This Week in Ford Racing September 13, 2010-09-13 This weekend marks the start of the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup at New Hampshire Motor Speedway and three Ford teams will be included in the 12- driver field as Carl Edwards, Matt Kenseth and...
This Week in Ford Racing
September 13, 2010-09-13
This weekend marks the start of the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup at New Hampshire Motor Speedway and three Ford teams will be included in the 12- driver field as Carl Edwards, Matt Kenseth and Greg Biffle all compete for the 2010 championship.
Earlier this afternoon, Jack Roush, co-owner of Roush Fenway Racing, and Jamie Allison, director, Ford North America Motorsports, held a teleconference to discuss their thoughts heading into the final 10 races of the season.
YOU ARE BEING INDUCTED INTO THE MICHIGAN SPORTS HALL OF FAME TONIGHT. WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON THAT HONOR?
JACK ROUSH, Co-Owner, Roush Fenway Racing: "I've been the benefactor of really great timing, arriving in Southeastern Michigan in the late 1960s right in the middle of all the muscle car wars that were going on between Ford and Chrysler and General Motors -- with all of their small cars with big engines and all the technology that was coming to bear for the engines in the sixties, and that competition among the manufacturers. I learned from the Ford engineering research people much of the information that has propelled me through my racing career, particularly as it relates to engines and the science of engine technology. It was really great that I was able to work with the expert people I've been exposed to, and it's a recognition that I'm very much honored by. It was a little bit of a surprise given the fact that I'm a motorsports guy and Detroit is so much a stick-and-ball community. This award and these inductees are in the more traditional sports."
HOW DO YOU ASSESS YOUR CHASE CHANCES WITH YOUR THREE TEAMS?
JACK ROUSH: "I'm really thrilled that we got three of our four cars in the chase. We were naturally disappointed that we didn't make a better run with David Ragan's No. 6 UPS car, but having three in the chase is certainly a great accomplishment, which couldn't have been realized without Jamie Allison and Andy Slankard of Ford Racing. We've had a great science that's been brought to bear by them and it has resulted in the improvement that we've had throughout the year and we feel that we're peaking at the right time to make a championship run and hope to do really good things on track at Loudon. We missed our setups a little bit at Richmond, not that we hadn't tried hard, but NASCAR's testing program prevents you from going to the race track that you're gonna race at and we had carried some information that was thought to be useful based on some testing we did in the Atlanta, Georgia area but it proved not to be useful to us. The cars that ran the best were the cars that hadn't tested down there and relied on last year's baseline setup information, that, of course, being Carl Edwards' No. 99 car and Matt Kenseth's No. 17 car. Carl ran really good at Loudon in the spring and we look forward to carrying that setup information back to all three of our cars and use the simulations that Ford has provided for us to predict some things that can be even better to what we had then."
WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS HEADING INTO THE CHASE FROM A FORD RACING PERSPECTIVE?
JAMIE ALLISON, Director, Ford North America Motorsports: "All of us at Ford are really reinvigorated with the recent momentum that we've seen our Ford teams develop out on the track. I have in my office a little board and on it we cite the top-finishing Fords for the season. I'm looking at the last 12 races, which is when the FR9 came in at the first MIS, and over the last 12 races, we obviously had that one win with Biffle, but in 10 out of those 12 races we've had a top-five finish, and of those, four have been second-place, including a couple weeks ago with Carl at Atlanta. So, clearly entering the chase, like in any playoff system, you want momentum on your side. It's invigorating and powerful to know you have momentum on your side and if you look at who is in the chase, and look at our drivers under the leadership of Jack, we have champions that are entering the chase who have been in a similar position. They're champions themselves with Carl being a Nationwide champion, Biffle a Nationwide and Truck champion, and Matt a Cup champion himself, and Jack with two Cup championships under his belt. If you look at all this, you can't help but feel invigorated and confident and feel like you're in the best hands possible. Carl has accumulated among the most points the last couple of months, so he's clearly on the upswing. Biffle was clearly buoyed by the one win and we're very excited. Two years ago in the 2008 chase he won the first two races at Loudon and Dover, so he's been there. And with Matt, you can't discount the fact that when you're a champion, you've been there before and it helps a lot. We also know that there are 10 races and it's anybody's game, but the key to this thing is consistency. We've got to have top-five finishes and you've got to get a couple of wins and we're confident under Jack's leadership and these drivers that we have a good chance. I'm excited."
WHAT HAS CLICKED IN THE LAST FEW WEEKS FOR CARL AND WHAT HAS TO HAPPEN TO GET HIM OVER THE HUMP AND BACK TO VICTORY LANE?
JACK ROUSH: "As we noted, he finished second at Atlanta and we probably just didn't get our last tire-pressure change as good as the 14 car or we could have had a better result there. This competitive package that everybody works with is very, very close. You only have to be off a little bit or just a little bit better in one of the areas than your contemporaries and you have a chance to win, or if your pit stops are off a little or your fuel mileage or setup is off a little, and have everything else that you need, you won't realize that result. We've been knocking at the door. I think truth in fact that Carl has had the most points of anybody in Sprint Cup racing over the last five races, so we're anxious to carry that momentum. As far as what's happened, we've worked with the science part of our predictive simulations with our Ford partner and have arranged a package that we think is very competitive looking at the races that are remaining in the chase here, and we're gonna rely very heavily on science to help us figure out how to offset the lack of testing opportunities that we have, and I'm very confident about it."
JAMIE ALLISON: "I'd like to add just a couple of things. There has been a little bit more emphasis on qualifying. Obviously, Carl snagged the pole down at Richmond and he was on pole at The Glen. It obviously gives you track position because if you're in the back and get shuffled, you don't really have a chance to get up front, but if you start up front and you cycle your way through, you maintain your position up front. Between the application of science, and don't underestimate the fact that since the FR9 has come on in full mode since the first Michigan, coupled by the science and a few adjustments here and there, it has really helped invigorate the program. We're excited and feel we're peaking at the right time."
JACK ROUSH: "We'll stand our base here and get the top fives everywhere that we can, which will hopefully be most of the time for our three chasers, and when it falls in your lap and the other people have their issue - when the pit stops work out the way you want, when you've taken two tires and it's the right call, or four tires and it's the right call, you'll win your race. That's the only thing we're waiting on for Carl is just to have the things line up where the result we're looking for can't happen based on what everybody else does around us."
WHAT DO YOU SEE IN JACK ROUSH AS HE LEADS HIS TEAM ON A CHAMPIONSHIP EFFORT?
JAMIE ALLISON: "I don't know if words can describe the leadership impact of Jack. I was just down in Concord with Jack last week. We try to come down on Mondays after the races when Jack conducts an all- driver, all-crew chief, all-engineers meeting. My team is there and I happened to make it down last week and had a conversation with Jack. I felt so assured and so confident because he was relaying to me the chase mode rules, the rules that he has parlayed onto his team about how we're going to conduct this chase. It's about leadership. Yes, we have the assets. Yes, we have the drivers. Yes, we have the engineers. Yes, we have these cars. Yes, we have the science, but you need a conductor. You need a leader in every organization and I just got a sneak peak of why Jack is gonna be honored tonight and why Jack has been as successful as he has, and why Jack has earned over 400 wins in his professional road racing and NASCAR career. These things don't happen by circumstances. They happen by deliberate leadership. Last week, as I said, when he was relaying to me his leadership meeting, the chase rules and how we're going to go out and give it the best shot we have it was very powerful and assuring to me. We're very lucky to have Jack."
IS IT HOW YOU HANDLE THE LITTLE THINGS THAT MAKE THE DIFFERENCE IN THIS SPORT?
JACK ROUSH: "NASCAR has traditionally taught people that have been successful at it, and they've reminded people for a time that weren't successful, that you have to respect all the history, you have to respect all the able teams and the good drivers that have been associated with those programs for the things they've done correctly and for the things that have not worked so well. Yes, as much as we're all interested in trying to find that next new thing, that next innovation, that next thing that will give us an advantage, we cannot lose track of the things that history has taught the people who have preceded us. That is the challenge - when do you hold nearest the things that have worked best in the past, and when do you make the lunge for the inclusion of things that you think will mark the course for the future. Having really bright scientists, coupled with able and wise and experienced crew chiefs and engineers - engineers at this point, and a lot of them in our program have more than a decade of experience with the team doing things that are relevant to what we do - so it's a blend of the old and the traditional and unimpeachable things of the past, and the things that are new and trendsetting. As we look at what's in the future for NASCAR, at some point we're going to have a blend of Ethanol fuels and we're going to have fuel injection and the inclusion of some computer on board to control the fuel system at least, so that will be a blend of science that we don't have much history about, but, at the same time, we've got to come back for the things that are relevant and not go against the things that have been correct and useful in the past."
JAMIE ALLISON: "Jack said it all. He's in a better position to articulate the impact of the little things, but we're dealing with the highest professional level of racing that exists anywhere, and it is about the minute details. Yes, obviously our engine had to be up to par and it is, but what separates winning from not winning is the opportunity itself. You can't predict when a caution is gonna come out. You can't predict whether someone is going to take four or take two, but if you do everything that you are in control of well, then the rest of the circumstances will take care of themselves. Under Jack's leadership and the Roush Fenway team, the RPM team and the Wood Brothers, although we have only three cars officially in the chase, every single Ford entry on the track has their headset on and tuned into the fact that we are all together to make sure that a Ford has the best chance of winning and winning the chase. So we don't just have three guys trying to win the chase, we have all of the Ford entries trying that when an opportunity presents itself, if there is any way they can support a Ford win, we have the Ford team on this. I'm excited and looking forward to it. We've got 10 races to see how it turns out."
DO YOU FEEL LIKE A CAT WHO HAS NINE LIVES?
JACK ROUSH: "I've had much more luck in terms of surviving things that could have ended my time much earlier. I had a car wreck when I was 16 years old that could have been bad. I was not injured. I had a race car wreck when I was 30 that could have been bad, but was not serious. And I've had two airplane crashes in the last 10 years, so I've had much more good fortune and many more bites of the apple here than I should have expected, but for the time that I've got left and for the things that I've learned, I intend to make the biggest contribution I can to our broader society, to the business community that I'm involved with in Detroit with Ford and the automobile industry, and, of course, the racing community and the things around NASCAR. I'm extraordinarily grateful for the time I've got, but I don't presume that I've got another successful outcome to another traumatic accident like I had with my last airplane incident."
CAN YOU TALK ABOUT THE CONFIDENCE YOU HAVE IN YOUR THREE CREW CHIEFS IN THE CHASE AND THE PRESSURE THAT'S ON THEM?
JACK ROUSH: "I talked about old things and traditional things and new things and forward-thinking science things. We've got an arrangement with two of our four crew chiefs, and two of our three crew chiefs that are in the chase and mechanical-engineer based that have worked in the racing business all of the time since they got out of school, and they're partnered with two other crew chiefs who have spent their time at the race track while the other two were getting their mechanical engineering degrees. They were working as car chiefs and chief mechanics and, in one case, as a crew chief. So we've got a blend of old and new and I'm very confident that they will help one another and they'll motivate one another, and they'll help one another get aligned if they get confused about what they're looking at or the direction that they should go."
THE TWO WITH MECHANICAL ENGINEERING DEGREES ARE BOB OSBORNE AND GREG ERWIN, CORRECT?
JACK ROUSH: "That is correct."
DO YOU FEEL JIMMIE JOHNSON IS FINALLY VULNERABLE? CAN SOMEBODY KNOCK HIM OFF?
JACK ROUSH: "He is the reigning champion and certainly carries a lot of momentum going forward, and Chad Knaus has done a nice job, and the entire Hendrick organization and Chevrolet engineering team behind him have done a commendable job, but this is very, very tight competition. It's very close. It's a battle of inches and as somebody said, if you go for two tires when four tires is the call, depending on what other people around you do, you can't be successful on that day. There will come a time, and there has been a time for me when we've had more success than reason would dictate and other times when we seemingly couldn't get a break. If Jimmie Johnson goes through a period where he has better success on things that don't have a foreseeable outcome than reason would dictate, then he'll be a clear favorite for the championship this year. And if he has reasonable and average luck, I think he's got not much better than an average chance than a number of teams, including our three, to win the championship. It's not his to lose, it's his to win - the same as it is for everybody else - and I think it's gonna be a great competition. It's gonna keep people close to the fence and keep a lot of interest in the races as they unfold here in the chase."
ARE YOU DOING EVERYTHING NOW THAT YOU WERE DOING BEFORE THE ACCIDENT AS FAR AS YOUR INVOLVEMENT WITH THE TEAM?
JACK ROUSH: "Physically, I'm back to 100 percent. I did lose the use of my left eye through my facial injury, but my right eye corrects to 20/15, which is the same as it was before. I'm driving a car. With another pilot with me I've flown two airplanes since the accident and I'm on a complete, normal schedule for me with my involvement with my engineering company in Michigan and my interaction with Ford on many fronts, and, of course, with my race teams in North Carolina. If the question is, 'Am I back?' I'm back and I was really off stage for less than three weeks as I went through my surgeries. I think I'm back up to full potential. I know I was on a treadmill for a reasonable period of time last evening, which is a Sunday evening for me if I don't have a race. I'm sleeping well and eating well."
WHEN WAS THE FIRST TIME YOU FLEW AGAIN AND WAS THERE ANY HESITATION?
JACK ROUSH: "There was no hesitation for it. It was the Friday evening before the Atlanta race and it was in a J3 Piper Cub with a friend of mine in Atlanta."
ON THE TRACK, THERE WERE 7 WINNERS IN THE FIRST 16 RACES AND 9 WINNERS IN THE LAST 10. ANY FEELING OF WHY THINGS HAVE OPENED UP?
JACK ROUSH: "As the year goes on, I think everybody hones in on what they're doing that has worked well and moved away from the things that haven't worked as well. You start off at Daytona in February and everybody is leading in the points, and you've got all your expectations about what is going to happen, and as the races unfold some of the new things you've brought to the table haven't worked. You're able to glean from the things that work and don't work what direction you need to go and then as the year progresses you rely more on the success you've had than the idea of reaching for something that's new and different. At least that's the way we conduct our affairs, and I suspect most team do. The margin for victory, I think, has decreased throughout the year and the number of people that were in contention has increased for every race. That narrowing and that tightening of the competitive extremes will be even more restricted and more limiting as we go forward."
AFTER HAVING GONE THROUGH SOMETHING LIKE THE PLANE CRASH AND GET BACK WITH THE TEAM DO YOU RELISH THIS A LITTLE MORE OR LOOK AT IT AS BUSINESS AS USUAL? IS IT LIFE-CHANGING FOR YOU?
JACK ROUSH: "The thing that has impressed me, in both of the airplane wrecks I've had something happened. I wasn't doing something that was reckless. I wasn't doing something that was mindless. I simply got in a situation where I had no margin and something happened that was a sure enough accident that followed, so the thing that maybe had affected me as I look at the people that work for me or that work with me, that get them involved with something that they hadn't foreseen that results in a bad situation, I'd like to think that I'm more sympathetic to their circumstance than I would be if I hadn't had my own problems that resulted in something that was not good for me in terms of an outcome. As far as the race teams are concerned, when I've been able to get back to the race tracks - in both cases when I've been able to go back and interact with the guys in the meetings and the shops - I've taken a deep breath and savored the moment and said, 'You know, this might not have happened except for my good fortune and making it through my trial and tribulation here.' But once I've taken my deep breath and celebrated the moment that I was back, it's been business as usual for me. But I'll say that things for people that have truly been blindsided by something that happened beyond their expectation, I've been more sympathetic than I would have been before. And to my detriment I would say that I probably hadn't been as sympathetic over things that were happening beyond peoples' control and their management."
WHERE IS THE LINE BETWEEN RELYING ON SCIENCE AND RELYING ON YOUR GUT? WHERE DOES THE HUMAN ELEMENT PLAY?
JACK ROUSH: "I continue to tell the crew chiefs after virtually every management meeting when we talk about the things gone right and gone wrong, I remind them that they are the captains of their ship. At the end of the day, everybody that stands behind them, including myself, are advisors. There are data points for them and at the end of the day they need to take the art, which carries with it all the history and the understanding of things that are just unimpeachable in terms of absolute truths that go with our racing, they have to blend those with the things that science would tell you is going to happen or that would have predicted a bad result if you have a bad result. So you have to blend the science and you have to blend the art or the history, and that winds up being the crew chief's responsibility. Now, if you've got a crew chief that's engineering based, that has a mechanical engineering degree, which I have two of them right now, it would be easier to see those guys as being more science-oriented than the crew chiefs with traditional experience, but that has not been the case. If you look at the circumstance where the setups that go into the cars - springs, bars, shocks, wedge, cross-weight, and that sort of thing - that the engineering-based crew chiefs are as mindful as historical facts as the guys that just have the traditional crew chief backgrounds."
-source: ford racing