THE MODERATOR: We’ll get started with our post race press conference. We welcome Kasey Kahne who finished third in today’s race.
Kasey, talk a little bit about the race out there today.
KASEY KAHNE: Man, there’s a lot that went on for us. We had a really good, awesome Farmers Insurance Chevrolet at the start. Tracked down Mark Martin who was hung up behind a couple slow guys. I thought I might try to pass him and those guys. I don’t know if Mark was tight behind them or cruising behind them, but either way I wanted to get by those three.
Next thing I knew, the 42 and 47 were crashing. Mark was in there. Going so fast, not a whole lot you could do. I slid in there. I slid through the grass, thought it destroyed my car. Fortunately it just pushed the right front fender in. The guys were able to pop it up out. We came back to third.
Solid day, solid recovery. Thankfully when Mark Martin slid down pit road, he ended up halfway into our pit. One of our guys got hit a little bit by a tire. His oil tank exploded and stuff. That was really close to a really bad situation but it turned out all right. We’re all lucky, for sure.
THE MODERATOR: Joining Kasey now is Brad Keselowski, who finished second in today’s race.
Brad, talk a little bit about your experience out there today.
BRAD KESELOWSKI: Just a great day. I don’t know what to say other than it was just close to getting what would have been one of the biggest wins of my career. That would have been really special.
But it wasn’t in the cards today. My team has done an excellent job over the last few weeks of hitting their marks, executing on all fronts, no mistakes, solid cars. I’m very proud of that. Just extremely proud of that.
We’re in a great position as a team as the Chase is about to start here to make some noise. I’m just feeling lucky to be there. But then, of course, we obviously want to win. I can taste the legitimacy of being a championship contender. With a little more speed today I think we could have got us a win. I know in the Chase we can get a bunch of ‘em.
I’m proud of where we’re at and ready for the Chase to get going. A little bit more speed and, man, I feel like we could have had it today. It’s hard not to think about that.
A great effort by my guys to get us where we were and I’m very, very proud of that.
THE MODERATOR: We’ll open it up for questions.
Q. With Friday and Saturday being so different in weather than today was, how well did you adapt at the very start of the race to the track being so different?
BRAD KESELOWSKI: Go ahead, Kasey.
KASEY KAHNE: Man, we just felt pretty good yesterday in final practice. But I was a little bit tight, thought we would free up a touch, so we did. It wasn’t enough. I was kind of tight when the race started today.
When the sun was out, I was kind of sliding all four tires. The track was just a little bit slipperier today, the speeds were a little slower, but not a ton. When there was cloud cover, I felt like it was pretty similar.
For us it was small changes and the car stayed really close.
BRAD KESELOWSKI: I felt the track was pretty consistent actually. My car drove very similar.
Q. Guys, is this a new era at Michigan here? For years cars got spread out here, long green-flag runs, not a lot happened. All kind of things happened out there today. Is this a different Michigan than it used to be?
KASEY KAHNE: Well, I’d say we’re all fighting for a small piece of pavement right now. Fortunately the track actually opened up a good bit today from the first race, which was nice.
The restarts are still really tight. You can make up the most ground right there, or lose the most. It’s a tough point of the race. But just try to do the best you can there.
I think by the time we come back next year, it’s going to be even better and wider. I don’t think it will take a real long time and we’ll be racing all over the track like we used to.
Either way, it’s smooth. Did a great job repaving. I enjoy coming up here. I like how the track is now and I think next year it will be a little bit racier than it is now.
BRAD KESELOWSKI: I just think there’s big discrepancies in the cars now. There’s certain parts and pieces on the cars that are making them quite a bit different to where we’re seeing different paces throughout the field. I think there’s probably half a dozen to a dozen cars that are drastically faster than the rest of the field. That’s disrupted the parity, created a lot of side-by-side action that is maybe good, maybe bad, depends on who you are.
But I think right now in the sport the cars are probably the most separated we’ve ever seen. You’ve seen qualifying, the pace difference between 20th and pole was over a second. We haven’t seen that in over 10 years in this sport. I don’t think that’s necessarily a bad thing, but it’s an observation to your note. It creates more side-by-side racing which opens up the possibility for issues like you described.
Q. Brad, the last two weeks you’ve been a very gracious runner-up. Once the Chase starts, you get to Chicago, are second-place finishes going to cut it for you?
BRAD KESELOWSKI: That’s a good question. If anything, you should be more upset now about not winning. Those bonus points mean a lot for the Chase, where consistent solid-place finishes without risking a bad day are extremely important. You’ll probably be happier with second in the Chase than what you would be here today. That’s kind of my opinion on that.
This is my home track. I want to win here just as bad as I want to win a race in the Chase – probably more. So there was a stretch where I felt like we were going to win it. I had some goosebumps going on. But it wasn’t meant to be and I’m still very proud of the effort.
Q. Brad, when you have the lead, eight or nine laps to go, what was your situation? You had to know that holding off Johnson was going to be a really tough path. Did you think you had a really good shot or did you think you were just a sitting duck?
BRAD KESELOWSKI: I didn’t know how much Jimmie had been holding back. When he pushed the trigger, when he passed me, it was clear he had been holding back a lot.
It’s hard to know those things. You never know how hard a driver is pushing. Obviously he wasn’t going a hundred percent. When he did, he was clearly the class of the field.
That was quite a sight to see.
Q. Brad, during the green-flag pit cycle, the last one where you were able to go ahead of the 48, Jimmie Johnson and Chad Knaus were on the radio beside themselves trying to figure that out. With your smile, I think you know what I’m talking about. Was that a statement for you today? Did you snooker the 48 a little bit today?
BRAD KESELOWSKI: The 48 has the most speed and the best history as far as the Chase is concerned. But it’s my job to not roll over and give it to them. We’re doing everything we can do and we nailed it on that last green-flag sequence. I’m proud as hell of my guys for doing that.
Although they might have the most speed, we’re not giving up. We’re going to keep ‘em honest through this Chase. That’s our goal. I think it’s good to know that, that they’re frustrated, ’cause they should be. We nailed it.
Hopefully while, you know, they keep working on the other things, we’ll find that little bit of speed to go with the execution we have and be in even better condition to close the deal out.
We just got to keep pushing in that sense. We caught a lucky break that was unfortunate for Jimmie with him not getting though bonus points for a win, but he definitely deserved to win the race. Just didn’t play out that way.
The 48 might be the favorite for the championship, but we’re not going to roll over and just let them have it.
Q. Kasey, can you take us through the wreck, what was going through your mind, what the crew had to do to get you back in position to be a contender?
KASEY KAHNE: Well, the wreck, you know, I was in third when Mark caught the 47 and the 42. I was a half straightaway behind him. Got into second. Mark was held up so bad by the two in front of him. Mark must have been tired or loose or whatever, but he was really struggling to get to the inside or outside of those guys.
I got there and I thought I would try to pass Mark. About that time the 47 just got loose from what I could see. I don’t know, maybe the 42, I’m not sure if they touched or not, but the 47 started spinning, then we just all tried to miss it.
I slid through the grass. Didn’t injure it too much. Just right front damage. Mark took off towards our pit stall, exploded into that wall.
From there we just battled back. We fixed the right front. We had good pit stops. We had a nice strategy to get back to pass some of those cars, not all on the racetrack, but pass them in other ways.
I just felt really good about our speed. Our car has been really fast. We’ve been pretty consistent as a team. We want to make it to the Chase. That’s a big part of our season, something that we’re really shooting for. I think our team has done a great job of that.
We put a solid day together. It would still be nice to get one more win and make that Chase spot, make it happen. But we’ll see. We still have good tracks to go, we just need to keep running upfront.
Q. Brad, a minute ago you looked up and you said, Oh, God. Was that the Martin crash?
BRAD KESELOWSKI: Yeah. Could have been a lot worse than it was. Over the course of time, we always get complacent and think that we’ve hit all the buttons on the safety side. Then you see something like that. It shows you why you have to never quit working at making these cars and tracks safer because that could have been a lot worse, whether it was for Mark or for the crew members or anybody.
So it’s just one of those moments where you realize you might think that you have safety covered in this sport, but you never do.
Q. Brad, does it give you any more of a sense of satisfaction – getting back to the Jimmie issue – that you were with Hendrick, you went to Penske, some people said, How is he going to do there? Now you’re racing neck-and-neck with Jimmie every week. You’re contending with that team after you left.
BRAD KESELOWSKI: I mean, I try not to. It’s a terrible way to live your life where you live it looking back at missed opportunities. I’m trying to live it where I look forward at the great opportunity that I have now.
I can’t say I always do that. I mean, yeah, I’m going to say there’s definitely moments where you ask yourself what might have been. But I take solace in the fact that I probably would have never had the opportunity to work with guys like Paul Wolfe and other guys that are on our team if it had gone another way I feel entirely thankful for those opportunities. I mean, those don’t come but once in a lifetime. You know, I guess the thought enters your mind that it was never meant to be and this was what was meant to be.
That makes me feel very fortunate, there was some higher calling in a way. It’s hard to always reflect on that, especially when you’re struggling. But I’m not struggling now, so it’s easy to say.
Q. Brad, what you were saying about the cars having an advantage. We were listening on the radio to several drivers talking about that. Do you have the trick? What is the trick? We talked about it at Pocono.
BRAD KESELOWSKI: There’s parts and pieces on the car that are moving after inspection that make the car more competitive. Some guys have it, some don’t. There’s a question to the interpretation of the rule. Penske Racing errs on the safe side because we don’t want to be the guys that get the big penalty.
Obviously there’s a question to the interpretation that as of right now it’s legal. But I’m sure that Roger doesn’t want to be the one caught red-handed. As a group at Penske Racing, we have not felt comfortable enough to risk that name and reputation that Roger has over those parts and pieces. Others have, which is their prerogative. I’m not going to slam them for it.
But it’s living in a gray area. Roger doesn’t do that. There’s certainly some performance there that we’ve lost. I shouldn’t say lost, but haven’t gained, because we choose not to do that. That’s something that we have to continue to evaluate every week that goes by, that those components are permitted to be run. We have to make a reevaluation of that internally to decide if that’s the right way to go.
But as it stands now, certainly that’s part of the speed discrepancy through the field. Some of the teams haven’t figured out how to make it work, some of them just don’t feel comfortable risking the piggybank on it.
It’s part of how this sport works behind closed doors. We’re still working our way through it. I’m not saying I have all the answers to it, but it’s certainly part of that discrepancy that we were speaking to earlier.
THE MODERATOR: Brad, Kasey, congratulations on your runs today. Good luck for the rest of the season.
BRAD KESELOWSKI: Thanks.
KASEY KAHNE: Thanks.