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Keselowski Q & A: I’m Here To Win

| , RacinToday.com Monday, November 3 2014

Brad Keselowski expanded on his thoughts about racing and brawling late Sunday afternoon. (RacinToday/HHP photo by Christa L Thomas)

After every Sprint Cup race, the drivers who finished first through third are brought to track media centers for press conferences.

Brad Keselowski finished third in Sunday’s race at Texas Motor Speedway so, there he was on the dais late Sunday afternoon. The majority of the questions put to him, as one would expect, concerned the final laps of the race, his on-track contact with the car of Jeff Gordon and the pit-road brawl which followed.

The following is a lightly edited transcript of the presser.

(Note: Because Gordon did not finish in the top three, he was not required to hold a formal press conference so his expanded thoughts are not available.)

Q. You alluded to it, but you’re making a lot of enemies in the garage because of your aggressive racing. You seem to be fine with that because it is what it is.

BRAD KESELOWSKI: Yeah, I mean, the sport, specifically the driving corps, is stuck in the year 1999, 2000. With the testing bans, the COT cars, all these different things that have happened, the only way for a guy like me to break through is to drive the way I’ve drove over the last four or five years.

I think last year I got away from being as aggressive as I was in 2012 and this year. I didn’t make the Chase. Won one race. That’s not acceptable to me. I’m here to win races for Roger Penske and for my team. That means when there’s a gap, I have to take it. If it requires a tiny bit of rubbing, that’s okay. It’s not anything I don’t expect on the other side. Plenty of times where I got rubbed. It will go both ways. That’s okay by me.

I’m not asking anyone to take — I’m not trying to dish out something that I couldn’t take myself. But these guys have their own code, and they race differently than that. That’s their right.

We’ll go through these battles. I’ve gone through them before and come out stronger. I’ll go through them again and come out stronger, a better racecar driver.

But what I’m not going to do is back down. I’m not going to get in the spot where I was in 2013 where, you know, I tried to be exactly what they all wanted me to be, because what they want me to be is a loser, and I’m not here to lose, I’m here to win. That means I’m going to have to drive my car, harder, stronger, faster than everybody out there. That’s what I feel like I did today.

With a 10th- to 15th-place car, we almost won today. That happened because of that attitude and that fight. That’s going to make some people mad because they don’t race that way. I understand that.

Like I said, I’m not trying to dish something out I couldn’t take. The way I raced today is what I would define as great racing that defined this sport and I hope it will continue to define it for years to come.

If a guy like me caves, whether it’s Jeff Gordon, Carl Edwards, list out the drivers that I’ve had run-ins with, whenever they try to push back on me, if I cave, that will end that run in this sport, and that will be a shame. That would be a shame for everybody. It would be a shame for the history of this sport. It would be a shame for the fans that come here to see us race 100%. That’s what I did today. For that I’m not going to be ashamed.

Would I be disappointed if I just dumped somebody to win the race? Yeah. I think you look through my history of racing, and that’s never been the case. That’s not the way I race. I don’t wreck people to win. I’ve been in incidents at the end of the race, but I could say with a clear mind and heart that they weren’t intentional, that they were all out going for the win and some things happen.

Today something happened. There was a gap. It closed up. By the time it closed up, I was committed, and I stayed in it. That almost won me the race. It hurt somebody else’s day. That’s a shame. But the reality is there was a gap.

You know, I’m not Dale Earnhardt or Senna. I read how they raced, how great they were for this sport. They would sit here and tell you they would go for that same gap. I’m not them, but I’m inspired by that, and I’m going to race that way.

Q. A couple weeks ago when we were asking about retaliation, you said it wouldn’t really benefit anybody to get in some sort of long-term back and forth because you’re going to be here for years, they’re going to be here for years. I heard what you just said and everything, but how does that impact your chances of winning a championship, especially in a format where everybody is going to be even? Now you have guys possibly gunning for you. Do you worry about that?

BRAD KESELOWSKI: It doesn’t help. I’m not trying to sit here and sugarcoat it and try to be the intimidator, say they better not race, ta-da, ta-da, ta-da. That’s not what I’m trying to say.

My expectation is if there’s a gap, they’ll go for it. If there’s a gap, I’ll go for it. If it closes up, there’s contact, then that’s racing. And that’s what happened today.

Intentional wrecking and whatnot, no, I don’t support that. I never have. I make it a point to try not to do it. I’m not always innocent of not doing it. I had the run-in at Charlotte and so forth after the race. I could have intentionally during that race if I wanted to, it was frustrating not to do so, but didn’t.

Will those guys race me hard or harder than others? Absolutely, I’m certain they will. But that’s just part of it. I can’t fault them for that. I just feel like I have to go for the gap if it’s there and I have to race the way I race or I won’t even be in NASCAR. I’d rather have enemies in NASCAR than have friends and be sitting at home.

Q. (No microphone.)

BRAD KESELOWSKI: The rhetoric gets pretty thick, you know. I’m sure that all plays into the intimidation factor or the attempt to intimidate. But going back to what I said earlier, you know, I’ve already gone much further than I thought I’d ever go in this sport with the mentality that I have. I’m not going to give up on it because there’s some resistance now. That would be a shame. That would be a tragedy.

I’m going to continue to push forward with what I’m doing. It served me in the past and I believe it will serve me in the future.

Q. Brad, do you relish being the villain? A lot of fans booed you. Do you enjoy that role?

BRAD KESELOWSKI: Well, you know, I don’t necessarily enjoy being disliked. But it beats the alternative of not being known at all by a long ways.

From my perspective, I think I’ve come to the reality that there’s a lot worse things in this world than me. If I’m a villain, the people that think I’m a villain have a pretty good life and should be proud of that. All this stuff that’s going on in the world, if your villain is me racing 100%, you’ve got it pretty good and I don’t feel too bad for you.

Q. Did you actually get hit?

BRAD KESELOWSKI: Yeah, I couldn’t even tell you what happened. Just a melee of people. I couldn’t tell you what happened after the race. That’s why there’s cameras.

Q. Do you have any qualms with Harvick getting himself in there and telling you to go fight your own fight?

BRAD KESELOWSKI: I came here to race, not fight. If I wanted to be a fighter, I would have joined the UFC or have a management team like he does. I came here to race, 100%. That’s what I did today.

The only thing I wouldn’t be proud of is if I went and started fights or jumped in fights. I wouldn’t be proud of that. I came here to race 100%. The people that want to see fights are not true race fans. They need to watch UFC and (indiscernible). Because that’s not true racing.

I know in my heart that I raced 100% and I did what should be done to be a professional racecar driver.

Q. Brad, the subject of Phoenix, can you compartmentalize now and forget about this, not get overall emotional, take a cold, clinical approach to Phoenix?

BRAD KESELOWSKI: If you can tell right now, I’m not too emotional about it. I’ve come to the reality of where I am in this sport, the fight it’s going to take for me to be a winner and a champion for years to come.

Like I said, there’s going to be moments like this. I’ve been through them in the past. I’ll go through them in the future. I’ll come back each and every time as hard if not harder. That’s who I am, that’s what I’ll do. That’s what I plan to do next week and every week in my future.

Q. Brad, obviously it’s not the first time you’ve had a situation like this. The last time after Charlotte, you went to Martinsville later that week and tested. You personally were able to kind of put everything that had happened in the background and focus on what you wanted to do. How does your team react to this? It’s going to be talked about for an entire week.

BRAD KESELOWSKI: A lot of my strength personally comes from my team, whether that’s the guys how work on the team or my boss, Roger Penske. If Roger Penske came up to me tomorrow and said, Brad, you drove that race wrong, you shouldn’t have done what you did, it would affect me.

But the management team at Penske tells me to drive the way I did and tells me there’s nothing to be ashamed of and continues to support me. And they’re my boss. My boss isn’t the other drivers in the field. My boss is them.

As long as they’re on my side, I feel strong and I feel proud and encouraged to continue.

Q. Would your team be able to focus?

BRAD KESELOWSKI: My team’s pretty strong, yeah. They’ll probably get a couple good laughs out of it and be even more hungry.

Q. Do you worry about with two races left if a driver that you’ve pissed off can’t win makes sure he dumps you?

BRAD KESELOWSKI: Well, I think Jeff Gluck was alluding to that earlier. I’m going to be in this sport for a while. Got the safest cars in the world. Can take some pretty hard hits. I’ve taken them before.

I’ll be back next week and they’ll have to face it. That’s not in their interest, just like it’s not in mine. If what I did was so wrong to those individuals, then they should race me back that same way. They have that ability and I wouldn’t be mad at them if they did.

I didn’t go out there and intentionally wreck anybody or do any of that other hoopla. So as far as I’m concerned, it’s not the biggest concern in the world. Can it happen? Yes, absolutely. If it does happen, I’ll take it in stride and race ’em back the same way. That will be it.

| , RacinToday.com Monday, November 3 2014
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