Ford drivers are at Lowe's Motor Speedway in Concord, NC, for this weekend's Sprint All-Star Race. Many of them spoke about the excitement surrounding the weekend before and after tonight's qualifying session.
David Ragan, driver of the No. 6 AAA Ford Fusion, is 12th in the Sprint Cup Series point standings, marking the first time he has been in a chase-eligible position in his brief stock car career. Ragan held a Q&A session to talk about his improvement and his position in the standings.
DAVID RAGAN – No. 6 AAA Ford Fusion –
WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ABOUT RACING HERE TOMORROW? “This is an excellent track for what we’re doing tonight. It’s got a lot of speed. The race track is aging very well to where we can run on the bottom and run on the top. It seems to have a lot of grip in the evening, so it’s gonna be a lot of fun. I think these cars after the test last week resembled the old-style car just as much as any track we’ve been on this year, so they feel really comfortable and I feel like our AAA Ford has a lot of speed. We tested our 600 car, so this is a car we’re running today that has not seen the race track yet, but for the most part, I feel like we’ve got a pretty good idea set up-wise and where we need to be tonight to qualify and, obviously, tomorrow to start the race. So it’s gonna be a lot of fun. It’s two 20-lap segments. It’s a short race, but we’ll be able to make some adjustments. This is what it’s all about, to come out and try to be good when it counts. Our pit crew will be ready to help me out between the breaks and it should be a lot of fun.”
CAN YOU TALK ABOUT HOW YOUR APPROACH CHANGES IN THE ALL-STAR RACE COMPARED TO A POINTS RACE? “In most races you have four or five hundred, or next week 600 miles, to get the job done and you’re thinking about the last 50 laps and last 100 miles of the race trying to make your car the best and basically just survive until that point. The All-Star race is something that you have to go out and drive hard every lap. You have to get the job done quick. From the drop of the green to the end of the race, you don’t have 10 pit stops throughout the race to make your car better, so you’d better make good adjustments and your crew chief has got to make good adjustments on your car to be ready to go from the drop of the green. So from my point, I’ll just make sure that we have a car that I can drive hard on sticker tires, full of fuel, early in a run try to get some good track position and just be out front.”
LOOKING TO NEXT WEEK. THE 600 HAS HAD SOME FIRST-TIME WINNERS. DO YOU THINK ABOUT THAT? “I don’t really think about going to tracks that have produced first-time winners and things like that. Last year we had a race car to win the race in the 600 and were running in the top five and top 10 all day and we had a DNF, so I think that, first of all, we have to be around at the end to capitalize on having a good car and good track position toward the end of the race, but I really don’t think about tracks and what the history has been at them. I just try to look at the future and see what we can do to make adjustments to be there and then, obviously, toward the end of the race, if we’re close for the win, we’ll do all we can to try to win the thing, but our number one goal now is to finish all the laps and post top 10s and top fives every week.”
ONE OF YOUR TEAMMATES WAS UPSET LAST WEEK BECAUSE OF WHAT HAPPENED IN THE PITS. HOW DO YOU HANDLE SOMETHING LIKE THAT? “It’s not my job to jump on the guys on the pit crew. That’s a crew chief’s job and Robbie Reiser’s job and Jack Roush’s job, so I’ll let them handle that. They do a great job at what they do. Certainly I can give them some constructive criticism afterwards, but you’ve got to go about it the right way. They’re trying as hard as they car every week to get the job done and sometimes you just make mistakes.
Greg was obviously pretty hot when that happened and anybody would have been – to have a car capable of winning like he had and to have it all go down the drain pretty quick is frustrating, but there’s a right time and a right place to do that, and I wouldn’t throw my team under the bus. Like I said, it’s hard for me to try to punish those guys because I’m not their boss. I’ve got enough doing my job and trying to make sure I don’t make mistakes. Jimmy Fennig does a great job doing what he does best and that’s directing the team and calling the shots. I feel like I’ve got all the confidence in the world in Jimmy. If there are any problems, he’ll make the correct changes and fix them. I don’t have to worry about it.”
Carl Edwards, driver of the No. 99 Office Depot Ford Fusion, is coming off a runner-up finish at Darlington Raceway last weekend. Edwards held a Q&A session Friday at Lowe’s Motor Speedway to talk about his season to date and his role in a fan marriage proposal.
CARL EDWARDS – No. 99 Office Depot Ford Fusion –
IT’S DALE JARRETT’S LAST RACE. CAN YOU TALK ABOUT THAT? “What his whole family has done for the sport, they’re pillars of the sport. Dale Jarrett is a class act. I’ve only had him mad at me one time and it was here and he was real nice about even how mad he was at me, so we’ve had a lot of good times and it’s always been fun to race him. It’ll be neat to see what he does next. I think he can bring a lot to the sport even outside of the driver’s seat. He’s one of those guys who can do a lot for the sport.”
HE CARRIED THE FLAG FOR FORD FOR A WHILE AND NOW YOU’RE ONE OF THE GUYS DOING THAT. “Oh yeah. That Quality Care Ford and all the success he had in that thing, that was very cool what he did at Yates. He’s a role model for me and, hopefully, I can do the things for Ford that he’s done, but those are pretty big shoes to try to fill.”
CAN YOU TALK ABOUT THIS MARRIAGE PROPOSAL YOU COORDINATED TODAY? “That’s a big deal for a person to decide they want to spend the rest of their life with someone, and I think it’s very cool for Harlequin and Office Depot to do this. I was a little nervous for Phillip and I could tell how nervous he was, and Janice was obviously very emotional. It’s crazy that they’re getting their marriage proposal on the back of a race car at the All-Star event. It’s a very, very creative promotion.”
IT’S PRACTICE FOR WHEN YOU PROPOSE ONE DAY. “Yeah, I’ve got a really nice girlfriend. I don’t know about marriage though. I haven’t thought too hard about that yet.”
YOU GET $1 MILLION TO WIN TOMORROW, BUT IS IT STILL A BIG DEAL TO WIN THAT MUCH? “Well yeah a million dollars is a big deal. That’s just a fact. To race on a Saturday night, a 100-lapper for a million bucks, that’s every racer’s dream, so it’s pretty simple – a million dollars is a lot of money.”
YOU GOT PEGGED AS THE BAD GUY AFTER THE INCIDENT WITH MATT LAST YEAR. KYLE BUSCH IS VIEWED THAT WAY NOW. WHAT’S IT LIKE BEING IN THAT POSITION? “First of all, in this sport, I’m sure it’s the same in any sport or any public position, people are always gonna have their opinions and people like to hate someone. Fans like to cheer against someone. I know I’ve had times where there were some fans that definitely did not like me, and I think everybody goes through that. That’s just part of it. The one thing, looking back on some of my adventures, it’s funny in a way because everybody goes through that and it’s just part of it. It’s good for the sport and, in some ways, it’s good for the individual that is getting booed and cheered against because people are paying attention to you.”
ARE YOU AWARE WHEN GUYS ARE PERCEIVED AS THE BAD GUY? “Oh yeah, everybody is aware of it. You sit there in driver’s intros and you listen, and you can hear a lot of boos for certain guys and a lot of cheers for other guys. Sometimes the guys who are running the best get the most boos and that just goes with the territory. A lot of people think, and sometimes I’ve felt this way, that if you’re getting booed, that means you’re doing something right. You’re making somebody mad and usually that’s by winning.”
WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT KYLE? “Kyle is really fast right now and all I can do, along with everybody else, is hope that he’s peaking right now and that he won’t be this fast in the chase because he’s gonna be hard to beat if he is. But this thing goes in cycles though and we’ve still got a lot of races before the chase starts but that’s all you can hope for when a guy is that fast.”
IS THE ALL-STAR RACE A TUNE-UP FOR THE 600? “Oh yeah, this is a huge tune-up for the Coca-Cola 600. You get time on the race track. You get to race and see how the car is gonna act and see how this new tire is gonna work. The 600 is gonna be fun and I think this All-Star race is a great practice event for that.”
ELDORA IS IN A COUPLE OF WEEKS. CAN YOU TALK ABOUT THAT? “Eldora is gonna be a lot of fun. The coolest part about that is that we raise so much money for Victory Junction Gang Camp. It’s all charity and that makes it really fun. The other great thing is it’s a chance for all of us to go race in dirt cars, which are fun to begin with, but for no points, nothing but fun. Even the guys who wreck are having a blast and to win it last year was very cool, especially to hold off Jeff Gordon and Kyle Busch. They were really fast and I’ve got a better car this year, so I’m hoping we can do it again.”
WHAT WILL IT TAKE TO WIN AGAIN? “We just have to have a great car and some good luck. Track conditions have to be right because you only get one shot at it. We don’t run there every week, so you’ve got to make sure you get it right.”
DO YOU EVER THINK AHEAD ABOUT THE DAY YOU’LL RETIRE LIKE DJ? “Yeah, of course I do. I’m aware that this is the oldest I’ve ever been right now and I’m not getting any younger. I’m 28 and hopefully I can do this for another 20 years. That would be spectacular. Seeing guys like Dale Jarrett retire, I think everyone can look at that and apply it to their own career and say, ‘Man, I wonder what it will feel like that day.’ I don’t know what it will feel like. I hope I’ll feel satisfied that I achieved everything I wanted to do in this sport and I can walk away with my head up. That would be great.”
DO YOU SEE DOING IT FOR 20 MORE YEARS? “It’s a lot better than a regular job. I could definitely see myself doing this for 20 years.”
HOW DOES IT FEEL TO HAVE YOUR CONTRACT DONE WITH? “To have my contract done, signed and that I’m at Roush Fenway Racing driving a Ford, that’s huge and that’s part of why I wanted to get it done quietly and I wanted to expedite the whole process. I think when you drag it out, sometimes it can have a negative effect on your team that you can’t fix because guys leave or sponsors get a little nervous about what’s gonna happen, so it’s good to get it done early.”
WHAT WAS IT LIKE BEING CUPID TODAY? “That was very cool to be a part of this promotion. Office Depot and Harlequin, this is like one dimension farther from a regular appearance. You’re actually creating and being part of a memory for someone for the rest of their life and it’s something that’s very special. This is very cool.”
WHAT WAS IT LIKE BEING PART OF THAT MOMENT? “It’s very cool to be part of the moment. To see these folks decide they’re gonna spend the rest of their lives together and they’ll never forget it, that’s cool.”
DO HAVE THE PROPOSAL ON THE BACK OF THE CAR FOR THE WHOLE RACE. “Yeah, to have it on the back of the car for hopefully the whole race, that’s great. Hopefully, that’s the only part of the car everyone sees.”
WHAT’S THE FEELING AFTER YOU WIN A RACE? “It’s a really good feeling to win these races. The greatest feeling is knowing when everything is done and you’re leaving the race track and you see traffic lined up for miles in every direction and all the stands are empty and people are going home, you know that every single person that came and every single person that watched – of everyone involved – you won the race. You’re the guy that won the race. That’s a really good feeling.”
Greg Biffle, driver of the No. 16 3M Ford Fusion, held his weekly Q&A session after Friday’s practice session at Lowe’s Motor Speedway.
GREG BIFFLE – No. 16 3M Ford Fusion – WHAT ARE YOUR CHANCES TOMORROW? “I was a little nervous coming here and a little nervous at Darlington because our test wasn’t as good as it needed to be. Right now, I’m really, really excited because I can’t explain why, but we’re really, really fast. We’re probably one of the fastest cars and that’s really exciting for me. I can’t wait for qualifying tonight. That’s so much fun. I’ve had so much fun in this practice because there’s not a lot of pressure. You can practice getting onto pit road. You can speed with no penalty and slow down to get your speed right on the mark. There’s no pit road speed exiting pit road, so this practice session has been a lot of fun, plus our car has been pretty fast.”
HOW SURPRISED WERE YOU WITH THE SPIN PEOPLE TOOK TOWARD YOUR COMMENTS AT DARLINGTON AFTER THE RACE? “I was really surprised because I didn’t mention anything about what I was doing and I don’t understand, and I want you guys to go interview 42 other guys and tell me one guy that wouldn’t have got out of that car and been mad – just been kicking rocks and going, ‘Dang it, I’m leading the race with a five-second lead and now I’m out.’ I had a great car. That’s the positive thing about it – a fast race car – and that’s what I always complain about is wanting to have a fast race car and I did have a fast race car. There’s no doubt in my mind and that’s exciting for me. We had a lot of things happen, but we’re just gonna have to get better. We’re gonna have to get better at it in order to beat the 18, the 48, the 99 and all the other guys in the garage.
We’re just gonna have to get better. And the engine, we weren’t sure what broke right at first, but then we found out it was the timing belt after they found out it was broke. That just reiterates the fact that it was a mechanical issue. It stripped the teeth off the timing belt. It wasn’t of anyone’s doing. Everybody did their job correctly. The engine shop takes such care of our engines and they’re so meticulous about how they’re assembled and they make great power, obviously. Look at the power the car had, so I’m happy with how the engine shop handled that situation. To go a step further, probably more information than you need, is they felt like they had a timing belt issue after the Richmond race. They saw some wear they didn’t like. They felt like my car on Tuesday prior to the Darlington race had a timing belt in it that was suspicious of that batch of belts, so they actually changed my engine on Tuesday of the Darlington race because of the timing belt – trying to prevent a failure or an issue – and then the timing belt broke. So they did everything possible to make that engine live, so that was unfortunate. But we’ve got to get better on our pit stops. The guys are working hard at it and we’ll get there.”
WHEN YOUR CAR IS SO GOOD IN PRACTICE WHY KEEP PRACTICING? “One luxury you have is when your car is so good – I made the first run and said, ‘I don’t want to change a thing. I like it.’ They said, ‘OK.’ Well, we came up with this alternate setup on the seven-post and on the computer and we want to try it. Your car is so good, you don’t need the rest of practice so we’re able to try a completely different setup on the car. We can go out and feel it out because we can always put it right back to the setup that we had and go right into qualifying. So when your car is that good off the truck, it gives you that luxury of we had a 30-minute test session that we didn’t care what we did, just throwing whatever at it, and we found some stuff that made the car even faster. So we’re gonna try to run it in the All-Star race and see what we think of it. It may not work. We may win the All-Star race, but then we’ll go back to setup B, which was dang fast too, for the 600 or, if we can iron this out and get this running good, we think there’s a little bit more speed with this and a little easier to drive as far as grip, so it was good for us that our car was fast and then we used the rest of that practice session to test some things.”
YOU HAVE ONE BAD RACE AND PEOPLE HAVE YOU GONE FROM ROUSH AND IN SOME OTHER RIDE. “I can’t comment on what their speculation is. Nothing has changed. I can’t do anything about how emotional those people got about what I said and how they lay awake at night thinking about where I’m gonna go drive. I don’t understand. I don’t quit. I’m not gonna quit on my guys. I’m not gonna give up.” BASED ON PRACTICE HERE DO YOU SEE THE RACING HERE BEING ANY DIFFERENT THAN TEXAS? “I don’t see it a lot different than Texas. These race tracks are not similar, but are a little bit. I think these cars make it harder to catch one another and make any moves, so it’ll probably be tougher than normal, but this car, I think, has been harder to pass overall. I think everybody has seen that. It hasn’t made it harder to pass, it’s equaled out the field more, I think, is what you’ve seen. There isn’t one car that’s a lot faster than the other car.”
MATT KENSETH – No. 17 DeWalt Ford Fusion (Qualified 14th) – “It went OK. I thought I got on pit road as good as I could get on it, really. I may have left a little bit there and my laps on the track probably weren’t the greatest, and I don’t think our pit stop was very good, so I don’t think that will end up very sporty.”
THOUGHTS ON FOUR 25-LAP SEGMENTS TOMORROW. “You just run as hard as you can without wrecking, kind of like you do every week. You might be a little more reckless than normal, but you still don’t want to wreck so you go out there and race hard and try to be there in that last segment.”
DO YOU LIKE THE FACT THERE’S NO INVERSION THIS YEAR? “Yeah. The inversion thing was cool in a way, but in another way it was kind of a joke. Everybody knew what it was and they would just drive around fighting for eighth.”
JAMIE MCMURRAY – No. 26 Crown Royal Ford Fusion (Qualified 6th) – “That was good. The guys had a good pit stop. I didn’t get on pit road quite as hard as I needed to, but I saw a couple of those guys spin out and Carl, I think, I don’t know if he missed it or what, but he got a penalty for that and, I don’t know, it didn’t seem worth it. Track position is gonna be important and even though you’ve got 100 laps, to start 20th or 25th – whatever it would be if you got caught speeding – doesn’t seem worth it.”
HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT NO INVERSION TOMORROW? “I’m glad they’re not doing that because I don’t think guys race as hard as they can if you invert cars, and it’s so hard to pass now with the car of tomorrow and the tires and the way this race track is, I think the fans will get a better show if guys can come in and work on their during the pit stop and then you have the fastest guys up front.”
GREG BIFFLE – No. 16 Dish Network Ford Fusion (Qualified 5th) – “That was a great run for us. I was a little bit nervous and I was a little hot getting onto pit road, so I had to give a little back. I was speeding at the first box, across the line, but it’s a timed box, so I slowed down and gave some time back to make sure I wasn’t too fast in the first segment. I really need to go back and see what my pit road speed was – average – for that box, so I think I may have given up a couple tenths in that box. But the guys ripped off a great pit stop, so we’ll have to go back and look at the segments and see where we gave up a little bit. We’re fourth right now with no penalties, so that’s good for us.”
DO YOU LIKE YOUR SITUATION GOING INTO TOMORROW? “I really do. The Dish Network Ford Fusion car, the guys have done a great job. It is fast and driving as good as it was at Darlington, and I’m pretty excited about that.”
A NICE BOUNCE BACK FROM DARLINGTON? “It is because one of the issues is our test was mediocre here at best. We were about a 15th-place car and in practice today we were a top-three car for sure and looked to be one of the best on that lap-tracker for race laps, so that’s big confidence for us. I was a little nervous coming back here because we haven’t run that good, but we’re looking good now.”
HOW IMPORTANT IS IT TO START UP FRONT IN THIS RACE? “It’s pretty important. Track position is gonna be key because guys are gonna be going crazy. These cars, naturally, we know are aero-tight and you get back there in that pack beating and banging, and as loose as we’re driving them, when you get back there two and three-wide, it’s easy to spin out. It’ll be easy to spin out up front with how fast we’re going here, but we’ll see.”