Ford Performance NASCAR: Michigan 1 (Brad Keselowski Media Availability)

Ford PR

Ford Notes and Quotes

Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series (MENCS)

Firekeepers Casino 400 (Michigan International Speedway; Brooklyn, MI)

Friday, June 8, 2018

Page 1


Brad Keselowski, driver of the No. 2 Miller Lite Ford Fusion, met with media members after the opening Cup practice session of the weekend at Michigan.


BRAD KESELOWSKI, No. 2 Miller Lite Ford Fusion — YOU SPENT YESTERDAY HOSTING YOUR CHARITY EVENT HERE IN MICHIGAN, CAN YOU TELL US ABOUT THAT? “I am glad to be back in Michigan. It is always a highlight to my year to be here and get to race in my home community. I think a lot of drivers do some great charitable acts and certainly I don’t want to claim to be my only one. We are glad to have our charitable event here this year with my Checkered Flag Foundation up in Dryden which is just north of where I am from up in Rochester, the Rochester Hills area. We had a great time raising funds to help the Fisher House Foundation build a Fisher House building for veterans and their families here in Ann Arbor, close to where we are at here at the race track. That is something we are really committed to doing and hopeful to see that come to fruition. We had a lot of fun at the fundraiser. It was a fun fundraiser. A lot of times fundraisers aren’t a lot of fun. It was a fun experience for me and everyone involved. A great way to engage the community and some of our veterans and hopefully make that happen for this community. It is a cause near and dear to my heart for a lot of reasons and we were able to put a dent in the funding. It has been a good start to the week.”


SONOMA IS COMING UP NEXT AND THERE ARE NOW THREE ROAD COURSE RACES SO HOW MUCH IMPACT DOES THAT HAVE ON YOUR ROAD COURSE PROGRAM AS A TEAM? “That is a good question. I think looking at Sonoma, it is a track where we have struggled a little bit but had our best run there ever last year, led a bunch of laps and finished third. We have a lot of confidence going into that race. Every one of the road courses on the schedule are drastically different in what it takes to get around them. Sonoma is really a finesse track. You have to take care of tires. There are a lot of elevation changes and it is slow. It is a unique track. Then you look at The Glen, which is really fast. 195 mph with big braking zones and lots of banking. It is a road course dream to me. The challenges there are a lot different. You aren’t looking to take care of the tires as much as you are looking to out brake guys into the corner and turn in the middle of the corner. Then you look at the Roval in Charlotte and I would call that a road course and with respect to that, that race is going to be pure survival. Every corner is very treacherous. I think they have had two or three test sessions there and every single car has wrecked so far. That is going to be a huge challenge just to survive. I think they are three different challenges and because of that I don’t know if we will put more emphasis on the road courses because there is not a lot of carryover between the three as to what will benefit your race team. With the Roval being in the playoffs, we will participate in the test coming up in a few weeks and try to figure out what it will take to survive that race.”



YOUR COMMENTS THIS WEEK ABOUT THE TIRE THAT WAS SELECTED HERE FOR THIS WEEKEND WAS TALKED ABOUT A LOT. DID YOU THINK ABOUT THAT BEFORE YOU SAID IT THAT IT WOULD MAKE AN IMPACT AND YOU WANTED TO SEND A MESSAGE? WHAT WAS YOUR PHILOSOPHY WITH THE COMMENTS? “I just didn’t like my name on the press release. I like Greg Stucker and Goodyear a lot but I didn’t like my name on the press release because I felt it was an endorsement to something that I didn’t endorse. I didn’t endorse the decision to bring this tire here and I didn’t want my name attached to that. I would say that with respect to that, that is the guiding light. Tire testing is always interesting because it is such a balance between it being a free test for the teams, free with reference to NASCAR allowing you to come. Obviously we still have to pay to bring the cars here and the engines and the travel and all that stuff. They are very valuable tests. Our team chose Michigan because we have been so close to winning here and it would mean so much to me to win here that we didn’t want to miss out on the opportunity. That said, tire testing is also very dangerous. I was at Kansas in 2012 and watched Dale Jr. hit the wall and probably shortened his career because of it. At a tire test. That weighs on your mind. Michigan is the fastest track on the circuit and it goes without saying that if you blow a tire here and wreck at 220 mph it is going to hurt and shorten your career as a driver. But you are willing to take those risks and go out on a limb as a competitor. That is the risk you signed up for. But you hope along the way that you gain the knowledge and feedback for the team to improve and be better with those efforts and with those risks. You hope that you are able to assist Goodyear in bringing back a tire compound that is best for the sport. I am of the opinion they didn’t choose what my recommendation was for what was best for the sport, or any of the other drivers that were here. That is their decision. That is their choice. With respect to that, I don’t want my name attached to endorsing that decision. That was my thought behind that.”


DO YOU THINK YOUR NAME ON THE RELEASE AS BEING THERE IS AN ENDORSEMENT? “I think there are assumptions made that if a tire comes back to a race track after a tires test and certain drivers tested it that they were responsible for the decision. I think that is a fair assumption that most people would make. Whether that is fair or not, I just want to clarify that that was not the case.”


IT WAS TOLD TO ME THAT THE DRIVERS DON’T HAVE A VOTE ON A TIRE BUT THAT YOU ARE A PART OF THE DATA THAT IS SUBMITTED. WHAT ROLE SHOULD THE DRIVER PLAY? “That is an interesting question. Of course you want to feel like anyone else in their job that if you put a lot of effort in and have your boots on the ground, you would like to think that your boss or those above you would listen to you when you have your boots on the ground. When they don’t, you get a little disappointed. I think that is probably not fair for me to answer the exact methodology but going back to what I said earlier, I like Greg, I like Goodyear, I think they made the wrong decision this week. It is what it is. We are here and we will get through the race and hopefully everything will be fine.”


WHAT IS YOUR CURRENT THINKING ON THE DIRECTION NASCAR IS GOING IN RESPECT TO THE ALL-STAR PACKAGE BEING USED AT OTHER RACES THIS YEAR? “I think they are in the process of that and I don’t think it is concluded. In fairness to NASCAR, they deserve the time to do that. I haven’t had a chance to speak with them about it. I was supposed to have that chance tonight and I had to cancel due to some sponsor commitments which is unfortunate. In general, I think credit to Marcus Smith and SMI. They found a great package for the All-Star race. I think that package needs to remain solely at the All-Star race. I think a lot of the drivers in this sport are in a position where they chose Cup racing because of the demands that the cars take to drive. I think there are a lot of fans that come to our races expecting to see the best drivers. I think if you put a package like this out there, like we had at the All-Star race on a consistent basis that the best drivers in the world will no longer go to NASCAR. They will pick a different sport. That won’t happen overnight. It would happen over time and be a tragedy to the sport. They want to go where they can make the biggest different to their performance and there is no doubt that the driver makes less of a difference with that rules package. With respect to that, I am thankful that it improved the show and watchability for the All-Star race. Those are important things to do. But I think we should always be mindful of our responsibility as a sport to make sure the best drivers are able to showcase their talent. I am apprehensive that coming with a package like that on a larger scale for the sport will in time deteriorate the ability for the drivers to make a difference and they will look for other racing venues to achieve that. It is a very interesting tradeoff. I think of the three things that I like to see at a race and I think of fast cars, the best race car drivers and a great finish. Those are the three things I want to see. I think that package achieved one of those things and hurt the other two. In that sense, I consider it a net loss overall. I know it is a tough question for NASCAR to really wrap their heads around and a tough question for us to wrap our heads around. I saw the fan videos of people in Charlotte standing on their feet. Part of that is the legacy that the sport has to have the best drivers but I think over time that would deteriorate. I think we have see that with IndyCar. I think a decade ago if you wanted to see the best racing in the world it was in IndyCar. They ran three and four-wide and put on great shows but long term it didn’t translate to the fans or better ratings than NASCAR. There are a lot of reasons for that and I would speculate that it goes back to the fact that the best race car drivers in the world were here, in NASCAR. And we saw that when IndyCar drivers came over here and didn’t find success. And they were some of the best IndyCar drivers. We have to tread very lightly with the next steps of this sport. I like the idea of picking one or two races and running that package. I think that makes sense. But if we overdose on that particular format of racing, it will have in my opinion a severe long-term negative effect. It is an interesting equation to watch play out. We are all watching together and I think we all have a role, from the media to drivers to fans. I think long term, if you want to know what the All-Star package would look like if it was ran in NASCAR full time, look no further than IndyCar. They have already proved it and had great racing, a number of fatalities associated with that racing that was unfortunate and a short, unsustainable boost in their fans for those races when they first went to those packages, and then it trailed off. With respect to that, I think that if I was forecasting the future, that is how I see it. But I don’t’ know what decision NASCAR will make. It is their decision. All I can do is give my input and at this time, those are my strongest thoughts.”


ARE MARTIN, KYLE AND KEVIN THE THREE MOST TALENTED DRIVERS RIGHT NOW? “They are very talented. I would say that if I look at the top 10-15 drivers, year over year, they are all pretty close. I think there is a reason why they are all there. I think talent definitely makes a difference in Cup but it is a balance right now. It isn’t all talent. Car matters. If I win Sunday I will be the first to come up here and tell you I had a great race car. It takes all those things together. I think there is a decent mix of talent versus engineering and cars, etc. in the sport right now. It is the ingredients of a cake. It isn’t all flour or all sugar. I think that the mix is constantly changing. I would say right now that they are three of the best drivers, to answer your question, in three of the best cars in the sport right now. That makes for lethal combination.”


HOW HAVE YOU BEEN IMPRESSED WITH AUSTIN CINDRIC’S IMPROVEMENT AS A DRIVER? “It is good to see. I saw his dad and few other guys and told them it was the best race I have seen him run last week at Pocono. That is the thing about watching 18, 19, 20 up to probably 23 or 24-year-old drivers. We all fall in a habit of labeling them when they are 18 or 19 and say that a guy is this or that. Much like anyone in this room, you grow up and you change so much during those years that it becomes somewhat unfair to do that because they learn from their mistakes at a higher rate and have a lot more to learn to go with that. Austin is definitely not the same driver he was a year ago and if he keeps developing the way he is, he will have a very bring future in front of him.”


HOW DOES IT FEEL TO COME HERE AND HAVE SO MANY FANS HERE? “It feels great. I have said it before and I will keep repeating it. A win here would be like winning the Daytona 500 for me. A home track means a lot to any race car driver. It is your friends and family and there is a lot of notoriety that comes with it. It makes the losses sting more and the wins sweeter. The fact we have been so close and not achieved it is very top of mind every time I come here. We are pushing hard to make it happen and I feel like we have a decent shot this weekend.”


WHAT DO YOU LIKE ABOUT THIS TRACK? “Besides that it is my hometown, I like the fact that it is different. Michigan is a very unique race track based on everything else we see on the circuit. The most unique feature is how fast it is. Last year we qualified at 222 mph and that is just unreal fast. With respect to that, I appreciate that quality to the race track that it affords itself to such high speeds and I appreciate the challenge it puts on you as a race car driver to have nerves of steel at that speed. It is definitely one of a kind. I like tracks that are very original and Michigan is


WHEN YOU TALK ABOUT NOT BEING ABLE TO SHOWCASE DRIVER TALENT WITH THAT NEW PACKAGE, THERE IS A PART OF ME THAT SAYS IT IS ALMOST A BS FACTOR AND YOU CAN STILL SHOW TALENT WITH THAT PACKAGE. HOW IS IT DIFFERENT? THERE ARE DIFFERENT TRACKS AND CHALLENGES AND WAYS TO SHOWCASE TALENT. I AM CONFUSED THAT? “That is a very fair and valid question. It is one that I could probably spend 10 minutes trying to answer from a number of viewpoints. I am going to get done answering it and think about if for a while afterwards and wish I would have said this or that. I might wish I had more time on this one. There are a couple of things that stand out to me about plate racing in general. I think first is that if you look at Cup racing right now, the best average finish is somewhere around an seventh or eighth place finish. To be a top-10 driver you need to average a 14th place finish every week throughout the year. What does that mean? It means it is very unrealistic to think someone is going to run fifth or better every week. If someone does, they are really dominating. Kyle is on a strong run right now. Kevin had been that way earlier in the year. In general, even if you are a really good driver, you are going to run fifth to 10th a lot. I would say most plate tracks, first through fourth has control of their own destiny and have acquired that finish based on talent, skill, etc. From there on back it is a random bingo ball. That is my approach to that kind of racing. I think the top four or five generally dictates their finish and the rest do not. I think with this current package you are looking at more depth to the field in terms of being able to determine your own finish based on your teams skill and talent from the driver on back. It is not meant to be a knock on Kevin winning the All-Star race. He deserved to win the All-Star race but I look at Kyle Busch or myself who got wrecked out and know that we were way better than that and without that rules package we probably don’t wreck. That is the randomizer of those rules. You take Kevin and say talent played out. Top three or four finishers, the talent played out. Everyone else was just chaos theory. As you extrapolate that through a year, recognizing again like I was saying that in most cases fifth to 10th is a great average finish, that means that you are going to take away from the talent and the ability to showcase it on an average week. A great week for a race car driver as most of us recognize it is a week as you win. Internally a great week for a race car driver is the week you take the 15th place car and finish fifth to 10th. That isn’t going to happen with that package because you don’t control your fate in those positions. What is going to happen is great race car drivers will have 15th place finishes. That happens to pretty much anyone. When you put that randomizer in from fourth or fifth on back, you lack the ability to determine your fate in those positions and it is very critical to determine talent. It is unrealistic for a race car driver to have a first to fifth place race car more than two-thirds of the year.”


THERE ARE A LOT OF THINGS THAT DRIVE THE SPORT AND FANS ARE PART OF IT AND IF THE BOTTOM LINE IS CLOSE RACING AND IF THIS PACKAGE DEVELOPS THAT THEN IN ONE SENSE, WHO CARES WHAT DRIVERS THINK: “So your question is does it matter what drivers think? Long term yes, short term no. Long term yes because if you go to a package where drivers have less ability to determine their fate, they will go to an avenue where they can. Right now NASCAR affords itself the best opportunity for drivers to determine their own fate, make a decent wage and attain notoriety. Over time, if you went to a package such as this, it will go away. It won’t be overnight but it will go away. I think that the trickle down effect to that will be that eventually fans will recognize the best race car drivers and follow them. There is a reason why Tony Stewart and Jeff Gordon and some of the best drivers of our time moved from open-wheel to NASCAR. Kyle Larson is another great example. They know they have a better opportunity to effect their finish based on talent and know they are racing the highest caliber race car drivers. They know that they can attain the highest level of notoriety with the highest wages in motorsports in the United States. I don’t think that is a coincidence.”


WOULD YOU HAVE EXPECTED TO HAVE ALREADY HAD A VICTORY THIS YEAR 14 RACES IN AND IS THIS WEEKEND A PLACE WHERE YOU FEEL PARTICULARLY OPTIMISTIC ABOUT YOUR CHANCES? “Well, we did have the test here and it went really well. We were very happy with the performance and so far in practice we were third or fourth. We fell pretty strong about our opportunity to perform throughout the weekend. With respect to if I am surprised to have not won a race, I don’t know if surprised is the right word. I try not to take success for grated and try to appreciate it as it comes. You never know where life is going to take you. Surprised isn’t the right word. I would say disappointed is a better word. I want to win, I want to win a lot of races. I feel like we have a pretty strong team. We haven’t had the speed we need to go out and win a race. Other than probably two or three races. Let me rephrase that. We have had two or three races where we had the speed to win. That said, we haven’t been able to execute on those. We have had a number of races we had the speed to run third to fifth and it seems we have executed very well on those weekends and didn’t catch any luck to go with it. All those things combined I would say that I feel like I probably cost us a great opportunity to win at Talladega. I feel we had a car to win there. That was unfortunate. At Daytona we got caught up in some bad stuff. Everywhere else we ran fifth to 10th or third to fifth and have executed really well and haven’t caught any situations in those races where we could capitalize on. With respect to that, we are looking to find the speed that it takes to control more of your fate. It is very dynamic throughout a year as the engineering teams develop the race car and go through the different processes. I am still hopeful and optimistic that we can achieve that. With a lot of racing left I think this is the strong suit of my schedule as a driver, the summer months. We are hopeful to get rid of that goose egg. We are still sitting fifth in points and have had a lot of strong, consistent runs. If you take out the dominance of Kevin, Kyle and as of late, Martin, We would have probably won two or three races but that isn’t how it goes. They are here and running well and they deserve respect for that.”


WHAT IS YOUR FRUSTRATION LEVEL OF NOT WINNING AND DOES IT GROW WITH EVERY PASSING WEEK? “I wouldn’t say it is very high. I get more frustrated when we have a winning car and I screw it up or we screw it up with execution than I do when we are a fifth place car and run third. There is a hunger. I don’t know if there is a big frustration but there is a real large hunger.”


Greg Engle
About Greg Engle 7421 Articles
Greg is a published award winning sportswriter who spent 23 years combined active and active reserve military service, much of that in and around the Special Operations community. Greg is the author of "The Nuts and Bolts of NASCAR: The Definitive Viewers' Guide to Big-Time Stock Car Auto Racing" and has been published in major publications across the country including the Los Angeles Times, the Cleveland Plain Dealer and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. He was also a contributor to Chicken Soup for the NASCAR Soul, published in 2010, and the Christmas edition in 2016. He wrote as the NASCAR, Formula 1, Auto Reviews and National Veterans Affairs Examiner for and has appeared on Fox News. He holds a BS degree in communications, a Masters degree in psychology and is currently a PhD candidate majoring in psychology. He is currently the weekend Motorsports Editor for Autoweek.