Saturday, Dec 09

Ford Racing: Drivers Q&A from Preseason Thunder


WHAT ARE YOUR FIRST IMPRESSIONS OF THIS NEW SURFACE? “It is definitely smoother. It is funny, testing the Grand-Am car, it feels the same. It has little choppy bumps in it. It is not glass smooth like Talladega feels like, but it definitely has a ton of grip. I think the previous tests showed, just looking at what people were saying that we are going to run three or four wide. Three-wide might be okay, but this place isn’t wide enough for four-wide like at Talladega. The crazy thing I am struggling with is that the wall doesn’t feel straight when it comes through the corners. It almost kind of has little points where it jots back at you. If you are up against the wall, you almost have to watch where the wall moves. That is something, for me, I have noticed. Other than that, it is the same old Daytona.”

WHAT ARE SOME OF THE KEY THINGS YOU GUYS ARE TRYING TO FIGURE OUT ON THIS FIRST DAY OF TESTING? “We are just messing with stuff in the race car to help with speed. We can do stuff in single car runs to look at what helps straightaway speed, cornering speed and stuff for the race. Stuff that maybe you don’t have notes on and can go to if you need more speed or handling. Handling won’t really be key anymore, it will be key to be fast in the corners. We are messing with stuff like that.”

WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON THE NEW NOSE AND HOW DO YOU THINK IT WILL AFFECT RACING? “It is hard to tell right now. I know that they at least look a lot better which is a good thing. The way the nose is going to race I am not really sure. It is tough right now after this morning session because we are out there by ourselves. It seems like maybe it isn’t as abrupt when it does hit the ground. The old splitters, there was so much of it there; because it was big it was tough to tell if it was hitting the ground and if you hit it hard it really smashed the nose. Those are my initial looks at it, but we won’t really know how it changes racing until we get into big packs here at Daytona and then in aero traffic at other race tracks.”

YOU ARE ON RECORD THAT THE SECOND HALF OF LAST YEAR WAS BETTER ON THE TRACK BUT OFF THE TRACK STUFF BECAME A BIT DIFFICULT. NOW THAT ALL OF THAT IS SETTLED, WHAT ARE YOUR EXPECTATIONS FOR THIS YEAR AND HOW WILL YOUR NEW TEAMMATE MARCOS AMBROSE IMPACT YOU? “Well, it isn’t so much Marcos as it is going down to two cars. I think that will be really good for the team. This team has had a lot of good resources, but it was just spread too thin. Obviously we went through a rough time at the end of last year that we fought through and hopefully we are better because of that. We are more funded now and more money helps. We have some new race cars to start the year, which we didn’t have last year, and I am really excited about that. I think that overall last year we had a good race team. We weren’t great, we weren’t really good. We were good. I felt like we were a top-15 team last year. We need to work on consistency throughout the race. Ever race, for basically the last six months, I felt like we were a top-10 team at some point during the race but we would lose that at certain areas and couldn’t get it back. Homestead is a great example. We were running fourth and then in one run we fell back to 25th and fought all day to get it back. Only because of a fortunate yellow were we able to get a chance to get that back and we were able to finish fifth. It is not even mistakes.”

HOW DO YOU TAKE THAT NEXT STEP? “We have to figure out why our car is on that edge that when it goes bad, it goes really bad. If we can get better with that, I think we will be okay because we have the speed. For me it is a critical year. We have to win. We have to be more consistent and win some races and get that off our back. It felt like each year as a driver I have progressed. The first couple of years I was just trying to survive. In 2009 it was just trying to get through the year as a fourth non-funded car. Last year I thought we worked together and gave ourselves opportunities to win, but didn’t take advantage of it at times. We have to give ourselves more of those opportunities and we need to come through and win. We need a lot more top-10’s and some top-fives. I think we have to have a 12-13 place average in both qualifying and races. If you do that, you are going to have a good shot at being in the Chase.



IS THERE A CHANCE WE COULD SEE THREE, FOUR OR EVEN FIVE WIDE RACING HERE AT DAYTONA WITH THIS NEW SURFACE? “I think that Martin (Truex Jr.) said it best. It is just going to be wild. The track is so smooth and has so much grip that there is no telling what people will try. The last lap is going to be insane.”  WHAT IS YOUR TAKE ON THE PROPOSED CHANGES TO THE POINTS SYSTEM?  “I am not sure what the final decision is yet, but if it makes it similar, for instance if I am running 12th or something I don’t even know how many points that is worth and I have been doing this long enough that I should know. So if it makes it simpler for the competitors and the fans to follow along and understand, then I think it is a good move. We all race so hard for the wins that whatever points system it is, we are going to race hard.”

I ASSUME YOU HAVE CHOSEN TO RACE FOR POINTS IN THE CUP SERIES. ARE YOU STILL PLANNING ON RUNNING THE NATIONWIDE RACES AND WOULD YOU HAVE LIKED TO SEE A GRANDFATHER CLAUSE THAT WOULD ALLOW YOU TO COMPETE FOR BOTH TITLES? “Yeah, that would have been nice for myself and Brad (Keselowski) and whoever else. We are going to run for the Cup championship. I am going to start with the No. 60 team, running every race. We are going to start that way, see how it goes, and we still have the owners championship to go for and all those wins to race for. That is fun. That is what makes the Nationwide series fun. I would really love to have a championship battle with Brad. Especially with him because of how well he ran last year. It would be nice to be able to race him for it. My plan is to run every race, but if we get eight or 10 races in and it isn’t looking good, then I don’t know what we would do. Whatever looks best for our Cup program at that point.”

YOU GUYS WERE LAUGHING TALKING ABOUT HOW CRAZY IT IS GOING TO BE HERE AT DAYTONA. CAN YOU PUT THAT INTO PERSPECTIVE? “I think a lot of guys will be thinking about those 43rd, 42nd, 41st positions. You know, one, two, three points for the first half of the race. I think you will see a race like I have never been a part of here at Daytona. It is a different race track now. It is going to be wild.”

HOW DO YOU DEVELOP TRUST AND RESPECT FOR EACH OTHER THAT HAS TO BE HAD OUT THERE? “It is just such a dynamic race and if you are in the middle of the pack, everybody is trying to get a little advantage. Sometimes guys are trying to pull out to cool their engines off or whatever. There are times where you get put into a position and you realize, ‘Man if this guy behind me doesn’t lift a little bit or give me some space then it is over.’ It is pretty amazing how good everyone works together. There have been a few times where I could not thank the guy next to me enough for realizing what is going on, moving over or giving me a break. I have only been doing this for five or six years now, but it seems like everyone is getting better and better at giving and taking at these races. That can all change in an instant. A guy could leave you out or move you, but for the most part that doesn’t happen until the very end.”

AT THE END OF LAST SEASON YOU TALKED A LOT ABOUT MOMENTUM AND CARRYING THAT OVER TO THIS YEAR. CAN YOU DESCRIBE HOW THAT MIGHT WORK AND TURN INTO SOMETHING TANGIBLE AS OPPOSED TO JUST A FEELING? “First of all, I had to come up here and tell Martin that I really appreciated him getting that flat tire because I think I would have finished second at Homestead. The way we finished the 2010 season is the way we would like to run all the time. I feel the way our team is structured right now that we are set to have one of our best seasons. That goes for all of the Roush teams, including ours. I used to not believe in momentum, but now I am starting to understand how it works and I am hoping to capitalize on it this season.”

HAVE YOU NOTICED ANY DIFFERENCE WITH THE NEW SPLITTER? “I haven’t done enough testing with it yet. I think it looks great though and it looks a lot more like the cars we drive on the street, which is good.”

BRISTOL WILL BE THE FIRST REAL SHORT TRACK RACE THIS SEASON. HOW DO YOU PREPARE FOR THAT AND WHAT IS IT LIKE BEING IN THE MIDDLE OF THE PACK THERE? “It is always strange going from running the super speedways to the first short track race of the season. Things happen a lot quicker. It is a lot different style racing. Bristol is just fun in general. It is one of the most exciting race tracks we go to. The fans love it. The drivers love it. It is really neat to be in a good race at Bristol because there is a lot going on. It is really fun as a driver.”

LOOKING AT THE TRACK OUT THERE TODAY IT IS SO SMOOTH. DO YOU GUYS MISS THE BUMPS AND THE INTEGRITY OF THAT OLD TRACK? “I thought the neatest part was that they sent us a piece of the old race track. That was pretty cool to get that in the mail. To think about everything that had happened on that old pavement and to have a piece of that at home is really special. It is definitely a new day and the paving job is as beautiful and perfect as it can be. I know we have answered a number of questions about the racing, but I think we all agree that it is going to be one of the most spectacular Daytona 500’s that any of us have been a part of.”



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