Transcript: Chris Buescher & Scott Graves Bristol

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THE MODERATOR: We’re going to continue with our post-race press conference here with our race-winning driver and crew chief, Chris Buescher and Scott Graves. Congratulations to you both. We appreciate you spending some time with us. We are going to roll straight into questions. 

CHRIS BUESCHER: I just want to point out that we have swords, so you’d better be nice, all of you.

Q. What’s Brad Keselowski like as a team owner?

CHRIS BUESCHER: It’s been really special. I talked about it a lot through different events, different appearances, different sponsor get-togethers. I’ve had a lot of teammates through my Cup career that have been passionate and put in a lot of effort, but none like Brad. 

I think it comes from a level of success that he’s had in the series and winning a championship and winning races, and coming in having just that little extra skin in the game as a — well, a lot more skin in the game as an owner, as well.

It’s been really fun. Been able to lean on him at a lot of tracks that have been my weaker places and get a lot better at those places and make some big progress.

It’s been really good through the year. We didn’t fire off as good as we had hoped. The Duels were big, to sweep those, but the Clash didn’t fire off as good as we had hoped, and spent the first couple months trying to get traction underneath our feet.

We came into some really good runs there early summer and we’ve had a lot of really good months here with a little bit of rough luck along the way and a little bit of cleanup just needed in some different areas.

We’ve been close, and that was exciting internally. Everybody at the shop sees it. But it’s a little harder for our casual fans to read into some of the things that we’re talking about and the successes that we feel like — the many wins that we’ve had internally.

This just put a cap on all that and really shows everybody the progress that we’ve made through the summer and through the year, and as Brad has come over and really just poured so much heart and soul into the organization as well as Jack and everybody back at RFK. 

Q. How specifically has Brad made you a better driver?

CHRIS BUESCHER: I think about — Phoenix is my most specific example that I always come back to, but there’s been a handful of these along the way. Racetrack has not historically been my best track. It just hasn’t been. I don’t have a good reason why, or didn’t at the time, and we got to go out there and run a test with Brad really early on where I ran a day and then Brad got in the car and ran the second day.

It was one of those where he gets out and says, look, you’re focusing on the wrong things or maybe don’t focus as hard on these. Focus here. Move it around. He said, this is where I’ve had success; try this. That’s helped me at a lot of racetracks that we’ve gone to this season, to be better at those places. 

To see his passion and the amount of effort that he puts in each and every weekend, it just drives everybody to put in all the effort we possibly can to get to right here, right, to be sitting here after a race and celebrating.

Q. Overall in the organization outside of the race car, what does Brad provide to RFK that maybe wasn’t there before?

CHRIS BUESCHER: I guess there’s not one thing. There’s a lot of things that have happened through the off-season, through the season that continued to change, whether that is cleaning up some of our process. I think Brad has come in and been a detail guy. Really dove into some of the smaller pieces that will add up to bigger pieces.

We’ve come in and — you know, a lot of it’s — the most obvious is esthetics that have been cleaned up and straightened out, and that goes towards pushing a higher work ethic and a better sense of pride in what we’re putting on the racetrack.

We’ve had really nice race cars at the track each and every week, and that’s started from just cleaning up a little bit. As you go along the list and you get some of his knowledge that he’s built through the years, I think he’s been thinking about this team owner thing for a really long time. 

I think it’s been good to have him come over and kind of rejuvenate Jack, as well. I’ve seen Jack smiling a whole lot more in the last couple months than I had in a long time, and that’s been awesome to see at the same time.

I think it’s brought some more excitement back to the shop. I think it’s brought some more success back to the shop, as well.

Q. What kind of deal was it to hang over your head, 223 races since the last win at Pocono, 2,238 days; you had to live with that. How did you live with that? How did you deal with that?

CHRIS BUESCHER: I didn’t count them. 

I don’t like that stat one bit. But at least it reset here today. 

We’ve had some really close ones this year. The progress — and the speed has been there at a lot of places. We’ve come back on Monday and been happy for a lot of reasons and really upset on some missed opportunities or some small things that we felt like could have completely changed some of our days or some big things like catching on fire at Indy.

There’s been a lot of moments through the summer, really through the season, that we could add up and say we’ve been sneaking up on this. So it was nice to put it together. Scott made a great call — all day long, really. We got our track position after not qualifying as good as we had hoped and got up front for a lot of the race and was able to run away with it at the end.

You know, I think about the Pocono win, and that one was special, but this has been the one where I would take over any other race, whether it’s the 500, the Coke 600. This is the one I’ve wanted forever. That makes this one that much better.

Aside from all the numbers and the days passed since the last one, it just means that much more that this was the one that we did pull off.

Q. Through the years and all those days, you never thought about that, never thought about the distance between that first win —

CHRIS BUESCHER: Like I said, I thought about it, but I just didn’t count them. It came up in the shop this week that this was our 250th start. I thought that through and thought back through the years, like man, it’s been a rough go at times. I’ve been sitting here trying to fight for top 20s at different points of my career. 

That’s not where we’re at this year. It’s not where we’ve been looking to. We’ve had high expectations from the get-go. I think a lot of that does come from Brad coming over and hitting a reset button. Nobody was ever content with 20th, but we needed baby steps to work our way back up, and this was a big reset this season to say, look, we need to be winning races.

Trying to put everything else behind you other than the last week and try and learn from that one to get better.

Yeah, I guess it’s crossed your mind that it’s been a long time, and I wasn’t counting 2,234 days or whatever that was for sure.

Q. Scott, in 2015 you got your first championship in the Xfinity Series with Chris. This is your first win as a Cup Series crew chief. Is it a little bit of coming full circle?

SCOTT GRAVES: Yeah, for sure. I’ve been at this a long time on the Cup side. When I got the chance to get back together to work with Chris at the end of last year, I was really excited about it. Getting into this year, we’ve been close a couple times, and to finally get this win, especially at Bristol because of like — we were just talking about it just a couple days ago, that 2015 we almost won the Xfinity race and it came down to a caution with like two to go.

We were out of — ran out of fuel basically on the restart and lost that one. 

This makes up for it for sure. 

It means a lot here, obviously, to get this win and to get it with Chris. Yeah, it definitely means a lot. It’s a really big race.

Q. Chris, quarterback Geno Smith had a great quote last week: People tried to write me off; I didn’t write back. Do you think there was a time where the industry or fans or anyone — you were a top prospect coming in and winning the Xfinity title. But do you think there was a time during your drought where people did write you off?

CHRIS BUESCHER: Maybe. I don’t care, though. No, I think that we’ve stayed at what we’ve known through the years, tried to understand that you have to do the best with what we had. We made good things happen with opportunities that people didn’t expect, so we weren’t necessarily written off, but we were underdogs a lot through the years.

Maybe we were a little bit coming into this season, as well. I think we’ve had the performance that has showed that that’s not where we’re at for the majority of this season at this point. We’ve had really strong runs.

I don’t think that that’s us at this point. If it was, so be it. I don’t think it’s bothered me one bit. We’re out here to win races. It’s been a long time, and like I said, wasn’t counting the days, but I know that I wanted this thing really bad.

I think back to some of the races this season, and we’ve been so close at them and had things happen along the way. Honestly, I’m okay with that. We got to win at the one we wanted the most.

Like Scott said, this is something that we’ve talked about leading into Bristol a lot, wishing there was two concrete races here to have more shots at it, just trying to redeem ourselves from a race that really just punched us right in the throat right at the very end after having a really dominant day. This makes up for that in a really big way.

Q. Chris, you mentioned three or four different times about how special it was to win at Bristol. Just talk a little bit about that atmosphere tonight. It seemed like really electric, such a big crowd here tonight and everyone into it.

CHRIS BUESCHER: Yeah, this place has that special feel. We always talk about it coming into it.

The excitement I got walking through that tunnel yesterday and seeing concrete, clean concrete, was really big. I don’t mind the dirt race, but this is my favorite racetrack on a paved surface, so when we lose that to dirt, it hurts a little bit more than it would than if a Richmond was covered in dirt. 

It’s always special coming in here. We had a great crowd tonight. Fans were jacked up. It’s a long day of waiting to hopefully hold out for weather, and we had fantastic weather tonight. Got to get our whole race in without any worries of any of that. It was a great temperature out. Fans showed up in huge numbers, and it was great to see the fans packing the stands here at Bristol again.

That adds to everything else on top of this being my favorite racetrack. I’m not saying that because I’m sitting here at Bristol. I’ve gotten in trouble at a lot of different racetracks for saying that on their stages beforehand and gotten yelled at, but it’s the truth. 

This is the one, the one we’ve been looking forward to for a really long time, and it’s just a special place. It’s unlike anywhere else we go.

Q. Scott, the tire strategy, did you have an idea going in that they were not going to wear — Brad went the whole first stage, obviously, and it worked out.

SCOTT GRAVES: Yeah, after watching — I mean, through practice we saw lap times were not a lot of falloff, and then just watching the races here the last few days just gave me more of a sense of kind of back to 2015-16 where it was just about the track position and staying out. 

Really felt like tonight was just going to come down to who could be in first on the last restart and controlling the race.

I was a little concerned, like we were playing it right, led through most of the second stage, and then some guys got a little more aggressive.

We were kind of waiting until we could get to windows to pit for the last time and put tires, and I was a little concerned that we gave it up because we were back in like fourth or fifth, and then I knew at that point we were even with everybody in front of us, and when that last caution came out, I was like, well, the only shot we’ve got is to put two tires on it here and try to get out in front of him.

Luckily it did. The rights were the only thing I was concerned about. There was almost zero wear in the left side tires, and I was only worried about the rights just for some of the failures that happened. Like I say, the falloff was pretty minimal.

That was just our opportunity to get it back out front, and I knew if we could get there, then we could keep the lead.

Q. Following up, were you worried when Keselowski had his tire problem? Did you get any feedback on that?

SCOTT GRAVES: Yeah, I was a little bit worried at that point because it had been mostly confined to like the Penske cars, and I didn’t think we were going to have any issues at that point.

We had that one long run. We had 110 laps on tires on one run and really didn’t see any issues, so I wasn’t too worried.

Then as soon as Brad had it, I knew what all their settings were and where they were on pressure and we were right there with them. Definitely a little bit of concern, and I think everybody else did, too, and I think that’s why everyone went from the really aggressive, they were just going to stay out, to when that last caution happened then everybody hit pit road.

So it just kind of changed the tone a little bit at that point. 

Q. As a crew chief what was it like watching this race, the first time that the Next-Gen car has been on the concrete with the high loads and obviously there were a lot of durability problems for a lot of people. Did you expect that coming in or was it even more of a race of attrition than you expected?

SCOTT GRAVES: A little bit. We knew it would be a test. I thought we’d been to Dover; that’s pretty high load, one of the highest load tracks that we see. I guess the difference here is just that everyone was probably on a different steering ratio, a little bit quicker steering, and maybe that put things in a little bit higher load.

Tested that part of the car out that hadn’t really been seen before. I guess I wasn’t completely surprised that we saw some issues, but I was surprised there were a bunch of steering rack issues it seemed like. And then the failures, just not sure on like the tire failures we were seeing. But not knowing where guys were at with settings and things like that, luckily we were conservative enough to not have an issue.

Q. Chris, you said on TV that you weren’t worried at all when Scott called for the two tires and that you were just going to drive it at the end. Does that illustrate — obviously you two have worked together a lot. Does that illustrate the faith that you’ve had in Scott atop the pit box all the time you’ve worked together?

CHRIS BUESCHER: Yeah, I think last year kind of picked up pretty quickly where we left off several years back, and coming down to the end of the race, I’m in no position to make that decision from where I’m at.

I was sitting there, we kind of had been running about fourth or fifth, and he didn’t tell me until we were pulling into the pit box about four stalls away, so I didn’t have time to argue anyway. I was on board with it. As soon as he said it I was like, all right, we’re going to get this track position, we’re going to fight with all we’ve got on this restart and try and take off.

I don’t know what the other cars were on there at the end, but I felt like watching Brad have his issue definitely had me a little bit nervous from inside the car, but from where we’re at, unfortunately not in the playoffs, but there’s no reason to let up. We have nothing to lose here tonight, so we’ll stay after it, and whatever happens happens.

No, I felt confident that he had the information to make that call and trusted that that was going to give us the track position to be on the front row there at the end.

We had good calls earlier that put us up there in a fast race car that we were on the front row and got a lot of practice up there restarting, and I think we were 100 percent on right lane choice from the front row and maintaining the lead.

Had a good idea where we needed to be for that last restart, and that all helped from my standpoint.

Q. Scott, how have you seen Chris grow as a driver from when you first worked with him to where you guys are now, and what makes this relationship between the two of you click like it does?

SCOTT GRAVES: I think from when I first started working with him, I think just the confidence he has now has grown a lot.

This year, obviously, the car, the confidence and the aggression that he’s been able to show has just really been a step up from what I’ve seen. So just really proud of him for that, from what he’s been able to do and actually get the win here tonight is just kind of, I guess, a huge accomplishment on that end of it. 

I think for what works between us, neither of us gets stressed out. It’s just, he’s calm, and I just try to stay calm. Whether I’m calm internally or not, I just try to stay calm, and I think that’s just a big part of it because we’re able to talk our way through things. 

We always seem to be going forward, like we make adjustments throughout a race and we can figure it out and move forward, and that’s just a big part of it.

I feel like a lot of times if you’re in a panic mode, then a lot of things spiral out of control, and that’s just not us.

It works well from that standpoint. 

THE MODERATOR: Scott, thanks for hanging with us for a little bit. You are good to go.

Q. Chris, during your Cup career you’ve had really good races and really good runs in spurts it feels like, but tonight obviously not only do you get the win, you also set a new career high for laps led. Actually I think you shattered that mark by a wide margin and obviously got the victory. Do you feel like this is — I know this is easy to say because you won, but do you feel like this is the most complete race that you’ve ever run in your Cup career?

CHRIS BUESCHER: Probably, because there’s a trophy at the end of the day. But I think back, it was a smooth day. It wasn’t a day where we had to fight in qual and overcome a lot of adversity.

I think we talked a lot this year because we’ve had those days, Indy, for instance. We had speed to win that race or to fight with the 8 car for that one, and caught on fire and we were laps down until six laps to go we finally got on the lead lap.

We fought all day long and clawed our way back to 10th. That’s one you sit there, and we came back on Monday and thought, man, if things could have gone a little smoother and we didn’t fight all the adversity throughout most of the race, that could have been an opportunity. 

There’s been a lot of races like that where we’ve been strong. We’ve had good showings. We’ve steadily built on our speed during the race. We’ve made good adjustments, we’ve had good pit stops, but we’ve had something hit us along the way, whether it was bad luck, whether it was poor choices from behind the steering wheel, whether it was on pit road, whatever it may have been. We’ve had things come up on some of our best days that have prevented us from sitting here right now.

We didn’t have to fight near as hard today. We had speed from the get-go. Fast cars fix a whole lot of things, and we had that through practice.

Qualifying was a big disappointment for us, and I guess maybe that was the biggest hurdle we had to overcome was not being where we needed to be after qualifying. I felt confident in our race car. I told everybody, I’m not stressing about this right now. I am really happy with where we’re at, and I think we have a good shot. I love this racetrack. I always feel like we have a shot coming here.

It was one of those days where we just all executed well. We didn’t have that big slap in the face somewhere along the way that we had to try and shake off and get back going.

At this level and at this level of competition that we’ve seen week in, week out, you have to put together everything in the same night, and we did that tonight.

Q. You mentioned having fast cars, and the last time the Cup Series was on a short track before this was Richmond, and there you were contending for the win there. I know you had had good runs to that point before and were on a pretty good streak, but was that almost a Eureka moment for this race team?

CHRIS BUESCHER: The fact that it was at Richmond, yeah. I would have told you to fill that place with water and stock it with fish for a lot of years of my career. This year has been a pretty good reset for me. I had friends at Richmond that worked at the track, and they gave me a really hard time because I was not easy and I did not make their jobs easy.

It’s a place where I really struggled through the years, and to come there this year and have two good runs, but to be that close in that race, it was like, man, we’ve found something, not only on our road course side but our short track side of things. Our mile-and-a-halfs have been okay, more competitive than we’ve been in the past, but not where they need to be.

Love going to Richmond and seeing that speed there, and I think that did kind of give us that step back of put some more focus into this, not only the road course side but short tracks. And Bristol, like I said, is one that I’ve had circled for so long, put a lot of focus into this thing and worked hard to be ready for it. 

Dover, we had great speed. Got our first pole at Dover, and it’s probably the track that we’re able to lean into the most to be ready for this one.

That really was kind of the kickoff of our runs through the summer, the momentum that we’ve been able to build, and so the day probably started with that race a long time ago to be here right now.

Q. Scott and you both talked about the tire strategy and staying calm, but at what point in the race did you say, all right, I’ve got a car that can win this thing? And after the tire strategy deal and you were up front, what do you do in your head to stay calm and keep it out front?

CHRIS BUESCHER: I’m always calm. Scott put it well that internally we may have our fights and our demons. I get a lot of that out without keying up a radio button so most people never see it, never hear it, including our team. I do that on purpose because I know that I don’t always think the clearest in the absolute moment, and I’ve been around a lot of those moments through my career working on race cars, working on teams, and did not see the benefit in it.

I’ve seen it deject everybody behind the pit wall, up on the pit box, and really have everybody kind of scratching their heads wondering what to do. Having that fit is not — I’ve not seen it be productive.

It works for some people. Some people need it, and that’s fine. But that’s not me. That’s not Scott. That’s not our team.

Try and get those out of the way real quick and then hit the button and talk about what needs to be talked about to get better.

We come down to the end of the race, and like I said, he didn’t give me any time to fight him on the two tires, four tires. I knew we were going to put something on it. After watching Brad’s hard luck there, I was like, okay, this is going to hit the reset button to where I don’t have to worry about that in the last 60 laps, and as I pulled in the box, he says, right sides only, I said, let’s do this, let’s gamble, we have nothing to lose here.

There’s one thing that hurts about tonight and that’s the fact that this was not four races ago and put us in the playoffs, because with the speed we’ve had, I feel like we could have drove through a couple of rounds. Who knows. We won’t know at this point.

But it’s the only thing that hurts about tonight. Everything else was awesome, and everything else is definitely on the up and up.

It was a really special one. Like I said, favorite racetrack. This is the one I wanted to win. I’d take this over a Daytona 500 any day of the week.

Q. Did Chris Buescher win this race or did Christopher Buescher win this race?

CHRIS BUESCHER: Well, Christopher was on the car. I talked about coming into it. I was like, man, maybe I need to cut that off, because we’ve had some rough luck the last two weeks. Has not gone near as well with my full name there.

Now I don’t know what to do. Now we’re going to roll with it. 

I know my mom is punching the air right now that the name she gave me was on the race car. I got it to Victory Lane. She’s been the biggest fan of Dale Jr. ever since that moment.

It’s been really fun to play along with that and have some good times with it.

I told everybody I started shortening it because everybody in middle school was already done with their test by the time I wrote my full name out, so I had to try and catch up. Probably regret it a little bit now. But it’s been fun to play along with it, and we’ll keep with it through the end of the year and see where it goes. 

Q. Brad said one of the things when he signed his deal with Roush was to see what your deal was and he put a contract extension in front of you. How good does it feel he came in and he believes so much in you and it seems like you’re going to be secure for a pretty long time with this organization?

CHRIS BUESCHER: Yeah, I’ve been here a long time already, so it just keeps adding on. It’s home. Jack and Robby Reiser and with the help of Ken and David Ragan and several other people along the way really gave me my shot at professional auto racing. That was at Roush Fenway Racing at the time. 

It’s been a really special place where I’ve gotten to develop and basically build my skill set and be able to go win a lot of races through different series. Not as many on the Cup side as we wanted. Not even close.

For Brad to come over in the ownership role and have that faith in me early on meant a lot to me. A guy that’s won so many races, championship and at the top level of motorsports in the country, that’s a pretty big pat on the back when we haven’t always had the results to show for it. 

I think it goes to me to say that people have been paying attention when we make the most of situations that we’ve been in, and do our best to have a tenth place day and make it a seventh, or whatever it may be, and always do that and always put in 110 percent.

I’ve had really good teammates through the years at different organizations at the Cup level, but nobody that’s put in the amount of effort as Brad Keselowski. It probably comes from the ownership side of it, as well. I don’t know if it would be the same without that side of it, but I feel like the answer is probably yes. 

He’s very passionate about it. He puts in the work and the time and the effort to be able to make this thing successful, and we’ve seen it this year. Everybody back at the shop has done a fantastic job and really adapted well to huge changes through the off-season. 

The Next-Gen car has been a huge step and learning process for everybody, and everybody embraced it and got after it.

We’ve been close at times, and they always hurt a little bit to miss out on them. And I don’t remember who told me, but I was told after Sonoma you’ve got to lose a few before you can win them.

I felt like we lost a few this year that got us to where we were ready to win this one.

Q. I wanted to bring up, you talked about the first pole this year, the good runs, the runs where you’ve been way off, you’ve been upside down, you’ve been on fire. Is it almost like, of course you’re going to win a race, and not only win a race, but win a race where you take home a sword?

CHRIS BUESCHER: At this point, nothing was going to surprise me in this year. I don’t know how I’ve gotten to be the test dummy for so much — I came back from Indy, my dad is like, do you get hazard pay for all of this? This has been awful. You’ve hit all the lowlights along the way. It’s been a ride. 

I’ve had a lot harder go this year — torn up a lot more equipment than I’m used to in my career, as well, and that doesn’t sit well with me, because I’ve taken pride in a long time, worked on a lot of my own race cars and seen the bills on cars growing up and seeing what my family sacrificed to do this. Worked very hard to make sure I was taking care of Jack’s stuff during the years.

This one has been a tough go. We’ve had some moments, but we’ve had the high spots, as well, and that’s helped keep us rolling, that there’s been progress along the way even with the tough ones, whether it was barrel rolling at a track where you would never think about a car flipping, not being the first one on fire but the one to put on the biggest show out of it until Harvick outdid me.

Yeah, it’s been a ride, but wouldn’t trade it for anything, because we’ve learned from each and every moment along the way. That’s a lie; I’d trade some of those. I probably would.

But we did learn from all of it to be able to keep moving forward. 

THE MODERATOR: Congratulations, Chris. Good luck next week in Texas. 

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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