Penske Racing gives Ford its 1th win of the season, but the first at Chicagoland Speedway
Joliet, Illinois (Sept. 14, 2014) – Brad Keselowski won for the second consecutive time, and the fifth overall this season, on Sunday at Chicagoland Speedway to advance to the Challenger round of the 2014 Chase.
This win puts Keselowski and Ford Racing at the front of the pack and in control of their own destiny heading to the Sylvania 300 at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on Sept. 21. Presently, he’s just seven points ahead of second place racer Jeff Gordon, nine ahead of his teammate Joey Logano in third, and 13 ahead of Kevin Harvick in the Chase for the 2014 Sprint Cup Championship trophy. You can check the official standings for the Sprint Cup series here.
With only two weeks remaining in the first round of the Chase, several drivers are on the verge of being eliminated, and need to put their foot down on the accelerator. Ryan Newman finished 15th at Chicagoland Motor Speedway, after starting second on the grid, and needs to pick up the pace this Sunday. AJ Allmendinger sits five points outside the cutline, and after finishing 22nd last week, will need to find a path through the pack and finish high in the standings to keep his hopes for the second round of the Chase alive. Greg Biffle sits nine points behind the cutline and after an average start and 23rd place finish at Chicagoland Motor Speedway, is expected to let his horses do the talking this Sunday at New Hampshire Motor Speedway.
Sports History Today was on hand after the race to listen to Brad Keselowski talk about his win at Chicagoland on Sunday.
Brad Keselowski, No. 2 Miller Lite Ford Fusion
How you were able to win? “I am not really sure what to say. I don’t really know what happened I just know we got to the lead. There was traffic and I was just digging and in the zone. The recorder was turned off so I don’t remember what happened. I had my head down doing all I could do. We had a great Miller Lite Ford Fusion that I knew from the start would be good but man it was really awesome the last few runs. We really dialed it in and the 2 crew did a excellent job. What a day. Man, I am still pumped.”
Starting 25th on the starting grid, how much patience did it take to make it to the front and win? “You have to be so patient. The cars in traffic are all over the track and it is very easy to spin out on your own and you have to pace yourself. I don’t know what to say. I am so thankful to be here. I want to say thanks because I know the fans can hear me. I saw all of them standing on their feet when we made the pass for the lead and that was awesome. Thank you fans for being here and for your support. What a great day. God that was sweet.” How does it feel to make it to the next round of the Chase? “Awesome.”
Give our readers a few comments about the way the race played out for you today. “I guess you couldn’t ask for a better way to start the Chase other than starting up front. Just phenomenal with the way things played out. I don’t know if we were the fastest car. There were some runs where I thought we were really fast and then some runs where I thought the 4 and the 42 were really fast. It was so hard to tell. Whoever had the cleanest air was really at such an advantage. But towards the middle part of the race, that’s when we lost track position. That was something that we all thought was awful at the time, but I guess it worked out. Then from there we just fought, just climbed and clawed. I think we got up to eighth, and Paul made the call or decision to pit a little bit late. It worked out perfectly. We were able to be on pit road right as the yellow came out. That put us from eighth to fourth, I think. We were able to take advantage with that on the restarts, get up to third. I just saw a hole and I went for it. The 4 and the 42 were racing really hard, doing all the things they needed to do. It just opened a hole. I didn’t know if my car would stick or not, but I knew I’d regret it if I didn’t try it. I tried it, it did. That got us into the lead. Even that was going to be close. I think the 42 was quite a bit faster as the long run went. We got that yellow. Things evened out. We were able to take advantage from there.”
Everything didn’t go well with the car today, but despite this you seemed to be confident throughout the race. Was there ever a time during the race you thought things were about to fall apart, or were you confident throughout the competition? “I knew we were going to need to catch a break to get to Victory Lane from there. That was going to be tough. We did catch a small one. But I was really surprised how much speed we had to get as close as we did to the front there. That was amazing. I think we drove up to eighth. We restarted 16th or 17th in position, but probably had to be 30th or something in car order. So to get by that many cars, get close to the front, was really an incredible run, and put us in position to capitalize when that yellow came out. That was something that all came together. From there, I knew once we got to fourth with 30 or 40 to go, it was going to be about executing the restarts. We had an okay one the first time where we just really held serve. The outside groove was very, very difficult to get a good restart in with wheel spin. Then we had a great one there the last one. There were three of them. I can’t remember there were two or three of them. The last one, once we had gotten the lead. We just put it all together, and that was very, very special.”
Give our readers an idea of what this win means in terms of the Chase for the Sprint Cup Championship? “It means a lot. My boss would say don’t read your own press clippings. I want to enjoy the moment but I still know there’s nine weeks to go. We have a bit of a hall pass for the next two, which I’m very appreciative. But those other seven, nobody cares that we won Chicago, nobody cares that we won Richmond or the other three races. It keeps resetting. You have to reset yourself. You have to keep developing the car and pushing as a team, whether it’s on pit road, the car handling, spec, whatever it might be, or driver tactics. So I want to be thankful for today, but I know there’s a long ways to go. Today was about as much of a statement as you can make on a week one with ten weeks to go. I don’t want to understate it but certainly don’t want to overstate it. It’s a hard balance.”
What does this race mean for you and the team? Is this win a road sign the other racers need to heed? “I think kind of like I was saying before, it’s a statement for this week. After we get done with Dover, everything resets. I still don’t think we were the fastest car. It was probably pretty even between the 4 and the 42 and maybe the 24. It was about the clean air and restarts. But I’m still very thankful for what we were able to do today and we got to keep pushing.”
How is this win going to change the way you race this weekend at New Hampshire Motor Speedway? Will you be willing to let it all loose, knowing it doesn’t really matter what you do here, or will you play it conservative and save the car for later races? “I don’t know. I guess that’s something we have to sit down and discuss as a group. I can’t really say I’ve thought about that in detail. I think there’s potential with people. There’s potential with pieces we might be worried about from a reliability standpoint, things of that nature that come to mind. I don’t know what those opportunities are. A guy like Paul, Travis, Tim Cindric, they know that best and could probably answer that question better, but we still have a lot to talk through and work on. Certainly don’t want to lose focus on the seven races after that, as well.”
NASCAR Sprint Cup series action continues this weekend on the pavement at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon. Brad Keselowski will be on hand to entertain and make a run for his third consecutive Sprint Cup series win. Always willing to talk to fans and let it all go on the race track, Brad will be happy to show you his No. 2 Miller Lite Ford Fusion, and sign an autograph.
If you can’t make it to Loudon this Sunday for the running of the Sylvania 300 on the pavement of the New Hampshire Motor Speedway. ESPN’s Motorsports This Week is airing a live telecast of the second race of the 2014 Chase on NASCAR Countdown starting at 1 p.m. ET. The green flag will drop around 2:15 p.m., so you have time to grab a few snacks and get ready for the fun!