Talladega Awaits Ford Chase Drivers

Ford Chase drivers Greg Biffle, Matt Kenseth and Carl Edwards all held Q&A sessions Friday to discuss this weekend's Amp Energy 500 at Talladega Superspeedway.

 Greg Biffle, driver of the No. 16 3M Ford Fusion, is in third place in the point standings going into this weekend’s Amp Energy 500.  He held a press conference Friday morning before practice started and spoke about a variety of issues.

GREG BIFFLE – No. 16 3M Ford Fusion – “I’m really excited about this weekend.  I think this Talladega race is gonna be fun and exciting.  I think a lot can happen here on Sunday and I definitely think we’re gonna see a little move in the points this weekend just because it’s more wide-open, so to speak.  It’s not that you’re gonna have the top three in points battling for the lead or batting for first, second and third this week.  I think there’s gonna certainly be more guys in the mix obviously, and I think the potential is there for a little bit of movement.” 

COULD YOU HAVE IMAGINED WINNING TWO CHASE RACES AND FINISHING THIRD IN THE OTHER AND STILL BEING THIRD IN THE CHASE?  “Yeah, we’ve talked about that a lot, having two wins and still third in the points, and then finish third and lose ground.  I lost another 20 points, so it’s kind of fun that the points are that tight.  It’s kind of unique, I think, to see all three of us just like a rope – hooking us together where we can’t get any further apart than we are – but I think that’s gonna change this weekend.  I think you’re gonna see the points move a little bit more this weekend than the first three weekends and you’ll probably see the same at Martinsville as well, so I just hope we’re on the positive side of it this week and hopefully we can get a little closer to the lead.  But, yeah, I’m surprised to see it that tight.” 

WHAT DID YOU THINK OF CARL’S MOVE LAST WEEK AT THE END OF THE RACE?  “Carl’s my teammate, so I don’t want him to be upset, but I think that it was fun to watch on TV and it’s been fun to talk about.  But, really, if you go inside the car and the thought process is, ‘OK, I’m gonna drive down in here,’ like he said in his interview, he planned on hitting the wall.  So there’s just a lot of risk involved in that from the driver’s point of view. 

Granted, he had a lot of room over third place, but you run down in there – and, I mean, he was talking about grazing the wall, so maybe not so much risk – but if, one, he didn’t clear the 48 car, they’re both in the fence and wrecked – so he had to drive it in there far enough to clear him.  Second, these cars are not like the video game.  You can break a tie-rod; you can knock the axle housing; you can break the panhard bar.  If you broke the heim joint on the panhard bar, that car is probably not gonna be able to make it back to the start-finish line going straight ahead.  You’re gonna spin out or you’re gonna cut a driveshaft in half – those kinds of things – break a brake rotor, break a hub, break a ball joint – lots of things can happen when you hit the fence, especially a pretty good hit.  Like he said, he hit it harder than he expected to, so all I’m saying is there’s a lot of risk involved with that. 

It was a courageous move on his part to try and beat the 48.  It’s all he could do to try and beat the 48, yet there’s a fair amount of risk involved in not finishing second.  There’s no risk in not winning.  Shoot, he had nothing to lose.  The risk is to not be able to finish second because something happened to the car when it hit the fence.  I’d have to probably think long and hard about that move.  I mean, maybe in Homestead for the championship.” 

ISN’T THE SMART MOVE TO PROTECT YOURSELF IN THIS RACE ON SUNDAY AND HANG BACK?  “It is the smart move.  By far it’s the smart move because historically we’ve seen accidents and no matter where you’re running on the track you’re typically involved in it because these cars going that fast that close together, you can’t swerve around something like you’re going 50 miles an hour down a rural road and an animal runs out in front of you or something.  You just cannot avoid the inevitable of being involved in something when a fender-bender starts, so that’s just the kind of racing that these restrictor plate tracks have produced.  I do not want to be in harm’s way.  It’s like riding that snowmobile along the bottom of the avalanche to see how courageous you’re gonna be before it comes down on you – everybody wants to sit back in the bleachers and watch that, but not a lot of people want to get out and participate in that, so that’s the situation you’re in – do you want to participate in that or not?  You have to make that decision.” 

IS THERE ANYTHING WRONG WITH HANGING BACK?  “I don’t think there’s anything wrong with it because it’s being smart and saving your race car for being able to race the guys at the end.” 

ESPECIALLY FOR SOMEONE LIKE YOURSELF WITH SOMETHING TO LOSE.  “Yeah, I hate to see it for all the fans who want to come out and watch a great race.  They’re gonna see a great race with 50 laps to go or 25-40 laps to go.  They’re gonna see an awesome race and they’ll definitely get their money’s worth, but for us to be racing at the 300-mile portion of the race like it’s 10 to go, it’s almost senseless if you think about it.  There’s absolutely zero to be gained in it and to battle for a position that really makes no difference at that point, so at some point, depending on where I’m at, I may try and run in the front.  If it gets a little hairy in the middle, I may try and get out of that group a little bit, but at some point I’m gonna make a run to the front prior to the end. 

I’m gonna run up through the draft, but it’s a risk you take because I’ve got to find out how my car handles and I’ve got to find out where I can go and where I can pass at, so I will try and pass from wherever I qualify or wherever I end up on a pit stop.  I will try to get to the front in the middle part of the race or three-quarters of the way through or whatever, I will try and push the issue and try to get to the front at least once – to see what I can do.  And the other thing is it’s almost a false sense of security because at that point, if you’re pushing the issue, you pass a guy and stick your nose inside of him he’s gonna be like, ‘Go ahead.  Let that idiot go right now.  It’s only the middle part of the race and he’s going like crazy.’  So when it comes down to 20 to go, that guy may not give you that room anymore that he gave you at 300 miles.  It’s gonna be a waiting game.” 

IS THERE A BONSAI MOVE YOU’VE MADE THAT WORKED OR DIDN’T WORK?  “Yeah, I guess not necessarily a bonsai move, it sort of was at Tucson Raceway Park.  It was sort of like Darlington, where you could run way down on the race track, way down on the flat, and I kind of did that famous slide job, I guess.  I got my car to get grip way down on the white line where nobody ran the last four laps at Tucson Raceway Park, when I was able to win there and come from a lap down and win.  So that was sort of a thing where it was a had to try it kind of move, just turn it all the way to the bottom and slid across the bottom and got back to the gas and ended up being able to clear the guy coming off the corner.  So one of those kinds of moves, but I’m sure there are little things where you just squeak through and you’re like, ‘That was pretty ballsy and it worked out for me,’ but there are probably a number of those that I can’t think of right now.  That was late model racing at Tucson.” 

WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT MARTINSVILLE?  YOU CAN’T RUN IN THE BACK THERE.  “No, you cannot run in the back at Martinsville – not for long.  You can, but not for long.  I’m really, really excited and optimistic about going to Martinsville, especially with the way we ran at Loudon, New Hampshire.  I know that’s not the same exact race track, but it is technically a similar race track for us – a lot slower speed and a lot more technical, but a flat race track nevertheless that you’ve got to get the car to turn and it takes quite a bit of brake at Loudon as well, so with those things considered and us running seventh in the fall last year, I’m pretty optimistic that we can be there again.  I remember beating on the back of the 48s bumper at Martinsville in the fall just because I could.  I could finally get to him and race with him at that race track, so, hopefully that’s the same case this year.  We can go back there and run in the top five.” 

AS FAR AS GETTING OUT OF HERE WITH A MINIMAL AMOUNT OF DAMAGE, THAT’S A TEAM-WIDE FEELING ISN’T IT?  “I’m not sure what you’re referring to as far as minimal damage, but we feel like we certainly can run in the top 10 and I’m ready to put it on the line there with 25 to go.  It’s gonna be fun and I feel like a lot has been talked about in the points, where for three races we’ve been on top of each other.  I just think you’re gonna see a little bit of separation this week, but I’m confident that we’re gonna be at the top of the heap.” 

THE PGA TOUR IS SIMILAR TO THE CHASE.  DO YOU FORESEE A CASE WHERE A DRIVER COULD LOCK UP THE TITLE BEFORE THE FINAL RACE?  “I think it’s possible.  One would wonder why I would say that right now being three races in and all three of us within 30 points, but I think it’s certainly possible.  If a person could continue to run at the level that we are now for 10 weeks, certainly somebody is gonna have a ninth or 10th-place finish – or a couple of them – that probably won’t be enough points to lock it up because what I call lock-it-up is just having to take the green at Homestead.  I had 170 or 180-point lead at California and I wasn’t locked in the chase yet, but if I would have had four more, I wouldn’t have even had to go to Richmond, so I considered myself locked in, but I had to go take the green.  That’s what I’d consider having the chase locked up, just show up at Homestead and start the engine, so I think that’s reachable.  If one of the three of us continue to run at the level we run at for all 10 weeks, you could see that kind of point lead, but I don’t know if that’s gonna happen this year.” 

EARNHARDT USED TO INTIMIDATE GUYS IN PRACTICE AND ALL.  WAS CARL’S MOVE OFF THE WALL OR THE NEXT TIME YOU SEE HIM WILL THAT MAKE YOU THINK ABOUT WHAT HE MIGHT DO?  “I don’t know if it was or not.  I don’t think I’d be intimidated to see Carl behind me in that situation again.  Everybody is gonna try something on the last lap.  The 48 at New Hampshire drove way down on the apron on the last lap.  I could see him in the mirror, but the problem is the car will only do as much as it wants to do.  We cannot make it go by, so Carl driving way down in the corner like that, the 48 new he was gonna slide up, so the 48 got out of the gas and turned the car down and went.  It wasn’t going to stick, so you’ve got to think to yourself that the car will only do so much.  You know what your car will do and if you drive it in there as fast and hard as your car is gonna go, you know that guy two to four car lengths back probably isn’t gonna be able to pass you just by driving by you. 

It’s definitely gonna be a race, so I don’t think I’d be intimidated by that.  Like I said, Carl thought it out.  It wasn’t just something sporadic that Carl just all of a sudden was gonna try this.  He thought about it.  He knew that he was gonna skim the wall a little bit.  He felt like if he drove it down in there far enough he could get in front of the 48 and maybe take the air off the nose of the 48 car – maybe startle him just a little bit – and he just didn’t anticipate hitting the wall that hard and dragging that much speed off the car.  When these cars hit the wall, they slow down in a hurry because that’s a lot of surface area in contact with the concrete. 

 They slow down a bunch when you hit it, but certainly it was a hell of a move and a hell of a try, but there are a lot of things that can jump out and bite you that you’re not thinking about, I suppose, that could be on the negative side.  And certainly he wouldn’t have done it if the third-place guy would have been right there, so he had a lot to think about.  He knew, ‘I’ve got a lot of room behind me.  Maybe if I cut a tire I’ll be able to limp it across the line and still be second.’  I don’t know how far up they were, but he probably thought through everything he was gonna execute on that move.”

            Matt Kenseth, driver of the No. 17 DeWalt Ford Fusion, is ninth in the NASCAR Sprint Cup point standings after three chase races.  He spoke about this weekend before Friday’s practice session.

MATT KENSETH – No. 17 DeWalt Ford Fusion – YOU’VE GAINED SPOTS IN THE STANDINGS THE LAST COUPLE OF WEEKS.  HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT THIS RACE?  “We haven’t really gained any points on the lead.  I think we’ve lost some since New Hampshire.  We gained 10 two weeks ago, but I think we lost 30 a week ago, so we haven’t been gaining on the leader but we’ve been gaining on everybody else.  We’ve been working our way up there a little bit and our performance has been gaining.  As good as those top-three guys are running, it’s been tough.  Everybody talks like it’s a three-horse race, but really, if you look to where we are compared to fourth, we’re not very far out of fourth.  So if those three guys, for some reason got caught up in a wreck here or they all faltered or had some trouble, there would be a lot of guys back in this thing.  So we just need to concentrate on finishing as high as we can, lead as many laps as we can, get as many points as we can every week and not really worry about what anybody else is doing.  There’s still a lot of racing to go and hopefully we can climb back in it.” 

DO YOU HAVE A STRATEGY AS FAR AS HOW YOU RACE THIS RACE?  “A few years ago they all tried to get together and do all that stuff like laying back.  I don’t know what anybody else is gonna do on Sunday, but I’m just gonna go race.  All of the fans up there are paying to watch a race.  A couple of years ago I know a lot of people got in trouble for saying it was boring – the drivers – but it was boring.  Everybody got in a single-file line and waited until 30 to go and then raced and I don’t think that’s what the fans want to see.  I don’t think that’s really what we want to do.  You’re still gonna wreck, but it’s just gonna be with 10 to go instead of 100 to go.  I’m just gonna go try to race as hard as we can, lead some laps hopefully and get some bonus points and try to get ourselves positioned for the end of the race and get a good finish.” 

            Carl Edwards, driver of the No. 99 Office Depot Ford Fusion, is 10 points behind Jimmie Johnson in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup.  He held is weekly Q&A session after practice on Friday.

CARL EDWARDS – No. 99 Office Depot Ford Fusion – WHAT IS YOUR PHILOSOPHY AS FAR AS HANGING BACK OR RACING ALL DAY AT THIS PLACE?  “I don’t know yet.  I haven’t decided what I’m gonna do.  It kind of depends on how we qualify.  If we qualify up front, then I’m definitely gonna go up there and race as hard as I can.  If qualifying goes like it usually does for us here, we’ll be in the back and it would be kind of silly to go charge up to the front early in the race, so I don’t know yet.  We’ll just kind of see what happens.” 

DO YOU FEEL LIKE THE FANS ARE BEING CHEATED IF GUYS JUST HANG OUT IN THE BACK?  “No, I don’t think it diminishes the value of those tickets because even if you’re holding back for the first 90 percent of the race, that last 10 percent is what fills these seats.  There’s nothing more exciting from a fan’s perspective than the last few laps here and there won’t be one guy out there holding back at that point.” 

IS IT MORE IMPORTANT FOR YOU BEING IN THE TOP THREE TO PLAY IT SMART THAT WAY?  “If it weren’t a points race, I think it would look a lot different, especially for the 12 guys in the chase, but it is a points race so you have to race it smart.  At times I’ve thought, ‘Man, it kind of takes something away from the racing,’ but really it’s just another part of the strategy.  You’ve got to do what you can to be there at the end.” 

WOULD YOU STILL PAY A MILLION BUCKS TO FINISH 10TH?  “Hell yes I would.  I might pay more.  This chase, we’ve gotten off to a great start.  You never know what’s gonna happen.  We can go out and win this thing and that would be great, but just as easily we could have some sort of trouble and not do well, so, to me, there are more chances involved in this race than probably any other on the schedule.” 

HOW WAS THE CAR IN FIRST PRACTICE?  “The car is real good, as good as it could be.  It goes where I steer it and seems to have plenty of power, so it’s good.” 

YOU WENT FOR A WIN LAST WEEK.  HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT THAT DECISION FIVE DAYS AFTER THE FACT?  “I wish I would have drove it in harder.  I knew I felt good about my chances of making it back to the finish line.  The wall is a pretty simple thing.  It wasn’t like I was going in there and bouncing off Jimmie and hoping for the best.  I kind of knew what I was up against there and, man, I wish we could have won it.  That’s it.  I just wait to have to wait another year to run that race, but I did, I made myself on Monday – standing there in the shower in the morning, the day had not started so well because that’s all I could think about, I made myself just forget about it.  It’s racing.  Somebody’s got to lose a good race like that.” 

BIFFLE THOUGHT IT MAY HAVE BEEN TOO BIG OF A RISK AND HE WOULDN’T HAVE DONE IT.  “I don’t care who feels that way and I don’t care what anybody says, I did what I thought was best and I’d do it again in a heartbeat.” 

EVEN HERE?  “It wouldn’t matter here.  You don’t have to lift in the corners, so it doesn’t work here.  If everybody is wide open, you can’t drive it in any deeper here.” 

BUT YOU CAN MAKE IT FIVE OR SIX WIDE.  WOULD YOU BE THAT AGGRESSIVE?  “I don’t know.  The last lap is gonna shape up to be whatever it is and it just depends on how that shapes up – not even just the last lap, the last corner.  Things shuffle a lot here.  I don’t know if you can have a strategy for the last lap here.” 

THE 99, 48 AND 16 HAVE BEEN SO STRONG.  HOW FAR HAVE YOU SEPARATED YOURSELVES FROM THE REST OF THE FIELD?  “Right now we’ve separated ourselves quite a bit from the rest of the field – the top three guys – but it’s really only three races in.  If Greg and Jimmie and I, let’s say we were the only three guys to get caught up in a wreck here and Burton and those guys were to go have good runs, we’d all be right back together, so it’s not a comfortable margin by any means.” 

WOULD IT BE WORTH MAKING THE RACES HERE SHORTER?  “They could make them shorter, but I think it’s cool to run 500 miles.  I think it’s good.  I think it gives the fans their money’s worth.  There’s always excitement going on around this place and it also brings the engine builders and the components manufacturers into it because stuff has to last for 500 miles, so I like the longer races.” 

TELL US ABOUT YOUR THOUGHT PROCESS LAST WEEKEND.  “I thought I could get Jimmie on the outside, but I realized that he’d seen that movie before and it wasn’t gonna work out as simply the second time.  He was gonna block me or do whatever he had to do, so it wasn’t until we were going down the back straightaway that I decided that was my only option to get in front of him.  And looking back on it too, it was something I hadn’t thought of at the time, but if the caution would have come out or something while I was in front of him, we would have won the race.  It just boils down to you can’t win it if you’re behind him.” 

HOW WOULD YOU FEEL IF YOU CLINCHED THIS CHASE BEFORE THE FINAL RACE OF THE SEASON?  “That would be great.  We’re all under the same rules.  If one guy can go out and get far enough ahead that he doesn’t even have to show up at the last event, that’s just the way it is.  That’s how that year goes down.  This is sport.  You’re gonna have years that are close and you’re gonna have years that aren’t and I think you’ve got to treasure them both.  This whole chase format was started to try and keep that kind of thing from happening and, in a way, it’s made it more exciting, but if you keep manipulating it, eventually you might as well just run the last lap at Homestead and whoever does the best there wins the whole thing.  There’s winning races and there’s winning championships and I think if you win the championship, it doesn’t matter how you do it.”