Ford's Roush Fenway Drivers Looking For First Road Course Win at Watkins Glen This Weekend
FORD FAST FACTS:
· Marcos Ambrose is the defending winner of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Watkins Glen International.
· Last year’s rain-delayed triumph was the first NSCS victory for Ambrose.
· The win by Ambrose was the first for Ford Racing at WGI since Geoff Bodine won in 1996.
· Ford Racing has six all-time NSCS wins at WGI with Mark Martin owning three straight from 1993-95. Marvin Panch (1965), Geoff Bodine (1996) and Marcos Ambrose (2011) have one each.
Matt Kenseth, driver of the No. 17 Ford EcoBoost Ford Fusion, is still looking for his first road course victory in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series going into Sunday’s Finger Lakes 355 at The Glen. Kenseth, who is second in series points, spoke to the media before today’s first practice session.
MATT KENSETH – No. 17 Ford EcoBoost Ford Fusion – “This has not been our best track on the circuit, but after the last two weeks it can’t be much worse. I’m looking forward to getting on track, hopefully, if it dries up here. As far as road courses go, I really like this track so I’m looking forward to getting out there and getting another weekend started.”
WHAT WOULD YOU DO WITH A ROAD COURSE LIKE THIS TO MAKE IT MORE NASCAR FRIENDLY? “I think this place is really NASCAR friendly. We only go to two road courses, obviously, and if you compare this place to Sears Point, everybody kind of groups road courses together but that would be like grouping all the ovals together, so I think this place reminds me a lot of Michigan or something like that. It’s real wide. It’s got a lot of room to work and a lot of momentum, so I think this road course is great for our cars. Sears Point is really small, tight, technical, slow, so I think this place is great.”
AS YOU GET CLOSER TO THE CHASE DO YOU CHANGE THE WAY YOU RACE? KIND OF LIKE THE NFL WHEN A TEAM IS LOCKED IN THE PLAYOFFS THEY HAVE TO DECIDE IF THEY SHOULD REST THEIR STARTERS OR NOT. “I don’t think so. You always want to win and you always want to bring your best stuff. Obviously, they rank you by wins and our sport is quite a bit different. It would be like in the NFL if they started your playoff game with some points, instead of starting 0-0. That’s kind of how it is. If you win here, you start the playoffs with some points, so, obviously, that’s really important. Indy was a letdown. Last weekend I thought we were really in position to have a chance at a win there, especially with the race probably going to get shortened. So I thought we had a good chance there of getting an extra point or whatever going into the Chase, so I think for us and our team and where we’re at, I think it’s important to try to get a win before the Chase starts and to make sure we’re in the Chase. After the last two weeks, anything can happen. If we have many more of those, we might be getting back toward that 10th spot farther than we want to be.”
HOW WOULD IT CHANGE THE DYNAMIC OF THE RACE IF QUALIFYING GOT CANCELLED AND THE RACE STARTED ON POINTS? “I think that sounds awesome if they started by points (laughing). It’ll probably actually make it more interesting, honestly, for this track compared to some other tracks. I know NASCAR went to the speeds and all those different things, if we do practice, to try and not to line them up by points because it’s generally more exciting and more passing with qualifying, but this is one of those rare places, I think, the racing might actually be more interesting if they start by points because there are probably some guys up there that aren’t the best at road courses that might fall back, and then there are probably some really good road course guys like Marcos (Ambrose) and Juan Pablo (Montoya) and guys like that who aren’t as high in points that will probably be moving toward the front, so it might actually make the racing more interesting if we don’t qualify.”
HOW MUCH DO YOU THINK ABOUT JEFF GORDON GOING ON A BIG STREAK IF HE GETS IN THE CHASE? “I think there are all kinds of good race teams out there that are capable of winning and getting on a run if they get into the Chase. So I think once the Chase field gets set, if we’re lucky enough to be in that, I really worry about all the teams. There are some you worry about more than others, but certainly all four Hendrick teams are ones that you have to worry about or watch out for. As good as that organization runs, all four of those cars have won, so they’ve proven they’re all capable of winning and getting on a run and being championship contenders.”
ANY IDEA WHEN YOU WILL ANNOUNCE YOUR PLANS FOR NEXT YEAR? “I would if I knew, but I don’t know. ANY DISCUSSIONS? “No, there hasn’t really been in the last few weeks, honestly.” THE DEAL STILL IN PLACE? “I hope so (laughing).”
WHAT IS IT ABOUT ROAD COURSES THAT HAS BEEN DIFFICULT FOR YOU TO GET A HANDLE ON? “I think they’re both a lot different, like we talked about. I think this year at Sears Point we did a little bit better. I feel like that’s one of my worst tracks on the circuit, and this place I feel like there have been times we’ve run pretty competitively. We’ve been OK, so it’s just totally different than oval track racing. It’s a totally different technique and approach. I think the hardest thing probably for me through the years is to give Jimmy (Fennig) and the guys working on the car the best feedback I can or help them get what we need in the car to go fast. That’s probably been my biggest challenge is to help those guys help me.”
Carl Edwards, driver of the No. 99 Fastenal Ford Fusion, has had a busy week after testing the new 2013 NASCAR Fusion at Martinsville Speedway and now preparing for this weekend’s Finger Lakes 355 at The Glen. He spoke to reporters while waiting for the track to dry Friday afternoon.
CARL EDWARDS – No. 99 Fastenal Ford Fusion – “We’re not where we’d like to be this season, but we’re working hard to rectify that. We had a fast race car last weekend and we couldn’t come to a better race track. I love racing at Watkins Glen. We’ve had some really fast runs in the Cup car. We’ve had a lot of help from Marcos Ambrose and other guys that I think have really sped us up, so I’m excited to get racing here. It looks like the weather could possibly be good for practice this afternoon and hopefully we can go out and make a good qualifying effort tomorrow. I’m running the Nationwide car for the first time this season ,which will be pretty neat. We’ve got Scott Graves as crew chief. He was the engineer last season for all of our success that we had in the Nationwide Series. He’s really excited. We’ve got Subway on board and it should be an opportunity to get some experience and get some time out on the race track before the Cup race on Sunday, so it looks like a fun weekend for us.”
WHAT DO YOU HAVE TO DO TO WIN ON SUNDAY? “I think I just have to keep building on the experience I’ve had here. My first lap ever on this race track I backed into the tire barrier in the last corner and from there it’s been all upward. We’ve done better and better almost every time we’ve come here. I got the pole, I think it was last year or the year before, which was a huge moment for me to be able to qualify on the pole at a road course in the Cup Series. I think it takes a couple of things. I think I have to make sure that I communicate with Chad and we have the right strategy. I have to be aggressive on these restarts. I have to remember this whole race that we’ve got nothing to lose and everything to gain, so I think that I can try things that maybe I wouldn’t have tried at least the last couple of years racing more for the point lead. I think all of that, plus the recent things I can do right now – practicing that Nationwide car. We’ve tried to make the cars as similar as we can, so that I can carryover anything we learn and maybe tomorrow’s race will be a good time to try any race line type of things I could use for Sunday, so I’ve got an idea of what I want to do to be the best I can be there on Sunday and hopefully it all comes together.”
HOW MUCH ARE YOU LOOKING FORWARD TO THE NATIONWIDE RACE AND HOW MUCH HAVE YOU MISSED IT? “I’ve missed it a little more than I thought I would. It was nice to go over to the garage today and I got to see a lot of guys that I haven’t seen for a while. As of right now, we haven’t been on the track yet so they’re all pretty happy to see me, so that’s good. It should be a lot of fun. I just talked to Dale Jarrett a little bit. I get to be the in-race reporter, so that will be neat to be part of the broadcast, but overall, I miss racing with those guys on Saturdays. I miss the group of people that are over there in that garage and one thing I’m really excited about is getting to race with some of these guys that I haven’t really raced with much. I’ve been watching a lot this year and watching guys that are really doing well. I’m excited to see how I stack up against them, so there’s a little bit of nostalgia and a little bit of excitement racing with new folks.”
WOULD YOU LIKE TO GET BACK TO RUNNING MORE NATIONWIDE? “We’ll see how this goes and we’ll see what Ford and Jack and everyone is up for, but if this goes well and if it’s fun – which I think it will be – I think there might be more in the future. We might try to work a few Nationwide races in when we feel that they’ll be really beneficial and when it will work. You have to remember that the economics determine a lot of it as well and Subway as nice enough to come on board, but we have to have a partner that wanted to do it also because I don’t think there’s a definite gain to spending the money to go do it unless we had a partner that was excited to be on the car.”
DID YOU NOTICE ANY DIFFERENCE WITH THE 100 POUNDS COMING OUT OF THE CAR FOR THE MARTINSVILLE TEST? “I didn’t, so I don’t even know exactly when we did that. Thinking back through the day that wasn’t the biggest change that we made, so I don’t think it was that big of a factor.”
CAN YOU TALK ABOUT MICHIGAN AND BRISTOL? ARE YOU CONCERNED ABOUT THE TRACK CHANGES THERE? “No, I’m not concerned about Bristol, but you are right, we have confidence going forward because we’ve been running well. There are no real concerns for us about any of these tracks because we truly don’t have much to lose. It’s basically go to the race track, do everything we can to try to win the race, and hopefully we can pull off what Jeff Gordon was able to do last week. That was spectacular. I had a front row seat and we need to go out and win one and maybe win two. If you look at our recent performances just his year you would say the chances of that are slim, but the last few weeks with the way the Fords have been running and the tracks coming up, I think it’s a real possibility that we can go out and get a win or two and fight our way into this Chase and be good. But I think the changes at Bristol could only be good for us. Anything that’s different – any changes, any chance to get ahead on strategy or a new race track or new style of setups – helps us right now. We need things to be shaken up and I think that will give us more opportunities.”
ANY THOUGHTS ON HOW DANICA CAN RUN ON THIS TRACK? “Not really. I’ll tell you one thing, I raced against her at Montreal last year. We raced pretty hard and I thought she did a heck of a job. She surprised me. I thought that what I’d seen on the ovals versus what I saw on the road courses was different. She seemed a lot more comfortable. I kind of bumped her out of the way and then the next corner she bumped me back out of the way, so she was on it.”
HOW BIG IS IT TO WIN AT MICHIGAN WITH THE MANUFACTURER BEING THERE? “I remember we ended a long losing streak at Michigan in 2007, I think. Any time you win at Michigan it’s big and it’s big especially for the guys who race for Jack. Jack and his business is based in Michigan. Ford Motor Company, everything they’ve done for our sport and for Jack and everyone at Roush Fenway – myself included – we really appreciate everything they’ve done and it’s a very special place to win. Victory Lane takes a long time there because of all the photos and it’s neat to have guys like Edsel (Ford) and Jack and his family and all the folks that support us from a technical standpoint and a financial standpoint so much that it’s a special place to win. I think everyone in the garage feels that way. It’s a good place to win a race and the fans there are great. My spotter, Jason (Hedlesky), he’s from nearby the race track. He’s been going to the races there since he was a little kid. It just feels like a home track for us for a number of reasons.”
WHY CAN’T WE RACE ON WET SURFACES WITH THE CUP CARS IF WE CAN DO IT WITH NATIONWIDE? “I don’t know why exactly they don’t do it in the Cup Series. It’s a good question. We talked about that a little bit this week in preparation for this race. I just don’t know why. I’m sure they have a really good reason. I’ve enjoyed racing in the rain in the Nationwide Series. At Montreal, there are times there has been standing water and that’s a whole different animal, but that race with Marcos when it was drying, the win aside, the race for that win was one of the most exciting races I’ve ever been a part of and that’s because when the track is drying you have so much difference in grip between the wet spots and the dry spots, and then managing the use of the tires because the rain tires don’t hold up as well on the dry as you’d like, so you can hurt the tire. There are a whole number of factors that play into driving fast on a wet or drying race track. I really enjoy it, so I would say that a little rain shower in the middle of the race would be just fine. I think it would be a lot of fun and I think it would test all of us a lot and be really exciting.”
CAN YOU TALK ABOUT HENDRICK AND THE RUN THEY’RE ON NOW WHILE IT SEEMS YOUR GROUP IS TRYING TO KEEP UP WITH THEM. “That’s a question we ask ourselves a lot. They do a really good job and it seems like the anomaly for them is to be a little bit behind and then the norm for them is to be just a little bit ahead, and they just do a really good job with that. We’ve been working very hard at Roush Fenway to try to be as proactive as we can to look into the future, to try to be in the position that they’re in, and we’ve shown over the last couple of years that we’re able to stay out front more often than we historically have, and if you look at our performance just of late, when they’re dominant like they are right now, we’ve been closer to them and we are closer to them than we have been in the past, so I think the things we’re working on – if the things we’re working on and the goals we’ve set are met – I believe that we’ll be pretty good for the Chase. Specifically for my team, the mission is to make the Chase, but I think for Matt and Greg, it looks like they’re gonna be in it and I would not bet against those guys in those final 10 races. I think they’re gonna be very good and I think the whole garage is learning a little bit from watching those Hendrick guys and we’re all getting better.”
Greg Biffle, driver of the No. 16 3M Ford Fusion, held a Q&A session with members of the media at Watkins Glen International after the first practice session outside his team hauler. Biffle, who is third in the point standings, spoke about a variety of issues.
GREG BIFFLE – No. 16 3M Ford Fusion – “I love this track. I like road racing. It’s a lot of fun. I like this track a little bit more than Sonoma. I like the area around Sonoma and doing all the fun things out there, but I run a little bit better at this race track. There is a little higher speed, I like it. We’ve worked on our cars a little bit since Sonoma and think we’re gonna be a little better here, so I’d just like to get on the track.”
HOW CONCERNED ARE YOU THAT YOU MIGHT NOT GET ON THE TRACK TODAY? “That would be really tough because we look forward to having track conditions as close as we can get it to the race, so if we go on the track at 8 o’clock in the morning on a green race track and that’s our only practice, it’s gonna be tough to compare that to Sunday after all the rubber is on the track from the Nationwide race, so it will be difficult to do a morning practice only.”
IS THERE AN AREA ON THE TRACK YOU LIKE OR DON’T LIKE? “I think the esses are really where a lot of the speed is at and key to a good lap time around this place is getting up through those esses, but the carousel after the bus stop is a real important corner coming back to the front stretch. They’re all important, but there are some spots where lap time can be made up quite a bit.”
HOW IMPORTANT IS IT TO IMPROVE OR MAINTAIN YOUR SPOT IN THE POINTS? “For us, winning races is really where it’s gonna be at to get bonus points. We’re not locked into the Chase by any means, but we feel like we’re in there pretty good. Last week was kind of tough. We thought we might come out of there leading the points but got put back a ways further than we expected to, so we’re still six points back, but the points really don’t matter right now until you get into the Chase and bonus points are what matter.”
IS THERE MORE MEANING TO IMPROVING YOUR SPOT IN THE STANDINGS? “When it resets to start the Chase the only thing that will reset are the wins, so if we go in there leading the points or go in sixth we’re gonna be in the same spot, so we need bonus points right now and that’s gonna be wins.”
THOUGHTS ON PENSKE USING ROUSH YATES ENGINES NEXT YEAR? “I think we all are so close on the power anyway right now I don’t think it’s gonna be a huge difference. It might help our engine program have a little bit more R&D money or things like that to help develop our engines, but I feel we’re pretty close on power right now.”
YOU DID THE RECENT TIRE TEST AT MICHIGAN. THOUGHTS ON NEXT WEEK? “I think Goodyear did a good job. They had a little bit harder tire, maybe a little bit thinner on the right side so it doesn’t get as hot. They seem like they ran really good. The speeds were down just a little bit, but not much. I think it’s gonna be good. I don’t think it’ll be a lot different than when we were there before, and I thought it put on a pretty good race.”