Kahne and Ragan Forced To Back-Up Fusions; Biffle and Kenseth Like Slick Daytona Track

Kahne and Ragan Forced To Back-Up Fusions; Biffle and Kenseth Like Slick Daytona Track

 

David Ragan, driver of the No. 6 UPS Ford Fusion, and Kasey Kahne, driver of the No. 9 Budweiser Ford Fusion, were involved in a multi-car accident during today’s first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series practice session. Both Ragan and Kahne will be forced to back-up cars as a result of their damage.
 
KASEY KAHNE – No. 9 Budweiser Ford Fusion – “I don’t know what happened. The 18 and the 6 spun and they were down under the white line. I got slowed up and then the 6 came spinning back up and down the track again. I was surprised he came back up, but I just clipped him. I didn’t hit him hard, but hard enough to ruin our car.”
 
DAVID RAGAN – No. 6 UPS Ford Fusion – “I was getting into turn three and we got a little bit free and the 18 ran up the track and just barely touched us. I didn’t need much to help me go around because I was already a little free. I just needed a little bit of room to work with and the 18 was right there and probably took some air off our spoiler and touched us a little bit. That’s unfortunate this early in practice to tear one up. We’ve got a good car that will be ready to go and, hopefully, we can make a few laps here and it won’t rain. It’s a shame that happened to us this early.”
 
Greg Biffle, driver of the No. 16 3M Ford Fusion, and Matt Kenseth, driver of the No. 17 Jeremiah Weed Ford Fusion, are both in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Top-12 heading into this weekend’s Coke Zero 400. They each conducted Q&A sessions at Daytona International Speedway to discuss the weekend.
 
GREG BIFFLE – No. 16 3M Ford Fusion – “It’s slick. It seems like the old slip and slide is out there. I’m out of breath because I ran all the way over here to make sure I got here in time. It was pretty uneventful for us, other than I almost ran into the 39. He got a little bit loose getting in the corner and kind of shut it down. That’s the way accidents happen, a chain-reaction, because he came out of the gas because he got a little loose. Thank goodness there was nobody right on me, but, other than that it was pretty uneventful. The car drives pretty good. This is my 500 car we brought back. It ran good in the 500, obviously, so we figured we can improve on it a little bit here and make it a little bit better. I’m pretty happy with the first practice. The weather is holding off, so that’s good for us.” 
 
DO YOU FEEL A NOTICEABLE DIFFERENCE IN SPEED WITH THE BIGGER PLATE? “Yeah, I think it’s tremendously faster. It’s a lot faster. I didn’t look at the lap time exactly, but Erwin told me it was about a second faster. You can kind of feel the sensation of speed inside the car that we’re running a little bit faster.” 
 
IS THAT A GOOD OR BAD THING? “I don’t know that it’s gonna change all that much. Faster when you’re racing is kind of always better, but that’s not always the case. What it’s gonna do is give the car more acceleration. We’re all gonna run down in the corner two or three-wide, bunched up, and after we get about 10 laps on our tires – usually after about three laps here everybody is coming out of the gas – but what’s gonna happen is everybody is gonna be coming out of the gas because their car is slipping and sliding, but when you go back to the gas it’s gonna have a lot more acceleration, so I think you’re gonna be able to complete passes easier with that extra power. If the guy beside you can’t get the gas down because he’s sliding or he’s a little loose or tight – whatever the case is – and you can get the gas down, I think the better handling cars are gonna have more of an advantage with that bigger plate because they’re gonna be able to put the gas down and accelerate away from the guy they’re racing with. We’ll just wait and see. That’s pretty fast for July. July isn’t usually quite as fast as February, obviously, so I wouldn’t rule out somebody changing the plate yet, but the cars are running pretty fast right off.” 
WHAT’S YOUR TAKE ON THE NATIONWIDE STUFF TODAY? “This is a tough place to introduce a car in July. If you look back at the last four Nationwide races here, I ran a couple of them, and they are – by far – the hardest cars to drive. For some reason, here in July, they are a handful. Remember Dale Jr. drove away from the field and the field got strung out? We never see that in restrictor plate racing, so, that being said, to bring a brand new car here with no history is gonna be tough, and they’re finding out it’s tough. All I can say is that I’m happy I’m not running this Nationwide race. I love running Nationwide races, and they’ll get them handling better and driving better, but nobody knows what to expect and nobody knows how they’re gonna drive. It’s really hot and slick out there. The Cup cars are a stinking handful, so I can only imagine how hard it’s gonna be for those guys.” 
 
DOES THAT 3 WRANGLER CAR BRING BACK ANY MEMORIES FOR YOU? “Yeah, I remember seeing that car years ago. It’s a figure of our history that kind of stands out, and it’s kind of neat seeing those retro paint schemes, whether it’s the Tide car or Valvoline or the Wrangler car. It’s pretty cool to see that.” 
 
AT THE END OF LAST WEEK’S RACE YOU WERE THE ONLY RFR CAR ON THE LEAD LAP. THERE WAS A LOT MADE OUT OF IT.   WAS THAT AS BAD AS IT SEEMED? “Yeah. It’s as bad as it seems. There’s no doubt we’re struggling and some of it was just particular situations. My car was just really tight, tight, tight, tight. We kind of made a lunge for life at it, which Erwin wanted to make an adjustment – raise or lower the track bar and take wedge in or out. I don’t remember what we did, but that got it tighter. Then I was dead in the water, so to speak. That hurt me. I was running about a half-a-lap down from the leader at that point, kind of maintaining, but after that we just dropped like a rock. If it wasn’t for that adjustment and, if the caution would have come out at the end, I certainly think we could have finished 12th or somewhere in there – maybe even up further because we were faster than a lot of those cars at the back of the lead lap. We just never got a chance to catch up because we had to start at the back by getting that lucky dog on that last caution with 18 to go. One more caution and I think we could have been nearing a top-10 finish, but woulda, shoulda, coulda.” 
 
BOBBY LABONTE IS MAKING HIS 600TH START ON SATURDAY. DO YOU SEE YOURSELF STILL RACING AT 46 YEARS OF AGE? “I’ve thought about what you do later on. I look at Mark and these other guys and racing is just in your blood. I think it’s just so hard to just up and quit what you love to do. Everybody says, ‘Oh yeah, it would be great to sit on a beach with an umbrella and a drink,’ but that’s great for about a week or two weeks, maybe – shorts and flip-flops everyday – but, at some point, it’s like, ‘OK, I’m ready to do something.’ I’ll tell you what, I got a little taste of it last week at Loudon when I sat up on the pit box in the Nationwide race. I sat up there twiddling my thumbs. Everybody is coming out to driver intros. I’m sitting on the pit box watching driver intros, and watching them get in the cars and all that. Normally, I’m sitting in my bus watching on TV or something, but sitting on the pit box I was mad that I wasn’t able to be doing that on that day, and I’m sitting on the other side of the fence, so to speak. So I can imagine what it’s gonna be like when you have to hang that hat up, or you’re gonna go do something else. It’s probably tough to do.” 
 
HAS ANYTHING TURNED WITH BAKER CURB AND THE 27 CAR? “I keep hearing rumors, but haven’t got anything put together. They said they might have something for Loudon, and then they said they might have something for Chicago. Since it hasn’t materialized yet, it may not be coming together, but I know they’re working on it. I wouldn’t be surprised if we ran a few more before the end of the season. I know they’re working hard at it, and I’d love to get back in the car.” 
 
IS THIS PLACE LIKE A WILDCARD? “This is completely different in our sport. When you look at the rundown in February and look at the rundown at Talladega, you look at the rundown of this July race and the Talladega race in the fall, the top 10 don’t look like the normal top 10 of any of the other race tracks we go to. It’s kind of all mixed up and that’s because of luck and a lot of it is the right line at the right time, a lot of it is missing the accident. There are so many luck factors involved. The cars, when they’re on this big race track and they’ve got a restrictor plate on them, it’s less of a factor. Everybody is more so close to the same speed it’s just a matter of what lane you’re in at what time. The speed of the car makes a difference, certainly. If you have a car that’s not very fast, it’s gonna make it difficult to get up there. But this is a different kind of speed, I should say, than Loudon. Loudon is a different kind of speed. Loudon is a place where the car really has to stick to the race track and handle. This is a different kind of speed. It still has to handle and all that, but this restrictor plate trim is a lot different.” 
 
ANY DIFFERENCE IN ONE AND TWO WITH THE PATCH? “Not really, because that patch is sort of in the center and sometimes you run over it with one wheel on the edge of it. It was more in the middle of the car and I saw the patch go by a few times and it really appears like it’s going about through the center of the car still, maybe the right-front tire going over it, but we really don’t notice it that much. You can see it, but it’s really not a factor. It’s not big enough to have any grip to it.” 
 
THE SLICKNESS IS NORMAL DAYTONA? “Yeah, that’s just normal Daytona in July.” 
 
MATT KENSETH – No. 17 Jeremiah Weed Ford Fusion – ARE THE CARS A HANDFUL? “Yeah, but I like that, I love that. You kind of knew it would be with the big plate and we’re going pretty fast, and the pavement wore out, which is what makes Daytona great in my opinion. I mean, you run real fast on new tires and you’re able to pass, and I think having tires and having your car handling is gonna be way more important than probably drafting and being quite as much at the mercy of other drivers and being in the right group, if we can get some long runs. I look forward to that. It’s gonna be fun. This is probably, depending on what they use for asphalt when they repave it, this might be the last time we ever race here, in my career anyway, in these kind of conditions. I’m looking forward to it. It’s gonna be slick and sliding around a lot, and it’s gonna be fun.” 
 
THE NATIONWIDE CARS SEEM TO BE A HANDFUL. WHAT ARE YOU HEARING ABOUT THAT NEW CAR? “I haven’t heard anything about the Nationwide cars except for what you just told me, to be real honest with you. I haven’t heard anything about them. I haven’t talked to Carl or anybody that’s driven them yet. I didn’t get down until today, so I don’t really know. I saw some pictures of the car and I think they look really cool. I think the front looks awesome compared to our cars. I think that will be a good upgrade when they upgrade our stuff. I think they look neat, but, other than that, I don’t really know anything about them.” 
 
ARE YOU RUNNING SOME NATIONWIDE NEW CAR RACES THIS YEAR? “Right now on the plan I believe I’m running Atlanta, but I think that’s an old-style car, so I don’t think so. I’d like to. I was hoping to be able to run Michigan because they’re gonna run them there, but I don’t think that worked out.” 
 
DO YOU THINK NASCAR SHOULD GO BACK TO LETTING EVERYBODY TEST? “I like it how it is. I don’t think they should open up testing. I think the less testing we do, the better. I’d rather run four more races than to have four tests or eight tests. I’d rather go to the race track and race. There are some places sometimes where it would be nice, if there are rule changes or something like that, to be able to go and test every once in a while. I don’t feel like testing, at least we haven’t found the right place or combination of tire, to test where we really learn very much. It seems like some teams maybe have, but we really haven’t. There aren’t really a lot of tracks out there where they don’t run touring races at, so it’s hard to find places to go and do that. I think there could be benefits to running a little bit at some places, but I certainly don’t think we need to get it back to how it used to be, especially when you’ve got a bigger team. If everybody gets seven tests, then you’ve got a hauler somewhere every week. You’re going all the way to California and all the way to New Hampshire and Daytona, and I don’t think anybody can afford that. I’m not really convinced that it would make the racing better. I don’t think more testing is gonna make the racing any better. I think the racing has been pretty good, you’ve just got to work hard to figure out your stuff during the week.” 
 
CAN YOU TELL A DIFFERENCE WITH THE BIGGER PLATE AND WILL CONDITIONS CHANGE WHEN TEMPS GO DOWN AT NIGHT? “I could not tell a big change in the plate, but everything else is so different that I don’t know how I’d be able to tell that. It’s been four or five months since we’ve been here. There is a spoiler on the car and not a wing. It’s July and not February. There are so many things that are different that I can’t honestly tell the difference once we get going. I can’t tell if I’m going 200 or 195. You’re out there running with those other cars and trying to get your car to handle, but I will say that it seemed like it didn’t take long into the run where most people had to start letting off the gas, and handling is gonna be really important. If you didn’t start letting off the gas and you’re trying to make moves in the middle or do certain things, I saw a lot of out of control cars out there at certain times that were ready to wreck, but I think that’s great. That’s what racing is – to try and drive your car faster through the corner than everybody else. When they repave it, and how Talladega is now, anybody can drive that. You can hold it wide-open all day and never slip a tire and never do anything, so I enjoy the challenge of running down the straightaway and looking forward to the next corner and hoping you’re gonna make it through and figure out how to negotiate through there the best you can. I think that’s fun.” 
 
HOW HAS IT BEEN GOING WITH JIMMY SO FAR, AND WILL TODD’S INFLUENCE BE FELT AT SPEEDWAYS LIKE THIS AS LONG AS HE’S WITH ROUSH FENWAY? “Yeah, I’ve known Jimmy for a long time. It was good last week. We had a good weekend. We didn’t run well, but when we unloaded it off the truck, that was the slowest we were all weekend, and when we put it on the truck, it was the best we were all weekend. We made improvement all weekend and we made it better. Even though it still wasn’t a great showing, we definitely made it better the whole time. Practice today is like practice at Chicago because the cars all really need to handle and are sliding around so much, so we’ve just been really working on handling stuff and not speedway stuff as much. But, I talked to Todd during practice about what our cars were doing and he stopped by to see how we were doing and help us work on our stuff, so Todd was great doing what he was doing with us, but he’s real great at the speedway stuff as well and helping the organization with all that.” 
 
YOU WON THE DAYTONA 500 AND JAMIE WON TALLADEGA LAST YEAR. ARE YOU LOOKING GOOD OUT THERE NOW? “I don’t know. Our speedway stuff has been better the last couple of years for sure. We’ve performed better and been running better. Greg, I think, had a shot to win the 500 and I think he had a shot to win Talladega as well this year, and I think one of the races last year he was right there at the end, too. Greg has been running real fast at these tracks and running real good as well, so it’s anybody’s game. I hope it gets into a little bit longer runs so handling really comes into play, but it’s gonna be hard to tell who the favorite is until you get into a longer run and see how everybody’s cars are handling.” 
 
DO YOU HAVE ANY MEMORIES OF THE BLUE No. 3 CAR HERE? “I haven’t seen it yet, to be honest with you. I haven’t seen it yet or watched any of that. I guess I heard about it and saw the car sitting someone in a picture or something, but I think it’s pretty cool. I’m sure they’ll sell a lot of diecasts and t-shirts. I think it’s cool that he’s driving the 3. I think everybody thought someday he was gonna go drive the 3 again and, really, to be honest, it makes me remember more about running the Busch Series with Dale Jr., and always ran the 3 car and racing against each other for championships. We both started the same year and moved up to Cup together the same year, so that really brings up more of those memories, to be honest, than anything. It just reminds me of how much fun we had racing for those couple of years in the Busch Series, now the Nationwide Series.” 
 
ARE YOU RACING ANY DIFFERENTLY THESE DAYS THAN PREVIOUSLY? “The situation is a lot different than I think the guys you’re talking about. I’ve been racing to stay on the lead lap and to try to get the best finish we can and try to cling to a spot in the top 12 to try and get into the chase, while we’re trying to improve our program. So that’s a lot different than racing aggressive for a win or that type of thing. It’s way different when you get in the middle of the pack. You don’t have the luxury of having a lot of room to let other people go and get out of their way and then catch back up to them later. You’re pretty much racing your guts out every lap to keep every position that you can and usually aggravating the faster cars at the same time because you are kind of in the way. That’s kind of where we’ve been lately, but, not really. If you’re in that position to try to win, you’re always gonna do everything you can to win and race as hard as you can without doing someone wrong, or running someone over and doing any of that. For me, that doesn’t really change. Some of the Sears Point stuff was wild just because we’re at a half-groove race track trying to run two-wide around corners that you can barely get one car through. Nobody wants to give, so that’s kind of why you have that at Sears Point, but I don’t know about the other races. I guess I didn’t see any of that.” 
 
CAN YOU TALK ABOUT YOUR PING-PONG MATCH TOMORROW? “I don’t know much about it. I think there’s a tennis player I’m playing ping-pong with. It sounds cool. I don’t think I’ve ever played ping-pong.”
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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