Edwards, Kenseth and Biffle Talk Kansas

The top three Ford drivers in the battle toward the Chase took time to address the media at Kansas Speedway Friday.

Edwards, Kenseth and Biffle Talk Kansas

Edwards, Kenseth and Biffle Talk Kansas

Matt Kenseth, driver of the No. 17 Affliction Clothing Ford Fusion, met with media members outside his hauler prior to the first Cup practice session Friday at Kansas Speedway.

CAN YOU TALK ABOUT COMING HERE THIS TIME OF YEAR FOR THE FIRST TIME AND WHAT IMPACT IT WILL HAVE?  “We haven’t talked about it a whole bunch. You can’t really control the weather. Nobody has been here this time of year really. We will start off with the things we have learned this year and apply that to last year’s setup when Greg won last fall. That should give us a good starting point and we will adjust around that.”

WHEN JIMMY FENNIG COMES OVER THE RADIO AND TELLS YOU TO SAVE FUEL, WHAT ARE YOUR OPTIONS AND WHAT GOES THROUGH YOUR MIND?  “We really haven’t been close enough this year to have to save fuel and make it last. We were so far in the back and had to run hard and trying to get track position this last time. To save fuel there are some obvious things like slowing down and the use of the breaks and some other obvious things.”

YOU WERE IN THE BACK WHEN ALL THE MESS BROKE OUT AT THE START OF THE GREEN-WHITE-CHECKERED LAST WEEKEND. DID YOU EXPECT A CAUTION TO COME OUT?  “I am not in the business of calling races, so I don’t know if there should have been one of not. I expected a caution just because from where I was there was a lot of smoke. I actually slowed down. I probably could have made up five spots but I thought there was going to be a caution. I had just gotten the lucky dog and I didn’t want to run into something trying to get up there and hurt somebody. I slowed up and by the time I realized there wasn’t going to be a caution I was all the way down through one and two and probably could have made some spots up. I will have to be more aware of that next time.”

DO YOU FEEL IT WAS AN UNSAFE SITUATION?  “From where I was, everybody was just stopping and there was a lot of smoke and stuff. I never actually saw any cars spun out or anything like that so I don’t know. I know there was a lot of smoke and stuff flying and people hitting their breaks. The spotters were saying that people were wrecking and I was looking for the caution but I probably should have worked harder to get through there as fast as I could.”

DO YOU THINK CAUTIONS SHOULD BE CALLED DIFFERENTLY WITH 200 THAN WITH TWO TO GO?  “Not necessarily. I think they should just be consistent and I think they have been pretty consistent when it comes to that. It is not easy to call a race. You want the fans to see a green flagged finish but you also have to have the safety of the fans and competitors and people on pit road on your mind at the same time. I know when they came back around there was nobody on the track and all the cars had cleared off there, so I don’t know. Part of the reason to have three green-while-checkered finish attempts is so that if you do have a mess like that on a restart then the fans can still see a green flag finish. There was two of those left, but like I said I didn’t really see it. I was on the tail end of the lead lap and I probably could have gotten a top-10 finish. Everybody is in a different situation and us as drivers are always going to look at it as what helps us the best in that particular race.”

DO YOU LIKE THIS PLACE? IS THERE ANYTHING THAT MAKES IT STAND OUT FROM THE OTHER MILE-AND-A-HALF TRACKS YOU GO TO?  “Yeah, everybody asks about the cookie cutter tracks but all of them are really unique. This one is closest to Chicago but it has a little less banking. It reminds me the most of Chicago when you get here and get out on the track. Other than that it is really not similar to any of the other tracks we go to.”

HOW ABOUT NEXT WEEK? DO YOU LIKE GOING TO POCONO?  IT SEEMS LIKE WE ARE ALWAYS GOING TO POCONO. “That is because it takes like a day to get the race done. I don’t mind Pocono. I am glad they are making some safety improvements because I always felt like it was one of the more dangerous places we go to, so I am glad for that. There have been a couple races we have ran okay there. I don’t think it is one of my personal best places and when you go somewhere you don’t excel at you don’t look forward to it as much as a place you feel like you are better at.”

WHAT DOES IT TAKE TO BE SUCCESSFUL AT POCONO?  “Man, you better find somebody that has been successful there.  It is really like any other track. You have to get through the corners faster than everybody else. They are three really unique corners there and you have to be able to get through turn one really good and turn three really good because those are the two keys. As long as you get through the other two turns then it feel like you can break even on the tunnel turn. It is really unique and you have to be able to carry a lot of momentum.”

WHAT IS THE MOST DIFFICULT PART OF POCONO? IS IT THE 500 MILES?  “There are a lot of things about Pocono. Fuel mileage is a big deal because it is such a big track and you can’t run very many raps on fuel. All three corners are very unique. Turn one is really rough and bumpy and it is hard to find a good groove and get through there fast. Three and four are a challenge to get through fast as well. It is just kind of everything. The straightaway is really long and you spend that time thinking about the corners. It is the corners I guess that is the biggest thing because it is a challenge to get all three of them right and it will be even more of a challenge now with shifting again.”

ELDORA IS COMING UP. HOW SPECIAL IS THAT?  “It is a fun event and it is really neat that Tony can keep getting this thing put together and get the drivers to commit to getting up there. He has given a ton of money away over the years to some really great causes. It is fun to go up there and see how relaxed Tony is out there and how much fun he has out there on the tractor and four-wheeler. That is fun for me. I have never raced dirt expect for there so I always look forward to getting up there and having a good time.”

DO YOU HAVE FAVORITE CARS THAT YOU WOULD LIKE TO BE ABLE TO RUN EVERY WEEKEND? “With the old car you used to have favorite cars and knew how they would react but with these cars I haven’t found any of that really because they are a lot closer. The old cars you could change things around on the chassis or have a body that was on a little different even though you thought it was the same it was enough difference that the car would just run for whatever reason. With these things there are some little subtle differences but they are so close to the same that it is hard to pick out a big difference.”

A NUMBER OF THE ROUSH CARS HAVE USED TWO CHASSIS, PROBABLY A LOT MORE THAN LAST YEAR. I KNOW YOU FOUND SOME THINGS LAST SEASON, HOW DOES IT HELP HAVING THE NEW CHASSIS AS OPPOSED TO SOMETHING THAT HAS BEEN RUN EVERY YEAR?  “There are several reasons for having new cars this year. One reason is going to full time COT in the Nationwide cars. All last year’s cars we basically gave to the Nationwide shop because you feel like you should be able to build better cars. Hopefully you are a year smarter and able to make your cars nicer. Basically we passed most of the cars down there and try to do a little better job.”

AT THE END OF THESE RACES, SO MUCH IS MADE ON PIT CALLS. IS IT CHALLENGING TO KEEP UP WITH ALL OF THAT? WHAT IS IT LIKE AT THE END OF THE RACES FROM YOUR POINT OF VIEW?  “It depends on the day. I have always tried to keep up with it the best I can. There are probably a lot of times I can’t help the guys in the box but then there are days that I can or have helped them. I try to pay attention to how my car is handling so I can give them some indications of how things are.  If I hate my car and it is running bad then they know I will probably need four tires. You try to keep a handle of things that are going on but weeks like last week when we had that long run at the end and they said we were short on fuel and not close enough where we can save, there wasn’t much to keep track of. You just run as hard as you can and hope it turns out. We ended up getting that caution and it didn’t turn out. There isn’t much that could have been done there.”

SOME TEAMS ARE MAKING MORE AGGRESSIVE CALLS REGARDING TWO OR FOUR TIRES. IF I AM YOUR CREW CHIEF AND I MAKE AN AGGRESSIVE CALL, HOW DOES THAT IMPACT YOU IF IT WORKS AND IF IT DOESN’T?  “I think every call you make is a gamble these days even if it is the quote unquote safe call. Getting four tires sometimes is a gamble. They know more than you know and they are up there and see what all is going on and you just give them feedback about the car. Every track is different. There are certain tracks where you will want four tires no matter what unless it is a real short run at the end. A lot of that depends on the tire they give you too and how much it is dropping off. A lot of times you don’t know that until you get into the race.”

Carl Edwards, the current points leader, met with members of the media after the first practice session Friday at Kansas Speedway. Edwards finished second behind teammate Greg Biffle who followed Edwards in the media center.

CARL EDWARDS, driver No. 99 Aflac Ford Fusion – YOU GOT YOUR START HERE IN KANSAS IN A TRUCK. CAN YOU TALK ABOUT THE START OF YOUR CAREER AND ALSO YOUR CAR FOR THIS SUNDAY?  “It was the opportunity that Mike Mittler gave me here at Kansas in his 63 truck in 2002 and we ran eighth which was a huge day. It was huge. That win kind of got things rolling, so to speak, in my career. Then we won that race in 2004 here in the Truck Series and it was an unreal race. I was racing too hard on the first lap and smacked the fence and then came back and won the race. It was a very special win. In 2008 we almost had the victory here and had that last lap battle with Jimmie Johnson. I told Bob this week that this race is really important to me; I mean all of them are, but to win here in the Cup Series would be huge. We have what seems to be a really fast race car and practice went really well. It is going to be hot and slick which should be a lot of fun. I am just glad to be here racing and looking forward to it.”

ON A HOT WEEKEND LIKE THIS IS IT A BIGGER CONCERN HOW THE HEAT AFFECT THE CAR OR HOW IT AFFECTS YOU? “That is my trainer Dean there sitting next to you in the gray hat. He works hard with me and we try to be as prepared as we can be as far as the physical fitness part of it. The deal is that there are a lot of guys out there are physically fit and if they aren’t fit they are just plain tough. What ends up happening is that a car and the affects of heat on the race track and the way the tire interacts and the speed slowing down I think has a bigger impact on the outcome of the race than the driver fitness and ability to handle the heat. It is definitely two parts and I think that is a good way to ask that question. I think the car and the slick race track will have a bigger impact on the outcome of the race.”

FROM AN EMOTIONAL STANDPOINT, HAVE YOU EVER FOUND THAT THE HEAT WILL MAKE YOU ACT IN A WAY YOU MIGHT NOT HAVE IN A COOLER SITUATION? “I can see your article right now in my head. I don’t know if that is the case. I don’t know if tempers and ambient temperature, if there is a big correlation there. It would make for a good story though. If you want to write it, go for it I guess. I just got off your hook there for a second didn’t I? Oh yeah, tempers are going to flare just as much as the sun beats down on the race track. It is going to be insane (laughter). No, I don’t know. It is going to be a tough race. It is only 400 miles, so that will help, but I do think it will be a tough race not only for the drivers but the guys on pit road, the spotters, everyone. You start to get uncomfortable and it is easy to make mistakes.”

YOU WERE IN THE MIDDLE OF THE MESS LAST WEEKEND ON THE RESTART. DID YOU THINK THERE WAS GOING TO BE A CAUTION AND DID YOU THINK THERE SHOULD HAVE BEEN ONE?  “As it turned out it didn’t look like it needed to be a caution. A caution would have helped us a lot, so from that perspective I wish there would have been one. NASCAR has to do the best they can and they didn’t feel like they needed to throw a caution there and in the end everyone finished the race safely. That is a lot bigger decision than I am paid to make.”

CAN YOU GO THROUGH YOUR ITINERARY THIS WEEKEND WITH THE RACE IN CHICAGO?  “We are going to run the second practice here, make some qualifying runs and then go over to the airport, hop in the Cessna and fly out to Chicago. We are going to run the last practice up there, which I think is from 7:30 to 8:30, and then fly back to the track here tonight. We will qualify in the morning and I don’t think there is any more Cup practice, so I think we will be able to make it. We have my buddy Steve going with us and sometimes he is a little late for things. If we don’t have to wait on Steve we should make qualifying and then the drivers meeting and everything for the Nationwide race. Steve is in the back there and I am just giving him a hard time.”

SO YOU WILL GET BACK AT WHAT LIKE MIDNIGHT TOMORROW?  “There is a slight chance of rain up there tomorrow afternoon. And it is an early morning here on Sunday morning so I hope that is not the case. Like I said though, I have Steve and he says he can fly the plane so I can get some sleep.”

WHY GO THROUGH ALL THAT? DO YOU WORRY ABOUT IT AFFECTING YOU FOR THE RACE SUNDAY?  “The way it works out with these airplanes, it is not very difficult to do. As long as you keep the stress down and don’t get wound up about it. Driving to the airport is a nice drive and that airplane is really easy to fly and not a big stressor. The weather is nice and there isn’t a threat of weather with massive lines of thunderstorms or something we have to go through. The reason I do it is because we have a chance to win that race up there. That is what we do this for. Mike Beam and those guys on the Fastenal crew work hard. I have had some of the greatest races of my career this year in that Nationwide car. Last week was a blast with Matt Kenseth. The race in Iowa was a lot of fun. A lot of people asked why I went there but I would trade that for anything. To be able to follow Ricky Stenhouse to his first victory and race that hard was cool. I do it for the fun and for the trophies and to see the look on my guys faces when we do well. If everything goes as plan it shouldn’t be that difficult.”

AT ONE POINT LAST WEEKEND YOU, THE 17 AND THE 18 PITTED UNDER CAUTION AND 23 CARS TOOK THE WAVE AROUND AND YOU THREE ENDED UP MIRED IN THE BACK. DO LIKE THE RULE OR IS IT BECOMING TOO BIG OF AN ADVANTAGE?  “There is a lot to that. I think the reason we got put in a bad position was because we pitted and then a debris caution came out. If that caution hadn’t been thrown then I think it would have worked out fine. There are a lot of variables in this sport. One of them is how to read those cautions. If we all knew when they were going to come out then it would be a lot simpler and I don’t think there would be as much trouble. You guys have written plenty about that and I am sure you will write more. I don’t know that the wave around is the issue. I think that if that race would have gone without those debris cautions it would have looked differently and worked out better for us.”

WITH HINDSIGHT BEING 20-20 AND FORESIGHT BEING NEARLY BLIND. IF YOU COULD REDO ANY RACE IN YOUR CAREER, WHAT RACE WOULD IT BE AND WHAT WOULD YOU DO DIFFERENT?  “That is a really good question and I am glad you asked it here because if I could redo any race in my career it would be this race in 2008. I am not going to tell you what I would do differently but there is definitely something I would have done differently and I think we would have won it.”

AFTER HAVING GREG BIFFLE ON TALKING WITH HIM ABOUT WHAT HAPPENED TO HIM LAST WEEK WIT HIS BLOOD PRESSURE DROPPING LOW AND THE CAR BLOWING HOT AIR AT HIM. HE SAID HE WAS NEVER GOING TO PULL OVER AND TAKE A RELIEF DRIVER THAT HE WOULD PASS OUT FIRST. WHAT IS THE MOST DANGEROUS NON-WRECK SITUATION YOU HAVE BEEN IN?  “I have had my belts come undone before which was scary, not in one of these cars, but you have to make some decisions then.  I didn’t know that happened to Greg. He is a pretty tough guy. There are a lot of things that go on in these cars. I think that carbon monoxide got me a couple of times. I have never been so uncomfortable because you are strapped in and you start to get nauseous and not feeling good you can’t go anywhere or stretch out or move around. It is a difficult situation. That is one of the neat things about this sport, that we have these long, hot races. It is pretty grueling. It was something for me that when I first came in and drove Mike Mitler’s truck at Memphis and that was the longest race I had been in. It was a day like this, 92 degrees or something, I thought that there was something wrong with this truck. I thought it was on fire or there was some problem because there was no way all these guys could be this hot and still racing. It didn’t take me long to realize, but took me awhile to adapt to the fact that that is just the way it is. It is uncomfortable. Last week I am probably not the only driver that was driving down the straightaway’s with my heels off the floor because it is burning your feet. I think that will be a factor in this race Sunday, not a huge factor, but it will be a factor.”

WITH KYLE AND THE SPEEDING TICKET I AM CURIOUS FOR YOU PERSONALLY IF IT HAS EVER BEEN HARD TO LEAVE THE SEEKING OF THE RUSH BEHIND WHEN YOU LEAVE THE RACE TRACK? “Are you kidding? I am not going to incriminate myself but we are all here at a race track and we all like to drive and it is something that you have to remember. There is more risk out there on the road then there is on the race track. I cannot sit back and judge someone else for driving fast on the road. It is something that is hard not to do.  One of the keys is what you drive. I mostly drive pickup trucks, like a F-150 and I have an old F-250 that is a slower truck so that kind of keeps me out of trouble.”

DO YOU GET THAT THRILL FROM FLYING YOUR PLANES?  “No, I have my fun with driving at the race track. I get to drive 700-800 miles a week and that is a lot. I do have to consciously be safe on the road because it is easy to drive too fast on the road. It is something I am not going to sit here and judge someone for getting a speeding ticket because I have had plenty.”

DATING BACK TO KANSAS LAST FALL, FORD HAS WON SEVEN RACES. WHAT DO YOU ATTRIBUTE THAT SUCCESS TO?  “That is when we were really turning the corner as a team, the middle of the summer at Daytona. We ran well and then Greg started running really well. I think the success on the race track comes from a number of places. The engine is one. I think we have an engine that is equal to the others, which is huge. Robbie Reiser being the team manager has helped us a lot. He has changed the structure at Roush Fenway and it has been great. I feel like our pit crews have stepped it up and our whole process from a pile of tubing to a finished race car is better, more streamline and more attention to detail. All of those things, there is not one trick, we don’t just have a good engine or just have a good aero package. We have good race cars and all of that has come together. Almost all the teams have been to victory lane in one way or another this year.”

DO YOU THINK YOU HAVE AN ADVANTAGE OVER THE COMPETITION RIGHT NOW?  “I don’t think we have an advantage. We might have a slight advantage at these mile-and-a-half tracks. I feel like we are very competitive. The competition is really close and nobody is better than us right now. That is probably the best way to put it.”

I KNOW YOU HAVE LONG DREAMED OF WINNING A CUP RACE HERE. DOES IT FEEL LIKE THIS YEAR MIGHT BE YOUR BEST CHANCE?  “It does feel that way. We have been running really well. In 2008 we were on a tear and running great. Our mile-and-a-half program has been on a tear. This could be a good shot. Practice was good. We weren’t the fastest car but the balance wasn’t perfect so now we are going to tune on it in the next couple of days and Bob will do his magic with the computer and come up with a good setup. I am really excited to run this race. This is the most excited I have ever been to run this race in my Cup career. I am looking forward to it.”

THIS RACE IS HALFWAY TO THE CHASE. YOU HAVE A 36 POINT LEAD WHICH UNDER THE OLD SYSTEM WOULD HAVE BEEN AROUND 120 POINTS. ARE YOU MORE INCLINED TO TAKE A RISK TO WIN A RACE NOW OR TO EXPERIMENT WITH SETUPS AND THINGS FOR LATER ON?  “Right now today we are more inclined to take risks and do things. Bob and I actually talked about that today. How much is a win worth as far as points when we start the Chase? Is it three? I read somewhere it was 10 and was like ‘holy moley we need to be more aggressive.’ We have been balancing two things. One is running well enough that we have a big cushion and are in the Chase. We are doing that now and have the points lead. Two, once we feel comfortable with that, which I feel like we are there almost, we want to go out and take not necessarily risks driving but risks with some setups and engines and pit calls and stuff like that. We maybe wouldn’t have done that before. If it comes down to the end of the race here Sunday and it is a gamble, we will probably go with the one where a win can be the outcome. We won’t play it safe just to run third. We are here to win right now and it is nice to be able to do that. I have never been in this position at this point in the season.”

TONY STEWART SAID HE FEELS LIKE HE IS BRING A KNIFE TO A GUNFIGHT WHEN TALKING ABOUT YOUR MOTORS COMPARED TO THEIRS. HOW WOULD YOU GRADE YOUR MOTOR AGAINST THE OTHER PEOPLE?  “It is even. We can go out and look at the dyno stuff NASCAR has if you like, but I can see it on the race track. We are not head and shoulders above other people, we have caught up. I feel like before we were behind and worked on our cars quite a bit and now that we have caught up it looks really good but we can’t lay off of our engine program. We have to keep moving forward. There are engines I raced against last weekend, and we were a little conservative in our package, that was making a lot more power off the corners. I am just going to have to disagree with Tony and say that we don’t have a huge advantage. That is what he is supposed to be doing. He is supposed to be kicking and screaming and looking for an advantage of his own.”

YOU AND YOUR TEAMMATE GREG BIFFLE ARE TOP OF THE PACK AFTER THE FIRST PRACTICE. WHAT DID YOU WORK ON AND HOW COMFORTABLE ARE YOU WITH HOW GOOD YOUR CAR WAS?  “I think we are pretty good. I was looking for a good balance because the track is so slick. Bob was really mad at the end of practice. He was upset because we weren’t the fastest car. I think we have something we can work with as the track slicks off. Right now it is hard to look at that sheet and say who is in the best position to win because I think the track will change a ton. That pavement will get hot and slick and greasy and chance a lot during the race. The guy that reads that the best will win this race.  I think Biffle was in qualifying trim. I don’t know if he was in it the whole time or how good he is because I haven’t talked to him about his car.”

GREG BIFFLE, driver No. 16 3M Ford Fusion –
CAN YOU TALK ABOUT WHAT THE AMERICAN RED CROSS IS DOING WITH NASCAR UNITES THIS WEEKEND FOR THE MISSOURI FANS?  “Yeah, you know I have seen all the pictures and looked on the internet and watched the news and it is just terrible. Nicole and I were talking about how would you like to go home where you grew up and see there is just nothing left, nothing there, let alone the people that lost lives and pets and family’s that are broken up. This weekend all of the NASCAR Foundation bracelets and NASCAR Unites bracelet proceeds go this weekend to the victims and to help the Red Cross provide services for those people, which is neat. Everybody needs to try and do their part. I am certainly doing my part. Hopefully those people can get their lives put back together and get back to some of these races.”

IT SEEMS LIKE THE GUYS THAT ARE AT THE TOP OF THE SPEED CHART AFTER THAT FIRST PRACTICE STILL AREN’T HAPPY WITH WHERE THEY ARE AT.  “The first part of the session we were in qualifying trim and we were very unhappy with our race car in qualifying trim. We were a lot happier with it in race trim. The track is hot and slick. It is 92 degrees outside and the track temperature is probably in the mid 140’s. This place has gotten a little bumpier every year. It has lost a little grip. Naturally that is what race tracks do. It is hot, slick and hard to get ahold of. That typically produces pretty good racing. Everyone is kind of complaining but you look at your lap time and it isn’t that bad. It feels slow inside the car though. You feel like you are going turtle pace and that gives you the sensation, especially coming off last week where it was pretty fast, that you are a lot slower.”

A WEEK LATER, WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON EVERYTHING THAT HAPPENED IN CHARLOTTE AND HOW GOOD DOES IT FEEL TO KNOW YOU GET TO BOUNCE BACK AT A TRACK THAT YOU HAVE RUN SO WELL AT IN THE PAST?  “Certainly I was extremely happy with the way my car performed at Charlotte. The way it drove and the speed it had. Nobody could have predicted at the end that we were going to get that caution. The engineers felt like we were going to make it, at least to off of turn four with the fuel we had left. I think we did the right thing by pitting and getting fuel in the car and not running out of gas on the race track like a lot of other guys did. I think we did the right thing, finished 13th and salvaged a top-15. I wish we could have been top-10 and wish we would have pitted the first time we had the opportunity instead of coming with one to go. The fuel pressure was bouncing a little bit and I knew it wasn’t going to restart. I knew it was going to run out on the front stretch right in front of the whole field. That was not going to be a good outcome, so I elected to come in and get fuel. Looking back at it, I don’t know what we could have done different. I conserved as much as I could on that last run. Probably the only thing in hindsight would be to go get gas the first time it opened and not cycle myself behind the eight or 10 guys that stopped. We would have had a better shot at the end.”

HOW WAS THE TIRE TEST AT KENTUCKY AND DO YOU HAVE A LEG UP HAVING DONE THAT?  “I don’t think so. The track was so dirty for the first part of the day and it took awhile to get rubber down on the race track. Then the track started coming around. It was real confusing when we started because they painted a while line on the race track around the second groove basically and said to run from there up and not run the part of the race track where everyone is running here today. That was a little confusing. We tried to run the top when we first got there and then everybody migrated back to the bottom and ran where they normally ran. It took a long time for the bottom to come in. We ran different lanes. I felt like half the day I didn’t know where to drive. Visually we were trying to find visual references and that race track is so funny how wide it is. That is what makes it unique, that it is super wide and so when you are coming into the corner you are almost driving 90 degrees to the paving lanes and you can see the division where the paver made lanes and there is a little sealer in the cracks and you can kind of see it. It is odd more than anything. It took awhile to get back used to it. I don’t think it will give us a huge advantage of how long it took us to kind of get going. We really didn’t get any testing done. We tried some springs and dropped the track bar a little. It was basically like this. By the time we got going and got a little rubber on the track and got to where the speeds picked up once we got the race track going a little better we were nearly out of time. We had to put on the Goodyear tires and do two 30-lap runs with like 25 minutes left. I don’t think we learned a whole lot.”

THIS IS THE SECOND STRAIGHT WEEKEND WITH REAL HOT CONDITIONS. WHAT IS THE BIGGER CHALLENGE, THE AFFECT OF THE HEAT ON THE RACE CAR OR HOW IT AFFECTS YOU?  “During the day when the sun is out it makes the track slick. It gets hot inside these cars. The heat is manageable if you have air to your helmet which unfortunately last week I didn’t. I had hot air to my helmet last week. Today I haven’t run my air conditioner just to prove a point that it isn’t necessary even though it is 92 out. You don’t need it. What happened last week was really unique. The thing turned into a heater and was blowing scalding hot air. I mean it burned the side of my heat and I could feel the air. I had my visor open so the air would go out but I mean it was hot. It was that way from pit road, for 600 miles. That was a little tough. Today it is blowing in and it is like a fan running on you. It doesn’t have to be air conditioning, just air and you are fine. It gets hot after awhile but that is what we train for. I tested Kentucky on Wednesday and it was 98 degrees all day. I feel pretty good now.”

FOR A TEAM TRYING TO GET INTO THE CHASE, WAS LAST WEEKEND A DEBACLE OR VERY ENCOURAGING CONSIDERING EVERYTHING THAT HAPPENED?  “Well, we took a really fast car and finished 13th with it. We got the wave around twice and lucky dog once. If we would have had a mediocre car we would have finished about 30th. We drove from the back five times. We started at the dead back of the pack that many times. We were able to manage our way to the front. Last week we kind of saved ourselves really. Last week could have been bad and we finished 13th. That was pretty damn good. We would have loved to have a top five. We would love to win that thing and if the caution hadn’t come out we would have been really close. Coulda, shoulda, woulda.”

YOU’VE RUN SO WELL HERE OVER THE YEARS. WHAT IS THE SECRET?  “If I told you, I would have to kill you.  You know, I really like this race track. It is a lot of fun. It being hot and slick is kind of my favorite. It is hard to get a hold of this and it is different on both ends. This place you can run up the race track which is fun to do. You can run right up against the fence. This place has a lot of grip in the center of it too. There are a lot of options and it has a little slower corner speeds and you have to be a little technical which has played into my hands over the years I guess.”

AS WE MOVE CLOSER TO THE CHASE, WHEN DO THE WILD CARDS START TO FACTOR INTO YOUR MIND AND HOW DO THEY FACTOR IN?  “Well, we have certainly been trying to win lately and all season. It is hard to sleep at night when you are right there on the verge of the points, especially when you have runs like last weekend and so on. You have to start having solid top-fives every week. If you are having solid top-five’s every week then forget about it. We aren’t there yet. We picked up another spot in points but that didn’t really do a whole lot. We didn’t move very far. A guy had a bad race is all. We have to get top-five’s to get up in there and get a little cushion. Points are really tight. A couple of wins would take the pressure off. We will just keep trying to do what we can. When it comes down to it I think that both the wild card guys are going to have wins. They will at least have one win. I feel, I really kind of do, that they will both have wins. Maybe one of those guys might have two. We will see.”