Sonoma: Francis, Labbe - Ford Saturday interview

There has been a lot of discussion this weekend about how the potential for multiple green-white-checker finishes could alter pit strategy and fuel mileage for Sunday's NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race. Ford Racing spoke to crew chiefs Kenny Francis...

There has been a lot of discussion this weekend about how the potential for multiple green-white-checker finishes could alter pit strategy and fuel mileage for Sunday's NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race. Ford Racing spoke to crew chiefs Kenny Francis and Richard 'Slugger' Labbe for their view on that possible scenario.

KENNY FRANCIS, Crew Chief - No. 9 Budweiser Ford Fusion

DOES THE GREEN-WHITE-CHECKER SCENARIO THROW A DIFFERENT LOOK INTO STRATEGY FOR TOMORROW'S RACE? "I don't know if it really changes it a whole lot. It's hard to say whether you get a caution at the end or not, and whether that would come into play. I don't know that it would really come into play here much. You might give yourself a little bit of an extra cushion - maybe a lap or two - but that would be about it."

WILL YOU STICK TO A PREDETERMINED PIT STOP STRATEGY OR DOES THE RACE DICTATE THE STRATEGY YOU PLAY? "You still kind of stick to your plan of where your fuel windows are, but you might give yourself an extra lap or so just in case you wanted to play it safe for a green-white-checker, but the problem is that if you do that, you open yourself up to some other risks if the caution comes out when you're trying to do that. The other option with your windows is to just kind of see where you're running in the race at the time. A lot of times there will be a caution between your windows that will present itself as an opportunity and you've got to kind of make a gut call then."

YOU'RE STARTING FROM THE POLE. IS THAT ANY SORT OF ADVANTAGE HERE, WHETHER IT BE PIT SELECTION OR SOMETHING ELSE? "Pit selection doesn't really matter much here. Usually, you're pitting under green here and you're not really pitting around other cars for the most part. Starting up front is obviously a big advantage just because you start out with track position. It's pretty hard to get track position if you don't have it, so that's the main advantage, but as far as pit selection goes, it's not as big of a concern as they are at an oval track normally."

RICHARD 'SLUGGER' LABBE, Crew Chief - No. 98 CertainTeed/Menards Ford Fusion

IS A CREW CHIEF'S DECISION GOING TO BE THE DIFFERENCE IN THIS RACE TOMORROW? "There are so many things you look at because the tires are falling off more than ever, so you'll know by lap 12-15 if you're gonna make it a three-stop race or a two-stop race. If your tire wear is good and your lap times don't fall off, you'll make it a two-stop race, but if tire wear falls off, it'll be a three-stop race. The 9 won the race last year and he made it a three-stop race, and I think it's gonna come down to a three-stop race. A couple of teams pitted twice, but I think they finished something like sixth, seventh and eighth, so getting tires on your car is critical, but you've got to do it at the right time. The 9 pitted on lap 33 the first time and then pitted two other times under yellow, so the cautions kind of worked out in his favor. You can't predict cautions, so you just got to have a good game plan and, hopefully, stick to it when the race starts, but tire management is gonna be the key, more so than fuel."

DOES THE GREEN-WHITE-CHECKER SCENARIO COME INTO PLAY AS FAR AS FUEL MILEAGE GOES? "That's got us scared to death. We've all had to back up our strategy about eight laps and that's hard to do here, but we've just got to keep it in mind. Some people will gamble on it. Say a guy that's not in the chase, he'll gamble on no green-white-checkers versus a guy that's in the chase or near the chase that needs to make sure of a green-white-checker, so there will be some strategy being played out there, too."

YOU HAVE BILL ELLIOTT IN THE CAR TODAY. WHAT ARE YOU HOPING TO ACCOMPLISH IN THESE TWO PRACTICE SESSIONS? "Yesterday, we had a great practice with Paul. We ran through a couple sets of stickers and made two eight-lap runs and the car was really, really comfortable. We're set up really close to the 9, so we're gonna monitor what the 9 does today and see if they make any gains or losses, but, for the most part, we just need Bill here to go out and run 10 laps, get a good fuel mileage check in the first practice, and in the second practice we'll put all of the race gear and transmission and brakes on and let him go run four or five laps and we'll call it a day."

IS IT NICE TO HAVE A VETERAN LIKE BILL IN THE CAR FOR A SITUATION LIKE THIS? "Yeah. That's one thing we talked about when I first came here in December and knew Paul was running both series. We looked at both schedules and this was the one conflict that we had. Bill Elliott was the guy that we chose back in January to do the job because Bill qualified really well here two years ago and he doesn't forget how to drive, so we're looking forward to having him today."

-source: ford racing

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Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Bill Elliott