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Carl Edwards, Matt Kenseth and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. & hellip;

Carl Edwards, Matt Kenseth and Ricky Stenhouse Jr. all took time with media members Friday at Bristol Motor Speedway.

Carl Edwards, Matt Kenseth and Ricky Stenhouse Jr.…

Edwards, Kenseth and Stenhouse Talk Short Track Racing at Bristol

Matt Kenseth, a two time winner here at Bristol, spoke to media members prior to the first Cup practice Friday.

  “I don’t know if it will be crazier than normal. It always depends on circumstances. This is always an intense race no matter where you are in the points. Everybody races hard everywhere, but this track creates a lot of action and aggression. It is a fun race to watch and a fun race to be a part of.”

IS THERE ANY REAL WAY TO RECOVER IF YOU GET TAKEN OUT HERE OR WHAT CAN YOUR CREW DO ON PIT ROAD TO KEEP YOU IN THE RACE?  “Well that depends. Every situation is different and it depends how bad your car is wrecked I guess. These cars are way tougher than the older cars. It is tougher for someone to spin you out from behind than the older cars and wreck them as bad. They are a little more durable but it is certainly easy to get dinged up here and ruin your night for sure.”

LOOKING AT THE SEASON AS A WHOLE YOU GUYS WERE STRONG EARLY AND OTHER TEAMS HAVE STARTED TO PEAK NOW. IS THERE SOMETHING TO BE SAID FOR PEAKING AT CERTAIN POINTS IN THE SEASON WITH RESPECT TO THE CHASE?  “I don’t think you ever want to peak. I think you want to get better every week and keep improving. I think everybody in the garage basically does that. If you look at track records falling and qualifying times picking up every time we go back to a track you can see everybody gets constantly better. I think you just have to gain more than the rest of the competition. That is always the goal.”

  “I think, speaking of the 18, he is always really fast and always a contender to win whether he is racing for points or not racing for points. He loves to race, whether it is a late model race or his truck or the Cup car or whatever. He is always one of the guys to beat, so I don’t think that matters.”

WITH THREE RACES BEFORE THE CHASE, WHAT MORE IS THERE FOR YOU GUYS TO DO TO BE AS PREPARED AS YOU CAN FOR CHICAGO?  “I think just trying to be as competitive as possible. I don’t think you want to go into the Chase and be running bad or be coming off bad finishes. Last week we didn’t finish the race off very good but we ran fairly competitively and I was very encouraged. The over-the-wall guys had the best day they have had all year in my opinion and the most consistent and fastest day they have had. They felt like they were in championship form and they were ready which was nice. We just gotta keep working hard and try to get our cars a little faster and just sharpen up everything all around the program before the last 10.”

  “I hope so but there are a lot of things that are similar to these tracks leading to Chicago and that place. The tracks are different and the set ups are different and how you drive the tracks are different but the pit stops are the same and strategies are somewhat the same. A lot of the things we do are the same each and every week. You want to run good every week and be feeling good about it. You don’t want to have a rough three weeks and be going to Chicago on a down note and be like, ‘Okay, we didn’t have a good three weeks but we are going to Chicago and are going to flip the switch and turn it around.’ I think you want to run good every weekend and everybody feels better about that and gets confidence and a spring in their step. They feel like they are a contender. I don’t think it is make or break but I think it would be nice to have that attitude and feeling and have everyone excited to feel like they are part of a group that will contend.”

  “It is a little different and it has been different at times for several reasons. The tire is a big reason for that. We are burning less gasoline but we are burning more volume of fuel so our mileage is worse so we can’t run as many laps as we even did the year before. Those two things and then circumstances and how the cautions fall. Obviously if you can run 40 laps on fuel and the caution falls with 60 to go and it goes green to the end, strategy doesn’t matter much. It has been one of them years. There have been years like that if you think about it. In 2008 Carl won a lot of races I think four or five on fuel mileage. There have been years like that in the past if you look through and I think most people would like to see it all be about performance but that is just not logical.”

SOME ARE SUGGESTING THIS YEAR HAS BEEN MORE RADICAL THAN THE PAST COUPE YEARS. DO YOU HAVE TO BE MORE OPEN MINDED ABOUT THINGS AND HOW YOU TALK TO JIMMY OR WHAT YOU ACCEPT FROM JIMMY?  “No, I think it is the same. I think you always think about it and it is circumstances. When you are on top of the pit box and you see the tires slow up three second somewhere and you run a half a fuel run, you know you are going to have to get four tires. When you see them slow up a second but after the cool down they are only four-tenths or three-tenths slower then you have to start thinking about that. Do you want two, do you need gas, how do I get out of pit road the fastest to get the best track position? Four tires aren’t enough advantage to pass the guys on two. There are a lot of things that go into that. I think it is different this year because of the tire and fuel mileage and it has been tougher to pass than in years past and I don’t know if that is the nose or what cause that. I think between those three things that has probably changed the strategy.”

Ricky Stenhouse Jr., the current NASCAR Nationwide Series points leader, met with media members at Bristol Motor Speedway after the final NNS practice of the day in anticipation of tonight’s race.

  “Our No. 6 Fastenal Mustang is really struggling right now. We changed a lot there in practice and couldn’t seem to get a handle on it. We are struggling with getting it to turn through the center and not be so tight up off. We are struggling but the good thing is our teammates aren’t too bad. Trevor and Carl are pretty good so hopefully we can learn something from them. We just have to get this thing to turn so we can be as good as we were here the last race.”

YOU HAVE AN EIGHT POINT LEAD BUT IT CAN ALL CHANGE QUICKLY AT BRISTOL. WHAT IS YOUR MINDSET GOING IN?  “It can. Obviously we wish our car was faster so we could be up front. We are going to change everything and hopefully be up front. It seems like if you can stay up front here and stay out of trouble it helps your whole race. I watched the truck race the other night and when you are 15th, 10th-15th, it seems like that is where everything happens. Hopefully we can stay up ahead of that area and just really come away with a good solid run. After practice, a top-10 would be good for us. Before practice we were hoping for a top-five or a win. You can never tell. The guys are going to work really hard on our Mustang and try to get it up front.”

THE THREE OF YOU GUYS ATOP THE POINTS STANDING HAVE BROKEN AWAY FROM THE PACK A BIT. DO YOU THINK THE THREE OF YOU WILL BATTLE THIS OUT OR DO YOU THINK ONE OF YOU CAN BREAK AWAY?  “To break away somebody is going to have to have bad luck. As well as all of us run, we run in the top-10, it is hard to break away. If one of us wins and somebody is eighth or ninth, you aren’t going to gain a whole lot on them. Some guys are going to have to have some bad luck for somebody to pull away. I think if you stay consistently in front of them, it will take awhile to get away from them, but I think it will be pretty close all the way down to Homestead.”

  “Obviously Elliott and Reed have a lot more experience than I’ve got but looking at the tracks we have left I feel like they are all really good race tracks for our No. 6 team. Atlanta is a really good one and all the 1.5 mile tracks are really good race tracks for us. You have Richmond where we ran really well last year and this year. Bristol was a race that we had circled to run really well at. I feel like the race tracks that we have left suit my driving style pretty well. Hopefully they will favor us.”

YOUR THOUGHTS ON DANICA RUNNING FULL TIME NATIONWIDE NEXT SEASON?  “I think it is great that she is coming. Obviously she has gotten a lot faster in just the few races she has ran. I ran a partial schedule in 2009, only seven races, and I know how tough it is to come in and run well, especially for her bouncing back and forth between the open wheels and these stock cars. I think she will learn a lot more and be a lot faster at the end of next year. It took me awhile to get going I felt like and just more seat time really helps. I feel like by the end of next year she will be running really well.”

HOW DO YOU THINK THE RACE HERE TONIGHT WILL PLAY OUT?  “I think the Nationwide race is going to be great. There are a lot of great drivers in this field and it seems like a lot of the race cars are really close in practice. I was talking about how bad our car was, but if we could pick up a tenth, which is not that much, that would have put us in the top-five. The field is really tight and I think the drivers are going to be driving really hard. It should be a great race. We had some green flag pit stops in the last race here so it would be cool if it could be a really clean race and everybody just raced really hard.”

DO YOU THINK IT IS VALID THAT GUYS THAT ARE RUNNING TRUCKS OR NATIONWIDE THAT AREN’T RUNNING FOR POINTS ARE A BIT OVER AGGRESSIVE IN THESE RACES?  “I think that they are aggressive and I feel like I drive aggressively but it is a different aggressive. I have to keep in mind our point situation and they don’t. That is just the name of the game. That is how it is set up for us to run and we just have to go do our own deal and we feel like we can run with them. I feel like Kyle has run for championships before in this Nationwide series and I feel like as veterans they realize who is running for the points and who is not. I don’t think they will take advantage and do something to jeopardize our point situation.”

Carl Edwards, who currently stands fourth in the Cup point standings and was the fastest car in both practice sessions at Bristol Motor Speedway Friday, met with media members prior to qualifying.

“Yeah we talked about that in the hauler and Bob Osborne says he has been entering as much as he can. I don’t know if he can actually be a part of the fan winning thing but he has actually been trying to participate. If you see Bob extra excited in the next two weeks if we win, that will be why. This race is big for us. Last week was very frustrating. We had a spark plug that was bad. We sent it back to the manufacturer and they are trying to figure out exactly what was wrong with it. That was a heart breaker. We had such a great race car. We are just coming here with the same mindset, to go for the win. We have 90 points on 11th place, so we feel like we can really go for it. We have had good luck here and our car is very fast. We have the Aflac Dental paint scheme and it would be nice to have all those teeth in the same place on the front of that car when it is over with. I think if we can do that, if we can stay out of trouble and qualify like I think we can and like we seem to with the speed we have had so far today, it will be a good race.”

IS YOUR CAR AS GOOD AS IT LOOKED IN THESE TWO PRACTICE SESSIONS?  “It looks really good but I think Jimmie is real fast. I think his car is very good. I think everyone is so close it is just going to be a track position race. With that being said, I think qualifying will be important and a good pit stall will be huge. I don’t know. I don’t want to get ahead of ourselves. It is really neat to be that fast in practice but we have to go race still.”

HOW IMPORTANT IS ATLANTA WITH FIVE 1.5 MILE TRACKS IN THE CHASE?  “Atlanta is always really special to me and to our team. We have run well there and had a lot of really great days there. It is an indicator of how your chances are going to be at the mile-and-a-half’s after that. Those are the really important ones. We will go to Atlanta and pull out all the stops and do everything we would want to do in the Chase. That was kind of our mission on Sunday at Michigan. We told the pit crew to go for it. DO whatever you wanted to do all year. If you make mistakes no problem. I was going to go for it and we had the rug pulled out on us with that spark plug problem. Atlanta will be a lot of fun and I am looking forward to that one. Hopefully we will run well enough here that there won’t be any pressure with the points. Hopefully we have a decent night here at Bristol and we go to Atlanta and it will be a fun race for us. That would be cool.”

PEOPLE KEPT SAYING DURING YOUR CONTRACT NEGOTIATIONS THAT IF YOU DIDN’T MAKE A DECISION SOON IT WOULD AFFECT YOUR CHAMPIONSHIP POSSIBILITIES. SINCE YOU SIGNED YOU WENT FROM FIRST TO FOURTH. CRUEL COINCIDENCE?  “I should have held out longer huh?  I don’t think that the stroke of the pen on the line there affected the spark plug on Sunday. I think it is just racing luck right now. We had cars on Sunday that were very good, cars that could have won that race out of the Roush Fenway camp and I felt like ours was one of them. We have a fast car here. Yeah, that is kind of an interesting coincidence and I thought about that a little bit.”

WHAT WAS THE PRESSURE LIKE FOR YOU IN 2008 AND 2010 AND WERE THE TWO YEARS DIFFERENT FROM EACH OTHER AND DO YOU THINK IT WILL BE DIFFERENT THIS YEAR?  “I learned a lot. I didn’t realize how much I was learning in 2008. When I look back on 2008 it just was fun and all coming together and working out and I don’t know if I took it seriously enough that, ‘hey, this is an opportunity to win the championship.’ I wrecked at Talladega and then we had trouble at Charlotte, the ignition trouble, and all of a sudden I was like, ‘Man, that was going so well, what went wrong there.’ I learned from that that you can’t take steps backwards, especially in the Chase. You have to plug forward, you can’t hurt yourself because there are things that will happen that are outside of your control like that spark plug last week or ignition boxes. If something like that happens, you can’t add to it. I learned a lot there. In 2010 it was much different because we didn’t really have a shot at winning the championship but we kind of in our minds, in my mind at least and all of us talked about it, the plan at the end of 2010 was to just go for it and do everything as if we were racing for the championship. We came on very strong and finished very well. I look at that as a practice round for 2011 and hopefully we can apply all of that stuff.”

THE WAY JIMMIE JOHNSON DESCRIBES THE CHASE IT IS THE MOST ARDUOUS THING. CAN YOU DESCRIBE THAT FOR THE FANS? IS IT LIKE CLIMBING A MOUNTAIN OR SOMETHING?  “What is the guys name that climbed Everest first? He is the one who said ‘It is not the mountain we conquer, but ourselves.’ I think that when you go through something like the Chase, and for me it has not been the Chase but the leading up to it. We were watching TV a minute ago and they were looking at the wild card stuff and I said, ‘Man, that looks like it would be stressful,’ and Bob said, ‘Don’t you remember, we have been through that a number of times.’ Those times are very tough. I guess I’ve only had a couple shots at the championship and maybe wrongly but I haven’t looked at the Chase that way. It hasn’t felt like this massive amount of pressure. When things are going well I’ve been having a good time and when they don’t, like I said earlier, I look back and think that maybe I should have taken it a little more seriously. I feel bad for Jimmie though if it was that stressful to win all those championships. I hope if we win it that I have a good time with it.”

DO YOU EVER FEEL LIKE WITH THE CHAMPIONSHIP THAT THE NATIONWIDE STUFF IS TAKING A LOT OUT OF WHAT IT MIGHT TAKE TO WIN A CHAMPIONSHIP?  “It does make for long days and that is why next year I am going to run very few Nationwide races. I am going to focus on the Cup car. I remember it like it just happened, riding along in Jack’s airplane coming back from Pike’s Peak. He said, ‘Do you think you have what it takes to run both series’ full time?’ and I said yes. He challenged me, kind of like a dare. I told him I could do it and that was seven years ago and we have run a ton of races. Now I feel like sometimes on Friday’s and Saturday’s if I had a little extra time with my crew chief that I could be a better Cup series driver. That is the next step in my career. I want to focus solely on the Cup series and get the championships that I feel like we can earn if I give it enough focus.”

DID YOU RUN IT MAINLY BECAUSE OF THE DARE OR BECAUSE YOU FELT THE SEAT TIME WOULD HELP YOU OR WHAT?  “The reason I ran it was not because I felt personally challenged by Jack. I felt that he was giving me an opportunity to gain two years of experience each year. I look at guys that when I came in in 2005 I was having to race Rusty Wallace and Jeff Gordon and Tony Stewart and these guys had a bunch more experience than I had. I felt like if I could run two years to every one of theirs. I feel like I have run 14 seasons now instead of just seven. Not that the Nationwide series fully prepares you, but it does help you. The mistakes I make on Saturday’s are sometimes very fresh in my mind on Sunday afternoon and has probably kept me from making bigger mistakes in the Cup series. Now I feel that that there is more to be gained from focusing on the Cup series.”

YOU ARE RUNNING A SPECIAL CHILDREN’S PAINT SCHEME NEXT WEEK I BELIEVE, WHAT IS IT LIKE RUNNING ONE OF THOSE, IS IT OVERWHELMING AT ALL?  “You guys know how it is, our lives are fast paced and we are going all the time. Last week I got the chance to go out to the USS Eisenhower and visit some sailors and that was one of those moments that stopped me in my tracks. I realized that these people are out here 18 hour days on the deck of a ship, one of the most dangerous environments on earth, protecting our freedoms. That struck me. My first trip to the Aflac Cancer Center was a huge eye opener. For any of you guys that haven’t been to the Aflac Cancer Center I would recommend you go. They treat over 6,000 children a year, whether they can pay or not. The kids show up and have cancer or blood disorders or any number of ailments and they treat them. The first time I went there, I went there kind of going through our week and we had to take this trip and I got there and man, it was a moment that made me realize the things I stress about are nothing compared to what these little kids are going through and they have smiles on their faces. Dalton gave me his courage beads that I wore with me for the rest of the season in 2008. That was a big thing for me. It meant a lot and it was inspiring. I know that is a long winded answer but I am really trying to convey to you guys that it is good for me to stop and realize what is going on in the world for real and to be a part of something like the Aflac Cancer Center.”

IT SEEMS LIKE ANY TIME A GUY RUNS RUNNER UP IN THE CHAMPIONSHIP, THE NEXT YEAR HE HAS AN OFF YEAR. YOU WENT THROUGH THAT, WHAT IS THAT LIKE?  “I don’t know much about Denny’s situation. I don’t know exactly what he has struggled with. I know he beat me at Michigan this year and it didn’t look like he was struggling that day. I don’t know why they are in the position they are in, if it is failures or they have run poorly, I haven’t paid enough attention. My experience was massively humbling in 2009. To go into that season with such high expectations of ourselves and realize that we had fallen behind in a number of areas and it wasn’t going to be easy to get back out of it. That was tough. It is tough in general when you aren’t running well, but when you expect to run really well and you run poorly is very tough. You just have to keep going, keep digging. You can’t give up. That is the trick, not giving up.”

CAN YOU EXPLAIN TO THE FANS HOW FAST THINGS HAPPEN HERE?  “Yeah, it is very fast here. The first couple of laps in practice they always get my attention. Before I run in the car I try to mentally prepare for practice and think about it. Today I got in the car and it got my attention pretty quickly. You forget how high the banking is. You drive down in the corner and the forces pushing the car into the track seem so much greater than anywhere else we go. The rate at which the car is changing direction is very fast. You are looking up through the top of the windshield kind of at the top of the race track. It is an amazing place. It always takes me a few laps in the race, 10-15 laps in, to get comfortable with the pace of it because things are happening so quickly here. It is a really neat place to race at. It is unbelievable they built this place how they did. It is amazing they sat down and designed this place and made it how they did, but I am really glad they did. It is really fun to come here.”