Biffle and Elliott Qualify in Top 10 For Sunday’s Ford 400

Biffle and Elliott Qualify in Top 10 For Sunday’s Ford 400

FORD 400 QUALIFYING

DAVID RAGAN – No. 6 UPS Ford Fusion (Qualified 42nd) – “I think the track lost a little grip. Speed-wise, I don’t think we’ve got a lot of speed in qualifying trim and going out second is not gonna help our cause any. But I was happy with our UPS Ford when we unloaded in race trim. I think we were a little faster in race trim than we were in qualifying trim, so it just doesn’t have a lot of speed. Hopefully, it’ll drive good tomorrow and we’ll see what kind of a race car it is for Sunday.”
 
AJ ALLMENDINGER – No. 44 Ford. Drive one. Ford Fusion (Qualified 13th) – “I’m happy with it. Obviously the draw is gonna hurt us, so if we can stay somewhere right around the top 15, I think that’ll be good. I’m just happy at Richard Petty Motorsports. We’re making progress with this Ford and I’m real excited about this weekend and especially the next year. I think overall the little things that we’ve learned in the two races, and the stuff we’ll learn here will be great for next year so we’re pumped up about it and pumped up to be with Ford. We’ll be ready to go.” HOW DOES IT FEEL TO DRIVE THIS CAR IN THE VINTAGE PETTY COLORS? “The tradition of it and just being able to drive for the King means so much to me. We’ve given it two good runs and hopefully we can end with one more great run here and have this paint job mean something to us at the end. It’s an awesome car.”
 
CARL EDWARDS – No. 99 Aflac Ford Fusion (Qualified 24th) – WITH A CAUTION JUST BEFORE YOUR RUN, DOES THAT BREAK UP YOUR RHYTHM? “You know, no, that really wasn’t the issue there. It was actually good for us because it gave us more time for the track to cool off, the longer we wait. No, it makes you think but it didn’t slow us down. That wasn’t the problem.” DO YOU HAVE A GOOD FEEL YET FOR THE REST OF THE WEEKEND? “Not yet. We’ll know tomorrow after race trim; we’ll see where we stand.”
 
ERIK DARNELL – No. 96 Hall of Fame Ford Fusion (Qualified 32nd) – LOOKING FOR A LITTLE MORE? “Yeah, definitely, especially after practice. I felt like our Ford Fusion was pretty decent in qualifying trim. Just for me being new to these cars, it’s been kind of tough I think to jump back and forth between this car and the Nationwide Series car, especially when we’re sliding around on old tires in that thing. The car was good. It drove pretty well. I think it had more speed in it than what it’s going to end up showing, so they’ve done a good job with the car all weekend.”
 
GREG BIFFLE – No. 16 3M Ford Fusion (Qualified 8th) – YOU, LIKE TEAMMATE CARL EDWARDS, HAD A CAUTION JUST BEFORE YOUR QUALIFYING RUN. DOES THAT MESS UP YOUR RHYTHM? “It does a little bit. You’ve got to think about it. But, it was a pretty good lap; I just didn’t know where to run. I ran the top, and I really wanted to run the bottom, so my second lap I ran the bottom, and the car had a little bit less grip on the second lap. I think I could’ve maybe been a little bit better on the first lap on the bottom, maybe half a tenth. I don’t know if that would’ve put us on top of the board or not, but it’s pretty dang close, so I just wished I would’ve turned it to the bottom the first lap. You wish you could have it both ways, try and see which way is the fastest, you know?” EARLIER TODAY, YOU SAI D YOU KNOW ON FRIDAY WHETHER YOU HAVE A GOOD CAR ON SUNDAY. YOU’VE WON HERE ON SUNDAY; DO YOU KNOW WHAT KIND OF CAR YOU HAVE? “We’re a decent car right now. I think we’re above where we were at Texas and California and Phoenix, but we’re not a winning car yet – but we are getting closer.”
 
JAMIE MCMURRAY – No. 26 Crown Royal Ford Fusion (Qualified 11th)That was good. That was a big pick-up from practice for us. It didn’t really run that much faster, I think the track slowed up a little bit. It’s such a crapshoot, you know, after practice to qualifying, if you make the right adjustments or not, but we made some adjustments on our last qualifying run and just went more kind of in that direction. That was nice to end our last qualifying. It’s not great, but it’s not where we have been qualifying on a mile-and-a-half track.” GREB BIFFLE SAID EARLIER TODAY THAT YOU PRETTY MUCH KNOW ON FRIDAY WHETHER YOU HAVE A CAR THAT CAN WIN ON SUNDAY. WHAT ABOUT THE 26? “I thought that when we unloaded today that our car is as good as it has been in the last 10 weeks. So, that’s obviously why we qualified so well. But our car in race trim, I thought, was really, really solid, so I look forward to Sunday. It’s a Ford track.”
 
BILL ELLIOTT – No. 21 Motorcraft Ford Fusion (Qualified 9th) – “They’ve done a good job and have worked really hard. The last two races have been pretty rough, but to come here is important because we really need to try and make a good run at it on Sunday. It seems like that sets the stage for the whole winter. You come down here and have both Terry (Labonte) and Bobby in the deal, so that makes it tough. You’ve got to go out there and you’ve got to put it all together and it just makes it nerve-racking.”
 
            Carl Edwards, driver of the No. 99 Aflac Ford Fusion, came into the Homestead-Miami Speedway infield media center for a press conference to discuss the 2009 season and other topics.
 
CARL EDWARDS – No. 99 Aflac Ford Fusion – “This is it. This is our last shot to get a win this season, so we couldn’t come to a better race track. Roush Fenway does really well here. Our Fords run well. Last year was a good race in the Nationwide Series and the Cup Series. Hopefully, we can have a good run. I want to be in that top 10 really badly, so we’ve got to make up 44 points on Kasey. I had a dream last night that it all worked out, but then I woke up this morning and realized we still have to go do it. Hopefully, that’s the case and we can get in that top 10, but we’ve been running well on the mile-and-a-halfs, so I’m pretty excited about being here for the final race.” 
 
WHAT IS THE FORECAST FOR 2010? “It’s tough to forecast. You can say the 48 team is gonna be strong probably. If I look at last season, a year ago I was sitting here looking forward to this season thinking, ‘Alright, we’re gonna go win nine or 10 races. We’re gonna dominate the championship. That’s the plan.’ That’s still the plan for next year, it’s just that things come and go so easily. It’s very tough to make a plan for your results. I know for our performance we’re gonna do everything we can this winter. I think it was a big wake-up call for me and our team that you could become uncompetitive so easily and we’re just gonna work hard. I don’t know what’s gonna happen next year. I hope we get back on track.” 
 
HOW HAVE YOU AND BOB KEPT FROM BEATING EACH OTHER UP THIS YEAR? “Bob and I respect one another and I think it would be foolish to let our relationship go south because of our on-track results. Bob still works as hard as he ever has, maybe even harder. I’m driving as hard as I ever have and probably a little smarter than I ever have. I think we both understand that. The last thing I want to do or Bob wants to do is make knee-jerk changes because, on the whole, our Roush Fenway cars – we’ve all kind of struggled. Our performances have all been depressed, so it’s not like we’re running worse than our teammates. We’ve just got to stay the course and whenever I start arguing with Bob or nit-picking what he does or how he does it, I just think back to last season when he couldn’t make a wrong decision, and I’ve just got to have faith that we’ll come through this.” 
 
SHOULD ALL 12 CHASE DRIVERS BE AT THE BANQUET OR JUST 10? “I think having 10 is plenty, but it matters to me because I’ve got the greatest sponsor in the sport. Aflac does so much. They’re so wonderful. My fans support me. I want to be there, even if it’s just to stand up there on that stage and thank them. I have a lot of pride in that. That’s that. I just really want to be there.” 
 
WHY IS IT WHEN A TEAM FALLS BEHIND IT’S ALMOST IMPOSSIBLE TO CATCH UP DURING THE SEASON? “That’s a really good question. If that’s true, which I’m not sure, but it feels that way. It probably has to do with the fact that you work so hard just to get to the next race and you have to be short-term thinking throughout the season. The only time that you really get to step back and look at everything on the macro scale is at the end of the season, so that’s probably why you see that. I do feel that we have – our team in particular because I’m closest to our team – but I feel like we’ve picked up on the mile-and-a-halfs. We were OK at the beginning, terrible in the middle of the season, and then lately, if you look at how Matt Kenseth’s results have been, we’ve picked up. So I feel like we’ve gained a little bit. Jeff Burton sure ran well last week, so I think we’re seeing glimpses of it, but it probably results from if you have six or eight or 10 bad weeks, you’re so far down in the points and everybody is so used to you running bad, even if you have a glimmer of hope, it just doesn’t show up and you don’t remember it, but it does seem that way. I’m not sure about all the reasons, but that’s my idea.” 
 
DO YOU VIEW THIS SEASON SIMILARLY TO 2006, AND WHAT WILL IT TAKE TO BEAT THE 48? “Yeah, it is interesting how for us it has been cyclical. For the 48 it hasn’t been. We have to figure out what we can do to keep our performance on a high level. It’s really amazing. I wouldn’t have the respect for what the 48 team has done if I wasn’t going through this over the last four years and understanding how tough it is, so I don’t know if I can convey how amazing that is to me. I don’t know if it’s something mechanically on the cars – a way of doing things there – or if it’s a way of managing people. I don’t know where exactly their advantage lies. It could be both of those places, but I’d say that that’s the team you want to emulate and figure out what they’re doing, but I don’t know the answer. I don’t know what they’re doing, but whatever it is it’s good.” 
 
HOW DO YOU THINK THE BANQUET WILL BE IN VEGAS? “I don’t know all the details, but, right off the bat, I’d say it’s a great move. For people that want to come – fans or my friends and family members, assuming I’m there – but the drivers and teams and all the sponsors, Vegas is a fun place to go. It’s a lot simpler to go there. There are a lot of things to do there, and I feel that it’s a great move. It’s wonderful. New York is neat. It’s fun to go there for a number of reasons, but Vegas, that’s a great move by NASCAR.” 
 
IS THERE ANY SENSE THAT THIS DOWN SEASON FOR ROUSH FENWAY HAS TO DO WITH A LACK OF TESTING? “When this new car came out, we didn’t test. I think the number someone told us was that Hendrick cars had tested 26 times or something before we went to the track for the first time to test. So right there we were behind and it showed on the race track. At this point, though, I feel and believe that we’re all testing about the same amount, so I don’t know that that’s really the issue. Once I felt like we caught up and we were competitive, I don’t think from that point the testing differences were that big. I know Jack has talked a lot about wanting to test at the tracks we race at on Thursdays before we get to the track, I’m just not sure that there’s any difference if we all test or none of us test, other than the cost and the time expenditure. I think it’s better to not test, personally, but I’m not the engineer trying to come up with setups. So, I guess the short version of that is I don’t think it’s the testing.” 
 
CAN YOU TALK ABOUT WHAT YOU’VE DONE TO RACE SMARTER, AND DO YOU FEEL THERE’S A GENERAL ATTITUDE AMONG DRIVERS TO STAY OUT OF TROUBLE MORE THAN THERE USED TO BE? “I don’t feel like there’s a general attitude to stay out of trouble more than we used to. I believe from what I see on the race track we’re racing harder because it’s more difficult to pass, and because it’s more competitive. I think that competition is still right there. It’s tough out there on the race track, and fun too. But, yeah, I look at our season and I saw something the other day that said the highlight was we had the most spectacular 24th-place finish in the history of the sport, which I thought that was pretty funny. But the thing I’m proud of this season is that once we realized and I realized that we were not the same team, and we did not have the same performance as we did last season, we buckled down and got the best we could out of our finishes and we made the chase, which, at that time, was a huge accomplishment. I believe, in my mind, that’s the way I’ve been smarter. I wasn’t in denial going out here and wrecking my car or making terrible choices because I wanted something that wasn’t available – I wanted a finish that wasn’t gonna happen. I feel like I accepted the facts and did the best with them, and that’s what I’m most proud of is putting ourselves in that position. Performance-wise, I think that is where I did a little better job than I’ve done in the past and learned something. So next season, if we have a car that can win, and I can still think like that, we’ll score a lot of points.” 
 
WHAT IS THE FEELING FOR YOU GOING INTO THIS RACE? “I was just thinking about that riding over here. I have mixed emotions about it. We’ve had a long season and everything, but I don’t want it to be over. I want to go have some more opportunities to win and get it back on track so I can look back and say, ‘Hey, see that wasn’t so bad.’ But at the same time I’m really excited about getting this season done and starting next season and having a fresh start, and getting back on track and saying, ‘Alright we can do this.’ So I guess I’m just kind of middle of the road here – on the fence of whether I’m happy that this is the end of the season or not. But this race I think you’ll see some very aggressive racing out there. I think everyone wants to end this season on a high note. I raced a little more aggressively at Phoenix and had a little more fun with it, and that’s how I’m gonna approach this race – just go for it and that’ll be good. The racing will be fun.” 
 
Greg Biffle, driver of the No. 16 3M Ford Fusion, is in seventh place in the standings heading into this weekend’s season-ending Ford 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Biffle, who three straight races at Homestead from 2004-06, met with the media following Friday’s practice session.
 
GREG BIFFLE – No. 16 3M Ford Fusion – “This is definitely a good race track for us. I enjoy this race track. I enjoy racing here. It seems like the track is starting to, obviously, year after year a track starts to lose a little bit of grip and the groove moves around. With our cars, the groove is up top right away. I’m surprised to see that. This is the first time in a long time that any track than Darlington we run at the top of the race track. It’s going to be interesting to see what it’ll take to make passes here and all of that with the groove being up against the fence. We’ll see what Sunday brings for us. Hopefully, we’ll get our car running good up at the top and we’ll be good on Sunday.”
 
NEXT YEAR, ROUSH FENWAY RACING WILL GO FROM FIVE TEAMS TO FOUR TEAMS. WHAT KIND OF DIFFERENCE DOES IT MAKE TO LOSE A TEAM LIKE THAT? “I don’t know that it’s going to make that big of a difference right now with the way we are. Since we rae off a bit and we’re searching for what it’s going to take to compete with the Hendricks group and Gibbs. We may not lose as much as could have, like if you were to take one of the Hendrick’s cars out of the mix, where the whole organization is super-strong, may make a difference. I think we’re all equal within Roush – you know, the 26, the 6, the 17 and the 99 – but I don’t think it’s going to make that big of an impact because we are looking for something new constantly, so if look at it in effect that we’d all be getting the information cooperatively at the same time, probably is going to make that big of an impact on the team to reduce to four. So, it may make an impact on our engineering resources and some other things, if we’ve got to trim some people down, from the engineering department, from some of the other departments that may have a ripple-down effect on the four teams.”
 
IN THE 2004 RACE HERE, WAS THERE A CONSCIOUS EFFORT BY YOU TO NOT LET JIMMIE JOHNSON OR JEFF GORDON LEAD LAP? AND WHEN KURT BUSCH HAD HIS TIRE ISSUE, DID YOU SLOW DOWN UNDER CAUTION ON THE BACKSTRETCH TO HELP HIM OUT? “Absolutely. I drove my [butt] off to keep the 48 behind me. I did everything I could. I was driving over my head. I did all I could do to keep the 48 behind me and not let him lead a lap. Also, I knew the caution was out, I knew Kurt was on pit road and had a tire get away, and then I slowed down to keep him on the lead lap, coming back around to the start-finish line. At that particular point, you have a little bit of that luxury because the pace car is not out yet and so on and so forth. You can’t come to a complete stop; you can certainly slow down. So, I slowed down to save his lap, keep him on the lead lap, and I drove my heart out to try to keep the 48 behind me.”
 
YOU HAVE A STREAK IN WHICH YOU’VE WON AT LEAST ONE RACE IN EACH OF YOUR FULLTIME SEASONS IN THE SERIES – THAT’S SIX YEARS NOW. HOW IMPORTANT IS IT TO YOU TO CONTINUE THAT STREAK? AND, WILL IT BE DIFFICULT TO VIEW 2009 AS A SUCCESSFUL SEASON IF YOU DON’T WIN A RACE?  “It really is. It makes me hurt to think about how many we’ve come close to – running out of gas at Michigan, and stopping on the air hose at California even though we were still in the pit box, so we probably gave that one up, there’s been about four or five, Kansas, we took four tires instead of two and the 14 beat us. It’s been very difficult. But they’re not easy to win, either, and it would be very disappointing to go a season without winning a race since I’ve been able to win every year. I don’t think there’s a driver in our sport that’s ever done that to date. Unfortunately, I’ve got one chance left, and that’s here on Sunday. You’ve got a pretty good idea that you’ve got an opportunity to win on Friday, and right now we’re just going to have to be better tomorrow than we were today in order to win on Sunday. We need a little bit more speed. So. We’re just going to continue to work on this thing a little bit, get the top groove figured out, we could be a threat to win on Sunday, for sure.”
 
WHAT IS THE MOST IMPORTANT ELEMENT ABOUT BEING IN THE CHASE THAT, PERHAPS, SOMETIMES FANS DON’T UNDERSTAND? “Being in the Chase is just super-important for a team because number one you kind of become of an icon in the sport. The Chase cars are viewed as ‘made the playoffs,’ so it’s certainly important, mentally, emotionally for a team, and for success to make the Chase each year. Then you view each week as ‘What do we have to do to win here?’ or ‘Catch the next guy in front of us?’ and I guess you do the same if you’re not in the Chase, but it sort of just takes the wind out of your sails when you’re not. With 10 races to go, you’re really looking forward to next year instead the next 10 with an opportunity to try and close in on that top five in points or whatever it might be, whatever reachable. It’s super-important to make it. That definitely is the highlight of our season, running well enough all season to be in it.”
 
WHAT’S YOUR APPROACH TOWARDS THIS LAST RACE? “It’s important for us to try and win this last race of the season. You know, we’ve been able to do it three years in a row, a few years back. It’s important for a team and a sponsor to do that. We certainly would like to be fifth in points and it’s looking a little grim for us right now. We have to gain a couple of spots and we’d need some extraordinary stuff, but the 48 team has been extremely good and we all know it, and we’re just trying to figure out how to compete on their level.”
 
WHEN MARK MARTIN FIRST STARTED ABOUT CUTTING BACK, IN 2003-2004, COULD YOU HAVE IMAGINED THAT FIVE OR SIX YEARS DOWN THE ROAD HE’D BE RUNNING FOR A CHAMPIONSHIP? “Never. I would’ve never considered it. But I’m happy for him, for sure, that he was able to do that. He got in with a great team, a great organization, and great cars, and has been able to prove himself. And I think a lot us feel like we’re in that same position – we know, at the 16 team, if we get a good car, it’s fast, we stand a chance to win every week. We’re all in that same deal, and when you don’t, I suppose, when you get to his level and you’ve been in it that many years, when you get to that point when you’re not competitive anymore, he’s probably thinking he was going to step out and do something different, maybe not run as much. Then he came back and almost won the Daytona 500 the first time driving something other than our cars, and was leading the points when he decided to take his first week off to go on vacation. So I’m sure that that gave him some idea that he still has the talent to drive, then he got the opportunity so he took it, I suppose.”
 
IN YOU OPINION, HOW IMPRESSIVE IS JIMMIE JOHNSON’S FOUR CONSECUTIVE TITLES? “Well, he hasn’t won it yet, but it’s really impressive. I think we’ve all talked about it and it’s an amazing thing the team has, and that organization. We’ll just have to be better and better each year to try and compete with him. His closest competition is his teammates.”
 
SOME YEARS SOME TEAMS HIT IT AND OTHERS DON’T. IN 2005, ROUSH HAD ALL FIVE CARS IN THE CHASE; HENDRICK WAS THE DOMINANT TEAM THIS YEAR. HOW MUCH PRESSURE WILL BE ON YOUR TEAMS TO COMPETE RIGHT FROM THE START OF THE SEASON, AND WHAT DO YOU HAVE TO WORK ON TO ELEVATE FROM WHERE YOU ARE NOW? “We’re in a predicament, I believe, because we can’t test anywhere, our simulation is not proving to be enough, otherwise we’d be competing and winning races now, so I don’t know what we’re going to do to be more competitive next year, because if we knew, we’d be doing it right now. So, I’m not sure. I’m asking myself the same thing.”
 
HOW MUCH DOES IT HELP TO END ONE SEASON AND TURN THE PAGE AND GET A FRESH START FOR NEXT SEASON? AND WHAT CAN FORECAST WHAT YOU’RE LOOKING FOR FOR NEXT YEAR? “Well, it helps. But at the same time, you’ve got to have something to look forward to, and ending the season strong or getting on a run at the end or you have some stuff in development kind of re-charges those batteries, or just having time off, re-charging those batteries. But it’s really tough because, like you said, we never shut the clock off, we’ve got to get better for next year. Come California, we have to figure out how to compete on a higher level, and we’re going to continue to work on that over the winter. We have a few tire tests we have been invited to, that we’re going to take as big of advantage as we can as a test, to try and get ready for next year. But that’s all we can do, and I’m certainly looking forward to next year. Winning races is what I’m after. I wouldn’t trade winning races for being in the Chase, but at some point you do. You feel like, ‘I want to get back to Victory Lane.’ I won a couple of Nationwide race this year, so that was good. But we want to get into Victory Lane in the Sprint Cup Series.”
 
DO YOU SEE A CHANGE IN MARK MARTIN THESE LAST FEW MONTHS? HE SAYS HE’S HAPPIER? “Well, if I went from not winning in 70-some races to being close to winning a championship and four or five wins, I would be smiling and very happy, too. And I think anybody in the garage would be. It doesn’t matter who it is. Think about his career, he was all but done, right? He announced his retirement, ‘I’m done, I’m leaving,’ and a couple of years later he’s on the cusp of winning the title. You’ve got to feel like a new person, for that to happen to you in your life. Certainly, I could see where he’d be excited and very happy.”
 
COULD YOU SPEAK FROM A DRIVER’S PERSPECTIVE THE SIZE OF MARK MARTIN’S CHALLENGE TOMORROW, TO MAKE UP THAT MANY POINTS? DOES ONE GO IN CNCEDING DEFEAT? THAT IT’S LARGELY OUT OF YOUR HANDS? “Basically, it’s out of his hands. It’s in the hands of the guys that are going to race aggressive on lap three of the race, and that’s what he’s got to hope for, is something to go wrong. And let’s face it, something could happen to that engine early in the race, and that’s a 43rd-place finish – that’s not come in and work on it and get it back going again. I don’t know where the points are. To be honest with you, I haven’t looked at it. I left Phoenix and went to Miami Beach for a few days for a fishing tournament, so I haven’t even looked. I know that he won at Phoenix, and I don’t know if he just has to start or what the circumstances. He needs to finish 25th – so if that thing blows up on lap 15 and pokes a rod through the oil pan, there you go, and hand the trophy over to somebody else. So, it’s not over until it’s over.”
 
TONIGHT IS THE 367TH RACE IN THE CAMPING WORKD TRUCK SERIES. ROUSH FENWAY RACING HAS BEEN THERE FOR EVERY ONE, AND IT APPEARS THAT TONIGHT’S MIGHT BE ITS LAST RACE. CAN YOU REFLECT ON THE TEAM’S POSITION THERE, AND THE SUCCESSES YOU HAD IN THAT SERIES? “The Camping World Truck Series has been really, really fun for me to compete in and fun to watch. It puts on some of the best racing. It’s unfortunate that this economic climate that we can’t secure enough sponsorship to field trucks in that series. It’s going to be disappointing for us, because we watch the truck race every weekend and we watch our Roush Fenway trucks race. I doubt that we’ll be done forever, but obviously at this point we’re done for next year. We might run a partial schedule of races or something may come around. We’re hopeful for that. But, yeah, it’s going to be disappointing come Daytona not to see the 6 or any of the other trucks, the 99 or any of them out there.”
 

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