Kenseth Wins Darlington Pole ..

With Record Run  -  OUTHERN 500 QUALIFYING

Matt Kenseth, driver of the No. 17 DeWalt Ford Fusion, set a track record for qualifying at Darlington at 179.514 mph to win the pole for tonight's Southern 500.

JAMIE MCMURRAY – No. 26 Crown Royal Ford Fusion (Qualified 20th) – FIRST ONE OUT AFTER RAIN. A BAD DRAW? “Well, I didn’t think it was gonna be that bad because with the old Darlington it seemed like it was really good if you could go right after a rain shower, but, man, the balance of my car was really nice and it just felt like all four tires were kind of chattering. We just didn’t get a good draw.”GREG BIFFLE – No. 16 3M Ford Fusion (Qualified 11th) – “It’s really slick right now. I feel bad. I couldn’t go to the gas like I needed to because I was just too free. The second lap I was awesome in one and two, but too tight down in three and four. You’ve got to be right on that first lap, but the track just isn’t good enough yet.” WILL THIS DRAW HURT YOU FOR TOMORROW? “I’ve got a good car, but it depends on how much the track picks up. It’ll take eight to 10 guys for this thing to get going really good, but I think it’ll be a top-10 starting spot. We’ll just have to wait and see.”DAVID RAGAN – No. 6 UPS Ford Fusion (Qualified 15th) – “The track was just about how I expected it. It’s been warm here today and after a quick rain shower and the jets blowing the track off, you know it’s not gonna have a ton of grip. Ours did slide up just a little through the center, but I’m happy with our UPS Ford. It feels like it’s fast. We finished fifth here last year and this UPS Ford feels really similar to the car we had here a year ago, so, hopefully, that will be in the top-15 or so. Five hundred miles here is a real long race, but it feels fast. This is a fun place to be. We’re gonna kick back and watch the Nationwide race tonight and we’ll be ready to go get ‘em tomorrow.”PAUL MENARD – No. 98 Menards Ford Fusion (Qualified 43rd) – “I was tight and it just pushed up into the fence. I probably should have breathed it a little bit, but it’s qualifying and I had to get what I could. I don’t think it’s too bad. We’ll pound it out and I’m sure we’ll hit it again during the race a couple of times.”MATT KENSETH – No. 17 DeWalt Ford Fusion (Qualified 1st) – “Whenever you run that fast it’s the car. You can only go as fast as the car will carry you and Drew and Chip and all these guys on the DeWalt team did a great job of giving me a fast car today, so I’m really looking forward to tomorrow night. Hopefully, I’ll end up somewhere up front here in qualifying, but I’m looking forward to the race tomorrow.” HOW MUCH BETTER IS THE TRACK GETTING WITH RUBBER GETTING PUT DOWN? “I don’t know. It was pretty good all day. When we first went out in Nationwide practice it was pretty slick. The track took a lot of rubber and kept getting better and better, so I think the track is in really nice shape. I think they brought a good tire for us, so I think it’ll be a good race.”CARL EDWARDS – No. 99 Aflac Ford Fusion (Qualified 9th) – “I was dreading that lap for sure. I thought we got a gift from the rain there, but Bob made some great adjustments and we picked up about seven-tenths of a second. It’s not the pole, but that’s way better than I thought we were gonna be, so that’s a great lap for us.”BOBBY LABONTE – No. 96 Ford Fusion (Qualified 27th) – “I just didn’t have much grip in the car. It might have been that set of tires, but who knows. We just lost a tenth or so there because getting up to speed it just didn’t have the grip and I don’t know why.”MATT KENSETH POLE-WINNING PRESS CONFERENCE – RYAN WAS JOKING ABOUT HOW SOMEONE WHO DOESN’T QUALIFY WELL PUTS DOWN A RECORD LAP HERE. YOUR THOUGHTS. “Yeah, with how many poles he has – I think he has the most poles for an active driver, maybe not – but, anyway, that record is definitely in jeopardy with us winning this pole. We’re catching him. I think another 40 or so and we’ll be caught up to him (laughing). But, seriously, it was a great lap for us. We’ve had a lot of speed in our car all day today for some reason, which has been real encouraging. We made a lot of changes on our car today. We’ve been able to make it worse and we’ve been able to make it better and kind of feel what was going on, so I felt really good about that. Our mock-up run was actually really fast. I didn’t think we’d have a serious shot at the pole, but our car was driving really good and, actually, for once when it quit raining I was glad that we got to qualify today.” DID THE TRACK CHANGE AT ALL AFTER THE RAIN? “I think the track has been in really good shape. When we first went out with Nationwide practice it was really slick this morning, really dusty, just like it always is here. I don’t know, there must be sand in the air because it’s everywhere when you get here and you used to get to Rockingham, but the track today, in general, rubbered in a lot more than I thought it would. It turned really dark and the more it would rubber in, the more grip it got and the better it felt, and this left side tire seems to be a lot better than what we had. I thought after the rain it would all be washed away and, surprisingly, there was still a lot of rubber in the track. It stayed in there really good. The track did feel a little different than I thought it would. That rubber was just a little bit slick, but it obviously had pretty good grip – especially in three and four. Turn two was a little slicker than I thought it would be, but the rubber stayed in the track good and it was in good shape.” HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT THE RACE TOMORROW NIGHT? “I hope we’ll race good. We really worked on race setup all day and really didn’t work on qualifying setup very well. After we got done with race practice, you never know – today doesn’t really mean a ton for tomorrow – but it’s the most confident I’ve been in my car since I don’t know when. It’s the best car we’ve had all year by far in practice. Now practice doesn’t really necessarily mean what it’s gonna do for 500 miles that night when you’re practicing in the middle of the day, but the car really responded well to changes today and it drove probably better than any COT I’ve ever driven up to this point, so I feel pretty good about it. I’m a lot more confident than I have been the last couple months.”            Carl Edwards, driver of the No. 99 Aflac Ford Fusion, held his weekly Q&A session following the first of two practice sessions on Friday at Darlington Raceway, where he addressed a variety of topics.CARL EDWARDS – No. 99 Aflac Ford Fusion – IS THIS ONE OF THE MOST CHALLENGING TRACKS WE GO TO? “I was driving through turns one and two and I noticed my forearms hurt because I was squeezing the wheel so tight. This place is very fast and very treacherous now that they’ve re-paved it. There’s not much forgiveness at this place because it’s so fast and there’s so much grip. Goodyear has a well-performing tire. It’s crazy.” HOW DOES THE RE-PAVE CHANGE THE RACING? “I wish there was a way to age these places quicker. I loved the old pavement, but what’s different about this is it’s not as abrasive. The tires last longer. It’s a little harder to pass because the grip level is so hot and you’re riding on that knife edge and if you get under someone and get a little loose, there’s no room for error. This makes it more treacherous.” DOVER IS COMING UP. WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT THAT TRACK? “This place and Dover are a lot alike. They’re fun race tracks because they’re so fast and the driver can make a big difference. At Dover when you drive off into turn one, it’s a lot like driving off into turn one here at Darlington – the car kind of lifts off a little bit and then it settles and the sensation of speed is really high.” IS THIS THE TRACK WHERE THE DRIVER MAKES THE MOST DIFFERENCE? “I’d say as far as the ovals go there’s more in the driver’s hands here. With the new surface the car setup is more important than it used to be. It used to feel like 80 percent driver and 20 percent car and now it’s probably 40 percent driver and 60 percent car, but that’s still more than a lot of the tracks we go to. I’d be glad to run here every week. I like Darlington. I like the fans here. I like the way the track is shaped, the history, all the things make this place fun.” IS THIS THE LAST PLACE YOU’D LIKE TO COME IF YOUR TEAM WAS STRUGGLING? “No, if you’re struggling, then I’d say you want to come to a place like Darlington because if you’re off a little bit on your engineering or you don’t have everything quite figured out with the car, the driver can carry it a little more here, maybe. So this is one I’ve been looking forward to and our car is pretty fast. Greg is real fast, so I think it’s good to come here if you’re having trouble.” DO YOU FEEL CONFIDENT THE WHOLE PIT CREW ISSUE HAS BEEN ADDRESSED AND ANSWERED? “No, definitely not. We have continued troubles on pit road, but what I am confident in though is the process. We just need the time now. We need Brandon to develop as a tire changer and he needs to work with the guys, and everybody needs to build that chemistry that makes them good on pit road. So we’re a long ways from where we need to be, but, hopefully, the process we’ve got in place works.” HAVE YOU BEEN TO THE SHOP TO SHOW YOUR SUPPORT AND RALLY THE TROOPS? “I went to the shop a couple weeks ago and met with all the pit crew coaches and went out and watched pit practice and talked to the guys a little bit. The problem is not in practice. They’re decent at practice, the problem is just working together in the hostile environment that is the race. I stand by my guys 100 percent. I don’t spend a ton of time at the shop, but practice is practice and the race is the race, and we just have to figure out how to get them to work well together at the race.”IS IT PRESSURE DRIVEN? “I don’t know. Those guys know and that’s what they have to work on. It would appear that whatever happens at the race track is giving them a hard time. I’ve talked at great length with Robbie and the pit crew coaches and we do have a great way for those guys to practice. Now they’re doing two-a-days – practicing more – hopefully we don’t have any trouble with that, so they’re working hard and it’s just gonna take time. Either they can do it or they can’t and time will tell.” THE SENSE IS THIS WILL BE A PHYSICALLY DEMANDING RACE, WHICH PLAYS TO YOUR STRENGTH. “The hotter it is the better and the longer the race the better. This place is gonna be really grueling on Saturday.  There’s gonna be a lot of Vitamin Water drank during that race tomorrow night.”THIS WOULD BE A BIG NOTCH IN YOUR BELT TO WIN THIS RACE, WOULDN’T IT? “Oh yeah. This would be a great win and that’s all there is to it. Daytona would be huge. Martinsville would be huge for me. Any of the road courses and this place ranks right up there with all of them.” WOULD THIS BE LIKE A FOURTH MAJOR IN NASCAR? “Yeah, I’d say it’s right up there with Bristol and Daytona, especially for all the guys in the garage and the folks that have been around this sport a long time, this place is really special. I’d say if you win here, it means you’ve done something. It would be a huge sense of accomplishment for me.” ARE THE PRACTICES HARDER HERE? “Yeah, look at all those cars that crashed.” ARE YOU MORE WORN OUT HERE AFTER PRACTICE? “Oh yeah. I just ate some lunch and now I’m gonna go rest a little bit. We ran two hours in the Nationwide car and an hour-and-a-half here and this is tough, and it’s relentless now that it’s re-paved. You can’t relax, whereas when the tires before got old you’d kind of slow down and have a little more room to play. It’s not like that now.” CAN YOU ADAPT TO THAT? “We have to adapt to it. The race went pretty well here last year. I was pretty nervous when we came after the first couple runs on the new pavement, but it’ll age and it’ll get a little more forgiving, but right now the right foot has to be down and you hope that car will do what you want it to do.” SO IS THE PAVEMENT BETTER? “Yeah, I think it’s a little better. I noticed I could get a little sideways and I could still drive. It wasn’t as unforgiving as it was before, so that’s good. I wish we had a little time machine where you could just speed it up, where there was a process where we could make it age just like that old pavement because that stuff was great. I guess it just takes time.” WHAT DO YOU THINK OF NASCAR’S DRUG TESTING POLICY AND HOW IT RELATES TO SOME OF THE OTHER SPORTS? IS IT TOUGH ENOUGH? “I feel comfortable with the people I race with here. I feel that NASCAR is aware of how serious of an issue it is and I, personally, have never felt like I’m at risk or there’s anyone at risk because of the way NASCAR handles its drug policy, so I would say we’re doing well.”

            Greg Biffle, driver of the No. 16 3M Ford Fusion, has a pair of wins at Darlington Raceway in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series and appeared headed for a third last year before mechanical issues knocked him out of the race. He spoke about Saturday night’s race before qualifying on Friday afternoon.

GREG BIFFLE – No. 16 3M Ford Fusion – HOW WAS PRACTICE AND WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT TOMORROW’S RACE? “I’m really excited about tomorrow night’s race, for one. I love racing here. It’s a great race track for us, but I’ve been patting myself on the back. I’ve been real proud of my driving here at Darlington. I haven’t got a Darlington stripe in probably three years and the odds ran out today. I got a little stripe on the car down there in one and two on new tires, so that’s to be expected.  Every once in a while I guess you need to know where the edge is, so I certainly found out today. Thank goodness it didn’t really hurt the car any, just beat the side of it up a hair but the car is super-fast in race trim. I feel really good about qualifying trim. I don’t know what it is about this race track or our race cars at Roush Fenway, but the 3M Ford Fusion car is running really, really good and I’m just looking forward to tomorrow night and having a good run.” CAN YOU TALK ABOUT HOW YOU APPROACH THE ALL-STAR RACE? “Greg Erwin and I haven’t talked a lot about it, but I certainly think you approach it this year as a test session for a mile-and-a-half, which we haven’t had any testing. The all-star race will definitely do that with the practice and then the race itself. Hopefully, I come up one spot better than I did last year. I finished second in both of those races, ironically to the same guy, and we’re gonna work hard at it. These race tracks, believe it or not, are semi-similar – here and Charlotte – as far as the surface goes and as far as the grip level and shocks and things. We tried a little bit of stuff in practice here today and it helped it, and we’ll continue to kind of test that out-of-the-box scenario next week for the all-star race and see what we can learn for the rest of the year.” YOUR CREW CHIEF IS FIRED UP. “Yeah, he’s easily excitable. He gets revved up over just about anything. He’s really high strung and running good really, really jacks him up, too. We’re running really good here. This is a good race track for us and he’s real excited about being here. I talked to him this morning on the phone and he was just elated with being here and couldn’t wait.” WHAT’S THE DEAL WITH INDIANAPOLIS? IT DOESN’T LOOK LIKE THE TIRE OR THE CAR. IS IT THE TRACK? “I really don’t know. I haven’t talked to Matt that much. I know Matt was testing there again because I had to do an appearance for him in Akron, Ohio because he had to go back and test again. I really don’t have that information. I wish I did. I planned to talk to Matt this weekend, probably today, about that tire test. I talked to Jamie this morning about Daytona’s tire test and I haven’t had a chance to talk to Matt yet, but I understand they’re still having troubles. If you walked out on that race track and looked at it, you could see why it’s gonna be an issue. If my memory serves me right, which my memory is not very good, it has raised ridged. It almost looks like a comb, if you will, with ridges and it’s grooved out, which is to give the thing grip. That’s to give the race track adhesion, but the problem is it’s too much. Goodyear, if I understand right and I think they’re still having trouble, but they’re probably having a hard time finding something that will mate with that surface. I think it’s the only race track we go to that’s like that – grooved like that. I know they do a lot of highways like that to channel water and give them grip, but I think they did it to that race track.”

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