Ford Performance Qualifying Results:

1st – Ryan Blaney

2nd – Josh Berry

4th – Joey Logano

6th – Chase Briscoe

7th – Michael McDowell

13th – Harrison Burton

17th – Brad Keselowski

21st – Austin Cindric

22nd – Noah Gragson

24th – Todd Gilliland

25th – Ryan Preece

32nd – Justin Haley

33rd – Kaz Grala

34th – Chris Buescher

RYAN BLANEY, No. 12 Menards/Dutch Boy Ford Mustang Dark Horse – POLE-WINNING PRESS CONFERENCE – TELL US ABOUT THAT LAP? “First pole in a while. I can’t remember the last time I qualified first – 2022 – but it was just a fun day overall. It was a pretty challenging day, I think, for everybody just kind of figuring out what the track was doing, what this tire was doing and where you car needs to get better. It was pretty challenging, which was fun. That’s kind of neat when we’re guessing and things like that and especially qualifying was really interesting because the first round I had tons of grip – everybody did – but it was still tricky. You had people missing the bottom and going for it and slipping out of it, and it was a narrow strip you had to hit. And then the second round I don’t think anyone really know how much grip was gonna be lost and how much we were gonna slow down, so that was a tricky situation. It was, ‘OK, how hard can I attack the entry to the corner to not miss it’ because the last thing you want to do there is go there and blow it and miss it and throw your lap away, but that’s fun. It’s kind of like when we’re learning on the fly like that, that’s a super neat thing to be a part of. It’s really hard to do when you’re guessing how much commitment level you have to put in, when you have that much loss of grip in between like two laps, it’s really, really fun and it’s cool that we were able to finish off the day – a fun day and a good day with qualifying first.”

WHAT PRECISELY HAS CHANGED WITH YOU BECAUSE YOU SEEM MORE CONFIDENT AND YOU’RE TEARING IT UP RIGHT NOW? “I have a great group around me. Everyone who works on this 12 car is awesome and I love every single one of them because they’re really committed every single weekend to put in all the effort that I’m putting in. That’s what I love about that group is they’re maximum effort is every single day, racetrack or not, and that’s what I think really bonds us well together, so that community right there is going really well, which I love. I don’t know. I just think something flipped. I don’t know. I got knocked in the head a couple times last year maybe it flipped a switch, I don’t know. It’s odd, but perspective is a little different about everything and trying to approach it differently. There are some things I still want to get better at, but everything is kind of working really well right now and it’s nice when you work really hard to get better at places you want to improve on, like with yourself and your job and stuff, and when it works that’s really rewarding, so I think I have just appreciated that side of it a lot and I’ve had a lot of people who have helped me out on that too. I just think growing up to getting older and looking at things a little different way. Once you have a little success too, you look at things another different way. A lady at home probably calmed me down a little bit too, so she’s a huge factor in it.”

WHAT DO YOU THINK ACCOUNTED FOR THE TRACK BEING SO DIFFERENT BETWEEN ROUNDS AND WAS RUNNING ONLY ONE LAP IN THE FIRST ROUND DECISIVE? “I don’t know what made the big change. The tire, to me I guess is the biggest change because the loss of grip was just massive. I haven’t seen that many marbles off the corner here in a really long time, so I think that has something to do with it. Maybe the resin is affecting it a little bit differently on the bottom lane, so I don’t know. I think there are a lot of factors going in that a lot of teams and drivers, us included, are gonna be really scratching our heads tonight like, ‘What’s the track gonna do tomorrow?’ I don’t know what it’s gonna be like as we continue through the day with the race. I think running on only lap was a big advantage for us. We had the good fortune of going out last in our group, so I could bail after one lap if we were in, so that was good. I think a couple of us, like us and the 14 ran one lap in our groups and I think that definitely helped.”

ARE YOU CONCERNED ABOUT GOING INTO TURN ONE TOMORROW WITH THESE QUESTIONS? “I’d rather be first than 30th in the same conditions. Yeah, I don’t know where I’m gonna pick tomorrow. I’m gonna watch this truck race tonight and see what it goes through and then if they decide to put more stuff down in the morning, I don’t know what their plan is. They usually tell us in the morning what their plan is or we kind of talk about it in our driver chat, so we’ll see how this truck race goes. I’m sure they’ll move up at some point, hopefully sooner rather than later, so we’ll figure it out tomorrow.”

YOU ARE LEADING THE STANDINGS RIGHT NOW. HOW DO YOU FEEL WITH EVERYTHING GOING ON? “We’ve been running pretty good to start the year. I mean, outside of Daytona, which, whatever happens happens, but the last three races we’ve been able to put together some strong runs. We were in contention for a win at Atlanta. which is a speedway. We were fast at Daytona as well, but Vegas and Phoenix we strung together two good runs there, but I never thought we were in contention to win the race at Vegas or Phoenix. Yeah, we ran good, but we weren’t in contention – lead laps, race the leader – we just scratched and clawed for a third and a fifth. I’m proud of that effort for sure, grinding through the day and figuring out how to get better, but we need to take that last little leap and get with the guys who are leading these laps like the 5 and the 20, who just dominated the last two weeks. We just don’t have the speed as those guys right now, but we’re doing the best we can and trying to learn as much as we can. As a group, not just our group, as the whole Penske organization we’re trying to figure out where we need to be better. We’ve got the qualifying one lap thing down, but we’ve got to figure out the racing side of it and we’re inching in on it. Hopefully, we can continue learning.”

YOU’RE FIRST IN THE THE STANDINGS, BUT CINDRIC IS THE NEXT HIGHEST FORD IN 15TH. DO YOU FEEL ALONE AT THE TOP? “Not really. It’s early. It’s early in the year. We’re only a month into this deal so anything can happen. We’ve just been running well the last few weeks and been able to get some good finishes and get some good stage points and things like that. Those other guys will figure it out for sure. I’m not worried about that. I’m just worried right now about getting our cars where they need to be and worrying about the speed side of it. The other stuff you’ll understand where you’re sitting at in about a month as far as the points, so I don’t really feel lonely. Those guys will start creeping up there.”

IS THERE SOMETHING THAT THE 12 TEAM HAS HIT ON THAT THE 2 AND 22 ARE TRYING TO FIGURE OUT? “We all work really well together and really close together. Between Brian Wilson and Bullins and Paul Wolfe and Jonathan they all work and talk try to compare where they’re at. We do a really good job of that as a company and I feel like that’s what makes us really strong, but at the end of the day everyone kind of has their own little path that they go down. We all have an idea of where everyone is at. We all know where each car is at in our camp, but every crew chief likes something a little different, every driver likes something a little different, so there are little things that are different on that side of it that it just maybe hasn’t worked for those guys yet, or they’re trying new things. I don’t really know the whole story about it, but when we’re all strong, we’re the best, so the goal is to try and get all four of our cars where they need to be and we’re working really hard to try to do that and to figure out, ‘Hey, where are they missing in this spot where we were strong?’ That’s what we talk about this stuff for on Monday meetings and pre-race and what are the differences. ‘Why were you better here than me?’ Stuff like that. I can’t really say too much about it. Everyone is a little different with how they drive it and set it up. We’ve been hitting it pretty good the last couple of weeks.”

IS THE TOP SKETCHIER EVEN IF IT’S THE FASTER WAY AROUND ONCE THE STUFF IS PEELED OFF THE BOTTOM? “Yeah, it’s definitely sketchy. I’m not gonna be the first one to go up there because that’s Reddick or Larson’s job. I’m not going it just because you never know how dirty it is and with these marbles that we see putting down you never know how much it’s gonna get pushed up. You can’t just jump right to the top. You have to continuously work it up and up. That works by moving up three feet and then moving it up another three feet and then moving it up another three feet until you’re at the wall and all that crap is cleared off the racetrack. Yes, racing helps that because we’re restarting two-wide, you’re running two-wide for longer. I feel like that always picks it up. We haven’t practiced around the top here in years just because it’s dirty and since the stuff is on the bottom it’s just kind of the best place to be for practice, and then we get to the race and you’re trying to figure out ‘how do I make the top work now because it’s dominant.’ But it is definitely sketchy. I always ask Timmy, ‘Is anyone up there and is anyone making time up there?’ It’s one thing if you’re up there and you’re just kind of messing around and not really going anywhere, so that’s just kind of a feel thing through the race. If you think the grip is getting a little bit better up there, you might try it.”

HOW IMPORTANT IS IT TO YOU THAT NASCAR HAS A TRUE SUPERSTAR AND SOMEONE WHO CAN MOVE THE NEEDLE LIKE JEFF GORDON, DALE EARNHARDT AND RICHARD PETTY? HOW DO WE GET THERE? “That’s the second time I’ve been asked that question today, and I don’t know what the whole kick is right now about needing a superstar. We’re all superstars. Every driver. Everyone is special in their own right. Everyone is successful with how they’ve approached everything. Some branch out more than others in different aspects outside the racetrack and some decide to stick around the racetracks and grow their stardom there with the fans at the racetrack, so everyone approaches it differently. Yes, Jeff Gordon through the nineties was the biggest star in anything, but times change. The times are different. You don’t have guys winning 10 races anymore. This car doesn’t allow that, so how do you separate yourself to make yourself stand out? How do you make yourself different from the rest of the drivers who are all really good at what they do and it starts with success on the racetrack and then the organizations marketing these drivers with how great they are at what they do, and then the drivers have to be willing to do it and be in that role. You don’t need to pluck out one person. There are a lot of us here and you can push it, you can make 36 superstars. I think that’s definitely possible.”

JOSH BERRY, No. 4 SunnyD Ford Mustang Dark Horse – WHAT DOES THIS EFFORT MEAN TO YOU AND THIS TEAM? “It means a lot. Obviously being at Bristol that’s really cool, but anywhere at this point it would mean a lot. These guys have been working really hard and they kept me jacked up and we’ve been putting in the work trying to get better. We just need a mistake-free day tomorrow. If we do that, we’ll be in contention.”

YOU TALKED EARLIER TODAY ABOUT WORKING ON COMMUNICATION AND JUST BUILDING EVERY WEEKEND. THIS IS A GOOD START TODAY, RIGHT? “Yeah, I’m learning a lot every week. I’ve done this stuff long enough to know if you do it the right way, you do the right things long enough, the results will come and that’s where I feel like I’m at now. We just have to keep plugging away and learning and getting better. Me and Rodney are working together more and more and our team is getting stronger with that. Like I said, we just need to go out there, obviously the qualifying result is really cool, but I want to race good, too. For me, I think if we just have a solid car and a mistake-free day, we’ll have a good finish.”

CHASE BRISCOE, No. 14 Mahindra Tractors Ford Mustang Dark Horse – “It was way different than anything I ever anticipated. I don’t know. It was weird just how much the track changed there. I’ve never really experienced that in the Cup car, especially here with that big of a swing. It was surprising how much did change, but we’ll just go on and see how we race.”

Ford Performance PR