NASCAR hosted the first of a two-day test session for the new Car of Tomorrow at Bristol Motor Speedway on Wednesday in preparation for the Food City 500 on March 25. Ford drivers spoke about a variety of issues throughout the test, which...
NASCAR hosted the first of a two-day test session for the new Car of Tomorrow at Bristol Motor Speedway on Wednesday in preparation for the Food City 500 on March 25. Ford drivers spoke about a variety of issues throughout the test, which was extended to 9 p.m. for weather reasons.
MATT KENSETH -- No. 17 DeWalt Ford Fusion
WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON THE WIN SUNDAY AND THE START TO YOUR SEASON OVERALL? "Daytona was a disappointment, so it was definitely good to rebound from there and get some of the points back that we might lose. It's good to do that. I think it's always good to start off good, especially at the downforce tracks because it kind of gives you an idea for the year of how good a job everybody did all winter making the stuff better, so I think whenever you get off to a start like that, it's really important and gives everybody a lot of confidence."
IS THIS SITUATION A CASE WHERE HAVING ROBBIE, CHIP AND YOU TOGETHER FOR SO LONG IS PAYING OFF? "Yeah, but it's not just Robbie and Chip, but the whole race team. Most of these guys have been with us for a long, long time and they all know what their jobs are and they do their jobs every week, so everything rolls along pretty smoothly."
WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ABOUT THE MORNING TEST SESSION? "I don't the speed really matters. We're just trying to figure out what to adjust and what the car is gonna drive like. There's a lot to learn and a lot to do. Even if you get running good here, I don't think the stuff you use here is gonna relate at all to Darlington when you get to a faster track. We're just trying to get it worked out and learn some stuff."
YOU'VE WON 3 OF THE LAST 5 RACES AT THIS TRACK, INCLUDING THE BUSCH SERIES, SO HOW DOES THIS CAR FEEL COMPARED TO THE OTHER ONE? "They drive a little different, but the track is the same and you kind of fight the same things. You just have to learn how to adjust around it."
DAVID RAGAN -- No. 6 AAA Ford Fusion
ARE YOU SURPRISED TO BE FIFTH IN POINTS RIGHT NOW? "It's not a surprise that we've got a fifth-place and a 16th-place finish. All in all, we're gonna expect to run pretty respectable all year in the AAA Ford and it's just a matter of having a little bit of good luck and not having any major mistakes on my part. I've got some help from some of the other competitors and it's just worked out in our favor the first two races. We've taken care of business. We've had good pit stops and I haven't made any major mistakes during the race that have ended up costing us a car or an engine or something like that. I'm surprised to be sitting in fifth, but I'm not surprised at how we've been running, and I think we can continue to run like this the rest of the year and the points will work out however they work out depending on how the other teams run. There are a lot of different scenarios, but certainly if we continue to run the way we have been, there's a chance that we can end up in the chase at the end of the year. Our goal all along was Raybestos rookie of the year and just try to be in the top 15 or 20 in points."
IS THERE SOMETHING YOU'VE KEPT AT THE FOREFRONT OF YOUR MIND IN TERMS OF PHILOSOPHY DURING THESE RACES? "It's a lot of everything, but the biggest thing I've been preached to since I was a young kid from my dad until even now is to just focus on the task at hand and try to be smart about every situation. A lot of times if you lose your focus just a little bit, you slip up and you make a mistake. We've been able to really keep our focus and just looking at the finish line every week. We're taking the races week by week and I think that's important for a rookie team like we have."
YOU HAVE NOT RACED AT BRISTOL IN A CUP CAR BEFORE, BUT WHAT DOES THIS COT FEEL LIKE IN GENERAL? "It's just a little rough all around the track. We've got to work on our package as far as springs and shocks, and a lot of it is just me out here. Bristol can be a good place or a bad place and I don't want to cause any problems for the AAA team this week. I think when it comes time to come back here and race we're gonna be ready. We're not too worried about being up in the top five or top 10 in speeds today. Certainly we've got some work to do to get better, but, all in all, the main thing is just to make a lot of laps and get some good notes so when we do come back here in a few weeks I'll have a little more experience under my belt and should feel a little more comfortable."
COULD IT BE A GOOD THING THAT YOU DON'T HAVE ANY PREVIOUS EXPERIENCE AT THIS TRACK? "It's good and bad, but just getting laps around any place -- whether it's a Busch car or a Cup car -- is helpful. You learn the track characteristics and getting on and off pit road, so there's a lot of advantages to just run the track. But I think it will even out things that I don't have a mindset that's set about the car of tomorrow and the previous car that ran here."
GREG BIFFLE -- No. 16 Ameriquest Ford Fusion
YOU'RE FAST HERE BUT WHAT DOES THAT MEAN? "I don't know what it means. I have to be honest with you, the race car drives. Pat and all the guys have really done their homework. We went to Rockingham and tested and that was a disaster. We couldn't get the car off the race track. We got it off the race track. It was bouncing around and we got on the race track here after they did a lot of work back at the shop with data and wheel travels, and the first five laps around the race track the car drives pretty good. We were able to put down some consistent, fairly quick laps -- in the top five or eight -- but on the first half of the first day that probably doesn't mean a whole lot yet. But I am happy that I have two cars that drive very good so far."
WHAT'S THE BIGGEST OBSTACLE RIGHT NOW? "I think the biggest obstacle is when the track gets rubbered up. We have, either on a bump stop or you've got to have a little bit bigger spring in the car, so that's gonna mean when the track starts to get greasy or rubbered up, it's gonna start pushing and that's gonna be the key. Right at the end of practice there my car started to slide the nose a little bit, so now I think the second half of the day is gonna be, 'How do you drive the car with it sliding the nose up the race track? How do you get it to turn on the bump stops in the front?' So that's gonna be our goal for the rest of the day is how to get that car to turn sitting down on those bump stops. We'll just keep working on it and see what we can do."
COULD CONVENTIONAL SETUPS START COMING BACK? "That's one thing we tried in that first practice and, believe it or not, it wasn't as good as sitting down on the bump stops. Having the car down on the ground still seems to be better, you just have to get it over the bumps in the race track. Once you get it over that, it drives pretty good down there. It's surprisingly better than we expected, although you've got to remember we've been racing here coil-bound, which, technically, is on bump stops -- not a lot of travel -- so it's not a whole lot different. It's better than I anticipated coming here considering how much this track is banked and how bad we were at Rockingham."
HOW GOOD DO YOU THINK THE RACING WILL BE? "I don't know. I hate to speculate on that right now because what happens to these things is you only have about an inch-and-a-quarter of shock travel before it has to stop, otherwise it drags the front of the car. So if you stand over in this corner -- turn one -- and watch the cars, they go up the race track. Everybody does it. So the problem is that if you go in there side-by-side, you're gonna run into the guy beside you because you're gonna bounce and go up the race track. The car doesn't go up far enough to have a guy get under you. Well, the guy's not gonna get under you because his car is bouncing too, so I'm not real sure yet to answer your question of how we're gonna get side-by-side and race each other around here. I still think it's the same old Bristol. It's gonna be, get your nose under the guy getting off the corner and try to get inside of him going down the straightaway. But the guy inside of you, you're just gonna have to know to leave him a little bit of bouncing room to come up the race track and that's about the only term you can use to identify it."
IS THERE A NOTICEABLE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THE FEEL OF THIS CAR AND THE OTHER ONE? "A little bit, but not as much as I expected. There is a feel difference, certainly. The car doesn't feel as dug in in the front. It's not getting five inches of travel on valance like the other cars did, so there's a noticeable feel difference, but for the first half of the day I'm so happy. I couldn't be happier with our first half of practice. The new car seems to be really good."
WHAT ARE YOU DOING WITH THE OFF EEKEND? "I'm going to Mexico City."
WOULD YOU RATHER HAVE THE WEEKEND OFF? "Oh yeah, I'd rather have the weekend off. To be honest with you, I looked at the schedule prior to knowing that we were testing here on Wednesday and Thursday. Normally after California, I go to my house in Mexico and spend three or four days and about then I'm ready to get out of there. I'm ready to tear the walls down. So I thought it would be fun to go to Mexico City then, and come back for a few days and then go to Las Vegas and just stay on the west coast for this swing, so I said, 'OK, I'll do it.' I've never been there before. What an experience to go to Mexico City and race with the Busch Series and felt it may be my only opportunity to race in Mexico ever, you never know. We may not go there again or maybe the Nextel Cup will go there, so I took advantage of it. Then they were like, 'Oh, by the way, there's a test on Wednesday and Thursday of the off week,' and I was like, 'Oooh, I kind of wasn't planning on that.'"
RICKY RUDD -- No. 88 Snickers Ford Fusion
HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT YOUR TEST AND DID YOU FEEL YOU WERE BEHIND COMING INTO IT? "It's really more of a team thing than it is a driver thing because a driver will adjust to anything. I've probably had five car of tomorrow tests. I went to Talladega and drove a different brand at that time because they needed a hand, so I ran the car of tomorrow at Talladega. We've been to Rockingham and Greenville, South Carolina two or three times, so I've got a lot of testing with the car, but from a driver's standpoint it's not a whole lot different than anything else. There's a lot of issues the crews deal with, but the drivers don't really have a whole lot to deal with as far as being a major difference from what we've been running."
SO YOU DON'T SEE MUCH DIFFERENCE FROM THE OTHER CAR? "I think it really throws it back on the crew members. It's up to them. They're in a much tighter box now to make the cars work. They don't travel as much as the other cars. They're a lot more stricter on the templates and such, and they're a son-of-a-gun to build because the tolerances are so close, but, again, from a driver's standpoint, from what I've seen, I haven't seen a big deal or seen a big difference in them."
WILL IT POSSIBLY SHOW IN THE RACE, ESPECIALLY IF THE DRIVER ISN'T COMFORTABLE WITH HIS SURROUNDINGS? "I don't think you're gonna have that issue. Bristol is Bristol. The same bumps are here from when I ran it last in '05. I don't see any difference. With the car of tomorrow, speeds aren't all that much different -- a couple of tenths off -- but the cars are doing the same thing. It's a little bit bigger and roomier car inside, but that's about the only difference."
WHAT ABOUT ALL THE FANS HERE WATCHING? "These fans are pretty smart because they're gonna see a good measuring stick of who's got what here. This is probably the first time, at least from our standpoint since I've been with the Snickers team, that we've tested where there were other cars at the race track. Even though you kind of get your stuff going pretty good, you didn't really know how you measured up against the competition and that's why this is good for everybody. It's probably the first time in close to real race conditions that you're gonna have and you can kind of see if you're off or need to go back home and go back to work a little bit."
HOW WERE YOU THIS MORNING? "I think our speed is something like 17th-quick with probably 50-60 cars here. Again, I don't know if you can go by that right now. We've got two or three game plans and we're just kind of going through the notebook and running all the different scenarios of things that we set out to do beforehand. I don't think you would look too much at the speed thing until probably late at the end of the second day, then I would start looking at the speeds. We're not out there trying to blister a lap. It would be nice if when I go out everytime we had something new that worked better than the next time, but the real world is we'll come out of here knowing which way do we need to go with our car and that's all everyone is trying to do."
-credit: ford racing