Race Weekend Central

Beyond the Cockpit: Brian Keselowski on Hard Wrecks and Hard Knocks

_A season that started with such promise for Brian Keselowski has fizzled into frustration. Just weeks after pulling a major upset, sneaking into the Daytona 500 field on a shoestring budget the Sprint Cup rookie was faced with an obstacle he couldn’t dodge with his Charger: gall bladder surgery. Out for nearly a month recovering, his return has been met far too often with the dreaded words “D-N-Q” while a horrific wreck during a lesser series race at Rockingham tested his mettle._

_How is the driver/owner handling the rollercoaster? To find out, our Bryan Davis Keith joined Mike Neff in sitting with this year’s early Cinderella Story in between practices at Charlotte._

Mike Neff, Frontstretch.com: *Was it a tire that went down, because from where I was standing it looked like your throttle hung.*

Brian Keselowski: Man, that thing’s bad. There were parts of tire like this long [over a foot] in the car from it shredding. The roof is knocked off the car.

Bryan Davis Keith, Frontstretch.com: *Which car was tore up worse, that one or the one Dennis Setzer almost took over the fence at Talladega?*

Keselowski: [Laughs] Wow. I never had a car tore up that bad before.

Keith: *When was the last time you hit something that wasn’t a SAFER barrier?*

Brian Keselowski enters NASCAR’s All-Star weekend sore after enduring a violent wreck in USAR competition at Rockingham this past Saturday.

Keselowski: I don’t know, it’s been awhile. It might have been a short track, a Toledo or something in a late model. There was this one wreck, it was a test session. I was doing a qualifying run, and it rained… I went down hard into turn 1 and it downpoured. It didn’t even try to turn. That might have been about the last time. Wait, Salem in an ARCA car. That was another one of them left-rear tire deals. I was waiting for a caution, but it blew the tire first. At Rockingham, it didn’t even give a hint of warning that hey, it was going to go bad. It was fine, fine, boom, wreck. It was bad…the brake pedal is under the clutch pedal now, that tells you what kind of hit it was. It’s now a couple hundred bucks of scrap, that’s about it. My shoulder’s not liking it too good, that’s for sure.

Keith: *Talk about this weekend. Like you said, you’ve got to run faster. What do you have to do?*

Keselowski: Darlington was kind of a bad deal because if it had kept raining, we would have been in the show. The worst possible thing that could happen at Darlington happened; we didn’t get any practice to make the car better, then we had to go qualify. That’s the worst of both worlds. Luckily here, we got practice. We’re getting better, it’s just incrementally in small steps. [But] we need big steps right now. That’s an issue.

Keith: *How much is setup, how much is motor?*

Keselowski: I’d probably say 50-50. Obviously we’re off on the motor program, we’ve got to do better there. That’s one of the reasons I’m not coming to the 600 next weekend. But I’m hoping to go to Kansas, because I’m working really hard to get a motor program together before we go to Kansas. Problem is, I can’t seem to make that work on the Dodge side, so I might have to change manufacturers just because of motors. It isn’t that big of a deal, except that I don’t want to do it. But if I can’t get anyone on this side to work with me, I’ve got to try something else. It’s become pretty apparent that’s a major issue.

Neff: *Who’s doing your motors right now?*

Keselowski: They’re old Ganassi motors, so no one’s doing them. I work on them myself, I own them. I know that’s an issue. We’ll pull out of the corners, and halfway down the straightaway it feels like a rocket booster. It’s because the car never went anywhere until you hit the straightaway. I’m going to say it’s 50-60% of it. We’ve got a lot to gain, that’s for sure. We’re not going to go out and make a bunch of qualifying runs, we’re not going to spend a lot of money doing this deal. We’ve got to recover some money! We’re here to learn, use this as a test session, hopefully go to Kansas, make some races, and go from there.

Keith: *Tommy Baldwin Racing opted to skip this race. From an ownership perspective, there are pros and cons to that decision. Can you think of a circumstance where skipping the race would outweigh the track time?*

Keselowski: The difference between Baldwin and a guy like me…Tommy rents his motors, I own mine. So the fact that I already had a motor, I might as well come anyway. They didn’t have an entry fee for this race, and I didn’t have to buy a lot of tires. This is my pull-down rig, my seven-post. I don’t get to do that stuff. For them, I could see it, because for them to get another motor will cost them $25,000, $30,000 for a 40-lap race. That outweighs what they’re getting to do the race. For me, that wasn’t the case.

Keith: *You’ve got a lot of high-powered tracks coming up: Pocono, Michigan, then the road course at Sonoma. What does the upcoming schedule look like for you?*

Keselowski: I’m hoping to go to Kansas, Pocono and Michigan. Unfortunately, if we don’t come up with sponsorship we’re not going to be able to race some of those races. But, I really want to race Michigan, bad. If it comes down to where I have to start-and-park a couple of times to race at Michigan, I’ll do that. I’ve always said that, I’ll do it if there’s light at the end of the tunnel.

Keith: *Are you going to Kansas and Pocono with or without a motor program?*

Keselowski: I’m not going without. There’s no point, I’d just be spending money I don’t have. Why would I? I’ve done that long enough. We’ve got to get better. And if we can’t find a way to get better, I’m not going.

Keith: *Looking down the summer road, we’re going back to Daytona soon. Any plans in the works?*

Keselowski: Some small sponsorship stuff, but nothing really. Again, it all comes down to the motor program. That’s why I didn’t go to Talladega. I thought we could run fine, but there’s no qualifying race this time. We’ve got to be fast… and these guys are pretty tough. There’s no roll-overs here.

Neff: *Is there any chance Dodge is going to help you with anything?*

Keselowski: Not really. Dodge Motorsports is Penske Racing, which is understandable on their side. But there is no extra money to help a team like me. There’s probably not a single manufacturer out there willing to give me anything. But there might be other manufacturers willing to make some better deals, or some deals, because right now I have none. I don’t want to [change] by any means, I’ve been a Dodge guy since I was a kid. But, they can’t just keep burying me in the dirt either. I need to get some light. I’m trying to make my race team work. If that’s the way to do it, I’ll do it.

“Contact Bryan Davis Keith”:https://frontstretch.com/contact/18454/

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