Ford Crew Chiefs Puccia and Gordon React to NASCAR qualifying modifications

Teams will now be able to have one cool down unit hooked up to their vehicle through the left or right side hood flap/cowl flap.

NASCAR announced a modification in qualifying for all of its national series yesterday in which teams will now be able to have one cool down unit hooked up to their vehicle through the left or right side hood flap/cowl flap. As a result, two crew members will now be allowed over the wall to support the car and driver, but there will be no more cool down lap. Matt Puccia, crew chief for Greg Biffle and the No. 16 3M Ford Fusion and Todd Gordon, crew chief for Joey Logano and the No. 22 Shell/Pennzoil Ford Fusion in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, spoke about the changes earlier today with Ford Racing.

MATT PUCCIA, Crew Chief – No. 16 3M Ford Fusion

WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON THESE MODIFICATIONS? “We kind of figured something was coming and thought this would be the direction it would go because getting the engines cooled down has been a big concern. Everybody is gonna want to get as much tape on the front of the grille as you can for qualifying, so they’re gonna be as aggressive as they can be with the tape and getting the engines cooled down the best they can has been a big challenge.

Greg Biffle, Roush Fenway Racing Ford
Greg Biffle, Roush Fenway Racing Ford

Photo by: Action Sports Photography

To kind of put everything on an equal playing field so teams aren’t going out and having to do all this crazy stuff radiator and cooling-wise to get the engines cooled down, they just gave us the cool down machines back. This makes it an even playing field. The biggest thing it allows is it puts a limiting factor on how many runs you can do in a session and also the tires.

Some places we’ve been to, like Phoenix and Vegas, you can go out and make multiple runs on the tires, but we’re coming up on some tracks here like Texas and Darlington and California where you’re only gonna be able to do one run because the tires fall off so much. But it allows you that opportunity to go out and do another run if you see fit.”

IS THIS COOL DOWN BOX HOOK UP A SIMPLE THING FOR YOU GUYS TO DO? “We have all the capabilities of plugging in. You’re not gonna be allowed to open the hood still, which is fine because there’s not a lot you could do underneath the hood without tools, but they are gonna make you run hoses and have a quick disconnect over in one of the cowl flap doors, so you have to open the cowls up and hook your cool down up, and run a remote hose over to that cowl door to be able to hook up to it.”

OBVIOUSLY PEOPLE WERE LOOKING AT BRISTOL AND ALL OF THE CARS THAT POTENTIALLY COULD HAVE BEEN ON THE TRACK AT ONE TIME, SO IS IT KIND OF A RELIEF TO HAVE THE MODIFICATION IN PLACE FOR THIS WEEKEND? “For sure. It’s something I really wanted to see happen because I don’t think you’re gonna have the problem of cars running up in front of you when you’re trying to do your fast lap. The chances of somebody running up in front of you when they’re out there doing their mock run is a lot less than somebody running up in front of you just trying to cool their engine down. That’s been a concern. You’re out there trying to run your qualifying lap and there are guys out there trying to cool their car down on the bottom of the race track.

It’s less likely for that to happen now. You can go out there and do your business and it’s less likely you have to worry about somebody cutting you off. There’s still a chance it could happen, but it’s just far less now. It’s a safety deal, too. At Vegas it was kind of apparent that guys were out running 30 miles an hour on the bottom of the race track and other people were out there running up to speed and running 180 miles an hour faster. It became a safety issue and NASCAR did a good job reacting to it. I think the new qualifying format offers a lot of excitement and this is just a little bit of tweaking they’re doing. I’m sure there will still be more tweaking as it goes and we learn more about what we’ve got to do.”

TODD GORDON, Crew Chief – No. 22 Shell/Pennzoil Ford Fusion

JOEY MENTIONED OVER THE WEEKEND THAT YOU GUYS WERE READY FOR THIS SORT OF MODIFICATION, SO IS THIS ANY KIND OF SURPRISE TO YOU? “I think in some way we felt that there needed to be a reaction to the cars coasting around the race track, just from a safety issue. The car differential in speed was really large as you saw at Vegas, so we just felt that NASCAR would see that and try to extinguish the opportunity to have a bad situation happen with the new qualifying format.”

SO YOU LIKE THIS CHANGE? “Yeah, I think as a whole the addition of the cool down units to allow the teams to cool down and make proper on-track qualifying efforts is a step in the right direction. I think NASCAR did a good job in reacting to what they saw. The new qualifying format is a really cool format and it brings a lot more action and suspense to qualifying. By allowing the cool down units, now we give teams the opportunity to make multiple attempts at qualifying efforts and I think it will actually put more on-track activity of trying to bump cars off, instead of spending the time trying to cool yourself back down.”

SOME WOULD SAY WITH THE WAY TEAM PENSKE HAS STARTED THIS QUALIFYING FORMAT WITH CONSECUTIVE FRONT ROW SWEEPS THAT YOU WOULDN’T WANT ANY CHANGES, BUT IS THERE A SIGH OF RELIEF THAT YOU WON’T HAVE TO WORRY ABOUT SLOWER CARS DOING COOL DOWN LAPS AT BRISTOL? “You’ve heard the old adage that Bristol is like flying fighter jets in a gymnasium, so there’s not a lot of room and time for reaction. It will be good not to have people that aren’t at race speed on there this weekend.

I think as a whole we’ve had a strong showing here at Team Penske with qualifying efforts, but this isn’t something that will detract from that. I don’t think it has anything to do with speed of the race cars throughout the garage, the only thing it does allow is it allows a team that isn’t on the pole to re-group and make another stab at it. I guess in that respect in the final session it may make it a little more anxious if you’re the guy sitting on the pole because guys can make multiple runs at you, but I think that’s the essence of what we’ve tried to create with this qualifying change.”

JOEY SAID THE FIRST COUPLE OF WEEKS WITH THIS NEW FORMAT THAT YOU GUYS HAVE GONE INTO IT WITH A PLAN, BUT DIDN’T STICK WITH IT. ARE YOU FINDING THAT IT’S NECESSARY TO REACT ON THE FLY DEPENDING ON CIRCUMSTANCES? “I think you have to. In any weekend you have a weekend plan. You have a race plan and you have several plans that you try to orchestrate, but you would be afoul to think that you’d just stick to your plan. You have to leave yourself room for reaction. At Phoenix we had a plan.

We were going to wait and let the first wave go so we had a clean race track, but there was a cloud over the track when the time opened, so we went away from the plan and said, ‘Let’s go.’ You have to be able to react. Last weekend we had a little altercation on the race track on our first run, so we needed an alternate plan there, but this team has done a great job of not getting frazzled and maintaining their cool and working forward at making the best product we can, and I think it’s shown through qualifying for both teams here at Team Penske.”

WELL BOTH TEAMS HAVE POLES AND BRAD WON LAST WEEK, SO MAYBE IT’S YOUR TURN THIS WEEKEND. “I would love to do that. I feel like both races at Bristol last year we had cars that were capable of winning, but we were just a victim of circumstances with both of them. We had a top-five finish in the fall there, recovering from a late caution that was untimely for us to have to come in and pull a piece of debris on the grille. So I’m looking forward to where we go this weekend. I’m real excited.”

Ford Racing

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Greg Biffle , Joey Logano
Teams Team Penske , Roush Fenway Racing
Article type Interview
Tags ford racing, greg biffle, joey logano, nascar-cup