run, so I don’t feel bad about it other than the fact that Joey got knocked out. I think we had a real good car there. He was running second at that time, and obviously at that point you say damn, but at the end of the day, we’ve got to move on.
Q. Roger, Kentucky you were very confident in your race car. You predicted that Brad would win the race. Were you that confident this weekend?
ROGER PENSKE: I’m not sure when I said he would win the race. I never know that so I don’t know when we were talking about that. I watched him yesterday. I think the fact that he takes the time and effort to run on Saturday, I think that gets him in a rhythm. He’s proven that way time and time again, he and Joey and obviously with Ryan Blaney, but he said he had a good car, but we’ve had good cars before, we thought, we got in the race and we didn’t execute. But today I think the four-tire stops were the right way to go. We were really on the cautious side rather than trying to hang it out as Paul said. We did one thing, they did something different. I would say when you look at the restarts today and look where that 2 car was and what they did in the first two or three laps, that shows you how strong the car was and how good the driver was.
Q. Brad, a couple times this weekend and recently, you’ve kind of gone out of your way to say how much you appreciate the opportunity you’ve had, the team that you’re with, the cars that you get to drive. I just wondered is that a conscious fact? Are you kind of going out of your way to try to make sure maybe you didn’t appreciate it along the way or recognize it the last time, or is it just the way you feel about this team this season?
BRAD KESELOWSKI: Yeah, I don’t know. I really don’t know how to answer that one. You know, racing is a bit of a roller coaster and up and down, and we’ve been on the high end a lot. Certainly we are this year. We haven’t been on the low end, but we’ve been very close to having a lot of wins this year that just didn’t come together. It’s enough to make you look around and just say, you know, or think, what am I doing wrong and where are we at, and then you think about that stuff and realize that sometimes that’s just the breaks. Sometimes that’s just how the sport works.
I think in that regard it makes you certainly appreciate when things do come together. I think I’m probably in a better place personally than I’ve ever been, which is a reflection of that and why I enjoy it so much more, and it means more to me, so I think there’s a lot of things there. I’m not really sure that it’s fair for me to sum it up at this point. Sometimes when you’re inside the fire, you don’t know how to tell the smoke from the trees, right? But probably when I have a chance to look back on it years from now, I’ll look at it and say what a good time this has been, and that’s kind of what I’m thinking right now.
Q. Why did the owners feel this was the right time to form an RTA and what do you hope to get out of it?
ROGER PENSKE: Earlier today someone asked me about the RTA, and I said it’s very simple. I support it 100 percent, and Rob Kauffman what he said I think communicates the message for all the owners.
Q. But why now? Was this something that triggered it?
ROGER PENSKE: Really Rob has made the comments in reference to RTA. I don’t really have any other comments.
Q. Brad, a month ago at Michigan you mentioned that Hendrick was probably about a season ahead of everybody in terms of engine power and everything, and I mentioned that to Jeff Gordon after the race today and he kind of laughed it off and said that you were full of crap. Has your stance changed on that at all given your recent success?
BRAD KESELOWSKI: I don’t know, he was pretty hard to pass off the corner, I can tell you that. We certainly had our handling right today, and I would still say that we have some work to do to keep up with them in that department. Today the engine was important, but not to the extreme of what we’ve seen at Michigan, Kansas and those type of racetracks. I think in that regard we were able to overcome that.
Q. Yesterday you said that yesterday’s race was one of the harder races that you’ve ever had to run. How difficult was today’s race given coming through the field and with the premium placed on track position?
BRAD KESELOWSKI: Yeah, this might only be a 301-lap race but it felt like a 1,000-lap race. Every yellow kept coming with I think 40 laps on tires, which put the field in a position to take two, to take none, to take four, and no matter what call we made, it was going to be a struggle, and that’s always frustrating because there was no right or wrong call, I guess, and that’s really tough on Paul.
And then the yellow comes out while we’re leading the race and dominating with two to go, and you’re like, geez, can I just catch a break? And that stuff wears on you mentally, and yeah, it did feel like a very long race. But when you get into victory lane and all that stuff starts to wear off and you can soak in what’s gone on and you’re able to close it out, you know, it is what it is and you get through it.
Q. I’ve heard a lot this weekend about how tough it is to pass here. You made passing and pretty much everything else look easy today, but for you and Paul really, how important was it to not just beat those other 42 drivers but kind of beat the track and have it figured out out there and how can you carry that into the Chase?
PAUL WOLFE: Well, it’s always tough. We’ve come up here now for a few years, and we’ve had good race cars and been able to get top-five finishes and not get that win, and I think, like you said, the difference this weekend was we didn’t need track position to get a good finish out of it, as we’ve shown when we lined up eighth, ninth, tenth, it really didn’t matter. We were able to pass cars, and that obviously was key to our success.
But it’s just a lot of things have changed this year. It’s a whole new package with these cars, and trying to understand that and continue to develop that, you know, obviously it’s great. We didn’t have to use a test and were able to come here and have the success we did, but I feel like by the time we come back here in the Chase that we’ll have developed and learned so much more about these new rules that probably the setup we ran today won’t be as successful as it was today, in September.
With that being said, we need to keep doing what we’ve done this year, and that’s not only work hard but smart. Everyone in this garage works hard. That’s what it takes to compete at this level. But you have to work smart, too, and right now all the guys at Team Penske have been doing a great job with that, and we’re going to keep pushing and keep the pressure on everyone to finish through the summer here.
Q. Roger, the end of the 2012 season you changed manufacturers. How have you felt about your Cup team’s performance since the switch?
ROGER PENSKE: Well, I think that obviously with Dodge we had great success in 2012. We had been working with that car and that manufacturer for probably a dozen years if I go back, many years, so the switch was obviously new. We had to understand the aerodynamics, the new package, obviously putting together an engine program with Roush Yates where we were not the ones that made the calls every day, was important to us. But I’d have to say that from the top to bottom in management at the Ford Motor Company, Edsel Ford obviously a great friend of mine and was very instrumental in getting us to come over to Ford. And just Mark Fields, now the new CEO, and Alan Mulally, all these guys have put their hands out and said that we’d love you to join the Ford camp, which we’ve done, and I’d have to say that it’s been a great move. Obviously you’ve got with Toyota and Chevrolet, we know those people. They’re great competitors, but to me I think we’re in the right place. We have a team that is working together, I think is very transparent with Ford what we’re doing, and at the end of the day, I’d have to say it was the right move.
Q. Paul, this may be overly simplistic, but when you have a car that is as strong as it was today, how easy or difficult is it to basically just call for four tires a lot of times? I know speed, when you have speed you can dictate things, and that kind you puts you in maybe a safer zone as opposed to the gambling. How much of a calculated gambling was this, or was this in essence an easy day on the box because of that?
PAUL WOLFE: I think that’s a good question, and it’s tough making those calls every weekend, and like I said, after the first stop when we were on four and guys were on two and were able to see the strength we had, I don’t know that it’s ever easy, but it does ease your mind a little bit when you get buried back in the field knowing that as good a car as we had that if we could stay out of trouble and have a clean couple laps we would eventually be able to work our way back to the front.
So I guess from that point, it definitely makes it a little easier to know that we’re on a different strategy than the guys we’re racing, but at that point when you’re in situations like this, the guys around you are going to, a lot of times, do a different strategy than you do just because that’s their only hope of beating you when you have a car like we did and performance like we did today.