BRAD KESELOWSKI, No. 2 PPG Ford Mustang — Yeah, decent finish for us. We ended up third. I felt like we had a pretty good car. Had a rough start there. Started in the outside lane. I guess with the track not having any rubber, when you started on the outside lane, the tire completely blistered and corded. We lost almost two laps the first run, thought something was broken, didn’t know what was going on.
New tires on lap 60. We were a lap down. By the time we were able to get the lap back, we were at stage two, running 10th or 11th. Unfortunately I didn’t get any stage points, but rallied to get up to the lead there about 150 to go.
Wasn’t quite good enough to hold off the 19. He was super, super strong. He proved why he’s so good. He just kept passing cars, just flying. Pretty impressive.
All in all was really proud. The first time I’ve been here with Jeremy Bullins. This is a track you get a lot of reps with a crew chief, you reiterate, find small things to get to the front, to be the best. To come here our first time together and run third I think is a pretty good mark for us.
Q. With this being the first night race at Martinsville, did it feel different or play out any differently compared to a normal day race at Martinsville? Anything strategically that was a little different?
BRAD KESELOWSKI: No, not a big difference. I think probably the big thing that we noticed of course is not having any practice. That makes it really a different experience to try to dial the cars in. This tire was quite a bit different than any tire we’ve had here before. Those two things together was more of a challenge or certainly noteworthy from our perspective.
Q. Obviously NASCAR made the announcement today about banning the Confederate flag. Did the drivers talk to NASCAR at all about it this week? Once Bubba advocated for it, did you feel that pushed NASCAR to do it?
BRAD KESELOWSKI: Yeah, I wasn’t really involved. I can’t say I was completely caught off guard, but I didn’t know there was any conversations going on there. So I can’t say I was involved intimately to know those things.
I think you know NASCAR well enough to know they do a lot of things without necessarily asking me (smiling). But with respect to that, I don’t want to say I was caught out in left field, that’s not accurate. It wasn’t something that I was necessarily expecting to hear when I woke up today either.
Q. Are you in general in favor of that decision?
BRAD KESELOWSKI: I think I’ve spoken about it before. I don’t really care for that, for that flag. I come from Michigan. I understand it might mean different things to different people. Where I come from, it doesn’t mean anything good.
But then I think I have some empathy towards those that it does mean something positive to. I can’t put myself in their shoes. I’ve never been there.
In general I’m a rights guy and I like when people have rights to do what they want to do. It’s ultimately not my decision. I support the fact that it’s NASCAR’s decision to make.
Q. Last part of the race you and your teammates were going pretty close with each other. What is going through your mind when you are all near the top? Heading towards Miami next, what are some of the quirks of that race that you like to expose there?
BRAD KESELOWSKI: I think probably what was going through my head racing my teammates is don’t wreck my teammates because I really want to have a job and not get fired (laughter). That’s probably the biggest thing.
We raced each other hard but didn’t wreck each other, so I think that’s good.
Then you asked about Homestead?
Q. What are some of your favorite parts of racing down in Miami?
BRAD KESELOWSKI: Favorite parts? Probably my 2012 championship because we used to run for the championship there. That’s what it will always be to me, those memories, deciding titles, championship parties, something I’ll never forget.
Q. Did you hear Bubba’s comments over the last few days? Your reaction to him and what you thought overall of his activism on the last two weeks?
BRAD KESELOWSKI: I heard a few of them. He’s done a lot of media. I don’t know how he keeps up with that. I can’t keep up with my own media let alone his. I can’t tell you I heard everything he said to know exactly his position articulately. He’s standing up for what he believes in, and I can support that.
Q. Some aren’t willing to stand up and be at the forefront, but he’s taking the lead on that.
BRAD KESELOWSKI: He’s obviously got a much different perspective than any of us do. That gives him an authoritative role with everything that’s going on. I don’t know if ‘authoritative’ is the right word, but certainly a credible perspective, how about that? That’s one that I don’t have. Most NASCAR drivers don’t have.
He’s kind of carrying that as the face of NASCAR right now, maybe whether he wants to or not. I don’t know if he wants to. I don’t know. In some ways I feel bad for him because that’s a tremendous burden to carry. In other ways I think he’s very fortunate, it’s a heck of an opportunity.
Q. You mentioned being with a new crew chief at this event. The top four finishers tonight were all new driver‑crew chief combinations. Truex had been with James Small as an engineer before. What strikes you about that?
BRAD KESELOWSKI: That’s a great stat. That’s a Bob Pockrass stat. Did you get that one from Bob (laughter)?
Q. I’m insulted now.
BRAD KESELOWSKI: You guys are friends (laughter).
No, that’s a great stat. I didn’t think about that. I don’t know why it worked out that way. Maybe that’s a coincidence or trying to tell us something. Generally that doesn’t seem like a coincidence. I would like to think we would have been better if we had more races together. I think that about the fall race. What do I know?
Q. You race at Atlanta, Martinsville, Miami. Heat, long races, challenging on the body. What has this week been like? What is it like for you after Miami?
BRAD KESELOWSKI: I mean, I’m hesitant to say it’s tough racing because I drive a car in circles for a living. I don’t think a lot of people want to kind of hear me whine and complain.
That said, it’s a tough week. It’s tough. Probably the toughest I’ve ever been a part of. Atlanta was a grueling race, very humid. 500 miles. I don’t know why it had to be 500 miles, but it was, at a track where the cars are a handful. Normally when we run Atlanta it’s in March or late February‑ish. Obviously running it in early June, late May is much different weather conditions, much harder. Same thing here in Martinsville.
I’m a little bit surprised that today was a 500‑lap race because with it being a Wednesday night race long into the night for some of our fans. It also is part of the challenge of being a racecar driver, is running 500 laps, 500 miles. It gives an endurance factor to it.
I think we see time over time with that endurance factor the storylines and the plot changes. I hate to shorten the races because I think it’s part of the storyline and plot of the Cup Series that you have to be good for so long. It wears you down physically, mentally, along with the car. I really appreciate that. I don’t know if there’s ever been a more grueling stretch in Cup racing.
I was talking to my dad about this. My dad was around in Cup in the ’60s and ’70s as a kid that went to a bunch of races with his dad who had a team. He and I were talking about it at dinner a week or two ago. He asked me, Are you going to be all right for this stretch of races?
I said, I’m just going to have to suck it up.
What are you going to do? You have to find a way and persevere through it. Everyone is telling me stories about the ’60s and ’70s when they ran more races. They had the longer schedule. They’d run a 400‑ or 500‑mile race one or two a week. The drivers would get out halfway. It wasn’t uncommon to where your big‑name drivers would run the first 200 or 300 laps, get out, either somebody else would finish the race or they’d get back in and finish the race at the end. I thought that was so interesting.
I think that just goes to show you how much the racing has changed and evolved. Even though you could maybe compare this specific period of time in NASCAR to the olden days when they raced more during the week, I think that kind of changes it because we don’t have driver changes mid race.
I think that creates, like I said, history for the most grueling few weeks on a driver that the Cup level has ever seen.
With respect to that, it’s the same for everybody. We all got to toughen up. I think it’s a great test of will, a great test of the drivers. I think it’s what makes these few weeks so compelling not just as a participant but as a fan myself.
Q. You, Ryan, Kyle Busch, Martin Truex all seemed to struggle at the beginning of the race. Would practice have helped you knock out whatever issues you faced the first stage?
BRAD KESELOWSKI: Yeah, I’d like to think so. I’d like to think if we ran a 50‑lap practice or 10‑lap practice we would have learned a few things. I can’t say I know for sure.
I know not having rubber on the track was a huge difference. I started at the top. I think that really changed a lot of people’s days. Not everybody even recovered. I think somewhere around the top 16 or 17 cars went a lap down in the front of the race. That’s amazing. How often do you see that? Just a really interesting race.