RICHMOND, Va. - Brad Keselowski had the best long-run car of the night. The trick was making getting a long-run at the end and that is exactly what happened as Keselowski piloted his No. 22 Fitzgerald Ford Mustang to victory after passing Kyle Busch with 15 to go.
The three-wide pass was the fourth and final time Keselowski would have to work his way to the front. He pulled a simlar maneuver on the final lap of Stage 2 to ear the segment win as well.
Other than Keselowski, it was a midland effort for the Ford crew as series regulars Ryan Reed and Cole Custer both struggled throughout the night. The duo came home 12th and 19th, respectively.
Custer currently stands sixth in the driver standings and Reed is ninth as the teams head to the regular season finale next Saturday at Chicagoland Speedway. Chevy’s Elliott Sadler clinched the regular season points championship with his fifth place finish at Richmond.
FORD FINISHING RESULTS
1st -- Brad Keselowski
12th -- Ryan Reed
14th -- Cole Custer
25th -- Casey Mears
BRAD KESELOWSKI (No. 22 Fitzgerald Glider Kits Ford Mustang) -- Finished 1st
“Kyle (Busch) is a great racer. When you can race with him you know you are having a good day, especially in this series. The Fitzgerald Glider Parts Ford Mustang had a lot of speed on the long runs. We weren’t quite where we wanted to be on the short runs but good enough to be right there. We just hung with him and got the long runs and we were able to pounce. That is a testament to the team. Burton was asking me if it was the set up or the driver. I think it was both. I am happy to get another win in this series, it is a lot of fun and the first one in these new bodies. At least you know it isn’t an aero advantage. A great night at Richmond. I am proud of my whole team.”
WHAT ABOUT THESE FANS HERE TONIGHT? “There are a lot of other places we could be in the world and a lot of other stuff going on. I am glad I get to be here and glad they are here with us and I appreciate their support. Thank you everybody.”
WHAT DID IT TAKE TO BE PATIENT AND CHASE KYLE DOWN? “I am not a very patient guy. Being behind the wheel is no fun knowing that you have to be smooth and steady every lap to have a shot at winning it. The team gave me a great car and were real good about being patient and here we are in victory lane. That is really cool.”
TAKE US THROUGH THAT PASS FOR THE LEAD: “I knew Kyle wasn’t going to just let me have it so I had to force something there. Whenever you make a pass for the lead and the win by going three-wide it is really damn cool. I am glad to be able to do that with the Fitzgerald Ford. It is good to be back in victory lane.”
WERE YOU TRYING TO PRESSURE HIM EARLY? “The way the cars are, you can’t run them hard the whole run or you will just have nothing left. I wanted to see what I needed on the short run in case we got one there at the end. I had to push a little bit. Then it was time to settle in and see if the long run came and it did and we were able to execute at the end.”
BRAD KESELOWSKI POST RACE PRESS CONFERENCE
TAKE US THROUGH THE FINISH OF THE RACE AND CHASING DOWN THE 18: “I just wish I could explain better than I know how. I wish I could have somebody riding with me and kind of explain what it is like and see things through my view. I guess that is the beauty of the helmet cam we are trying to put in. From my view that was one of those race wins that was extremely personally gratifying. To know you are probably not as good as someone on the short run and just try to wear them down every lap and knowing that if you can get a long run you’ve got a shot and it and we did - we got a long run and I still had to make the right moves. It was a grinder, that is what that race was. A grinder in a good way. I think it shows the beauty of having the stages with the short and long runs because you see the races really just break apart like that one did where someone is good on the short side and someone is good on the long side. It is also part of the beauty of this track. You really have to focus in on being smooth and smart with how you use your car and manage it. That makes for passing at the lead at the end. It was really a thriller of a race at the end.”
BUSCH WAS WONDERING IF YOU WERE WAITING TO GET THROUGH TRAFFIC TO MAKE YOUR MOVE. WAS THAT THE CASE? “I don’t know. That was an hour ago. I left it all out on the field. I don’t really remember what happened there specifically. I knew I needed every lap I had and I think I ended up making the pass with 11 to go. If the race had been 11 laps shorter I don’t think I would have gotten it.”
HOW MUCH WERE YOU PRAYING AFTER YOU PASSED HIM SINCE HE WAS SO MUCH BETTER ON THE SHORT RUN, THAT SOMEBODY DIDN’T CRASH? “Every corner. You come off the corner and the spotter the spotter keys the mic for the simplest of things and you think, ‘oh no, here it is’, but thankfully it wasn’t. That is the dynamic of racing. That is why you never know who is going to win these things. So many different things can flip the field so to speak. This field flipped a couple times with the long and short runs and strategy on the stages. That was fun to be a part of.”
YOUR 22 TEAM IN XFINITY HAS A BIG POINTS LEAD BUT IT IS VERY DIFFICULT FOR US TO KIND OF GET EXCITED ABOUT OWNER POINTS. CAN YOU EXPLAIN WHAT THAT MEANS TO A TEAM? “That is a great question. You have probably heard me say this, people that have been in this room for the majority of the year have heard me say this, for those here that haven’t I would say to them and anyone that doesn’t really understand the significance of the owner championship I would say this. As the driver, I am the face of the team, kind of like a quarterback. But the team is much greater than me. I hold an important position but it is just one position. To be successful it takes people that you see, whether it is the pit crew or crew chiefs, but for every person you see there are another 5-10 that you don’t see. Those guys are looking for any bit of validation possible. They know that with this program a drivers championship is impossible. That isn’t how this is set up and doesn’t fit in the investment portfolio that way. But an owners championship is possible and it is validation, not just for them, but validation for their families and sponsors that support our teams and it is as significant internally as a drivers championship. Much like anyone else in the profession there are sacrifices made to be here. Just because it might not be a driver that wins the championship doesn’t mean the car prep is any easier to do. It doesn’t mean they take more days off. They still miss their daughters dance and sons baseball game like everyone else does. When you do those things and make those sacrifices to be the best you can be, you want to know they are worth something. The championship is their validation. That is something that I can feel proud to be a part of. I understand that the guy that works in the shop not being visible to the fans and media that it makes it hard to understand the significance of it but in reality that is what it is. Those are the people that really make the sport. I do about two percent of the work on any given weekend and get about 98-percent of the credit. That is unfair to those guys. They are the ones that are working six and seven days a week and they are the ones that are in here in the garage when it is a 16-hour day. I think today was a 16 or 17-hour day. For them, that is what they fight for. Not just the wins but an owner's championship as a signal of a season long accomplishment.”
WHERE DID YOU LEARN TO PULL OFF A BURNOUT LIKE THAT? “I think I was watching too many Ken Block videos. Had anyone else done that before? No? Well, there will probably be a rule you can’t do that anymore after that one. Better to be a rule maker than a rule breaker. I knew I wasn’t going to hit him but I just really wanted to see Rutledge (Wood) and his face and I saw it and it was priceless. I needed the helmet can for that one. I had fun with it. Winning is supposed to be fun. It is a really personally gratifying win. You always want to showcase that to the fans when you have a moment like that.”
HOW DOES KYLE BUSCH PUSH YOU TO A LEVEL? DOES HE PUSH YOU MORE THAN MAYBE OTHERS HAVE? “It is two different conversations between this series and the Cup series. The decision that was made I guess about seven years ago now for Team Penske to compete in this series was to develop crew members, pit crew guys, engineers, etc. to make it to the Cup level with the philosophy that Roger Penske would like to promote from within than hire from the outside. He would rather have a draft with 25 players than go to free agency and buy the best five players. Fundamentally that is the exact opposite of where the Gibbs program is. We know at any given moment when we win, we are winning with less experience and less investment. That is maybe hard to explain because obviously Roger is very well off financially but that isn’t how the program works. We know every year when we compete here against the Gibbs cars that we are entering the arena with at least one arm tied behind our back to them. So, when you do beat them, you have to really earn it. Today was one of those days. Let alone the fact that the Toyota’s are as strong as they are. It is just part of the equation for us. We accept that. We are hopeful that those people will graduate to the Cup level and most of them have. The three crew chiefs on the Cup car right now, all three at one time crew chiefed on the 22 Xfinity car. That is something we are very, very proud of. I think we are looking to continue that trend. That is just the crew chiefs. The car chiefs, engineers, they have all played at a level in that team. It is the culture we look to have and there is a little bit of a handicap to it. Some people probably don’t want to hear that but it is the truth of the matter. It makes the dynamic of racing Kyle even tougher because we know that is not the decision that group has made. It can be frustrating when you get beat knowing that. But on the other side it is also at times more rewarding like today. We know our program is behind their program in a lot of ways so when you win you feel a high level of personal gratification.”
HOW IS IT DIFFERENT ON THE CUP SIDE? “Well, obviously we have our best people at the Cup level and we are playing all of our starters so to speak. That conversation is more parallel between the two series. Between that series and that series. Does that answer your question?”
IS IT ANY MORE CHALLENGING TO RACE HIM VERSUS ANY OTHER DRIVER? MORE MOTIVATING FOR YOU BECAUSE YOU HAVE HAD THIS BATTLE THROUGH THE YEARS? “Well, you know, drivers have - whether they want to admit it or not - roll through confidence waves. I think every professional athlete does to some extent. So this series gets kind of made fun of sometimes as an ego play for Cup drivers. Whether you want to call it ego or confidence, this series is great for building a Cup drivers confidence. That is the same whether you are 19 or 20 and just getting started at the Cup or Xfinity level or if you are 33 like I am. I know I am racing Kyle. I know we are about the same age. I know he is in that caliber of equipment and that competition. That is an element he adds. Anybody that beats Kyle gains a lot of confidence.”
DOES IT STINK THAT THIS IS YOUR LAST XFINITY RACE OF THE SEASON? “I haven’t really thought of it that way. We probably could have won two or three more races. We were right there to win Loudon but had a pit stop issue. I think we were in the lead at Loudon when we had that issue. Daytona we race very strong and led a bunch and got caught up in a wreck there at the end. There have been a number of those scenarios. I am still proud of how we rand and the effort we put in and 10 races feels good to me. It is a good amount of races. I would feel a little greedy if I ran more than that anyway. I think seven probably doesn’t feel quite right to me but I have enjoyed the season I have had and keeping the roots to this series. That is important to the team members and sponsors. 10 races feels good to me from a workload standpoint. It is something I really enjoy.”