Ford Drivers Gear Up For Rolex 24 Hours The Crown Royal Ford Multimatic "Team of Champions" gathered today in the Daytona International Speedway media center to discuss the team's progress during the first two days of testing for the...
Ford Drivers Gear Up For Rolex 24 Hours
The Crown Royal Ford Multimatic "Team of Champions" gathered today in the Daytona International Speedway media center to discuss the team's progress during the first two days of testing for the Rolex 24 at Daytona. In attendance were NEXTEL Cup drivers Greg Biffle, Kurt Busch and Matt Kenseth along with the Grand-Am driver Scott Maxwell. Also speaking on behalf of the effort were Ford Racing's Dan Davis and Multimatic Motorsports' Larry Holt.
DAN DAVIS , Director, Ford Racing Technology
TALK ABOUT HOW THE TEAM OF CHAMPIONS CAME TOGETHER. "Jim France and I have been talking about this for about a year. Jim said it would be really great to get some Ford Cup drivers to come to the 24-hour race and participate. I fully agreed, so we started talking about it last summer with these guys about it and said, 'Let's make this happen somehow.' There was a lot interest on their part and a lot of from Ford's part, and Multimatic thought it would be great also. We got everybody's resources together; we've got great sponsors involved. Crown Royal has really helped out, we put some money in it and Multimatic has put some money, so we put this thing together. I think it's been a great day and a half so far, it's been a really good effort and we're excited about it, and we're going to be competitive."
LARRY HOLT , Technical Director/Vice President of Engineering, Multimatic Motorsports
THE FORD MULTIMATIC WON THE FIRST ROLEX 24 AT DAYTONA IN THE PROTOTYPE CATEGORY. TALK ABOUT HOW GOOD THIS PACKAGE IS COMPARED TO WHAT WE'VE SEEN IN PAST YEARS. "I said this in the press conference that we had before, we probably made a mistake when we got going in this and didn't choose to do a factory team. We went with customer teams, and we did lose a bit of ground to Riley. Crawford and Kevin, where they were running factory teams. About midway through last year Dan (Davis) and I talked about this and said, 'Look, we better step this up and get Multimatic behind it.' We started in on quite an intensive development program, mostly in the area of suspension to start with and ended up going to Miami with Essex, where we ran pretty strong with Scotty (Maxwell) and finished sixth there with the Essex car, our customer car. We went on to VIR and did some more development work there and ended up leaving the race at a point because we had a problem. We put in about 10 tests since last September and I think we're coming here very strong. Really, what we've done is had to catch up on a year and a half of not racing. I think the only way to continue to compete here, there are a lot of very good cars and lot have a factory team, so that's what we need to continue to develop a car. That's the plan and we're here ready to take this on."
SCOTT MAXWELL -49-Crown Royal Ford Multimatic
YOU HAVE THE MOST EXPERIENCE BEHIND THE WHEEL OF A DAYTONA PROTOTYPE ON THIS TEAM. HOW MANY DISCUSSIONS OUT OF THE CAR ARE YOU HAVING WITH THE OTHER THREE DRIVERS? "Obviously, all three of these guys have an incredible level of natural talent, so that's not an issue. It's more just getting them familiar and comfortable with the difference of sports car racing in a new car and track they've never gone around. Obviously, they have experience on the oval, and Greg said he didn't even know where it went yesterday. We're having quite a bit of discussion out of the car, and it's all the normal steep-learning-curve types of things, and we're looking at graphs and figuring out where the time is, and trying to explain to them what the car is capable of. I think braking and aerodynamics are the big things for these guys to adjust to because they have a lot more downforce than they're used to, and it's a lighter car that they're trying to stop. They each had a run at it yesterday and I think today they're just going to continue that improvement every session. I'm pretty impressed. All three guys have different styles and different approaches, but I think the bottom line is they're going to get there in the end."
"Because of schedules and development work that we were doing, this is the first time that these guys have actually been in the car. It would have made a whole lot of sense if we had the time to get them in and try to test somewhere so they weren't coming here cold, but we didn't get that done, so we're here and we're not sneaking up on this. We're in front of 31 other prototypes, so they're learning the track, the car and there's all of those other guys are out there as well. It's a lot of pressure on these guys."
GREG BIFFLE -49-Crown Royal Ford Multimatic
YOU HAVE EXPERIENCED SUCCESS ON NASCAR'S ROAD COURSE VENUES, INCLUDING AN OUTSIDE POLE AT WATKINS GLEN YOUR FIRST TIME THERE. TALK ABOUT THE EXPERIENCE THAT YOU HAVE IN STOCK CARS ON THE ROAD COURSES AND WHAT YOU CAN USE IN THE FORD PROTOTYPE. "This is a whole other world for me, and I've got some experience road racing in NASCAR and that's about all of the experience that I have. I can't say enough for the Multimatic team and Scotty for helping me transition into this car. He's probably getting tired of me asking questions, but he's been very, very helpful and everybody has. I just need to keep it off of the grass and on the race track; there's a little more traction there. I've learned a lot in a short amount of time. I've never been around this race track before and never drove a sequential shift car, and I'm adapting to it fairly quick. I feel like I'm picking it up pretty good. I need to get some more laps in the car and feel more comfortable with it. We need to get Scotty more laps in the car. We've been hogging all of the test time trying to get used to it and he needs to get in the car and make sure it's where it needs to be handling-wise and stuff for the race. I'm really excited. It's the most fun that I've ever had probably in a race car and I really just look forward to today getting some more time and getting used to it."
KURT BUSCH -49-Crown Royal Ford Multimatic
YOU HAVE AN EXTENSIVE RESUME OF TESTING VEHICLES THAT INCLUDES A FORD-POWERED CHAMP CAR. WHAT ARE YOUR EXPECTATIONS COMING INTO THIS EVENT? "It seemed like it was a couple of weeks ago that I was able to hold up the NEXTEL Cup trophy, and the next time I'm in a car I'm a rookie in the Rolex Series at Daytona. Again, it's another challenge in my resume that I want to try to complete. I had that opportunity to run the Champ Car a few years ago and treated it just as opportunity as an audition, but it's obvious my primary background is with oval racing. Road racing is a learn-as-you-go thing, and I believe that's what the atmosphere is this weekend with the test around this 24-hour race. I hope that we're able to be 90-percent complete before we start the 24-hour race in the next couple of weeks. It's a great opportunity Ford has put together. Crown Royal is our primary sponsor, which will be on my NEXTEL Cup car a few races this next year. It gives me a great chance to work with them. Any project that you can cross-reference, whether it's sponsor related or manufacturer related, or whether it's just driving a different style of race car, I'm all up for."
MATT KENSETH -49-Crown Royal Ford Multimatic
WHAT ARE THE BIGGEST DIFFERENCES COMPARED TO THE CUP CAR? "It's all a big difference. They don't drive anything like our Cup cars, which is good because our Cup cars don't drive very good at road courses, at least my doesn't. This is a lot of fun and I think the car is going to be there. I've already had a lot of fun working with and picking on Larry (Holt) and working with Scott and getting a lot of advice from him. It's going to be fun to race with all of these guys all in the same car. It's fun, but it's also kind of pressure in a way. It's a 24-hour race and you think about that, yet it's hard not look at each other's lap times and try to keep up. It's a lot different. They stop a lot quicker, they accelerate quicker, they turn faster; they do everything more like a race car should compared to what our cars are. I'm real excited about it. They're a really neat looking car and they're a lot of fun to drive, and I'm anxiously looking forward to getting more laps and getting more comfortable and more up to speed and to kind of figure out where we're going and come back and put forth our very best effort for the 24 Hours."
THE POINTS IN THE CUP SERIES HAVE ALWAYS BEEN THE SAME FOR ROAD COURSE EVENTS AND OVALS, BUT WITH THE CHASE FORMAT DOES THAT PUT MORE EMPHASIS ON THE ROAD COURSE RACES SINCE THEY'RE IN THE FIRST 26 RACES OF THE YEAR? "No, it's less because if you have a good strong team, like Kurt had some problems in the first 26 and I had some problems, you could literally throw those two road-course races away at Sears Point and Watkins Glen, and if you're good the rest of the year you'll still be in the top 10. I feel like since it doesn't count for the championship there's a lot less pressure on it. Every other year historically how NEXTEL Cup has been, every point and every race counted towards the total at the end of the year, where that's not really the case now. There's still pressure and you still want to do good and you still need to be a good team to be in the top 10, obviously, with the competition. I feel like there's much less pressure on the road courses. All of the races there is pressure, but I think it's less than it used to be."
IN THE LAST FEW MONTHS JAGUAR HAS PULLED OUT OF FORMULA ONE, SO DOES THAT NECESSARILY MEAN THAT FORD IS CHANGING ITS OVERALL RACING STRATEGY AND PERHAPS PLUGGING SOME OF THAT MONEY INTO MULTIMATIC? "I don't know what the number was, but I got none of it. Whatever they were spending on those programs, those programs were run not as North American programs. I'm funded in North America and Ford Division pays my bills as part of their marketing effort. They're completely separate programs with completely separate budgets. North America runs our program to help our sales and help sell products and services. There's no change to the North American program at all. We're committed to take care of NASCAR, we're committed to Grand Am, we committed to USAC and we're committed to NHRA Funny car. That's been our program and that continues to be our program. I guess the only thing I will say about budgets and efforts is that where we choose to race, we will be competitive. We will do what it takes to be competitive, whether that's technology or money or whatever it takes, we will be competitive. The only thing I can really tell you is that where we come to race you can count on us being championship capable. That's sort of what we're made of and that's what Ford Division is made of, and that's what we'll deliver."
WERE THERE ANY RESERVATIONS ON THE PART OF ROUSH RACING TO HAVE ITS DRIVERS INVOLVED IN THE ROLEX 24? "We decided to try to do this last summer at some point, and I think it was the California race, and I went to the three drivers and said, 'I'd like you to try to do this. Would you like to try it?' All three drivers said they would like to try it. We wanted to have a quality program and do a good job, which is what we had to do, so with that I went to Jack Roush and said, 'Jack, I've asked the drivers to participate in this race, and I'd like your approval to do that.' He gave me that approval immediately with no reservations."
"You could tell that he was going to agree with it right away with the history that Jack Roush has within this 24-hour race. It seemed like it was an opportunity that you have to take advantage of, and Roush Racing did that just to jump into it with the heritage he has in this race. Dan put the program together and I think we can all agree that we're getting paid a lot to do this and we're going to have fun."
GIVEN THAT THIS IS YOUR OFF-SEASON FROM NASCAR, ARE YOU READY TO GET BACK BEHIND THE WHEEL OF A CAR? "I'll start off by saying that this is a great opportunity to jump into a car that we've never had a chance to race. With the Multimatic team building such a championship-caliber car and working with Scott Maxwell, it's just a different frame of mind. It's actually free time and it's fun, and I feel as if that's the way it is when we go to road-course races with Sonoma and Watkins Glen. I'm exited about learning a new track and a style of car and working with a different group of guys. But, yes, it does take away time of our off-season, but yet we're professional racers and we love to be in race cars."
GIVEN THAT THIS IS YOUR OFF-SEASON FROM NASCAR, ARE YOU READY TO GET BACK BEHIND THE WHEEL OF A CAR? "For me, I was looking forward to doing something different. I had more time off this winter than what I did last year. Our off-season is short and it was our choice to do this race. We didn't have to do this race, so it's something that we wanted to do and we love to race, so I think all of us that are driving would rather be here driving than be somewhere across the country doing a commercial. I think we'd rather be in race cars. That's how we all started because of our love of the sport. I think we always wanted to drive the cars. I'll be interested to ask Kurt about it in October if he was happy to take the extra week to do it or not because I know for me last year, I took on a lot of extra stuff during the winter and I was wore out by October. We'll have to see, but there's a lot of stuff that goes with the championship that he's already finding out and he'll find out this year."
HOW LONG DOES IT TAKE ONCE YOU'RE OUT OF THE CAR TO GET THE ITCH TO START DRIVING SOMETHING AGAIN? "It depends. I've been looking forward to doing this since we got done in Homestead. This is something different, and you're always excited for something different. I try to go back and do a couple of short track races every year just for fun. Kurt had a dirt race he was going to do this year, but it didn't work out. On our off-weekend we both went to Oxford, Maine and ran the Oxford 250, which is a big short-track race, and we had a ball doing that. I think we always like to race and always like to be in something different."
THE ROLEX SERIES IS RUNNING IN RUNNING IN CONJUNCTION WITH NEXTEL CUP AT DAYTONA LATER IN THE YEAR AND AT WATKINS GLEN. IS THERE ANY CHANCE THAT YOU WILL ONCE AGAIN COMPETE IN THIS SERIES? "It's an opportunity that might come up later in the year. Really, it's a chance to get out feet wet and understand more about these cars, and Larry will probably kick us out after this 24-hour race when we tear up his stuff. If the opportunity arises, there's definitely that chance. For my plate this year, it will be difficult to add many extra things when there's a chance to go do sponsor things with the championship. Dan Davis will definitely let us know if that opportunity arises."
IS THIS RACE IMPORTANT TO YOU TO ADD A PIECE TO YOUR RACING RESUME? "I think for me it is. You want to do it and be part of it, but more so than that, you want to win. I went and ran the Oxford 250 this year and growing up in Wisconsin, Oxford, Maine, is a long ways away, but racing short track cars and the background that I'm from racing Late Model stock cars, you always thought about the All-American 400 in Nashville and the Snowball Derby in Pensacola in December. There was always a few big short track races you heard of and I've been able to do all of them except for the Oxford 250, so I had a chance to do that last year and was happy I was able to do that. I think that as you race you always want to do something different. I've never raced on dirt before and I want to race a dirt Late Model, so I'm thinking about building my own somewhere along the line here and just racing when I get some spare time, whether it's six months from now or six years from now, but it's something I want to do that's different. This definitely fits into that category, but it's bigger. This is a huge race, and I've never raced sports car stuff at all. To have no road-racing background besides the two road courses on the NEXTEL Cup schedule, that's the only road racing that I've ever done. This is something that I definitely wanted to do and be a part of for a few years and the right opportunity never came up. I was looking forward to working with some good people and I've wanted to do this."
IS THIS RACE IMPORTANT TO YOU TO ADD A PIECE TO YOUR RACING RESUME? "You have to go along the lines of how you approach your specific races. Whether you choose to go down road-racing background or whether you choose to go down an oval-racing background, each driver just looks for the next race that he can get into. I think when a career is complete, that's when you look back at some of the statistics that are comparable to some of the greats. Right now it's great to be mentioned when you do bring up those names (A.J. Foyt, Mario Andretti), and it's just an opportunity to go race in a different division with a different style of cars. This is a grand scale. This is the Rolex 24, and in 2005 it's going to forever be in the books that these three Cup drivers are racing with Scott Maxwell."
"DO YOU KNOW IF JACK ROUSH WILL BE IN ATTENDANCE FOR THE RACE GIVEN HIS CONSIDERABLE HISTORY HERE? "I don't know. I haven't talked to him about it, but we certainly will. He's obviously invited to come and participate whenever he likes, but I don't know."
WAS THE PAST PARTICIPATION OF FELLOW NEXTEL CUP DRIVERS A MOTIVATING FACTOR IN YOUR INVOLVEMENT IN THIS RACE? "My main drive came from the Roush Racing history in this race. Even though he's not directly affiliated with this program and what's going on, I race for Roush Racing and it's an opportunity to blend in some of the racing heritage that he has had with his SCCA days. As successful as he was as a car owner and a racer in road racing, it's just another chance for me to bridge another story to Jack's history. That was the drive for me."
WAS THE PAST PARTICIPATION OF FELLOW NEXTEL CUP DRIVERS A MOTIVATING FACTOR IN YOUR INVOLVEMENT IN THIS RACE? "I actually asked Jack (Roush) about two years ago or three years ago about doing this, and if he was ever going to do it again that I'd really like to do it because I see the pictures on the wall at Roush with Mark (Martin) winning the race. Mark's ran it a couple of times and I know Jack's won it a few times and I asked him that if he ever put together a program again that I'd like to do it, or I'd like to do it if he knew a good team and some good drivers or somewhere where I could kind of fit in and be taught the right way and try to be competitive. I asked him about it a couple of years ago and it's always something I wanted to do, I was just waiting for the right opportunity and the chance to do it."
IS THIS THE ONLY TEST YOU HAVE PLANNED BEFORE NEXT MONTH'S RACE? "It's going to depend on how this weekend goes. I'd like to do another test. There are obviously some new rules now that restrict testing so that's going to make it a little difficult, but I think we can probably swing it based on the fact that we've kind of got a special issue going on here. Right now we have a tentative plan to put another test in before we come to the 24."