Kahne and Edwards Hopeful in 500; More FR9 Engines in the Ford Field
KENSETH, SADLER AND ELLIOTT TO RUN FR9 ENGINE ON SUNDAY
Ford Racing, along with Roush Yates Engines, officially decided this afternoon that three Ford Fusions will have the new FR9 engine for Sunday’s Daytona 500.
Matt Kenseth, Elliott Sadler and Bill Elliott will all be racing with the FR9 while the other 10 Fords in the field with have the previous 452 model.
Nine of the Ford competitors, including the Gatorade Duel winner Kasey Kahne, ran the FR9 in Thursday’s qualifying races.
“We’re pleased that we’ll be able to put the FR9 in a couple extra cars for the Daytona 500,” said Dave Simon, the Ford Racing engine engineer who worked with Doug Yates on the development of the FR9. “Based on completing the mileage on one of the engines, looking at wear condition on some of the others, and based on the performance of the engine during the qualifying races, we felt that providing an additional FR9 engines will help give us additional boost for the 500. “
This will mark the second straight restrictor plate race that Kenseth will run the FR9. Kenseth, along with David Ragan, debuted Ford’s first purpose-built NASCAR engine at Talladega last fall in the Amp Energy 500. Kenseth was in position to win the race as he was running second until being forced to pit for fuel in the closing laps. He finished 24th.
The only other time FR9 competed last year was in the season finale Ford 400, where Ragan finished 34th.
Kasey Kahne, driver of the No. 9 Budweiser Ford, is coming off a win in yesterday’s second Gatorade Duel 150 race. As a result, he will be starting from the second row when the green flag falls on Sunday. Kahne answered more questions from the media on Friday.
KASEY KAHNE – No. 9 Budweiser Ford Fusion – YOUR THOUGHTS ON SUNDAY? “I feel good about where we’re at and where we’ve been since we started practice here a week ago. Our 500 car, it’s a fast car. We still need to get some practice in, so tomorrow will be a big day for us to make a few more gains with it. We’ll run our 500 engine and just kind of see where we stand tomorrow, but I think you can learn a lot. The 150s – from where the track went – this rain may change some things a little more, but if it keeps going in that direction, we’ll be off, so we need to keep up with the race track and how it’s been changing, and I think we know where we need to be.”
WHAT DO YOU EXPECT AS FAR AS THE STYLE OF RACING ON SUNDAY? “The start is gonna go green and we’re all gonna be two and three-wide for a little while. It’s a long race and everybody knows that, so there are gonna be times, I think, when it gets somewhat single-file. It’s handling here and always has been, so it’ll make some single-file racing for a little bit, but everybody wants to race and everybody wants to pass and the opportunities that you get, you kind of have to take at the time. I just remember the 500s and the Talladega races you get single-file for a while. It’s 500 miles and you need to finish, so there might be a few spots where we’re kind of strung out, but once we get rolling and get to the end of the race it’s gonna be exciting. The way the package is right now, the way NASCAR has it – to me – is some pretty good exciting racing for the cars.”
WILL IT BE THE SAME TIGHT COMPETITION WE SAW YESTERDAY? “Definitely. I think early in the race and then definitely the last 200 miles will be very exciting and very close – trying to figure out where you need to be on the track, who needs to be pushing, who you need to be pushing and that kind of stuff. I think it’s gonna be a great race. I’m excited for it.”
HOW DOES THE CHESS GAME ASPECT WORK HERE WITH YOUR STYLE? “I think you learn a little bit each time you come here and I’ve learned a lot over the last six years. I felt like yesterday and in the Shootout I’ve had more cars actually pushing the 9 than what there has been in probably the six previous years combined, so I feel like I’m in a much better spot. People want to push a fast car and our car has been handling really good, and our Ford engine runs great, so, hopefully, that’ll help the whole chess game, the whole ‘Who do you get behind, and who is behind you and can you keep them behind you.’ You learn a lot during the race. I felt like the Shootout and the 150s were a little bit different as far as where you wanted to be on the track and when, and I think you’ll have to pay attention to that again on Sunday and figure it out and hopefully be there at the end.”
DO YOU LIKE THIS KIND OF RACING? “I love this type of racing. As long as you stay out of the wreck, I think it’s some of the most fun racing that we do each year, and then the handling part of Daytona, too. It’s not wide-open. You have to lift, you have to brake, you have to hit your marks and, depending on where you enter the corner with another car in front of you can blow your corner too. I think it’s pretty exciting. I really enjoy it.”
IS THIS YOUR BEST CHANCE TO WIN THE DAYTONA 500 AND WOULD YOU CONSIDER YOURSELF A FAVORITE? “I don’t know about a favorite, but I think we definitely have a shot. I just feel like this is the first time I’ve ever looked in my mirror and there are cars pushing. In the past, as a driver, you’re looking and it’s Kyle Busch or it’s Tony Stewart, Jimmie Johnson, Jeff Gordon. ‘OK, I want to be behind those guys,’ or I want to try to put myself in a position that they’re pushing me, and this year I think the 9 car is one of those cars that some of those guys are pushing as well because it’s a lot faster than it’s been in the past. So, yeah, definitely, I feel like we’ve got a great opportunity on Sunday. Tons of things are gonna happen on Sunday, but, going into the race, I feel like we have a great shot.”
DO YOU EVER GET ANNOYED SEEING THE HENDRICK CARS ALWAYS 1-2-3? “I think about that sometimes. I think everybody probably does. We got down here and the first practice it was 1-2-3-4 or something like that with Hendrick cars. They work hard. They stay ahead of the competition a lot of the time and that’s what you have to do. We’re always chasing them it seems like, but I feel like I’m in the best position I’ve been in in a while as far as at this race to have a shot to race with those guys and actually beat some of them.”
HAVE YOU FIGURED OUT WHO YOU RACE BEST WITH AND DO YOU TALK TO THEM BEFORE SUNDAY ABOUT HOOKING UP? “I think Kurt Busch, he’s been fast. I think the Penske cars are really good, so I look at those guys as cars to be around, and I feel like I’ve been racing either in front or behind the 14 with Tony as much as anybody. I was in the Shootout and we raced a ton together there, and then the 150 yesterday we were pushing each other back and forth there, too. But for some reason, we got to the front yesterday, he cleared the way in three and four and I just followed him through, and then we went on from there. So I think there are some good cars that my car will work really well with.”
IF YOU HAD TO PICK TWO OR THREE GUYS AS THE ONES TO BEAT AND A COUPLE OF DARKHORSES WHO WOULD THEY BE? “You can never count Jimmie out, so that’s one. Kurt Busch, to me, was the best car yesterday out of every car in both races. I thought Kurt was the fastest car, and Stewart is there every week and he’s there every Daytona 500. He hasn’t won one, so you know he’s gonna be right in the mix. After that probably Hornish for the guys that probably have a shot. I’d say Hornish, Keselowski – those guys were all in my race so I know how quick they were just racing around them, and Ambrose maybe. It seemed like those guys were all pretty good.”
ARE YOU PLEASANTLY SURPRISED YOU SEEM TO HAVE THE BEST FORD? “I felt like Carl probably had the best Ford in the Shootout and yesterday my car felt really good. Kenseth looked good at times. Biffle looked good at times. AJ, Elliott, I think there are a lot of them that were right there, and just by kind of talking with everybody it seemed like Carl was a little bit tight. His car didn’t turn as well as he wanted, so we’re starting the best out of all the Fords, but I think there are probably gonna be four or five really fast Fords all day Sunday, so I should have some partners. If we hit on ours right, I think we could all probably get together and hopefully stay in the front.”
Carl Edwards, driver of the No. 99 Aflac Ford Fusion, is still looking for his first win at Daytona International Speedway in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. He spoke to the media Friday afternoon about his chances this weekend.
CARL EDWARDS – No. 99 Aflac Ford Fusion – HOW IS YOUR CAR AND THOUGHTS ON SUNDAY? “Our Aflac Ford Fusion seems pretty good, not quite as good as Kasey Kahne’s Ford Fusion, though, so I’m really glad we have him as a teammate to go lean on. In the qualifying race, we got a lot of really good racing in. I learned a lot. Bob and I got to make some adjustments to figure out what was wrong with our setup and why it wasn’t quite as good as it needed to be, and, fortunately, everybody did a really good job of making it through the end of the race without any catastrophe. So we can all go work on our cars and go practice a little bit tomorrow and hopefully have a great race. I’m really looking forward to this race. The cars drive really neat on the race track. The rules package is very, very good. It’s very exciting for us drivers.”
YOU SET THE PACE EARLY SATURDAY. HOW BIG OF A DIFFERENCE IS THE CAR WHEN IT’S UP FRONT VERSUS IN TRAFFIC? “I learned a little bit about the differences Saturday night. We led a bunch and that felt really good and I kind of got shuffled back and I thought, ‘That’s no big deal. We’ll go right back to the front because our car is really good,’ and it was a lot harder to get to the front than I thought it was gonna be. So I learned some things there, but the cars are different just as you would expect. The car drivers better and handles better and has more downforce up front, but the great thing is the car is just fast enough and the restrictor plate is just open enough that you can choose a different line. When you’re in line with someone, like I was with the 24 car in the qualifying race, I could go in the corner and move up a lane and look for some grip, and then when we’d come off the corner we’d be in the same place. I didn’t lose a lot of ground. That’s what’s fun about racing right now is you can choose a line on the race track and a bunch of lines are just as fast as other ones.”
ARE YOU DOING MORE FOR SPONSORS AS FAR AS APPEARANCES TO ADD VALUE, AND HOW DO YOU INTEGRATE THEM INTO YOUR FAMILY LIFE? “I do have a great group of sponsors and I’m very fortunate that the people I’m partnered up with are doing well right now. Aflac is a company that helps people when they need it the most. If you guys don’t have Aflac, it is a great thing to have. I broke my foot last year and they paid me cash. If anybody gets sick and they go to the hospital, they get cash for the trip to the hospital. They’re doing well and I believe in them, even in these times. We just did a deal with Subway. Part of our economic crisis is due to the cost of health care, and a lot of that boils down to the choices you make with how you treat your body. Subway, that’s my choice when I go to eat something and I need it in a hurry because it’s healthful. They’re doing well now. Scotts, the same thing – trying to re-sell your house. They’re doing very well because people are trying to keep their houses up to keep the value up, but, me personally, the way I interact with those sponsors right now versus two or three years ago, I’m a little more conscious of their value – what they’re getting for their money – and thinking that way has led me to do some more things with them, things that I maybe a couple of years ago would have said, ‘I don’t have time for that. I’ve got some other things going on.’ I feel that right now is the time everybody is in the trenches and you’ve got to do the best you can to be one team. I think you see that all the way up to NASCAR making decisions about things like this green-white-checkered change. They want to give those fans, sponsors, the TV people the value that they pay for. I appreciate you guys humoring me talking about my sponsors, but I think we all agree that it’s more important than ever.”
HOW DOES THE CHESS GAME ASPECT OF DAYTONA MATCH WITH YOUR STYLE? “I was doing a lot of thinking about that the last week or so. It’s interesting. It’s a neat way to race, and I think that’s what makes it so much fun to watch here at Daytona because there are a couple different types of racing going on. There’s the restrictor plate racing, where everybody is kind of in a pack and everyone can go the same speed, but then there’s the strategy and the handling and it really is a chess game. When you go down in that second short chute and you’ve got a run on the guy in front of you it’s like playing poker or something. You’ve got to weigh all the probabilities of success if you do something. ‘If I go to the high side, where has the pack been running down the back straightaway because once I get to the back straightaway do I want to be on the high side or the low side?’ You have to think farther ahead than at a place like Atlanta or California – a track where the speeds are the same, but the strategy is not the same. For me, it’s been something that I thought I had it all mastered. I won a truck race here and have run really well a couple races, but then there are times like that qualifying race. If there was a wrong move to be made I made it, and it was terrible so I’m learning. It’s a different challenge that’s for sure. I’m not as good as I can be at it yet.”
DO YOU KNOW WHICH CARS YOU WANT TO RACE WITH SUNDAY AND WILL YOU TALK TO THAT DRIVER BEFOREHAND? “I don’t know yet. There were some surprises to me. I only raced in one of the qualifiers and that’s where I got the best feel for who was fast and there were some surprises. I talked about AJ Allmendinger earlier. He was very fast. He’s a guy I can work with. We’re both kind of pulling for the same team there and working for the same team. Kasey Kahne, I think, is the guy that I look to as far as trying to hook up with for the same two reasons. He’s very fast. They seem to have it figured out and our success is good for one another. Then Biffle was up there in front and had a little bit of bad luck on that restart with Jimmie in the qualifying race, so I feel more strongly about my teammates and my ability to work with them this time than I have in a long time and that’s who I’m gonna look to work with as my teammates.”
DID YOU WANT TO HAVE THE NEW ENGINE IN YOUR CAR? “I’m fine with the old engine. It’s been great. That has not been a limiting factor for us in the past. I think that’s the right thing for us to do is stick with what we know works and not risk too much. Right now, we’re starting the race to make the chase and you can’t give up anything right now trying stuff, but as we get later in the year and we either have more confidence or less to lose, then maybe we try it more.”
DO YOU GET ANNOYED WITH ALL THE SUCCESS HENDRICK TEAMS HAVE HAD AND CONTINUED TO HAVE? “It’s been annoying for a long time. It’s unreal. It’s very frustrating because, obviously, we’re competing with them. I don’t know who gets the most awards in here, but it would be like if Newton kept getting trophies and you guys all just sat and stared at him. It’s frustrating, but then the other side of that is we look over there – and I know people say this a lot, but it’s true – you say, ‘That’s how good we can be. If we do everything right, we can do that.’ I know what that feels like. In 2008, I felt like everytime we went to the track I’m like, ‘We can beat them. We can do it.” So they’re inspirational as well as frustrating, I guess.”
WHAT DO YOU LEARN WHEN THINGS ARE GOING BADLY? “I learned a lot. I used this quote one other time, but experience is what you get when you don’t get what you wanted, and I got some experience last season. The thing I learned and I was really proud of is I’m a goal-oriented person, so I set out my goals. I say, ‘I’m gonna win 10 races. I’m gonna win at Martinsville, a road course and a championship.’ Those were my goals last year. When I came to Daytona, that’s what I wanted to do. About halfway through the season I realized, ‘Damn, if I make the chase that’s gonna be a pretty good accomplishment.’ So I decided to make that my goal, ‘I’m gonna make this chase and I’m gonna do the best I can and get as many points as I can.’ So once I made that little shift in my thinking and headed down that path we were successful at that and it was a lot of work, and I think I was better overall in changing me course and saying, ‘All right, these are my new goals,’ than just flailing out there for something that wasn’t gonna happen because we just weren’t prepared as a team to do as well as we wanted to, so I guess that’s a long way of saying I learned that every once in a while you have to take a step back and say, ‘What is it that I can possibly accomplish? Let’s get that done and we’ll build from there,’ and that’s what I learned.”
HOW DO YOU DECIDE WHICH LINE TO GET IN ON SUNDAY IN THE CLOSING LAPS? “I don’t know how it’s gonna affect my strategy. Mark, in our race, he chose the top line to start the race, and then he led the whole thing on the bottom. I didn’t see how he got to the bottom. I didn’t see how all of that worked, but it appeared the top line was the place to be. I’m sure if you really looked at tape and took stock of where every car was running, you could come up with a real probability of what place is the best one to be in and where you make your moves and all of that, and it feels like to me the top is good, but, man, every time I go up there and run around the top, somebody will pass me on the bottom. And if I’m on the bottom, somebody ends up charging to the front on the top, so I think it’s not so much about choosing and having a plan, it’s about recognizing at the time what is the best. I watch the guys who are really good at it and it seems like they get a sense for where the momentum is at and that’s where they go. I don’t have a strategy. I’ve got 499 miles to figure out what I’m gonna do and then I’ve got to implement it, but it is interesting. It’s hard to decide when you’re in the car, but that’s part of the fun.”
IS THERE ANYTHING YOU WANTED TO GET DONE TODAY THAT YOU DIDN’T BECAUSE OF THE RAIN? “We were hoping to try some stuff that we learned from Kasey’s car, but we’ll try that tomorrow. Other than that, I’ve just been hanging around. I get to hang out with my mom and stepdad, they came down with me today, and then I guess later on I’m gonna up in the ESPN booth and hang out for the qualifying show. There’s really not much you can do, except hang out and make the most of it.”
WHAT IS THE FAMILY UPDATE? “Kate is doing really well. We put the crib together last night. It felt like building, but she’s doing really well. I’ve been taking pictures of her belly from the same point. I have my spot on the floor. I get down and take a picture and she stands there on the same spot and we’ve been flipping through the pictures and the belly just gets bigger and bigger. I asked her if it felt like it’s moving down at all because they say that’s what happens before the baby comes out, so we reviewed the pictures and the last picture looks a lot different. I’m a little nervous. It won’t be long. The due date is Wednesday. I’ve got my new phone that Sprint gave me that’s working well and I’m just waiting for a phone call.”
COULD YOU ADD COMMENTARY FROM DW WITH THOSE PICTURES? “How cool would it be to have a time lapse photo of your child? Take a picture every week of the kid. After a couple years that would make a pretty funny film. Darrell would probably come and commentate the film and some day my daughter would shoot me over it, but it would be funny.”
IF YOUR WIFE GOES IN LABOR THIS WEEKEND, WHAT HAPPENS? “I guess we’ll have a baby (laughter). I’m not getting into it because anything can happen, so we’re just gonna go race and hopefully all the baby happening will happen on Monday.”
HOW DO YOU LOOK AT CREW CHIEF CHANGES FOR MAJOR TEAMS AND WHY DO SOME WORK WELL AND SOME DON’T? “I don’t know that it has to do so much with the change, it’s just the sport. If you look at our team in 2008, they did some poll and Bob was the best crew chief in the garage. Everything was great, and then we go to 2009 and we didn’t win a race. If we would have made a change and had the same result in 2009 everyone would have said, ‘Well, that’s because Bob left. It’s because Bob is gone.’ But I think I believe the crew chief’s job is the toughest job in the garage. I think that every once in a while they just hit on something. They figure out some piece of information or they come up with a different way to do things and it just works. As far as interactions between crew chiefs, I’ve had a lot of crew chiefs and some of them you just get that instant feel or you feel like, ‘Hey, this guy knows what I’m talking about.’ It’s a very efficient communication and that’s great. Bob and I had that from day one. If I come in and say, ‘This thing is tight right here.’ He knows. I can see it in his eyes that he knows exactly what I’m talking about, and we’ve got it down now where I can just say, ‘Hey, it’s a one-tight over here when I lost the throttle and it’s a three-loose over here,’ and he knows the exact degree to which I’m talking about. I think there are a lot of variables is what I’m saying. It’s really hard to figure out why it works sometimes and why it doesn’t. Kurt could go win 10 races this year with his new crew chief and have success like they’ve never had, or they can go the other way. Sometimes it’s hard to quantify exactly what was going on there.”
WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT THE BUMP DRAFING FOR SUNDAY? WILL THERE BE A LOT OF CRAZINESS? “There will be guys that just go at it, but there always are. It hurts when you hit the fence, not just physically, but that’s not the way anyone wants to start their season. I saw a lot of people in that qualifying race that I was in that were exercising very good judgment. I mean, driving right to the edge. It looked like disaster was gonna happen, and then all of a sudden everything would work out, and somebody would give and somebody would take. It ended up being a very good balance and I think no matter how loose NASCAR’s rules become on the race track, I think there’s only a certain limit you’ll see everybody go to and that’s right at the limit of disaster, and that’s where we’ll race. The cool thing is and the good thing about this is that NASCAR, by loosening everything up, you just feel a little less pressure like, ‘Hey, I can go try some things. I can go race a little harder. If push comes to shove, we can do something about it out here.’ You just feel like you’re a little more free, and I think that’s good. It feels a little better to race like that, to me. I think what you’ll see on the race track won’t be a lot different until the last lap and then all hell will probably break loose, but I think it’s a good move overall.”
HOW DO YOU SEE BALANCING BEING A DAD AND A GOOD RACE CAR DRIVER? “People that don’t sit in the race car always try to come up with reasons for success or lack of success. On the baby thing, I think someone said Darrell Waltrip didn’t really have his best success and championships until he had a child. I think every person is different. For me, I probably shouldn’t say this but I’ll just say it. I always felt our mission in life is to have children and pass on your genes and your legacy lives on and all that. I feel like I can just kind of go for it now. I’ve kind of accomplished that, so I don’t think I’m gonna hold back any. If anything, I feel a little bit more free. That might change once I see that little baby there, but I don’t think you’ll see anything different from me on the race track. I’ve got a very well structured life in the fact that I have great people that I work for and with, and I’ve got the airplane and my home base is home, and I’ve got a good group of people around to help me, so I think I’ll be fine. But it is a question. A couple people have commented and said things about it, but I think it’ll be all right.”
HAVE YOU TALKED TO ANYBODY ABOUT IT? “No, I haven’t really talked to anyone about it in that vain, but it’s not just what’s really going on, it’s what’s publicized. If you look at somebody like Matt Kenseth. He’s got a great son, Ross, and I don’t think him having a son affected his career and his ability to win championships, but then I think when you see someone that’s going along and then they have a child right here in the limelight and everybody sees it, and maybe they can corroborate that with some sort of success, decline or acceleration. I mean, if I go out and win 12 races this year and win the championship, they’re gonna say it’s because I’m a new father and it changed my life and I’ve got this renewed focus. And if I don’t, then I’m sure there will be people who blame my child for that, but I don’t think those things are dependent on one another.”
WALTER MORRISON PASSED AWAY YESTERDAY AT 90. HE INVENTED THE FRISBEE. WHAT IS YOUR FRISBEE STRATEGY NOW? “I’ve got to thank Walter because through that experience I learned a lot about my sponsor and about myself. Let me tell you something, I rode my motorcycle over to the place I was throwing that Frisbee. I’m telling you, you just don’t know. You don’t know what can happen, but I broke my foot playing regular Frisbee. And everybody is like, ‘Oh, you were playing ultimate Frisbee and that’s such a great sport.’ I’m like, ‘No, I was just throwing the Frisbee.’ I don’t know. It’s just what it is, I guess.”