This Week in Ford Racing October 14, 2008 Martinsville Speedway is the next stop on the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series circuit, and for Ford Chase drivers Greg Biffle, Carl Edwards and Matt Kenseth, it hasn't been their most successful track. Biffle...
This Week in Ford Racing
October 14, 2008
Martinsville Speedway is the next stop on the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series circuit, and for Ford Chase drivers Greg Biffle, Carl Edwards and Matt Kenseth, it hasn't been their most successful track. Biffle has one top-10 finish in 11 career Cup races at the half-mile oval (7th in 2007) while Edwards has one top-10 in eight starts (9th earlier this year) and Kenseth five top-10s and two top-fives in 17 events.
Ford Racing spoke to crew chiefs Chip Bolin, Bob Osborne and Greg Erwin, and car owner Jack Roush about the challenges they will face this weekend.
CHIP BOLIN, Crew Chief - No. 17 DeWalt Ford Fusion
MATT HAS SAID IN THE PAST THAT THE TRACK AT MARTINSVILLE ISN'T ONE OF HIS FAVORITES. WHAT DO YOU WORK ON TO TRY AND MAKE HIM MORE COMFORTABLE? "You've got to go there and work on the same things that you're gonna work on if he loved it. You've got try to make it turn in the middle and you've got to try to make it where you can get in the gas as soon as possible. Usually for us, the more cars that are around us and the more of a pack we run in, he'll find a rhythm and get the car to where it will basically behave the way he wants it to, but whenever we're just out there looking for speed, it's just like beating your head up against the wall sometimes."
ARE YOU HAPPY WITH HOW THE CAR HAS RUN IN THE CHASE? "I think you have to say we're happy with the way the cars are running because we were running in the top two or three every time we got wrecked. We can't complain about the performance over the last four or five races, but it's just the way it shakes out where somebody takes us out."
WHAT IS THE MOOD OF THIS TEAM WITH FIVE TO GO? DO YOU STILL FEEL YOU HAVE A SHOT AT THIS TITLE? "The guys in the front are gonna have to have trouble for us to have a shot at it, but if you don't think that you can get there, you might as well not even go to the track on Friday to begin with."
BOB OSBORNE, Crew Chief - No. 99 Office Depot Ford Fusion
WHAT IS THE BIGGEST CHALLENGE YOU FACE AT MARTINSVILLE? "For some reason it's a difficult track to get a good handle on - a good, fast setup for us anyway, at least historically. That's my job and, unfortunately, it's very difficult to do, but, overall, Martinsville is very tight. With 43 cars on a little small track like that doesn't leave a lot of room for any kind of error, so you always worry about accidents and hardware issues. It's one of the roughest tracks on braking systems that we go to, so we've got to worry about that too, so it's got a lot of things to it that push the limits of the race program and it just makes for a stressful day."
IS CARL HARD ON BRAKES? DO YOU HAVE TO REMIND HIM ABOUT THAT? "No, he's actually very good on brakes, but, just in general, if you pick a track, Martinsville is the hardest on brakes so that's what we look at."
CARL WAS EIGHTH IN THE FIRST RACE AT MARTINSVILLE THIS YEAR. IS THAT CAUSE FOR OPTIMISM THIS TIME? "We've made improvements every race we've gone there and we've run in the top 10 quite a few times and then got into an accident or had a brake issue where things just didn't work out, but we're quite capable of running in the top 10 no problem. It's just that everything has to go our way for that to happen."
ARE YOU HAPPY WITH HOW THINGS HAVE GONE SO WELL IN THE CHASE? "Yeah. We obviously had a setback (at Talladega) with the wreck, but performance- wise, I've been very happy."
GREG ERWIN, Crew Chief - No. 16 3M Ford Fusion
WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON MARTINSVILLE? "Martinsville has always been unique in that we as race teams have been looking for places to go test for places like Martinsville and we've been pretty unsuccessful at finding a place that really duplicates that race track. A few years ago - before the grinding and the repave in the corners - that race track would change significantly from the start to the end of the race due to the expansion joints and all the rubber build-up, and you could never really go anywhere and get your stuff really dialed in for what you needed for that last 200 laps. More so than probably any other race track, brakes are an issue there and having brakes that will stay with you all day and having a driver be patient enough to kind of take care of his stuff and wait for the last 100 laps. Track position is as important or more than any race track that we go to and the uniqueness of pit road in that it encompasses essentially three-quarters of the race track all the way around, so pit road is extremely tight. You have to have a very clean day on pit road, so qualifying becomes a priority and being able to pick one of those stalls that's gonna be able to keep you out of traffic. Other than those items right there, the normal short track items are always needing to get the car to turn in the center and you'll hear all day and for every race we're there about being able to get the car to be able to take power on the gas and drive up off the corner without having to steer to the right, so it's got a whole list of challenges, some are similar to other race tracks and some are unique to Martinsville. The history there for Matt, Greg and Carl is not all that terrific and it's kind of funny because now that I've been here for a little over the year I've sat in on some of these meetings and listened to all of these guys talk about their experiences at Martinsville and it's in the back of their mind. They know that they've struggled there as a group and whether it's the driving styles of these guys that puts them in the front of most of these mile-and-a-half tracks everywhere we go, maybe they're a little bit of that hard-charging style, which makes your Martinsville experience overly difficult. You need to be able to back your corners up a little bit."
SO WILL YOU TALK MORE AND REMIND GREG ABOUT THOSE THINGS DURING THE RACE? "We will and we did last fall. Last fall we had an average race car and we came home with a better-than-average finish. In fact, I think the one top- 10 there that he's ever had was last fall and that was on pit strategy and that was him realizing that the more we talk and the more he backed his corners up and the more patient he got, the better his car turned and the better his tires stayed on it for the longer runs, so we'll go there and do the exact same thing again. We tried earlier this year and had some brake issues that probably prevented us from running in the top 10 again, but I was pretty excited after the Loudon experience. It's not that we can equate Loudon to Martinsville, but from a short, flat-track standpoint, the mindset is take care of your stuff, get in the corner, keep your brakes on your car - all those things we just talked about - the tight pit road. The same rules apply at Martinsville, so we're gonna go there with the best attitudes."
DO YOU FEEL GOOD ABOUT THE TRACKS COMING UP TO CLOSE OUT THE CHASE? "Oh, absolutely. You have to. I'd feel better if the few guys around us weren't as strong as they tend to be on those mile-and-a-halfs too, so it's gonna be a battle and it's gonna come down to the least mistakes. We had a problem at Talladega that cost us some ground to Jimmie and it cost Carl some ground to Jimmie and, truthfully, unless they just really miss it, we're gonna need for the 48 to have some trouble and by trouble I mean a 10th or a 12th or a 15th-place finish on a week where we can run first, second or third. We're gonna need that to happen. If Jimmie goes and runs top five every week from here on out and doesn't have any issues, we're gonna struggle to catch him."
JACK ROUSH, Car Owner - Roush Fenway Ford Fusions
HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT MARTINSVILLE? "Martinsville takes a unique balance in the car from a chassis set-up point of view, so that it will turn in the middle and it will still have reasonable grip and not be loose off. That's the big challenge. Quite frankly, a lot of our drivers don't have the patience to wait on the thing to get turned before they really try to see if they can put the power down. We've focused on that. We've thought about that. We've been to Milwaukee multiple times, which is a track that's out there for testing, trying to get patience and tolerance for that unique circumstance at Martinsville. There's a new test track that is a digitally- remastered Martinsville. It's on the Rockingham race track grounds in North Carolina. They just put down the asphalt in it last week and put down the concrete in the corners the week before, but if they've done what they said they've done, it's been reported to me to be identical in layout to Martinsville. We will have one more bite at the apple by going to that track for a day or two this coming week before we go to Martinsville."
IS MARTINSVILLE THE LAST TOUGH TRACK FOR YOUR GROUP? "If you looked at the average result for Greg and for Matt and for Carl, I think you would find that we've had the weakest results there of any of the other tracks remaining on the schedule. We're apprehensive that our preparations are adequate and the things that we've tried to do will mean an improved result that is necessary for chasing the championship."
-credit: ford racing