Tag:STP 400
Posted on: June 5, 2011 6:59 pm
Edited on: June 6, 2011 11:02 am

Brad Keselowski and team post Kansas comments

Posted by Pete Pistone

THE MODERATOR: We have the race winning team for the inaugural STP 400 at Kansas Speedway; Brad Keselowski drives the No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge for Penske Racing; Crew Chief Paul Wolfe. With this win, I want you to know you've now qualified for the 2012 NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race.           

BRAD KESELOWSKI: I didn't think of that one. That's four years in a row. We'll take that.           

THE MODERATOR: Brad, talk about this win. You were getting high marks from Dale Jr and Hamlin. Not only your ability to conserve gas but your ability to take it down to the wire there.          

BRAD KESELOWSKI: Yeah, well, you know, it was a team victory today. We had Kurt Busch, my teammate, who led the majority of the race from what I could see, and had good speed and the 2 car had great speed as well. We just kind of caught a bad break on qualifying when we went out.       

But it's a team effort. Kurt had him covered on speed. We had him covered on strategy. And together one of us two was going to win. And I'm proud in general that it was a Penske car that won. So hot day today.           

Long, tiring, and it feels good to soak in a victory and a beer and some water afterwards. And be sitting here in front of you with a trophy and some great guys in victory lane.           

THE MODERATOR: Roger, congratulations on this win today. Talk about how it all played out for you.          

ROGER PENSKE: Well, it's great to see Dodge back in the winner circle, and certainly you know with Brad came on point with us last year, and we put Paul Wolfe as a combination crew chief and driver, and 13 races now they've got a victory.           

Exactly to me it's what we worked on. We didn't get the finishes we want. We could always say we had bad luck last week. We were in third place getting ready to go on that restart and Kasey Kahne ran out of gas, when we got in that wreck. But I think it's a credit to Paul Wolfe and Brad.          

They're talking all the time. There's working, there's nobody more committed. The good news is to hear Kurt say even though he really wanted this win to say it was great for the team and that we finally think we have a combination that we can run on the mile and a halfs, because we struggle on the mile and a halfs.           

THE MODERATOR: Also with this win today, Brad moves up to 21st in place in points, one out of 20th, and that's certainly key in this wildcard berth situation. So Paul Wolfe, crew chief, this is your first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series win. Let's talk about how it happened.           

PAUL WOLFE: Yeah, obviously being my first win, really excited about all the effort that's been put in so far. And to be able to get the Miller Lite Dodge to victory lane was pretty special today.           

Brad and I talked I think this week or the week before that, man, if we just keep putting ourselves in the top 10, it's not always the fastest car that seems to be winning these races. So we've kept working on our program since the beginning of the year.           

It was kind of embarrassing of how we ran at California and Vegas earlier in the year. So to see the progress that we've made and put ourselves in position to win these races now just says a lot about all the hard work and everything that's going on at Penske Racing. One point in the race, I don't know, we were still running 15th and Kurt was out there leading the race, and it was pretty cool, because we knew what the leader had in his car, we knew what he had.           

It's just been a good team effort here of late, just really trying to understand how to get these cars better and running similar geometries and front ends has definitely helped I think both of us to get our cars better.           

THE MODERATOR: Questions?           

Q. Brad, in the media center somebody said nobody's going to call Brad Keselowski's name until he's winning the race. Sounds like you felt a little stunned yourself to find yourself in that position at the end.           

BRAD KESELOWSKI: Well, I don't know. I didn't see the coverage. But I know that -- I didn't know I was leading until two laps to go. Kind of stretched my neck out, barely caught the scoring pile to see I was leading, I was instantly mad at my guys for not telling me, but you get over that pretty quick when you cross the start/finish line first.           

We'd been doing everything we could to save gas. It didn't really affect me whether I knew I was leading or not. It was probably really smart of them not to tell me that because I probably would have drove it really, really hard.           

It all worked out at the end, and they talk about you when you're in victory lane, that's all that matters.            

Q. Earlier you said it's easier for guys to run in the middle to conserve fuel you're not up there pushing for the lead. Is that kind of how things played out for you today?           

BRAD KESELOWSKI: Yes and no. I was pushing really hard the run before and drove up to seventh or eighth place I think it was. And we were a legitimate probably top 5 car. We needed to get the clean air to be a car to win the race. I quite honestly felt like Kurt and I were pretty equal. It was just a matter of being up front and having the right track position.           

But you know we didn't qualify as well as we'd like to. So we never really found that. So like I said, Kurt had him covered on speed. We had him covered on strategy. And at the end a Penske car was going to win and that's just what happened.            

Q. Either Paul or Brad, at what point in the race did you guys consciously make the decision that you were going to try to stretch the fuel mileage and go for it, and once you made that, how concerned were you that a caution would come out and all that would be thrown out the window?          

BRAD KESELOWSKI: Hell, I wasn't sure. I didn't know what was going on. I'd like to know.           

PAUL WOLFE: Around lap 2, we knew we could make it to two 10 from there we were close to being able to make it the rest of the way.           

As guys started pitting, we kind of -- I kind of looked at where our lap times were, and it seemed like we started picking up a bunch of speed there. I don't know if we got some clean air or what.           

But it was almost a no-brainer for me because we were only losing three to four tenths to the guys on new tires where normally when guys start short pitting seems like you're losing over a second a lap and you just lose so much track position.           

But it was like as everybody started peeling off and pitting we just kept getting faster and faster, and we were still running mid I guess 33s or whatever it was, and guys were running low 33s.           

And it was like, well, we're not losing much, so it got us in a position where there were so many cars a lap down, even if the caution came out, we were still sitting okay. It was almost a no-brainer for me once I saw how much speed we had in the clean air.            

Q. Brad, a lot of guys were talking about what they did to deal with the heat, whether it was a bag of ice, a cold rag, a bunch of bottled waters. Number one, how bad was the heat for you? What did you do to deal with it? And number two, what did the heat do for you on the track? Carl loved it and Dale Junior hated it.           

BRAD KESELOWSKI: Nobody loves it. Some people tell you they love it just so they can look tough. (Laughter). But I don't know anybody that really loves it. But there's a part of that certainly plays in. You know, obviously how you condition yourself and so forth. And I don't really want to go into any details on that.
But I've been coming to Kansas for a long time. Used to be I ran the truck race here every June and July. So I got used to that pretty quickly, back five, 10 years ago, it wasn't that long ago I was working with my mom and dad and coming to these racetracks, and outside all day and the air conditioner never worked so I guess I built a little toughness to the hot Kansas weather and certainly being from the Midwest, you get toughened up by some people that don't own air conditioning.           

But it all worked out. And it's not easy. I can tell you that. You lose weight. And when you lose weight you get drained down physically. And it seems like that pulls you down mentally. When you get tired physically, you make mental mistakes. When you get tired mentally you make physical mistakes.           

And they all play into each other, but that's why we're all driving these cars, because it's not easy. And we're working hard to do the best we can at it. And that's what it takes to find yourself in victory lane at the end of the day, and to get in victory lane you have to run a no-mistake race. And that's what we did today.            

Q. Does this feel like you're starting over from scratch? Paul how much do you share with the 22 car?           

BRAD KESELOWSKI: Yeah, as far as starting over from scratch, I sat down the other day and was thinking about it, I guess it was at the start of the year, and I think I've been in Cup for two and a half years. I'm almost to seven crew chiefs, from doing the partial deal with Hendrick. Partial deal with Phoenix Racing, and I'm sure there was one or two others in there I can't remember.           

And it's been a lot of people. And we're finally hitting on a good combination here with Paul and I. And we're on the same wavelength, and that's really what matters the most.           

PAUL WOLFE: As far as the information sharing between the teams, it's definitely obvious that we do share all the information. I think you can see that in how well both cars ran today. And it seems like here of late like I said we've found -- we've made some gains, and I think it showed up in both cars.           

And we'll continue to work together to make each of us better, and that's kind of how it's supposed to work. And I feel like the relationship between Steve and I and our communication's real well. And between the drivers, I think this says a lot for Brad and the respect that he deserves, and I'm sure Kurt gives him now, he's proven that he's as good as anybody out there.            

Q. Obviously a big win because it put you in the wildcard for the Chase. But this win moves you to 25th, 21st to points you need one more spot. What's the outlook for getting (indiscernible)?           

BRAD KESELOWSKI: I have the boss telling me seven points. It's certainly doable. It makes you certainly look back at races like Daytona and Talladega here earlier in the year where we wrecked out and those are wildcard races. We've hit the bad side of the wildcard. Just one or two of those races back and we're easily in the top 20. But that's not the way it is.           

So we've caught some bad breaks over the last few weeks that have kept us out of it. And certainly we caught a good one today. So at the end it will all average out. If we deserve to be in it we'll get in it. If we don't, we won't. But right now we're on a good path to deserve to be in it. That's really what matters the most to me.          

I'm a big fan for the rule NASCAR implemented putting winners in the last two spots. I think that serves the sport very well. And hopefully we'll be able to capitalize on it. But there's no guarantees of that. I feel pretty confident that it's going to take really two wins to guarantee your way into it.   

So obviously we've got to do this again, and that ain't easy. So I like the system. And I feel good about our chances. We just gotta keep moving forward and that's what it's all about.            

Q. On that last run, how much fuel did you actually save? What was your normal expectation for a fuel run and how much did you have to save to get six or seven laps out of that last --           

PAUL WOLFE: We were only about three-quarters of a lap short. So we didn't need to save much. But the way it played out, there was nobody really pressuring us. So we went into really conservative mode. And I can't really answer how much Brad thinks he saved. Only he knows that.           

BRAD KESELOWSKI: I didn't save any.           

PAUL WOLFE: We knew it wasn't -- it really wasn't close. I didn't feel it was a very big gamble. We had ourselves in a pretty good position.            

Q. Paul, earlier you said that you noticed lately that the fastest car has not always been winning lately. Do you see that? Is that just a coincidence, or do you see more of that taking place as perhaps more teams are taking gambles in order to do what you guys are trying to do, which is get in the Chase, not necessarily through the top 10 in points?           

PAUL WOLFE: Yeah, I mean, it might be a little of both, guys taking gambles or whatnot. But like Brad said, everything has to be perfect to win one of these races.           

So when I say the fastest car doesn't always win, I mean you can have the fastest car but if you don't have good pit strategy or you don't keep yourself out of trouble or put yourself in situations, it really doesn't matter.           

So what I've seen is if you can put yourself in the top 10, you give yourself a chance, at least. And we feel like that's what we did today. And I think our car is maybe a little better than what it showed.           

We did put ourselves in the top 10, but I think if we could have been up, you know, the farther we got up the faster we got. It's just so hard with these cars, you know, when you're back there in traffic, to see what speed they really have. Everybody just fights the same thing.            

Q. We had about well over a thousand ethanol producers and corn growers here and American Ethanol was in the spotlight. And I wanted to get the perspective from each of you about using 15 percent ethanol blend. In terms of strategy, in terms of fuel efficiency, and in terms of using a domestically-produced fuel in such an American event like NASCAR.           

BRAD KESELOWSKI: I think you have to applaud NASCAR and the efforts they have on the Green initiative. I know there's some fancy word for it. The NASCAR Green initiative, isn't it called something?          

THE MODERATOR: The Green initiative.           

BRAD KESELOWSKI: Yeah, that program. But I thought it had some really cool name. You guys need to work on a really cool slogan. But I think you've got to applaud them for pulling that rope and working really hard on that.           

And it's just an added benefit that it's something that comes from America. I guess I didn't even know that. I guess I should have known that. But that's really cool.           

PAUL WOLFE: It really hasn't changed as far as the performance side hasn't changed a whole lot. The fuel mileage has changed a little bit. But it's the same for everybody.           

So it seemed to work out, be pretty good fuel for us today. So we're just excited that we can be part of it.           

ROGER PENSKE: I think if we look at oil and availability of fuels as we go forward, the opportunity to combine petroleum products with this product, ethanol, I think is going in the right direction.           

And NASCAR has been committed many years ago to look at these opportunities. And we spent a lot of time on our dynamometers getting the engine back to power. But at this point the reliability is there, the fuel mileage is there, and you can see the performance. So I think it's a win-win for everyone.            

Q. Brad and Roger, can you quantify the improvement in this team from 2010 to 2011? And then for all three, from February to now, and how much better can you get?          

ROGER PENSKE: Well, you know, it's interesting. You grade your team probably every week. And I think that you've got to be committed to stay on track. And I think one of the things that we've done with Brad and Paul, and obviously with Kurt and Steve, we said, look, we're going to stay on track here.           

It's so easy to get going in a different direction. You see something that another team is doing and you go back and forth. And I think we've pretty much stayed together. I think the integrity and the transparency that Paul talked about, you know, with the 22 car has really paid off.           

And the cars are better. The drivers, obviously the more that Brad runs in this series, he's going to get better. You can see it. His restarts, the way he's coming in the pits here. I watched it today.

The pit crews, this pit crew today, when you look at it, we started 25th. Just every stop we moved up. So I heard him say on the radio one time it's a lot easier to pass in the pits than it is on the racetrack and you could see that.           

So I think it's working in a number of areas. The engines -- we've had good power. We need more. And we need better handling. But these guys are testing every single week. That's one of the things that I am always concerned about with NASCAR is that we can't test at the tracks that we race on so we spend all this money to go to other tracks, and we would have a much better chance, better show, if we could test at the track. So that's one of the things, if you're a team trying to get to the front, it's so difficult, you gotta use simulation, and that doesn't really give you all the factors that you have on a day where the temperature's going up, you've got clouds coming over, correct, and overall it's just a lot of hard work.           

We've got 350 people that are committed to these two guys and these two teams, and Paul has brought a commitment to probably that we've never had in detail. And he just won't let us up. And he got a payoff today for doing that.           

BRAD KESELOWSKI: I forgot what the question was. I was listening to him speak. I was motivated.            

Q. The improvement from 2010 to 2011 and the improvement from February to now.           

BRAD KESELOWSKI: That was a good speech, by the way. It was really good. Yeah, we're getting somewhere. It's going to take time. I think the biggest thing that everybody seems to overlook in this deal is you look at the average driver age, and some of you guys have heard me speak about this, some of you haven't. And we saw about five to 10 years ago a complete reset in the driver pool.           

I think you should really look at that. I think you turn on a race from 10 years ago, and look at who was on the track, who was driving. And you're only going to find less than 15 of those drivers on there.           

And those are drivers that were young at that time. They were the Jeff Gordons, whoever you called young at that time.           

And so I think what we're seeing is you're seeing a very loaded field of youth, talent, experience. And to come in as a driver, like I have myself over the last year or two, is an uphill climb. It's a real uphill climb.           

With the new car coming in, the lack of testing, the fact that there's so many good drivers out there right now. So it's a huge uphill climb to catch them. And then let alone beat them.           

So for any driver to -- the measuring stick -- what I'm trying to say is the measuring stick of success for a new driver like myself or a Joey Logano or Trevor Bayne is different than what it's ever been.           

And it's going to take -- I told someone the other day that the true determining factor of our success from a timeline perspective, for me at Penske Racing, really isn't, in my eyes, even this year.           

I'm sure the sponsors want it to be right now. But the measuring stick for success for drivers before was one to two years. The measuring of success for new drivers now, I think it's more like three to five years because of that. It's going to take you longer to figure out these racetracks, to figure out these cars.           

So I'm excited to see where we're going to be over the next year or two. I've seen a lot of progress in our team. And I'm really, really encouraged.    

But we have more room to continue to progress. I have a lot of room to continue to progress. And I think that we can continue to do that.           

And you know even on an added note of that, I think people are going to look 10, 15, 20 years from now look at Jimmie Johnson and Chad and say they were maybe the best team ever and it took them five years to win their first championship.          

So I think you gotta put all those things in perspective and realize how far we've come just in two years here at Penske Racing. Paul and I, how far we still have to go, but we've come a long ways, we have a ways to go. I'm proud of where we're at and we're going to keep working and moving forward.            

Q. Maybe all three of you can answer this for me. I don't have it in front of me but I believe the farthest back anybody's ever come to win a race here at Kansas speed was 21st. And today three of the top 4 were I think, Jeff Gordon was 22nd and he finished fourth. Now is that because of the race is in June, is it the weather, coincidence? What do you think the reason is?           

BRAD KESELOWSKI: The qualifying platform for this weekend really put a jumble in everything with we saw the morning was the quicker place to go out. And the faster cars didn't run slow enough to get a morning qualifying time. And then we got a lot of sun in the middle of qualifying, which was where we qualified, and I think Dale Junior and those guys qualified as well.           

And it played against us pretty good. And we were lucky to overcome that. And then cloud cover came over at the end of qualifying and guys started to take back off again. So I think it's more a reflection of what we saw on Friday, which is why Fridays are so important or Saturday, I should say. That's why qualifying and all that is so important.           

And just qualifying and the way it was set up this week was certainly a large part of that.            

Q. Question for Paul and Roger. Paul, as you teeter on this top 20 with the one win, trying to get up higher in points, how might that influence future decisions the rest of the summer, whether to gamble or not in the sense of getting points or going for the win? And Roger, I know you talked about the improvements that your organization has made, the continual efforts, but certainly I think a lot of people would look at, would wonder if there's been more of a jump since Kurt's comments after Richmond, has there been enough time to have some of those changes be seen and make an impact at this point? Are we still seeing the changes or things that you guys were doing months ago?           

ROGER PENSKE: Well, I don't think that anyone making comments publicly or internally are going to turn the team around in two or three weeks.           

I think Paul would probably be the best to answer that. I mean, he's seen the meetings. He's listened to what we're trying to do. He's been a great contributor to the things that we're trying to make better.           

Remember, when you've got two drivers and probably 30 cars that you can't just do things overnight, because we don't run the same car like we do on the IndyCar side. And I think it's progress.           

It's the crew chief and the driver working together. I think it's the transparency between the two teams. We've added more engineering capability this year. I think we're starting to see it now that we didn't have last year.           

But this is 13 races. Remember, we've got another, what, 13 to go before we get into the Chase. So if we're sitting six or seven points out and we're starting to see some momentum here, I think that he's got a great chance to get in. And Kurt's sitting obviously in sixth position now or seventh, I think.           

PAUL WOLFE: And, honestly, I don't feel like staying out today was a huge gamble. But I think at this point we just want to continue to put fast race cars out there. And I think you put yourself in victory lane, that will take care of the points, and it kind of -- one works with the other as far as like Brad said it's probably going to take another win to get that spot.           

So I think we just keep approaching it like we have and that's trying to make our race cars faster and when you do that the results come.            

Q. Roger, despite everything that's been said during the course of the season, Kurt remains the only driver, I believe, that has been in the top 10 in points every week. Considering all that, what does that speak for -- and the problems and the progress that you guys made, what does that speak for what he's been able to accomplish?           

ROGER PENSKE: I think when you look at the performance of the 22 team, you look at the big tracks, we were strong. We got in accidents there. The consistency, I think, of -- the reliability. And Kurt's a fantastic driver. I don't think that people realize how good he really is and sometimes it's going to be the best horse. And sometimes sitting here sometimes he doesn't realize the horse he's on he's got to tame it to get it to go where he needs it to go.           

It's like today at the beginning of the race, he was concerned about his car and I think the splitter was hitting the ground really, and all of a sudden the tire pressure has come up and he took off like a shot past the leaders and went on and led most of the lap. I think it's a learning curve. And I think his confidence now with Brad being able to show the speed and Paul working with Steve has made a huge difference. And it's chemistry and every team. And it's just one driver, one crew chief who can make the difference in a big team. I think it's working together.           

You've seen it at Roush and Hendricks and Gibbs.

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Posted on: June 5, 2011 6:41 pm
Edited on: June 6, 2011 11:03 am

Dale Earnhardt Jr., Denny Hamlin post-race

Posted by Pete Pistone

DALE EARNHARDT JR.: It's so hard to pass here. It's awful hard to pass. Worst I've ever seen it.           

And so starting where we did, it just wasn't easy. And we finally got to right outside that top 10 and was looking good for the last 100 laps.           

And I went to searching for more speed and busted my butt up there on 3 and 4. And tossed us in all the spots we worked for all day.           

But it also gave Steve the chance to play the strategy game where you gotta -- when that caution came out that we came and got fuel. We put ourselves in a one-stop scenario where everybody else didn't pit. They can't give up the track position because it's so hard to pass.           

So they stayed out there knowing they'd have to come down to pit road twice. And that was the game that we took, and the race could have went, could have had a caution and changed everybody's strategy, but it worked out for us and right to the end.           

We had a good car. We just didn't have a second place car not at all, but we had a top 10 car. And it was so hot out there today. I mean I felt fine until I got stopped. And I don't know how everybody felt after that race, but it worked on me really good.           

THE MODERATOR: Questions for Dale.            

Q. Dale, you seemed almost apologetic that you finished second. But when you look back at guys that make the Chase and contend for championships, they're the guys that are able to bounce back from issues like you had today and get those. So you gotta feel good about that aspect of it.           

DALE EARNHARDT JR.:  You're right. And when I get home by myself that's how I'll feel about it. But in the grand scheme of things I've got a lot of people that are -- there's a lot of people who will remind you throughout this sport of how fortunate you were and how lucky you were in and all those things.           

So I like to beat them to the punch and let them know I realize how fortunate I was today to get second place.           

But you're right, I mean, we just keep doing -- we've had some runs where we drove ourselves into the positions where we finished. We finished well by running well and by getting lucky. And that's what championship teams do.           

And you always scratch your head when Jimmie and them guys look like they're out of it and next thing you turn around at the end of the race and they're right there in the middle of it. And you're like: How in the world? So now I guess I'm on that side of the fence. I see some of it and I see why it happens.           

But it's just rolling the dice, man, that's what it was. You know how the dice is, sometimes it works for you and sometimes it don't.            

Q. When you were racing Denny for the position, did you feel like that potentially was for the win?           

DALE EARNHARDT JR.: Yeah.            

Q. And how much pleasure do you draw out of the fact that you were able to outrace somebody that has as much at stake in the big picture as you do?           

DALE EARNHARDT JR.: Yes, that's a good point. I was told that that was the race for the win. And I genuinely believe what Steve was telling me, because I didn't think the 2 would make it. But he saved a lot of gas. He did a great job.           

And I was faster than Denny the last 100 laps of the race. There was a stretch where we were running, I could tell I was running him down. I'm sitting there running behind the 9, the 43, and all those guys pretty much all day long, but through a tire run I'd come off 2 and look in the corner and I'd start seeing guys up in the top 15, top 10 that I was running down.           

I would see more and more of them as the run went on. So we had a great car. And it was fun racing Denny. I don't get to race him too much.          

Q. Dale, after a race like this, how long does it take you to recover, with the heat and everything else, how long will it take you to recover fully?       

DALE EARNHARDT JR.: Probably till tomorrow. I gotta -- I want to lay by the pool and drink some vodka or whatever. I'll probably chug a lot of water tonight so I'm hydrated for tomorrow. I heard drinking pickle juice is good for you or Pedialyte. I'll give it a shot. I got some of that.           

THE MODERATOR: We're joined by Denny Hamlin. He's our third place winner, drives the No. 11 FedEx Freight Toyota for Joe Gibbs Racing.          

Denny, talk about your run out there this afternoon here at Kansas.           

DENNY HAMLIN: It was a good day. Not a fluke run by us. We ran up front during the course of the day. But I think we were running third when we came in and decided to pit on that caution where I think all of us pitted to try to make it with one more stop.           

So it was a great run by us. We had something with our front end gave up midway through the race anyway. And so we were struggling for speed from that point forward. But we pretty much made our bed into a fuel mode racing it works for us.           

THE MODERATOR: Denny moves up a spot, to 11th. One point out of 10th right now so continue to move up.           


Q. During the race you said I'll be surprised if this don't get me (indiscernible), was the car just so good that it kind of was powered up and also where did you eat yesterday?           

DALE EARNHARDT JR.:  I like Oklahoma Joe's because it was on Man Versus Food, which is a show I like. I stood in line. Long line, stood in line longer than it took me to eat. But it was good.           

About 60 laps in the race, the caution came out. I was real hot. I said I was just -- I'll be surprised if this heat don't really bother me by the end of this race. But they do a couple of things back there and that helped out a ton plus we had something at stake at the end of the race which will get anybody up on their seat. I felt fine until I got out.           

Q. Oklahoma Joe's, the one in the gas station?           

DALE EARNHARDT JR.: The one in the gas station. 20 minutes from here.           

Q. Denny, on one of the restarts, when you were up front, Kurt made a move inside to make it three-wide with you in the middle and Tony on the outside. And a little bit later after that, a couple of laps, Tony got into the back of you looked like going into one of the turns. Is that when the front end of your car was giving up or what was going on there?           

DENNY HAMLIN: Yeah, it was. That's why we decided to pit is because we had to make an adjustment anyway. But, yeah, I mean, I think Tony was upset with us. But the 22 actually knocked me into the 14 on the restart, so I was kind of a ping-pong ball there. So it's kind of a victim of my own self getting in the way.            

Q. You guys have raced a lot here in October in the last several years. Just assess the track today. And did you like having this extra weekend out here at Kansas Speedway?           

DALE EARNHARDT JR.:  I liked it. I like coming here. It don't like the heat, the track don't like the heat too much. You had to run dead against the apron. If you was off the apron by two or three inches you're in trouble, there's no grip. But I kind of like that because a lot of guys aren't smart enough to do it every lap, I ain't either but I think I'm more consistent than some.           

And it makes for a pretty good race. Some guys running around the top and there's a lot of room. But it's real slick. But that's fine with me.           

DENNY HAMLIN: Yeah, the same thing. As long as they continue to fill the seats here, it's a relevant race day. We go where the fans come, and obviously they deemed this was an important market for us to come back.           

So I think it was an overall successful weekend.            

Q. Dale, I apologize if you've been asked this already, but what was your reaction when you were told that you need to watch your fuel towards the end there?          

DALE EARNHARDT JR.:  "Not again." (Chuckling). Man, he was telling me that whole run: We're good. Let Mike be short, we're good, we're fine. Then we got within 10 to go and he said: Back it down, back it down. I can catch the 2, he's real slow. And he's like: Back it down, back it down, back it up to the 11. What? I thought we was good.           

He said, no, we're going to run out right at the flag stand. And it did. The gauge was red. It ran out the back of the straightaway. I was backing it down, doing what he said.           

I don't know, if I could have caught Brad he probably would have stepped it up. Who knows much gas he had left. We did what we had to do. I'm happy.                       

Q.  Seemed like fuel was an issue, it was an issue last week, it was an issue last night in Chicago, what's the deal with that?           

DALE EARNHARDT JR.: It's just the way the cautions fall, if the cautions fall at a certain time it changes the fuel window for everybody. This place is real hard to pass on. The guys up front didn't want to give up the track position to get the fuel. They figured that there surely would be another caution. I mean the odds were great to have another caution. And they still had to make two stops and we came and got the fuel. We only had to make one and we got lucky and it went to green.            

Q. Dale, you said at one point you didn't want your day to end on a fuel mileage race. You came so close today. Has your opinion changed?  Would you have been okay, if today would have been --           

DALE EARNHARDT JR.: No, I can wait. I might.            

Q. What do you feel like your teams did well today to continue this, build on some progress, build some momentum into the summer stretch and what more do you feel like you need to do from this point forward?

DALE EARNHARDT JR.: I think we just -- we really did a good job finding some speed in the practice.           

We had a good car today. We had some good speed. We need to work on qualifying to not make the day so long and so hard on us. We need to start in the top 10 so we ain't gotta work the first three-quarters of the race trying to get within sight of it. That's about it.           

DENNY HAMLIN: Well, I think qualifying is helping us. We're getting better at qualifying. When we qualify 15th, that's better for us. So that's an improvement. I think my pit crew's gotten better over these last two to three weeks. That's been a huge improvement. We didn't lose any spots today. We gained spots. And our cars are getting faster.           

So that's pretty much all you can ask for right now. So we can't be happy with where we're at. We know we're a little bit behind those Fords right now. So we have to keep working.            

Q. Knowing how difficult it is to save fuel how much credit do you give Brad for what he was able to do to win this race?           

DALE EARNHARDT JR.: I give him a lot. I don't know what his situation was. I don't know if it was the same as ours, but he obviously had to save a little more than we did, I think. Because me and him were the only ones in that shape, I think, at the end of the race.           

I ain't real sure. But anytime you win a fuel mileage race you've done something as a driver. We don't know what we're doing really trying to save gas or how much we're saving. But he had a hand in it.           

DENNY HAMLIN: Usually it takes a really slow car to save gas to be honest with you. It helps. I mean, when your car is -- when you're running back in traffic and stuff like that it helps you save gas.           

Your car's not handling as well. You know you're out of the gas more, and you're not getting back in it as soon. So typically you see when guys win on fuel mileage, it's guys knowing huge factors during racing unless the cautions work out just right for them. I think those guys had extremely good fuel mileage anyway. They obviously worked on it. He did a great job to save.           

So I thought that me and him were the only ones on that fuel strategy. When he passed me I thought that was for the win. So the 22 evidently saved a ton of fuel.            

Q. The last few wins today, but he came in outside the top 20, he (indiscernible). Do you think he's going to be a factor eventually getting into the top 20, and he's not a factor for the Chase, and for Junior, looked like Brad was trying to hand you the American flag what was going on there?           

DALE EARNHARDT JR.: I was trying to steal it. (Laughter) yeah, I was just joking around with him. He won his first race I had to raz him a little bit. And I think Brad's good enough to get in the top 20 for points for sure, absolutely. Without a doubt. It's a good team over there. It's the Penske team. They have the opportunity to get in the top 20 easily.           

DENNY HAMLIN: I think that five, six weeks ago I would have said no. But I think since Darlington, those guys actually, you know, they've stepped it up. So plenty capable.            

Q. For people who have no idea what it's like to be in a car on a track this hot for you guys can you describe the physical effects of the heat over that time?           

DENNY HAMLIN: It's hot. What's the typical -- how hot is it inside of a sauna?            

Q. 140 to 180.           

DENNY HAMLIN: Just sit in there for four hours. It's really, really hot. These cars, the Car of Tomorrow, the Car of Today, whatever it is, they are hotter than the cars we used to run. The exhaust is closer to the floorboard. So I mean we're sitting right on our exhaust that's a thousand degrees. All these cars are completely sealed off. We've got our window nets now to where they pretty much seal the left side of the car so there's no air getting in or out of the car. So it's just extremely hot. Your feet are just boiling throughout the day.           

I mean, it's just, you know, sitting in a sauna for four hours and it's pretty much what you got.            

Q. Good run for both of you guys. Junior, I want to talk about your relationship with Steve. You've worked with a lot of great crew chiefs over the years, but it seems like that you and Steve have some kind of chemistry. Is it because he's kind of a, I don't know, a rah rah type guy? I don't know what way to put it. But it seems like he knows how to pick you up and make you better. Is he any different than the other guys you've worked with and just talk about that relationship a little bit?           

DALE EARNHARDT JR.: Everybody's different. But me and him get along great. And he's a good crew chief. He's real smart with the cars. He's not afraid to try what he sees other people doing. And he's just sharp. I mean, we all could do better and be better at our job. But right now it's working out. We're getting along great. We're running good. Hopefully we can keep it up. It's going along good. I'm not going to do anything to mess it up. I'm going to try hard to stay on the positive side and work hard right along with him, give him everything he needs.            

Q. For both of you, you had over a thousand corn growers and ethanol producers here today. American Ethanol was in the spotlight. I want to know, how is that 15 percent ethanol blend working out for you?           

DALE EARNHARDT JR.: I had plenty today. I could have used a little extra last week, but today we had plenty. And it runs good. If you can make it, find a way to give me a little more torque, I'd appreciate it. But that's probably something I need to work on on my end.           

DENNY HAMLIN: I think it was great. But ask the 20 guys that ran out of fuel, though.            

Q. Dale, you mentioned you guys, you felt like you need to be better at qualifying. Do you personally need to be better, or do you feel like you guys need a better qualifying setup when you get to these tracks?           

DALE EARNHARDT JR.: I don't know, man. Every time I always thought I could do better or the problem was me. We'll go down the road somewhere flip the switch on the car, do something to the car that gives you what you need, and you're like damn, it wasn't me. But I qualified good last year some, which we've been terrible this year.           

Our best qualifying effort was 20th at Martinsville outside of Daytona and Talladega. And everything else has been worse than 22nd. That's terrible. Terrible. But everything's out of control when I go drive it. When I race, I'm fine. We just gotta figure out what we need to do. It can't be that hard.

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Posted on: June 5, 2011 6:05 pm
Edited on: June 5, 2011 6:21 pm

Speed Read: STP 400

By Pete Pistone



It wasn’t but a month ago when the Penske Racing stable appeared to be in shambles. 

While Brad Keselowski struggled to come anywhere near his Nationwide Series championship-winning performance with his Sprint Cup effort, Kurt Busch and crew chief Steve Addington seemed to be headed for a boxing ring. 

But slowly things started to come around and it came to fruition with Keselowski’s win in Sunday’s STP 400 at Kansas Speedway. 

After winning the pole last week in Charlotte, Keselowski followed up with a trip to victory lane for his second career Cup win. 

And despite it coming in yet another NASCAR fuel mileage special, Keselowski says it’s the culmination of a focused effort inside the walls of Penske Racing. 

“It’s been a little while. But we’ve been so close lately – we really have,” Keselowski said. “It’s because of the hard work; it’s because of the bad finishes and the struggle it’s been to get here that I really appreciate this win and I really appreciate what this means.” 

Keselowski tipped his cap to Penske for sticking with both his team’s program as well as Busch’s through a very difficult time. 

“And to Roger Penske who put me in this ride and stuck with me through a bad year last year,” Keselowski added in victory lane.  “We’re in good shape.  A few more wins like this and we can make the Chase.” 

Busch led 152 laps from the pole and looked like he’d be the one to bring Dodge to victory lane for the first time since he won last year’s Coca-Cola 600. But Busch was bitten by the fuel strategy and forced to give up the lead inside of ten laps. 

Despite that disappointment, the sometimes temperamental Busch found surprising solace in what turned out to be a ninth place finish. 

“I’m proud of the way that this team has run,” Busch said.  “To have a car to lead laps today and be very competitive, I was all smiles.   I felt coming into the weekend that if we could pace ourselves, have good team communication, we would be competitive.  it was great.  There was always something in the back of my mind today that we weren’t going to win, but I’m glad that Brad Keselowski got this win for those Miller Lite guys, for Dodge.  For all my guys, we’ll take this one and the points.  I’m not discouraged at all.” 

Neither is Penske who sees brighter days ahead for his team particularly at layouts like the one in Kansas, which make up the bulk of the Sprint Cup Series schedule. 

“I think we’ve made a lot of progress the last several weeks,” Penske said.  “This is a real step-up for us.  These are the tracks that were tough for us, the one-and-a-half miles.  It looks like we have a handle on these now.  We’ll see what happens.” 

With Busch sixth in the point standings and Keselowski in the Wild Card hunt, what could happen is both Penske drivers making the Chase. 

A couple of weeks ago no one would have even dreamed that to be possible.   



Dale Earnhardt Jr. 

Another week and another race on the short end of the fuel mileage game. But even though he was disappointed with not being able to run down Keselowski for the victory, Earnhardt has to be pleased with yet one more week when the No. 88 car was competitive enough just to be in the mix for victory, a sight that was rare the last three seasons.  

Denny Hamlin  

Don’t look now but last year’s Sprint Cup Series championship runner-up is starting to make some noise. No, he still hasn’t found a way to victory lane but the Joe Gibbs Racing No. 11 team is back to knocking down Top 5 and Top 10 finishes and the engine woes that plagued the operation in the first four months of the season appears to be long gone.  

Jeff Gordon 

The winner of the first two Sprint Cup races held at Kansas Speedway was in the hunt for another trip to victory lane on Sunday. Gordon needs a hot summer to ascend in the point standings and stake his claim to a Chase berth and Sunday was a good way to kick off the next three months leading to Richmond in September.



Jamie McMurray  

An emotional trip to his hometown of Joplin, Missouri to survey and help the tornado-ravaged city ended with a disappointing afternoon at Kansas. Had trouble slowing down getting to pit road and then a penalty compounded the problems handing McMurray a 29th place finish. 

A.J. Allmendinger 

Turned heads all weekend with his slick looking No. 43 entry that was painted to replicate Richard Petty’s iconic STP color scheme from 1972. Unfortunately Allmendinger’s recent streak of solid performances particularly on intermediate-sized tracks like Kansas came to an end with a 27th place finish. 

Marcos Ambrose 

Wasn’t able to follow-up his run in last week’s Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte with another good day in Kansas. Got caught up in an early race fender bender which seemed to ruin the handling of the No. 9 RPM Ford and Ambrose wound up 26th in the standings.



(Choice comments and communications from drivers and crew chiefs) 

“Hey Steve, your car ain't too bad. ... Very good car.'' – Dale Earnhardt Jr. to crew chief Steve Letarte midway through the race. 

"If you can hear me, go to radio 2 and I'm going to try to go to channel (bleepin) two.'' – Jeff Gordon 

“I’m fighting loose pretty much no matter what we do to the car,” – Tony Stewart 

“We’re getting there and I know it’s not been easy but it’s working,” – crew chief Steve Addington to Kurt Busch 



On a scale of one to five "Pistone Pistons" I’ll give Sunday’s STP 400 at three. Truth be told there wasn’t a lot of great side-by-side racing and the only glimpse of it came after restarts and even that lasted only a handful of laps. But while I’m not a fan of seeing fuel mileage races on a weekly basis, the drama that unfolded in the closing laps did keep my attention and at the end of the day we have another surprise winner in Brad Keselowski. NASCAR needs something more than calculators to decide a race or two in the very near future however Sunday’s still generated enough excitement.



The odds of the fuel mileage racing streak coming to an end aren’t very good with Pocono Raceway on the horizon. Next week’s first of two trips this summer to the enormous 2.5-mile triangular track has a very good chance of also becoming a race where calculators, pencils and slide rules will be just as important as having a fast race car.

For more NASCAR news, rumors and analysis, follow @ppistone on Twitter or subscribe to the RSS feed. 

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Posted on: June 4, 2011 1:30 pm

Kurt Busch hot Kansas pole winner

Posted by Pete Pistone

Kurt Busch beat the heat to score Penske Racing's second straight Sprint Cup Series pole and earn the top spot for Sunday's STP 400 at Kansas Speedway. After his teammate Brad Keselowski won last week's Coca-Cola 600 pole at Charlotte Motor Speedway, Busch followed up with a stellar effort to top Saturday's 45-car field.

Busch went out fifth in the session which proved to be a benefit as the temperatures in the mid-90s made the track slicker as qualifying progressed.


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Posted on: June 3, 2011 3:59 pm

Biffle tops opening Kansas practice

Posted by Pete Pistone

Greg Biffle continued his mastery of Kansas Speedway by leading Friday's first of two Sprint Cup Series practice sessions. The two-time track winner went to victory lane last October at the 1.5-mile speedway:


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Posted on: June 3, 2011 12:23 pm
Edited on: June 3, 2011 5:18 pm

NASCAR Sprint Cup Kansas race preview

By Pete Pistone


A new wrinkle in the Sprint Cup Series calendar comes into play this weekend with a June visit to Kansas Speedway. 

After hosting one Cup race a year since its inception in 2001, the track now has a pair of NASCAR weekends on the slate with Sunday’s STP 400 joining the traditional October Chase date. 

And Greg Biffle could not be happier about now making two trips to Kansas. 

The Roush Fenway Racing driver has enjoyed considerable success at the 1.5-mile oval with a couple of wins in his last four starts including a trip to victory lane in last October’s Price Chopper 400. 

Ask Biffle what makes him so good at Kansas or why he’s been so successful there and his answer is fairly simple. 

“I just like the way it’s laid out,” said Biffle, who led 60 laps in last year’s Kansas win. “I like the corner entry and exit. It has a little less banking than some of the others, like Texas, Charlotte and Atlanta, but it’s a really neat mile and a half.” 

But Biffle has company in the love for Kansas Speedway department including within his own race team. 

Fellow Roush Fenway drivers Carl Edwards and Matt Kenseth have also experienced success at Kansas and consider it high on their list of favorites. 

“I love Kansas,” said Sprint Cup points leader Edwards who also views the weekend as a homecoming. “I live in Columbia, Mo., so for me that’s as close as I get to race at home in a Sprint Cup car. It’s a very special racetrack to me. We’ve been close, just so close to winning a race there, but now we get to race there twice this year. I’m really looking forward to it. It’s a great race track to race on, and the fans are second to none.” 

Kenseth, who has led 210 career laps at Kansas, thinks as the track continues to age the racing will get even better. 

“My favorite thing about Kansas is that now as the asphalt is starting to get worn out, it’s starting to get slippery and you run fast on new tires,” said Kenseth. “As the track gets slippery you have to really manage your tires and pick out the places to pass. You have to be good on both ends of the run; on new tires and on old tires.”  

While Edwards would enjoy winning in front of fans from nearby Missouri, Clint Bowyer has his built-in following as the true hometown hero. From nearby Emporia, Kansas Bowyer is hoping to crash the RFR party and bring Richard Childress Racing a victory that would be a sweet way to celebrate a trip back home. 

“I’m really excited about it,” Bowyer said. “I’m just proud to be from Kansas. It is amazing to see what the track has brought to that area. It’s really cool and I’m very excited. Every year that we go back, they always have something new. That’s what makes me proud about that area and what they’ve been able to accomplish there. 

“Kansas is becoming one of those tracks that everyone likes going to just because of the area and how much there is to do there. It would be big (to win there). We’ve gotten close, including that deal with Biffle in 2007. We ran well the first couple races there, but we’ve struggled here as of late. It’s an important track for me and it would be a helluva party.”


Kansas Speedway 

Track Size: 1.5-miles  

Race Length: 400 miles  

Banking/Frontstretch: 10.4 degrees  

Banking/Backstretch: 5 degrees 

Banking/Corners: 14 degrees


Qualifying/Race Data  

2010 pole winner: Kasey Kahne (174.844 mph, 30.920 seconds)  

2010 race winner: Greg Biffle (138.077 mph, 10-03-10)  

Track qualifying record: Matt Kenseth (180.856 mph, 29.858 seconds, 10-08-05) 

400-mile race record: Greg Biffle (138.077 mph, 10-03-10)


Race Facts 

There have been 10 NASCAR Sprint Cup races at Kansas since the track opened in 2001.      

All of the races have been scheduled for 267 laps.      

11 drivers have competed in all 10 races at Kansas.      

Jeff Gordon won the first two NASCAR Sprint Cup races.       

Jason Leffler won the first pole in September 2001.        

Seven different drivers have won poles, led by Jimmie Johnson, with three.       

Seven different drivers have posted victories, led by Greg Biffle, Jeff Gordon and Tony Stewart (each with two).       

There have been seven different winners.     

Seven of the 10 races have been won from a top-10 starting position.       

Two drivers have won from the pole: Joe Nemechek in 2004 and Jimmie Johnson in 2008.      

The furthest back in the field that race winner started was 21st, by Tony Stewart in 2006. Seven of the 12 races this season have been won from a starting position of 20th or lower.       

Denny Hamlin made his first career NASCAR Sprint Cup start at Kansas – a 32nd-place finish in 2005.       

Three active drivers with more than one start have averaged a top-10 finish: Greg Biffle (8.1), Jeff Gordon (8.5) and Jimmie Johnson (9.3).       

Jeff Gordon leads all drivers in top fives (seven) and top 10s (eight). Gordon’s only two non-top 10s were a 39th in 2006 and a 13th in 2004.       

Seven of the nine races that ended under green had a margin of victory under one second. The 2007 race ended under caution. 


Who’s Hot at Kansas  

Greg Biffle – Red hot at the Kansas track since it opened its gates in 2001.  Biffle has a pair of wins including one last October and an average finish of 8.1 in nine races, which also includes a string of four races no worse than third. 

Carl Edwards – The series point leader has still not been able to win at Kansas Speedway but has knocked on the door of victory lane to the tune of five Top 10 finishes in seven career starts. He was sixth last October at the track but has seen his mid-sized speedway performance increase dramatically since then. 

Jeff Gordon  – Kansas might be the track Gordon needs to help stem his recent tide of poor finishes. After winning the first two Cup races held at the track in 2001 and 2002, Gordon has four straight Top 5 runs to his credit heading into Sunday’s eleventh career start at the track.


Who’s Not  

Joey Logano – Has to hope some magic from a third place finish in Charlotte last week will follow him to Kansas where in three Sprint Cup starts he’s finished no higher than 17th. Logano has a bloated average finish of 28th at the track. 

Marcos Ambrose – His recent 1.5-mile track success will be put to the test Sunday in Kansas where Ambrose has struggled in his Sprint Cup tenure. Came home 34th last October and has an average finish of 28.0. 

Kyle Busch – Kansas certainly hasn’t been one of Busch’s favorites over the years including last October when he was knocked out in a payback move by David Reutimann from an earlier race incident between the two. In seven starts Busch has a 23.9 average finish and hasn’t finished inside the Top 10 in his last four Kansas races.



Groundbreaking was held on May 25, 1999.    

The official opening of Kansas Speedway was in 2001, with the first events being an ARCA race and a NASCAR K&N Pro Series West race on the same day – June 2.    

The first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race was Sept. 30, 2001.    

This is the first season Kansas Speedway will hold two NASCAR Sprint Cup Series events. 

There have been 10 NASCAR Sprint Cup races in Kansas, all at Kansas Speedway. The only other Kansas track to hold a NASCAR national series race was Heartland Park in Topeka, which hosted five NASCAR Camping World Truck Series races from 1995-99.       

16 drivers in NASCAR’s three national series (all-time) have their home state recorded as Kansas, including Jim Roper who won the very first NASCAR Sprint Cup race – Charlotte in 1949.       

There have been two race winners from Kansas in NASCAR. 

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The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com