Ford Drivers Hold Court At Bristol Motor Speedway
FORD FAST FACTS – BRISTOL
· There are three Ford drivers currently in the Top 12 in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series point standings, led by Matt Kenseth in second. Greg Biffle is third and Paul Menard is ninth.
· Elliott Sadler won his first NSCS race at Bristol when he drove the famed No. 21 Wood Brothers Ford to victory in this race in 2001.
· Roush Fenway Racing has seven Bristol NSCS wins in the last 16 Bristol events (Kurt Busch, 3; Matt Kenseth, 2; and Carl Edwards, 2).
· Ford Racing has 33 all-time NSCS wins at Bristol, the most among tracks currently on the circuit.
· David Stremme will be replacing Boris Said in the No. 26 Latitude 43 Motorsports entry at Bristol.
· There are 12 Fords entered in this weekend’s Food City 500 and all are guaranteed starting spots.
Paul Menard, driver of the No. 98 Menards Ford Fusion, is a career-best ninth in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series point standings after four races. Menard spoke about his fast start in the Bristol Motor Speedway infield media center before practice started on Friday afternoon.
PAUL MENARD – No. 98 Menards Ford Fusion – “It’s been a good start. The guys improved the cars a lot in the off-season. We’ve got a good working relationship with Slugger and the merger between Yates and RPM went pretty seamlessly. There’s been a lot of moving around with locations of race shops, but in the whole process of moving they improved the cars, so it’s been a good start. We haven’t had any real bad luck so far, so, knock on wood, hopefully we can keep that going and keep having solid finishes.”
HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT RUNNING THE WHOLE NATIONWIDE SCHEDULE WITH ALL THE TRAVEL? “When we run both series at the same track, like this weekend, it gets pretty hectic. When it’s a Cup off weekend and a Nationwide race, or like at Atlanta when it was a Nationwide off weekend and a Cup race, that’s pretty laid back as far as you can just focus on one thing. Our last off weekend for the year was last week. We’re every weekend until November, which is what we love doing. We love racing every weekend. I’ll probably miss out on a few things, but I’ll still have Sunday afternoons off when we run the Nationwide car.”
HAVE YOU GUYS CHANGED YOUR FOCUS ON WHAT YOU WANT TO ACCOMPLISH WEEK TO WEEK? “No. Last year we had the same goal of starting off running conservatively, but trying to finish in the top 20. The first three races we had good shots of doing that, and we got in two accidents and broke a transmission so that put us in a big hole. This year, we’ve kind of had the same focus and just haven’t had anything go wrong. We’re a lot better off in points and we’ll just try to keep that ball rolling.”
HOW DO YOU LIKE DOING THESE MEDIA SESSIONS AND CAN YOU STAY IN THE TOP 12 ALL YEAR? “I can definitely get used to it. It’s only four races in, so a lot can happen obviously, but we’ve had fast cars. We’ve come out of the box pretty strong and we’re working on a lot of things to make the cars even better and improve throughout the year, so the spoiler coming into play is gonna be a big unknown. We don’t know if it’s gonna help our program or hurt our program based on the package that we have, but we’ll probably find out at Texas and just go from there. It’s cool to be in the top 10, but, like I said, it’s early in the year and we’ve got a lot of work to do.”
WHAT DO YOU EXPECT TO COME OUT OF THE MEETING WITH BRAD AND CARL TOMORROW? “Don’t wreck each other. I don’t have a dog in that fight. They got mad at each other and they took it out on each other and it hasn’t affected anybody else. Hopefully, Brad doesn’t retaliate against Carl this weekend and take 10 cars out with them. Last weekend, it was between them and hopefully it doesn’t make it between 10 other people this week.”
HOW MUCH MORE CLOSELY WILL GUYS BE WATCHED THIS WEEKEND? “No more than normal. Bristol is a short track. It’s hard racing and you always get mad at somebody at some point. It’s just a fact of short track racing, so you’ve just got to control your emotions. If you get mad, you’re gonna hit somebody, but hopefully you won’t tear up many cars in the process.”
THIS IS YOUR THIRD TEAM IN THREE YEARS. WHEN DO YOU GET COMFORTABLE AS FAR AS THE ADJUSTMENTS YOU GO THROUGH? “The second team in four years because Yates and RPM are kind of the same deal, but you build relationships as you go. At DEI, I was there for four years between the Busch/Nationwide Series and Cup, and you build a lot of relationships. It’s the same deal here. There are a lot of familiar faces from Yates Racing last year, and a lot of new faces with RPM. We’re just kind of mixing it all together and right now I’m very comfortable with everyone around me, and I’m just gonna keep building those relationships.”
HAVE YOU THOUGHT ABOUT DYING YOUR HAIR BLACK AND BLUE LIKE SCOTT SPEED VIA TWITTER? “That’s not my style. I’m not even on Twitter. It’s something we’ve talked about because social networking is getting pretty big, but I’m a pretty private guy and I like to keep my stuff to myself.”
SO NO SOCIAL NETWORKING? “We talked about it a few months ago and haven’t talked about it since, so I might have made my point clear (laughing).”
DOES BEING IN THE TOP 12 CHANGE HOW YOU RACE? “No, not really. Bristol is pretty straight forward. You come in and hopefully you don’t pit under green, and when you come in you’re probably gonna take four tires. You’ve got to be aware of who is around you and who you’re racing, and when people get mad at each other, stay out of their way. When we go to a place like Texas, you can probably do a little bit more strategy-wise to try and gain some track position. You can do that here, too, but four tires mean a lot here. At Texas, you get a big aero-push going if you get back in traffic, so you need to get a little more track position there. It’s not gonna affect our outlook on the race.”
HOW WOULD YOU RATE THE DIFFICULTY OF PIT ROAD HERE? “It’s confusing, for sure. If you do pit under green, you’re reminded for five laps before to make sure you pit off turn four or whatever. It’s confusing because both ends kind of look the same. Under caution, you just kind of have to reset and know where you’re coming down and know where the speed lines are. It’s real easy to speed through turns three and four on the apron under caution because it’s such a big, wide area you can really cut the corner and be caught for speeding, but it’s what we do every week.”
WAS THERE ONE TIME IN YOUR CAREER WHEN A VETERAN DID SOMETHING TO YOU AS FAR AS GETTING IN AN ACCIDENT? DID THEY TALK TO YOU LATER AND DID YOU LEARN ANYTHING FROM IT? “Every week somebody gets mad at somebody. Whether you see people running into each other under caution, or just side swipe each other going down the backstretch, something happens. It’s not as dramatic as what happened in Atlanta. I’ve had run-ins with veterans and talked to them the next week and it’s all been good, and I’ve had run-ins with non-veterans and talked to them the next week and it’s all been good. You try not to put yourself in that position, but anger rises and it’s part of the sport.”
IS THERE ONE OR TWO INCIDENTS THAT STAND OUT? “There are a few that stand out, but it’s between us.”
Kasey Kahne, driver of the No. 9 Budweiser Ford Fusion, has moved from 33rd to 17th in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series point standings the last two races. Kahne spoke about a variety of issues before practice.
KASEY KAHNE – No. 9 Budweiser Ford Fusion – WHAT DO YOU EXPECT TO COME OUT OF THE MEETING WITH CARL AND BRAD TOMORROW? HOW WILL THEY RACE EACH OTHER? “I think they’ll race each other fine. I think Carl showed he didn’t like the way Brad has raced him in the past, and I think they’re probably good to go now.”
DO YOU THINK NASCAR WILL WATCH ALL OF YOU GUYS ANY CLOSER AS A RESULT? “I don’t think so. I think the neat spot NASCAR is in, and they actually do look at it seems like, is individuals and how they actually race each other and how they race other people. In that situation, you can look at the two guys and what’s gone on in the past, and maybe what one of the guys has done to other cars, and that’s just kind of the way it is. I think they made the right call there, and I think they look at other people the way they need to look at them.”
HAVE YOU HAD A PROBLEM WITH BRAD? “Me and Brad have raced really good. I race him good and he races me good. We had one incident one time and we were both mad at the All-Star race and were bouncing off each other, but that was really the only time. I think me and Brad are good to go – before his wreck and after his wreck – I don’t think it changes our racing any way.”
DID YOU TALK ABOUT THE INCIDENT FROM ATLANTA WITH CARL OR BRAD? “I haven’t talked to Brad or Carl. I just kind of watched and watched their remarks.”
DID YOU TALK WITH BRAD AFTER YOUR INCIDENT IN THE ALL-STAR RACE? “No, we took care of it during the race and we were done when it was over.”
DOES THIS TRACK TEST YOUR PATIENCE MORE THAN ANY OTHER? “It can. I think this track tomorrow is a big part of the race and how well you practice and how well your car can race around other cars because you’re always in traffic here. You’re always trying to pass, whether it be lapped cars or pass for position it’s hectic and there’s a lot going on, so it can definitely get to you quickly.”
DO YOU HAVE A STORY WHERE YOU MAY HAVE MADE A MISTAKE AND A VETERAN TALKED TO YOU ABOUT IT? “When I came in, I kind of took a different approach and just tried to race my way in and show the respect for some of the older guys. I remember Jeff Gordon, I was under him at Martinsville one time and was probably at his left-rear tire, and he just pointed left like he was coming when we got to turn three. I saw his finger out of the car and I was like, ‘I guess he’s turning left. I better slow down (laughing).’ That was in ’04. Jeff hasn’t pointed left since (laughing), but it worked at that point in time with me. Everybody has different approaches and that was the one I took. I feel I learned from Bill Elliott and Tony Stewart, who taught me a lot when I first got here, so I think it worked out alright for me.”
DO YOU BELIEVE IT’S TRUE THAT THE DRIVERS REALLY DO POLICE SITUATIONS ON THE TRACK? “I think it’s pretty true. I’m just trying to race guys the way I want to be raced, and if I feel somebody is racing me different than I race them, then the next time they catch me or the next time we’re racing, then maybe I race them differently. But more times than not, I’m able to race people the way I want to be raced and it works out for me. When you do have those incidents and you take care of them on the track – I’ve never taken care of anything off the track. I think you just take care of it on the track and that’s basically the way to do it. What does it matter if you take care of something off the track? It doesn’t do anything. If you got crashed and lost 100 points, and you go take care of the other guy after the race, if Carl goes and takes care of Brad after the race, what does that do? It does nothing. All we care about it points.”
ARE YOU GOING TO MISS THE WING? “I’m looking forward to the spoiler. I think it should be pretty good. I think the wing has changed NASCAR racing a little bit, and the spoiler will change it again a little bit. That’s the way it’s gonna be and we really won’t know until we get 43 cars on the track and we’re at Texas or something like that – Phoenix maybe. So we won’t really know exactly until we get to some of those tracks, but I think the spoiler will be good. Everybody is gonna have to change their driving a little bit because the side-by-side stuff is definitely gonna be different.”
HOW DID THE WING CHANGE THINGS? “I think it’s just more of when your car gets sideways, when it gets loose, the way it helps recover. When you’re racing cars side-by-side, and you’re on the inside of a car, the way your car handles there and right now I think everybody in here knows how that is. When we change it, it’ll be a little different and it’ll just take some time to get in those positions and feel out what that spoiler is actually doing to the back of the car.”
SOME GUYS SAY THE SPOILER LOOKS BETTER. DO YOU AGREE? “I think it definitely looks better. That spoiler is pretty easy, it’s pretty normal and flat and just kind of a normal piece, but as far as a stock car goes, I think that’s kind of what a stock car is – a spoiler. If you want to race an Indy Car, then you’ve got a wing, or a Sprint Car and then you’ve got a wing.”
YOUR INTRO SONG IS BULLS ON PARADE. IS THAT BECAUSE YOU LIKE RAGE? “It’s because I like Rage and I like the beat of that song. We’re just gonna use the beat in that one. It kind of gets you pumped up and I feel like Bristol is one of those tracks where it’s not a bad thing if you’re pumped up.”
Greg Biffle, driver of the No. 16 U.S. Census Ford Fusion, has registered four straight top-10 finishes to start the 2010 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season and comes into this weekend’s race ranked third in the point standings. He spoke with the media on Friday afternoon before practice.
GREG BIFFLE – No. 16 U.S. Census Ford Fusion – “I love this place. It’s a lot of fun. We run extremely well here and have been really lucky so far, hopefully that continues and we can get good track position, stay up front and qualify well. It’s overall been a great track for us and I really enjoy coming here. It’s a lot of excitement and a lot of fun – a lot of racing – and I’m looking forward to Sunday.”
WHAT DO YOU EXPECT TO COME OUT OF THE CARL AND BRAD MEETING TOMORROW? “I think maybe a little clearing of the air and a little understanding between the two drivers that maybe they need to give each other a little bit more room and anticipate a little bit more on what’s gonna happen when they tangle next time, probably. I doubt whether that’s gonna happen, obviously, but they’ve got little issues and they’ll get it ironed out, I think.”
HOW CLOSELY WILL NASCAR WATCH EVERYBODY ON SUNDAY? “From the looks of it, I don’t think they’re gonna be looking at us any differently.”
WITH THE ADDED SAFER BARRIER TAKING UP MORE OF THE TRACK, WILL THE GUYS WHO RUN NATIONWIDE HAVE ANY SORT OF ADVANTAGE? “Maybe a tiny bit, but I don’t think it’s gonna be that big of a deal. We’ve got all day today and two practice sessions tomorrow, so by then we’re gonna be pretty comfortable with the narrower race track. I think where it would possibly be a slight advantage is if the Nationwide practice was first today and getting a chance to see it before Cup practice started, but I think we’re gonna adapt pretty quick.”
HAVE YOU MAILED YOURS BACK YET (CENSUS FORM)? “Yes, I did. I did it today before I came.”
AS A TEAMMATE TO CARL DO WE SOMETIMES HAVE THE WRONG IMPRESSION OF HIM? IS HE MORE INTIMIDATING THAN WE SEE OR MORE CALCULATING, OR WAS IT MORE UNINTENDED CONSEQUENCES? “I really don’t know. Carl lives in Missouri, and I’m not saying that’s bad, but unlike me spending a little time because we’re teammates behind the scenes, I’m not going to Missouri anytime soon and I don’t think he’s coming to Mooresville anytime soon. It’s not by choice, just by different areas of where we live. Like for instance, David Ragan lives over on the other side of town and we don’t really see each other. We see each other at the shop sometimes, but on a personal note I really don’t know Carl a lot more than being in team meetings with him and doing Christmas party functions and all that kind of stuff. He seems fine to me, so I don’t know. I’m not with him all the time, so I don’t know what to say.”
WHAT DOES THE TERM, ‘HAVE AT IT BOYS’ MEAN TO YOU? “I really feel like they were talking about restrictor-plate racing because that’s the start of the season at the Daytona 500. ‘Have at it. Bump draft. Do whatever you want. Police yourself.’ That’s really what I think they meant by it and then by the way I interpreted it. We’re gonna do what we’re gonna do on local short tracks or at Atlanta or wherever else. We’re gonna race hard and we’re gonna do what we can do. Now, maybe they’ve backed off of it. They’ve never really penalized people before. If you get into a guy and spin him out, they don’t put you a lap down. So, unless it’s intentional payback, they’ve always done that, so I don’t really see anything different than what it’s been – other than restrictor-plate racing. They’re like they’ve washed their hands of the deal. It’s like, ‘You guys are on your own. You police yourself. Bump draft all you want and do all your business and don’t come whining to us.’ That’s the message I got on that, and wait until Talladega. It will be interesting, I promise.”
SHOULD A DRIVER DOWN BY 150 LAPS BE ALLOWED TO RE-ENTER THE RACE? “That’s been a discussion all along, but the other thing that you have to keep in mind is the sponsor viewership. 3M wants their car on the race track, and if we get in a wreck on Lap 2 and it takes us 40 laps to fix it, and we just put it in the trailer and go home, the Biffle fans, the 3M fans – the 3M corporate – doesn’t get to see their car going around, whether it’s 150 laps down or not. That’s one issue. The other thing that we’ve talked about is cut the points off at 30 or 35 so you don’t go back to the garage and do this mad thrash and get a car on the track with bearer bond flying off of it and metal is falling off of it. It’s unsafe. It’s leaking whatever. It’s too slow and can’t get up to minimum speed. The theory is don’t give any points for going back out. Cut it off at that level, so you get the same amount of points whether you go on the track or not. We get back out there for the one spot we’re gonna gain on position, so that is a good point and that is a discussion that may go somewhere in the future, but I don’t know.”
DO YOU HAVE ANY RIGHT OF PASSAGE STORY ABOUT A VETERAN TALKING TO A NEWCOMER. DO YOU HAVE ONE? “Sterling Marlin came over to me one time after the race and was all mad and said, ‘The car is only 16-feel long. All you’ve got to do is get out of the throttle for that much time and let a guy in line.’ I was racing like you race a late model car – you race every lap because the race is only 30 laps long. Well, a Cup race is 500 miles and the moral of the story was, like Mark Martin, if a guy shows up in your mirror from a straightaway back, he’s probably faster than you and you’re probably not gonna race him like the devil for the next 450 laps. You’ve got six more pit stops and a long time to give the guy a break and get racing. That’s the best criticism I’ve taken from a veteran guy, and I consider a veteran like Mark Martin or somebody like that. It’s funny they say veteran and Carl and I have been in the sport the same amount of time. I don’t consider myself too much.”
WHAT DO YOU FEEL ABOUT THE TRACK THE WAY IT IS NOW FROM A RACING STANDPOINT? “I like racing on the race track now, but I liked it more before. It was harder to race on before. It was a lot more difficult to get around here before. When they smoothed the corners out and smoothed the transition out, the track got wider and however they did the banking that made it easier. And then a lot of the cars became the same speed than the old Bristol. The old Bristol was a little tougher than this. They’re both fun to drive and both fun to race. This is a little bit more difficult to pass because the cars run the same speed and there is sort of that preferred line, and it’s hard to go around on the top of them and it’s hard to get around on the bottom of them. It’s difficult. By narrowing the walls and doing all those things, you’re not gonna recreate something that had character like that – like Atlanta. Atlanta has a lot of character and that character will be gone when they fix it and repave the whole place. It’s just evolution. That’s what happens.”
HAS LIFE CHANGED SINCE BECOMING A RACE TRACK OWNER? “It’s gotten a little bit busier. I recently became a partner in a dirt track back close to home in Banks, Oregon – just about 20 minutes outside of Portland – and we’re also putting together a small late model series that races out there – a west coast spec motor series with dirt late models – just to give those guys a little bit to race for – give them a point fund – give them $1,000 to win on Saturday night, which is not a bunch of money but it’s more than what they were getting, and a little bit of structure, so it’s kind of fun to do that. I care about local racing. That’s where I started. That’s where I grew up and where other people have to get their start, and I feel like supporting that more from a fun perspective and kind of giving back to the sport more than anything for me.”
ARE YOU GOING TO MISS THE WING? DOES A SPOILER LOOK MORE LIKE A REAL STOCK CAR? “I think NASCAR changed it because the fans didn’t like the look or the appearance, more than the driver. I really felt they did double-file restarts because the fans love that action on the restart. They got a lot of criticism like, ‘It doesn’t look like a race car. We want a spoiler back on it.’ NASCAR consulted us on what our opinion was and we thought we were OK with the spoiler and thought the car might be better with the spoiler, so they pursued that and obviously determined to put it back on the car. But I think it was driven from the fans and the popularity. That’s what people want to see. I have to admit, when we tested it at Texas, Tony Stewart, Kurt Busch, Brian Vickers and myself were the first ones with the thing on the car and I think it’s gonna be better racing. I think the car showed signs of a little better corner exit, which is where this car really struggled to get turning and racing each other was that corner exit. We’ll just have to wait and see. I was by myself and felt the difference, so I think it’ll be better overall. We’ll know next week for sure.”
DOES IT LOOK BETTER FROM YOUR PERSPECTIVE? “I think it looks better, yeah. It’s more of the old stock car and what we’ve seen forever.”
Matt Kenseth, driver of the No. 17 Crown Royal Ford Fusion, is second in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series point standings after posting four straight top-10 finishes to start the season. He spoke about his team’s improved performance just before qualifying for Sunday’s Food City 500.
MATT KENSETH – No. 17 Crown Royal Ford Fusion – “I’m looking forward to racing here this weekend. This is one of my favorite tracks, but since they went to this car and reconfigured it we’ve really struggled. We seemed to be better in practice today. We made a lot of changes in race trim that made a big difference on the car, so I’m looking forward to see how we stack up compared to everybody else. I think Atlanta was a really good test because we didn’t perform particularly well there last year, and this will be another one, so I’m looking forward to it.”
DID YOU NOTICE THE SAFER BARRIER EXTENSION IN TURNS TWO AND FOUR? “You could tell off four it’s narrower. I think as long as we’re spending the money on SAFER barriers when you put all these people in here, we should just put them all the way around every track on the outside and inside. Then you wouldn’t have to worry about it and there wouldn’t be all those weird transitions. I know that they really don’t want to spend the money for them, but that would make the tracks safer anyways. It’s kind of weird because you come off and there’s the SAFER barrier and then it goes away from you and the wall is half-a-car length away from you and then it comes in again. I wish they would just put it all the way around everywhere.”
WILL IT BE AN ISSUE? “It’s a little narrower off four. You’re gonna hit the wall sooner than you did before. Everybody is kind of in the same groove getting ready to qualify, so we’ll see how it affects things more during the Nationwide race when the groove widens out a little bit.”
YOU’RE SECOND IN POINTS, SO DO YOU GO INTO A DEFENSIVE MODE AT THIS TRACK TO TRY AND KEEP THAT SPOT? “No. We really approach every race the same. We really try to bring our best stuff and qualify the best we can and race the best we can. We don’t really approach it any different. It used to be you could kind of approach this place a little differently, but it has really changed a lot with this car and since they reconfigured the track. So now you race it more like you race anywhere else. There are a couple of grooves and you want to be there the whole time, whereas before you knew there was gonna be a lot of wrecks and a lot of attrition. As long as you stayed on the lead lap and got your car in position those last couple of pit stops, you were gonna probably have a good day by just staying out of trouble. But it’s not exactly like that anymore because you’ve got to race hard and try to get that track position from the beginning all the way to the end.”
YOU SPENT SOME TIME WITH HEATH CALHOUN, A PARALYMPIAN FROM THIS AREA. HOW WAS YOUR MEETING WITH HIM? “I got to meet Heath at Daytona. He was part of the Crown Royal ‘Your Name Here’ Contest and he won the contest, so they’re naming the Richmond race after him in May. It was really cool to meet him. I turned on TV the other day and saw they were having a special on him competing out there, so I don’t know how his first runs went, but I think it’s pretty amazing he’s out there competing as well as what he’s done for all of us.”
CAN YOU COMMENT ON THE PROGRESS OF COLIN BRAUN AND RICKY STENHOUSE JR. IN THE NATIONWIDE SERIES? “Not really because I haven’t been over there. I haven’t run any Nationwide races and, as of today, we don’t have a sponsor for any Nationwide races, so, to be honest with you, I’m a little bit away from that program more than I was last year when I was running races and competing and working with those guys. With Drew going back over there and Mike coming out of there, and then Ben going three as well, there’s just been a little bit of a shake up and some different stuff. I’ve been watching them race every week, but I don’t really know if we’re ahead or behind where we were last year.”
WHAT’S BEEN THE BIGGEST CHANGE ON YOUR TEAM SINCE TODD CAME ON BOARD? “It’s only been four weeks and three races since we moved the team around and changed it up a little bit, so it’s hard for me to say what the biggest difference is, but I think everybody’s attitude, including mine, has been a little bit better. It’s probably put a little spark in the thing. Everybody is working real hard and getting along, but, like I said, it’s only week four. But it’s been going well so far. Everybody has really been pulling on the same end of the rope.”
HAVE YOU LEARNED ANYTHING ON HOW TO APPROACH A SEASON AFTER WATCHING WHAT JIMMIE JOHNSON HAS DONE THE LAST FOUR YEARS? “I’m probably the wrong guy to ask because I didn’t even make the chase last year. There are 43 cars out there and they’re the best and the ones you have to beat. You have to finish in front of them every week to beat them. It’s really an easy formula, but nobody has been able to do that. They’re good all year round. I don’t think there is any strategy from the beginning of the year to the end of the year. They won two out of the first four, and at the end of the year they’re winning races in the chase, too. So it’s not like they just ride around all year and then go beat everybody in the chase. They’re the car to beat, in my mind, every week.”