Saturday, 05 June 2010 04:00
Matt Kenseth, Carl Edwards and Greg Biffle took time Friday to discuss numerous issues with members of the media at Pocono Raceway.
Greg Biffle, who has two top 10 finishes to his credit at Pocono Raceway including a fourth place finish in the 2004 fall race, took time to talk to media about what it takes to have success at Pocono, how he hopes his car will perform with the new FR9 engine this week, a look ahead to Michigan week and his view of the end of last week’s race in Charlotte.
GREG BIFFLE, driver of No. 16 3M Ford Fusion
WHICH ENGINE DO YOU HAVE THIS WEEK?
“I have the FR9. I have the new engine.”
ARE YOU CONCERNED AT ALL?
“No. It has been running really well. We are happy with it.”
SO FROM HERE ON OUT DO ALL THE TEAMS HAVE THAT?
“This weekend it is sporadic. Next weekend it will be all the teams but it will hop-scotch after that due to parts supply and how things go, but we are hoping it is from here on out.”
WHY HAS IT TAKING SO LONG FOR THIS THING TO COME OUT?
“I think when you are trying to build engines for nine teams, that is 18 engines a week. It takes awhile to ramp up and handle that amount of pistons and rings and all the other parts. That is a lot of pieces to have on the shelf and you don’t want to go out and buy all that stuff until you know you have the right part. It is kind of a double edged sword. You can’t go buy the stuff until you know what you need. When you know what you need, you have to guy buy it, but they have to make it. It takes a long time to integrate all new stuff.”
WHAT WILL IT MEAN THAT YOU HAVE EIGHT TEAMS RUNNING THAT ENGINE AT MICHIGAN?
“That is going to be great for us … it will be really neat to all be on the new engine. It is a lot of pressure on the engine shop though. They still have to build the old engines and now they have to build the new engines. They are having a tough time, but they are working very hard. They worked very hard to get these engines out for us this week and we are excited about that.”
HOW WILL THE NEW ENGINE PLAY INTO THE FUEL STRATEGY NEXT WEEK AT MICHIGAN?
“We don’t have a lot of fuel mileage history with the new engine yet. Certainly at Michigan we know that it takes a good engine with a lot of power. It is a big race track so having the new engine will be good for us. We will just have to wait and see about fuel mileage.”
HAVE YOU GUYS DISCUSSED FUEL MILEAGE IN TERMS OF THIS WEEKEND AND THE NEW ENGINE?
“We have discussed it, especially us because the 16 team has been the worst fuel mileage for about the last six or eight races. We are going into Pocono and Michigan which are both fuel mileage events, so I was asking guys for help on fuel mileage this week.”
WHAT CAN YOU DO AS A DRIVER TO INCREASE YOUR FUEL MILEAGE? “The same thing you hear about … come out of the gas a little earlier and let it roll a little longer. When you push the gas down, only push it down one time. A lot of times we are messing with the throttle trying to get it down as soon as we can. Sometimes you wait just a split second longer and put it down nice and slow one time. Those are the kinds of little things you can do to make fuel so to speak.”
IS IT HARD TO STAY MENTALLY SHARP FOR 500 MILES HERE?
“It is. The straight-aways are so long and you have so much time to think about it … so much time to think about how to not make a mistake. Sometimes you over think it because you have so much time. It is a challenging place. It has three completely different corners, so it takes a lot of concentration.”
YOU ARE HALWAY INTO THE CHASE, IS IT SOMETHING YOU THINK ABOUT?
“We think about the Chase from Daytona. We have had a rough little patch going. Last week we had a good run going, but it was unfortunate we finished where we did. We have got to stay strong right now through this stretch in order to make the Chase. We are ninth in points, but we are on the edge so to speak. We aren’t third or fourth, we are on that treading light territory.”
DO YOU THINK AT ALL ABOUT JUST MAKING THE CHASE AND GETTING THE POINTS RESET?
“Yeah, we can over analyse it a little bit, but the reality is we do just need to get in there. We want to be as high in the points as we can though so that we could lock in with a few races to go. You don’t really want to wait until the last Chase race to see if you get in. That creates more and more pressure. You know it is going to be reset if you get in and that it is seeded by wins so those are important as well.”
WHEN YOU LOOK AT THE STANDINGS, HOW FAR DOWN DO YOU LOOK TO ANALYSE THINGS?
“You look at points. We are ninth in points … 100 points in the Chase. We have a 100 point cushion. I look at it, but I don’t memorize it. If they are stacked and 50 points spans seven or nine guys then you know there is a little more sense of urgency. There is always a sense of urgency when you are trying to get points.”
THERE IS A CHANCE OF RAIN HERE TOMORROW, HOW DOES THAT AFFECT YOUR PLANS TODAY?
“Well it doesn’t surprise me. If you look back at the history either Friday or Saturday has been rained out quite a bit. We will probably stay in race trim a little longer than normal. We know it is a long race and we can probably get track position throughout the race. Pit stall is important for us as well. If you don’t get all the practice tomorrow you want to make sure you get the car right today before you put it on jack stands.”
TEAM WISE YOU GUYS HAVE DONE PRETTY WELL HERE AT THIS TRACK, DO YOU LOOK FORWARD TO THIS TRACK AS A PLACE YOU RUN WELL?
“Yeah, I think so. Last year we ran in the top five the whole race ... both races actually. In both races we couldn’t make it on fuel and then the other was kind of the same thing. We have always run well here though, so that is a little confidence when we come to Pocono.”
LOOKING AHEAD TO MICHIGAN, WHAT DOES IT TAKE TO BE SUCCESSFUL THERE?
“I love that track there. It is one of my favourite tracks. It takes a good balanced car. The corners are simpler there than most of the places. You normally run in a little different spots. Good balance and a balance that doesn’t shift too much over a run is key. Good fuel mileage is also the key there; you have to have good fuel mileage to be successful there.”
CAN YOU TALK ABOUT WHAT HAPPENED LAST WEEK BETWEEN KYLE AND JEFF? WERE YOU SURPRISED AT HIS REACTION AT ALL?
“I think there is a cracking point for everybody. The thing is, it is the longest race of the season. You have run 595 miles of a 600 mile race and a guy drives into your left rear tire and cuts it down. Anybody is going to get pissed off … anybody. He was driving straight ahead. It is hard to run into something going straight ahead, it really is. That doesn’t take any skill. If the space isn’t wide enough for your car to pull in, and you try to pull into it, you are going to have a problem. It just doesn’t work. It would be one thing if they were in the corner and he slid up a little bit and ran into each other … that stuff happens, but when you are driving straight ahead and just drive into the quarter panel, that’s another story. I’ve watched the replay and it didn’t look like the gap closed up. It looked like the gap just wasn’t there. I saw the contact on TV just like everyone and the reality is that the contact wasn’t necessary, whether the tire got cut or not … that is the way I look at it. This is our livelihood. This is how we make a living. You don’t know how hard we work all night long, and to get down to where you can see the chequered flag and have someone run into you and cut your tire down is just tough.”
Carl Edwards, a two time winner at Pocono, including the 2005 Pocono 500, counts Pocono Raceway among his favourite tracks. Edwards took time to talk about what he likes about Pocono Raceway, how he stays upbeat and positive despite not winning, his double duty weekends and more.
CAN YOU ADDRESS WHAT YOU LIKE ABOUT POCONO AND THIS WEEKEND?
"I love racing at Pocono. It is a blast for the drivers because it is such a unique race track with three different corners. The pavement they put up there in the last corner is really neat and fun to race on. I have had a lot of success here and I love sitting here in the media centre. It is a really great memory having won here in my first trip here and I hope to be back up here again Sunday. I am really excited to be driving the Tony the Tiger Kellogg’s car. We had a lot of fun leading up to this race with the commercials we shot for the Gillette Fusion ProGlide. To go to the Prelude next week with Gillette and compete for charity will be a lot of fun.”
STATISTICALLY THIS TRACK HAS BEEN GREAT FOR YOU. WITH THE TIMING OF SWITCHING TO THE NEW ENGINE, DO YOU SEE THAT AS A BENEFIT OR WOULD YOU FEEL MORE COMFORTABLE IN YOUR OLDER EQUIPMENT?
“I try really hard not to think about the engine. It is something the guys have worked very hard on and something that Ford has worked very hard on. I am hoping it is an advantage. It seems to be running really well, but our old engine ran so well that it is hard to see a big advantage. Hopefully it will evolve and we can find some gains in horsepower. As long as we don’t have any teething problems then it will be good.”
YOU KNOW HOW MUCH OF A FACTOR FUEL MILEAGE IS HERE. WITH THE GREEN-WHITE-CHEQUERED RULE COULD THAT BE MORE OF A FACTOR HERE THAN IN YEARS PAST?
“Yeah, it will probably be more of a factor here for a number of reasons. It is suck a long track and fresh tires are so much faster. In a green-white-chequered a guy could start 10th and be running top two or three going into the last set of corners. Fuel mileage will be a really big deal too. It will make it interesting that is for sure. The whole face of the race could change in the last five laps.”
YOU ARE A PRETTY UPBEAT GUY BUT LAST WEEKEND I GOT THE SENSE THAT A LOT OF PEOPLE ARE FRUSTRATED. CAN YOU TALK ABOUT THE MORAL WITHIN FORD RIGHT NOW?
“Here is the deal. Roush Fenway and the Ford race cars are not as fast as we need to be right now. Ford as a company is doing great. I feel we can all be proud of Ford as an American company and what they are producing and the jobs they are providing. Especially the products they are producing. What we need to do it just be faster. People ask me all different ways about that, but the point is we just aren’t fast enough. We all know that and yes it is very important, I believe, for everyone to stay upbeat and keep working and do the best you can. We can’t let the frustration snowball and make things worse. That is probably one of the toughest things as a human is when things aren’t going well, to keep your head up and press on. Matt ran really well last week, Greg has been running really well. The bottom line is we have to be faster and being upbeat is the way to go. Keeping your head down and kicking the gravel isn’t going to do anything.”
DO YOU THINK THE SPOILER WILL CHANGE THE WAY YOU RACE HERE?
“The trick at any race is to just be fast. If you are fast you put yourself in a position to win. If it comes down to fuel mileage or something like that then you have to be savvy and smart on top of fast. You have to make the right decisions. This race could go any way, but the number one thing is to be fast and that starts with qualifying. If you look at the guys that beat us a year ago, they came out of the pits first. There is a lot that goes into it, but the number one thing is to be fast. As far as the spoiler, it is fortunate that it is behind me because I forget all about it when I am not looking at it. It seems to me that the car drives the same. I don’t think it will change the race much. I think it looks better and is simpler and I am happy NASCAR changed it.”
AN INTERESTING STAT ABOUT YOU IS THAT ON 24 TIMES YOU HAVE GONE FROM A CUP RACE TO A NON COMPANION NATIONWIDE RACE YOU HAVE WON THREE CUP RACES AND WON SIX NATIONWIDE RACES. IN BOTH CASES YOUR WINNING PERCENTAGE IS HIGHER IN COMPANION RACES. IS THERE SOMETHING ABOUT THESE WEEKENDS THAT GET YOU GOING?
“That is a great stat, I am glad you brought that up, I didn’t know that. When we get to these races where we go back and forth I do feel better about it. Maybe subconsciously I know we have done well. I am not going to practice the Nationwide car at Nashville today because I don’t think there is a correlation between going to practice or just showing up and racing. Sometimes I believe that showing up with no expectation makes it simpler. Maybe there is something to that, maybe not. I like the summer stretch with the hot weather and slippery race tracks, so maybe that is what it is.”
WITH THE DOUBLE DUTY, WHAT DOES IT TAKE OUT OF YOU PHYSICALLY AND MENTALLY?
“Well, tomorrow after the final race practice here Jack is going to fly us to Nashville. When Jack is flying it is great because I can just sit back and relax. In some ways it is an easier weekend. I think when I don’t have to go back and forth I can focus on the Cup car. I don’t have anything between now and qualifying. When Jack is flying it is easy though, it is like a vacation.”
JEFF BURTON GOT UPSET AFTER THE RACE LAST WEEKEND, WERE YOU SURPRISED AT THAT AND DOES IT SHOW YOU EVERY DRIVER HAS A BREAKING POINT?
“Jeff has been mad at me before, it just wasn’t on camera. We are competitors. I thought he did a good job of expressing his frustration without going too far. I think that is just part of the sport. If you go to your local dirt track there will be somebody that is mad after the race. Being nice is not what makes you go around the race track fast. You have to be a competitor.”
HOW IS YOUR CONFIDENCE DURING THE LAST YEAR AND A HALF?
“Where I get my confidence is from looking back and knowing that we have won those nine races. We had great success and it is essentially the same group of people and I am the same driver. If anything I feel like I am better now. Like anyone I have to question myself to see if I am doing the best job I can. In the past whenever I started to think that I wasn’t doing thing right, I will have a race where I am super fast and things are easy. What I do is think about the races we have done well and do the same things.”
IS THE NEW ENGINE PART OF BEING FASTER LIKE YOU TALKED ABOUT?
“I think the engine will do better and Jack said it best when he said the biggest problem with the new engine is that the old engine was so good. I don’t think that is where we were struggling. It is the centre of the corner, the balance of the race car, things like that. The driver can make a big difference here. It isn’t a place like Charlotte where the car goes into the corner the same way every time. I look at this race as the type of race where one or two of our cars has a chance to go really fast and this may be a really good chance for us.”
HAVE YOU EVER HAD A MAJOR RACE ABSOLUTELY WON AND IN THE BAG ONLY TO HAVE AN OFFICIALS CALL RUIN YOUR DAY?
“My brother showed me that clip of the pitcher on the internet. That was heartbreaking. The only time I have had something like that happen that I can recall off the top of my head was when I was running the truck race at Charlotte. We were having a good year and were leading the truck race by a mile. A truck blew a tire and I saw it blow and come apart and I watched the yellow lights come on as I was going down the back straight away. I start slowing down, loosening my belts and Dennis Seltzer goes screaming by me. I thought ‘Why is he going so fast? Caution is out.’ So I look up and the lights are green. I thought holy … I just saw something, or imagined it or something. I started to race again and finished second. I was more heartbroken then I have ever been with any other outcome of a race. Mike Helton talked to me about it and issued a press release that said they inadvertently turned on the lights. That meant the world to me, but I didn’t get the trophy or anything. That is just part of any sport and there are going to be mistakes, but it was a hard pill to swallow.”
Matt Kenseth, the highest Ford in the latest driver points standings in third place, took time to meet with media members and discuss his strategy to get into the Chase, thoughts on the upcoming Michigan race, how to concentrate for 500 laps at Pocono and more.
YOU ARE THIRD IN POINTS, IS YOUR MINDSET TO GET INTO THE TOP 12 AND THEN GO FROM THERE?
“We try to get the best finishes we can every week no matter what week it is in the season. We always want the best finish we can for every race. I am really happy where we are in the points and where our finishes have been compared to how we’ve ran. We just haven’t run well enough overall. I haven’t really thought about the Chase or championships or anything. We have been trying to get the cars better to compete. We are all smart enough to know if we run like this ever week that we aren’t going to be good enough to win the championship. Hopefully we would make the dance, but I don’t think we would win it. We certainly know we need to be better to be able to run with those guys.”
ARE YOU TRYING TO MAKE SURE YOU ARE GOOD WHEN YOU GET THERE BECAUSE YOU CAN’T HAVE A BAD RACE IF YOU ARE IN THE CHASE CAN YOU?
“I don’t know, I guess ever year is a little different. Last year we didn’t even make it in and that was after we won two races early in the year. We’ve got to get finishes every week and get our cars running better so we have chances to win.”
WHAT DID YOU LEARN ABOUT THE NEW ENGINE FROM THIS FIRST PRACTICE?
“Well, it looks nicer … it looks cool. It is hard to tell in practice until you race with other cars. It seems to run really good and is responsive. It obviously looks really nice in there. I haven’t had anything weird going on today, so that is good.”
WHEN IT GETS TO SUNDAY, HOW EARLY DO YOU START WORRYING ABOUT FUEL MILEAGE OR DO YOU WAIT UNTIL TODD TELLS YOU TO CONSERVE SOME?
“Lately, knock on wood, it hasn’t been too bad. The last few years we have lost a lot of position at the end of the race on mileage. We weren’t able to get the position on mileage the way others were. It is a little bit of concern, especially after Charlotte last weekend when the Roush camp was the first ones on pit road by five laps every time because we weren’t getting fuel mileage. It is something you think about. Last fall we had a long run at the end where seven or eight cars made it and nobody else did. The way we ended up pitting we finished 16th or 17th with a fifth of sixth place car.”
HOW DO YOU STRATEGIZE FUEL MILEAGE AT MICHIGAN?
“I don’t really think about it or strategize for it until the end. If we get a caution and you are a few laps within your window you maybe start thinking about it. In general at Michigan the last few years has been important to have tires. If you get a caution anywhere toward the end you are going to go and get tires. If you know you are a few laps short on fuel then you will start to drive differently, but other than that you don’t think about it too much.”
YOU WILL HAVE EIGHT CARS RUNNING THE FR9 AT MICHIGAN, IS THAT BETTER FOR YOU GUYS?
“I think that might be something for Doug and the engine guys to answer. I don’t know if they have different combinations or more stuff to look at. I don’t know if there is an advantage to having it in one car or eight cars honestly.”
WHAT DOES IT TAKE TO RUN WELL AND BE SUCCESSFUL THERE AT MICHIGAN?
“You have me all spun out about fuel mileage now. It is like the rest of the race tracks, you have to get through the corners faster than anybody else. There are a lot of grooves there and you have to work on your handling because the corners are so incredibly long there. You have to have a car that handles really well there.”
IS IT TOUGH TO CONCENTRATE FOR 500 MILES HERE AT POCONO?
“Yeah, there is a lot of time in the straight-aways but at the end of them it is pretty exciting. Especially at the end of that front stretch, there is a lot going on there. I wouldn’t say it is boring or your mind drifts. One time I broke a transmission and we were like 20 laps down and I was just trying to stay out of everyone’s way, so I guess that was boring, but usually it is a very exciting race”
WITH NO WINS THIS YEAR, IS YOUR PROGRAM THE SAME AND OTHER TEAMS HAVE GOTTEN AHEAD OF YOU OR HOW DO YOU LOOK AT IT?
“I think it is always a moving target. Everyone is always getting better. It seems like we have been trying to catch up for a couple of years. Over the winter I feel like we made some big gains and started the year stronger, but we certainly aren’t where we want to be.”