Ford Chasers Chasing Brickyard Victory

Ford has three drivers currently locked into the 12-driver chase field in Carl Edwards (4th), Greg Biffle (7th) and Matt Kenseth (8th). All of them spoke about their chances this weekend at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

            Greg Biffle, driver of the No. 16 Dish Network Ford Fusion, is seventh in the NASCAR Sprint Cup point standings coming into this weekend’s Allstate 400 at the Brickyard.  He held his weekly press conference before Friday’s practice session.

GREG BIFFLE – No. 16 Dish Network Ford Fusion – DO YOU CHANGE YOUR STRATEGY AT THE END FOR A BIG RACE LIKE THIS KNOWING THAT A MISTAKE COULD COST YOU A PLACE IN THE CHASE DOWN THE ROAD?  “I don’t think so.  I think getting in the chase, obviously, is our number one priority at the same time winning races is, so it’s kind of a delicate balance.  Still, we need to come and approach this race as we want to win here, yet, it’s a double-edged sword.  You can try to be conservative to get in the chase, but the thing is today you’ve got to race your butt of to finish tenth or eighth or top five, so you just run as hard as you can all the time.” 

WHERE DOES THIS RACE RATE IN YOUR BOOK? 

“The Brickyard rates at the top for races that a team, an organization and a driver wants to win.  Certainly there’s a lot on the line here.  We want to win here.  I want to win the Daytona 500 and a Brickyard just as bad as I want to win championships, so this is an important place.  We want to run well here.  We’ve run well here and feel like we’re gonna run well this weekend.” 

WHAT DO YOU NEED IN YOUR CAR TO MAKE SURE IT’S GOOD HERE?  “Good balance is what you need.  You need a car that has speed, which that’s always important in a race car, but, more importantly, good balance – a car that’s not too tight going through the corner and not too loose, so you can carry your speed through.  So if you have a car that’s got good balance, normally you’re gonna have a lot of speed because the grip levels balance front to back and that’s gonna produce the easiest to drive and the fastest lap.” 

WHAT WILL THIS PLACE BE LIKE WITH THE NEW CAR?  “This race track is difficult.  For our cars, it’s barely two lanes wide in the corners.  We don’t notice the thing being four inches wider, but it’s still a difficult place to race side-by-side.  With the way this car has reacted on the mile and a halfs, being real aero-tight.  This is gonna be a place to try and get your car to handle behind somebody.  That’ll be the most challenging thing of this weekend is getting your car to handle behind another car.”  JACK TALKED ABOUT THE FUTURE OF THE ORGANIZATION EARLIER TODAY AND LEFT OFF JAMIE MCMURRAY.  WHETHER IT WAS UNINTENTIONAL OR INTENTIONAL, IS THERE A SHIFT GOING ON IN THE ORGANIZATION RIGHT NOW WHERE THERE’S MORE FOCUS ON JUST FOUR DRIVERS?  “I don’t think so, no.  Jack’s like that.  I’m surprised he remembered four of us.  He introduces us at the Christmas party and forgets Matt (laughing).  I think it’s just Jack.  I don’t think there was an intention of singling out anybody, but, obviously at the same time we need to go to four cars, so I wouldn’t say that had any intention.” 

HOW MUCH PRESSURE HAS JAMIE BEEN UNDER?  “I can’t answer that.  I don’t know that Jamie has felt anymore pressure than all of us.  I’ve got a lot of pressure to not make mistakes and get good finishes.  I think we all do.  We all feel the same pressure.  We all have good contracts with a great sponsor, so when it comes time to figure out what we’re gonna do to go to four teams, I’m sure there’s gonna be an incentive package or program for somebody to move over to the Yates organization.  That’s the obvious answer for us, which they have all the same technology and engines and things, similar to what Haas is gonna have with Hendrick’s and Tony Stewart driving that car.  It’s just an extension of Hendrick’s.  Yates is their own organization, but share in technology and engines and those kinds of things, so it’s not gonna be a lot different for whoever that driver ends up being.” 

THERE HAVE BEEN A LOT OF FUEL MILEAGE RACES.  CAN YOU COMPARE HOW YOU SAVE FUEL IN A RACE CAR COMPARED TO A REGULAR CAR?  “I guess yes and no.  It’s very difficult to save fuel in a race car.  The one way to do it is to let up on the gas a little bit earlier for the corner and maybe wait a little bit longer to get on the brakes and then get on the brakes a little sharper – and off.  So you kind of try not to lose too much time, but yet sort of accomplish the same thing.  I guess driving on the street would be the same thing – maybe let up on the gas and let it coast a little bit further.  And if you’re planning on taking the next exit off the highway, instead of staying on the gas clear to the off ramp and then using more brake, I guess that would kind of be the same theory as saving fuel or whatever you could do, but it’s very minimal.  We can’t save much, but when it’s on that edge of whether it’s gonna suck air off of turn four and make it all the way to the checkered flag, you just don’t know.  Saving a little bit sometimes will make that difference and a lot of times it’s bigger than that.  A lot of times, if you’re gonna run out in the backstretch or in turn one, you’re probably not gonna save enough gas to make it to the end.  You’re probably not gonna save that much, but if it’s closer than that and you save, you can probably make it to the end.  We save all the time or when we can, but very seldom does it come down to what we actually did to make it.  Sometimes we can theorize that it did, but a lot of times they’ll check it after the race and we had a gallon and a quarter left.  So did we make a difference in saving?  We’ll never know.  But sometimes you get down to the end and you run out on the cool down lap and it’s like, ‘Wow.’” 

ARE YOU SATISFIED WITH YOUR SEASON?  “I have to tell you that I’ve been frustrated with myself.  I can go back a dozen races and there are some things about it, but I got caught speeding at Pocono running in the top five.  I ran off the race track at Infineon leading and those two finishes – and you always look back and wish you had done something a little bit different, but Daytona we finished 43rd.  I was racing with Juan Montoya for 25th place 25 laps or 30 laps into the 400-mile race and, looking back on that, I probably should have chose something a little different so I could have finished that race, but, at the same time, we’ve had issues in the pits.  We had an engine at Darlington and we caught the air hose on the splitter at Michigan running in the top five, so it’s been a comedy of little things, and some of it is the team working the bugs out and some of it is me working the cobwebs out or whatever you want to say.  But I’m happy with where we’re at.  We’re seventh in points, but I feel like we could be a lot better than that.  I think anybody could say that.  Any team could say they could be better, but I’m happy with the way the car has performed.  The cars have been fast, we’ve just made some mistakes – myself and everybody has made small mistakes.  None have been major, so it’s not what we want, but we’re seventh and we’re gonna keep chipping away at it.” 

HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT THIS TRACK?  “I feel good about this weekend.  (Greg) Erwin and the guys in engineering have been working really hard back at the race shop on simulation models and looking at our data from this race track, trying to learn things, trying to set scenarios up – different setups, different springs and all kinds of things – and they think they’ve got a pretty good starting spot for us.” 

WHY IS IT THE NOBODY SEEMS TO LUCK INTO A WIN HERE?  “The reality is if you don’t run well, if you’re not running strong, you’re not gonna fluke into getting up front here.  It’s always four tires.  The track is so big – it’s two-and-a-half miles – you’ve got to have tires.  Track position, like everywhere, is gonna be important, but the important thing is you’ve got to have a good handling car.  It’s kind of like Daytona and Talladega, if you don’t have good speed, you don’t have a good, slick, fast car, you can’t really make up for it here.  You’ve got four square corners, long straightaways, if you don’t have good power and torque to get off the corner, if your car doesn’t go around the corner really good and balanced, you’re gonna lose that straightaway speed and you’re just not gonna be there.  So this race track you can’t hide anything.  If you have a little bit of an issue, it’s gonna show up everywhere.” 

HAS NASCAR RACING HERE LOST ANY OF ITS LUSTER OVER THE LAST 15 YEARS?  “I think it’s still pretty important in the NASCAR community, but certainly coming here for the first time would be kind of an icon event.  I would say it’s just as important and special now for the NASCAR community.  Everybody knows, ‘Oh, we’re going to Indy next week,’ so it still carries a lot of weight with us and the race fans, but, certainly some of the heritage and not coming here for the very first time, it’s maybe lost a little bit of that, but you’re gonna have that anywhere you go for the very first time.” 

WHAT’S IT LIKE TO RUN ON THIS TRACK?  “This track is fun to run on.  It’s very challenging.  The straightaway speed is all determined on corner exit speed and getting your car to handle, getting your car balanced.  Balance is the key at this race track, but it’s a fun place.” 

WHAT KIND OF ANXIETY DOES THE NEW CAR PRESENT HERE?  “It creates a lot because we’ve never been in this car.  One thing is this car is more consistent than our old car, so coming here with a new car isn’t probably as scary as it would be with the old car showing up somewhere for the first time.” 

WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE?  “Certainly the downforce is a lot different.  The way the car handles is completely different.  It drivers completely different around other cars because it is bigger and kind of square.  It acts a little different around other cars, so there’s quite a few characteristics different about this car.” 

WHAT WOULD IT MEAN TO WIN THIS RACE?  “It would be a relief.  We haven’t won this year in 2008, but to win the Brickyard would be pretty special.  I think we’ve got a solid opportunity, just like everybody else.  I think there are a solid 15 guys or better that stand a really good chance of winning here and, obviously, there are probably 25 or 30 cars that can, and I feel like we’re in that top tier of teams that can pull off a win here.” 

WHAT ARE THE KEYS FOR YOU ON SUNDAY?  “Track position and balance – get the car balanced really well and get track position and keep it.  That’s the thing about this car.  You need to get track position and keep it and that will be the key to winning here.” 

YOUR BIG BREAK WAS WHEN BENNY PARSONS SAW YOU AND MENTIONED YOUR NAME TO JACK.  HOW MANY GUYS OUT THERE AT LOCAL SHORT TRACKS COULD HAVE MADE IT AT THIS LEVEL BUT WERE NEVER DISCOVERED?  “Hundreds.  I think hundreds because there’s a guy racing in Utah somewhere at a local short track that’s just a plain wheel man.  He’s as good as all of us – Joey Logano – whoever you want to compare him to and has a tremendous amount of talent, but what’s he gonna do?  And that probably holds true for Montana and more in the mainstream places – maybe the Midwest or Hickory or wherever that the guy is good, but that’s all he can afford to do and can’t make the next step.  So it is very difficult in our sport to get the opportunity and it’s so funny because I hear people talk about how they want to go to driving schools and they want to get into NASCAR.  That doesn’t happen here.  The school is your local short track down the street on Friday or Saturday night.  That’s the school.  Go get a car and learn how to put it together yourself and then try to figure out how to go out there and race.  And then hope you’ve got the right camber and air-pressure and this and that and then hope you can drive it.  That’s the school.  That’s it.”

            Matt Kenseth, driver of the No. 17 DeWalt Ford Fusion, has posted eight top-10 finishes in the last nine races to climb from 22nd in the NASCAR Sprint Cup point standings to eighth going into this weekend’s race.  Kenseth held his Q&A session before Friday’s practice sessions at the speedway.

MATT KENSETH – No. 17 DeWalt Ford Fusion – WHAT DO YOU THINK OF THIS PLACE?  “It’s a pretty cool deal coming to Indy, just to be able to race on the track to start with.  It’s probably our second-biggest race of the year.  It’s one of the biggest races of the season and it means a lot to come here and race and everybody wants to win.” 

DO YOU PUT MORE ON THE LINE FOR THIS RACE THAN MAYBE ANOTHER?  “No, not really.  If you’re in position to win at the end of the race, you’re always trying as hard as you can to win.  I don’t think you can try any harder than your hardest, so that’s when you’re probably gonna end up getting yourself in trouble, so you just go and race as hard as you can like any other race and, hopefully, you’re in position at the end to have a shot at it.”  WHAT IS THE KEY FOR YOU?  “It’s a really tough track to pass at, so you’ve got to have track position.  I think that’s the biggest thing is trying to get your car positioned so you’re in the front or real close to the front at the end.” 

JACK FAILED TO MENTION JAMIE THIS MORNING WHEN TALKING ABOUT THE TEAM’S FUTURE.  IS THERE A SHIFT GOING ON IN THE ORGANIZATION WITH FOUR DRIVERS?  “I don’t really have any idea to be honest with you.  Obviously,  there’s some affiliation with Yates Racing so we’ve never talked about it internally.  I’ve never been in any conversations internally about the future and what he plans on doing for teams.  Obviously some day they’ve got to get it whittled down to four, I just assumed one of the teams would end up probably over at Yates, but I don’t really know.” 

HOW DOES JAMIE NAVIGATE THE REST OF HIS SEASON?  CAN YOU PUT YOURSELF IN HIS SHOES?  “I kind of am in his shoes, honestly.  Jamie and I, I think, have the shortest time left on our contracts at Roush and I think they both expire at the same time, so I think that we’re kind of in the same boat.  Greg and Carl just re-signed long-term and I’m not sure about David’s situation, so really I kind of am in the same situation.  You’re only as good as your last race.  I don’t think you’re ever really secure in your job.  You have to perform all the time.  It’s a performance business and I think we all realize that.” 

WHAT WERE YOUR THOUGHTS ABOUT RANDY MOSS GETTING IN THIS SPORT?  “I don’t know.  You’ve seen a lot of sports figures come in and out of this sport.  I was kind of surprised to see him come in, but I don’t know much about it.  I don’t know if it’s just a naming thing.  I don’t know how much he is involved or not involved, so I don’t know.  I can’t say I’ve really been surprised.  I’ve seen a lot of professional athletes come in and try it out for a while and see how they like it or how much money they lose or how it works.” 

IS IT GOOD FOR THE SERIES?  “I think anytime you get any big name person from the business world or the sports world coming into this sport it has to be good for the sport.  It has to get more attention, if there are Patriots fans or Randy Moss fans out there and they say he’s interested in NASCAR and he’s an owner in NASCAR, they’re probably gonna pay more attention to the sport.” 

IS QUALIFYING KEY TOMORROW?  “I hope not because we just drew 46th.  Qualifying here is always, in general, kind of silly because the weather, in general, it’s just such a big advantage to go out early than last.  It’s at least half-a-second difference from first to last and you never want to be that guy that draws in the back, but you never know.  I heard there’s a chance of weather tomorrow, so we’ll have to see what happens with all that.  It’s still 400 miles.  Even though it’s a difficult place to pass at, it’s still 400 miles so if you have a good car you should be able to get to the front.” 

WHAT DO YOU FEEL ABOUT THE NEW CAR HERE?  “I still feel good about it, although to this track – not to cry about stuff – but I feel we have a fair disadvantage.  None of the Fords came and did the tire test.  We had one Hendrick car, one Toyota and I think one Dodge do it, so everybody kind of has data except for us, so we don’t really have any speeds or loads on the car to look at from the tire test.  This will be our first time on the track, so I think if we can get the car close and sort it out right away, I think we’ll be OK.  I think most of the tracks we ran good with old cars and when we came with these cars we still ran OK and ran decent at tracks like Michigan and California and Vegas – stuff like that.  So I feel good about it and as long as we get all of our practice, we’ll be OK.” 

MARK MARTIN’S DEMEANOR HAS CHANGED TO MORE OF AN OPTIMIST THE LAST FEW YEARS.  HAS A SWITCH GONE ON?  “When I met Mark the whole time I was there he always contended for championships and wins, but when I met Mark he was kind of a pessimist.  He wasn’t always down, he was always in a good mood, but he was like, ‘Aw, man, I can’t believe I’ve got to do that.  I hate doing that.  The schedule is too long.  I can’t wait to get a break.  This is terrible.  Man, we ran terrible,’ and he finished third.  Stuff like that.  Then about four years ago he just flipped a switch and it was the total opposite – everything was great, everything was fun, he couldn’t wait to get to the track, everything was great.  I don’t know what transformed him, but he had a transformation somewhere between the day I met him and about three or four years ago.” 

SO IN FIVE YEARS THAT SWITCH WILL GO ON FOR YOU?  (Laughing)  “I don’t know about that.  I don’t think I’m really that much of a pessimist, but I’m kind of a realist.  I kind of like to do things first and talk about them later and not talk about them first and then try to do them.  I feel like it always sets me up to fail, so I would rather go do it first.  I don’t know.  I’ve been in a pretty good mood lately, so I don’t know that I need a big mood change, but he definitely went through one for sure.  He’s pretty happy about everything, which is good to see.  He’s been super-enthused.  He loved doing the part-time deal.  At first I never thought he’d quit doing the full-time deal and then once he started the part-time deal he was so happy that I never thought he’d go back and do the full-time deal.  I know he’s looking forward to next year and I’m curious to see what he feels like at this time next year after doing the whole thing and having to go to Martinsville and Talladega and maybe the places he doesn’t like going to.” 

WHAT MAKES ROBBIE REISER SO GOOD AT WHAT HE DOES?  “Robbie has always been a great organizer and a great leader – great at figuring out how to make things work with people.  As general manager of the shop, instead of being in charge of 30 people on the 17, now he’s in charge of 400 people.  He’s just always been really good at that stuff, so I think that all the guys come walking in and see how much more organized everything is and how much things flow a lot smoother than maybe what they used to is probably what they mean.” 

DID THE SWITCH HAVE ANYTHING TO DO WITH YOUR SLOW START?  “I don’t think so.  Daytona, I thought we had a car that was capable of probably actually winning and we got ran over.  The 6 car wrecked us and got taken out and then we finished in the top five at California and were running second with two to go at Vegas and the 24 wiped us out when he had his problem, so we got wrecked two out of the first three races when we were running in the top five in all three of them.  I don’t know that we really would have that slow of a start.  We just had a lot of problems here and there, but Chip has been there since we started the deal with Robbie and Chip has been a huge part of making the cars run the whole time for the last nine years, so that’s really kind of been a non-issue.” 

WHERE DID YOUR TURNAROUND START?  “I guess probably Darlington.  At Darlington we ran pretty good.  I still think we had some problems, I can’t remember what it was but we went to the back and then were able to work our way back through there and get a good finish.  That was kind of the start of us running better and not shooting ourselves in the foot and doing that type of thing.” 

DO YOU THINK IT’S JUST A FLUKE THAT ROUSH HASN’T WON HERE?  “I don’t know if it’s a fluke.  I guess we have been coming here a long time.  I’ve seen Mark run really, really good here a lot of times and be really close.  I’ve seen Jeff Burton be really close a bunch of times.  In the near past, I can’t remember.  I know we’ve had really good cars at times and have never quite been able to pull it off or get it figured out, so I don’t know.  Hopefully it’s just a matter of time.” 

WOULD IT BE A BIG DEAL FOR JACK TO WIN HERE?  “I would assume so.  I know it would be to me and I’m sure the other drivers.  It’s one of the biggest races of the year.  The Daytona 500 and the Brickyard, if you can win one of those races, obviously that does a lot for your season and does a lot for the team.”

CARL EDWARDS – No. 99 Aflac Ford Fusion –

AS A DRIVER, WHAT WOULD IT MEAN TO YOUR CAREER TO WIN AT THIS RACE TRACK? “If you can win at Indianapolis, you get to put your name up there with some greats. There is not a driver in the world that wouldn’t want to win a race at Indianapolis, that’s for sure. So, it would be huge.”

WHAT DO YOU NEED OUT OF YOUR CAR TO BE SUCCESSFUL HERE? “We’re learning. Practice isn’t over yet. We’ve got a couple practices tomorrow, and I think, from what I can tell, it looks like the car, you’re just going to have to keep turning. It sounds pretty silly, it’s a quad oval, but, really, the car has to turn in the center of the corner really well to keep the speeds up here. If you have to slow down a little extra in the center of the corner, it just kills you down the straightaway. So, that’s going to be the name of the game on Sunday – keeping your car turning really well.”

YOUR PRETTY SECURE IN POINTS. BECAUSE IT’S THE BRICKYARD, DO YOU CHANGE YOUR STRATEGY AT ALL AT THE END OF THE RACE? “This is, for us, this is an all-or-nothing race – we’re trying to win it. We’re not completely locked into the Chase by any means, but we’re comfortable enough that I think we can risk one race, and this will be it.”

JACK ROUSH WAS TALKING ABOUT THE FUTURE OF THE ORGANIZATION EARLIER TODAY, AND HE DIDN’T MENTION JAMIE McMURRAY. IS THE FOCUS NOW ON FOUR TEAMS? “Personally – I don’t know what Jack said – for me, right now, I have four teammates, and there’s five of us. I don’t know what was said.”

DO YOU CONSIDER YOURSELF A STUDENT OF THE HISTORY OF RACING, AND, IF SO, WHAT DOES IT MEAN JUST TO COMPETE AT THIS RACE TRACK? “The first time I came here, Kenny Schrader let me work at his shop for a summer when I was in high school, and one of the trips we made, Rick Hendrick’s teams had a big test session here, and so, Schrader’s truck driver, Huffy, I lived with him in the house right in front of the shop, and they needed an extra truck, I guess, to bring a couple of the Cup cars up here for testing. So, I rode in the right seat, came to Indy, stayed in that hotel back there off of turn two. I was here for, I guess it was a two-day test. It was just so cool. To just be in the garage – Jeff Gordon was driving by, and Terry Labonte and Kenny Schrader – and one of the security guys, a real cool guy, I’ve got a picture of him and I on the front straightaway. He let me go stand out there on the front straightaway, and someone took a picture. I was just hanging out. Just couldn’t believe I was at Indianapolis. So to be here as a driver with a chance to win, that’s really cool.”

CAN YOU DESCRIBE WHAT IT FELT LIKE THE FIRST TIME YOU DROVE DOWN THAT FRONT STRAIGHTAWAY, WITH STANDS ON BOTH SIDES? “Like I was saying, in 1997, or whenever that was when I was here, it was a privelage to let me walk out there and stand on the track, so to be able to drive on it, it is cool. But, you know, until the race is over, it’s a race track. When I come down the front straightaway, I try to look around and enjoy it a little bit. I just couldn’t imagine how much enjoyment it would be, driving down this front straightaway, getting the checkered flag.”

HOW WELL DOES THIS CAR GIVE YOU FEEDBACK ON THESE TRACKS? “This car, it gives you a lot of feedback. It either works, or it doesn’t. You go down in the corner, and if it doesn’t turn, it doesn’t turn. If you’re hitting the splitter on the ground or you’re chattering the front tires or whatever, you really have got to stop to get it to turn. The difference is, to me, this car, it’s a little more like a knife edge – when it’s really good, that’s great, but if you go one percent one way or the other, it slows it down a whole bunch. So, it gives you a lot of feedback, but it’s really difficult to get perfect.”

CAN YOU TALK ABOUT DAVID RAGAN AND HIS PROGRESSION THIS YEAR? “David Ragan, he’s unbelievable. For a while there, it was a given that I was going to be able to finish in front of him, and that’s not the case anymore. He’s learning. When you look at David and where he came from, the really small amount of experience he has and had before he came into the Cup series, he’s doing an unbelievable job. And I think that he’s right on track learning-wise. I think he’s going to be really, really good. He’s already good, I think he’s going to be great. That’s how I really feel about him.”

HOW DO YOU MAINTAIN YOUR FOCUS AND THE TEAM’S FOCUS THESE NEXT SEVEN RACES LEADING UP TO THE CHASE? “The thing you have to do is treat these next seven races with a lot of respect, and you can’t say, ‘Hey, we’re in,’ and start thinking about anything beyond, because this is racing, and the facts are you could blow up three engines in row and all of a sudden be in a bad spot. Anything can happen. So, we’re going at these next seven with a lot of respect. This one will be the one we probably take the most chances on, just because it would mean so much just to win this race. So, this is kind of our go-for-it race, and if it doesn’t work out, we’ll just have to points race from here on out.”