NASCAR Media Day got underway today with all of the drivers in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series taking questions from the media. Below are comments from the morning session with featured Ford drivers. GREG BIFFLE -- No. 16 3M Ford Fusion ARE YOU...
NASCAR Media Day got underway today with all of the drivers in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series taking questions from the media. Below are comments from the morning session with featured Ford drivers.
GREG BIFFLE -- No. 16 3M Ford Fusion
ARE YOU THE DESIGNATED TESTER AS FAR AS THIS NEW RULE ABOUT BUMP DRAFTING? "Yeah, I'm gonna test it. I'm gonna push until somebody spins out. That's the only way to find out. We all know. We're drivers. We know what the limits are. Now that NASCAR has said, 'We're not gonna be the limit,' the limit becomes when the guy in front of you spins out -- when you push him too much -- so we have to regulate that ourselves. Just like at Talladega when Carl spun me out in the middle of the corner and we wrecked a bunch of cars, that was the limit. NASCAR wasn't enforcing the no bump-drafting and we all wrecked, so we know that's the limit. Now we don't have to worry about NASCAR, we can just ride on that limit."
ARE YOU MORE COMFORTABLE NOW WITH THIS RULE? "Yes. I'm more comfortable. I may be a little more nervous with some of the other people that I'm gonna be racing with -- they don't maybe quite know what the limit is -- and, let's face it, as a race car driver, we test the limit every lap, whether we're at California or Vegas. We drive down in the corner as fast as we can until the car slides. It's loose or it's tight and then we come in and work on it, so we're technically testing the limit every lap. But when you talk about testing the limit at a restrictor plate track, that's different. Testing the limit becomes, 'How much can you push that guy in front of you?' And the limit becomes when he takes off upside-down. That's the limit. There's gonna be more action, which, because people are gonna be testing that limit and pushing more, so it's gonna be a little bit more aggressive and a little bit more action, and, inevitably, maybe another accident or two along the way."
IF THINGS GET TOO WILD DURING THIS WEEK DO YOU FORESEE NASCAR STEPPING IN AND TELLING YOU GUYS TO CALM DOWN? "I perfectly see them telling people to calm down, but I don't think we'll see them come in and take some of it back. There's nothing wrong with saying, 'Calm down.' They may do that on the radio during the race. They've done that in practice. They've said, 'Hey guys, back it down a little bit. We know you haven't been in a car for four months, but back it off a notch.'"
WHAT ABOUT SELF-POLICING. HOW DOES THAT WORK? "Like I said, it's going to work because the self-police part is until that guy in front of you spins out or somebody causes a wreck because that's the police point. The idea is to push the guy in front of you, or guys in front of you, or go as fast as you can go until something happens. That's what racing is about."
WHY DIDN'T IT WORK BEFORE? "Because they saw accidents like Talladega, where Carl turned me around. All of our accidents come from trying to push in the corner because the Laws of Physics -- if you look at the car going around the corner -- think about when you took an off ramp fast. You're going around there pretty darn fast, maybe faster than you should be going, now if a guy pushes you in the back, what's gonna happen? It's probably not gonna be good, so you can do it very lightly. NASCAR felt like they wanted to step in and say, 'Guys, quit pushing in the corner like that,' and then we quit pushing in the corner and everybody was all mad about it and said the race was boring. So NASCAR said, 'OK, fine. You guys can do what you want. Police yourself,' so we're gonna go back to policing ourselves."
ARE YOU SURPRISED WITH ALL THE CHANGES TO TRY AND STIR THINGS UP? "Yeah, to try and give us a little more throttle response, to give us more bump drafting and let us police it. Putting the spoiler back on the race car is gonna turn this world around. I drove the car at Texas with a spoiler on it and the car acts completely different in my eyes. Now, I was by myself. Maybe when you get other cars around it'll be the same, I don't know. But when I put the spoiler on I felt it was different."
HOW? "It turns better on corner exit. The car is a little bit like, not looser but when it gets loose it turns better. That is a characteristic of the spoiler and that's what these cars, I think, need and I think it'll make the racing a lot better."
IS IT TRUE PEOPLE WILL SPIN MORE IN QUALIFYING OR A LESS FOREGIVING CAR? "I think it will. Yes."
SO WILL IT AFFECT QUALIFYING? "Not so much. People spin out in qualifying. Let me raise my hand. I wrecked at Dover qualifying. I watched Dale Jarrett wreck at Charlotte qualifying. Michael McDowell at Texas. We know that's testing the limit. We're going as fast as we can. In qualifying they say, 'Put your helmet on, strap in, and go as fast as you can without making a mistake.' 'OK, let me try.' I mean, that's what we do. That's what qualifying is and sometimes we get over the edge and sometimes we don't, but we're trying to get as close to the edge as we can with what the car will do. Some cars will do more than other cars."
DO YOU THINK WE'LL SEE DRIVERS PUSHING THE LIMIT TODAY IN SHOOTOUT PRACTICE? "Yeah, I'm ready to go. I can't wait to strap in and go. That's what this is gonna be about. Now, keep in mind, Daytona has been very hard to bump draft in the corner already. It's hard because the corners are really rough. You watch the cars and stand down in there in the corner and really look at the car, the car moves up and down a lot, so we never really bump drafted in the corner here that much. We could at Talladega because Talladega is like a piece of glass. You can push all the way around there, easy. But here, we never really could, but this is always good racing. Why would we expect anything different than good racing?"
WHAT ABOUT THE NEW PLATE SIZE? "Closing rates are gonna be more, put a little bit more drag in the car so the car is gonna have a lot more acceleration. You're gonna be able to push the guy better because you're gonna have more throttle. So when you get behind a guy and not have that air on you, but have more power, you'll be able to push better. We're gonna be getting it."
HOW DO YOU BEAT JIMMIE AND WIN THE TITLE? "I don't know. Find him in a dark alley? We're all just trying so hard. I don't want to sound like a broken record, but we've got our cars lighter a little bit. We've got a little more downforce on the car -- 10, 20, 30 pounds of downforce in the car. We found a front geometry that creates a little more jacking force, and we think the engineer guys like it. We have revolutionized into a newer, better bump stop that we think is gonna be better. We've been working hard on our pit crew. We've got the FR9 Ford engine coming along, so you take all those things and scoop them up and we say that's what's gonna beat Jimmie Johnson this year."
IS THE SPOILER THE GREAT EQUALIZER? "We hope that, besides all that we've done, when the spoiler comes that it takes a little bit different setup, it takes a little bit different spring combination, maybe a little bit different shocks, different attitude of the car. We didn't have enough time to mess with that. Kind of like throwing the towel and starting over a little bit, we hope that will kind of give everybody a chance to start figuring it out over again."
HAVE YOU INCORPORATED SOME OF THOSE CHANGES BECAUSE OF RPM? "Absolutely. Some of those geometries, some of those bump stops, some of that downforce has been a combination of what's everybody doing. Let's face it. Anytime you take two good organizations -- that Evernham/Gillett/Petty technology, which was three organizations put into one -- come in with the Roush Fenway organization -- we've been able to shed some light on their stuff and they've been able to shed light on our stuff, so, certainly, it's gonna be better for both of us."
DO YOU EXPECT THE SHORT TRACK RACES TO BE MORE ENTHUSIASTIC? "It could be. I don't know that the rule really intended for those race tracks to be a lot different. I felt it was more of the restrictor plate racing that they're gonna kind of relax on a little bit, but we're already pushing and shoving at those places."
WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON COMING TO DAYTONA FOR THE FIRST TIME? "I remember going, 'This is huge. This is my opportunity.' Actually, the very first time I came here I had a really fast car and my engine blew up in the 150 and I didn't make it, so that was disappointing because I had a good car. The second time I came here I made it and ever since then I've been in the points, but that's my first memory of it. And then coming here, was it my second full year when we sat on the pole for the 500, so that was pretty neat."
PAUL MENARD -- No. 98 Menards Ford Fusion
HOW DOES IT FEEL TO BE WEARING RICHARD PETTY'S COLORS? "It's cool. They've got cool clothes. The shop is looking good, so it's coming along."
WHAT DO YOU THINK ON THE CHANGEOVER? "It's gone a lot smoother than I expected. It's been a quick off-season with the way they had to change shops, go up to Statesville, and now they're in the process of going back to Concord with the new shop being re-modeled. That's all getting finished up, but at the same time things are getting done efficiently, so that's all you can ask for. I think we've built some pretty good Fords to bring down to Daytona."
WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT SLUGGER LABBE AS YOUR NEW CREW CHIEF? "Slugger is a go-getter. He's on the chip and he works hard. He's a lot of fun to be around and we got to spend a lot of time together this off-season, but I'm looking forward to getting to know him even better."
DOES RUNNING THE ROLEX HELP KNOCK OFF THE COBWEBS? "Anytime you're in a race car it's a good thing. I got to log some laps around Daytona. The track is as rough as ever, so it should be a lot of fun to race in the 150s and the 500, but anytime you're in the car you're physically getting prepared for the next race. You can do all you can during the off-season in the gym, but when you get in the race car, that's when your mind sharpens and you get ready to go."
DO YOU RACE GO-KARTS? "I do, but it's hard to do with snow on the ground in North Carolina. I have a few karts and I'm in the process of getting them fixed. I've got minor problems with both of them."
DOES RUNNING A GO-KART HELP YOU PHYSICALLY? AJ ALLMENDINGER SAID IT DOES. "I think anybody that runs a kart or anything in the off-season is gonna have an advantage over the people that didn't. If he (AJ Allmendinger) has been running his kart, then he'll have that little edge on all of us until we get to probably the second or third race of the year, but, luckily, Daytona is not that physical of a track, so we'll all get up to speed quickly."
HOW HAVE YOU HANDLED ALL THE ADJUSTMENTS THE LAST COUPLE OF YEARS WITH YOUR RACE TEAM AND MOVING AROUND FROM YEAR TO YEAR? "The off-season changes, of course, but there are a lot of the same people coming over. It's all part of the ballgame, so it's all in the name of making progress."
WILL RUNNING NATIONWIDE FULL-TIME HELP YOUR CUP EFFORT? "I think just logging laps around the tracks that we're gonna race on Sunday. It's been a couple years since I've run full-time in the series, but running part-time last year opened my eyes to how racing Saturday helps you on Sunday. It's a long schedule for sure. There are a handful of races where we're traveling back and forth, where it might be more of a hindrance than an advantage, but, at the end of the year, if we're up there in points it'll be a good year."
WITH THE CUP CAR GOING BACK TO A SPOILER LATER THIS YEAR WILL RUNNING NATIONWIDE GIVE YOU AN EDGE? "Probably not, just because the cars mechanically are so different, but when the Nationwide car runs the COT full-time in 2011, I think you'll see a lot more guys jumping back and forth because the cars are very similar. They'll run the same chassis. The bodies are a little bit different, but you can learn things from that."
WHAT'S THE FORCE BEHIND RUNNING NATIONWIDE FULL-TIME THIS YEAR? "Seeing how that helped on Sunday. Friday is kind of a pain the butt because you're jumping back and forth and you don't have the time to concentrate on both cars, but when Saturday rolls around and you strap into the race in the Nationwide car, you can just focus on what you need to do to get around the track -- different grooves, how the track is racing, and then you can apply that on Sunday."
HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT GOING TO ROAD AMERICA THIS YEAR? "Road America, I've said this before and I'll say it again, is my favorite race track. I'm looking forward to it because it's a cool part of the country. It's a shame we can't be in Milwaukee with the history that track has, but Road America is turning a new page and I'm looking forward to it."
DO YOU CONSIDER YOURSELF A TITLE CONTENDER IN NATIONWIDE? "I don't even know who is racing full-time. I know Carl is, but I'm not sure who else. Roush Fenway is a strong team. Carl has won a lot of races with them, and they won with David (Ragan) last year. Every team there won last year, so we've got to keep that streak alive."
DAYTONA SPRINGS OPTIMISM. WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS AS SPEEDWEEKS BEGINS? "We'll know a lot when we unload on Friday, but Slugger assures me that we have a fast car, and with the way the Fords ran on plate tracks last year, I know we will. Daytona is still a restrictor plate track, but you still have to handle. At the end of the day, you know you're gonna be in a big pack all day long and you've got to dodge the spinning cars. California and Vegas will be a truer test of how the year is gonna go, but, like I said before, we're just really happy with the way things have progressed between Richard Petty Motorsports and the merger with Yates, and with the alliance of all the Ford teams working under one umbrella. It's a cool thing."
DOES THE 500 HAVE ANY SPECIAL MEMORY? "It's always the kickoff to a new year. I grew up in Wisconsin, so there was always about three feet of snow on the ground. We couldn't do a whole lot of racing, unless it was on ice, but every Daytona 500 Sunday my dad, me and all the guys in our family would sit down and watch the race."
TRAVIS KVAPIL -- No. 37 Long John's Silver Ford Fusion
WHAT IS YOUR MAIN GOAL THIS SEASON WITH A NEW TEAM? "More than anything we just want to run competitively -- take our bad days and just finish, and the days where we have a good car, shoot for a top 10 or a top 15. Realistically, I think our goals are to run in the top 20 and if we can finish 20th-25th in points, I think it would be a good season for us and then try to elevate that and do a better job in 2011."
HOW WILL THE SPOILER CHANGE THE CAR ON THE TRACK? "I guess we're not really sure until we get out there and compete against each other, but the preliminary reports say it makes the car a little looser and puts front downforce on the car. I think that's definitely something these cars need. These cars, typically in the past, have always been kind of tight in the middle of the corner. You turn down in and then right at the apex they kind of quit turning, so if we can do something to help those front ends turn a little bit, I think that's a good thing. I'm sure NASCAR has worked very hard in the windtunnel to make the spoiler feel as close to the wing as they can when we implement it and get going. Hopefully, there's nothing major that's different. I hope it's all relatively close to the wing. I think it looks a lot better and I think a lot of the fans think it looks a lot better, and if it helps the race cars turn a little bit, I think that's great."
CAN YOU EXPLAIN HOW YOUR TEAM IS ALIGNED FOR SPEEDWEEKS VERSUS THE REST OF THE SEASON? "We shuffled them around a little bit. I'm gonna be driving the 34 car with Long John Silver's on it all season long with the exception of Daytona. I'm gonna drive the 37 ExtenZe car. That's his car and he's gonna drive that all season, but he wasn't approved by NASCAR to run the 2.5-mile speedway. He didn't have enough experience to do that, so they moved me over to his car. They had an open seat, and John Andretti had some sponsorship with him and he has a great relationship with this team, so he slid into the 34. Robert Richardson is gonna drive the 38 here with the sponsorship he brought, and then David Gilliland is gonna drive it in California and most of the races from there on out."
WILL YOU TAKE YOUR TEAM OVER TO THE 37 OR JUST YOU? "We actually switched drivers. That's the best way to explain it. John Andretti was gonna do the Shootout with the 34 car, and it was just gonna be hard for John to work with Steven Lane for the Shootout and then have Steven Lane work with me for the 500 week and be shuffling back and forth. We just decided to keep John with the 34 bunch and me with the 37 bunch. The only negative that can come out of that is if I finish really poorly, Kevin Conway is gonna have my points, and if John Andretti finishes really poorly, I'm gonna have his points. It's kind of nice to be in control. If I go out and run 43rd, well I know that's the hand I dealt myself, but if John Andretti does that, it stinks and I have to go pick up the pieces. But John is gonna do a good job and I'll do a good job for Kevin. We all know we're gonna do the best we can, so, really, this is probably the easiest way to do it."
AJ ALLMENDINGER -- No. 43 Best Buy Ford Fusion
HOW WILL IT BE TO HAVE THAT YATES HORSEPOWER? " You're gonna be pushing down even harder because you know what's under your right foot. It was something that for the last three races of the season last year I got to feel, and when you've got Doug Yates building your horsepower and everybody at that engine shop, you know getting in the race car that's something that you don't have to worry about. That's not on your mind like, 'Man, do I have enough horsepower?' You know you've got the horsepower there and it just makes your job a little bit easier. It took us last year from running 15th-20th to running 8th-12th -- just by putting a bigger motor in our race car. That was something that you know coming to Daytona you're not gonna have to worry about."
IS THERE ANY WAY OF QUANTIFYING HOW MUCH THOSE THREE RACES HAVE HELPED AS FAR AS PREPARING FOR THIS SEASON? "It was a big deal. We've changed our race cars a little bit to try and make them better with being part of the Ford Racing family, trying to take all of the resources that we had there to make our race cars better, but just getting there and doing those three races, I think it relaxed everybody just a little bit. Elliott got to run it at Talladega. He was fast there and almost won the race there, and it was a big deal to show our team, 'OK, this is where we can be already, and now we need to improve from there.' We took those notes from those three races, kept fine-tuning and tried to make our cars better coming into this season. We come to Daytona and Daytona is its own race. I think once we get past this race, I know we're gonna have a great opportunity to go out there and try to win the 500, but once you get to Fontana that's really when the season starts, so I'm really looking forward to that."
GREG BIFFLE WAS SAYING THERE ARE ALREADY THINGS THAT YOU GUYS WERE DOING LAST YEAR THAT THEY'VE INCORPORATED AT ROUSH FENWAY. IS THAT RECIPROCAL? "Of course. Roush Fenway is one of the best organizations around in Cup racing and has been for the last how-many years, but, obviously, they weren't where they wanted to be last year either. Hopefully, we can help them a little bit and, for them, hopefully they can help us. I think we're gonna see that. We're taking notes from both race organizations to try and make everybody's car a lot better. For me, still being fairly young at this, yeah, it's coming into my fourth year but I've only had 2.5 years of racing, so with that stable of drivers they have over there and the guys I've got to work with at Richard Petty Motorsports, it's just gonna help me all-around inside and out of the race car. I'm gonna get better talking to guys like Greg and Carl and David and Matt. Obviously, that experience with Kasey last year helped me a ton and, hopefully, in return I can do some things that they learn from and I can help them. But I know right away that they're gonna help me more than I'm gonna help them."
DO YOU FEEL ANYTHING SPECIAL PRESSURE DRIVING THE 43 CAR? "Of course, and I've always been the one to put the most pressure on myself. This just adds a little bit of it, but, at the same point, being part of Best Buy and knowing what they've meant to this sport, it's just everything. I know that this really is my best opportunity this season to go out there and shine and show them what I can do. I'm in the 500. We've got the full season locked in. We're ready to go and I know this is my best chance. I try not to put too much pressure on myself, but the end result is I always do. But knowing that I'm in the 43 it's an honor for me just to be a part of Richard Petty Motorsports, but now to be in the 43 and to have Richard personally pick me to be in his race car, it's an honor. I'm a big auto racing fan. I'm probably as big of a fan as I am a driver and I love the history of this sport. The 43 is probably the biggest history that it has, along with the 3, so it just means so much and I want to go out there and represent Richard in and out of the race car the best that I can. I'm not speaking on his behalf, but, to me, I know that if I could get the 43 back in Victory Lane it would mean the world to him. He was in Victory Lane last year with Kasey, but I think to get his own number back into Victory Lane would mean so much to him. Whether I go out there and win one race for him or 100 races, to get that 43 back in Victory Lane would mean the world to me. It would be something whether I won a ton of races or I never won again, I could take that and just be proud I was able to accomplish that."
JUST DON'T WIN MORE THAN 200. HE MIGHT GET A LITTLE MAD. "If I could get a quarter of the way or a third, I would be OK with it. (laughing)"
DO YOU RECALL YOUR FIRST TRIP TO DAYTONA? "It was just nerve-wracking in general. Coming to Daytona, the history of this place, what it means to be in the 500. I spent three years trying to be in the show and last year, luckily, made it. For two years I had to go through watching driver introductions, watching all the famous people and know that technically I wasn't a part of it because I was just another fan being around there, I was wasn't in the show. Last year, to finally be a part of it and to go through the whole day on Sunday -- waking up and doing the sponsor things, going through the autograph sessions, driver intros, driver's meeting, just everything -- getting to see everybody that is a part of this great race it was just so cool. I can't really describe into words what it felt like, but I'm never gonna lose that feeling. Everytime I come back here it's gonna be the same thing. I'm just happy now I don't have to fight to get into the show anymore because that was the most gut-wrenching, mind-numbing, just the worst thing as a race car driver I've ever had to go through. So I'm happy I get to skip that part, but still be part of the show."
DID YOU DO ANYTHING FUN IN THE OFF-SEASON? "I tried to race some go-karts. That was supposed to be fun, but I got my butt kicked a lot by a lot of 15 and 16-year-olds. That was at the PRI show in Orlando and here for WKA kart week. That was awful. I've already told my race team, I said, 'We need to have a good year because between December I got my butt whooped enough by people. I don't want to experience that anymore. I've already had enough of that this year, so that was supposed to be fun. It wasn't a lot of fun, but I'm not a vacation guy. I don't like going on vacation. I like working out. I feel like I'm always active. If I could drive something everyday of my life I would, so I got to do some go-karting, a little bit of testing and obviously did the Rolex, so, to me, that's my fun."
MATT KENSETH -- No. 17 Crown Royal Ford Fusion
THOUGHTS ON BUMP DRAFTING. "I think NASCAR probably not regulating the bump draft stuff as much is probably fine. I think there's still gonna be rough driving penalties if you have that, just like there is at every race, and, really, the drivers do a pretty good job of policing themselves. You've got to race with these guys for 38 weeks and you're not gonna go out and try to wrong somebody on purpose, or try to cause the wreck or do any of that stuff anyway. You're, hopefully, gonna stop before you get to that edge no matter what track you're at and where you're racing because nobody wants to wreck and nobody wants to get wrecked. You're gonna race everybody as hard as you can race them without going over that edge anyway."
YOU'VE HAD A YEAR TO DIGEST WHAT HAPPENED HERE WHEN YOU WON. HOW DOES IT LOOK TODAY? "Speedweeks last year was really weird because it was really frustrating for me all week, and then obviously it was the best it could have possibly been in the 500. We missed the wreck. We had a great handling car and started in the back and worked our way all the way to the front, so the 500 was obviously great for us. So it was an interesting week. It took three cars and every single different thing we could think of setup-wise. I mean, the cars just didn't drive how I wanted them to in the Shootout and the 150, and all week in practice we just really struggled, but finally got it right for the 500. I hope it's not that hard this year, but I hope we have the same result. It was a total team effort all week to continue to work on the stuff to try to get it to drive like we wanted it to."
AFTER GETTING WRECKED IN THE 150, DREW MADE THE DECISION TO GO WITH THE BACK-UP ON THE TRUCK AS OPPOSED TO YOUR SUGGESTION OF BRINGING BACK THE SHOOTOUT CAR FROM THE PREVIOUS WEEK. WHAT WERE YOU THINKING AT THAT POINT WITH A ROOKIE CREW CHIEF? "These cars aren't like the old car as much. All of these cars are pretty close to the same and they're easier to duplicate than what they were before, and the Shootout car, I thought, ran pretty good. I didn't really know what the back-up car was, but I knew it was third in his order of what he thought was the best, so I thought we would run our second-best car instead of our third-best car, if we had the chance to bring that car back. But with the repairs and all they had to make, I guess that was hard to get done, so it all turned out in the end."
WHAT WAS YOUR INITIAL REACTION WHEN YOU HEARD THEY CALLED THE RACE AND YOU HAD WON THE 500? "I was happy. In these kind of races you never know what's gonna happen. I felt good if we didn't go back to green because our car was really fast and we worked our way to the front, but yet in a plate race you never know. You've got to be in the right place at the right time and you've got to be hooked up in the right draft, so you don't know what's gonna happen. I was pretty relieved and pretty surprised and excited that we were gonna end up winning it."
AFTER THE FIRST TWO RACES OF LAST YEAR IT LOOKED LIKE YOU WERE A SHOE-IN FOR THE CHASE. HOW DISAPPOINTED WERE YOU WITH HOW THINGS WENT? "It was really disappointing. After California we were on the way home and I've been around long enough to know that nothing is for sure, but yet before last year we made the chase every year and even sometimes without winning any races. So to be able to come out of the box and win the first two, and one of them being a plate race, I wasn't even really considering we were gonna fall out of the top 12 in points with as consistent as we usually are, and then to go to Vegas and break on the first lap and finish last, that was really kind of a reality check to say the least. It was just really difficult from there on out. We could never really get everything to go exactly right."
HAVE YOU BEEN ABLE TO PINPOINT WHAT THE PROBLEMS WERE? "I don't think it's one thing. If I had to pick out the main thing is that our cars weren't fast enough. If we unloaded faster as an organization, as a group, as a team every Friday when we got to the track, I think we probably would have made the chase and ran better. But because our cars weren't very fast, if we didn't do everything exactly perfect on race day, we didn't get good finishes at all and we didn't finish nearly good enough to make it. So when you have good running cars, you can afford to make a couple of mistakes or maybe not get as good a fuel mileage or maybe not do everything quite right on race day and still recover and get an OK finish, and then you know your stuff runs good enough. Whereas, the next week you'll get a better finish and make up some of those points. Well, our stuff wasn't like that. If we did everything perfect this year, we'd finish 12th-16th or something like that, and if we didn't, we were 25th. Our stuff just didn't run good enough."
WHAT CONCERNS DO YOU HAVE WITH THE NEW ENGINE PACKAGE? "I didn't run the new engine at Homestead. I ran it at Talladega and that was it. As far as I know, we have one in here for practice and qualifying, but I don't think we're gonna race one here, either. I know that they're not quite ready to run them full-time yet. I'm looking forward to when they do get it done and we can start running it full-time, but I think that's gonna be a little while down the road."
HOW FRUSTRATING WAS LAST YEAR FOR YOU AFTER YOUR PREVIOUS CONSISTENCY? "Really, 2008 and 2009 have probably been two of the most frustrating years of my career, honestly, and last year was really frustrating. Even though we started off so good, it was really just a weird year because we were just brimming with confidence after California, obviously, and then about two or three months in we just couldn't get anything to go right. It was just really frustrating for a lot of different reasons and at a lot of different levels, so I'm hoping that this year is not a repeat of that for sure. I feel we've hopefully gotten smarter, and this being our second year with Drew and Chip and me working together -- all three of us -- we'll improve on a lot of that stuff and come out of the box stronger and make better decisions and get better finishes."
DO YOU HAVE A SENSE OF WHERE YOU GUYS ARE IN 2010? "We've changed a lot of things, so if we don't run better it's not from a lack of trying because we certainly changed a lot of things. I think we've improved our cars a lot. We've tried to look over everything and make it better for everybody, but, to be honest, you don't really know where you're at until you get four or five weeks into the season. With no off-season testing and with these cars as tight as all the tolerances and rules are, we don't really know where we're gonna be at until we get into the meat of the season."
AS THE DEFENDING 500 WINNER, WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE TO THOSE WHO WANT TO WIN IT ONE DAY? "Well, I want to win it again so I wouldn't give them any advice (laughing). We tried for a long time. We've had a lot of years down here where we actually ran pretty good and there was one year in particular where I thought we definitely, for sure, had the car to win hands-down and got crashed out. So we've had some good cars. We've had some opportunities to win and get good finishes down here, but never really did it until last year. It's the biggest race of the year, but you have to approach it like any other race."
DOES MOVING TO FOUR CARS HAVE A NEGATIVE IMPACT ON THE ORGANIZATION? "I think the way things are set up with Ford Racing and with the Petty-Yates merger and all that stuff, we didn't really downsize from what I see. We did in the shop, and made some more room in the shop, and they changed the way things work there because we only have four cars under that roof, so I think if we didn't have any alliances with any other teams that it would maybe change things a little bit and I'm not sure if it would be positive or negative, to be honest with you. There are benefits about being big, but there are also a lot of drawbacks about being too big -- a lot of drawbacks about being too big, in my opinion. I know business-wise it's better. If everything is going perfect, you have more people to draw information from and all that kind of stuff, but there are also some drawbacks with it, too. I don't really foresee it changing things a lot from where we were."
DAVID GILLILAND -- No. 38 Taco Bell Ford Fusion
NOTE: David Gilliland will debut in the No. 38 Tack Bell Ford Fusion at California and compete in 33 races with Front Row Motorsports with Yates Racing.
HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT BEING ASSOCIATED WITH YATES RACING AGAIN? "It's awesome. I really, really enjoyed working with Travis when I was at Yates and now we're at Front Row Motorsports with Yates Racing and back in the 38, so it's got a lot of good ingredients here. I'm excited about it. I'm really looking forward to it and feel good about our chances. It's gonna be a building year. Front Row Motorsports has gone from one team to three teams and it's gonna take a little bit of time, but I feel like we have everything we need to have a successful season."
WHAT DO YOU SEE WITH THIS ORGANIZATION THAT MAKES YOU SO OPTIMISTIC? "Bob Jenkins is a great guy. He's definitely got the desire to go out and be competitive and run well week in and week out, and that's what I want to do. Travis and I have kind of gotten kicked around a little bit and we're in a rebuilding process as well, so all of us together feel like if we all pull together, we can make some great things happen."
-source: ford racing