Marcos Ambrose: 'We have a great shot at it on Sunday night and I’m looking forward to it.'
Starting second in Sunday's NASCAR Sprint Cup race is Brad Keselowski (in photo) in the Penske Ford. Here's what he and some other Ford drivers had to say after qualifying:
BRAD KESELOWSKI – No. 2 Miller Lite Ford Fusion – “Based off of last week’s practice I would say as fast as our car was in the practice and not in the race that I really don’t trust any practice speeds right now. We’ll have to see what shows up here when it counts on Sunday. Practice here during the day is obviously a lot different than racing in the night. Speeds pick up. Loads pick up. All of that good stuff, but I was pretty happy with our effort here in qualifying today. We were pretty miserable to begin with and it’s a credit to my guys. They kept working on it and somehow we ended up second. I’m really not sure how. The first round I think we ended up 24th, right on the bubble, and the second round we were seventh or eighth and almost got knocked out and then the third round we seemed to find a little bit more, but not quite enough and ended up second. I’m proud of that effort and really happy for my guys to see their hard work rewarded, but the main goal is to win Sunday and hopefully we can pull that off.”
DO YOU LIKE THE MARATHON ASPECT OF THIS RACE? “Yeah, I like it. This race kind of goes back to the history of this sport, being 600 miles. I think that’s a good thing. I don’t think it’s a good thing to do every week, but I think it’s a good thing for here and acknowledging the history. There’s a lot to be said for it, I guess, to summarize. I enjoy it. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to run 600 miles and run it as fast as we do. I don’t know any other sport that runs, not at least on an oval, 600 miles. I guess you have some endurance racing with road courses, but usually they switch drivers and do all that stuff, so I’m not sure of any other sport or motorsport that does 600 miles straight in four-and-a-half to five hours of competition for one athlete. I think it’s probably one of the most difficult challenges in all of sports, but it’s one that I embrace and I really like. I don’t want to speak for Kasey, but I think a lot of other drivers do as well.”
ARE YOU STILL TRYING TO FIND RACE SETUPS WITH THESE CARS? “Yeah, I’ve never been good at driving cars that have I guess you would put it low horsepower to downforce ratio. It doesn’t suit my style. I think there are a few other drivers it doesn’t suit and we keep going that way with the sport, so it’s tricky, it’s something that I’ve got to adapt to if I’m gonna have a shot at winning this championship or championship for years to come, and a byproduct of that downforce to power ratio is where practice means less and less every week because of the differences in the pack. The easiest way to think of it is it’s becoming more like plate racing each and every week. When we go to Talladega and Daytona practicing by yourself isn’t really helpful at all, so it’s becoming more like that. It certainly has a long way to go to get to that level, but it does drastically affect the way the cars drive and if this sport continues to go down that route, cars that are fast in practice week-in and week-out are not gonna win races because it takes something different in practice than what it does in the race. That’s a hard mindset for me personally and I think it’s probably hard for a lot of people within the garage, but it’s part of the evolution of the sport.”
ANY IDEA WHY TV RATINGS ARE DOWN WITH THE RACING BEING SO GOOD? “I thought that one was gonna be for Kasey. I don’t know. I think this sport has gotten better since I started. I first came in full-time in 2010 and my feel for it is that a lot of things have improved and that a lot of things can still improve. It’s hard because those type of things, numbers and stats as it pertains to fan interest and ratings, can get skewed by so many different variables. Momentum is a part of it as well. I think we need to rebuild some momentum in this sport and we’re doing the right things to make that happen. There were probably a few years where we were riding some momentum and things weren’t as good as they should be or need to be, and there are probably gonna be a few years where things are as good if not better than they’ve ever been as far as action is concerned and we don’t reap the benefits. But in the long-term, which I think is how you have to look at the sport and look at those things in the big picture, if we continue to produce racing like we have this year, I think it will come back and grow again.”
WHAT GOES THROUGH YOUR MIND IN QUALIFYING? “Lately it’s been, ‘Oh, crap.’ The first round we missed it at Kansas and recovered and got in on the closing seconds. I think this weekend too we were right on the edge with 24th in the first round. Quite a few of these scenarios we’ve been almost right on the bubble if not right out. I think this is our 11th qualifying session of the year and we’ve been on the edge in each and every one of them. For me, I like to get out of the car and just kind of walk it off. I like to walk and talk when I’m on the cell phone too because it just helps me focus, but I think that there’s always ways to be better and as a team I’m not happy with qualifying poorly. I’m not happy with racing poorly either, don’t get me wrong, but the great thing about these sessions is there are multiple opportunities to get it right as long as the tires and the track provide it with consideration to fall off, and I think that’s a good thing. I think that’s why it’s so much fun and it gives you a chance to really shine through and, for me, that’s been really helpful.”
THE FACT JIMMIE IS ON THE POLE AND HASN’T WON YET THIS YEAR, DOES THAT MAKE YOU NERVOUS THAT HE COULD FINALLY HIT HIS STRIDE ON SUNDAY NIGHT? “Yeah, if I only wanted to beat Jimmie Johnson. I want to beat all of them though. I would not be happy running 42nd and beating Jimmie Johnson. I want to beat everybody. There are a lot of other good drivers that haven’t won a race this year as well, so certainly Jimmie has a great track record and beyond, but I’m not gonna sit here and just focus on him. There are a lot of other good cars. The 4 car, really all of the Stewart Haas cars, to me, are just phenomenal. They’ve kind of got everything rolling right now. I feel like if everything is fair and square that they could win every race from here on out throughout the season. Now there are other variables that fall in with pit stops, yellows and other things like that, but without those that car seems to have the most speed. They’ve done a good job and they’re the guys that I think everybody is looking at right now to beat.”
MARCOS AMBROSE – No. 9 Stanley Ford Fusion – “That was pretty good. We’re a real race team. We had a tough practice and made some big changes to the car and showed our strength today by getting to the last qualifying group. I wanted to be high on the grid, but I’ll take it. If you told me I was gonna start top-10 I would have taken it before the session started, so I’m pretty pleased. We have a great shot at it on Sunday night and I’m looking forward to it.”
TREVOR BAYNE – No. 21 Motorcraft/Quick Lane Ford Fusion – "I thought during the practice sessions we were close. It's kind of hard going back and forth between the Cup cars and the Nationwide cars because they drive so different. I was pretty satisfied with our first run, picking up 4/10ths. Donnie and those guys have done a great job all day. It seemed like every run we'd get faster and faster, making the right adjustments. The second session I got a little tight and missed (moving on) by 5/100ths. We're in the race in the top half and we get to run on Sunday, so that's good."
JOEY LOGANO – No. 22 Shell/Pennzoil Ford Fusion – “We barely made the first session and then we barely made the second session. We didn’t have a whole bunch of speed in our car all day, really, and didn’t have much speed in our car last week. We keep trying things and keep getting a little better. We kept getting a little better through qualifying and a little better through practice. We have a day to think about it now and when we come back Saturday we’ve got some ideas we want to try. We’ve been talking between practice and qualifying, so we’ll talk about it more tomorrow and come back on Saturday and try to make it happen.”