Click here to visit the Motorsports page for all the latest news and information.
DAYTONA - The 2013 NASCAR Sprint Cup season got started in earnest Thursday morning as 35 brand new race cars hit the track for the first time at Daytona International Speedway. Making his Ford Racing debut on the track was defending series champion Brad Keselowski, piloting the No. 2 Blue Deuce Ford Fusion as Penske Racing made its first official on track appearance since rejoining the Ford stable.
BRAD KESELOWSKI, No. 2 Miller Lite Ford Fusion
HOW WAS THE OFFSEASON AS THE CHAMP?
“It is obviously great to be back at the track. I am sure you guys have all heard the same answers there. At the end of the day we are all racers and want to get back to doing what we love and racing is a passion we share. We are ready to get back here and by the looks of it with the turnout here the media is too. It is great to see that. It is positive for the sport to have this type of media turnout for testing. We have a lot of work to be done for Penske Racing to make the conversion over from Dodge to Ford and a lot of that work was done at the shop and then you come to the track and test and you verify it. There is a lot of work to be done there and a lot of work to be done for the sport in general. There are a lot of things going on including the new car that will get a lot of buzz here, deservedly so. We are all working hard to figure out things together. Track time helps us to work through that and so far we are getting track time in. We might not be as fast as we want but somebody told me that Ford stands for “first on race day” and it isn’t race day yet so we don’t have to worry about that yet.”
WHAT DO YOU HOPE TO ACCOMPLISH HERE THIS AFTERNOON?
“As soon as everyone else gets the balls up to draft I will go out there with them. I think right now everybody is a little timid but I’m not. I am ready to go, it is just up to them.”
THIS IS THE FIRST TIME IN AWHILE THAT ROUSH AND PENSKE HAVE HAD A MANUFACTURER MATE THAT CAN COMPETE FOR THE TITLE. HOW MUCH DO YOU SHARE AND HOW MUCH DO YOU NOT SHARE?
“Some of that stuff is a work in progress. I think so far we all agree to the Ford approach of One Ford where we are going to share what we can that is practical to do so. Those things are being defined daily as far as what is okay to share and what is not. I don’t have great answers for you there but we all agree that it is better for us to get beat by another Ford than to watch us be the best Ford but not be the fastest car on the track. I would rather get beat by another Ford and run second or third than run 17th and be the best Ford. In order for that to work out there has to be a level of cooperation and I think we all see that. It is just a matter of defining what that level is.”
AS FAR AS BECOMING A CHAMPION, HOW MUCH DIFFERENT WAS IT FOR YOU THIS OFFSEASON THAN A NORMAL ONE?
“I am slowly soaking it in so I don’t have a great answer for you but to me it has been a lot of fun just seeing some of the doors that open up. It is really a vague way of putting it but some of the doors that open up, whether it is people showing you more respect or opportunities to do different events you may never have had before. To me that is the most fun and more honoring moments of being a champion. I am really looking forward to seeing how those open up. The great thing that separates winning a championship from winning a race is that you are a champion for a whole year. I feel like I won a race but you get to celebrate it for a whole year. That is a really good feeling.”
YOU HAVE TO GET USED TO A NEW CAR AND GET USED TO A FORD IN ITSELF. HAVE YOU FELT ANY MAJOR POSITIVES IN THE CHANGE YET?
“I think that the major positive we have seen so far was up in Detroit on Monday with the Ford team. The level of engagement from the very highest levels is remarkable. It shows the commitment that Ford has and I have never experienced that before. That makes me feel very confident that any bit of adversity or any hurdle that we have to climb, we can do it because we have a dedication of resources and top-notch people.”
DO YOU GET THE FEELING THAT NASCAR GOING BACK TO A TRUER STOCK CAR LOOKING CAR WILL BRING BACK THE OLD SCHOOL NASCAR FANS?
“I don’t think it is going to hurt but I think it is naive to think that a car will solve everything. I think that is really naive. There is a lot of work to be done to capitalize on everything. It is a big piece of what this sport needs to be the best it can be. I think that commitment is something we should all be proud of.”
BRAD KESELOWSKI CONTINUED … DO YOU ANTICIPATE NASCAR WILL TELL YOU GUYS TO DRAFT AT SOME POINT? WHAT IS THE REASON PEOPLE ARE HESITANT TO DRAFT?
“I think everyone is a little different and it is hard to put everyone in a box and say they are thinking the same things as to why they don’t want to draft. It is common sense that you are here for three days so you might want to get to the first morning without tearing your car up. That part makes sense but eventually you have to get down to what it will take to win the Daytona 500. That isn’t going to be a single car run. I haven’t seen that win this race in quite some time and don’t expect to see it again. At the same token you have to be smart with your resources and dedicate them properly. If you basically have a six-session test you want to use one to do that but eventually you want to get to it. I don’t want to put everyone in a box and say it is a lack of cars or guts but it is probably one of the two.”
DO YOU THINK NASCAR WILL ENCOURAGE YOU GUYS TO DRAFT AT SOME POINT?
“Absolutely. I think that is probably good for everyone. Everyone needs a little kick in the butt every once in awhile. Hopefully that will happen if drafting doesn’t happen on its own.”
YOU WON A CHAMPIONSHIP LAST YEAR WITH YOUR TEAMMATE SITUATION IN FLUX LAST YEAR. WHAT DO YOU HOPE TO GET OUT OF HAVING A TEAMMATE THAT IS A MORE STEADY PRESENCE AND IN PARTICULAR WHAT DO YOU THINK JOEY LOGANO ADDS TO PENSKE RACING?
“Pushing Joey to be a part of Penske racing was something that I was behind for sure. I think we look for a lot of things out of Joey. He has the youth to be in this sport for a long time if he chooses to do so. He has a great attitude as far as the positive energy he brings and credentials that make him someone that you can look up to or respect as far as his personal life and decisions and so forth. I think you combine that at the end with his talent and in theory he should be around for quite some time and be able to make Penske Racing and that 22 team a perennial contender. It is just a matter of putting the other pieces together with him. I feel like what I look for out of him is to do just that, make that car a contender week in and week out and if he is able to do that then I think it will make everyone at Penske Racing stronger. That is in all categories whether it is increasing the level of funding because of sponsorship or the other side of it of pushing me to be a better driver and be more engaged. I am hoping for all those things across the board and it might be something as simple as attracting more talent through the pit crews or what-not. It is important to have quality teams throughout the company because that is your reputation and we want to have the best reputation possible at Penske Racing because the benefits will work their way down to all teams.”
YOU WERE EAGER TO GET OUT THERE THIS MORNING BUT WERE LOW ON THE SPEED CHARTS. DOES THAT CONCERN YOU?
“I am not happy not being fast, I can tell you that, but you try to put it in perspective of how much work is yet to be done over the next month or month-and-a-half. Being first on the track, that is something Paul really prides himself and that is our little way of needling the competition to say that even if we aren’t fastest we are going to be the first ones on it. I have a group of committed guys that want to do that.”
DO YOU THINK YOU MIGHT GET FRUSTRATED AS YOUR TEAM TAKES ON ALL OF THIS CHANGE? HOW DO YOU TEMPER FRUSTRATION YOU MIGHT ENCOUNTER?
“If you win a championship you are going to come in the next year with extremely high expectations. I don’t think that will surprise anyone in this room. For me, you have to look at our history, and we have been a second half team the last two or three seasons and I would expect nothing different this year. If you look at the past and know that we are stronger the second half of the year and that is what we have done to be successful the last two seasons then that will carry you through any short comings at the start of the year. I am also nervous that if we start strong we won’t be good the second half. We will see how it plays out. I feel like I don’t want to build in an excuse for our team so I am not going to say that if we don’t run well at the start of the year we have nothing to worry about. I am not going to build in that excuse. But I think you can apply things logistically and know we are the type of team that gets stronger throughout the year. That is probably the best way to be.”