Briscoe, Buescher Phoenix Transcript – Ford Performance

CHASE BRISCOE, No. 14 Mahindra Tractors Ford Mustang – YOU EARNED YOUR FIRST CAREER CUP VICTORY IN MARCH AND POSTED A TOP-FIVE FINISH IN NOVEMBER LAST YEAR. HOW ARE YOU FEELING ABOUT BEING BACK HERE THIS SEASON? “Yeah, I’m definitely excited to be back here. I feel like anytime you can come back to a place where you’ve won in the past, you’re excited to go there because you’ve had success. So, I’d say this week I’m a little apprehensive with just how much everything has changed… I’d say going into this weekend from a downforce side, just because we were really good here in both races last year. With the amount of change this year, we’re not really sure how that’s going to correlate. For us hopefully, we’re going to show up similar to how we ended last year. I guess we’ll find out here in a little bit if that’s going to work and in the pack how that’s going to translate. I’m excited to just kind of turn our season around here. I feel like this is a great opportunity to do it. That’s what we’ll try to do.”


IT HAS NOT BEEN YOUR IDEAL START TO THE SEASON, BUT DOES COMING BACK TO PHOENIX GIVE YOU SOME GOOD MOJO OR IS EVERY TRACK THE SAME? “I’d say, honestly, it’s pretty similar to how we’ve been everywhere this year. Last year we led 40-something laps in California and in Vegas we led laps. All the races at the beginning of last year, we were battling for wins. Then this year, we’ve been maybe in the top-20 once. I’d say the vibe going into the weekend is the same just because I feel like every weekend, we go to the racetrack thinking we can go there and win. We just really haven’t had the speed this year. I think this weekend is a great opportunity for us to kind of get some momentum and confidence back. But at the same time, like I said earlier, everything is so different. So it’s hard to say if what happened last year will even translate to this year from a setup side. I don’t know. We’ll just go into this weekend and give it our best – see where we are at the end of it all.”


AS FAR AS THIS NEW SHORT TRACK PACKAGE, THE TALK IS THAT THE CARS TEND TO SLIDE A LITTLE BIT MORE IN THE CORNERS. YOU THINK THAT WILL FAVOR DIRT RACERS LIKE YOU? “I don’t know. I feel like at the Cup level, everyone is so good that your background really doesn’t matter. I’d say typically the dirt guys tend to like to slide around a little bit more – the less downforce, typically the better for us. But, it just makes guys that have zero dirt background, like a Martin Truex Jr., really good too. At this level, it really doesn’t matter just because everyone is so good. I know for me, I’d rather slide around for sure and have less downforce. Until we get out there and race it, I don’t know what it’s even going to be like. I know there’s definitely going to be less downforce, but from a lap time standpoint, it wasn’t like a second or so slower than what we ran here before – only a couple tenths. I’ll be curious to see how much different that race is with the hot temperatures. I’m sure it’ll make us slip and slide around a little bit more, too. I don’t know if you’ll really get the full scope of the low downforce package here, just because this place is kind of unique in its own sense, but I think when you go to some other places – like a Richmond or somewhere like that – you’ll definitely notice a difference.”


IS IT POSSIBLE TO HAVE AN IDEA OF HOW THE CAR WILL REACT IN A RACING SITUATION BY USING A SIMULATOR? “I wouldn’t say a racing situation, but by ourselves, I was on the simulator Tuesday for four hours. The Wednesday before that, I was probably at Phoenix for two-plus hours on the simulator. I think we’ve definitely been trying to prepare for it, but until we get a true data point of what it’s like on the racetrack, it’s going to be hard to really translate that into simulation. For us, at Stewart-Haas, it’s been a little bit more of a challenge to prepare for it because we were really the only Ford team, out of the big teams, that didn’t get to come to the test. So, we’re a little bit behind from a simulation side – just to know what to even expect. Whereas, RFK and Penske had been here for the test. For us, we’re just unloading exactly how we finished the race last year, so we can get a true data point for what it was last year and what it is this year. That way going forward, we kind of know what that delta is.”


HOW DOES WINNING SO EARLY LAST SEASON CHANGE THE DYNAMICS FOR THE TEAM? “It definitely gets a lot more attention paid to it at the beginning of the year, where if it was in the middle of June or July and a guy went on a three-race streak, it might get mentioned. But, it’s not a talking point week-in and week-out. It’s definitely more challenging at the beginning of the year because obviously you’re amped up and excited to get the season going. You have all these high expectations. It kind of puts you in a more down mood when it’s at the start of the season versus if it was in the middle of the season because you know you have the win to lean back on. You’ve had other good runs throughout the year so you can always kind of get your confidence right back, whereas in the beginning of the year, I definitely think there is a lot more emphasis put on it not only from a team standpoint but also from a self-confidence and media standpoint. It’s unfortunate anytime you have a three-race slump, but it definitely get a lot more attention in the beginning of the year than it would in the middle of June or July.


SO HOW DID THE WIN CHANGE THINGS FOR YOU LAST YEAR, EVEN WITH THE UPS-AND-DOWNS AFTERWARDS? “It’s a lot less stressful when you got the win with how the structure is with everything else – if you have a win, nothing else really matters, right? For us, not having a win: If we go a month from now and we’re still in 25th-30th place in points, well then there’s a lot more to not be happy about if we keep going on a slump. When you have the win in your back pocket, you can kind of ride off a bad week – or even a couple weekends – because you know that you’re still in the playoffs and that whatever happens, you’re still good. When you don’t have that win is when it gets even more pressing, and there are a lot more struggles because you don’t have anything to fall back on or anything to race for but the win. If you’re not in the playoffs, you don’t even think you have a shot unless you go for the win. But when you have that win, it just changes your whole season. Especially, winning as early as we did last year, it not only changed our team’s aspect but even on the racetrack for me going back to Bristol, it would be the perfect example of ‘if I was 10th/12th place in points and know I’ll potentially be on the bubble, I probably don’t try to make that move.’ But having a win in our back pocket – another win is five bonus points – that’s huge for us. It’s kind of a ‘win everywhere’ at that point, and it definitely changes how you race the rest of the season if you have a win early in the year.”


HOW MUCH DOES YOUR TEAM LOOK FORWARD TO HEADING BACK TO THE EAST COAST AND SPENDING TIME DEVELOPING THE CAR? “I don’t know if being back on the east coast really changes anything. I think it’s going to be nice just because we’re not really going to run any mile-and-a-half tracks for a while – I mean you have Atlanta, but that’s kind of its own racetrack. I think we’ll have a better idea where we stack up after this weekend. Last year, I thought the Fords were really strong on short tracks. I think if it’s a struggle for us this season, there’s going to be a lot of questions trying to get answered. But, it’ll be nice to get back into a rhythm of going to racetracks that I feel are a little bit stronger for us. I just got told a little bit ago that we were going to do the Charlotte test, so for us that’s going to be really important just with how ‘off’ we kind of are on the mile-and-a-halfs right now. I think for us, for Stewart-Haas and the No. 14 car, we know that Fords are at a little bit of a disadvantage right now. But the problem is, we need to be one of the top-three Fords on Sunday – we don’t need to be one of the bottom three. That’s what we’re working on first, and once we get to being one of those top-three Fords, then we’ll worry about our deficit to the other manufacturers.”


TO GO TO COTA AND HAVE GUYS LIKE JENSON BUTTON AND KIMI RAIKKONEN IN THE FIELD, WHAT KIND OF ‘WOW’ MOMENT IS THAT FOR YOU? “Growing up in a town of 3,000 people and one stop light, I would have never thought in a million years I’d race against an F1 guy let alone two of them in one race – even be teammates with an F1 World Champion. It’s going to be really cool for me to get to experience that, get to know Jenson, and just see how he prepares. I’ve got to see how these incredible race car drivers prepare whether it’s Kevin [Harvick] or Aric [Almirola], and now a world-class level with Jenson will be a lot of fun. Truthfully, I think on the road course side, he’s going to be able to bring a lot to the table. Last year, I kind of did that in a driver swap with Mick Schumacher and Kevin Magnussen. They only ran like five laps a piece at the [Charlotte] roval. They were within a second of what I was running at pretty much 100 percent. So, those guys are such unbelievably road racers , that Jenson is going to bring a lot to the table just as far as things to look for and maximize. I’m really excited for that side of it and the opportunity, because it’s going to be a lot of fun.”


ONE OF YOUR MAIN SPONSORS IS MAHINDRA. IS THERE A CORRELATION BETWEEN THAT AND THE FORMULA E TEAM? “It’s the same company as the Formula E team. Last year, we were actually close to a thing where I was going to go to Brooklyn and run some laps in the Formula E car. So that’s definitely something going forward that I’d like to try to do – just try anything open-wheel. Obviously, I’ve done sprint cars and midgets, but never anything on a road course with open-wheeled. There’s definitely that connection there to possibly do something someday. I’d love to do it with Team Mahindra, for sure. I don’t know about race, but I’d at least love to run some laps to see what it’s like. I’ve been fortunate to drive the Ford Mach-E 1400, and to feel 1,400 horsepower electric was unbelievable. It’d be cool to do it with the Mahindra Formula E car as well.”



CHRIS BUESCHER, No. 17 ITsavvy Ford Mustang – HOW DID YOU FEEL ABOUT THAT PRACTICE SESSION? “Pretty good. Phoenix has probably been one of the tracks where I needed the most work and I have worked pretty hard at it. Brad (Keselowski) was really happy leaving the test here several months back, so I came here with a lot of optimism knowing that the new package would be different for everybody as well. Historically we seem to do a lot better when you take a lot of downforce out of these things. Practice was good. I feel like our fire-off speed was pretty decent there. No real read on it for qualifying runs but the long run speed seemed to hold on pretty good. We are still chasing a few tenths here and there but a pretty good start for us.”


HOW CRUCIAL WAS IT TO HAVE BRAD HERE AT THE TEST A COUPLE MONTHS AGO? “Huge. It has been really tough in the industry and a lot of people have commented on the fact that we only have a few cars doing a lot of these tests that are pretty massive changes to what we are running week in and week out. It is a competitive advantage to be able to do that and fortunately we were able to be in on that one. We have been out on a lot of others that we know are going to make it harder on us. That was big for us knowing that this is a place where we needed it as much as anywhere. It is a track Brad has been good at in the past as well. It will give us a lot to lean on for changes today and a ballpark of where to aim firing off.”


DID YOU NOTICE A BIG DIFFERENCE BETWEEN TODAY AND THE PACKAGE LAST TIME YOU WERE HERE? “Yeah, there is just way less downforce in the race car. That is good. We will see how it races. I think it has a lot of potential to break the field up and make you have to move around. It is still aero sensitive front to rear and center off, but that seems pretty typical everywhere with this car. I don’t know how to fix that part of it. I think with the lack of downforce total it will make us hunt more.”


“It is a big difference out there and a lot more movement in the car. Corner entry is way less stable. I feel like we are still going to fight some dirty air, center off. You are going to be trying to get a fender out. Front to rear, dirty air, has been pretty prevalent with this car and no matter what spoiler or underbody has been on it. So, we are still fighting some of that but we need to get all the cars on track to really get the best read on it. Nobody is really racing too aggressively in practice. We did try to get around other cars and get a feel for it to know what it would be like in certain situations. Restarts, when we get two, three or four-wide it will change drastically then.”


WHAT DO YOU MEAN WHEN YOU SAY THERE IS MOVEMENT IN THE CAR AND HOW DOES THAT COMPARE TO WHEN YOU WERE HERE IN NOVEMBER? “Just a lot more rear movement on entry. The center of the corner, it is just overall slower. Then the exit: You are going to fight for some forward drive. The blade on the thing is barely enough to wrap your finger tip around pushing it around the garage. It is a pretty drastic change. The mock races from the test were pretty promising in showing that this could be a better racing product and we are optimistic that it will be. Personally I have always liked it when we had less downforce on the race cars and feel like we run better. I am excited to see how it goes during the weekend here once we get all the cars on track and can really get a feel for it.”


IT WAS PRETTY COLD DURING THE TEST HERE, AND IT WAS CLOUDY AS THE SUN WAS SETTING HERE IN PRACTICE. SUNDAY, IF YOU GET THE SUN ON THE TRACK DO YOU THINK IT WILL MAKE A BIGGER DIFFERENCE? “Yeah, that is a good observation. I think it is a lot cloudier this evening than we anticipated and track temps came down pretty drastically which did keep the speeds up more than we anticipated. I will say, I think we had a lot of unknowns but it seems like we were a decent amount faster than I thought we would be. Once it gets sunny out here and get that desert sun on track, we will see it move around even more, get slicker, and start chasing more clean air and more racetrack. We don’t have the PJ1 to save us over here in one and two anymore, so you have to hand on to it if you get up out of the groove. We have to see where the wind is going to go. Last I heard it was going to be pretty windy on race day, but probably not like last week. There will be a lot of weather changes as we go through the weekend.”


WHAT ARE THE UNKNOWNS GOING INTO THE RACE STILL? “Everything. When you think about it, 50 minutes of practice gives you time for a change or maybe two, compared to a typical weekend but this car is still very new to the garage. After a full year of 20-minute practice sessions, we are all happy to have 50 minutes, but it is still substantially less than what we are used to. It is still a thrash and cars take longer to make bigger adjustments on them as well. Even though we are allowed that opportunity here, it does soak up a lot of our time to be able to do that. We will get another run or two in there, maybe get a good long run which is nice and get a read on the package. We will take as many as we can get but would still love another 50-minute package to go with it to be able to make bigger changes, regroup and hit the ground running for the next run.”


THIS TRACK WAS GOOD FOR FORD LAST YEAR. DO YOU GET A SENSE ABOUT HOW YOU GUYS FEEL AS A GROUP WITH WHAT THIS TRACK ALLOWS YOU GUYS TO DO? “Well, it wasn’t a really good track for me last year. I know what you are talking about though so hopefully some of that carries over for us. It just wasn’t really strong for me. Brad did come do the test here and left very happy. We had pretty good speed in practice there, so we are optimistic but we have a lot to figure out when we get into race conditions.”


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