Ford Drivers Meet With Media in Windy City
A trio of Ford drivers in the top-12 Chase standings met with media members at Chicagoland Speedway Friday while Elliott Sadler talked about his new crew chief.
FORD FAST FACTS
• There are 13 Fords entered in this weekend’s Lifelock.com 400.
• Three Fords (David Stremme, Travis Kvapil and Bill Elliott) must qualify on time.
• Ford is searching for its first win at Chicagoland Speedway since NASCAR came to the windy city in 2001.
• All of the Roush Fenway and Richard Petty Motorsports cars, as well at the No. 21 of Bill Elliott, will have the FR9 engine this weekend.
Carl Edwards heads into Saturday nights race at Chicagoland Speedway clinging to the 12th position in the Chase standings. In five career races in Chicago, Edwards has posted a third place finish (2008) and led 15 laps of the 2009. Edwards talked to media members about the second half of the season, tweaking the Chase, LeBron James and more.
WHAT IS YOUR MINDSET AND HOPE FOR THE SECOND HALF OF THE 2010 CAMPAIGN? “We had a pretty good practice session just a couple of minutes ago and we are searching for victory. We would love to get our first victory here. It would be a great way to kick of the second half of the season. We have got to perform over the next few races as a team to secure our spot in the Chase. With as much progress as we feel we have been making and as hard as we have been working, it would be for not if we didn’t make the Chase. We are working hard on that and hard on winning the race. I like this race track and it seems that the Goodyear tire will be cool to race on because of how it is rubbering up the race track. I think the line is going to move around a lot and its going to be a really dynamic race in that respect. Hopefully we can have a good run.”
YOU GOT A COOL BIKE FOR WINNING AT ROAD AMERICA, WHAT ARE YOUR PLANS FOR THAT? “Yeah, when we won the race at Road America, Harley Davidson was nice enough to donate a really nice motorcycle to the winner. I made a deal with Lonnie Clouse before the race that if we won, we would auction it off on Copart.com and use the proceeds to go to Back 2 Back Ministries to help his orphanage in Mexico. As much as I want to take that bike home and ride it, I think it would be really neat to auction that off and make some money for Lonnie. I think the plan is to auction it off in October, so that will give me some time to ride it I guess, maybe get some photos of me on it. People might not want me to ride it I guess, it might make it worth less.”
THESE TRACKS USED TO BE ROUSH FENWAY’S BREAD AND BUTTER, WHAT IS MISSING? “If you look at how Kasey ran in his Ford at Michigan, we are hoping that as a group we can all kind of go toward that and run well here because there are some similarities. It is a little different than some of the other mile-and-a-half tracks, but it is pretty close to Michigan. It is hard to just point to one thing. We have multiple engineers trying to figure out that exact question. We have to go out there and show that we can do it. Hopefully we will have a good run. My practice times today were as competitive as I have been at a mile-and-a-half for as long as I can remember. I had a really good practice and I feel really good about it.”
NEXT WEEKEND IS A RARE OFF WEEKEND FOR THE SPRINT CUP SERIES, IS THAT ENOUGH TIME TO GET THINGS TURNED AROUND, USING THAT ONE OFF WEEKEND? “That is a good question. I hadn’t thought of it that way because I run the Nationwide series so for me it is kind of the same. I think it allows our guys, especially coming off a race like this where we have some ground to make up, to go back and see the stuff we tried and see if it worked or not. In a way, I think it gives the guys a much needed break mentally as well. I don’t think they need to work any harder. They are working as hard as they can but I bumped into one of my crew members who was excited about taking his family on a little vacation next weekend. I think our guys need that; they need to be able to walk away and come back and look at things a little differently. I think that is really important.”
LAST WEEK THERE WERE CHANGES TO THE CHASE TALKED ABOUT, HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT THAT AND HOW MUCH IS TOO MUCH? “That is probably the question of the day, maybe of the year. I have heard some wild stuff. I think it comes down to the question of do you want the champion to be the driver and the team that has performed best on average through the whole season, or do you want a really dramatic final race? Racing, I believe, is in a unique position in sports where after a weekends race everybody is ranked right there. It is not subjective. You don’t have to go back and have people vote on who is best this week or whatever. It is right there with your finishing order. To me, the true way to crown a champion is who finishes best on average throughout the whole season. Now, racing is complex and there are a lot of things that can go wrong so it would be nice to have a mulligan or two. I just see the potential, even now, to have a guy who wins 30 races in a season and is not the champion. How would you deal with that? I guess there is always that chance, but if you start going down that road it just comes down to that question. Do you want the best team and driver of the year, or do you want it to be dramatic?”
WHICH IS TOUGHER, GOING CROSS COUNTRY LIKE YOU DID A COUPLE OF WEEKS AGO OR PACKING EVERYTHING WITH THE TWO SERIES’ INTO TWO DAYS LIKE THIS WEEKEND? “I really like the schedule this weekend. It is good for all the teams, crew members and drivers. It makes it a lot easier for me to bring Kate and the baby and go for a couple of days, rather than being there for four days. I don’t exactly understand the economic impact this weekend versus longer ones, but it sure is nice to come here and race and then go to the next one.”
ARE YOU LOOKING FORWARD TO GOING BACK TO GATEWAY, YOUR HOME TRACK, NEXT WEEKEND AND ARE YOU PLANNING TO RIDE YOUR BIKE FROM COLUMBIA? “Yes I am looking forward to going to Gateway. Those wins there to me are it. There are no wins that are bigger. Those wins there are as big as any of my Cup wins. I have a lot of folks that are going to come out to the race there, folks that don’t get to go to the races a lot, but are good friends of mine. We are going to ride our bikes, it is about 200 miles and we have a pretty crazy crew coming. The first part is going to be a charity event. We are going to leave from Walt’s Bicycle Shop in Columbia, Missouri, and we are going to ride a really neat ride down to the Missouri river where we will have a bunch of folks help raise some money for a friend of mine that needs help with some hospital bills. I am hoping a lot of people help us. It is fun to sit on a bike and ride through all that farm land and stop at all the little towns. We have a really good time.”
LAST WEEK BRIAN FRANCE MENTIONED THAT THE NASCAR DEMOGRAPHIC IS GETTING OLDER. DO YOU HAVE ANY THOUGHTS ON HOW TO GET AND KEEP A YOUNGER DEMOGRAPHIC IN THE SPORT? “I don’t know the answer to that. There is a lot of psychology and marketing involved though. I like things simple. I like things to follow history. I like tradition. Racing is cool and here is the deal. We race at 200 mph and there is always something that can happen. It is dynamic and exciting. I have this overwhelming feeling like we are trying to make this championship some big dramatic thing. Every race we go to is a big deal. It means the world to me to win a race, so I think the drama is there and it is there every week. It is every team versus every team every single week. We aren’t the same as basketball or football and we don’t have to be. It is okay to be different. We can have our own unique way of doing things and our tradition has been very successful. It is an honor to be a part of this and it will be no matter how they do the points system, I just believe that simple is good.”
ARE YOU AND KURT OKAY AFTER LAST WEEKEND? “I think so. What ended up happening is that I thought Kurt was trying to wreck me and when I went down to talk to him it was obvious that he thought I was trying to wreck him. I think that is just restrictor plate racing. We were both just racing hard and ended up running into each other. I don’t foresee there being any lingering issue. I was just trying to figure out what was going on.”
WHAT IS YOUR THINKING OF THE LEBRON JAMES STUFF LAST NIGHT AND THE ONE-HOUR SPECIAL? “I don’t know. I don’t know enough about LeBron James really. I am trying to think of something clever to say. That was pretty amazing how big of a deal that was. It was pretty interesting. I caught myself watching this morning to see what all went on. Far be it for me to try to judge him for what he is doing. He seems to be doing a pretty good job.”
Matt Kenseth has enjoyed the most success at Chicago of any Ford driver, posting a pair of runner-up finishes (2005 & 2007) and four top-10’s since NASCAR came to the Windy City in 2001. Kenseth talked with members of the media Friday about his recent struggles, possible changes to the Chase and more.
WHAT ARE YOU HOPING TO ACCOMPLISH THIS WEEKEND AND THE NEXT FEW WEEKS? “Our goal is just to get running better and get into the Chase. We need to finish better and get into the Chase. That is what we are focusing on.”
DO YOU FEEL LIKE YOU GUYS ARE MAKING GAINS OR IS IT STILL A STRUGGLE FOR YOU? DO YOU FEEL YOU ARE WAY BEHIND, OR YOU ARE IMPROVING? “If you ask me today, I don’t feel like we are making gains, I feel like we are going backwards. I think the No. 9 has run better, but the rest of us haven’t improved very much, to be honest. Everybody else probably says we are improving, but I don’t see it.”
WHAT AREA DO YOU FEEL LIKE YOU GUYS ARE STILL MISSING ON? “I don’t know what is going on to be honest. I wish I had a better answer for you, I really do. We have had a lot of things change over the last couple of years, but I just don’t really know what the answer is right now.”
AS THE LAST 36-RACE CHAMPION, WHAT IS YOUR TAKE ON POSSIBLE CHANGES TO THE CHASE NEXT YEAR? “I don’t really have any thought on that right now. I guess I like it the way it was originally because of all the history. I don’t think the Chase is bad right now. I guess it doesn’t matter to me as long as at the end of the day, the best driver and team win it. I don’t think the Chase has created a guy who didn’t deserve to be champion or got lucky. The best car seems to be winning it. As a fan, that is what I like to see. No matter what sport it is, an individual thing or a team sport like football, I want to see the best team win it.”
WITH YOUR RELATIONSHIP WITH ROBBIE REISER, WHAT IS HIS TAKE ON WHAT IS GOING ON SINCE HE IS THE DAY TO DAY FOREMAN? “I don’t know and to be honest with you I don’t think Robbie knows. He runs the place day to day and figures out production schedules and everything. He is busy doing all of that stuff. It isn’t that he isn’t involved in the competition part, I just think it would be hard for him to say what is wrong since he isn’t at the track as much.”
CAN YOU TALK ABOUT YOUR SAVE ON TURN TWO AT DAYTONA LAST WEEK AND ALSO YOUR CHANCE TO RACE AGAINST YOUR SON ROSS THIS COMING SUNDAY? “I didn’t see the save on TV to be honest with you. It was probably more luck than anything. I have enough trouble getting around the track lately. It was probably a little bit of everything, but for sure there was a good amount of luck involved there. I have had a chance to race against Ross a couple of times now and I really enjoy watching him race. It will be fun this weekend for sure and fun to see how he reacts to that race track because he doesn’t have a lot of experience there. It should be a good time.”
IN REGARDS TO THE CHASE AND THE BEST TEAM WINNING, DO YOU WORRY THAT ALL OF THIS TALK COULD LEAD THE SPORT INTO A DIFFERENT DIRECTION TO WHERE MAYBE SOMEBODY WINS A CHAMPIONSHIP ON A SHORT SPAN AND YOU DON’T GET THE BEST TEAM? “I don’t really know what the exact idea is to be honest with you. We haven’t had our NASCAR meeting yet and I haven’t paid attention to the rumors. I don’t know what the majority of people like to see, but when I watch I know what I like to see. That doesn’t mean that is what the majority want or what would put more people in the stands. I think that a lot of the changes have gone toward the direction to make things more of a crap shoot. Compared to how it was when I started or grew up watching it has changed a lot. I can’t believe that it would go back the other way. I would imagine they would try to make it tighter, but I really don’t know because I haven’t heard any ideas.”
AS DISAPPOINTED AS YOU ARE WITH HOW YOU ARE RUNNING, YOU ARE STILL SEVENTH IN POINTS. ARE YOU CONCERNED YOU WON’T STAY THERE? “To me there is a concern. Last week we finished 15th but we wrecked and everybody else had a bigger wreck. We could have easily finished 40th last week. The last two or three races we have been able to improve our cars and get them better at the race track. There is hope we can make it better. I would just like to see some better results so that I can feel better about it. It is frustrating to go out and what I feel like is one of my best tracks in the past, this place, and run 38th in the first practice and 40th in the second practice. That is very frustrating. I don’t feel like we are a last place team or I am a last place driver, so it is frustrating.”
WHEN YOU ASK JACK FOR ANSWERS, WHAT DOES HE TELL YOU? “I think that if Jack had the answer, he would fix it. I don’t think any of us have the answer right now. We all have our different ideas and theories. The people running the place don’t like mine, so we will just keep going the way we are going and hope it gets better. They are doing things to try to move in the right direction and give us what we need to run better. Today, some of our cars were really fast. I don’t buy into practice or even qualifying that much. I have to see it on Saturday night and see who finishes where. That will prove if we are headed in the right direction or not. A lot of our cars were faster at Michigan than they have been most of the year and today a lot of our cars have been pretty quick.”
IN NEW HAMPSHIRE IT SEEMED LIKE YOU WERE REALLY RACING HARD TO STAY ON THE LEAD LAP. AS A PAST CHAMPION, HOW HARD IS THAT TO DEAL WITH? “I race as hard as I can race every week whether we are in 40th or 1st. You probably noticed it more at New Hampshire because I was in the way and aggravating everybody by trying to stay on the lead lap. When you are in our spot and sliding back in points, that is what you have to do. It was aggravating to them and to me, but we had to do that to keep where we were in the points to try to stay in the Chase.”
Greg Biffle has led the most laps of any Ford driver in the field for this weekend’s Lifelock.com 400 at Chicagoland Speedway with 77. Biffle led 34 laps of the 2005 lap before finishing 11th and 43 laps in 2008 before posting his best Chicago finish of fourth. Biffle took time to discuss where he feels his car is at this weekend, Fords frustrations this year and issues with race tracks with members of the media Friday afternoon.
TALK ABOUT YOUR PERFORMANCE SO FAR AND WHAT YOU HAVE TO DO TO BE THERE AT THE END. “Well we haven’t had the performance this year that we have wanted, we all know that, but this weekend we seem to be better. We have a little different front suspension package, more like what the No. 9 and RPM cars have been running. Our car seems to be fairly competitive. I like the way it is turning. It has pretty good grip on the race track. I think we were third or fourth in practice and I am happy with how it felt in qualifying trim. I am looking forward to tomorrow night because I think we can have a good run. I am anxious for tomorrow night to start.”
MATT KENSETH MENTIONED EARLIER THAT THEY ARE STRUGGLING WHEN THEY GET TO THE TRACK AND ARE PLAYING CATCH-UP. JACK SAID EARLIER THIS YEAR THAT HE FELT THAT WAS A MAJOR ISSUE THE TEAMS WERE FACING. IS IT A MAJOR ISSUE YOU FEEL YOU ARE FACING? “A little bit. When you decide to come to the race track with something you haven’t raced before or something different than what you have been doing, and let’s face it, what we have been doing isn’t working, so we have to try something different. If that doesn’t work, or is close but you have to continue to work on it, you are then behind automatically. We unloaded today and were terrible tight. We had the lowest track bar we have ever had in the car at a race track. We raised that a little bit and changed things around and got the car running pretty well. About three-quarters of the way through the first practice I got the car driving really well. I felt like it was extremely fast and the easiest car I have had to drive with speed. We went into qualifying trim and instantly the car had good speed and was fairly comfortable to drive. Those are good signs for me going forward. This is the first time we have had a difference suspension package too.”
HOW MUCH OF THE ISSUE IS FIGURING OUT THE SIMULATIONS? “Like I said, this was completely different than we have ever run before or raced at this race track before, so it was zero here today. This was an experiment. When you experiment you are normally not going to be right on, but we were damn close. Within a hour-and-a-half of practice we were able to get it going. That last half hour, in the heat of the day, we got the car driving and I am pretty happy about that.”
THE FORD FRUSTRATIONS ARE WELL DOCUMENTED BUT AS OF NOW YOU HAVE THREE DRIVERS IN THE CHASE. COMPARE THAT TO A SITUATION LIKE GANASSI WHERE THEY HAVE FAST CARS AND CAN’T GET THE FINISHES AND ARE LOW IN THE POINTS. IS THAT MORE FRUSTRATING? “Yeah that can be more frustrating when you have fast cars and nothing to show for it. We are graded off of our finishes. The perception of how we are running is based on the speed of our cars, which is not that great. We have great durability in our cars and smart drivers that are giving us the best finish we can get each weekend. That has kept us alive. I feel really good about tomorrow night’s race. I feel like I have a car I can win with tomorrow night if it is as fast as I think it is. When I get out there with the other 10-15 cars that are running up there we will see. Half of it is confidence and I have that part.”
IN THE GROUP INTERVIEW WITH SPORTS ILLUSTRATED YOU WERE VERY CRITICAL OF POCONO. WHAT WOULD YOU LIKE TO SEE DONE THERE? “It is not my job. The track hasn’t responded. It is clear we have come close to hurting people there in the past. If you saw Dale Jr. and Steve Park upside down going down the guardrail and they haven’t changed the race track there. It is a matter of time. That is all there is to it.”
WHOSE JOB IS IT? “I would guess it is the race tracks job. I guess at some point if the race track decided they were going to take half of turn three and four out then NASCAR would step in. That grass, at 200 mph, you can’t control your car if you end up there. There have been several spectacular crashes there and they are pretty scary wrecks. Kasey Kahne just about got over the top of that wall and into those trees. Kevin Harvick had tree limbs in the trunk of his car from debris flying around. That is a bad spot on the race track right there. They would be better off putting an inside wall there like they have at Indy. They you can’t go off into the grass.”
ARE WE BUILDING CARS THAT ARE TOO MUCH FOR THE MENTAL CONDITION OF THE DRIVERS? “We can only work with the tools that are given to us. The shovel, the pick, whatever we have to do our work with is all we’ve got. When you sit in a room and put a bigger spoiler on or with the restrictor plate it might sound like a great idea. We can formulate plans to make more side-by-side action or more passing or whatever, but we have to put it out on the race track and see. Last week, what happened in Daytona, we won’t have that situation again because the track is being repaved, but it didn’t seem like a great situation for competitiveness because the tire couldn’t hold the race car. It is man and machine. We keep making these race cars better and better and Goodyear is always changing the tires. We never go back to a race track with the same tires it seems like. We go from a win to a spoiler and so on. It is just evolution. We keep refining what we have and I am excited to see how Daytona turns out. I think we will have better racing. I didn’t want the race track changed originally when they said they were going to repave it. Now that I have looked at it, I think it will be a lot better place after it is repaved. I think we will see more side-by-side and more cars in it.”
Elliott Sadler will run his first race in 2010 with new crew chief Todd Parrott at Chicagoland Speedway Saturday night. Richard Petty Motorsports named Parrot as crew chief for the #19 Stanley Ford team, reuniting Parrott with Sadler who worked with each other at Yates Racing in 2004. Sadler spoke briefly prior to qualifying about his new crew chief.
TELL US ABOUT YOUR NEW CREW CHIEF AND THE RELATIONSHIP YOU TWO HAVE. “I think when Todd got let go from the No. 17 I started asking him questions like if he thought the magic could work again? Could we get ourselves back into the position we were in a few years ago where we qualified very well on Friday and running really good on Sunday? He has a lot of experience and every driver-crew chief is looking for that combination and communication that makes you fast and competitive. Todd and I had that once. We need his experience. We are very young on the No. 19 team and he brings a ton of experience and knowledge to our team. I needed that as a driver. I needed somebody with some experience. We started to talk about it to see if it could happen and I am very happy to be working with Todd again.”
HOW LONG UNTIL YOU NOTICE AN IMPACT FROM THIS CHANGE? “I think from a communication standpoint as far as keeping me settled down and confident in the car it will be felt right away. He doesn’t have a lot of hands on with this car here in Chicago, but he then has a week off to get ready for Indy where he has a great track record there. His record speaks for itself at Indy and he knows what he wants there. Hopefully over the next couple of races his hands on stuff will start paying off on Sunday, but with immediate impact will be how I feel and communication in the car on Sunday.”