2012 Cup champ listens to Linda Ronstadt and talks about maintaining relationships

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Our series of NASCAR driver interviews continues this week with defending Sprint Cup Series champion Brad Keselowski, who is currently 15th in the points standings for Penske Racing.

Q: From what you can tell, whose driving style is the most similar to yours?

A: No one. I think I'm an outlier.

Why is that?

There's a handful of drivers who I think their style is so much different from everyone else, and then there's the rest. Like Kevin Harvick – nobody in this garage drives like Kevin Harvick.

I'm not talking about like bumping or something, I'm just talking purely about how he uses the pedals, how he drives. I would say I'm probably the same. I don't see anybody in the garage area that drives like me.

Q: How much of your personal memorabilia do you collect? Do you save helmets, firesuits and diecast cars?

A: Yes and no. I keep stuff, but I don't display it. Does that make sense? We give away very little, and when we do, it's almost always to sponsors – like high-profile people on the sponsorship side.

But I actually have different agreements that preclude us from giving stuff away. Like my Adidas deal, I'm not allowed to give anything away.

How come?

There's a couple different reasons. One, the technology they have is different than everybody else's and they don't want X, Y or Z to get a hold of it.

And two, it denigrates the brand. If you have one of these items, you're supposed to be really, really special. If there's 100 of these damn suits made every year and you can get them anywhere, it's like going out and saying, "I got a collector car." Well, it's not really a collector car if there are 100,000 of them made.

Q: What percent of success in NASCAR has to do with the driver, what percent is the car and what percent is luck?

A: Well, you're throwing out the other important piece, which is execution -- like pit stops, things like that. That's a big piece of it. You have it broken down as car and driver, but I'd break it down differently than you: I'd do speed, execution and luck.

Speed is cumulative of how your driver interacts with your car. Execution is pit road, restarts, how well you make passes. And then obviously you have luck.

12 QUESTIONS: Read more from Gluck's series

What percent of those do you have to have to succeed?

It varies race to race. That's why I think NASCAR racing is an anomaly and why dominant cars are never guaranteed a win. Track to track, each one changes – and not always in a predictable manner. And sometimes, it's the way the yellow is flagged. It changes the importance of all three.

If a race just went pure green flag, you don't need any luck. You just need speed and execution. Now take a race where the yellow comes out 15 or 20 laps before the last pit stop window – a perfect example would be the first Loudon race (in July).

A bunch of guys pitted in the back of the field, put tires on and gas in their car. A yellow comes out again right after that – in the (fuel) window – and everybody who pitted before doesn't pit and the rest of the field does.

But (the cars who pitted earlier) are still out of the window and the only way they're going to make it work is if they get a bunch of cautions. And that's what happened (Brian Vickers won the race).

So that particular race put an emphasis on luck. They still had to execute – you still can't be the worst car on the track, or you would have gotten passed by all them guys. But they had enough speed and just enough execution to where they were able to capitalize on it when luck became a factor.

NEW DEAL: Keselowski, Miller Lite signed through 2017

Obviously, Talladega and Daytona are pretty much the same with luck – moreso Talladega. And I think that's why drivers get frustrated when they lose and they're the best in speed and execution. It's very frustrating because you know you've done all you can do and it wasn't enough, and you know your guys did the best job – but you never control that third piece.

But from the perspective of the sport, it's important because that third piece is what keeps things different from week to week. That's why the same guy who has the fastest car isn't even close to being guaranteed a win.

Q: What person outside of your family has done the most for your racing career?

A: This year, we obviously haven't had the success we had last year – and one of the things I kind of joke about with people I'm close to is everyone wants to take credit for your success. So when one person is missing and you're not successful, they're the first one to raise their hand and say, "That's because I'm not around!" You're like, "I don't think so."

But when you go through those experiences, you start to realize just how many people it takes to be successful. So if I'm judging my success in this sport on wins and championships, there's no doubt it's Roger (Penske). If I'm judging my position in terms of just making it to this level, I would say Dale (Earnhardt) Jr. If I was judging it just on feeling confident as a contender and being fast every week, I would say (crew chief) Paul Wolfe.

Q: You come into contact with so many people every weekend -- your team, sponsors, media, fans -- and they all want a piece of your time. With all that demand, how do you prioritize your schedule?

A: The first and most important thing to do is to organize. You get more done when you organize. So that's why we try to do appearances: You can see a bigger group of people and be more impactful with them when you have a structure behind it. You have to put structure behind everything you do. That's the way I've had the most success.

Same with the media. I used to go into the media center (for interviews), but I didn't really like how that was structured. I like being here (at the hauler) because I can kind of control the flow. You can structure it and make it in a way that's efficient.

But it's important to still keep it authentic when you add structure to things, because sometimes it can come off as not authentic. Like right here, I feel this is authentic. If I had gone to the media center to do this, I feel like it would have been terribly inefficient.

Q: I've heard a lot of fans come up to drivers and say, "Hey, remember me from that autograph session three years ago?" So it's clear they want to be remembered. What is something a fan could do to be remembered by you?

A: There's a lot of things they can do. (Smiles) Obviously, we're going to remember the attractive females. I think that goes without saying.

I'm usually going to remember someone who wears my stuff. For some reason, I connect with that person – not always, but usually. Especially if that person is wearing more than one item – like a hat and a shirt at an autograph signing. I might not remember their name, but I'll remember their face.

If you come up to me in a Clint Bowyer hat and a Kyle Busch T-shirt, you basically have zero chance. You know? And that's the same for getting an autograph and being remembered.

And that's because you want to reward your fans?

Yeah. You invest in the people who invest in you, because you're never going to be able to remember everyone. That's important for fans to remember, because it's impossible. There are days when I literally will meet hundreds of people. If I can retain one or two, it's a good day, you know?

My brain is like a hard drive – it gets full really easily and I have to delete somebody out of it. So if it's been five or six years since I've seen you, you probably got deleted.

Q: The last person you wrecked – did you do it on purpose?

A: Who is the last person I wrecked? I don't remember. I don't know if I've wrecked someone all year. I've wanted to wreck some people though.

Oh, wait. Let's back it up: Daytona, the Nationwide race in February. Regan Smith (the infamous crash coming to the finish line in which Kyle Larson's car went airborne and parts went into and over the catchfence, injuring fans). Did I wreck him on purpose? Depends on your definition. See, I don't think holding your line is wrecking someone on purpose. Holding your ground is not the same.

Wrecking someone on purpose would be like if you walked out of this door and just shot somebody. Now, if that guy was charging at you and putting you in a bad position and you shot him, then that's like "stand your ground."

Did I wreck him on purpose? No. Did I shoot him? (Expletive) yeah. He knew I was there and he swung at me. It's like, "Sorry, man."

Standing your ground is a way of saying, "You're not going to push me around and go too far."

Q: Is there anyone in the garage who you used to clash with but with whom you've now become friends?

A: No, but I think there are a few that are probably the other way about me. Paul didn't like me.

Really?

Oh yeah. Before I started working with Paul, he was crew chiefing this car (at CJM Racing) and it had a couple different drivers in it. And they were just real pains in the (rear ends) to race with. So I roughed them up all the time – and it drove him crazy.

And that's why he didn't want to be your crew chief when you first approached him?

Yep. It made him really mad.

Q: What's the best racing-related movie?

A: I like Rush, but I like it for more than racing. I like that it's got a lot of boobs in it. Have you seen it? The actual racing is just OK. I like Senna a lot, so I'd probably say Senna.

Q: What's your song of the moment right now?

A: I'm pretty diverse with music, so I'm trying to decide how honest I want to be.

Go for it.

I watched this special on the Eagles, and I didn't know until watching the special that (Don) Henley and (Glenn) Frey were in a clique with Joe Walsh, Jackson Browne and Linda Ronstadt. And Henley and Frey were actually the ones who weren't successful. They were the two who were like the back half of the clique, like, "Yeah, they're in some band, but it's not really that good."

So I got fascinated by that. I thought, "Well, these other three must have been (awesome)!" So I've been listening to the other three a lot.

I already knew Joe Walsh, but I've been listening to a lot of Jackson Browne and Linda Ronstadt. It's not like I'm going to be into them for the rest of my life, but I downloaded four or five songs from each.

So you drive down the road listening to Linda Ronstadt?

What fascinated me about her is she had pop and country hits. And nowadays, it's like, "Oh, country music has sold out (to pop)." Well, this was like 1968 and she went back and forth between both. I thought that was really interesting.

It kind of reminds me of the Nationwide/Sprint Cup driver argument, you know what I mean? (Laughs) Like, wait a minute – didn't Dale Earnhardt win the first Busch race? And we're still arguing about this? It's been 30 years! Let it go! Let. It. Go.

Q: Define yourself without NASCAR. Who are you away from all the racing?

A: I think I'm defined by my competitive nature. So I'd find something else to be competitive at. I love to compete and I love the challenge of trying to prove yourself every day.

I have a lot of things I like to do business-wise and I'm always looking for new opportunities there – because I almost view business as a form of competition.

Like on Shark Tank?

Yeah. It's a way of moving things forward.

Q: I've been asking each person to give me a question for the next interview. Last week was Kevin Harvick and he wanted to know: Outside of the racing, what's the hardest part of your job?

A: That's pretty easy, actually: It's relationships – relationships with your family and friends. Trying to keep the relationships balanced is a daunting task, because everyone feels like you're not spending enough time with them – and there's only so much time.

So you find yourself saying, "I'll give this person a day or two. Now they're good and I'll see them again in three months." You know what I mean? And you lose relationships that meant something to you, and there's really nothing you can do it about it. It's really frustrating, but that's just part of being on the road so much.

And do you have a question for the next interview? I don't know who it is yet.

Why don't you know? When you know who it will be, I'll come up with a question.

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BRAD KESELOWSKI'S THREE FAVORITE APPS

-- CalenMob. That's my calendar.

-- Twitter. That's definitely my favorite.

-- USA TODAY. I read it probably three or four times a week.

Follow Gluck on Twitter @jeff_gluck

PHOTOS: Brad Keselowski's NASCAR career


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