The first Ford Racing stop on the 2006 Lowe's Motor Speedway media tour was at Roush Racing, where car owner Jack Roush and his drivers spoke about the upcoming season. MARK MARTIN -- No. 6 AAA Ford Fusion WHERE DO YOU SEE YOUR TEAM TODAY AND...
The first Ford Racing stop on the 2006 Lowe's Motor Speedway media tour was at Roush Racing, where car owner Jack Roush and his drivers spoke about the upcoming season.
MARK MARTIN -- No. 6 AAA Ford Fusion
WHERE DO YOU SEE YOUR TEAM TODAY AND HOW COMFORTABLE ARE YOU WITH THE LEVEL THEY'RE AT COMPARED TO OTHER YEARS? "I feel like we as a team, the backbone of this team is still in place. We had a couple of members of our team move on. They didn't move out of Roush Racing, they were promoted and stayed in Roush Racing, so that just tells you how good a people we had on the 6 car. So we've got a couple of new members on the team. They're gonna do a fantastic job, but Pat Tryson, Mike Janow and our car chief, Todd Zeigler, and myself are all fired up to have a better 2006 than we had even in 2005. This is gonna be a great year for me because I have the opportunity to race the Ford Fusion. It's a fantastic car that I really look forward to working with on the race track as well as in the showroom. And AAA is giving me an opportunity to do some really important work, especially with something close to my heart which is driver safety for teenagers, which I have one of, so it has special significance to me of something that's really important."
GREG BIFFLE -- No. 16 National Guard Ford Fusion -- WHAT WILL IT TAKE TO WIN THE TITLE THIS YEAR? "The 10 races, I'd have to say, we did a great job. It's obvious we need to be better at Martinsville. We need to be a little bit more cautious at Talladega to try and just finish a little bit better in those 10. That's all we needed. Thirty-five points is obviously not a very big margin. Tony had trouble as well. He had a crash at Charlotte and didn't run well at Dover, so we just hope that next year we really have the same year that we did this year. I was really fortunate to win six times and have the team that I do. We're probably one of the only teams in this sport that didn't change one crew member for the 2006 season, so I've got everybody back and Doug is in charge of the program. Mark was kind enough to loan me one of his guys for a crew chief for my Busch car, so we have that promotion within our organization and that makes great people. I'm really looking forward to Ameriquest on the Busch car and running the 16 car in the Busch Series, too. I'm looking forward to that, but I'm hoping we can mirror a season like we had last year. I don't know how to make it any better, other than just focus and just do the best we can those last 10 races. It seems like I raced the whole season to get there, but I just want to run the last 10 again. I know you have to make the chase and that's gonna be an important part, but I had so much fun in those last 10 races that I'm ready for that again."
MATT KENSETH -- No. 17 DeWalt Ford Fusion
HOW DO YOU CARRY YOUR MOMENTUM FROM LAST YEAR INTO THIS SEASON? "We ran really well toward the end of the year and through the middle of the year. At the beginning of the year we just didn't pay enough attention to our cars and probably what was going on. So I look forward to going into this year. The Ford Fusion is gonna be a great car. I think Robbie and all the crew chiefs are working really well together right now. I've seen all the cars that everybody is building and all the cars are pretty close to the same right now. Everybody seems to be working together more so, I think, than last year, so I'm really looking forward to the season. Hopefully, we can get to Victory Lane a few more times and make the chase again and race those last 10. Like Jack was saying, it was a great year for Roush. I know from a driver's standpoint it's a huge honor to be driving these cars. I mean, to get in equipment this good. You know your equipment is good enough to go win races and that's a great feeling as a driver. Now it's just up to the team and myself to try to figure out how to do it. We have everything we need, we just have to figure out how to put it all together."
JAMIE MCMURRAY -- No. 26 Crown Royal/Irwin Ford Fusion
HOW DOES IT FEEL TO BE WITH ROUSH RACING? "I kind of have the same feeling going into this season as I did in 2003 after winning at Charlotte and with the wins that Sterling had. It's somewhat like Matt said, when you know that you have cars that are capable of winning, you just have to do your part and work with your team and put yourself in the right position, so I'm very optimistic about the season. I'm going through a little bit of a learning curve right now with Jimmy (Fennig). I went over some of the setup stuff that the 26 team ran last year, and the other guys from Roush Racing, and it's a little bit different than what I'm used to, so that's gonna be a little bit of challenge to learn all that, but I think the Vegas test is gonna be really good for us. We've already tested a couple of times and I've learned a little bit. I've learned the guys names on my team. Believe it or not that's a big deal. I know that every year when you hear guys get up and you go to these media tours that everyone talks about how excited they are, but I really am because I feel like I'm with the best team in our sport right now. As Jack said earlier, he feels like his team is better than it's ever been, so I'm just ready to get all the media stuff out of the way and go racing."
CARL EDWARDS -- No. 99 Office Depot Ford Fusion
HOW DO YOU PREPARE FOR SUCH A LONG SEASON WITH ALL THE SERIES YOU'RE IN? "David Ragan and I went and ran street stocks the other night at Volusia, so we can't get enough of it. I love racing. I feel like the rest of these guys that I have an amazing opportunity to drive for the best team in the world and I can't even describe it. I'm super-excited about racing with Office Depot this year to say the least. I'm really excited after staring at this World Financial Group Ford back there (a wrecked car that flipped at Daytona) to go to Daytona. I'm pretty pumped about that. I think in general that running both Series helps me a ton. I can't stand to sit around on a day and watch people race, so that will be awesome to drive the Henkel and Ameriquest Ford Fusion there. Ford just briefed us the other day and told us a lot of exciting news about the Fusion, so that should be a great car to run. You guys know me, I'm ready to go racing. This is going to be fun."
JACK ROUSH, Owner -- Roush Racing Ford Fusions
IS HOW MANY CARS YOU GET INTO THE CHASE MORE IMPORTANT THAN ACTUALLY WINNING THE TITLE? "The number of cars we get in the chase is gonna be real important to us. We make a strong case to our sponsors as we negotiate for support that all of our programs get the same access to technology, the same number of talented people and the same assignment of resources from every regard. Stock car racing, I want to make sure that everybody understands, I want it to be as exciting as it can possibly be for our fans because they're important to us. At the end of the day, all that the rest of us can do -- the folks, the competitors and the folks who work on the cars -- we just have to make sure that we don't screw up and create the kind of bad luck that could cause somebody to drop out of a race. I'm gonna float an idea on you. NASCAR is always floating an idea, but when they decide that this chase thing starts to lose its zeal and there's another dimension they could put on it to make it a little more exciting, I would make the suggestion that after five races they tie everybody to within five points, so that you have 50 points within five, and then of course the slippery slope you're on, once you do that you could do it 10 times. After every race you could make the order of the finish of points determine the order and then you could have them five points apiece, but whatever it takes to make this racing exciting I'm for. I'd like to not see the price of the tires go up anymore than they are because that's not very exciting for all of us, and there are some other things that are happening that probably aren't good for the teams and may be invisible to the fans, but whatever it is we can make it more exciting for the fans is what I think we need to be doing. The idea that we weren't able to win in 2005 in spite of the great year we had, and we did win in 2004 when we probably didn't have the best program and we did win in 2003 when we were the most consistent, if we weren't the fastest on a race-by-race basis, those are all things that just played themselves out according to whatever the rules are. Whatever the rules are, we're gonna go try to get success within those rules. But 2005 was a great year. If we can just get ourselves ready for 2006 and do the same thing we'll have another great year regardless of who wins."
DID YOU EVER RACE AGAINST CARL IN MISSOURI?
JAMIE MCMURRAY: "I remember Carl showing up at Mittler Brothers truck shop in what I think was painted with a brush. It was orange and it was like a Chevette or something."
CARL EDWARDS: "I think it was a Festiva."
MCMURRAY: "He had a really cute girl with him, though." EDWARDS -- "That's what I was actually gonna bring up is that we never really competed on the track, but you were giving her the eye and that was a little bit of competition there. I was ready to get out of the shop as quick as I could."
EDWARDS: "But, no we didn't (race against each other). I don't think we did, but Kenny Schrader is also driving a Ford Fusion this year, too, so that should be exciting. That will be three Missouri guys."
CAN YOU TELL A DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THE DODGE AND THE FUSION?
JAMIE MCMURRAY: "I thought that we had one of the best cars at Daytona, so right now I'm really liking it. But it's tough to tell though when you go to speedways because you're so dependent on the other guys that are around you in the draft. But our car by itself was really fast. Like I said, I think Vegas is the true test. I'm very excited. Roush Racing on the mile and a halves, I thought, was the best team and their record shows it. Obviously, the Yates engines run really well, so until we get to Vegas it's kind of hard to say. When you're sitting in a car you really can't tell whether you're sitting in a Ford or any manufacturer."
YOUR THOUGHTS ON TOYOTA COMING INTO CUP?
JACK ROUSH: "Like it or not Toyota is a very important part of our economy today. We've got a lot of dealer investment dollars out there and we've got a lot of our population that works in Toyota plants around the country. So they have every right to be here. Based on the way that they have dealt with the other series that they've been in and what's happened to the series after they arrived and what happened to the series after they've left, NASCAR will have to think about what they allow them to do here in terms of changing the order of things technologically or the way we staff and the other things that we do. They have a way of carrying a different level of investment than would otherwise be justified based on the business aspects of the business, and we're yet to see how that will unfold. I knew that it was inevitable and I know that they'll be very tough competitors, but, again, like I said about the way they count the points and which races they decide are more important than other races as it relates to a championship, I welcome their being involved because I think they'll be good for the sport. I think they'll be great for the fans and the enthusiasm, I think, will sell more tickets to our race tracks. How we wind up dealing with the problems Ford Motor Company and General Motors are going through today and how that relates to the investment dollars that are in Japan versus the ones that are in Detroit and middle America I can't say. I'm not enough of an economist to be able to judge that, but for the near term we're gonna race them real hard."
THEY DID SAY THAT THEY WOULD LET THE TEAMS DO THE BODIES AND ENGINES IN CUP, UNLIKE THE TRUCK SERIES. WILL THAT KEEP THE PLAYING FIELD LEVEL? "In the truck series -- we got some knocks last year for having the most competitors in a series, but based on the way they did the truck series we were second to Toyota, even though we didn't have the breadth or the depth economically that they did to be able to buy everything that we might like to have bought. But they operated their truck teams as one program and made the team owners just name owners only in order to justify what they were doing. But they have the same cars and the same engines and the same technology and wound up ruling that thing with pretty much of an iron hand. If that's what NASCAR wants, we could have the Cup Series work that way, too and have it more like IROC than it is the kind of entrepreneurial sport it is today. But I don't think that's where it will go. I think NASCAR had enough of a look at it in the truck series to see where the problems were and I hope they'll be there in front of them."
HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT THE CAR OF TOMORROW ROLLOUT SCHEDULE AND THE COST CONTAINMENT ISSUES? "On cost containment I think we went to the race track four times with the car of the future. We've cut it up and changed it three times and we invested $300,000 in it and bought our own tires and rented the race track at Talladega and did all the other things, so I don't know exactly how that's helping me. But we've had just about all the cost containment the teams can afford so far and I don't thing we've got a car yet that will race on a mile and a half race track. I guess we're gonna put the mile and a half race tracks to the end and say if we get it working on road races and short tracks, then we'll have to make it work on two-mile tracks and speedways. And if we get that done, then like it or not you're gonna have to take it on mile and a half tracks. But they're moving it out three years, which will be in the interest of limiting the cost. At least the teams won't have to absorb it all in one year, and to have that kind of a rollout is something we'd asked for and it certainly is in the interest of the teams. NASCAR is not the only group in the industry here that's interested in safety. The teams are interested in safetly. I can make a case, I should knock on wood here, that until Mark Martin had his knee and his back hurt, I was the driver that had been hurt the worst in my cars in 40 years of racing. So we have had safe race cars that by and large have looked after the well-being of our guys, and I'm very proud of that. When somebody tells me that they've got to protect me from myself, I wonder, really, if they were paying attention. But we're going to make an effort in the next three years to make the cars that we've got increasingly safer based on the technology and the information that comes out and what we see on the race tracks. We're not gonna wait for this car of the future. They're gonna continue to be made safer and whether or not the car of the future was necessary to incorporate the changes they want is the decision I didn't make and I didn't have the prerogative to make that or I probably would have made a different decision. But we're on our way. We're on schedule. We'll comply with whatever the requirements are there and we'll race them. Over the next three years we'll work our way in and four years from now we'll be in the car of the future, which will be four years in the future."
ARE YOU HAPPY WITH THE THREE-YEAR ROLLOUT? WAS THAT A CONCESSION ON NASCAR'S PART? "NASCAR floats ideas. A lot of times they say they're gonna do something and really they were just kidding. They were gonna see what you thought about it, so we weren't sure if that's what was going on here. One of the things that happened that really confused the issue is that they floated -- I won't name names -- but I'll say Mr. Hendrick. They floated it on Mr. Hendrick and they asked him what to do and he said, 'Well, just give it to us all at once. Let's get it over.' He hadn't talked to his guys and he went back and had a conversation with them and found out how impossible and how improbable it would be to do that. How they just couldn't do it based on the way they were staffed and what the cost was gonna be. So at that time NASCAR came back and was willing to hear the arguments because Rick basically went in and said, 'Look, I know I told you I'd rather change it all at once, but that isn't true. We can't do it and, by the way, nobody else can do it either. So three years after we got past the idea we'd take all the pain in one year and be done with it, after they got past that, then three years was the most generous amount of time that we thought they would be willing to accept to let it come in. If they would have accepted five years, I would have been happier to have it to be five years because if you divide the cost it's gonna be over the number of years, it would be something you could absorb better over five years than three, but three years is what we asked for. It was a concession and we will make it work."
ANY SECOND THOUGHTS ABOUT THIS EXTRA YEAR? HAVE MATT AND ARLENE TRIED TO TALK YOU OUT OF IT?
MARK MARTIN: "It was a difficult decision because we had plans and I was extremely excited about 2006 and opening a new chapter in my life. But one of the first commitments I made for 2006 was to put my family first and Jack knows that, so the conversation was had by Jack and Matt and Arlene about doing this before we went any further. So they come first. If they said, no, they didn't want me to do it, then I wouldn't be here today. But I haven't thought that much about it. I told you guys I would give you a philosophy on it when I had one. I still don't have one, so I guess what I've got going on for 2006 is that I'm gonna have some fun and it's either gonna be good or not, and I'm gonna be willing to accept whatever kind of results we have. If I get real, real, real lucky it can wind up being the best year of my career. And if not, then I can say the next-to-last year of my Cup racing was the best year because 2005 personally and professionally was, by far, the best year of my life and not everybody can say that."