Monday, Nov 28

Ford Performance NASCAR: Ford Claims the Front Row at Texas behind Pole from Keselowski

FORD QUALIFYING RESULTS

1st - Brad Keselowski

2nd - Joey Logano

5th - Micahel McDowell

11th - Austin Cindric

13th - Chris Buescher

14th - Ryan Blaney

20th - Harrison Burton

23rd - Kevin Harvick

24th - Cole Custer

25th - Aric Almirola

28th - Todd Gilliland

30th - Chase Briscoe

 

BRAD KESELOWSKI, No. 6 RoushParts.com Ford Mustang -- Qualified 1st - POLE WINNER PRESS CONFERENCE

“That was a heckuva lap. I was proud to show my speed and be starting on the front row on pole. This is a tough track to qualify at because the speeds are so high and the track is so slick and hot. We were able to put a lap together. Three and four was one of those gutsy laps where you hold it wide open through there and hope it sticks. It was really close but we made it through. That was probably the difference maker. I haven’t gone back and seen all the data but I just committed to running through it wide open and it made it. Credit to Matt McCall, the crew chief of the team here who worked on the car. We unloaded a little bit with that warmup session and we weren’t bad but we weren’t good enough. We made two good changes and here we are. We had a great test in Miami here this week and learned a lot and we applied some of that here to what we have today and got some results from it. It is a super exciting time for me and for our company here at RFK with a lot of the progress we have made over the last few months and now it is actually starting to show up. It has been a painful journey, but a good one. I am proud of our lap. It didn’t come unearned but we have a long way to go tomorrow for 500 miles here in Texas. Obviously, this is a really tough grueling race. I have led a lot of laps here and been in a position to win this race before but it hasn’t come together. Hopefully, tomorrow will be the day. It is certainly a great spot to start from.”

 

IT HAS BEEN A GOOD WEEK FOR YOU WITH THE WIN LAST WEEK BY CHRIS AND THEN THE POLE TODAY HASN’T IT? “Yeah, it has been a whirlwind with winning at Bristol with Chris and running up front and having some good moments there. Then we were really busy with testing in Miami and trying to get better as a whole. Those have been really healthy for us. It is just a lot of things happening in all directions both personally and professionally with this business and my other business and with our foundation. Everything is wide open in every direction. Sometimes it is hard to stop and reflect on how privileged and blessed I am to be in this position, but a good time nonetheless.”

 

HOW DID YOU KNOW THE CAR WAS GOING TO STICK? “I didn’t. That is just the reality. You don't. You commit to it and it either works or it doesn't. I felt pretty confident that we made some really good gains in our cars in practice and the test session but you don't know. That is the reality. You really don't know what these cars are capable of until they spin out. You start to build up a bank of knowledge that you think you can trust and lean on and hope that it is right.”

 

OF ALL PLACES TO WIN A POLE, THIS PLACE IS HARD TO PASS AT BUT IT IS A LONG RACE. HOW DO YOU MANAGE THE TRACK POSITION HERE? “I think the biggest challenge if you go back and watch the All-Star race, I think Kyle Busch had the pole and really drove away for the first 25 or 30 laps until he blew a tire. I think the biggest challenge is running a fast pace and keeping the lead and not blowing our tires. That will be the big challenge. Last week at Bristol I felt like we had a good pace and had done everything conservative and ran a smart race until the end when we got to the lead and started to push it and blew out a tire. That will be one of the toughest things for tomorrow. The leader will always be, by nature, the hardest on the tires because he is carrying the most speed through the corners. Trying to balance not wanting to give up the lead and wanting to lead every lap in the dang race without blowing tires will be the big challenge not just for me but everyone who gets in that position tomorrow.”

 

IS THIS A TURNING POINT ORGANIZATIONALLY FOR YOU GUYS AND HOW BIG IS THE ARC? “Yeah, I am living in my own bubble so I am not sure if it is fair for me to answer that question. I think that is a question better answered by those outside my bubble. It is certainly a lot of progress. In the media center last week at Bristol I think I tried to articulate at least that you do things in this sport and it takes six to 12 months for them to be realized. That is the reality. Anything in this sport that you do in one week’s time or two weeks time is probably illegal. The majority of things that come together take months and months of behind-the-scenes work to come together. In that sense, it is super painful. It is really painful. You do things and you don't get a result and everybody challenges and questions the decisions that were made and you kind of have to stay the course.”

 

YOUR LAST POLE WAS IN 2019, HOW DOES THIS FEEL AFTER A COUPLE YEARS? “Yeah, I just had that conversation with Claire B and I am not sure that is a fair statistic because we went a year and a half without qualifying. I had a couple poles with the old format of not qualifying but with the qualifying format coming back in full effect this year, you have to go back to 2019 and you take out of the qualifying sessions we have had since then I think it is around 50 or 60 so it doesn't look quite as bad, at least to me. That said, certainly it has been a bit of a drought from being in that position qualifying up front but I am glad to break through and get it done.”

 

HOW MUCH HAVE YOU TAPPED INTO YOUR EXPERIENCES AS A DRIVER TO BUILD THE PROGRESS OF RFK RACING, AND ALSO WHEN YOU WON HERE 10 YEARS AGO, DID YOU EVER IMAGINE HOW CHALLENGING THIS TRACK WOULD BE YEARS LATER? “Yeah, it hasn’t gotten any easier that is for sure. It has gotten tougher and when they reconfigured here four or five years ago and then now with the PJ1 on the track it makes it that much tougher. The NextGen car has its own nuances to go with that. It is a tough track. It has its own quirks to it. Some would say those are bad things and some would say they are good things. I think you guys have probably heard all of that all morning long. It is the same for everybody at the end of the day, which is all I think you can truly ask for.”

 

“From the driver and owner perspective, it has been one of those years where you kind of wear two hats and they look at each other and say, ‘not good enough’. The driver side wants the cars better and the car owner side says to get the finish you can get with the equipment you have. That is all easier said than done on both sides. I probably fell victim to pushing too hard and not having the equipment we needed to have at the start of the year and not always getting the finishes we needed to get to just move on. It was very much a needing to run 15th to 20th because we had 25th place cars and that is what we have. I probably fell victim to trying to get too much out of them and making our days worse than what they needed to be but also pushing them in such a way that it was very clear what the boundaries were with our cars and their performance and what we needed to do to make them better. On the owner side I think our people are maturing and our processes are maturing. We have added some great resources in multiple areas. There are a lot of pieces coming together for sure.”

 

WHAT HAVE YOU LEARNED AS A CUP OWNER? HOW WOULD YOU COMPARE IT TO WHEN YOU OWNED THE TRUCK TEAM? “I would say the biggest challenge is that the Truck team was a lot easier for me because i was the sole owner. When something was wrong it was easier to be more nimble. Here there are more channels and stakeholders to work through so it is definitely different. At the end of the day, the same things still hold through. You put great people together with great resources and you let them do their thing. I think I look at our company and some of the people we are building up as leaders who are taking hold of that and from the ownership level it is about giving them the resources they need to have the tools they need to fight the competition. That is really not any different. The numbers are bigger. You can add a zero to everything. Add a zero to the revenue and at least one to the costs. I was at Martin Truex Jr.’s charity event here last week and I bid on something at the auction and won it and somebody was joking at me about how much it cost and I told them that, believe it or not, it was the cheapest thing I bought today. That really summarizes what being a car owner is like. You spend a lot of money on stuff you never thought you would spend a lot of money on, but that is what it takes to win.”

 

IF SOMEONE WATCHED THE ALL-STAR RACE TO PREPARE FOR THIS RACE, WOULD THEY HAVE BEEN WASTING THEIR TIME? “I think the race will be really similar to the All-Star race. I don't see it playing out much differently. The All-Star race wasn’t cold. It was still pretty warm and the PJ1 was similar. A different tire compound but that remains to be seen how that will affect the track and the race. We saw a handful of tire blowouts in the All-Star race and that was a shorter race. Even with the different tire, I think that is the biggest question for me tomorrow. How hard can you drive the car without blowing a tire out. I don't know if we have that answer until we run the race.”

 

“I guess it depends on what side of the coin you are on. If you are a driver who is going to take that hit it isn’t as much fun but if you are a fan who likes to see a race get mixed up with variability it can be fun. I see both sides of that. The races are really unpredictable.”

 

WHAT MAKES A SUCCESSFUL RACE TOMORROW FOR YOU BESIDES THE OBVIOUS? “Well, there are two hats here. A successful race for a driver is taking whatever you have with the equipment and finish equal to or better than what it is capable of. If you have a fifth place car and you run third, that is usually a pretty successful day and that is what you strive for, to work with your team and execute at that level. On the ownership side it is about providing everyone with the resources they need to run well. Then you hope that they execute. There are two opposing views that you hope come together.”

 

YOU ARE A CHAMPIONSHIP-CALIBER DRIVER WHO HASN’T HAD THAT OPPORTUNITY TO WIN A POINTS RACE YET THIS YEAR. HOW DO YOU MANAGE THAT? HOW DO YOU NOT BEAT YOUR HEAD AGAINST THE WALL? “Who says I don't do that? It isn’t fun but what are you going to do? Do you cry in your milk or go to work? I would rather do the latter of the two and we have doing a lot of that, putting the effort in and going to work. Feeling sorry for yourself is easy. Anyone can do that. Being able to look bigger picture and being able to find things to motivate you is hard. That is really my biggest challenge. It isn’t the people, that is a big challenge don't get me wrong. It isn’t the resources. It is having the ability to take a punch in the stomach and move on to the next race without letting it phase you. It is a little bit like the Muhammed Ali rope-a-dope here. Now we are in a spot where we are ready to play some offense and we are on the field. It is a good feeling. It comes with a pragmatic view and a lot of humility of being able to walk away from some races where you were legitimately 20th or 25th and go to work the next morning and say, ‘Alright, we aren’t going to burn the house down. We are going to repaint the living room and then we are going to go to the next room and work on it piece by piece.’ The easy thing to do is to lose control over yourself. That is the easy thing to do. The hard thing to do is to work through it and be methodical in that approach.”

 

IS THAT SOMETHING THAT BECOMES NATURAL FOR YOU? “It has gotten easier for me with time. Having grown up in an environment where my family owned a race team and the hardships that went with that certainly built up a case for endurance. Having gone to Team Penske where it wasn’t where I wanted it to be and living through a year and a half of pain and people telling me I made the dumbest move ever in leaving Hendrick and then getting there, it build some confidence that it can happen. Having kids and watching them grow and progress and knowing that things take time and we are maturing and the fun comes from the pain in some ways. It comes from knowing that we can endure through it.”

 

YOU HAVE BEEN A PLAYOFF DRIVER AND A NON-PLAYOFF DRIVER. IN THE PAST WE HAVE SEEN NON-PLAYOFF DRIVERS HANG BACK AND KIND OF LET THE PLAYOFF DRIVERS DO THEIR THING. HOW EXCITING IS IT FOR YOU AS A DRIVER NOW TO SEE THAT ON ANY GIVEN WEEKEND IT IS ANYBODY’S RACE TO TAKE? “There is more parity now in some ways than ever before. Now the fight is for who is going to get to test at a track. You are looking for any advantage you can get. Now the fights are in different places. They are with pit road stuff, not that we didn’t fight on pit road before. They are in meetings where we argue over who gets to test where. Those things now are everything. The parity is certainly a part of it but then there is a lot of OEM fights. That is really big right now. Whoever gets the most resources from their OEM has a huge advantage. So that stack of the deck is really important as we look to the future. The game is changing. The game is changing not just because of the Next Gen car but all the rules around it. Whether it is limited practice sessions or the single lug nut or the way that the balance of power is really shifted to the OEM’s here with a number of the rules. We are adapting in real-time. I think that is some of the reason why you are seeing so much variance. I would add there are other reasons for it too. Durability and things in the first year of the car and the tires and everyone trying to understand those limits but I expect to some extent for that parity to go away as time goes by and some of the variableness of the racing goes away.”

 

WHAT IS IT ABOUT THIS TRACK THAT YOU HAVE DIALED INTO? “I have had really good cars, no doubt. You can’t do anything in this sport without good cars. I have had good cars here which makes it a lot easier. I have been able to execute and not get into trouble. I would like to think that this track, 500 miles, it rewards somebody that races methodically but patiently and that has been a strength for me. I would mostly give credit to my teams and the work that they put in and being able to work with them to work on a car and adjust the car through races to track changes. As I look at this race, the track is going to change a lot. What you need to go fast at the beginning is probably not what you will need to go fast at the end. That feedback from the driver is really important and that is something I have worked really hard on.”

 

JOEY LOGANO, No. 22 AAA Insurance Ford Mustang -- Qualified 2nd

WHAT DID YOU NEED TO GET THAT TOP SPOT? “I thought I had it until I didn’t. The guys gave me a really fast race car. It is fast in race trim as well. I thought I had a decent 1 and 2 but had to come out of the gas just a touch in 3 and 4. Maybe that was enough to be the difference. It is hard to say. Dang. I wish I could have that lap back. Paul did a great job of getting our car better than what it was the first time we were here to where it doesn't even feel like we have less grip with the hotter temperatures. I wish we were starting first but we have a Ford from row, so that is good, it is just the wrong Ford.”

 

TELL ME ABOUT THOSE FORDS. YOU HAVE A TON OF SPEED IT SEEMS. WHAT DOES THAT MEAN FOR FORD IN THE PLAYOFFS? “Hopefully we are peaking at the right time. It is hard to say who is the strongest right now. It is different week by week. You can be great with just a couple of adjustments and be horrible with a couple of adjustments. It is so close and the field is so tight and if your balance is off just a little bit you qualify 15th. It is that close right now.”

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