Ambrose, Biffle head Ford contingent in qualifying at Michigan

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Ford Racing

Marcos Ambrose
Marcos Ambrose

Photo by: Action Sports Photography

MARCOS AMBROSE, TODD PARROTT AND RICHARD PETTY ON WINNING MICHIGAN POLE

MARCOS, TALK ABOUT BEING ON THE POLE IN EXCESS OF 203 MILES PER HOUR. “There is no I in team and I am part of a great car to get this pole today. We’ve had a great car from the moment we got here. We’ve gotten under some things that really helped my feel behind the wheel and allowed us to get better setups. We knew we had a good car going into today’s session and I just needed to do the same thing I did yesterday at the end of the second practice. We threw down a lap and played a good strategy. We didn’t throw down a lap in the first practice so we could get an early draw and it worked in our favor.”

TODD PARROTT, CONGRATULATIONS, YOU HAVE MORE WORK TO DO LATER IN THE AFTERNOON WITH NEW LEFT SIDES BUT TALK ABOUT THE QUALIFYING EFFORT AND WHAT YOU HAVE TO ACCOMPLISH LATER TODAY. TODD PARROTT, CREW CHIEF, NO. 9 STANLEY FORD FUSION - “I think that Marcos did a great job qualifying today. We unloaded on Friday and our Stanley Ford Fusion was fast. It had a good feel balance wise and we had a good day on Thursday on the test day and learned some things. We hit on a few things and I think that we brought a little comfort to what he was looking for and we tuned on it. We made several race runs in the first practice yesterday and scuffed all of our existing tires that we were going to race on for the race in that first practice. Then we made a couple race runs in the second practice and worked the last hour really hard on qualifying. We knew it was going to be important to start up front. We had a fast car and he just did everything he needed to do. The guys on the team, they dotted all their I’s and crossed all their T’s and made sure everything was right and ran over 200. 200 and fast, I will say that.”

LAST TIME ANYONE RAN THIS FAST IN A QUALIFYING SESSION WAS 1987 WITH BILL ELLIOTT. HE RAN JUST TICK FASTER THAN THIS AT TALLADEGA.

SAMMY JOHNS, OPERATIONS DIRECTOR, RICHARD PETTY MOTORSPORTS - “Edsel (Ford) was at the shop the week of Charlotte and told us he wanted to see a win here on Sunday, on Father’s Day. We are off to a good star on that. I can’t be any prouder of all the guys and everyone at RPM who is working hard and working real well together. Todd and Marcos, they barely missed the pole at Charlotte and now we have both cars with a pole this year and it is time to go get them in victory lane. I can’t be any prouder of how everyone is working together.”

THE KING, CONGRATULATIONS ON THE SUCCESS BUT CAN YOU TALK ABOUT GOING THIS FAST AND WHAT IT MEANS TO YOUR RACE TEAM TO BE OUT FRONT TOMORROW. RICHARD PETTY, OWNER, RICHARD PETTY MOTORSPORTS - “That is why I was asking when the last time anyone ran 200 mph. I can’t hardly remember that far back. To be able to do it on a flatter race track, not Daytona or Talladega, that is unheard of. Of course you know being we are running so fast and running into the tire problems we used to run into when we ran this fast on other speedways. Today is qualifying and tomorrow or Sunday is going to be a completely different operation. Nobody has ever run on these tires so we come up here and we practice one whole day and then practice yesterday and then qualify today. It is completely different just as if we come up here blind. It is going to be a whole different deal. We are proud that the guys put it together today, under the circumstances everybody else had, now we have to get our circumstances right for tomorrow.”

MARCOSE AMBROSE - IS THIS A WHOLE NEW TRACK? HOW HAVE THINGS COME TOGETHER? THIS IS A DRAMATIC CHANGE IN FORTUNE FOR YOUR TEAM. “We didn’t wander into it, that is for sure. Our team has been running well all year and this has been a track that I traditionally have not done well at for several reasons but not one thing. I wouldn’t say it is the track or tire or resurface or whatever. It still feels like Michigan. We are the fastest team in NASCAR and we are proud of it. We threw down a great lap and didn’t luck into it. We didn’t get a cloud or anything like that. We had a fast car yesterday and converted it to a pole today. It is a lot of hard work really. I am just a piece of it. I am the guy lucky enough to strap in the race car and drive it around the race track. There are a lot of people that went into this and we have been working exceptionally hard on these flatter race tracks to get a handle on it because it has been one of my more difficult disciplines of the sport.”

YOU JUST RAN THE FASTEST LAP IN 25 YEARS. THERE WERE A LOT OF PEOPLE OUT THERE WHO WANTED THE BRAGGING RIGHTS. WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO YOU? “It is going to sound great at the bar when you have had about six too many. It is good bragging rights, I will give it that. I am really excited to get the speed and to claim to be the fastest guy out there. It is just awesome. We have missed some poles. This is my first pole in Sprint Cup and we have missed some by thousandths of a second and conditions changing. It is good that we actually got one to stick and one that has so many records attached to it. It is the fastest lap at Michigan ever and everything you said. And it felt that fast out there too. It felt like I was getting it done. It was fun times out there. When you get onto the front stretch and you gain about 100 RPM in a mile you know you got everything you could out of the corner. We were wide open for 99-percent of the lap and I felt good about how we got the car dialed in to do that.”

RICHARD PETTY CONTINUED – WHEN YOU FIRST CAME TO MICHIGAN IN 1969 TO DRIVE HERE THE POLE SPEED WAS LIKE 43 MILES PER HOUR SLOWER THAN IT WAS TODAY. CAN YOU FATHOM GOING OVER 200 HERE AND DOES THAT ADD AN SENSE OF EXCITEMENT TO RACING? “When they redid the track and came up here testing and said they were running over 200 mph it was blowing my mind. I think the last time we even flirted with that was when they redid Atlanta and we ran 198 or 199 mph. We knew it was going to be quick but I think it was a whole lot quicker than what we thought and definitely quicker than what Goodyear was thinking.”

DOES IT ADD EXCITEMENT FOR THE RACE FAN? “Speed is relevant to what everybody else is running. The big deal on us is to sit on pole but we ran 203 mph. That is like Indy Car speeds and stuff. Being able to accomplish that – to run 203 mph is more exciting to me than sitting on pole.”

MARCOS AMBROSE CONTINUED – YOU HAVE WON YOUR FIRST POLE AND SHOULD BE TOTALLY EXCITED YET YOU HAVE THIS WHOLE TIRE THING HANGING OVER YOU. HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT IT IN THAT SENSE? “Let me put it into two phases. The tire that they are going to from 2006 at Charlotte I remember really well because I crashed on lap five in my first truck race because the tire was so sketchy and had no feel, so that worries me in the back of my head. On the positive side, we have such a good race car and team that I feel we can overcome the tire change and I think it is going to make the cars that aren’t handling well handle terribly and the cars handling well a little slower. I am hoping and I feel like we are going to have a team that is going to react with this tire and a good enough car to handle the tire change and I think it could split the field up in speeds. I am looking forward to it and getting back into the car. Two and a half days of testing isn’t enough in my mind. I think we need two and a half weeks here.”

TODD PARROTT CONTINUED – A LOT OF GUYS IN THE GARAGE SAY THEY WILL EITHER HIT IT OR MISS IT JUMPING TO THAT NEW TIRE. CAN YOU ADDRESS THAT? Well, Sammy actually at 8:45 last night I was on Clark lake fishing with my son when I got the message about the tire change. As soon as we got the message the engineers and all the sim guys started working at 9 last night. We worked on it throughout the night and worked on it all morning. I think that what Marcos said, and it is a good point, if you have a good handling race car I think it will make it a little slower and probably not handle like it is right now but if you have a bad car, I think it is going to be even worse. It is going to throw us a new direction. Obviously with a different tire that has been sitting around awhile, nobody knows what is going to happen until we get on the race track at 6 pm or whatever it is to see what it really feels like. All our guys have worked together, all the engineers on both teams have talked about air pressure and setup stuff. We feel like we have a good game plan going into it and like you said, we have a good fast race car and hopefully it won’t affect it too bad.”

MARCOS AMBROSE – YOU HAVE SOME SERIOUS MOMENTUM GOING INTO SOMOMA, AS IF YOU NEED THAT GOING THERE. “I promised myself after winning Watkins Glen that I was going to win on an oval before I got to the next road course race because I wanted to get that monkey off my back and prove to the world that I am an oval driver and road course racer. I have Sunday to get that done so the pressure is on. We feel great about Sonoma. We feel great about our team. Our team has come strides since this time last year and we are getting stronger and stronger as a group. We are working well together and it is exciting times. I have been in a team like this before where you continue to improve and it is limitless when you get the ingredients right and I am excited to be a part of that. Sonoma is a good chance for us but that is next week and we want to focus on tomorrow and we think we have as good a chance as ever to win.”

TODD PARROTT CONTINUED – HOW CRITICAL ARE THE FIRST FEW LAPS IN THE TEST TONIGHT AND HOW MANY LAPS DO YOU THINK YOU NEED TO KNOW WHAT TO EXPECT FOR SUNDAY? “Have you been talking to Doug Yates? Right after I got the text from Sammy last night I got a text from the engine shop telling me how many laps I had left for my one hour and fifteen minute session since we ran so many laps in practice. We got together and they upped the laps a little bit. The first laps will be critical. He is going to know within five laps of being on the race track how close we are or how far off we are. We will know what we need to do to try to get that better. The first laps on the race track are going to be very critical.”

RICHARD PETTY CONTINUED – BACK IN YOUR DAY THE GOAL WAS TO GO FASTER THAN YOU HAVE EVER GONE BEFORE. DOES THIS FEEL FAMILIAR TO YOU FROM A DAY WHEN RACING WAS ABOUT PUSHING THE ENVELOPE ALL THE TIME? “You know, we would come up here and everytime it would get a little quicker and a little quicker. Goodyear was kind of controlling a lot of that from the tires getting better and wider and you could just stick a little better. Plus, NASCAR with the rules and stuff they got better form year to year with different engines. At that particular time, everytime we came we had a new body. Every year they changed new bodies. We have been stuck on this body for however long and so there is no improvement in that particular part of it. On the other hand, Goodyear has gotten in a situation where they want everything so safe that a lot of times as a track goes away they don’t go to a softer tire. They kind of stay the same because they know it is a good safe tire and they can put on a good safe race. When you come to something new, it is completely different for Goodyear and us from the standpoint that the cars are a little bit better but they are basically the same as what we have run here last fall as far as the cars. They give you the tires and you set your car up according to what tire you got on the car and that is what we have to do now. We will set it up with the tires we have tomorrow and that is the tricky part. Like I said before, the gain we used to have every year was that the tires got better. Now Goodyear just gets a safe tire and says ‘Go race.’”

MARCOS AMBROSE CONTINUED – HOW FAR DO YOU PUSH IT TOMORROW? THE REASON I ASK IS WE REMEMBER DAN WHELDON. HOW FAR DO YOU PUSH THE ENVELOPE? “Dan was a good friend of mine and he loved pushing the limits. There is nothing wrong with pushing the limits. We are race car drivers and it is what we do. We are going to put the pedal to the metal and we are going to go. However the car handles is what we are going to drive to. All the drivers are exceptionally talented. I will say on the tires that we have run as many laps as anyone out here and run as fast as anyone and had zero tire issues. From my perspective I want to keep the same tire because if the car handles well and is tuned to the tire you have no problems. We will test tonight and if I make it through the first corner then I will find out what we’ve got for the second corner. We will take it corner by corner and get a balance. The Nationwide race will put more rubber down and move the groove up the hill. We will have to wait and see.”

RICHARD PETTY CONTINUED – 200 WINS AND YOU ARE CELEBRATING YOUR 75TH BIRTHDAY THIS YEAR. IS THIS POSITION THAT THE TEAM IS IN TODAY AND SETTING THE NASCAR SPEED RECORD SOMETHING YOU LOOK AT AS A TOPPING ON YOUR CAKE? “It is just another weekend really. I have been doing this since I was 11 years old. I don’t know any better. You just keep coming back and coming back. Age is just a number from my standpoint. I don’t look at myself and doing things any different than I did five year, 10 years or 20 years ago. So, you just keep plugging along and saying everything will be better tomorrow than it was today and that has been my philosophy all these years. It has gotten me this far and I don’t think I will change it now.”

Greg Biffle, Roush Fenway Racing Ford
Greg Biffle, Roush Fenway Racing Ford

Photo by: Action Sports Photography

GREG BIFFLE ON QUALIFYING THIRD AT MICHIGAN

YOU ARE THIRD QUICKEST TODAY, YOU GOTTA FEEL GOOD ABOUT THINGS. “I am telling myself that the track slowed down after Marcos and Kevin went. It seemed like it was awful slick when I went. Boy, I got all I can get down there in turn one. I drove it around turn one and two and it felt like I had all weekend. I was really happy because I barely made it off the corner. It was chattering the front and sliding the back. It felt like I got all I could down there. In three and four it felt pretty good but I came off turn four and the car really kind of slowed down a little bit off of turn four. When I got off the car on pit road there was a fair amount of win. It plays a little havoc with the cars here. To be third and running that fast is certainly nothing to shake a stick at. We are real happy with that. The change in the tire, we didn’t have a lot of tire trouble. I guess there was a lot more tire trouble around the garage than what I knew of. Even when I came in here and did the interview last night I had no idea that some guys were – I had heard maybe one tire was blistered and that is typically low air. We are going 200-some miles per hour and guys are trying to run 15 lbs of air in them and it hurts the tire. That is typically the issue. I guess there was more to it than that. Some guys had right rear trouble on long runs. Denny Hamlin on the other hand said he ran a fuel run plus and didn’t have any issues. Different cars are having different issues. Certainly we need practice time to see how this thing drives and make proper adjustments to how thing drivers. Maybe a different shock or bump stop too. The other thing we are limited on is mileage on our engines. The engine shop is certainly not excited about another practice session. We are real narrow on laps on the engine so we are going to have to get it done quick.”

AFTER CARL HAD HIS ISSUE, WERE YOU CONCERNED TO GO OUT AND TAKE YOUR LAP? “Not really. A lot of times things like that are isolated car incidences. Whether it is wiring or a mechanic left something undone or a plug didn’t get plugged in. It could be a number of things. I wasn’t that concerned. I was after qualifying concerned to find out exactly what did happen and I think they are still working on what exactly did happen to it.”

IS THERE ANYTHING WITH A FAIRNESS ISSUE IN REGARDS TO THE TIRE SINCE YOU HAD NO ISSUES AND YET THEY STILL MADE A CHANGE? “You always want a leg up on the competition. I am saying, ‘Oh yeah, lets stick with this tire because we haven’t had any trouble.’ Certainly safety comes to mind at the speeds we are going. You know, I am not a tire specialist but it seems like a tire from 2007 blowing the dust off it and putting it on a car going 200 might not be the best. I don’t know if that would have been my first choice as a driver, let me put it that way. Maybe something with a little more grip than that. You know, I could say we want to stay on that tire but guys are having troubles and if it isn’t going to make a tire run – I have to admit, I didn’t run more than 10-12 laps at a time. I ran an entire fuel run but coming in and out. Quite possibly, if I ran straight 30-40 lap runs, maybe we would have an issue too.”

WHEN YOU SAY THE TIRE WILL BE HARD TO DRIVE, DO YOU THINK IT WILL LESSEN THE CHANCES OF A GOOD RACE? ALSO, JACK ROUSH SAID YOU WERE USING A TALLER GEAR IN THIS NIGHT PRACTICE, WILL YOU BE ABLE TO LEARN MUCH? “Well, you read my mind because I am lobbying to run the race gear because of that issue. Number one, if we slow the cars down two or three miles per hour, you are going to want more gear. So, we are going to slow the cars down two or three miles per hour and put a taller gear in. Those two combined is a giant negative. I think the car is going to slow down enough with the tires that you will be able to run the same gear and relieve some RPM on the engines. They are just trying to get less miles on the engine and a taller gear means it thinks it is going less of a distance. I can’t argue with the engine shop. Some guys on our team are out of mileage. We have like 30-some laps left on normally what we get handed out. I know a couple guys have zero or two or three. They are getting extensions on their mileage. That is about what we have to deal with. The harder tire will mean it could be harder to pass, that is a possibility. If the tire doesn’t have as much side bite, which is what slows the car down, sometimes it is harder to race side by side with a tire that has less side bite because it could take off on you. A lot of times a little bit slower lap times almost make a little bit better race sometimes. The cars become a little less aero dependant and the slower they start dropping down. I would say there is a direct correlation, you just don’t know.”

GREG BIFFLE CONTINUED … THIS TRACK WAS GOING TO BE NICKNAME THE FASTEST TRACK IN NASCAR AT THE END OF THE DAY. HOW FAST DO YOU THINK YOU WILL GO OUT THERE AND HOW DO YOU COMPARE THIS PLACE TO INDIANAPOLIS? “The speeds are kind of similar but the corners are totally different. Indy is real straight and then two corners and then another long straightaway. I would say this is the fastest track. Yesterday we went 220 mph and a 204.7 average. Definitely fast, faster than any track out there and probably I would say that I can nearly guarantee that is the fastest that any car has gone at a down force, non restrictor plate – take Talladega and Daytona out of it – that is faster than any car has gone at a non-restrictor plate.”

WITH ALL THE CHANGES, DOES IT CHANGE HOW YOU FEEL ABOUT WHERE YOU QUALIFIED? “I am extremely happy with where I qualified. I just go into turn one and bump Marcos out of the way (laughter). No, I am extremely happy I just don’t know about this tire that we are going to. I am nervous about it until we get out on the race track. The driver in you doesn’t know what to expect. You hope your car is as good as it is now. Maybe just a little slower. Hopefully the balance is good and I pick the right shocks and we don’t have to change a whole lot. We just don’t know til we get there. We hope it is not real skatey, we just don’t know.”

CASEY MEARS, No. 13 GEICO Ford Fusion “It was pretty bad really. We were really tight. I don’t think that is going to be very good. We were out of the throttle a lot.” HOW ABOUT THE TIRE SITUATION? “Well, we didn’t do long enough runs because we were battling the handling on our car. We were doing short runs trying to make it better. A lot of guys were getting blisters and when you have a situation like that you have to do something and that is what they did. I think that is the right decision based on the information they were getting. It will be interesting to see how practice goes tonight.”

ARIC ALMIROLA, No. 43 Medallion Ford Fusion “We were too loose right there. We made a lot of changes between practice and qualifying and that was a lot better. The car had a lot more front turn and did a lot of things better. We just didn’t adjust quite right for how much better the car turned. We were a little loose right there but I am proud of Mike Ford and all the guys on this Medallion Financial Ford. We made big improvements there with that run.” TOMORROW IS A BIG UNKNOWN ISN’T IT? “Yeah, it is. We are going to get an hour and fifteen minutes to try to figure out all that we can figure out.”

CARL EDWARDS, No. 99 Fastenal Ford WHAT DID YOU FEEL FROM THE COCKPIT? “First, a disclaimer about this whole thing. This has nothing to do with last season. It has nothing to do with finishing second in points. Man, this is frustrating. I think it is a fuel issue. It almost feels like there is an air leak or something in the pickup for the fuel. It is running but it acts like it is running out of fuel. I wanted to run this lap so badly. Our Fastenal Ford is really good. I told my wife before that I was going to get this pole and I wanted to be the fastest guy in NASCAR for the last 25 years. That would be very special. I am very frustrated we didn’t get to run it, but it is better now than in the race. We know this car can compete for the win and now we just have to make sure – the people asked if we can pass on this track or not but I feel like we are going to be able to pass and it is going to be good and we will have to make it happen.”

MATT KENSETH, No. 17 Ford EcoBoost Ford Fusion “We just missed the balance. We were tight in our mock run yesterday and tried to make it better but we are still really tight. I am really impressed with the speed for how much I had to get out of the gas and how tight it was to still run that lap time is pretty encouraging. I was honestly going for it hoping to run for the pole today and didn’t have enough grip to do it.”

TREVOR BAYNE, No. 21 Motorcraft/Quick Lane Ford Fusion “It wasn’t bad. I am still shaking man that is fast out there. I wish I could have got a little more out of it but I just didn’t trust it on entry. It got a little loose on me and was more free than yesterday. Not sure if that is the track or the heat. I wish I could have drove in a little deeper. I think I could have got another tenth or so. It isn’t a bad starting spot though. We will take a top-10 here. We haven’t been at the track in a little bit so these guys are doing a great job keeping up with these full time people. It is just a good opportunity for Ford and for me to be out here on this race track. It is a cool place.”

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Series NASCAR-CUP
Tags almirola, ambrose, biffle, edwards, ford, mears, petty, roush