There are four Ford drivers competing for spots in the 12-driver Chase for the Sprint Cup field this weekend at Richmond International Raceway. Carl Edwards (2nd) has already clinched while Greg Biffle (6th) just has to start in order...
There are four Ford drivers competing for spots in the 12-driver Chase for the Sprint Cup field this weekend at Richmond International Raceway. Carl Edwards (2nd) has already clinched while Greg Biffle (6th) just has to start in order to lock up his position. Matt Kenseth (9th) and David Ragan (13th) are also trying to secure a spot. All four drivers held Q&A sessions Friday at the speedway.
MATT KENSETH -- No. 17 DeWalt Ford Fusion
YOUR THOUGHTS ON THE RACE? "We all like coming to Richmond. I don't really know about our race yet, but we didn't run very good as a group here last time. By looking at the sheets and how my car drove, it seems like we made some improvements on that. So we've got it running halfway decent in practice, so I'm hoping for a good race."
WHY HAS ONE DRIVER AT EACH OF THE BIG THREE TEAMS DOMINATED WITH THIS NEW CAR? "It sounds like we should all stay home and let those three race. I don't know. At Michigan, I think we had four out of the top six cars. I think we had three cars in the top five last week, I think, if I'm not mistake. Yeah, Carl has come home with the wins and he's run better in this car last year when they started with this car than the rest of us. For whatever reason he's been able to pick that up again, so that's hard to answer. Everybody's situation is a little bit different. It's not just about a piece of hardware and a driver. You've got 40 guys working on that car or more and every team and driver works a little bit different together. This car is very sensitive. In practice today, we ran four or five runs and we were a 30th-place car. We just ran terrible. We made one teenie-tiny change and it brought it to life and made it really competitive, so I think a lot of that is just Carl and Bob have been working together for quite a while, even though it's been on and off, and they've been able to get a handle on it."
DOES A TEAM LOOK AT POINTS AND WHEN THEY'RE SITTING 13TH FEEL THEY HAVE TO RATCHET IT UP? "I've never come to the race track said, 'Oh, man, this would be really cool to run 15th this week.' We never come to the race track and not want to finish good and not want to win. We bring what we think at that current time is our best stuff. We put forth 100 percent effort. We race as hard as we can race to win and we take whatever results we get for that day, so we're still not in. We're obviously in pretty decent shape, but we're still not in. I think since Darlington, team-wise, we've operated at a much higher level than we did the first month and a half.
"We had that tire problem at Indy that was 130 points or something like that and that put us back behind a little bit, but I think from Darlington when we had three or four finishes that were almost as bad as 40th, I think, in a row, we were able to put together a lot of top-10s and run real consistently and be more of a factor. So at the beginning of the year, I don't think we operated at a championship level and we also got taken out a couple of races in wrecks that were really not a lot of our doing, so we just had some problems there and we've been able to get going a little bit better. But even if we do make it in, we realize we've got to be running better to have a legitimate shot at winning. It's not just about being in, it's trying to win the championship, so we're working hard to try and get our stuff more competitive."
HOW DOES IT FEEL TO BE THE LUCKIEST DRIVER IN NASCAR, ACCORDING TO BIFFLE? "I don't feel like that most weeks. I think a lot of times you create your own luck."
YOU RODE YOUR CYCLE AS A STRESS RELIEF A COUPLE OF YEARS AGO WHEN YOU WERE ON THE BUBBLE. HOW DO YOU DEAL WITH STRESS RELIEF GOING INTO A RACE LIKE THIS? "Really, I don't really get that stressed out about it. I'm not really anymore stressed out this weekend than I was eight weeks ago, to be totally honest with you. I enjoyed my ride last week. I had a lot of fun and that means I didn't have to do anything else -- maybe something I didn't want to do -- so I was able to just kind of go out there and see a lot of cool stuff and hanging out with Kyle (Petty) is always a lot of fun. We had a good time, but it's been just kind of a normal week this week. Even though it was a day short with Labor Day and coming all the way back from the west coast and all that stuff, but it's really just another race. There's more on the line, but every point from Daytona to here or every race you can gain or lose the same amount of points. I don't really approach it different than any other race. We're just gonna go out and do the best we can and, hopefully, none of us make any mistakes and we get a decent result out of it."
WHAT IS THE KNACK FOR GETTING THE CAR GOOD AT THE END? YOU SEEM TO HAVE IT. "There are a few things. Obviously, I'm not that good enough at it because we haven't won yet. Carl's been winning all the races, but a lot of it comes from where we qualify. If I was an exceptional qualifier and we put a ton of effort into qualifying and did all that stuff and started up in the top 10 or won some poles and that stuff, if you win the pole, you don't have anywhere to go but backwards. Last week I really messed up qualifying and we started 39th or 37th, it was way back there, and we didn't have anywhere to go but up, so we had to constantly adjust on the car all day. We had good pit stops. We were back in traffic, so we're always trying to get our car better. I think sometimes, and there have been times earlier in our career, when we've qualified good and maybe been out front leading or been running up in the top three or four and you get scared to change it because you're running pretty good and you maybe don't keep up on the track, whereas more times than not we're coming from behind and trying to catch those guys and we're constantly working to try and make it just a little bit better."
IS THERE A POINT IN THE MIDDLE OF THE RACE WHEN YOU REALIZE ALL YOU HAVE MIGHT BE A 15TH PLACE CAR AND JUST TRY TO PRESERVE THAT? "I don't know if that ever goes through my mind like, 'Oh, man, we've got a 15th-place car or a 20th-place car.' But you kind of learn or know when you've been racing long enough in the series what's a pace you can run without being over the edge or without wrecking the car and get everything you can get out of it without burning the brakes off or burning the tires off. I think you try to run that pace all the time and I just constantly try to think about trying to get our car better, no matter where we're running and try to achieve the balance of the car and try to get it to feel like you want it to feel. I don't really think about where we're running, I think about how we can try to improve it, hopefully."
WHAT KIND OF TRANSITION IS IT WHEN YOU GO FROM HAVING A LONG-TIME CREW CHIEF TO A NEW ONE? "I think he (Tony Stewart) will be in a totally different situation than I was in. We moved Chip from within in the team. He was our original engineer when we did our five-race deal in '99, so I guess this is his 10th season with us. He's been with us the whole time, so for him and I to adjust to each other, it hasn't really been that big of an adjustment as far as communication and how to get the cars adjusted on and doing all that stuff. I think the adjustment has really been for him and probably still is for him -- dealing with people and organizing a group of people. Chip has always been the guy back in his office and at all the testing at the track or seven-poster or what have you -- just concentrating on making the car faster. That used to be his only job, and now you add a whole bunch more jobs to what he does and more of a load on what he does, and he already worked as long a hours as he possibly could work and I think that's a big adjustment to try to figure out how to balance both -- still focus on making the cars faster, but at the same time focus on the group and getting to the track and doing all the things that the crew chief has to do."
WHY IS IT MORE DIFFICULT TO WIN? "It's definitely a lot different. This car, we can't work on the bodies. What you have aerodynamically is basically what you have. Back a few years ago, even when Mark was there or Greg's cars for that matter, you could really change the cars aerodynamically a lot for your own driving style and how you wanted to adjust it. Greg and I had totally opposite bodies on our cars with aero loads and all the stuff we had going on. We can't do that anymore, so you kind of have to adjust to what that is and work on it from there, so that makes it a little bit difficult because if it's not driving like you want, you can't really do the things you used to do to try to fix that and make it run better in traffic and do that. So it is a big advantage to be in front and some guys have been able to figure their cars out better than others and they're very sensitive to being in front and being in the clean air, and they're also real sensitive to adjustments and things like that. So I think it's made it a little bit better too. Carl and some of those guys, when they qualify better they can stay up there all day. I've watched some of these races and I see the top five cars -- like at Bristol -- I think the top five or six cars basically ran in the top five or six for 500 laps. It's harder to come from the back than it used to be and get up front and challenge them."
DO PRACTICE SPEEDS MEAN ANYTHING? "The speeds mean something. Our top speed there I wasn't totally worried about. Everybody was doing qualifying runs and we actually, I just found out, had a water valve that was stuck open on the radiator dumping water all over the tires, so that's probably why we couldn't run better than that. But in long runs, we ran on a set of tires for a long time. We try to get it to feel a certain way on old used tires. Last time we really struggled after five or six laps we couldn't get any traction. We'd just spin the tires and we couldn't get the middle turned, so we really tried to work on a longer run and work on old tires and try to get the balance to where we wanted it to on old tires, which won't really show up on that sheet."
DOES IT MEAN ANYTHING BEING AN IMPOUND RACE? "I don't know how many cars are here, but whenever there are more than 44 or 45, I think that bottom part works probably a lot harder on qualifying even though it's an impound race, so I'm sure you'll have guys that are doing some things, but at a short track it's probably not a huge difference in setup."
-credit: ford racing