Ragan and Kenseth Looking To Join ..

 Edwards and Biffle in Chase at Richmond

There are four Ford drivers competing for spots in the 12-driver Chase for the Sprint Cup field this weekend at Richmond International Raceway. Carl Edwards (2nd) has already clinched while Greg Biffle (6th) just has to start in order to lock up his position. Matt Kenseth (9th) and David Ragan (13th) are also trying to secure a spot. All four drivers held Q&A sessions Friday at the speedway.

NASCAR announced that this weekend’s NASCAR Sprint Cup and NASCAR Nationwide races are being postponed until Sunday due to weather.  The Sprint Cup race is scheduled to start at 1 p.m. with the Nationwide event set for 7 p.m.  Carl Edwards discussed the postponement during a brief Q&A session Friday evening.

CARL EDWARDS PRESS CONFERENCE – YOUR THOUGHTS ON THE RACE THIS WEEKEND.  “It should be good. I think it’s gonna be real fun racing.  It looks like it’s gonna be about 90 degrees and sunny.  My car didn’t have a lot of grip, so I think it’s gonna be pretty exciting 400 laps like that.  Hopefully Bob and the guys make the right changes.  It’s kind of neat knowing, in a way I’m kind of glad NASCAR did it this way so that we aren’t just waiting around for it to dry out.  We know when we’re racing and I think that’ll be cool.” 

ANY IDEA WHAT YOU’LL DO?  “I have no clue what I’m gonna do.  I told them to fuel up the airplane.  We might go home to Missouri or might stay here.  I don’t know.” 

WHAT ABOUT THE DRAMA OF THIS RACE?  “I remember 2005 when I was on the bubble to make the chase and the pressure of this race, for me, was really huge.  So guys like Clint and Kasey and David, I’m sure they want to get this over with and I can kind of empathize with them right now.  Tomorrow is gonna be a long day, I would imagine, for them.”

There are four Ford drivers competing for spots in the 12-driver Chase for the Sprint Cup field this weekend at Richmond International Raceway.  Carl Edwards (2nd) has already clinched while Greg Biffle (6th) just has to start in order to lock up his position.  Matt Kenseth (9th) and David Ragan (13th) are also trying to secure a spot.  All four drivers held Q&A sessions Friday at the speedway.

CARL EDWARDS – No. 99 Office Depot Ford Fusion – IS THERE ANYTHING ELSE YOU CARE ABOUT THIS WEEKEND OTHER THAN WINNING?  “I’m watching David Ragan real close.  That’s gonna be fun for the fans to watch that fight for the chase.  I know how that feels.  It doesn’t get anymore stressful than that – maybe going to Homestead with a chance to win the championship – but that’s what I’m watching.  Really, I feel like we’re just out to win.  This is our last real fun race, where we don’t have much to worry about.” 

WHAT’S THAT LIKE WHEN YOU GET IN THE CAR KNOWING YOU HAVE TO RUN WELL TO MAKE THE CHASE?  “In 2005 I will never forget.  That race was the most stressful race I’ve ever been a part of because there was a wreck over in turn three and I was real close to getting caught up in it and we ended making the chase by just a real small margin.  And then it led to us almost being able to win the championship.  I felt like that Richmond race in 2005 was a bottleneck.  I mean, so much stress went on in that race and I don’t envy those guys that are in that position right now.” 

WHAT’S IT LIKE WHEN YOU MAKE IT?  “You know when you don’t make it, you’re just gearing up for the next season.  The phone kind of quits ringing and unless you go out and do what Tony did a couple of years ago and win a bunch of races, it’s real hard to have any real positive things going in the chase morale-wise, media-wise or whatever if you’re not in it, so it’s a big deal to make it.” 

HOW FAR HAS THIS GROUP COME THIS YEAR?  “We’ve come a long ways in the last year, right out of the gate winning those races at the mile-and-a-half tracks was huge at the beginning of the year, and then to be able to win at Bristol and run really well at Martinsville with Robbie up on the box says a lot about the team and how everybody has been working.  But this thing kind of goes in waves and people figure things out.  Now you’re seeing Jimmie run really well after they were struggling a little bit at the beginning of the year, but you just have to peak right there in the chase.  You hope the engineers and everyone work and find that thing for the chase.” 

WHAT KIND OF STATEMENT DID JIMMIE MAKE LAST WEEK?  “Jimmie’s car was unbelievable last week.  That’s a big statement.  There are a lot of race tracks that are big, mile-and-a-half, big tracks in the chase, so I thought that was pretty huge, and for us to kind of struggle there a little bit was a little bit frustrating.” 

HOW MUCH HAS RAGAN IMPROVED THIS YEAR?  “David’s a real strong person, I think.  I feel like he’s got a lot of confidence in himself.  He’s one of those guys that, I think, is gonna be great and how he has matured over the last couple of years – in my eyes just from the outside looking in – it looks like he’s on a real steep curve and he’s gonna be great.” 

HOW MUCH WILL THIS TRACK CHANGE WHEN IT RAINS?  “I don’t know how much the surface will change with the rain.  The surface was pretty good when we started this morning.  It looks like we might get this race started tonight, but it looks like we’ll most likely get the Cup race in tomorrow night, but if we do, it’ll be on a green race track at night so it’s likely to be a little bit different, but this track seems to stay pretty good.” 

HAVE YOU TALKED TO RAGAN ABOUT ’05?  “I haven’t talked to David about that night.  If I did, I’d tell him to just hang on, don’t make any mistakes, don’t stress.  It looks like he’s got a real fast car.” 

WHAT HAPPENED IN THAT ’05 WRECK?  “I just remember, I think Dale Jarrett was behind me and he was doing everything he could to stop and I was all jacked up and I thought, ‘It’s over,’ and we barely made it through.  For me, I saw kind of my whole career flash there because I knew that making it in the chase and having a good season was gonna really help us get a sponsor for the next year.  We were still up in the air.” 

HOW HARD IS IT FOR YOU WHO IS ALREADY IN THE CHASE TO STAY OUT OF THE WAY OF THE GUYS TRYING TO GET IN?  “The people who have their season hinging on this night, I don’t want to mess their night up and nobody wants to mess their night up.  Even if it’s a guy you don’t like or whatever, you don’t want to mess it up just because that’s not fair.  So I think everybody will be on the toes for those guys that have to get in.”

GREG BIFFLE – No. 16 3M Ford Fusion – YOUR THOUGHTS GOING INTO TOMORROW.  “I’m pretty excited about it.  It looks like all we have to do is take the green flag and we’re locked into our second chase, so everybody on the 16 team was pretty pumped up this week after our run at California.  Certainly we didn’t end up off the truck here like we wanted to be.  We were the slowest car for quite some time until we got into qualifying trim.  We picked it up in race trim and got it in qualifying trim and got it going a lot better today, so I’m looking forward to tomorrow night.  Certainly this race track isn’t similar to Loudon, but hopefully we learned a little bit here that we can carry to Loudon and in the first chase race run decent because, of course, all of the points are gonna be re-set, so that’s our opportunity to start gaining on those guys.” 

IS THERE ANYWAY A TEAM CAN LOOK PAST THIS RACE OR IS IT A TRAP YOU CAN’T AFFORD TO FALL INTO BECAUSE IT WILL BREAK YOUR MOMENTUM?  “A little bit of both.  I realized after the race in California, actually this week when I was thinking about coming here, that it truly doesn’t matter where I finish tomorrow night.  That’s kind of an unusual situation.  I think it’s the first time ever in a points event for a NASCAR race that it doesn’t matter where I finish tomorrow night, unless I win.  That’s the obvious thing, but unless I win tomorrow night, that’s not really gonna change my outcome.  One is, we can try some things to the car – maybe on pit stops and stuff like that to try and gain track position – do what we can do to try and win.  We’re gonna do that.  We do that every week, so we’re not gonna do anything different there, but we can take a little bit of a gamble.  The other thing is with the limited amount of practice, we’re already set to go for tomorrow night, so the car is already done and is set up and is about like we ran it in the spring, just a little bit different as far as bar and shock package.  So there’s nothing real off the wall we’re gonna try as far as learning something, so we’re just gonna go for it tomorrow night.” 

WHY HAS CARL WON SO MUCH AND THE OTHER ROUSH FENWAY DRIVERS HAVEN’T?  “We often wonder about that.  We attribute a lot of that to different crew chiefs approach things differently a little bit.  The team assembles the car maybe a little bit differently.  He finds something he likes a little bit better.  The cars are never identical, it seems like and it seems like each car has its own personality.  So even though our two cars have identical stuff in them, they still act a little bit different, there’s still a little adjustment here and there, a little less wedge, a little more wedge.  For the most part, he’s been better than us this year, but, obviously, last week was a testament that we can end up better than the 99 and we were last week by quite a bit.  If it wasn’t for the 48, we would have looked like a hero because we had about a straightaway lead on third place the whole night.  If we could have just got that blue car, the 48 car out of the way up front, we would have looked like heroes, but we’re getting there.  Our setup was a fair amount different than his at California.  I just work on my car and work on my car and get it like I want it to drive.  We pay attention to what they’re doing, maybe try some stuff they’re doing, but our cars were not that close at California and we ended up being better.” 

WHAT ASPECT OF THE COT HAS BEEN THE MOST DIFFICULT TO ADJUST TO AND HOW HAS ROUSH FENWAY ADAPTED?  “We certainly have caught up, I would say.  It was obvious when we started out that we were way behind the rest of the teams, and I would certainly say we’ve closed that gap.  There are still a few that are a little better than we are.  Our information or data acquisition and things to try and get ready for coming here off the seven-post or simulation models are still not perfect.  We showed up off the truck and we’re horrible, and the guys at the shop have been working on that setup for weeks, so it’s not perfect yet, but we keep working on it and getting better and better.” 

WHY DID CARL START THE SEASON SO WELL AND SOME OF THE OTHERS DIDN’T?  “I think that we ran decent at the beginning of the season, some of the problems we had were finishing the races.  We were really fast, we just weren’t getting the finishes at the beginning of the season and Carl was really getting those finishes.  I think that’s probably the main difference.” 

CAN YOU TALK ABOUT THE NOTION OF LUCK IN THIS SPORT?  “You think about that sometimes.  This is the luckiest guy I’ve ever seen in my life sitting next to me (Kenseth).  It might be a good question for him when I’m done.  Why did the engine break at Darlington when we had a good opportunity to win?  They even changed the engine prior to that race because they felt they were having issues with the belts.  You often wonder, we joke about it and talk about it, nothing will ever go wrong when you’re running 30th.  That car will run forever.  It will run all day and you’ll never get a flat tire, but you start running the top-five or leading the race and something will happen every time.  I think it is just coincidentally and I guess you could call that luck.”

MATT KENSETH – No. 17 DeWalt Ford Fusion – YOUR THOUGHTS ON THE RACE?  “We all like coming to Richmond.  I don’t really know about our race yet, but we didn’t run very good as a group here last time.  By looking at the sheets and how my car drove, it seems like we made some improvements on that.  So we’ve got it running halfway decent in practice, so I’m hoping for a good race.” 

WHY HAS ONE DRIVER AT EACH OF THE BIG THREE TEAMS DOMINATED WITH THIS NEW CAR?  “It sounds like we should all stay home and let those three race.  I don’t know.  At Michigan, I think we had four out of the top six cars.  I think we had three cars in the top five last week, I think, if I’m not mistake.  Yeah, Carl has come home with the wins and he’s run better in this car last year when they started with this car than the rest of us.  For whatever reason he’s been able to pick that up again, so that’s hard to answer.  Everybody’s situation is a little bit different.  It’s not just about a piece of hardware and a driver.  You’ve got 40 guys working on that car or more and every team and driver works a little bit different together.  This car is very sensitive.  In practice today, we ran four or five runs and we were a 30th-place car.  We just ran terrible.  We made one teenie-tiny change and it brought it to life and made it really competitive, so I think a lot of that is just Carl and Bob have been working together for quite a while, even though it’s been on and off, and they’ve been able to get a handle on it.” 

DOES A TEAM LOOK AT POINTS AND WHEN THEY’RE SITTING 13TH FEEL THEY HAVE TO RATCHET IT UP?  “I’ve never come to the race track said, ‘Oh, man, this would be really cool to run 15th this week.’  We never come to the race track and not want to finish good and not want to win.  We bring what we think at that current time is our best stuff.  We put forth 100 percent effort.  We race as hard as we can race to win and we take whatever results we get for that day, so we’re still not in.  We’re obviously in pretty decent shape, but we’re still not in.  I think since Darlington, team-wise, we’ve operated at a much higher level than we did the first month and a half.  We had that tire problem at Indy that was 130 points or something like that and that put us back behind a little bit, but I think from Darlington when we had three or four finishes that were almost as bad as 40th, I think, in a row, we were able to put together a lot of top-10s and run real consistently and be more of a factor.  So at the beginning of the year, I don’t think we operated at a championship level and we also got taken out a couple of races in wrecks that were really not a lot of our doing, so we just had some problems there and we’ve been able to get going a little bit better.  But even if we do make it in, we realize we’ve got to be running better to have a legitimate shot at winning.  It’s not just about being in, it’s trying to win the championship, so we’re working hard to try and get our stuff more competitive.” 

HOW DOES IT FEEL TO BE THE LUCKIEST DRIVER IN NASCAR, ACCORDING TO BIFFLE?  “I don’t feel like that most weeks.  I think a lot of times you create your own luck.” 

YOU RODE YOUR CYCLE AS A STRESS RELIEF A COUPLE OF YEARS AGO WHEN YOU WERE ON THE BUBBLE.  HOW DO YOU DEAL WITH STRESS RELIEF GOING INTO A RACE LIKE THIS?  “Really, I don’t really get that stressed out about it.  I’m not really anymore stressed out this weekend than I was eight weeks ago, to be totally honest with you.  I enjoyed my ride last week.  I had a lot of fun and that means I didn’t have to do anything else – maybe something I didn’t want to do – so I was able to just kind of go out there and see a lot of cool stuff and hanging out with Kyle (Petty) is always a lot of fun.  We had a good time, but it’s been just kind of a normal week this week.  Even though it was a day short with Labor Day and coming all the way back from the west coast and all that stuff, but it’s really just another race.  There’s more on the line, but every point from Daytona to here or every race you can gain or lose the same amount of points.  I don’t really approach it different than any other race.  We’re just gonna go out and do the best we can and, hopefully, none of us make any mistakes and we get a decent result out of it.” 

WHAT IS THE KNACK FOR GETTING THE CAR GOOD AT THE END?  YOU SEEM TO HAVE IT.  “There are a few things.  Obviously, I’m not that good enough at it because we haven’t won yet.  Carl’s been winning all the races, but a lot of it comes from where we qualify.  If I was an exceptional qualifier and we put a ton of effort into qualifying and did all that stuff and started up in the top 10 or won some poles and that stuff, if you win the pole, you don’t have anywhere to go but backwards.  Last week I really messed up qualifying and we started 39th or 37th, it was way back there, and we didn’t have anywhere to go but up, so we had to constantly adjust on the car all day.  We had good pit stops.  We were back in traffic, so we’re always trying to get our car better.  I think sometimes, and there have been times earlier in our career, when we’ve qualified good and maybe been out front leading or been running up in the top three or four and you get scared to change it because you’re running pretty good and you maybe don’t keep up on the track, whereas more times than not we’re coming from behind and trying to catch those guys and we’re constantly working to try and make it just a little bit better.” 

IS THERE A POINT IN THE MIDDLE OF THE RACE WHEN YOU REALIZE ALL YOU HAVE MIGHT BE A 15TH PLACE CAR AND JUST TRY TO PRESERVE THAT?  “I don’t know if that ever goes through my mind like, ‘Oh, man, we’ve got a 15th-place car or a 20th-place car.’  But you kind of learn or know when you’ve been racing long enough in the series what’s a pace you can run without being over the edge or without wrecking the car and get everything you can get out of it without burning the brakes off or burning the tires off.  I think you try to run that pace all the time and I just constantly try to think about trying to get our car better, no matter where we’re running and try to achieve the balance of the car and try to get it to feel like you want it to feel.  I don’t really think about where we’re running, I think about how we can try to improve it, hopefully.” 

WHAT KIND OF TRANSITION IS IT WHEN YOU GO FROM HAVING A LONG-TIME CREW CHIEF TO A NEW ONE?  “I think he (Tony Stewart) will be in a totally different situation than I was in.  We moved Chip from within in the team.  He was our original engineer when we did our five-race deal in ’99, so I guess this is his 10th season with us.  He’s been with us the whole time, so for him and I to adjust to each other, it hasn’t really been that big of an adjustment as far as communication and how to get the cars adjusted on and doing all that stuff.  I think the adjustment has really been for him and probably still is for him – dealing with people and organizing a group of people.  Chip has always been the guy back in his office and at all the testing at the track or seven-poster or what have you – just concentrating on making the car faster.  That used to be his only job, and now you add a whole bunch more jobs to what he does and more of  a load on what he does, and he already worked as long a hours as he possibly could work and I think that’s a big adjustment to try to figure out how to balance both – still focus on making the cars faster, but at the same time focus on the group and getting to the track and doing all the things that the crew chief has to do.” 

WHY IS IT MORE DIFFICULT TO WIN?  “It’s definitely a lot different.  This car, we can’t work on the bodies.  What you have aerodynamically is basically what you have.  Back a few years ago, even when Mark was there or Greg’s cars for that matter, you could really change the cars aerodynamically a lot for your own driving style and how you wanted to adjust it.  Greg and I had totally opposite bodies on our cars with aero loads and all the stuff we had going on.  We can’t do that anymore, so you kind of have to adjust to what that is and work on it from there, so that makes it a little bit difficult because if it’s not driving like you want, you can’t really do the things you used to do to try to fix that and make it run better in traffic and do that.  So it is a big advantage to be in front and some guys have been able to figure their cars out better than others and they’re very sensitive to being in front and being in the clean air, and they’re also real sensitive to adjustments and things like that.  So I think it’s made it a little bit better too.  Carl and some of those guys, when they qualify better they can stay up there all day.  I’ve watched some of these races and I see the top five cars – like at Bristol – I think the top five or six cars basically ran in the top five or six for 500 laps.  It’s harder to come from the back than it used to be and get up front and challenge them.” 

DO PRACTICE SPEEDS MEAN ANYTHING?  “The speeds mean something.  Our top speed there I wasn’t totally worried about.  Everybody was doing qualifying runs and we actually, I just found out, had a water valve that was stuck open on the radiator dumping water all over the tires, so that’s probably why we couldn’t run better than that.  But in long runs, we ran on a set of tires for a long time.  We try to get it to feel a certain way on old used tires.  Last time we really struggled after five or six laps we couldn’t get any traction.  We’d just spin the tires and we couldn’t get the middle turned, so we really tried to work on a longer run and work on old tires and try to get the balance to where we wanted it to on old tires, which won’t really show up on that sheet.” 

DOES IT MEAN ANYTHING BEING AN IMPOUND RACE?  “I don’t know how many cars are here, but whenever there are more than 44 or 45, I think that bottom part works probably a lot harder on qualifying even though it’s an impound race, so I’m sure you’ll have guys that are doing some things, but at a short track it’s probably not a huge difference in setup.”

DAVID RAGAN – No. 6 AAA Ford Fusion – YOUR THOUGHTS ON THE RACE?  “Certainly we’re excited to be in this opportunity to have a shot for the chase.  That’s what our goals were at the beginning of the year, just to be able to have a shot at Richmond to make the chase.  It would be great if we were in the top 12 locked in, but we’re not.  We’re outside trying to fight our way in and 17 points is better than 25 points, but it’s not as good as five points, so it should be an exciting race tomorrow night.  If I had to pick any track to go to, Richmond would probably be in the top two or three choices, so it’s a perfect situation for us to go out and try to be the heroes of the weekend.  If we make the chase, it’ll be great, but if we don’t make the chase, we’ve still got 10 races to go to try win some races and finish up strong in points.  So I’m looking forward to tomorrow night’s race and I think so far, so good.  Our AAA Ford was pretty good.  We unloaded fast and we’ll see what happens here in qualifying.” 

DO YOU AGREE THAT CLINT AND KASEY HAVE MORE PRESSURE THAN YOU IN THIS RACE?  “Yes, some of that is accurate.  I’d say that we are definitely just happy to be in this position, but we have put some pressure on ourselves to try to make some good things happen.  I put a lot of pressure on myself last week to try to run a little better than we did, but I think the pressure is probably on Clint more than anybody because it’s his spot to lose and it’s ours to gain.  We all have a lot of pressure on us to go out and get the job done and try to get in the chase, but, yeah, I can imagine that there’s probably a little more pressure on Clint not to mess up.  We can go out and just race as hard as we can and whatever happens happens.” 

DO YOU FEEL LIKE THE KICKER NOBODY WANTS TO TALK TO WITH TWO SECONDS LEFT IN THE GAME?  “Yes and no.  It’s a deal where it’s certainly riding on our shoulders, but it’s not to that point yet.  If you were to ask me that question before I sat down in the car before tomorrow’s green flag run and started to go, it might be a little different, but we’ve still got a lot of racing with the Nationwide race tonight and qualifying and 400 laps tomorrow.  I’ve tried not to put a lot of pressure on myself.  Certainly, if we make the chase it’s not gonna be because we had a good race at Richmond, it’s gonna be because we were pretty solid all year.  If we don’t make the chase, it’s gonna be because we made some mistakes throughout the year.  So Richmond, it’s an important race, but it’s not the only race of the year we’re gonna look at and say, ‘Hey, this is the race whether we’re in or out.’  I’m just trying to go out and not put a lot of pressure on myself.  Certainly we’ll be a little more cautious at times and pay attention to the details, but I’m not putting that kind of pressure on just this one race.” 

ARE YOU GOING TO WEATHER.COM?  “I just left my motorhome and that’s what was on the internet, so I was watching it before coming back here.  I pay attention to what’s going on and trying to be aware of what’s happening so I can make a better plan, but, ultimately, it’s the same situation for everybody.  We all had the same amount of practice this afternoon.  We’re all gonna have the same opportunity to qualify, whether it rains or not, and we’re all gonna have the same ideas going into tomorrow night, but I think just from my limited knowledge and studying the internet radar, I think we’ll be fine.  Maybe not for qualifying, but definitely for tomorrow night.” 

WOULD YOU BENEFIT MORE FOR NEXT YEAR BY NOT MAKING THE CHASE AND HAVING THOSE LAST 10 RACES TO PROGRESS?  “I think where we’re at, we’re not a championship-caliber team now.  No matter how good we run tonight, and if we make the chase, no matter how excited we are, the bottom line at the end of the day you can’t win the championship without winning some races and you can’t win without getting a lot of top fives and leading a lot of laps and we’re not quite there yet and I think we know that.  We’ve still got a ways to go and I think that would be the mentality we would take in the chase.  We wouldn’t necessarily be looking at that championship role and I think it’s a little far-fetched from where we stand today.  Now a lot of things can happen between now and the end of the year and then we’d say, ‘Yeah, I think we’ve got a shot at the championship,’ but as we stand right here today, we’ve got a top 10 to a top 12 to 14 team and that’s what we’ve got.  We’ve still got to win some races and we’ve got to slowly progress into a better more consistent faster team, but I don’t think the championship – it would be in the back of our minds, but it wouldn’t be the main objective out of these last 10 races.” 

IN A SENSE WHAT HAPPENS DEPENDS ON HOW IT GOES – EITHER CONSISTENCY OR WINNING.  “Yeah, I agree with you.  You look at our team over the last month and a half and we’ve been really consistently a top 10 car, and I think that’s what gets you in the chase.  Certainly we’d all like to think that the Sprint Cup champion is gonna be a person that can go out and win some races this final 10 stretch, and looking at the way Carl and Kyle are kind of not necessarily in a league of their own, but running pretty good with each other – head and shoulders above everybody just about – I think that they’re gonna win some races and it’s gonna be a battle.  But as you pointed out, guys that were consistently