Ford Performance NASCAR: Playoff Media Day (Keselowski)
BRAD KESELOWSKI PRESS CONFERENCE
BRAD KESELOWSKI - #2 Miller Lite Ford Fusion - HOW BIG OF A DEAL WOULD IT BE TO WIN A TITLE FOR FORD THIS YEAR? "I feel like that's asking for a specific ROI, a valuation. Yeah, I think about winning the championship. I'm a little selfish because I really haven't put that much thought into what it would mean for Ford, but now you kind of make me feel like I should be doing that. What would it mean to me, specifically? A second championship is I think critical in my own perspective of being a part of this sport. I'm a big believer that success isn't measured by your ability to do something once, it's measured by your ability to do something twice. We've had great opportunities to win a second championship, but we've kind of fallen a little short for a number or reasons, and we have that opportunity again this year, so that's a great privilege and a great opportunity. Of course, we want to make the most of it and I think it would mean a tremendous amount to me personally to kind of validate the first championship."
SOME DRIVERS HAVE TALKED TODAY ABOUT AMBULANCES GETTING LOST ON THE WAY TO THE CARE CENTER. HAVE YOU HAD THAT ISSUE? "I haven't talked to anybody about it. As far as I was concerned it was a freak thing and freak things happen. It seems like freak things happen in NASCAR more than anything else, whether it's cables falling or ambulances in the middle of the way. I don't know why that is. In some ways I want to believe it's because there's a lot going on in this sport at any time, and it's easier for those things to happen. But it's not as though that doesn't happen in other sports. One of the most famous plays I college football history is when the band ran out on the field. I'd say that's pretty similar to the ambulance being in the way. But I haven't spent a bunch of time worrying about it."
SO YOU'RE NOT CONCERNED ABOUT AMBULANCE RESPONSE? "No, my expectations are very low already to begin with (laughing). I'm not all that worried about it. Our thoughts are just make the car right, so you don't have to worry about it. As a team, we try to do our best."
AUSTIN WON TWO WEEKS AGO. HOW BIG WAS THAT FOR YOUR TRUCK TEAM? "It's one of those wins that feels good and stings at the same time, but for our team it is a good thing to have both vehicles locked in the Playoffs. I'm not sure what's gonna happen over those next few weeks as they have their own Playoffs, but it would be nice to see that team and our company go out on a high note and win a championship. That would be really, really sweet and we're gonna do the best we can to make that happen. Of course, for that to happen you have to be eligible, so it's nice to have both trucks eligible and locked in."
TRUEX EXPRESSED SOME CONCERN THAT NASCAR MAYBE WOULDN'T THROW THE CAUTION WHEN THEY NEEDED TO. WHAT DO YOU THINK? "I'm a cynic with anything. I'm not sure the moon landing was fake, but I'm still a cynic. I look at everything that goes on and always say that's probably not right - not just limited to NASCAR - so that's why it's good for them to have transparency and to be able to have some consistency to go with their transparency so that nobody feels that way, but I think it's very natural, especially when you're negatively impacted by those events to be frustrated by it, so I can completely understand where Martin is coming from. I felt like the same thing has happened to me at times in my career. There's no way to prove or disprove it, but it's how you feel so that becomes reality."
SO IS THERE CONFIDENCE IN RACE CONTROL? "Confidence? Shoot, I'm not really depending on them. I think my overall philosophy of racing is try to control everything you can control and don't worry about the rest, and I can't control what happens in there. So I don't really look at it as something to have confidence in. I think, if anything, I expect it to go against me every time possible, so that I am the most prepared I can be to win a race."
YOU SAID YOU WANTED BKR TO GO OUT ON A HIGH NOTE. HAVE YOU FINISHED THE PLAN ON YOUR NEXT VENTURE? "I'm working on it. There are some great things that I think we have down the pipeline, but nothing that I'm ready to announce."
YOU WERE COMPLIMENTARY OF DANICA YESTERDAY ON TWITTER. WE'VE SEEN A LOT OF CHANGES IN THE LANDSCAPE THE LAST COUPLE OF WEEKS. IS THAT CONCERNING TO YOU? "No. Concern is not the right word. I'm anxious. I think it's OK to be anxious to see what it looks like. I kind of felt like this was coming three or four years ago, so I think, for me, I was actually a little bit surprised that it happened all at once. I thought maybe it would be a little bit more staggered than it has been, so that was kind of where it has been kind of interesting for me at least. But the landscape of the sport is changing dramatically. As for what it looks like in the next five to 10 years? I think we can all take guesses, but we don't know. But there is a part of me that believes NASCAR has been around for at least 50 years. I think they're closing in on 70 next year and it's probably gonna be around after I'm around or after I'm alive just as it was before I was born, so I'm not too worried about that. Of course the question is, 'How big of a sport will it be?' Will it come down smaller or will it grow over the next 10-20 years? I don't know. I have the luxury of having a family that was involved in this sport, and every once in a while I get to hear the stories of when they were here at Charlotte Motor Speedway in the sixties and think the first race was 1968 or '69, I can't remember, and they ran that race and there was almost 100 cars and it took a week to qualify. Ford was there with all their money and Chrysler was there and Chevy was there and then 10 years later nobody was there. There was no money and you couldn't find any race tracks. It went from having almost 70 races on the circuit to barely 28 and that was by begging for races to show up, so there was a cycle is I guess what I'm trying to get at. Are we in the middle of a cycle right now? It's very, very possible. I don't know. It's easier to answer that 20 years after than it is in the moment, but if it does go down, then I just believe it's part of the natural cycle that this sport has gone through in the past and will probably keep going through, and you just try to ride the wave."
THERE WILL BE A LOT OF YOUNGER DRIVERS IN THE SERIES. DOES THAT RAISE THE RISK OF MORE DAMAGED EQUIPMENT? "Absolutely. You're gonna bring in a fresh crop of guys. What's interesting about this class, because I think maybe it was about 10 years ago we saw a whole new kind of class come in. We saw like a change of the guard, maybe like 2002-06 - a rough time period - and what was interesting about that change of the guard is that all those drivers that came in in that time period seemed to really earn it. They were a short-track ace here or this guy was whatever here. Those guys really seemed to earn it. I feel there is a couple in this group that have. I look at Erik Jones and I look at Ryan Blaney and those type of guys. I think those two probably really earned it, but as I look through this crop being cycled there are four or five really quality drivers that are gonna be cycled and I don't see four or five candidates that I would really look at and say that they've earned it and can replace them from a talent perspective. So it will certainly have a different feel to it. Again, I don't know if that's good or bad, and we're all gonna find out together. But I think that crop from 2002-2006 was a phenomenal rookie crop that we'll probably not see again for generations and this crop is probably not gonna be able to compare to them, so it's fair to say that the dynamics of the racing will change."
ARE YOU COMFORTABLE WITH THE FUTURE OF THIS SPORT? "I'm comfortable that it will be around, that it's still a lot better than having a day job. I drove on I-77 on the way here and that was a good reminder of how lucky I am to be a race car driver. If I had to drive that every day, I don't know that I'd make it, so thank God I don't have to have a real job. It's still a luxury to be in this sport and I don't see that changing. Will we go from eating steak to hamburgers? Yeah, there's a good chance at that, but it could be a lot worse."
DO YOU FEEL MORE A RESPONSIBILITY TO BE MORE OF A LEADER IN THIS SPORT? "I feel like I've felt that all along and that was part of the incentive for me to be part of the driver's council and do those type of things with the truck team and so forth. I've always felt like those that are lucky enough to pick the apples up off the tree should probably plant a few and grow some trees back for the next generation. With respect to that, I think I've always felt that way, but where that will go or how impactful that will be, I don't know."
IN WHAT WAYS DO YOU PLAN ON PLANTING THOSE TREES WITHOUT BKR? "I have some ideas, but I don't really particularly want to share them. I was reading this great piece on Elon Musk when he started Tesla and how he wrote his whole business plan and the last line of his business plan is, 'Don't tell anyone.' So I'm not really ready to let that go."
WHERE IS THE YOUNGER GENERATION OF DRIVERS FALLING SHORT? "Just to be clear, I don't think I was a part of the 2002-06 group, so I feel like I was a small little subset in between. The biggest issue that I see is that the owners aren't willing to invest in driver development because they don't have to. Someone will come to them with a check, so why would you invest in driver development."
THAT'S HAPPENED FOR YEARS IN THIS SPORT. "Yeah, but it's happening at a higher frequency now than it did in that era. In that era, you would have saw 15 drivers in the XFINITY Series that a Cup owner invested in. Now you might see half a dozen in the XFINITY Series and most of them aren't investing in the team, so it's a different dynamic. This still at the end of the day is a world where, and maybe it's a flaw of mankind and it's no different in the world than it is in racing, that to be successful in anything you do you have to be incredibly driven and you have to have a desire that will create moments where you refuse to lose, refuse to give up. In my experience, it's not possible to find the driver and desire until your back is up against the wall and you're really committed to something. In that regard, when drivers come in and they're financially taken care of with the road that's paved, and it's not just drivers, it's in other aspects of life, they're not as driven and it's just an inherent flaw. By not being driven, they're not going to learn the lessons or pick up on the things that you need to pick up on, and it's not their fault, it's just a reality of life. It's no different than anyone else. A lot of how I learned in this sport was because I realized if I didn't figure out how to do something, I was not going to have a way to make a living. When someone comes in and they have a family or a financial backer that has given them millions of dollars or whatever it might be, and they know they'll always have that to fall back on, they're just not going to be as driven and you're not going to do your work, do your homework, research, whatever you want to call it, at the same level and that's gonna make its way into your performance, and it's just a reality. That landscape has certainly changed."
EXCLUDING YOURSELF WHO IS THE NEXT ACTIVE DRIVER TO WIN MULTIPLE CHAMPIONSHIPS? "I would say that would be between Joey and the two Kyles. They're really talented. They're very young. They've got great rides. You'd be inclined to say that Kyle Busch would probably get there first because he has the best ride of the three, and he already has a championship, but who knows?
JIMMIE SEEMS TO TURN IT ON IN THE PLAYOFFS. WHAT DOES HE DO TO MAKE THAT HAPPEN? "What I see in their team is they bring different cars every year in the Chase than what they bring in the summer and his cars are more competitive. When you go back to the three things it takes to win - speed, execution and luck - he's able to achieve the speed piece, and then he executes. He's had a little bit of luck along the way and last year was certainly an example, but he's had years where he's had bad luck as well. I'd say our speed and execution was pretty similar in 2012 and he had a little bit worse luck than I did, but we were pretty darn similar. So he's been on the other side of the luck equation, so I think that's probably what I see more than anything else is for whatever reason that team consistently holds back their speed until the Chase happens, so we'll see if that happens again."
HOW MANY HORSESHOES DO YOU NEED TO WIN THE CHAMPIONSHIP? "With this format, one less than you did last year. Last year, without being able to keep the Playoff bonus points and so forth throughout the rounds, there was definitely more luck involved without a doubt."
DO THE FORDS HAVE THE SPEED TO WIN THE CHAMPIONSHIP? "At this moment, no. At this moment, there's really no reason for Toyota not to have all four spots going to Homestead, but all of that it's dynamic - kind of like we just talked about with Jimmie. You never know what people are gonna show up with at Chicagoland in the first round and Charlotte and so forth in the second round. And then of course getting to the third round, which is a tough one in itself with Martinsville and so forth, it's tough too. At this point, no, but we'll see. It's a dynamic sport."
HOW DO YOU FEEL YOU RELATE TO THE EVERY DAY FAN? "At the end of the day there's that old quote of 'be kind because everyone you meet is facing a great struggle.' Being a race car driver is a great privilege and it's also an incredible challenge. Every day you get up and every day is a race. Every day is 'did I make the most of this day to make my team better? Did make the most of this day to make my sponsors happy so they can give us the finances? Did I make the most of this day to take care of my fans, so I can feel good about the privileges I have?' And I think some say that it's hard to relate to fans because a fan only sees a race car driver compete on a Sunday or a Saturday, and one of the most common questions I get from people is, 'What do you do in the middle of the week and what do you do during the off season?' And when I try to explain that I work they kind of look at me sideways and say, 'What do you do? Drive a car every day?' No, but we have team meetings or media days or fan events or sponsor events we have to go to that come up and we go do them. In the middle of the season, barring that one off week, it's very normal to work seven days a week. In some ways, I can relate to that. I can't relate to sitting in a traffic jam every day. I already said that once, but that's miserable. Even though we have great privilege, we're still out there giving it our all and fighting the daily struggles too. There is great financial wealth to be made, but that wealth is all made in a very condensed time period and has to go on for your entire life, so that can be really burdensome because you look at whatever you make, even when you make a good living, you end up being fearful you're gonna lose it all all the time and that's tough. It might not be the most relatable, but that's what I can share."
WHAT IS THE CHALLENGE FOR THE SPORT AND OPPORTUNITY FOR DRIVERS NEXT YEAR WITH JUNIOR GONE AND DANICA POSSIBLY NOT COMPETING? "The short version is we have to win over the next generation and then monetize to them. That's the biggest challenge for this sport. There are a lot of ideas for doing that and I could go a lot longer on that piece, but monetizing millennials. Of course you have to attract them and you have to monetize them. That's the biggest challenge. As far as opportunities, the biggest opportunity is in technology. I don't feel like we've even really scratched the surface of what technology can do for this sport to keep it relevant. We have to somehow find a way to do that."
--- Ford Performance ---