Ford Fontana California Advance
FORD IN FONTANA
· Ford has won 10 of the 19 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races at Auto Club Speedway, most among any manufacturer.
· Matt Kenseth has three victories, and is the defending race-winner, while current Ford drivers Greg Biffle, Carl Edwards, Kasey Kahne and Elliott Sadler have one apiece.
· Ford will have 12 entries in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series this weekend (4 Roush Fenway; 4 Richard Petty Motorsports; 3 Front Row Motorsports and 1 Latitude 43 Motorsports).
· All Ford teams will be running the “452” NASCAR engine this weekend. None will have the new “FR9”.
Greg Biffle, driver of the No. 16 3M Ford Fusion, is coming off a third-place finish in last week’s Daytona 500 and comes to Auto Club Speedway having won this race once (2005) in his career. He spoke about this weekend’s race before practice on Friday morning.
GREG BIFFLE – No. 16 3M Ford Fusion – “I love Auto Club Speedway. It’s fun to race out here. I’m from the west coast, so it kind of feels like coming home. I’ve got family and friends in this area, so I really enjoy it. I’ve had some success here. I’ve won some Nationwide and Sprint Cup races, and this is kind of what I like to call the second kickoff to our season. Last week was really how well the guys did over the winter on the restrictor plate cars and how well we were prepared for Daytona, and this race is really how we’re prepared for the rest of the season – how our cars are gonna perform on all the mile-and-a-halfs and mile-and-a-third race tracks, which are a lot of race tracks for us in this series. So this is really a true test, here and Las Vegas next week, of what we’re gonna have for the season.”
WHAT’S THE LINE AS FAR AS HELPING GUYS AT DAYTONA? “You try and seek out your teammates. You try and help the best you can, but, really, it’s the final five laps of the night and you’ve got to go with what lane is moving. You can’t pick a slow lane just because you’ve got a friend in it and if you do that, then you’re not gonna end up winning the Daytona 500. Now, for instance, if there isn’t an advantage of a lot of momentum in one lane or the other just smoking by, then you go with your teammate or you go with somebody you can push or that is running good, so there are a lot of things that come down to it. It’s not just necessarily, ‘OK, I’ve got to go with that guy, period, because he’s my teammate.’ You’ve got to go with what lane is going with where you car is driving the best. Maybe my car won’t go on the bottom very good, so I want the high lane. That may be a decision you have to make. I sure wish I had some teammates up front when it came down to the end. I was up there by myself and 33 had a choice on who to go with and spun his tires on the restart, so we were kind of a lone soldier there at the end and I’m glad I was able to give Jamie a good push to get us all clear of that traffic.”
ANY COMPARISON TO DAYTONA AND THIS TRACK? “Absolutely not. Daytona racing – one is like snow skiing and one is like water skiing. It’s the same kind of thing, but completely different. Here, I don’t want to see anybody in front of me, behind me or beside me. You want your car out by yourself. There’s no drafting. There’s no such thing as drafting, except for possibly on the straightaway for a short portion, but when it comes to the majority of this race track, clean air is the most important. Last week is a little scewed compared to what we do every week.”
WAS IT AN ADVANTAGE FOR JAMIE TO SPIN HIS TIRES ON THE RESTART AND DO YOU FEEL LIKE YOU’RE PLAYING WITH HOUSE MONEY COMING HERE AFTER GETTING THROUGH DAYTONA WITHOUT WRECKING? “Yeah, I’m definitely playing with house money. I like that. I love to gamble and it’s better when you’re using house money. I’ve got a little cushion starting out the season really strong. We’re happy with that. We’d like to be leading the points when we leave Vegas, but we’ll take what we can get. It wasn’t really an advantage for Jamie spinning his tires on the restart, but, at the same time, I guess I pride myself in being able to make that situation work. A lot of guys might have ditched him at that point when he was spinning his tires. My best option I felt, at that point, was to try and get him going – try and push him and get him going. It’s quite possible if he wouldn’t have spun his tires that high lane would have gotten a good head start out there and strung out, and probably those guys wouldn’t have ganged back up on us, if you will, and I might have finished second if I didn’t have an opportunity to try and pass him later. That’s the only regret I have is maybe I should have waited until the backstretch or waited until we came to the short chute to try him, and stay in line and not give all those guys behind us a chance to get up there, but I was banking on the caution. We had the caution come out three times and we had just crossed the white, so I was like, ‘I just don’t know if I can stay behind him right now. I’ve got to try and get my nose out there for as long a period as I can and hope those guys back there do the same thing they’ve done three times now.’”
SO YOU WERE EXPECING A CAUTION? “Oh yeah, I was expecting a caution. Those guys were fighting for their life and they knew the white flag was out. I mean, you’ve got to get it now, so that’s why I felt like trying to go by him on the front. I had a lot of momentum and almost got it done.”
DO YOU CARRY A RACE LIKE THAT FOR A LONG TIME, OR DO YOU LET IT GO? “If people quit sending me e-mails and texts, I’d be in good shape. I get up and have my cup of coffee this morning and I’m reading e-mails. I sent someone an e-mail and they responded with, ‘Boy, that was close in the Daytona 500. I thought you were gonna win it.’ I did too. So maybe if we win here or have a good run here, maybe they’ll quit talking about Daytona, but, yeah, I’m thinking about it and I’ll probably be thinking about it all year.”
HOW HARD HAVE YOU WORKED ON THINGS IN THE OFF-SEASON? “We’ve worked really hard. I think this winter we’ve worked as hard as we ever have getting our cars better on all the things you work on – lighter, faster, all the issues. We’ve also joined forces with the RPM cars, which has brought us a little bit of technology and has brought them a little bit of technology, so I see the Ford oval being very strong here this weekend and it would not surprise me a bit for one of the eight cars to be in Victory Lane on Sunday.”
WHAT’S THE SECRET TO ROUSH’S SUCCESS HERE? “That’s hard to explain. I like this race track. I really like the way it’s laid out. I like Michigan as well. They race really good, but we’ve just had a lot of success here and I don’t know why we’ve run so good here, but I like the race track.”
IS THIS RACE STILL A GOOD PREDICTOR FOR WHO MAKES THE CHASE WITH THE SPOILER CHANGE, AND WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT THE CONCRETE BEING ADDED AT DAYTONA? “I think the concrete will be a good fix – to put a patch in there and that will be fine. We know that’s probably not gonna break apart, and I think that this will still be a predictor for the chase as it has in the past. The spoiler might mix things up. I think we’re all anticipating that, but the cream always rises to the top and the guys that have done their homework over the winter, and the guys that are running good here – when they bolt that spoiler on, they’re gonna continue to run good, I think.”
WILL THE RACING CHANGE AT DAYTONA WITH THAT PATCH? “I don’t think so. It’s kind of got its own character and I really liked the way the tire raced. I think it’s in good shape, other than that unfortunate part of the track coming up.”
IS THERE A SENSE OF ANXIETY TO SEE HOW YOU GUYS DO THIS WEEKEND AND NEXT AS FAR AS SEEING IF YOU’VE CLOSED THE GAP ON HENDRICK? “Yeah, there really is a lot of anxiety for this practice today and qualifying. That will really kind of tell the tale of where we’re at and how we’ve done, so as soon as this first practice is over, we’ll have a pretty good idea, and then Sunday with how we race and next week as well. I think we’re all anticipating that – all the teams are. It’s kind of like this is the Daytona 500. Everybody has worked all winter. Everybody has done their best and now we’re waiting to see how we all stack up.”
WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT TODD PARROTT BECOMING MATT’S CREW CHIEF, AND YOUR THOUGHTS ON QUALIFYING? “I anticipate us qualifying decent. We’ve always qualified fairly well here, so we’re gonna work a little bit on qualifying toward the end of this first practice to see if we can get our car going good. As far as Todd Parrott being Matt’s crew chief, that probably hurts me a little bit as far as Todd was a great asset in the position he was in with research and development and kind of floating between all the cars. He was really an asset and a really good value at that position, but I think he’ll be very good with Matt. I think Todd has proven himself as a crew chief over and over – that he’s smart and sharp – and I think it’ll be good for Matt. I think Drew did a great job, and I don’t know what happened because I wasn’t in that meeting, but I think they’re both great people and I think he’ll be fine with Todd.”
DID THE MOVE CATCH YOU BY SURPRISE? “To be perfectly honest with you, I’ve had my nose buried in getting ready to come to California and talking about these race tracks coming up. I’ve been busy doing a few other things. I was just told the switch was happening and I was already on an airplane going to Minnesota to visit the 3M folks on my way here, so I really have talked to no one yet. I haven’t talked to Matt or anybody, and I don’t even know where Drew is going. I heard R&D, so he’ll be an asset for us there, but I know nothing about the decision, was it mutual, or what happened there.”
HOW CAN YOU PROVE TO US THAT ALL THIS HARD WORK IS GOING TO PAY OFF? BY THE END RESULT? “I really think so. I think Sunday will really tell the tale. I felt confident when I was talking earlier that we’ll see a lot of Ford ovals at the front at the end of the day on Sunday. I really feel that way. I feel that there’s gonna be myself, Matt, Carl, Kasey, AJ, David – I really do. Elliott has run good here. I think we’re all gonna be there at the end of this thing.”
AT WHAT POINT DO YOU WORRY? “If we run as hard as we can and we finish 10th, then I’m nervous that we’ve still got some work to do. Now, if we run good and we finish 10th because of two tires, four times, something like that, then it’s not an issue. But, really, it’s the performance and how we run on the race track. That’s gonna be what we’re looking for.”
WAS THERE ANYTHING ABOUT YOUR EFFORT AT DAYTONA THAT MADE YOU THINK YOUR TEAM IS BETTER THAN LAST YEAR? “Yeah, I think so. A lot of times you’re working with the engineering department and when they find things and implement them and they work on the race track, and they show speed and handling and issues like that, it gives you confidence that everything else they’re doing is in the right direction as well. Under that first red flag, five of the top six cars were Fords sitting there on the grid, so our guys have really put a lot of work into this, and I’m confident that the work they’ve put in is gonna show up here, too. I really feel confident when I say you’re gonna see a lot of the Fords in the front on Sunday when it’s over. I feel really confident about that.”
YOU TALKED ABOUT THE RPM ADDITION. IF YOU’RE RUNNING BETTER THAN THEM HOW CAN THEY HELP YOU? “When they have different bump stops and different swaybar configurations and different geometries – when we start looking at those as a whole, we start looking at them on our telemetries and we start getting to the race track and testing them, I think that we see improvements on some and don’t see improvements in the other, and then they use our configuration on part of it and their configuration on part of it – and then it’s better as a whole – that’s when we say, ‘Hey, we’re getting something out of this.’ For instance, we use Kasey’s front suspension and they use our rear suspension – I’m just giving you an example – and it’s better than either one of ours before, that’s what we feel really confident about. We feel like we’ve all brought something to the table, whether it’s a little bit of a shock combination, bump stops, geometry, rear ends, truck arms, brakes – we think we’ve merged these into a better unit altogether.”
Kasey Kahne, driver of the No. 9 Budweiser Ford Fusion, has one victory at Auto Club Speedway (2006) and comes into this weekend’s race after getting involved in a late-race accident at Daytona, where he finished 30th. Kahne spoke about trying to rebound before Friday’s practice session.
KASEY KAHNE – No. 9 Budweiser Ford Fusion – YOU’VE BEEN IN THIS POSITION BEFORE. LAST YEAR YOU CAME OUT OF DAYTONA 29TH AND THIS YEAR YOU’RE 30TH. HOW DO YOU FEEL COMING INTO THIS WEEKEND? “I was disappointed with last week and it took me a couple of days to recover just because it’s the Daytona 500. You get so excited because we had such a good Bud Shootout and 150 that I had a lot of high hopes, and that kind of got blasted with a couple of laps to go. It took a couple of days to get over it and now I’m happy to be here in California. I’m looking forward to it and know we’re gonna have a really good car here. We’ve got a great team and I’m excited to try out that Roush Yates engine.”
I WOULD IMAGINE THIS TEAM ISN’T PUSHING THE PANIC BUTTON BECAUSE IT’S A LONG SEASON, RIGHT? “Yeah, and early in the year it really doesn’t mean much because you can make or break points so easily. I feel like we’re sitting just fine because there are actually a lot of guys that will finish in the chase around me, which makes me not really worry much at all. We just need to get things rolling and finish up strong the next couple of weeks.”
HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT WHAT YOUR CAR WILL DO THIS WEEKEND, HAVING TESTED HERE A FEW WEEKS AGO? “We still have the same team and we still have Kenny Francis and Keith Rodden and they come up with a lot of the things we do, so I feel like we’ll be real similar car-wise. I think we’re gonna have a benefit with the Roush Yates engines, and, other than that, we’ll be real similar to last year.”
YOU HAVE THE OLYMPIC COLORS ON YOUR CAR AGAIN THIS WEEK. HAVE YOU BEEN WATCHING? “I’ve been watching every night. The Olympics have been great. Our Olympians are doing awesome and have won a lot of golds and been in the medals a bunch, so it’s been fun to watch. I always get caught up in the Olympics, whether it’s the Summer or Winter Olympics when they’re going, and it’s neat to have them on our Budweiser car and show our support to all the U.S. Olympians.”
IS THERE ANY SPORT YOU’VE WATCHED THAT YOU THOUGHT WAS REALLY UNIQUE THAT YOU HADN’T PAID ATTENTION TO BEFORE? “I like pretty much everything because you can get into every part of it. Whether it’s the snowboard and Shaun White and how awesome he is or figure skating it’s all pretty good, and it’s all exciting. It comes down right to the end and they’re all first class. It’s awesome to watch.”
Elliott Sadler, driver of the No. 19 Stanley Ford Fusion, became a father earlier this week as his wife, Amanda, gave birth to Wyatt Herman Fritz Sadler on Monday, Feb. 15. Sadler spoke about the experience before practice.
ELLIOTT SADLER – No. 19 Stanley Ford Fusion – WHAT WAS THAT FEELING LIKE WHEN WYATT WAS BORN? “It was by far the most amazing thing that’s ever happened to me. I’ve been able to do some cool things in my life and be around a lot of cool stuff – a cool sport like NASCAR – but the first time I heard him cry after he was born was by far the coolest thing that’s ever happened to me. My wife and I are very lucky. Everything is going great. I’m looking forward to getting him home and spending some time with him, but it was tough leaving him and coming to California. I’ve heard from all my friends about how your life is gonna change and you’re gonna look at things a lot differently, and when I had to leave him, knowing I’m gonna be gone for a couple days before I get back home, was very, very tough. How can something so small create your heart to feel so much love and so much pain all at the same time? We’re very, very proud of everything that’s going on and I’m looking forward to this part of my life.”
HOW DID YOU DECIDE ON THE NAME? “Wyatt is a name that my wife and I just really like. We like those western style names and he has four names like his dad. My family likes naming kids after other people in your family, so his second name is Herman, after my dad, and his third name is Fritz, which is after her grandma, so we took care of both sides of the family and everybody is happy. Wyatt is just a name that we thought was cool and we thought was neat, so that’s why we went with that.”
WHAT ARE YOUR FOUR NAMES? “My names are Elliott William Barnes Sadler. Elliott is my mom’s maiden name, William is after my uncle, Barnes is my dad’s mom’s maiden name.”
HAVE YOU GOTTEN ANY SLEEP? “Yeah, I’ve had a lot of sleep. It’s been good. We haven’t talked about this much, but he has to stay in the hospital a couple weeks. He had to have surgery after he was born and all of that went well. We knew it was gonna happen, but there were just some things with his appendix and intestines, but all of that went great. It’s been good. He’s recovering very well and my wife is healing well, but I got some sleep in the hospital. It was tough leaving him at night and having to leave him downstairs to go back upstairs and sleep, but it’s been a wonderful experience and now I’m looking forward to the day we can get him home.”
Roush Fenway Racing announced yesterday that Todd Parrott will be the new crew chief for Matt Kenseth, in the No. 17 Crown Royal Ford Fusion starting this weekend at Auto Club Speedway. Parrott, Kenseth and car owner Jack Roush appeared together at a press conference to discuss the move.
JACK ROUSH, Car Owner – No. 17 Crown Royal Ford Fusion – YOU’VE GOT TO BE EXCITED ABOUT HAVING TODD PARROTT ON THE BOX WITH MATT. “Yeah, we’re real excited about that. I’m gonna go off message here for just a minute and do what Paul Harvey did and give you the rest of the story on things before I start and before we really get going. I’m really conflicted about what we’re doing here. This is a performance business. We’ve all got to do what we have to do out there on the firing line to meet the expectations of our fans, to satisfy our sponsors and the other partners we’ve got, and we have to do the right human things as well. That’s where my point of conflict comes with the changes we’re making here.
The person that’s not in the room that’s affected by this is Drew Blickensderfer. I want to start and talk about Drew just a little bit. Drew was my choice, he was Matt’s choice a year and a half ago to lead this 17 team. He has done everything that we asked him to do. He is a person that is extraordinarily talented and able. He comes from a strong sports and competitive background. His father is a coach and I’m sure was a good role model for him. Drew will be in the Roush Fenway organization, hopefully for a long time, and he will be a factor in Sprint Cup racing in the future on one of our teams. For the time being, Todd’s position is interim on the 17 team with an expectation that we can get a formula here that will work better than what we’ve had just recently. Todd and Drew are switching places.
We had a great Daytona run with what Robbie did in the shop and what Todd did behind the scenes making sure that all of our Roush Fenway built cars – we’re doing those for all the Richard Petty Motorsports entrants as well as the 26 car driven by Boris – those were all cars that were on the same page and Todd put those cars on the same page. We’ve never had a better field of cars that we’ve taken to Daytona, so we’re not anxious to give that up. The short term, interim arrangement we’ve got is that Todd and Drew are changing places, but I just want to make sure that everybody felt my passion, my empathy, my support and my belief in Drew Blickensderfer before we started.
I know that as much conflicted as I am, Matt is equally conflicted. Drew and Matt won races together in Nationwide, they had great rapport, and as we looked at what was next for the 17 a year and a half ago, it was the obvious thing we needed. We’re a promote from within company. Matt feels that being a pillar that he is and we are and continue to try to do the right thing with regard to making career opportunities for people that deserve to be in this business, that are able and talented and motivated and resourceful. Drew is all of those things.
The thing about putting our teams together is if you looked at the arithmetic sum of what a person’s skill sets were or what people’s skills sets are – what their ambitions are and their motivations and talent is for doing their job – having the arithmetic sum work out right is not enough. You’ve got to have chemistry. You’ve got to have people that start a sentence on one side of the room that would finish it on the other side, and at the same time you have to challenge one another. If all you do is run the same Do Loops and all you do is have the same exact thoughts all the time, then you’re limited in your perspective. Drew has got the capability to do all those things. It’s unfortunate that with where the mature 17 team was at this time, under Robbie’s tutelage and under Matt’s tutelage for so many years, that in the necessary time we weren’t able to get the chemistry to work as it needed to and that’s my failing and one of the reasons I insisted on Robbie coming today. I feel that it’s his failing and at some point, maybe as clean up here, I’m gonna want him to comment on that even though he doesn’t have a formal place on the program. But, anyway, I wanted to make sure that everybody feels that Drew Blickensderfer didn’t get fired and that we’re really concerned about his success and his state of mind as we move forward.
At the same time, by putting Matt and Todd together at this time, we’re putting together champions in this field. Todd has had success, not only with speedway racing, which had not been one of my strong suits in spite of the fact that we won what would seem to be our share of the races, and maybe not as many at Daytona as we should after 23 years we’d only won one time, but we’ve won at Talladega numerous times and we’ve won the July race numerous times. But Todd has always set a standard that was very high for that, and he’s also not only been on a championship team with Robert Yates, he’s also won at Indianapolis, which has been one of my nemesis. I think it may be the only place I’ve never won as a team owner in Sprint Cup, so he brings great strength to the 17 team. He’s got the presence and the wherewithal and the experience to manage this band of pirates that Robbie Reiser has assembled over there that may be too much for a young man or may be too much for me.
I was asked earlier if Robbie Reiser had been a consideration and the fact is and the truth is that he was consideration as we looked at putting this thing back together and making sure that we didn’t waste races as get ready for a championship run for the 17 team in 2010, but with Robbie there’s been a resurgence and he’s certainly put Roush Fenway on a level that we’ve never been on with regard to our quality, our consistency, our manufacturing prowess and all those other things that attracted Boris and Richard Petty and the other folks that are our customers for our cars. So Robbie has done a great job there, and he breathed life into the 16 team with pit stops and with the organization of the people, and the same thing with the 99 as we looked at how to make those teams stronger over the last 18 months. But he pretty much left untouched the 17 team because he had his fingerprints all over them and he wanted those guys to excel. As we sit here today, unfortunately, we’ve found that as a team they haven’t excelled.
Matt Kenseth is as good a driver as anybody in this business has ever been or will be, and it’s my failing that I haven’t put him in a situation yet where he can demonstrate that to all. We’ve got to get Todd back to the race car because he doesn’t want to take a Greyhound Bus home this weekend, so he wants to get that car right.”
TODD PARROTT, Crew Chief – No. 17 Crown Royal Ford Fusion – “First of all, thanks to Jack I’m really excited about the opportunity to work with Matt and the entire 17 Crown Royal Ford team. It’s no secret that Matt has a lot of talent. I think he showed that last weekend at Daytona. He had a car that rode around 25th all day long and finished eighth. The guys did a great job and he’s got a lot of talent. It’s a great bunch of guys and, like Jack said, Robbie has assembled an awesome team over there and what’s neat is we tell stories all the time about how we raced each other so hard in the garage, and now coming on the plane last night we were telling stories with Matt about the past and a little bit of my history. Now to be associated with him and teamed up with him, and working with Robbie, has been a really nice with the way everything goes. The job Robbie does, like Jack said, in the shop preparing the cars and with all the teams, he’s got a great leadership role and I hope that I can continue on and get the 17 car back where it belongs in Victory Lane and build on that with my experience. I’m really looking forward to working with Matt.”
MATT KENSETH – No. 17 Crown Royal Ford Fusion – HOW SIMILAR ARE ROBBIE AND TODD? “Honestly, that’s hard to say. I’ve worked with Robbie for what seemed like an eternity, but it was 14 years or 13 years – something like that – and I’ve worked with Todd here for about 13 hours, so it’s gonna take a little while to really be able to compare those guys and how they do things. I’ve been a fan of Todd’s. I’ve watched him race for a long time with a lot of different drivers, especially Dale Jarrett and the success they had, and how he did things at the track from afar, but I’ve never had the opportunity to work with him, so, really, that’s gonna be hard for me to compare until I get that chance.”
TODD PARROTT CONTINUED – WHAT DID YOU MISS AND NOT MISS ABOUT BEING A CREW CHIEF? “What I did miss is getting in here and digging with these guys. The competition side of it and fighting tooth and nail to strive to be the best team in racing and to win races and championships. It just didn’t work out the last few years, but the role that I was put in being the head of the superspeedway program and stuff like that, I had similar satisfaction that I had when I was a crew chief because I felt like I was helping all the teams. They didn’t have to worry about their program because I took care of it, so, personally, I felt a lot of good things about that and the things that came out of it. Obviously, the speedway cars were successful and ran well, so, hopefully, I can pick up where I left off with that on the 17 team.”
JACK ROUSH CONTINUED – DOES THE FACT A SPONSOR WON’T WAIT FOR A YOUNG CREW CHIEF TO DEVELOP PLAY A ROLE IN THIS AT ALL? “We were under zero sponsor pressure to make a move. Before we had our meeting on Tuesday, where we came to this determination, Robbie had a concern, Matt had a concern, Chris Andrews had a concern, I had a concern and it all came together. Everybody thought Jack was working underground on things trying to get people revved up to do something, but that wasn’t the case. I came to it about the same time in my mind’s eye that we needed to do something, but the sponsor is very much in support of what we do and I think that they were not insistent on a change at this time. Matt had some thoughts that I would enjoy hearing what he has to say about things.”
MATT KENSETH CONTINUED – “Jack pretty much said it all about Drew, but Drew and I are really good friends and I think we’ll continue to be really good friends. We had a lot of fun working together and, honestly, as much as Jack talked about how he failed, I feel like I’ve failed in a way to help him enough. He did a real good job on the Nationwide car, obviously, and with Carl. I mean, they almost came back and won a championship from a huge deficit when he went over there, so Drew has what it takes to be a successful crew chief. It really wasn’t a change that was about me and Drew, to be honest with you. We always talk about it being a team sport, but it really is and that’s where I found we needed some help somehow was team wide. They were used to an experienced, strong leader like Robbie. When Todd first comes in here and talks his voice kind of thunders through the room, and it’s really hard to explain, but we were just missing something on the team. I didn’t feel like the way we operated at Daytona that we could win races and win championships. I didn’t feel like that for whatever reason, and it just felt like a change needed to be made. It’s not really a Drew thing or a Drew and me not being able to work together well because we really did, but it was just the whole dynamic of the team. We needed something to try and get the whole group elevated.”
THE TIMING WAS A SURPRISE BECAUSE THE OFF-SEASON JUST CONCLUDED. WAS IT JUST SOMETHING THAT YOU REALIZED A CHANGE NEEDED TO BE MADE AT DAYTONA? “To be honest with you, whenever you’re not running good, I will say that Jack has never put pressure on me to really do anything. I think he knows I put enough pressure on myself and I’m always doing the best I can, but he expects us to perform. I expect us to perform. Our sponsors do, our fans do, everybody does and we didn’t perform very well last year and, really, the timing of the change is probably 100 percent my fault. I know that I’ve been asked by Jack several times if there’s anything he can do for me, if there’s anything we need to change on the team, if there’s anything he can do better on equipment. He’s never told me ‘no’ to anything that’s reasonable and gives us whatever we need to be competitive, so I would say that’s 100 percent my fault. Jack talked to me in November and asked if we thought we were OK with everything we had going on, and I really did. I really felt like we needed to give Drew a full year and a full off-season. We knew there were some things to work on and he was working on some things to try and make it better, so it’s really hard to explain the timing of the change. It doesn’t make any sense. It’s not really good for anybody, but it’s just kind of the way it went down. I thought instead of dragging it out it was just something that needed to be done. We’re only one race in and we’ve got a lot of racing yet to do this year, and to get Todd in there and get him acclimated with the guys to get a headstart on this thing, instead of waiting until we’re halfway into the season and it’s too late to dig ourselves out.”
WHAT SPECIFICALLY GAVE THE FEELING A CHANGE NEEDED TO BE MADE? “Who knows if it’s even the right change. That’s really hard to say. It’s just the whole dynamic of my team. I feel like I’ve been very fortunate because Robbie has done a lot of work, Jack has done a lot of work, and everybody has done a lot of work to make sure that we have all the best people in the right places, and I really feel like we do have a great group of people in all the right places, but it’s just hard to explain. You just didn’t feel it there. You didn’t feel like everybody came in the truck fired up to go win races. It’s probably not the case, but you almost felt like they’d come in and they were just kind of going through the motions. I was like ‘We need to get some spark into the group somehow and get everybody back to what this is about.’ I’m a big football fan, so watching Drew Brees fire up his guys before the game with all his chants and his singing, and you see Ray Lewis firing up the defense and then see those guys ready to go out and do the best they can. I’m not a very good leader. I’ll admit that I’m probably not the guy to do that, and I just felt like there was something that needed to be changed, and, unfortunately, it usually starts with the driver or the crew chief and I just felt like we needed something to change to see if it’s different or better and to get everybody on the same page and really lead the group.”
WAS THERE A SENSE THAT THE TEAM DIDN’T THINK IT COULD WIN? “No, I don’t think there was a sense that we didn’t think we could win. It’s just kind of a hard one to explain. You guys say I don’t show emotion sometimes and I kind of felt the whole group was sort of like that. I just feel like we needed something to throw a spark in the thing and get the guys back to remembering what this is all about and how lucky we are to do this. We’re racing at the top level and it takes a lot of work and enthusiasm and attitude to be successful, and I just wasn’t feeling that vibe. I don’t know that it will be different this week, but that’s just what we’re trying to fix.”
JACK ROUSH CONTINUED – WILL ROBBIE BE ON THE BOX THIS WEEK, AND WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON THE PERFORMANCE ASPECTS OF THE PROGRAM GOING INTO THIS WEEKEND? “This is a command appearance for Robbie. He was happier to stay home and work on the manufacturing things and to let us go do this here, and I asked him to come out and give us a hand, so he is here. He will be on the pit box with the 17. This is all-hands on deck trying to launch this thing and that’s Robbie’s role this weekend. As far as the RPM arrangement, Chrysler and Ray Evernham made a lot of investment in that program. It was on its back with regard to operational efficiency and Chrysler pulling out certainly left a big void in their income, and with the way Robbie embraced and I’ve embraced Richard Petty Motorsports to go forward – Ford has come online, so that’s given them the financial support they needed and given them a chance to quickly get up to speed with a Ford. It’s given us a chance to look at some science projects that we either didn’t choose to fund or didn’t feel that we could fund that were more generously funded by Chrysler and by the vision of Ray Evernham. So it’s been interesting to put the two technologies together. If I were to say, ‘How does this work in comparison to something else I’ve done?’ I would look at it from a technological point of view very much like what I did with Robert Yates a few years ago putting the engine program together. There has been a list of things that were strengths in both programs that have come to light and Robbie and Chris Andrews and Chip Bolin and Greg Erwin and Bob Osborne have all sat on that, and they’ve put the best of both programs together technically. That’s gonna result in a little bump in the step of both programs initially. Ford Motor Company stands strongly behind it and they’ve turned their program up from an engineering support point of view over the winter as well, and the prospects for us this year are much improved over what they were for 2009, just with the additional energy and with the understanding of what left us in the doldrums and unhappy circumstance of not being dominant at as many race tracks in 2009 as we were in 2008.