HOW SATISFYING IS IT TO COME BACK TO MICHIGAN HAVING SEEN A LOT OF PROGRESS WITH RFK RACING SINCE THIS POINT LAST SEASON?
BRAD KESELOWSKI – “A lot of progress over the last 12 months. We started making progress immediately when I came in, it is just you don't realize it. You make a lot of investments in people and equipment and none of them are light switches. I feel like about this time last year we really started to hit and some of our investments started to mature and then there were more during the off-season. Things really started to come together. I think from this point last year to the end of the year, both cars were easily top-15 cars. This year we took another step and are 11th and 13th in points. I think we still have more steps to go. I am super proud of the progress we have made the last 12 months but we need to make another leap to be a playoff-winning kind of cars. That is the next level for us that we are committed to. I am certainly proud of the progress we have made and being able to win races and compete for a lot more top fives and top-10’s and laps led. That is good to see and we are super proud of that.”
BRAD, HOW CONFIDENT ARE YOU WITH YOUR CURRENT PLAYOFF SITUATION?
KESELOWSKI – “I am way more confident in Chris’ playoff situation. His looks really good for us. We aren’t in a bad spot. We have four races left until the playoffs start and it would take three new winners for us to be knocked out. That is certainly possible but probably not likely. Ultimately we need to go out and perform and we can’t take anything for granted. I think we have something like a 150 point cushion on the cutoff line now and 100 on the next one if someone were to win. That feels pretty reasonable and I would take that over the alternative of not having a cushion or being behind, but it isn’t a guarantee. We have a good race track for us here in Michigan. This is a track I have had a number of really good runs and second place finishes and most laps led and stage points. I know all the Ford’s are loaded for bear and have worked really hard to make sure we have a strong showing here with our car prep for all of our cars. Hopefully that bodes well for Sunday. Ultimately you aren’t in until you are in and we aren’t in. I think if we were able to punch through and get both cars into the playoffs there are some really good races for us. Having won Bristol last fall with Chris, that track seems to suit our cars really well. Darlington was really good for us. Texas last year we ran really well. Homestead we had a great race. There are some tracks that really suit us well in the playoffs and I feel like if we can lock both cars in we will make some noise in the playoffs. FIrst things first though, we have to get both cars in.”
HOW IMPORTANT IS IT FOR BOTH CARS TO ADVANCE INTO THE PLAYOFFS?
KESELOWSKI – “I think it is super critical but I have my own biases. I think putting both cars in and really kind of showing to ourselves and others that we are committed to having that depth across the entire company to be able to win and be a threat on any given Sunday with both cars is super critical to our long term standing in the sport.”
LOOKING AT THE NEXT TWO ROAD COURSES ON THE SERIES SCHEDULE, HOW IMPORTANT IS IT GETTING INTO TURN 1 AT THESE TRACKS?
CHRIS BUESCHER – “Road course racing has been a lot of fun and we have been very competitive at them. Fast race cars make me look too good at those kinds of places because it is not my background. We had fantastic speed at Indy last year. Both of us were very fast in that race. I think Brad had the fastest lap of the race. That is definitely one that we are looking at. Obviously lap one led to our highlight reel and being on fire and all that nonsense last year. We are definitely going to try to pay attention to that one and try to guard yourself against that. I think the cars have come a long way too and we have made some changes, the industry has, where we don't have to worry about it in the same regard as we did at that point last year. Hopefully now we can get through it nice and clean because once you do and establish yourself in the running order it certainly cleans up a lot as we get into the race. As we look at what we did with Chicago and the restart zone, we were single-file there which I don't think any of us minded but with the weather and everything it was kind of more out of necessity than wanting to be single-file. The restart zone helped clean up turn one which was a pretty big concern for all of us heading into the weekend and it ended up being a non-issue. I feel like some of the changes for Indy will certainly help that as well.”
“The changes, trying to move the restart zone and make it so we aren’t driving in there five-wide. I think that is the big part. You start on the front straightaway of Indy, if we would have been there at Chicago … COTA, you go into the corner five-wide and something has to give and it usually isn’t a driver, it is usually a toe link or a bumper or something because we are all a little hard headed. Anything we can do to help smooth that out will certainly be a big help.”
BRAD, WHAT HAVE YOU SEEN OUT OF CHRIS THIS SEASON?
KESELOWSKI – “In fairness to some of my predecessors I didn’t bring him on, he was here before me, but I certainly wanted him to stay. I think Chris is very talented and has a very humble approach that is great for building a team and a framework that can be successful and enduring for years to come. So the roots are all there for him to be successful. I have felt like for a while that he was held back by the equipment that wasn’t on par with his level of talent and I am fully committed to making sure we have that level of equipment in all aspects of our business. I am not sure if I fully answered your questions but I think we are lucky to have Chris and it has been good for everybody.”
NEXT WEEK WILL BE NINE YEARS SINCE YOUR WIN AT MID-OHIO IN THE XFINITY SERIES. WHAT ARE SOME OF YOUR MEMORIES OF THAT?
BUESCHER – “Man, time is flying. I do get to see them and talk to them from time to time. I don't think I have seen them since probably pre-COVID in Charlotte a handful of years ago now. Another one of those road course wins that I guess started the wave. Obviously it was a special event to have Nationwide Children’s Hospital on the car for that one and the family there with us and in victory lane for that first win. It was certainly a fun one. I am sure that if it works out we will see them at another race. Mid-Ohio is their local track and we don't go there in the Cup Series but I would vote for that one if someone asks. I would be in for it.”
IS THERE AN AREA OF DEVELOPMENT IN THIS GENERATION OF CAR THAT CAN OFFER MORE SPEED DISPARITIES?
KESELOWSKI – “Wow, I wasn’t really prepared for this one. I should have put more thought into this one. I think there are some open criteria that we do have that IndyCar doesn't. Some of our engine criteria is open where IndyCar is more highly regulated. So there are some areas that I think are open for development and we do have a fairly robust aero program amongst the manufacturers which is somewhat generated from the teams. I would be hesitant to say there aren’t areas for development. I think there are. But certainly less than ever before. To specifically suggest a certain area, I don't know if I have that idea at this time. But I will put some thought into it, I will tell you that. I think we do see disparities right now. They aren’t as prominent as they were. I think right now the majority of the fight and contest seems to be on the submission and homologation of the aerodynamics of the car. We see that fairly routinely through the years and it hasn’t changed fully through the NextGen. That will continue to surface. I feel like last year the Ford’s had a pretty good car. Arguably the best car through the homologation period and then this year pretty easily the worst car. Conversely, you could probably say Toyota had the worst car last year and this year the best. That seems to show itself more than what we have available to us on the team side. Those things flip and they flop here and there. You have to take advantage when you are on top and try to mitigate when you are behind. It is hard for me to say there is one area where NASCAR should just open the rule book. These cars were meant to tighten it up and they have done a good job of that. Maybe it can be argued that it is good or bad with respect to parity and passing but for the most part I think it has served our sport well.”
WE’RE FOUR WEEKS INTO SRX. HOW HAS IT BEEN SO FAR?
KESELOWSKI – “I had a great time seeing some of the local short tracks that make up our sport. That has been a blast. Seeing guys I haven’t seen in awhile. I had a chance to sit down and talk to Kasey Kahne and I haven’t seen him since he stopped running in NASCAR. I got to meet some of the IndyCar drivers that I knew but hadn’t had a chance to really talk to. Ken Schroeder and I shared some old NASCAR stories that I always had some questions about. I keep joking with people that it is like the senior tour series. I am not sure if I should be proud to be in it or not. I don't feel that old, but they even have this latch so you can get in and out of the door easier. That hit me pretty hard. It has been fun. It is a nice little piece. Not being able to run the Xfinity Series, I miss those reps and being able to compete in those series. With the rules changes and the lack of availability for rides for the limited races you are allowed to run, it just hasn’t been an opportunity for me. This fills a nice gap for me in my life.”
HOW DOES THE NEW MEDIA RIGHTS DEAL IN THE XFINITY SERIES EFFECT A DECISION TO EXPAND THE RFK RACING OPERATION?
KESELOWSKI – “It is certainly very intriguing. I thought the announcement for the Xfinity Series was a big win for our industry to be on broadcast for all the races for that series. I think that gives us a high level of exposure for that series that hopefully transcends into whatever the media rights deal is for the Cup Series or at least compliments it in some way. I think that is an exciting moment for our sport which is probably not fully understood at this moment but if we fast forward the clock five or 10 years I think we will say that was a really nice win for the sport. It is yet to be seen what is going to happen with the Cup Series and Truck Series and I would be remiss to have an answer for you on what our level of involvement will be in the Xfinity Series but I would like to think that the series being broadcast would be able to attract the partners we would need to justify the level of investment it would take to run that series and ultimately that will be the deciding factor.”
BRAD, WITH THE SUCCESS OF THE WIN LAST WEEK FOR THE ORGANIZATION, DO YOU HAVE A THOUGHT TO EXPAND TO THREE TEAMS?
KESELOWSKI – “I think we would definitely like to do that but it is easier said than done. For the time being I think we are quite satisfied with the relationship we are building with the Rick Ware Racing cars which allows us to kind of add some depth to our roster without going out and buying another charter right now. I think it is maybe well documented and maybe not but it is almost impossible to buy a charter. Nobody is selling one. Really no matter what your offer is you can’t buy one. I think there have been some people knocking on the door with a lot of money and the answer is that your money is not good anywhere. Everyone on the team owner side wants to see where the charter goes and where the TV media rights deal goes. So there are no charters even actively for sale right now. It will be interesting to see where that plays out over the next 24 months when this thing gets announced. Ultimately we would like to get to a third car. It has to be possible and right now it is not possible.”
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