Ford Drivers Size Up Road Course at Watkins Glen International
Ford Drivers Size Up Road Course at Watkins Glen International
FORD FAST FACTS:
· Ford’s last victory at Watkins Glen in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series was 1996 (Geoffrey Bodine).
· Carl Edwards sat on the pole for last year’s NSCS race and finished fifth.
· Mark Martin won this event three straight years with car owner Jack Roush (1993-95).
· AJ Allmendinger was the highest Ford finisher a year ago in this race (4th).
Ricky Stenhouse Jr., driver of the No. 6 Roush Fenway Ford Mustang in the NASCAR Nationwide Series, is coming off one of the most memorable wins in recent years when he blew an engine coming off turn four and teammate Carl Edwards hit him from behind. The result was Stenhouse getting pushed across the finish line first to win last weekend’s race at Iowa Speedway. Stenhouse, who also regained the points lead, spoke with Ford Racing earlier this week about the reaction to his second win of the season and his hopes for this weekend at Watkins Glen International. Stenhouse is scheduled to be in the infield media center at 1 p.m. today to further discuss tomorrow’s race.
RICKY STENHOUSE JR. – No. 6 Roush Fenway Ford Mustang – WHAT HAS THE REACTION TO THAT FINISH BEEN LIKE THIS WEEK? “It was crazy. We’ve done a bunch of media stuff and that’s all anybody can talk about. I did some radio interviews the other day and they kept asking about the last lap and the last couple of restarts, but I hadn’t seen it yet, so when I went back and watched it I thought, ‘Wow, I can’t believe that really happened.’”
WE’VE SEEN DAVEY ALLISON WRECK ACROSS THE LINE IN THE ALL-STAR RACE AND TERRY LABONTE WENT TO VICTORY LANE AT BRISTOL AFTER WRECKING AS WELL, BUT YOUR CIRCUMSTANCES WERE UNIQUE. “It was really unique and, obviously, we didn’t want to tear up two race cars, but it definitely gave a finish for the fans to remember and everybody to remember for a long time. At least I can say I was a part of it and we ended up on the good end of the deal.”
THE RACE WAS TELEVISED BY ESPN SO DO YOU THINK THERE MIGHT BE ANY SHOT AT WINNING AN ESPY NEXT YEAR FOR THAT FINISH? “That would be really cool because I watched the ESPY’s this year because Trevor was out there for his Daytona win, and I think that would be really neat to go out there and do that. Hopefully it’ll be best finish or whatever category it fits best under, but if we could go and do that it would be awesome because I enjoy every sport and that brings all of them together at one time. It would be cool to go out there and kind of hang out with people from different sports with different backgrounds.”
THAT CAPPED NICE COMEBACK IN THE STANDINGS BECAUSE AFTER DAYTONA YOU WERE MORE THAN 25 POINTS OUT OF THE LEAD. HOW HAVE YOU REBOUNDED? “We’ve really just had fast race cars. If it wasn’t for Kentucky and the fuel mileage race that we kind of lost out on, we were running second or third there and had to pit for fuel. If we didn’t have to do that, we would have five top fives in a row, but the crazy thing is we’ve got five top fives in a row and we’re still only leading by 12 points, so that’s just how tough this Nationwide Series is as far as getting points back. It just makes you realize you do not want to fall behind at any moment, so we’ve got to have good, consistent races at these road courses. Mike Kelley and I were sitting there in the trailer last weekend talking about the rest of the season and looking ahead, and we have some really good race tracks after we clear these road courses and that’s what we’re looking forward to.”
THIS IS YOUR FIRST TIME AT WATKINS GLEN. HOW DO YOU SIZE UP THE WEEKEND? “Realistically, I think we can finish top 10. Even though I’ve never been to Watkins Glen, watching it and playing it on some video games, I feel like it’s a race track and a road course that kind of suits my style. I like the faster corners like the esses going up the hill, so I feel like this road course is hopefully a little bit easier to get in a rhythm. There aren’t 14 corners and four miles in length like Road America, so, hopefully, I’ll be able to adjust to it pretty quick and get in a good rhythm and be in that rhythm for the rest of the weekend.”
DO YOU FEEL AT A DISADVANTAGE SINCE YOU MAIN CHALLENGERS, ELLIOTT SADLER AND REED SORENSON, HAVE CUP EXPERIENCE AT WATKINS GLEN? “Definitely. Anytime you can get seat time at a track it’s beneficial. I was just talking to Reed the other day and he’s been to Watkins Glen a lot, but he’s never been to Montreal. I’ve been to Montreal once and I bet Elliott Sadler hasn’t been to Montreal, so even though I’ve only been there once, it’s got to be a lot better than never being there at all. I’m sure they’ve been to Watkins Glen multiple times, so I feel like they’ll have an advantage this weekend, but I don’t see any reason why we can’t get the hang of it before the weekend is over.”
HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT ROAD COURSES IN GENERAL? “It’s definitely foreign to me, but, then again, it’s a lot of fun. Sometimes it gets frustrating just because you have some of these guys that come in and are just really, really good at it and it frustrates you when you can’t go up and run with them, but it’s a lot of fun still. It’s something new and something different and you always learn no matter what right down to the checkered flag, so I enjoy that.”
Marcos Ambrose has finished second or third in all three of his Watkins Glen starts at the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series level. Ambrose, who is still looking for his first NSCS victory, spoke to the media before today’s practice session.
MARCOS AMBROSE – No. 9 Stanley Ford Fusion – CAN YOU TALK ABOUT THIS WEEKEND? “I’m looking forward to it. We’ve had a tough month on the No. 9 Richard Petty Motorsports car, so we’re looking forward to having a really strong weekend here. We’re a contender, no doubt. We have done some testing earlier in the year for road course racing. We haven’t tested recently and really didn’t feel there was a need to considering the tire that we’re racing on here and the trouble that we had at Sonoma getting mislead by early testing and then racing a different tire. So I think we just have to be ready as best we can here to start practice. I like the format of the weekend. I think having practice today and getting ready for qualifying will keep me a little calmer. When you qualify on a Friday sometimes it’s quite a challenge to feel like you can use practice for getting ready for the race, you tend to get it ready for qualifying, so I think we just have to be smart here and tune the car as quick as we can. Hopefully, we’re close when we roll off the truck, but it’s gonna be a fun weekend for us and I’m looking forward to it.”
WHAT ARE THE DIFFERENCES BETWEEN THE TWO ROAD COURSES? “Sonoma is like a bullring – you’re in everybody’s face all day and you’ve got to try and knock them around to try and pass, you’re bouncing off curbs and the corners are short, the track is low grip and there’s not a lot of banking there in most of the corners, so it really is a difficult place to get around. You never use top gear, it’s all about low speed, forward drive and just trying to pass without damaging your car too much. This place is different. It’s more about finesse. You’re usually using third or fourth gear a lot around this place, so it’s really about managing tires, about carrying momentum around the whole track. You don’t need to be perfect on getting the throttle down, you just need to carry a lot of momentum through the corner. I like this place, but I like Sonoma too. They’re both very unique as far as road racing goes and I think it’s a good balance we have in NASCAR between the two.”
WHAT’S IT LIKE THE LAST 5-6 LAPS HERE? WHEN DO YOU BECOME MARCOS AMBROSE RATHER THAN TRYING TO PLAY TO THE END AND PLAY IT CAUTIOUS? “Part of my problem has been that I’ve been Marcos Ambrose from the start of the race and I wear my brakes and gear box out, so you really have to manage your stuff for the first half of the race and give yourself a chance at the end. Everybody picks up again at the end of the race because you have to. This is NASCAR. This is serious business. Late cautions bunch up the field and you know every position counts, so you have to be super-aggressive. It’s no different here or Martinsville or Daytona. The end of the races are the most frantic part of the day as it should be. Road racing traditionally is different. Standing starts and getting off the line is normally the most important thing and then the race sort of settles down and you can manage it. In NASCAR, the way the race is really run it builds up to a frenzy at the end, so I’m very conscious of just looking out for my brakes and gear box and getting ourselves to that last section of the race in good position and just seeing what you can do. You’re up against the best drivers and they know what to do and they know how to get you out of the way if you give them a chance, so it’s aggressive – dangerous as far as getting in accidents and incidents and spinning off and losing track position – so the end of the race is all about 100 percent. The first half of the race you still drive aggressively and keep track position, but you’re trying to manage your stuff.”
BEFORE SONOMA THERE WAS A LOT OF TALK ABOUT WHAT HAPPENED TO YOU THE YEAR BEFORE. DID THAT BOTHER YOU AND DO YOU WISH THAT WOULD HAVE TOTALLY BEEN AVOIDED AND COMING INTO THIS WEEKEND THERE’S TALK ABOUT HOW YOU SHOULD CONTEND TO WIN. DOES THAT AFFECT YOU? “It’s actually been fairly low key this week, which has been nice. We had a lot of build-up to the Sonoma race. Stanley had a huge program with $1 million to win for sick kids, plus the pressure of losing last year’s race, so there was a lot going on. I don’t think it necessarily affected me, but it was added responsibility during the week. Here, you’ve just got to run the race. We’ve finished no worse than third here, I think. I’ve finished no worse than third in my three tries, so, naturally, you want to win and you want to win badly, but I don’t think there’s any added pressure this weekend. I actually felt more relaxed when I came here this week because I know what I need to feel from the car and I know what I need to do to be a contender.”
IS IT BETTER TO BE IN THE SPOTLIGHT? “If you’re in the spotlight it’s good job security, no doubt. Yeah, I want to be talked about. I want to be up here every week if I could, but it’s a tough sport. We’ve got a chance to win. I feel good about standing up and driving my team forward on weekends like this to give ourselves some confidence and some inspiration to keep lifting our game. As a driver, when you’re in contention to win like this you have a leadership role to try and carry that forward and I’m looking forward to the opportunity.”
HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT MISSING THE NATIONWIDE RACE AND WHY AREN’T YOU IN IT? “I’m gonna go fishing. I don’t really want to be here on Saturday to watch someone else win my race. I’ve won it three years in a row, so I’m very disappointed I didn’t get a chance to do it, but I think it’s a combination of the economy and just bad timing. I had opportunities to do it, and we worked hard with RPM to put a team together and a sponsorship package together and it just didn’t work out. We were pretty close, but it just didn’t play out. We’ll just try to forget about watching the Nationwide race. Whoever wins I’ll congratulate them, but I want to be a long ways away from the track because it’s a race I wanted to do and thought I had another chance to win.”
WHEN YOU FIRST SHOWED UP YOU WERE LIKE THE TASMANIAN DEVIL AND PUSHING GUYS OUT OF THE WAY. THIS SEASON YOU SEEM TO BE LOOKING BIGGER PICTURE AND IT SEEMS YOU’VE CHANGED YOUR MINDSET TO FOCUS ON THE OVALS. IT LOOKS LIKE YOU’RE LESS AGGRESSIVE OUT THERE. TRUE? “No, maybe I’m just a bit smarter. The first year here I was racing for the Wood Brothers and I was trying to make an impression so I could get an opportunity in the Cup Series, so you naturally drive differently than what you do when you’re in the main game full-time, so I was not really caring about a result the first year here I just wanted to look good so I could get an opportunity like I have today. As you mature in racing and in the Cup Series you’re working with other drivers on the race track all year, not just one weekend, so, naturally, you have to keep in mind that if you rough them up here, they’re gonna get you back somewhere else. We’re racing for points and we’re racing for success for Stanley and DeWalt and everybody else involved with our program over there at Richard Petty Motorsports, so you naturally have to balance everything out. This sport doesn’t help the meek. If you’re not aggressive and you’re not after it, you’re not gonna last very long, so I wouldn’t say I’ve changed my style, I may have just gotten smarter at it.”
HOW SURPRISED ARE YOU SOMEBODY DIDN’T ASK YOU TO DRIVE FOR THEM HERE WITH THE SUCCESS YOU’VE HAD HERE IN NATIONWIDE? “They did, but I just wanted to do it the right way. I wanted to do it with Richard Petty Motorsports and wanted to field a car to do it that way. I think it was the right thing to try to do and it just didn’t work out. We’ll look at it again. There are plenty more races, big picture stuff, and I’m excited about the Cup race. At the end of the day, the Cup race is what pays and what really keeps us all going. To do a Nationwide race would have been great, but we didn’t want to make it mess with our Cup program.”
WHO IS THE BEST ROAD RACER OUT HERE NOW? “Me not included, I guess? Because I’m gonna say me, right? There are a bunch of them. Kurt Busch did an incredible job at Sonoma and he finished second here last year, just an incredible driver no matter where he goes. Tony Stewart is the same, Jimmie Johnson, Jeff Gordon – those guys really stick out to me. AJ Allmendinger, my teammate, he finished fourth here last year. Carl Edwards has beaten me quite a lot up in Montreal, so there are a lot of great drivers. There is no guaranteed success. At this level, you’ve got Juan Montoya who won it last year. I didn’t even think about him, so the talent is deep and any one of those guys I mentioned could win and you wouldn’t be surprised on Sunday, and there are probably 10 more that you could mention. I don’t think you have to rely on who is the best out there to win the race, it’s like who has the best combination on the day, who has the best setup, who has the team around him, who has good pit stops, who has track position, how does the caution fall and who has the right luck, so there are a lot of talented drivers here in road racing. Don’t kid yourself, it has been years and years since a road race ringer has challenged for the victory. It’s been years. Since I’ve been here it hasn’t happened.”
Matt Kenseth, driver of the No. 17 Crown Royal Ford Fusion, is sixth in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series standings and trails leader Carl Edwards by 26 points. Kenseth, who is one of five drivers with two or more NSCS wins this season, spoke about the race this weekend at Watkins Glen before practice.
MATT KENSETH – No. 17 Crown Royal Ford Fusion – HOW DO YOU LIKE WATKINS GLEN? “I like Watkins Glen a lot. Everybody always lumps the two road courses together, but they’re really totally different so I enjoy racing here. The challenge that comes with it is that it drives a lot different than Sears Point. It drives more like a big track and is usually a little less crazy than Sears Point, a little less bumper cars because there’s a bit more room to move around and pass, so I always look forward to it.”
DO YOU THINK A ROAD COURSE SHOULD BE IN THE CHASE? “There are only two road courses throughout the year, and that’s less than 10 percent of what we do, so I don’t think it does. I don’t think, if you asked somebody what they think about NASCAR racing, I don’t think road courses would be near the top of their list. I don’t think that’s really what we do every week. It’s kind of a novelty and it’s fun to come and do because it’s something different and changes the pace up, but I don’t think it really needs to be in the Chase, but that’s just my opinion.”
HOW ARE THE TWO ROAD COURSES DIFFERENT? “Sears Point reminds me of Martinsville and Watkins Glen reminds me of Michigan. It’s just totally different. It’s a lot faster at Watkins Glen, a lot more momentum and a lot more room to move around and pass. It’s just a lot different track.”
ARE THE INTERMEDIATE TRACKS MORE TO YOUR LIKING? “I enjoy racing up here. I enjoy this track, but I think I’m probably a little better at a place like Michigan. Michigan is more like what we do every week. It’s a track that’s always been pretty good for us over the years, so that’s one I look forward to probably more just because I feel like I can contribute more there than I do at a road course.”
HOW IS YOUR TEAM SET UP FOR THE CHASE? “If I look at an average of the last five weeks, I don’t feel like we’re probably in quite as good a shape as far as performance and finishes that we were maybe the five weeks previous to that. We know we need to pick up our performance a little bit on the race track and on pit road. I think we need to pick it up a little bit to be a serious contender down the stretch, but we’re in pretty good shape in the points right now. Hopefully, we get a couple more solid finishes to get in the Chase and, at the same time, elevate our performance a little bit.”
ARE THE ROAD COURSE RACES MORE LIKE WILD CARD RACES THAT ANYONE CAN WIN? “Really, there have been a lot of races like that this year. I don’t think anybody can win at these places. Strategy plays a big role and fuel mileage and it’s been that way at a lot of places here lately, but certainly I think there’s a little bit of a special skill set to do really well at these places, but I will say that the cars are closer to the same and it seems like everybody is getting a little bit better at it throughout the years.”
WHERE DO YOU WANT TO BE ON THE FINAL RESTART HERE? “I think you obviously want to be in the lead. You want to lead pretty much everywhere on the final restart, even the plate races now with the two-car drafts.”
WHICH LANE WOULD YOU CHOOSE? “Heck, I don’t know. I’ve never been close enough to lead here to worry about that (laughing). I’ll see what everybody else does first. You probably want to be on the bottom because people always out-brake you there, but I don’t know if it matters a lot. Turn one is pretty wide.”
RICKY STENHOUSE JR. INFIELD MEDIA CENTER PRESS CONFERENCE TRANSCRIPT
RICKY STENHOUSE JR. – No. 6 Roush Fenway Ford Mustang – HOW WAS YOUR WEEK? “Last week was a lot of fun. We obviously got the win, which we needed as a race team. We’ve been running pretty strong here the last month or so and to finally get another win was really cool for us. Coming into this week, I haven’t had any laps here at Watkins Glen before, so I’ve been playing a lot of video games and some iRacing, trying to just get familiar with the track. David and I got to go test the Grand-Am car in Kershaw, South Carolina to kind of get used to it and this morning I got some laps in it and kind of picked up the track pretty good, I think. It’s a really fun road course. I really enjoy it and I’m looking forward to getting in our Nationwide car here pretty soon.”
WAS THIS WEEKEND THE LOW POINT FOR YOU A YEAR AGO? HOW DID YOU GET THROUGH THAT? “This weekend last year I had a lot of fun. I went and drove a sprint car at Black Rock Speedway and finished second and had a lot of fun doing that, but the lowest point was probably Nashville. This wasn’t one that I just hated to miss because obviously I’m not an expert on these road courses, but, then again, it’s tough watching anybody drive your car.”
DOES KERSHAW HAVE SOFT WALLS? HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT TESTING AT PLACES AFTER KESELOWSKI’S ACCIDENT LAST WEEK? “There are really no walls there. There is a lot of run off room, so it was a pretty good track to go test at. I’ve tested at Road Atlanta and had pretty good success testing there. I think it helps testing on any road course, so I’m fine without the SAFER walls.”
Carl Edwards, driver of the No. 99 Scotts Ortho Ford Fusion, has a nine-point lead in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series point standings heading into this weekend. Edwards sat on the pole for this event last year before finishing fifth. He came into the WGI infield media center after Friday’s final practice to talk about his hopes for the weekend.
CARL EDWARDS – No. 99 Scotts Ortho Ford Fusion – CAN YOU TALK ABOUT THIS WEEKEND? “I love racing here. This is a fun weekend. It’s one I’ve looked forward to for awhile. Our Nationwide car is really fast. The Cup car seems pretty fast. It’s not near as fast as Marcos. He’s screaming fast, but he was nice enough to talk to me a little bit in practice and give me some pointers, which I think helped, so this place is great. Weather is nice today. I hope it holds out for good weather on Sunday, but either way we’ve got two great races.”
HOW DOES MONTREAL COMPARE TO SONOMA AND WATKINS GLEN? “If I were to place all the tracks on a scale, if we just talk about braking, right off the bat Montreal is twice as hard on the brakes as any of these other race tracks we go to. It has long straightaways, stop, right-left, long straightaway, stop, right-left, it’s a very taxing race track on the brakes. It’s unlike any other track I’ve ever driven on, so that one is different. Sonoma is very slick, it’s a momentum race track. It’s a finesse race track and this place is somewhere in between. Watkins Glen has some areas, like the esses, where you really have to finesse it through there, but then it has a couple of really hard braking zones that are tough, too. It’s fun to get to run these road courses. There’s a lot of driving going on. Even when you’re driving by yourself, you’re really driving hard and that’s fun. It’s neat to be a part of.”
WHY DO YOU THINK THE TRACK RECORD TIME WAS BROKEN BY SO MANY GUYS IN PRACTICE TODAY? “It does feel like the cars are a little faster. I don’t know if there’s anything different with the tire or not, but it seems like the cars just have a little more grip, a little more speed. It seems like it’s that way every time we come back to race tracks, we go just a little bit faster, but I felt like a lot of the guys were fast. Like you said, there were a lot of fast cars, but not just fast, it seems like Marcos is really fast. Kurt seemed really fast and Montoya was fast, and then there were a lot of cars about the same speed, so it’s gonna be a pretty tough race back there if you’re not one of those front guys.”
CAN YOU TALK ABOUT MARCOS AS A ROAD COURSE RACER AND WHAT DID HE TELL YOU TODAY? “He’s phenomenal. He’s an unbelievable road course racer. I would say that if he were to go run Formula One, in the right equipment, he could be a threat for the world championship. I think he’s that good. One of the neatest road races in my life was that road race in Montreal when it was drying up and we were both on rain tires and we got him in the last corner. That was huge for me, but he is due to win one of these Cup races any time. He is the fastest car here this weekend and he just told me his braking points. How he was shifting. The corners that he gave priority to and I hope he’s telling me the truth because I’m relying on that information out there.”
ARE YOU TRYING TO SHUFFLE HIM OFF TO F1? “Yeah, that would help us out a lot if he would go run Formula One, actually (laughing), but, I’m telling you, he his very, very good. I’ve had the chance to work with him on the prototype deal that I crashed before the race started, but we went testing together and I got to see his data and talk to him in-depth about how he drives. It’s amazing.”