Biffle, Edwards and Kahne Ready To Roll In Las Vegas
FORD FAST FACTS
· Ford Racing has more NASCAR Sprint Cup Series wins at Las Vegas Motor Speedway than any other manufacturer with 6.
· Matt Kenseth and Carl Edwards are the only two active Ford drivers to win a NSCS race at LVMS. Kenseth won back-to-back events in 2003 and 2004 while Edwards took the checkered flag in 2008.
· There are no “FR9” engines being run this week.
· A total of 12 Fords are entered and guaranteed starting spots in Sunday’s Shelby American.
Greg Biffle, driver of the No. 16 3M Ford Fusion, has back-to-back Top-10 finishes to start the season and finds himself third in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series point standings. Biffle spoke about the start to his season with members of the media before practice Friday at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
GREG BIFFLE – No. 16 3M Ford Fusion – “I’ve been working on this project for a few years now, a little over a year-and-a-half, but over the last couple of weeks – since the beginning of the season – acquired part ownership in a dirt track in the northwest. I’m gonna be part-owner in Sunset Speedway in Banks, Oregon joining the likes of Tony Stewart and some of these other guys, and we’ve also started a late model dirt series in the northwest call the DAA Spec Motor Series presented by Sherwin Williams, which will run 22 events throughout the season. There will be a $25,000 point fund for this series and a lot of great things are happening for the guys out in the northwest. I really felt like I wanted to get involved in grassroots racing and it’s important because that’s where all of our feeder guys come from – mechanics and drivers – for the Camping World Truck, Nationwide and Cup Series. It was important for me to get back to where I grew up and support this series. It’s gonna be great. I’ve got a partner in the race track by the name of Jerry Schram. He couldn’t be here, but will be here tomorrow. If anyone has any questions, they can ask him tomorrow. I’ll make him available and you can ask him why he’s crazy enough to be a partner with me on a race track. We’re looking forward to that series getting going. We’re gonna make a couple of appearance out there and try to get Kenny Schrader and some of those other guys that love to dirt race to come out and run a few races.
“On to Sprint Cup racing. We had a fairly good week last week after getting caught on pit road at the end and coming back to a decent finish. I’m really looking forward to here at Las Vegas. I won the Nationwide race last year and came close in the Sprint Cup race. I feel like maybe if I can get fourth in the Nationwide race and win the Sprint Cup race I’d be extremely happy.”
DID YOU TALK TO GUYS LIKE TONY FOR ADVICE ON TRACK OWNERSHIP AND YOU WENT OVER $40 MILLION IN EARNINGS RECENTLY. HOW DOES THAT FEEL? “That’s pretty incredible. I wish that I had a little piggy bank that I’d been putting it in over there in the corner, or been able to horde more of it. But that is pretty incredible and I’m very thankful for all the opportunities I’ve gotten so far and all the races I’ve won, including a couple runs at the title. Hopefully, I’m not done yet. We’ll make a strong effort at it this year, make the chase and try to win that championship. I did talk to Tony. I talked to Kenny Schrader and Kenny Wallace a little bit about it, and got some ideas from those guys. I’ve been looking at this for a few years now about becoming a partner and it’s more about bringing some recognition to these race tracks and kind of giving back to that series and providing a good platform for guys to come out and race on Friday and Saturday night. Both of the race tracks I won championships at are gone now. Portland Speedway and Tri Cities Raceway are both extinct. A lot of race tracks are doing that. It seems like dirt racing is more popular, although I prefer asphalt short track racing, but it’s been a challenge for me to get behind the dirt racing because I didn’t do it as much. I know a lot of guys came from that background. I’ve done it some and it’s a lot of fun, and I really want to try and promote that racing in the northwest.”
WITH JIMMIE JOHNSON WINNING LAST WEEK, DO YOU AS A COMPETITOR THINK ABOUT HIM GETTING OFF TO A GOOD START OR ARE YOU CONCERNED WITH HOW YOUR STUFF IS RUNNING? “I’m really more concerned about the way our stuff performs. Certainly, you don’t want to throw darts at another guy, but the reality is they ran up front for a portion of the race and then they didn’t. When he got the opportunity to leapfrog up to the front, if my memory serves me right, I think he was running around sixth or seventh and it looked like he didn’t have a great chance of winning that race, or probably wasn’t going to win, in my opinion. I was paying attention to my race. We were struggling to stay in the top 10 and that’s about the best I could do, but when I looked up there I saw him about three or four or five cars up, so, definitely track position is important. Jimmie has a lot of driver ability and he just got lucky and got out front and got track position. They didn’t have an awful car by any means, but when you get that track position late in the race, and they led earlier in the day and probably made some adjustments on the car. But it wasn’t like a typical Jimmie Johnson/Chad performance where they kicked everybody’s butt all day, so that is some promise for us that we’re competing a little closer. Yes, he did win, but it wasn’t like the normal thing where he beat everybody hands-down.”
WHAT ABOUT QUALIFYING TODAY? “Obviously, it’s the same as last week with the weather kind of threatening for tomorrow, so we’re probably going to elect to spend a great deal of time in race trim again today. Qualifying probably won’t be one of our top priorities. It obviously is because we want a good starting position and a good spot on pit road, but it’s tough when you’ve got a 500-mile race ahead of you and your car is not that great. That makes for a long, long day, so we’re gonna do the typical ‘get our car as good as we can’ and try to make a couple runs at the end of the day. Last week, we got trapped and weren’t able to make a qualifying run and that hurt us really bad. We won’t let that happen this week. We’ll at least get one run in and hopefully two if the car is driving real well.”
WHAT HAPPENED LAST WEEK? “We wanted to change some things around and I don’t if the guys got behind in the changes, but we basically ran out of time. We were coming down off the jack to try and get out of the garage when they closed the gate, so we never got to a qualifying run. So when I went out on the race track for qualifying, that was my first lap in qualifying trim and I was just way too loose. I couldn’t get the power down and I qualified 35th. That was a little embarrassing for us. We’ve got a better race car and better race team than that, so we’ll learn from that and hopefully we won’t make that mistake again this year.”
IS IT FRUSTRATING TO SEE SOMEONE LIKE JIMMIE WIN AND BE LUCKY AT THE SAME TIME? “Not really because the shoe has always been on the other foot. We’ve won races like that and I wouldn’t say they got lucky. It wasn’t like somebody ran out of gas in front of them. They definitely had a fast enough car to win. We all saw the video footage. They beat that pace car by six feet and that’s what it took to win that race, and it was a matter of the pit crew doing a good job and it was a matter of him being where he was at on the race track from a track position standpoint. We did the same thing. We were on pit road together with him and we restarted that race 20th. That very easily could have been both of us, or we both could have been up front and it could have been a different outcome. More power to somebody if it works out for them.”
CAN YOU TALK ABOUT YOUR NATIONWIDE WIN LAST YEAR HERE? “This race track is a lot of fun. I really enjoyed it before they changed it and it’s been a real good race track after they changed it. Last year, we ran good the whole race and got track position and kept the car up front. There were some fast race cars around us and we were just happy to be able to hold them off. I hope to be able to repeat that performance this year with the Baker Curb car. I’m driving for a different organization, so that presents a little bit of a challenge with not having as much information – having three or four teams – but still I think we have good cars. We’re gonna be racing the car that we ran last week and finished second with at California, so hopefully that car can continue to run well and get us a win here.”
WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT DANICA PATRICK? “I think it’s good for our series. It’s bringing a lot of attention to the Nationwide Series and NASCAR in general. I think it’s gonna continue to be difficult. It’s a difficult transition with these cars. It’s really, really hard. This race track might be a little bit easier than California, so there’s a possibility that she may run a little bit more competitive here. I welcome anybody to our series that wants to come over and race.”
Carl Edwards, driver of the No. 99 Aflac Ford Fusion, along with his wife, Kate, are the proud parents of Anne Edwards, who was born earlier this week. Carl spoke about the experience of becoming a father, and re-introduced Drew Blickensderfer as his Nationwide crew chief Friday morning at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
CARL EDWARDS – No. 99 Aflac Ford Fusion – YOU’RE A DAD. “Thank you very much. She’s a day-and-half, almost two days old now. She’s doing well. I just talked to Kate and, to say the least, that’s a life-changing experience. I’m just very blessed. Everything went very well and Kate is doing great. It’s just amazing.”
DREW BLICKENSDERFER, Crew Chief – No. 60 Copart Ford Fusion – “A week-and-a-half ago they made a change on the 17 and, with that, Jack told me there was an opportunity probably elsewhere and to keep my head up and don’t get too comfortable in the R&D seat that he put me in, and probably three or four days later I got a call from Carl and Jack saying there was an opportunity on the 60 Nationwide car and they wanted to know if I was interested. Of course, I jumped up and down for it. I had a lot of fun with Carl a year ago – 13 or 14 months ago – racing the Nationwide Series. We had success and I really enjoyed it and I’d probably rank this in the top five jobs in all three series of what I’d like to have and what I’d like to do, so when the opportunity arose, I jumped to come back.”
CAN YOU EXPLAIN THE INTRICACIES OF HOW YOU SET UP FOR A CUP RACE VERSUS A NATIONWIDE RACE? “I think the Cup side was completely different for me because of the budget, the amount of tires, the time that you’re at the race track. When you go Nationwide racing you set up in race trim and you don’t even worry about how you’re gonna qualify because they’re all impound races and you don’t really get to change anything. Whereas, the Cup mindset is completely different. You have qualifying practice, you have race practice, you’re there for another day and then you have the race itself, where a lot happens and a lot changes. There are more cars that are competitive and it’s something you have to worry about daily. You can’t lose track position because you have to fight through 35 rally good cars versus 20 really good cars, and that’s something that takes time to learn and get used to, so there is quite a bit of difference between Saturday and Sunday racing.”
WHAT DO YOU NEED TO WORK ON SO YOU’RE MORE PREPARED THE NEXT TIME A CUP OPPORTUNITY ARISES? “I think more than anything the reason that the change on the 17 came and the deal with me was just how the team was fitting all together. The dynamic of the pit crew and the A team guys and the B team guys and myself and Matt and how that dynamic all fit was more of the issue than it was how I called the race or how I decided to set the grille tape for debris at California. So I think the things I took from last year and previously were that not all leadership styles are the same in every situation. I led the 60 team with the 17 team and vice versa. You have to be able to adapt and change depending on what role you’re in.”
HOW WILL THE RAIN FORECAST CHANGE HOW YOU APPROACH TODAY? “Yeah, one more thing about the baby. I want to thank Erik Darnell for being there the last couple of weeks and standing by. I know it’s agonizing for him to stand there and just watch all that practice and racing and not get to drive the car, so that was really nice of Erik. And another thing I want to say is Mike Kelley did a really good job on our Nationwide team and he pointed out to both of us that he left us with the point lead, so it’s up to us to screw this up. He’s gonna be our director of competition over there, so that worked out really well. As far as the rain, they say it’s going to rain, so in Cup practice we will focus on race trim to prepare for the race in case we don’t get any practice tomorrow. And then in the Nationwide car we’ll just prepare to race and, hopefully, we’ll get it in tomorrow, but if we don’t it won’t change the Nationwide practice very much. Cup practice will be different because we’ll spend less time on qualifying.”
CAN YOU TALK ABOUT A DRIVER’S FOCUS WITH THE BABY BEING SUCH A BIG PART OF YOUR LIFE OUTSIDE THE TRACK? “I haven’t been in the car yet and everything that happens is new. I just called to check on Kate and she was eating something and was kind of choking on it a little bit. I thought something was wrong and she was choked up about something. I about had heart failure on that. That tore me up. She was like, ‘No, something just went down the wrong way.’ So it’s all new to me, but I feel a lot more calm now. There is a lot less anxiety because everything did go well and we’re not waiting. Waiting is the hardest part.”
DREW BLICKENSDERFER CONTINUED – WERE YOU SURPRISED WITH THE CHANGE AND WAS THERE ANY RUMBLING LIKE THIS DURING THE OFF-SEASON? “I didn’t think so during the off-season. I was a little surprised of the change. If you’re in that situation and you’re completely surprised, you probably aren’t aware of all that’s going on around you, so I wasn’t completely surprised by it. Of course, I was disappointed. As a winner, you want to be at the top level performing, but I was probably disappointed about our performance on the race track more than getting switched out. That was definitely something I didn’t see over the winter, but it wasn’t a huge surprise probably.”
CARL EDWARDS CONTINUED – DID YOU TRAVEL YESTERDAY? IT MUST HAVE BEEN HARD TO LEAVE. “Yeah, it was. When I left, I kind of looked back. I was driving my truck and I thought, ‘Wow, I have a family.’ That’s pretty interesting, so it’s definitely a different emotion than I’ve ever had. My one buddy tells me, ‘Oh, you wait. You’re gonna really love racing now.’ I guess that’s because you get to leave when they’re crying, but I’m not to that point yet, so it was different.”
DID YOU HAVE ANY GUILT? “No, I didn’t feel guilty. We all have jobs and everybody has to go do their job, and, to put it in perspective, one of Kate’s best friends has a baby and her husband is serving over in Afghanistan and he didn’t see their baby until she was three months old and he was only home for two weeks and had to leave again for six months. So I’ve got a great situation relative to a lot of folks who are out there doing very important jobs.”
WILL THE WEATHER THREAT CHANGE QUALIFYING AT ALL? “It might help us. It seems like the harder we try, the slower we go. Right now, what we’re focused on – what Drew has been working on and what Bob’s been working one, what everyone has been working on – is trying to figure out what we’re missing. The more time we can get to practice race stuff the better, and I think that, in a way, not having to focus on qualifying is a little bit of a blessing. We can try some things we’ve been wanting to try because, let’s face it, we’ve got to get better and we’ve got to get faster and this track is representative of a lot of the ones we’ll be racing at this season that are gonna make a difference. So, for me, I think it’s good and I think from a fan’s perspective they might see some comers and go-ers when the race starts because there will be a lot of guys that are slower than they could have been because they’re not working on it.”
WHAT WAS WEDNESDAY LIKE AND WHY DID YOU CHOOSE THE NAME ‘ANNE’? “First of all, the name was simple. That’s what Kate wanted to call her, so that was it. I started to protest a little bit just because. I didn’t really have a better name, and she made it clear that’s what she really wanted. So it’s Anne. We’re gonna call her Annie. Wednesday was really just amazing. I had a lot of different emotions that I didn’t plan on. When she was born, it was like, ‘Wow.’ I’m focused on this baby and you have all these emotions. Then we’re over there at the table and they were doing everything – cut the cord – and then I thought, ‘My wife is laying right over there. Is she alright?’ So then I run back over there and I’m talking to her. It was just a whole rush of things that I thought I was prepared for, but I wasn’t. And then after that just being able to sit there with Kate and Annie. I’m sure anyone that’s a parent can tell you how that feels. It’s just amazing. It’s a miracle.”
CAN YOU TALK ABOUT NATIONWIDE RACING HERE AT VEGAS? “The Nationwide racing here is a lot of fun. We had one of the most exciting finishes I’ve ever been a part of in the Nationwide Series with Mark, and I think it was Brad Keselowski. That was wild. It didn’t turn out good for me, but it was exciting for the fans. It’s a fun race track. They’re high speeds. The cars drive well around here, so it’s just a fun race. It’s a good race and it’s Las Vegas. Everyone loves to come here. We get a lot of fans and I hear throughout the year people come up to me and say, ‘Hey, we were at Vegas. We had a good time.’ It’s the way we’re supposed to race. It’s a lot of fun.”
WHEN JIMMIE WINS A RACE THAT HE LUCKED IN TO, HOW ANNOYING IS THAT? “It’s pretty annoying when people say that stuff, but there’s always people who just can’t accept the fact that somebody is doing a really good job and, no matter what, they have to take that little dig. That’s just part of competition. It looked to me like he did a pretty good job. They did get lucky with pit road, but I think Jimmie said it best – he hasn’t been just lucky for the last four years and 48 wins. I had a little taste of that with our win here a couple years ago when the oil cooler lid came off and just having to listen to all those people. It doesn’t bother you so much as it’s just like, ‘C’mon guys. That’s all you’ve got?’”
HAVE YOU CHANGED A DIAPER YET? “Yes, I changed a diaper. Matt and Katie Kenseth let me do a little training the other week and that actually helped me out a lot. I think Matt had a good laugh about it, but it prepared me for what was to come. So Kate, she was laying in bed so I changed the first four or five diapers and it went pretty well. It was good and very, very funny.”
IS IT HARDER TO GAUGE WHERE YOUR TEAM IS RIGHT NOW WITH THE SPOILER CHANGE COMING DOWN THE ROAD? “We’ve got the tires that are a little different. The spoiler is coming, and, yes, we’ve only had two races, but California is a pretty good indicator. This one will be the best. I think when we come out of here, based on California being mediocre at best for us, if we’re not out here with fast cars and leading laps, we’re already buckling down so I don’t know what we’re gonna do. But we’ll know where we stand, so, hopefully, we’ll come out of here good. The things that are different are good for us. The more that we can change right now, the better off we’re going to be. At the current rate, we just have not been good enough, so anything that comes along that shakes things up is good for us.”
Kasey Kahne, driver of the No. 9 Budweiser Ford Fusion, is off to a slow start this season with finishes of 30th at Daytona and 34th at California. Kahne spoke about the first two races and what his outlook is for the rest of 2010.
KASEY KAHNE – No. 9 Budweiser Ford Fusion – YOU’VE HAD SOME ISSUES THE FIRST TWO WEEKS. “The car has been decent. At Daytona and last week I think we’ve been top 10 cars. We got in a wreck at Daytona and last week I just made a mistake and cost us a lot of points and a top 10. It’s disappointing, but those things happen once in a while. Hopefully, we’ll get things turned around and have good, strong run this whole weekend.”
WHAT HAPPENED LAST WEEK? “I was behind Montoya and I was catching him and getting ready to pass him. I had a lot of wheel into it because my car was not turning real well, and then it spun out. I was behind on the wheel because I was turned to the left so far, and the aero was off because I was right behind Montoya, and it was just kind of stupid. I should not have put myself in that position and I just made a mistake.”
DO YOU FEEL LIKE YOU’RE IN A HOLE? “I don’t think our season is over, but we’re definitely in a hole as of today. We’re thirty-something in points, so that’s not very good, but we still have plenty of racing to go.”
MARK MARTIN WAS LOWER THAN YOU IN POINTS FOUR RACES IN LAST YEAR. DOES THAT GIVE YOU HOPE? “Yeah, I think it definitely does. I think we all know that in this sport you can go on rolls and if you can run consistently you can gain points pretty fast, especially early in the season. If you’re 34th in points after 10 races, you’re probably in trouble, but early in the year I think you have plenty of time to make those gains and we need to get started this weekend. We have to run well this weekend if we want to get started on going the right direction.”
IS IT EASIER TO SWALLOW SINCE YOUR CARS ARE GOOD? “Our cars are good. I wouldn’t say my car is any different than it was last year. I think the Ford engine runs a little better than what we had last year and that’s nice, but as far as balance and going and leading laps or running first, second, third, we’re not there. Hopefully, we can get there with the group of people that we have and working with everybody from Ford. The Ford engine is better, but that’s it. We have a lot of people there. You’ve seen how well Roush has run in the past and we’ve run really well at times at RPM, so, hopefully, we can all put it together and figure out how to make some better race cars.”
HAD YOU EXPECTED MORE AT THIS POINT? “I expected the cars to be better, I mean just a little bit. You’d think gaining with that many people in that group and pulling our knowledge and their knowledge together you would think, ‘Man, we’ve got to have a better balance on race cars doing that.’ That’s not the case, but I think as the season goes, hopefully, it will be the case, but not as of right now.”
COULD IT BE A CASE OF TOO MUCH INFORMATION? “No. I think we’re just really similar to how we were last year. As far as setups and things go, I don’t think they had anything to offer us other than the engine and Ford cars. That’s the way I look at it.”
HOW MUCH DO YOU TRY TO WORK ON THIS CAR WHEN YOU KNOW A SPOILER IS COMING AND IT’S GOING TO CHANGE? “You’re getting that and that’s something RPM and Roush and that whole combination is working on is the spoiler. They’re putting a lot into it because that’s what we’re gonna run the season on the majority of the year, so I actually look forward to running that because we’ve been putting the time into it and hopefully it’ll be a little better than what we have now.”
DO YOU THINK BECAUSE RFR HAD AN OFF YEAR LAST YEAR THAT IT HAS HURT YOU GUYS? “I think as far as setups and some of that stuff goes, they’re no further ahead than we are, so you put it all together and you’re still in the same position and still in the same spot. I think they have a ton of great people and we have a lot of good people. You put all of their heads together and at some point they’re gonna hit on some really good stuff.”
HOW DIFFERENT ARE THE TRACKS AT FONTANA AND VEGAS? “They’re very different tracks. I like both tracks, but I think this one should be pretty good. It’s the third or fourth year with this new pavement, so I think there should be some pretty good racing. It should be pretty nice.”
WHEN DO YOU WANT TO KNOW WHAT YOU’RE DOING NEXT YEAR? “It’s something I want to know during the season for sure, but it’s kind of nice to be able to sit back and look and watch the performance of our team, watch the performance of the Chevrolets, the Toyotas, the Fords and the Dodges and just kind of see where everybody is at and make that decision. We have plenty of time to do it, so it’s pretty nice to be where we’re at right now, I think, with that stuff and give everybody a fair shot and to kind of know the direction. But, like we see, everything is always up and down. One year one team runs really well, and the next year they’re not quite as good. It seems like Hendrick has been on a little roll here for a while, but looking at the gains of RCR it’s pretty awesome if you ask me. They made more gains than anybody. They went from wherever they were last year to being right in the middle of it. It’s pretty cool to see somebody jump like that.”
IS RPM IN A TRYOUT PHASE RIGHT NOW? DO YOU HAVE TO SEE SOMETHING FROM THEM? “Well, I have to feel like we’re going in the right direction. This is my seventh year and I’ve stuck it out with them since day one and done everything I could to drive and done everything to communicate and I’m gonna keep doing that. In the middle of this year or towards the end of this year, when I decide to make my decision of what I’m gonna do, if I don’t feel like we’re gonna be able to run with the Hendrick cars for the next three or four years, then I’ve got to make a change. If I feel like we can, then I’m gonna stay right where I’m at.”
AFTER LAST WEEK DID YOU LOOK AT WHERE YOU WERE IN POINTS? “I didn’t have to look. My average finish was easy to figure out and that’s about where I am in points, I think (laughing).”
WILL YOU LOOK AT IT EVERY WEEK TO SEE WHERE YOU ARE IN POINTS? “I think if we run well it would be kind of exciting to see that I jumped five spots or three spots or how that works, so I’ll look forward to running well, hopefully, and jumping up that list to see how many spots we can pick up a weekend. I saw Johnson picked up a bunch. Early in the year you can pick up a lot if you have a good race.”