Teams hit the track for day two of testing at the 2012 Daytona Preseason Thunder at Daytona International Speedway. The main focus of the test is for teams to work on their final preparations for 2012 Speedweeks – in particular, the 54th running of the Daytona 500 on Sunday, Feb. 26. Reigning NASCAR Nationwide series champion Ricky Stenhouse Jr. will run the 500 in the Roush Fenway Racing No. 6 Ford Fusion and talked about how his test has gone thus far.
Ricky Stenhouse Jr., No. 6 Roush Fenway Ford Fusion
HOW HAVE THINGS GONE FOR YOU SO FAR? “Pretty good. I guess they changed the restrictor plate size last night and going around the track made it a little more fun by yourself because we are obviously going faster now. We are about a half a second faster than what we were yesterday. That is cool. We will get to drafting here this afternoon I think and that should be a lot of fun learning. Hopefully I can draft with Matt (Kenseth). I just talked to him a little bit about it. Overall, it has been pretty smooth. I think we found a few things that made it a little quicker by ourselves and that has been our focus the first day and so far today.”
ANY NOTICEABLE DIFFERENCES FOR YOU AS A DRIVERS WITH THIS FUEL INJECTION ENGINE? “Well, I didn’t run a lot of the Cup stuff before but it seems like one of the biggest problems we had was getting it started. It seems like Roush Yates and everybody at Ford has really got that process a lot better than it first was when I first drove it at Kentucky. That is a good thing. We had a little problem with it yesterday but they were able to plug it into the computer and fix it and it turns out that it all worked out.”
YOU ARE GOING TO DRIVE THE DAYTONA 500 IN THE 6 CAR. HOW COOL IS THAT? “That is going to be exciting. I think obviously being in the race is going to be fun but I think the pre race stuff before it and just being a part of it, looking around and seeing all the people here, and just knowing what you are a part of is going to be really special.”
WHAT IS THE BIG GOAL FOR YOU THIS AFTERNOON WHEN YOU START RUNNING IN PAIRS? “Just mainly building some confidence up in whoever I am drafting with so that they will have confidence going into the 500 that I can do it and make sure they are comfortable with me. I think that is one of the big keys down here. Obviously being new I think it is important to build a relationship with somebody that trusts you. That is the plan for me.”
The morning session on day two of testing at Daytona saw the Ford contingent run mostly single car runs with the exception of the two Richard Petty Motorsports cars. The 43 of Aric Almirola and 9 of Marcos Ambrose teamed up for drafting practice and third and fourth quickest laps of the session. Both talked afterwards about how the test is going so far and what they expect going forward.
Marcos Ambrose, No. 9 Stanley Ford Fusion – WHAT DID YOU LEARN FROM YOUR DRAFTING SESSION THIS MORNING? “It feels very similar to last time. NASCAR changed the rules to try to make it harder for us but we are still doing it. The speeds are up and the restrictor plate is pretty open. It is a lot faster and drafting the way we are, the technique and everything hasn’t really changed that much.”
DO YOU NOTICE ANYTHING DIFFERENT FROM YOUR SEAT WITH THE FUEL INJECTION? “Not really. You run these things wide open when you are drafting anyway. The switch over has been very smooth though and I have been very impressed by how all the teams and manufacturers have been able to adapt to the new rules.”
WHAT IS THIS PACK RACING THIS AFTERNOON GOING TO BE LIKE? “It is going to be interesting. We have a meeting to find out how they want to conduct it. We will just have to see.”
YOU HAVE A NEW TEAMMATE THIS YEAR, HOW IS IT GOING SO FAR WORKING TOGETHER? “Aric is really great. We are working well and drafting with each other and we will just take it a day at a time here and build that relationship. I know that he really wants to do well for Richard Petty and his 43 team and I want to do the same.”
Aric Almirola, No. 43 Smithfield Foods Ford Fusion – HOW IS IT GOING SO FAR OUT HERE? “It is going well. Our Smithfield Ford is running pretty good. We have been working with Marcos this morning on drafting and that has gone really well. Our cars are drafting really well together and are really fast. They are really stable too which is important. I am gelling right along and it has been fun to work with Greg Irwin and all the guys on this team. Richard Petty Motorsports has a great group of guys. I have learned that in the two weeks I have been here. It has been good.”
YOU GUYS WERE THE FIRST TWO FORD CARS TO GO OUT AND DRAFT. WHAT DID YOU LEARN? “Well, our cars are fast and they are stable. I think that is the biggest thing, making sure that your car is stable now with this smaller rear spoiler and the softer rear springs. That is going to be the biggest thing, making sure you can hang on when you are being pushed at 200 miles per hour. I think that is the biggest thing.”
HOW LONG WERE YOU ABLE TO PUSH? “It felt like we could do it for quite awhile. I think everybody is a little different but I felt like we could go for a good five or six laps with no problem.”
YOU GUYS ARE GOING TO GO OUT IN A BIG PACK THIS AFTERNOON. HOW DO YOU ANTICIPATE THAT GOING? “I don’t know. I think it will be pretty calm to be honest. We are testing and nobody wants to tear their stuff up. I think it will be pretty calm. I think you will see some people come and go in the pack but for the most part it should be relatively calm. I am sure it will get three wide because it should be really easy to get three wide but I don’t know, it is a big unknown at this point.”
WHAT IS THE GOAL FOR YOU FOR THE REST OF TODAY? “Just to keep on working on speed. We have to keep working on getting speed out of our car and getting me and Marcos to keep switching. That is going to be important. If the rules stay the way they are we are going to be able to swap and be able to keep our engines cool. We are working on our switch and making sure we are very comfortable drafting together before we get back down here in February.”
Greg Biffle, who only participated in single car runs in the morning session, talked about what he has learned from the test thus far and how he anticipates the afternoon session will be.
Greg Biffle, No. 16 3M Ford Fusion – WHAT DO YOU ANTICIPATE FROM THIS BIG PACK RACING THIS AFTERNOON? “I anticipate somebody crashing. I don’t know who and I hope it isn’t us. We have to get out there and figure out what the car is going to do and we will be bumping and shoving a little bit and be in the big pack. We already saw in the two-car pack someone get turned around and some people squirrely. With the shorter spoiler and increased competition or whatever you want to say with the speed, we are going a lot faster and something is going to happen.”
HOW MUCH FASTER ARE YOU GOING TODAY WITH THIS NEW RESTRICTOR PLATE? “About six-tenths or something like that, so a bit faster. What is weird is that it doesn’t slow down in the corner as much as it did yesterday. Yesterday you would go 195 on the straightaway and 190 around the middle of the corner, 189 to 190. Now it goes 196 or 197 and then 195 in the corner. So the more power keeps it up against the aero. It is almost like the more plate you give it the constant the speed stays. It doesn’t slow down to speed up like a car normally does. It is interesting to see how the dynamics of the aero and the more power equate to each other.”
WHAT HAVE YOU NOTICED WITH THE FUEL INJECTION? “The biggest thing I notice every time I have driven it is that it runs so good in the garage. Letting the clutch off, driving off, driving down pit road. I know it sounds stupid but that is part of it. My hat is off to these guys because these race engines don’t like to run below 4000 RPM and now they run below 4000 RPM really, really good. It is a matter of getting air and fuel right and with fuel injection you can do that.”
Carl Edwards participated in a NASCAR encouraged pack session to start the afternoon testing at Daytona International Speedway Friday afternoon. Edwards talked about what that was like and what may come from it.
Carl Edwards, No. 60 Fastenal Ford Fusion – WHAT WAS THE BIG PACK LIKE? “It is about half way to the old pavement, the feel of it. You drive down the corner and my Fastenal Fusion was sliding just a little. I didn’t really have to lift off the throttle. I went looking for John Darby and couldn’t find him and then I came back to the car and he was actually over here so that was nice of him to come by. We talked a little bit about that and I guess there is a lot on the table right now of things they could adjust. I think if the cars were either just a little faster or had a little less grip then we would get to that old Daytona feel where you would get in the corner and have to lift a little bit. I guess there are a lot of things being discussed with RPM, plate size, rev limiters, down force and all this stuff. That is what testing is for and I am glad NASCAR is trying all this stuff to let us see what may happen.”
WHAT DID YOU SEE OUT OF WATER TEMP THERE? WAS THAT ANYTHING THAT CHANGED OTHER THAN THE TWO CAR TANDEM? “No, we were real low on water temp. I think until you really get right up against that car in front of you water temp is not a factor. It doesn’t seem to be that big of a deal.”
WE HAVE HAD A CONSENSUS SO FAR THAT TWO CARS AT THIS POINT STILL COULD PROBABLY PULL AWAY AND IN THE LAST FIVE LAPS WE ARE LOOKING AT THAT. DO YOU THINK WE COULD NARROW THAT DOWN SOME WITH SOME MULTI-CARS BEING ABLE TO CHASE DOWN TWO OR WILL IT STILL LEAN THAT WAY? “Okay, let’s look at this realistically. Two cars, unless there is some major change in physics or car design, are going to be faster. Unless you make it such that you have to slow down for the corner or you limit the RPM. I personally would prefer for them to make the cars drive in a way that you have to lift a little for the corner in that two-car draft. It would separate the cars and keep guys from running off. I don’t know how you are going to take this race, with this restrictor plate, and keep it from being the winner wins by being in a two-car draft. It is very difficult. I don’t envy NASCAR’s position but I think they are doing the right thing going through all these motions and trying to figure this out.”
Jack Roush discussed engines and testing near the end of the afternoon session on day two of testing from Daytona International Speedway Friday afternoon.
Jack Roush, owner Roush Fenway Racing – HAVE YOU RECOVERED FROM THE DISAPPOINTMENT OF LAST SEASON YET? “Well, I don’t like short jokes much. We only missed one spot and the tie breaker is what got us.”
THERE IS A LOT GOING ON WITH THE ENGINE FOR THE FIRST TIME IN A LONG TIME AND NASCAR IS TRYING TO GET THIS TWO-CAR TANDEM TO BREAK UP A BIT. HOW IS EVERYTHING GOING? “Well, it is to be determined. We still don’t know exactly what is going to happen. Right now our Ford engines are only good for about 9100 RPM and it looks like with what we are seeing today we need 9500 to make it work. So that sends us back to work on it unless they change the gear rule. I have to have a conversation with John Darby before I leave today. I can’t be here tomorrow but before I leave today I have to find out what I should be working on. If the gear rules go open then we know to leave the engine alone. If they bring the chip and/or keep us with the gears we’ve got then we’ve got a lot of work to do on the engine.”
ULTIMATELY THOUGH, IF YOU DO HAVE TO DO WORK ON THE ENGINE, DO YOU THINK TO THE BEST OF YOUR UNDERSTANDING THIS TWO-CAR TANDEM WILL STILL BE THE THING TO WIN THE RACE OR WILL IT GET IN LINE WITH THE PACK RACING? “NASCAR has seemed pretty determined to break up the two-car thing but as long as the tire is as good as they are and the cars have as much down force as they do and the cars handle really good and you don’t really upset the car when you get together. It becomes of you wind up controlling them by making the engines so they can’t operate in a range when they push like that or do they come back and do it with the cooling system. They’ve got one of those things to work with and my guess is there will be some serious compromise based on the fact that someone is going to complain that their hardware is not right for the rules they are given.”