The Craftsman Truck Series competitors spent seven hours on Wednesday getting acclimated to the 1.333-mile Nashville Superspeedway in preparation for Friday night's Federated Auto Parts 200. The open test session kicked off at 1 p.m. CDT, and...
The Craftsman Truck Series competitors spent seven hours on Wednesday getting acclimated to the 1.333-mile Nashville Superspeedway in preparation for Friday night's Federated Auto Parts 200. The open test session kicked off at 1 p.m. CDT, and with the exception of a one-hour lunch break, ran until 9 p.m. under the lights. Adding to the story lines for the inaugural event, Greg Biffle was announced as the driver of the No. 99 Roush Racing entry on Tuesday. Biffle, the driver of the No. 60 Grainger Ford in the NASCAR Busch Series, cruised to victory in the inaugural Pepsi 300 at the concrete oval in April. Ford Racing drivers Greg Biffle, Jon Wood and Terry Cook commented on the track and their expectations.
GREG BIFFLE-99-Eldon Ford F-150
YOU RACED AT NASHVILLE IN THE BUSCH RACE IN APRIL, BUT SINCE THEN THE TRACK HAS WORKED ON TURNS 2 AND 4, WHICH WERE TROUBLE SPOTS DURING THE RACE. DID THE WORK HELP AND CAN YOU NOTICE A DIFFERENCE?
"The track has changed a bunch. We knew that with the track getting mores races on it that it was going be a lot better race track. On top of that, they ground on it a little bit to work on the slick spots, and right now, it's driving really good. The trucks are hooked up on it pretty good, and I think it's going to be a great race track. I like the facility and I like the track, and that's not just because I won here. It's going to be a fun track."
IS THE SURFACE MORE CONSISTENT NOW, LIKE DOVER?
"It's a little easier than Dover because it's not banked as much. It's a little smoother and a little easier to drive. It's a good, racy track."
YOU RACED HERE AND WON HERE IN APRIL. DOES THAT EXPERIENCE GIVE YOU AN ADVANTAGE WHERE THIS IS A TOTALLY NEW TRACK FOR THE TRUCK COMPETITORS?
"It gives us a pretty good advantage, but with all the practice that we're going to have, it should be a pretty level playing field. First thing this morning, it may have helped me out, but the track wasn't like it was when we were here in the Busch car. If it were like that then I would have been light years ahead of these guys. It's driving kinda like a normal race track, so Sprague can get the hang of it pretty quick. If all of those guys go out there and drive like they know how to drive then they're going to be OK."
THIS IS YOUR SECOND TRUCK RACE OF THE SEASON. THERE WERE A FEW NEW RULE CHANGES YOU NEEDED TO ADAPT TO IN MEMPHIS, BUT DO YOU FEEL LIKE YOU HAVE A GOOD GRASP ON THE TRUCKS NOW?
"It did take a little bit of time, and probably testing in Chicago a couple weeks ago is helping me here. I knew what the thing felt like on a mile-and-a-half speedway, so it's probably going to help us out here."
HAS THE HANDLING CHANGED EVEN MORE WITH THE 390-CFM CARBURETOR?
"Yeah, but I tested in Chicago with the 390, too. You can tell; they're pretty flat motor-wise compared to what a Busch car is. Even the Busch cars are better, and I don't know why because this is basically a Busch motor. Maybe because of the aerodynamic difference the Busch cars feel like they accelerate better with the 390."
THIS IS BASICALLY A BUSCH MOTOR NOW. IS THAT AN ADVANTAGE FOR YOU?
"No, the aerodynamics are so different and they drive so different and brake so different that I don't think it makes such a big deal."
YOU TESTED THE NEW FRONT FASCIA AT CHICAGO. IS THAT GOING TO MAKE THE TRUCKS HANDLE DIFFERENTLY FROM EARLIER IN THE SEASON?
"I think it enables the trucks not run some of the wicker. I think you still have to run some of it, but the nose is definitely better. It's going to take a lot to catch up to that Dodge and the Chevy; they've got a good nose on their trucks. I think the Fords are closer."
IS THAT GOING TO BE A BIGGER ADVANTAGE IN THE DRAFT?
"I'm waiting to see, it may. It may help the aero-push a little bit being right down on the race track, but we'll have to wait for Happy Hour tomorrow to see that."
WHAT WERE YOU ABLE TO LEARN FROM THIS AFTERNOON'S PRACTICE SESSION THAT YOU CAN USE FOR A NIGHT RACE?
"We're making wholesale combinations, spring and bar combinations, just trying to find out what the truck likes and wants with the aero package. I haven't driven the things this year with the spoiler moved and all that other stuff. We're just trying to find a balance and getting it to turn and drive right. Second practice into the day we might work on qualifying to get ready for tomorrow."
HOW WERE YOU ENTICED TO DRIVE THIS WEEKEND WHEN THE BUSCH SERIES COMPETITORS HAD THE WEEKEND OFF?
"I just love driving and competing, it doesn't matter what it is. If I weren't here this weekend, I'd be on Lake Norman sitting on my boat, maybe racing it. I had three great years on the Truck Series and Jack (Roush) asked me to help him out, and I may not be in the 50 truck, but I have Randy Goss helping me out, so it's just like old times. That, and I was told that I would still have my weekend off since the truck race is on Friday."
JON WOOD-50-Eldon Ford F-150
WHAT ARE YOUR FIRST IMPRESSIONS OF THE TRACK?
"Up until this point, all I've ever heard is how difficult it is to get around this place. I watched the Busch race and saw everybody wreck, and just talking to everybody including Biffle, they tell you how quick this track can bite you. So, I go out there and just cruise around and I'm getting a little intimidated, and the problem is that I'm taking in too much information from people. Once I learn to do my own stuff, we'll be all right. The track is great. It's cement and I'm not used to that and it's a little different. You have the grip you have on asphalt, but you just can't feel it. When you lose grip, you lose it twice as fast. It's a little bit tricky in how you have to get around this place, and you really have to respect it more than other tracks."
IT'S A NEW TRACK FOR THE SERIES, SO DOES THAT LEVEL THE PLAYING FIELD FOR A ROOKIE?
"I think it does help out a lot, but I also think it helps to have Biffle here as my teammate this weekend because he has been here and he will have his truck right. All we've got to do is run over there and say, 'What do we need to do?' That's a huge advantage and benefit. It does make it easier to come to a place like this where no one has been. We're still learning each day and still trying to cut our fast time in half, but I think we're getting there."
IS THE SEVEN-HOUR PRACTICE SESSION ADVANTAGEOUS FOR THE ROOKIES?
"Yeah, it gives me a little more seat time, and that's always good. The track is going to be the same whether it's day or night in the way you have to run it. You're going to need a little different setup, but you approach the race track the same way. I think it helps to run all day long and not have to be pushed for time. More times seems to give you more patience."
ARE YOU NOTICING ANY HANDLING DIFFERENCES WITH THE NEW FRONT VALANCE?
"I'm not noticing any major differences; I don't think it was what everybody made it out to be. We're just getting more and more to the level of the Dodges and Chevrolets. We really don't have an advantage, and it's by no means a guaranteed victory for Ford this weekend. With the 390, that helps us out, too. I just think we're getting closer and closer each week."
TERRY COOK-29-Power Stroke Diesel Ford F-150
WHAT ARE YOUR FIRST IMPRESSIONS OF THE TRACK?
"It's pretty impressive. It's not as treacherous as everybody makes it out to be. I wasn't here for the Busch race, but I know that they've ground it down since then, so it's not as bad as I thought it would be.
DOES THAT MAKE YOU MORE APPREHENSIVE FOR THE FIRST COUPLE OF LAPS?
"I think that does have a lot to do with it. We purposely tightened our truck up and did a lot of things to it to be sure that we wouldn't have any problems and we didn't. Now it's just a matter of coming back off of that and making our truck fast."
WITH THE CONCRETE SURFACE, WILL THERE BE SOME THINGS THAT YOU CAN USE AT NIGHT?
"It makes the track a little more consistent and we don't fight it because it's concrete. We're just searching for grip like you would on asphalt. I think we searched harder at Kansas for grip on a brand-new, freshly paved track than we are here on a concrete surface. I don't think the concrete surface has thrown us any curveballs yet. It seems to be a little rougher like Dover is where you sense some harmonics though the drivetrain. Fortunately, we have a good shock program and that's helping us to overcome that."
DOES GREG BIFFLE HAVE A BIG ADVANTAGE HERE, RUNNING THE BUSCH RACE IN APRIL?
"I think he does. Not only is the Roush organization very stout, but Greg has won here and has a lot of laps around here, and even tested here in the Busch car. He's just got a ton of laps here and that's going to help him a bunch. I think he's the only race car driver that has any laps here, so he has a leg up on the field. What that does is they set the standard for the rest of us early on in practice. They throw up a good number and that becomes the time that the rest of us shoot for. It makes the rest of the teams to dig deep and worker harder to catch up to him."
YOU HAVE THE NEW FRONT FASCIA ON THE FORD AND THE 390 CARBURETOR THIS WEEKEND. IS IT BETTER TO RUN THAT AT NEW TRACK WHERE YOU DON'T HAVE SETUP NOTES THAT YOU MIGHT RELY ON TO SET UP THE TRUCK?
"That's probably true. It's all new variables thrown in there at a new track, so you don't find yourself saying, 'This worked here before and that's what we're going to stick with.' Coming here with a new package at a new track is probably the best thing."
HAVE YOU FELT A CHANGE IN THE HANDLING OF THE TRUCK WITH THE NEW NOSE? "We rolled out one truck and I think it helped a ton. We're still
searching for more speed. We've got our practice engines it in right now, and we're about to roll out my favorite truck, which finished second at IRP, so the second practice session is going to one we've been waiting for. Come ask me then"
IS THE MID-SEASON CHANGE TO THE 390-CFM CARBURETOR THE RIGHT TIME TO MAKE A CHANGE?
"Personally, I don't think so. Everybody had their motor program up and running. Ernie Elliott told us that the whole top of the motor from the intake manifold to the cylinder heads need to be scraped. Here in our program, we own all these motors and made the investment, and they throw us a curveball with nine races left in the season; it just makes it tougher on our program. It makes the dollars go up, and we've already seen a lot of teams go away because of the new motor rule coming into this year. And then to change halfway through the season, I don't think that that's fair and they should have waited until the end of the season. Nevertheless, we have to deal the hand we're dealt."