Marcos Ambrose qualifies


Marcos Ambrose, driver of the No. 21 Little Debbie Honey Buns Ford Fusion, backed up a strong practice session by qualifying seventh at Sonoma Friday afternoon. Ambrose, who now will make his NASCAR Sprint Cup debut on Sunday, put up the fastest speed during Friday’s practice session. Kasey Kahne won the pole.

MARCOS AMBROSE – No. 21 Little Debbie Honey Buns Ford Fusion (qualified 7th) – “I’m just pumped. I’m so happy for the Wood Brothers, and I’m so proud of the Little Debbie folks and the McKie family for giving me the chance to step up to Cup. It’s just an awesome opportunity. I feel like today is one of those days where you know in your life that you’ve done something special. The Wood Brothers, you know, have had a tough couple of years. We bounced back here today with being on the top of the time sheet in practice and qualified probably in the top 10. It’s just an awesome, awesome day for us.”

HOW WILL YOU FEEL ON SUNDAY? “I never even thought I was going to be here on Sunday. I was just so negative all through the day, so anxious and nervous, just because you can’t afford to get confident, because if you get confident, you’re going to make mistakes. I’ll sleep good tonight. I’ve had a lot of worry and stress this week. I had a lot of expectation, ambition and desire to really make a difference here today, and we’ve just had a fantastic day.”

HAPPY? RELIEVED? OR BOTH? “Just relieved, man. Just like a huge weight has been lifted off my shoulders. I hear these guys, they qualify in every week, saying, ‘Oh, it’s pressure.’ It is. It’s just massive. It was harder to qualify than what it was to ,ine up with one race to go to try and win a championship in Australia. The pressure was just intense. One lap, three corners to warm up, go or go home. Four thousand miles. First Cup race, all that kind of stuff. Even going fast in practice, I mean, it added more, because you expect to get in there. It’s just been an awesome day. I feel like I’ve just survived a marathon of stress and anxiety. I’m just going to enjoy it from here on in for the rest of the weekend. We’re going to go to Milwaukee tomorrow – it’s going to be a blast. We’re coming back here Sunday to race in the Cup race – probably (starting) in the top 10. Just absolutely awesome.”

MIKE SMITH – crew chief, No. 21 Little Debbie Honey Buns Ford Fusion – WHAT DOES TODAY MEAN TO THIS TEAM? A BOOST? “Yeah, this is the biggest boost we’ve had in a long while. This was needed. It’s hard to explain, really.”

WHAT ABOUT TONIGHT? CELEBRATION OR THINKING ABOUT THE NEXT TWO DAYS? “It’s going to be a celebration until about 9:30, and then we’ll hit the sack and try to get our stuff together so we can get a good race car for Sunday.”

LEN WOOD – co-owner No. 21 Little Debbie Honey Buns Ford Fusion – MARCOS SAID THAT BEING FASTEST IN PRACTICE ADDED EVEN MORE PRESSURE? THERE HAD TO BE SOME RELIEF, AT LEAST FOR YOU, WHEN YOU SAW THAT TIME… “Yes, there was. He was pretty uptight. He was sitting in the car, and was getting hot just waiting. I think he was pretty relieved to get it over with, especially being his first one. Like he said, if he could out right now without any pressure on him, he feels like he could run a .70 or an .80 and be right up there, like right at the pole.”

GREG BIFFLE – No. 16 3M Ford Fusion (qualified 10th) – “That was pretty good. The track’s got a ton of grip right now, believe it or not. It’s 102 degrees, but it must be cooling down a little bit because that’s the most grip I’ve felt since I’ve been here. And, I probably under-drove a little bit, just because you don’t want to make mistakes, and I just committed to not making a mistake and staying on the course, not slide the tires. I’ll have to watch to see where I gave up a little bit of time, but it was a pretty good run for us.”

IT’S VERY IMPORTANT TO START UP FRONT HERE, SO THIS WILL BE A BIG ADVANTAGE. “It really is. It plays with our strategy – you know, we’re trying to play some fuel-mileage strategy and working on our car handling-wise. That’ll get us a top-15 starting spot, probably. I think a lot of guys are going to go quicker right here. Still, that’s going to be better than where we started last year.”

CARL EDWARDS – No. 99 Office Depot Ford Fusion (qualified 12th) – “It’s just real slick, and I didn’t ease up enough there. It’s real slick. Tough.”

STARTING UP FRONT HERE IS IMPORTANT. WILL THIS BE CLOSE ENOUGH TO THE FRONT? “As long as we start in the top 12 or top 15, it’ll be all right. I think we’re going to be top 12 – I hope.”

BORIS SAID – No. 60 Slurpee/No Fear Energy Ford Fusion (qualified 14th) – YOU’VE BEEN THROUGH DAYS LIKE THIS BEFORE. IS THERE NOW AT LEAST SOME ELEMENT OF COMFORT FOR YOU UNDER THESE CONDITIONS OF HAVING TO QUALIFY IN? “No. Fridays [stink]. The pressure you have if you screw up is just so bad, and I haven’t made a Spring Cup race in a while, the last three starts. I drove so slow in that qualifying lap, just so cautiously, that I felt like halfway around, I’m like, ‘Hey, I’m going too slow and I won’t make it.’ This 7-Eleven Ford Fusion is really fast and I think I’ve got a really good race car, so I’m in the show and that’s all that counts.”

EVERYONE TALKS ABOUT ROAD RACERS HAVING AN ADVANTAGE. IN YOUR MIND, WHO HAS THE GREATER ADVANTAGE: DRIVERS WHO ARE USED TO THESE CARS BUT NOT ROAD COURSES, OR DRIVERS WHO ARE USED TO ROAD COURSES, BUT NOT THESE CARS? “Being a Cup driver and racing these cars week-in and week-out is a huge advantage. I just don’t think we have a big disadvantage when we come to these races. But, by no means are we road-course ringers. I don’t know whoever came up with that name – that should be Jeff Gordon and Tony Stewart, you know? Mark Martin. Guys like that. I feel pretty proud of Kasey Kahne. I taught him for the last couple of years, and now he kicks the teacher’s [butt], so that’s pretty cool.”

JAMIE McMURRAY – No. 26 Crown Royal Ford Fusion (qualified 18th) – “That wasn’t very good at all. It was just very slick, and we made some changes to our car, and I don’t if they were the wrong changes, it just didn’t give the car the grip it needed, and actually ran slower than we did in practice. We’ve had about 10 races in a row where we’ve made better changes in qualifying. We just didn’t do it today.”

TRAVIS KVAPIL – No. 28 California High Patrol Ford Fusion (qualified 41st) – “This is only my second race here, and we do a lot of things to prepare and bring the best effort that we can. But, really, until I get laps and more experience, that’s what’s holding this time back right now. I thought we’d do a little better than that in qualifying. We didn’t get a good qualifying effort in practice, we didn’t even get a shot at it. So, we’ll stay on the course on Sunday, take care of our equipment, a little pit strategy will get us a solid finish out of this.” WHAT KIND OF REACTION ARE YOU GETTING REGARDING THE CAR THIS WEEKEND? “Driving the police car this weekend is cool. I was just telling the folks from the CHP that this is the most attention our race team has gotten, probably, all year. There’s a lot of local interest, obviously, in this. It’s really cool. It’s a lot of fun to be involved with different sponsors and different companies that are taking notice and taking a part of the 28 team. It’s a lot of fun.”

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