Keselowski Dealing with Newfound Success; Kahne Talks 2013 Testing
Current NASCAR Sprint Cup Series points leader Brad Keselowski and Hendrick Motorsports driver Kasey Kahne both provided their perspectives on The Chase on tonight’s edition of NASCAR Race Hub on SPEED.
Keselowski, who pilots the No. 2 Penske Racing Dodge, vaulted to the top of the charts after winning this past weekend’s race at Dover International Speedway. He sat down with NASCAR Race Hub co-host Danielle Trotta to react to his newfound position, and how his relationship with crew chief Paul Wolfe has played into where he might be headed.
Also, Kahne, driver of the No. 5 Hendrick Motorsports Sprint Cup Series entry, spoke with NASCAR Race Hub co-host Steve Byrnes on his Chase performance so far this year, testing on the 2013 Chevrolet and the re-signing of sponsor, Time Warner Cable.
Danielle Trotta: It was announced that you are pulling out of the Kansas Nationwide race to focus on the Chase. Why was that the best decision for you?
Brad Keselowski: I didn’t think it would be that big of a news story. I was just asked what my plans were for the rest of the year, spoke to the commitment we have to focusing on the Chase and so forth, we’re going to take it on a race-by-race basis on how the Nationwide Series works into that.
Trotta: When you’re the race winner, the point’s leader, everything you do is going to be news. It’s that time of the year in the Cup Series.
Keselowski: It is… which is a little bit strange to me because I don’t know if I consider myself that newsworthy. If you say I am, I guess I am.
Trotta: Roger Penske gives you a lot of credit for pulling the team together. He said that you’re a man who knows what you want. What is it that you want, what did you do to pull the team together?
Keselowski: There are a lot of things I want. I’m lucky to get 30 or 40 percent on my list, but that doesn’t mean I’m not going to fight for it either because I know it’s the right thing. Not just for myself, but for the team. When the team is strong, we all look good. That’s what I have right now. I have a team that pulls together in the key moments, and finds a way to overcome adversity, whatever it may be, and be successful. I’m very proud of that. Certainly, I play a role in that, as does everyone else.
Trotta: Twitter question: what did you see in Paul Wolfe that made you choose him as a crew chief?
Keselowski: Paul is one of those guys that I respect immensely because he’s an ‘actions speak louder than words’ type of guy. The first thing I noticed about him was that he just had fast race cars. Paul had a team in the Nationwide Series that I was working with, and the cars were extremely fast. I looked at him and said, ‘Man, I want to drive his cars.’ So that’s how it was all started. He became the Nationwide (Series) crew chief; we built a relationship, where we both could just really communicate on another level. As that transpired, it became obvious that he was the right guy to carry that momentum forward.
Trotta: All of people say that Brad and Paul Wolfe are the new Jimmie Johnson-Chad Knaus pairing. Love to know what your reaction is to that statement.
Keselowski: We have a long ways to go to be the next Jimmie Johnson-Chad Knaus pairing. They won five championships… in a row. Not just five, but in a row. We have not done that, but I think we have tremendous potential working together. I’m excited for what that may hold. Time will tell.
Trotta: You have found success at what many call the wild card race (Talladega) of the Chase.
Keselowski: Some success. Talladega is a difficult place. You don’t control your own destiny. But on the other side of that, when you win there, you definitely earned it. I feel lucky to have had the performances and the cars that we’ve had there, to go there and run well.
Trotta: How long have you worked to get to this spot, right now in your life?
Keselowski: All my life. All my life I’ve thought, ‘What can I do to be the best driver possible, and be a Sprint Cup champion?’ That answer is… it seems to becoming a little bit clear, but also it feels like its miles away.
Steve Byrnes: Did you feel you missed an opportunity last weekend in Dover?
Kasey Kahne: Yeah. I think it was somewhat of a missed opportunity. We were in a really good spot; we had battled back from being a lap down early the way the caution flew when we had pitted getting us two laps down early. We got that back. I had just cleared Carl (Edwards) for fifth and felt really good. The car had been as good as it had been all day long. So yeah, I felt like we threw one away, missing an opportunity to have a solid, top two or three finish, and a victory.
Byrnes: How hard is it to race there (at Talladega), while you’re in the midst of racing for a championship?
Kahne: I think it’s pretty tough because you definitely want to stay out of that wreck. You want to stay out of anything that can happen there, and many things can happen in Talladega. It’s a pretty crazy race at times. The last few times we’ve been there, we’ve just tried to race, stay upfront and try to be there throughout, instead of lay back or go to the middle or whatever, and you want to go. I’ve been trying to stay upfront. I have to talk to Jeff (Gordon) and kind of get on the same page of what we want to do. Just try to find the best plan to come out of there with a good finish. I know our cars will be really fast. We have HendrickCars.com on the car this week, and I’m looking forward to that; the engines run great and hopefully we can qualify up front and stay up there if that’s what we decide to do.
Byrnes: You mentioned Jeff, obviously your teammate Jeff Gordon; there are four Hendrick drivers in the Chase. Can you set up a plan to run with Jeff Gordon or one of your other teammates? Or is it too much pressure to tandem draft, to race with one of your teammates?
Kahne: You can set a plan, and try to stick to it. There are times late in the race that if you aren’t in the same row, it’s not going to work, it’s hard to make it work perfectly for sure, but there’s definitely times throughout the race you can use each other. Hopefully, it will really pay off; in the past it’s worked really well. Often, at these types of tracks, it can be a good day; we just need to put it all together.
Byrnes: You’re in Talladega tomorrow testing the 2013 car. We’ve seen pictures. We know they are going to look better, how do you think they will race? Do you feel good about it?
Kahne: I really do. I think NASCAR is really looking into ways to make the racing a little bit better, where it’s not so aero-dependent. When you come up on a car, you don’t slow down as much as you would right now. They are looking into that stuff. They are looking at taking weight off the car and hopefully, at that point, Goodyear will be able make a tire that falls off more, so we don’t run the same speed throughout the whole run. You’ll have to talk to Goodyear. But at the same time, they are looking to help us with the tires. Everybody is working hard, and I think it’s going to turn out very nicely. The car looks great. Our Chevrolet looks awesome; I can’t wait to get racing it early next year. It will be exciting tomorrow just to see how that car handles, and you know there’s going to be a lot of changes before we get to Daytona in the same car.
Byrnes: You are in your first year at Hendrick Motorsports, did you honestly think that you would be in this position, to battle for the championship?
Kahne: I thought we could run very well, working with the guys. We’re trying to learn from Jeff (Gordon), Jimmie (Johnson) and Dale (Earnhardt, Jr.), the crew chiefs, engineers and talking… I thought we would be a good though. Now, can we win? we make the Chase? Win the championship? That was kind of up in the air to get in the Chase. We won a couple of races, looking forward to the final seven races, where we can win some more races before it’s all done.
Byrnes: Congratulations on getting Time Warner Cable for four races on your car for next year.
Kahne: We’re looking forward to that, next year with Time Warner. We’re going to do the Charlotte race next week with Time Warner also. They have been part of Hendrick Motorsports for a long time now, it’s neat to have them re-sign early and also be a part of the (No. 5) for the next few years.