This is Brad’s fourth win of the season. That leads everyone in the series. It’s his 14th Sprint Cup Series win. It’s his first win at Richmond.
Brad, congratulations not only on this win tonight, but you are the number one seed in the Chase grid. Talk about not only the victory tonight, but as you embark on trying to win your second championship. You’re leading the pack as we head to Chicagoland.
BRAD KESELOWSKI: It was just a phenomenal night for our team here and everyone at Team Penske. Car was fast. Pit crew was flawless. We put all the pieces together tonight.
The tire change was a huge challenge for all the teams tonight. That challenge created an opportunity. Our team just really struck and hit it hard. I’m very proud of our effort tonight.
I’m very proud of the result that comes from a win and what it means to the bigger picture of having the first seed entering the Chase. That’s really something. We want to keep that going as we get through this next 10 weeks.
KERRY THARP: Let’s hear from crew chief Paul Wolfe.
This race team has certainly asserted itself as being one to beat. Maybe just talk about not only this win tonight, but being the number one seed.
PAUL WOLFE: Yeah, it definitely is. This team has shown a lot of speed all year long. There’s been some races over the summer months where I feel like we didn’t put all the pieces together, like Brad said. We had some other dominating performances, but we had races where we felt like we had a shot to win and we made mistakes or didn’t put all the pieces together right.
Last week I told Brad obviously it was going to be important that we have the speed in our cars, but we have to be able to execute. To be able to come to Richmond tonight and do that, the race before the Chase starts, says a lot about what we’re capable of and what our team can do as we get into the Chase.
So proud of the effort and proud of all the hard work going on. We’ve been pushing the whole company, all the guys back at the shop, to continue to make our racecars better. They’ve responded to that. We’ve been able to bring cars to the track that can perform like they did tonight.
Hats off to all those guys. It’s exciting to be able to get win 400 for the boss. We’re just a small part of those wins, but I’m glad we could be a part of it.
KERRY THARP: Roger, congratulations on this win tonight, also on the excellent season that you have had at Team Penske.
Brad is the top seed. Joey is the fifth seed. Both are contenders. Talk about this season so far and your outlook as you head to Chicagoland.
ROGER PENSKE: First, I want to congratulate Brad and Paul. Obviously tonight was a dominating run. It shows when we do get things together, the performance we have on a team. We also have to think about Brad last year, how he bounced back. He was down maybe last year, but came back this season. He’s been outstanding.
I give him a lot of credit because he’s pushing the team, he’s pushing Paul. He and Joey together, they’re working each other, trying to find the speed in the cars.
This last week, when you think about California, the IndyCar championship, come back here this weekend, getting our 400th win, have to thank this guy. Told me before the race started, I’m going to get you 400.
For me it’s a special time. To compete at the level we are, it’s so close, this thing can go any way. To me, pit stops are important. We obviously have put a lot of effort into that.
I’d say tonight, Paul, we executed in that area, but you’re going to have to execute in that last pit stop in Homestead.
We take this in stride. Obviously being the top seed is a tremendous effort for the team and certainly puts us in a great place. But we’re not blind. We know there’s plenty of guys out there that beat us, they’re going to want to. What we have to do is stay on course.
Q. Roger, you’ve already got the IndyCar championship in hand. You finished 1-2 there. You’re so strong here. Is this the first time that you’ve ever been so strong in both series with the championship possibilities there? If so, what has having both teams in one location played in that?
ROGER PENSKE: I think we said that when we moved everybody under one roof where we could cross-pollenize. We moved people from NASCAR to IndyCar and vice versa, even over-the-wall guys. That’s been an opportunity. I think we wanted to be one team. We were north, south. At the end of the day Tim Cindric said, Let’s put them all together. It’s made a big difference.
We had a chance in 2012. This is a real effort for us. Obviously I’m thinking about that, but I know we’ve got to get to Chicago and get on with it.
Q. Not too long ago you mentioned everybody was chasing the Hendrick cars. You have one more victory than those guys. Where do you think you stand heading into the Chase now?
BRAD KESELOWSKI: It’s an interesting layout for the next 10 races. All the teams have different strengths and weaknesses. Over the summer stretch there were certainly some tracks in their wheelhouse. I think we have a lot of tracks coming up that are in ours over the next few weeks.
It’s really hard to say. It seems like everybody seems to find another level when it comes time for the Chase. There could be somebody out there sleeping. I think the Gibbs cars have been performing really well, at least at Atlanta and the weeks prior to that. They could certainly be an issue and a threat as well.
Over the summer stretch, I thought we were a little bit behind, but boy did we nail it right here tonight. That’s part of the fun.
I don’t know. Nobody knows. I do know we have different strengths and weaknesses. As to which ones are the strengths you need to have and which ones are the weaknesses you can get away with or vice versa, time will tell.
Q. Brad, can you compare where you were in 2012 as you started the Chase to where you are now starting the Chase?
BRAD KESELOWSKI: I think we’re a lot stronger right now personally. I think we’ve been a threat to win more races. We have one more race win than what we did entering the Chase in 2012.
I feel more experienced and more confident. I feel like from a teammate standpoint, we have a very strong teammate. Having a great teammate isn’t so much about the days where things are going your way; it’s about the days and weekends when things aren’t going your way, having someone else to lean on and find your sanity back.
We certainly had some of those days in 2012. We have a teammate and a scenario there across the board where that team has gotten very, very strong and is part of our success.
I think for a lot of reasons. I could go on forever. I’m sure I’m leaving some things out, that’s not because they don’t exist, but I feel stronger than what we’ve ever been.
Q. Paul, did you just hit a home run yesterday during practice and qualifying that made your race so good tonight?
PAUL WOLFE: Well, I don’t know. It seems that way. But we kind of approached the weekend like we do every other weekend.
We felt good about our car. Then to show the strength we had in qualifying was nice, but still weren’t 100% sure what we had for the race tonight.
Richmond is a tricky racetrack. Trying to find that setup for a short run versus a long run is two totally different setups sometimes. I guess trying to find that happy medium there, because you don’t always know how the race is going to play out. We’ve worked hard at that. In the past we’ve had pretty good short-run speed cars, but we feel we’re weak as longer runs go on.
We tried different things this year to make that a little bit better. I think we’ve gone in the right direction. Once we got the first adjustment there on the first pit stop, then I felt like we were real close, then it was just fine tuning from there.
Q. Brad gets to rest for a day or two before everything gets intense for him. What about you, when does the intensity start for you to make sure that the next 10 races are the best you can possibly do?
PAUL WOLFE: I’m pretty even-keeled, if you haven’t noticed. I don’t know that I change a whole lot. I’m always intense. I plan to be the same way.
We’ve tried to do a good job with all our guys and give them some time and rest, as we know these last 10 races are important. We’ve still got quite a bit of testing coming up.
The way we’re structured back at the shop and the work that those guys do preparing the racecars, it allows us to give the road guys, the guys that travel every week and work on the car, their time to keep them well-rested.
But for me, I’m always thinking about racecars and ways to do it, whether I’m at the racetrack or sitting at the house. So I’m ready to go do this. I believe we can get it done.
Q. Brad, can you tell us what went through your mind when the fence climber did his little thing up there and stopped the proceedings.
BRAD KESELOWSKI: Oh, really? I didn’t know that. Sorry. My bad. Somebody climbed the fence?
Q. All the way to the top.
BRAD KESELOWSKI: The Miller Lite was working. That’s my reaction: Wow! That’s something. Wonder if he got a selfie.
Q. Roger, can you reflect on the 400 wins.
ROGER PENSKE: Well, when I think about it, I think about drivers, the team members, all the people at Team Penske over the years that have executed and continued to pull in the right direction.
We’ve had some world-class drivers. Certainly when I sit here with Paul and Brad and Joey here this weekend, I think this demonstrates how lucky we are to be able to attract this type of talent on our team.
400 wins took a long time. I remember when we tried to get to 200, we got stuck for a long time. As we learn more and more about getting the right talent, continuity having the same people week in and week out.
That’s why Hendrick is so strong, you look at them year after year after year, they know how to execute. I take my hat off to Mike Nelson, certainly today when you think about Travis Geisler and Tim Cindric, these people have been with us for a long time. We’ve grown our people, and that’s what it takes.
Brad came onboard. He wasn’t sure what he was getting into. You can see what he’s been able to produce. When you look back, Mark Donohue, Rick Mears, Bobby Unser, you look at the group over time, every one of them has made a big difference in the company.
Q. Brad, for seven years Ford hadn’t won here. Now they’ve won three in a row. What does that say about Ford coming along and how you are finding success?
BRAD KESELOWSKI: Well, I was thinking after I answered the question about our strengths, where we stack from where we’ve been in years past, I think they’re a large part of our strength.
Their commitment level to our effort at Team Penske, their continuous support, is part of why we’re here where we’re at.
I think they’ve got a long runway, a group of leadership right now that really, really is passionate about racing. That’s what it takes to be successful. That’s why we’re proud to be a part of their family, proud to be associated with them.
I think with that passion at the top level of Ford, how it resonates its way down to the race teams, I would look for more success to come.