The 2013 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season hasn’t gone as expected for Brad Keselowski and the No. 2 Penske Racing Ford team, especially coming off the championship season that was 2012. Keselowski finally drove the No. 2 into victory lane for the first time this year Oct. 12 at Charlotte Motor Speedway. It’s definite that Keselowski won’t repeat as champion, since he failed to even make this year’s Chase for the Sprint Cup, but that doesn’t mean that he or his team has quit on the season. The Sprint Cup circuit heads to Martinsville (Va.) Speedway this weekend for Sunday’s running of the Goody’s Headache Relief Shot 500. The last time the series visited Martinsville, the No. 2 was the highest-finishing Ford with a sixth-place showing. Earlier this week, crew chief Paul Wolfe talked about the return to Martinsville and the hopes of improving on that sixth-place finish. Here’s what he had to say:
HOW MUCH DID THE WIN AT CHARLOTTE ACT AS A PRESSURE RELEASE FOR THE TEAM?
“Our expectations are higher than to win one race this season obviously, but to be as deep in the season as we are and hadn’t gotten that win yet, that was huge, especially to win at Charlotte during the Chase. That was a bit of a relief to get that and maybe we can turn the corner a little bit here and can finish off with another one or some more strong runs.”
DO YOU BELIEVE IN MOMENTUM?
“Absolutely, I think you see it all the time. If you look back at our season last year and leading up to 2012 we carried a lot of momentum and we started the season that way this year. After Texas when we had our issues it killed all our momentum and never could really get going again. We’ve had good cars and had good runs going but we just weren’t able to put together a string of good finishes like we have been able to do over the past couple of years. Hopefully, the win at Charlotte will get us on track.”
YOU FINISHED SIXTH AT MARTINSVILLE IN THE SPRING. HISTORICALLY IT HASN’T BEEN A GREAT TRACK TO FORD OVER THE YEARS. WHAT IS IT ABOUT MARTINSVILLE THAT HAS ALLOWED YOU SOME SUCCESS THERE?
“I think in general Martinsville is a rhythm type race track and that is an area where Brad excels. It is not a track where you get rewarded for charging the corners and doing things like that, it is about getting in a rhythm and being smooth and taking care of your brakes. That keeps the tires on it longer and if you look across the board in general, that really fits Brad’s style. He isn’t very hard on his brakes, he is more of a long run guy and that is how we have had our success in the past. I think that is no different when we go to Martinsville, a place where you really have to manage your equipment. In general this year I feel like we’ve been able to be stronger on the short tracks than we have in the past. We’ve had really good cars at New Hampshire and Richmond and Phoenix this year. Obviously, the first race at Martinsville was strong of course. With having the test there I feel like we learned a few things and look forward to being back there and trying to step it up another notch.”
YOU MENTIONED THAT IT WASN’T A GREAT TEST, WHAT DIDN’T YOU LIKE?
“It is just a tough place to test at. It is real sensitive to the rubber and there was a lot of marble buildup. Sometimes it makes it tough to test as well as it being very hard to just practice there. I think in general we always do a good job as a team of taking the information that we learn and the things we learn at the test and sitting down to come up with a game plan to go back. If you look at the race tracks we have tested at this year, we have gone back and qualified really well and raced well at those tracks. You always want to be fast and we might not have ended the test with the speed we wanted but as long as you can take the things you did and learn from them then you can go back and be stronger.”
HOW BIG IS COMMUNICATION WITH YOUR DRIVER AT A SHORT TRACK LIKE MARTINSVILLE?
“I wouldn’t say it is much different than any other weekend for us. It is important every weekend. When you get that good communication going on and clicking like I feel we did at Charlotte that is how you have success. That was the one thing I told the guys. How our practices went on Friday at Charlotte and how we were able to work on the race car it felt a lot like the flow we had last year in the Chase. It is just a feeling you get and I knew we would probably have a shot to have a good race on Saturday. Obviously, we didn’t maybe show all the speed early on because of our issue on pit road, but once we got in position and had the track position, I knew we had a shot at it.”
WHEN YOU SAW THE CAR PULL OUT WITH THE JACK UNDER IT, YOU MUST HAVE BEEN THINKING, ‘HERE WE GO AGAIN.’
“Exactly, that is kind of how our year has been, but Brad stayed focused and didn’t give up and he knew we had a good car. When you have a good car it makes it easier to pull through a situation like that. Luckily, it was a long enough race that we were able to slowly each run pick off a few spots and we short-pitted a little that last green flag run, which got us a couple more spots and once we had that caution at the end that reset the field, I knew that we would likely have a shot at it at that point.”