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Matt Kenseth and Carl Edwards are both locked into & hellip;

Matt Kenseth and Carl Edwards are both locked into the 2011 Chase for the Sprint Cup championship while AJ Allmendinger is searching for his first career victory when a win could vault him in as a wild card. All three spoke about the weekend Friday.

Matt Kenseth and Carl Edwards are both locked into…

Kenseth, Edwards and Allmendinger Talk Chase at Richmond

AJ Allmendinger is 13th in points and knocking on the door of a Chase wild card spot heading into Saturday night. Allmendinger must win and have Dale Earnhardt Jr. or Tony Stewart fall out of the top-10. He can also snag a wild card spot by winning the race and finish higher in the points than Denny Hamlin if Brad Keselowski does not move into the top-10. It is a confusing scenario, with one basic concept. Allmendinger has to record his first career win tomorrow night to score the coveted spot.
  “Yeah, it is pretty simple. We have to win and get a little bit of help. We don’t have to worry about everyone else and where they are at points wise until you cross the finish line and unless we win it doesn’t matter.  I feel like over the last six weeks we have been getting stronger and kind of flying under the radar. Our last four finishes have been eighth, tenth, 11th and 12th. We have been right there. As a race team I feel like we are getting better. I feel like we had about three or four more races before the Chase started because I feel like we are starting to get there and be a contending race team. It is pretty simple. We go out there and try to win the race and let the cards fall where they may fall.”

  “I felt like at the beginning of the year we weren’t too bad and then we kind of hit a lull in the middle of the season. When we were off, we were really off. We had a couple of races where we finished like 25th and 27th or something like that. I felt like our consistency wasn’t where it needed to be and we struggled with that. I feel like the addition of Greg Erwin over the last six weeks we have been stronger and as the weekend goes on progress really well and we run a lot of laps in practice. I feel like during the race we run well. We are progressing better than we had been and I feel that as we keep getting stronger we are a 7th-8th to 13th place race team right now. Hopefully as we keep getting stronger, whether we make the Chase or not, we can take the last 10 races and contend inside the top-10 on a consistent basis. There are races coming up like Loudon and Dover that we have been really good at and maybe get a win. We are getting there but I wish we had a few more races before the Chase starts. The Chase doesn’t define our season. If we don’t make it, we can take those last 10 races and have a chance to run up front every weekend. If we get to Homestead and are a lot better than where we were last season, I will be happy with that.”

NOW THAT YOU ARE IN THE HEAT OF THIS WILD CARD THING, DO YOU LIKE IT?  “I wish we would go back to 12 guys. We are 13th in points and only like seven points out of it.  No, really I think it is cool for the fans and the drivers. Everybody has a shot and I am sure it will be played up really well on TV Saturday night. I think it is a good thing.”

DO YOU ANTICIPATE TAKING WILD CHANCES TOMORROW NIGHT?  “I think you have to just race normal. If there is a shot at the end of the race you are going to try it, but that is every race right now. It is hard to win one of these things. The way the races play out now, any little thing you can do to try to get yourself up front with how aero sensitive the cars are you are going to do it anyway. To make the Chase, you want to try to win at all costs, but for me I am not going to do anything crazy that is going to cost us a bad finish too. Whether you make the Chase or not you still have to focus on having a good finish and points for the rest of the season. If the opportunity is there to try to steal one we are definitely going to try to do it but it is not going to be, I guess doing real crazy things that could hurt us on the race track and not finish well.”

  “I think Mike Shiplett did a good job of getting the race team really organized. All our cars were well prepared and our people were well prepared. Mike had a good play. Greg brought experience. He is a race winning, championship contending crew chief. Just his experience level throughout the weekend. How the weekends are run. Changes made during practice. We are one of the race cars with the most laps every practice session now, which is good for me because I am still learning out there. During the races, the way he calls the races. He knows when to maybe take a big swing at it and when not to take a big swing at it, whether I want to or not. Overall I think it is just the experience he has brought and his mentality has been good for the race team and for me. I think the organization, especially on the 43 side of it, they were really close to Mike so I was nervous how they would take to the change but everyone has been really good of fitting in with the change and moving forward with the race team.”

Matt Kenseth is one of two Ford drivers to have already clinched a spot in the Chase for the Sprint Cup. Kenseth took time with media members Friday at Richmond International Raceway prior to practice.

WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON JEFF GORDON’S 85TH WIN AND TAKING SOLE POSESSION OF THIRD PLACE?  “Yeah, I guess you kind of knew it was inevitable. He is one of the sport’s greatest, certainly in our era. I think Jeff has done a ton for this sport and a ton for younger drivers. Even when I came in, I guess I was kinda younger and I still remember watching him come into the sport. It was a time when nobody was giving young drivers like him a chance to get to the Cup level and he paved the way for owners to take chances on younger drivers. He has done a lot for the sport and I still think he is the face of our sport right now. It was cool to see him get that win.”

DO YOU THINK ANYONE WILL EVER CATCH HIM OR CHALLENGE HIM FOR THIRD? “I have no idea. I don’t know where anybody else is on the win list. I know I probably won’t.”

WHAT DO YOU THINK OF THE ADDITION OF THE WILD CARD?  “I like it. I think it has been exciting. When they originally did the Chase there were only 10 drivers that made it anyway and I think 10 is plenty. To make the last two spots, 11th and 12th, it feels to me like a bonus. To have those guys race for it through a wild card format was a good idea. It seems to have spiced things up a little bit.”

HOW AWARE ARE YOU GOING TO BE WITH RESPECT TO WILD CARD GUYS AND WHERE THEY ARE ON THE TRACK. WILL YOU GIVE UP A SPOT TO A GUY TO MAYBE HELP HIM GET IN THE CHASE?  “No, I don’t think it will matter. Everybody has the same right to be out there and racing for wins and not everybody is racing for the win, but every race guys are racing hard, whether it is for a job or a sponsor or to move up in the points or position for a higher spot in the points. I think you race the same as every other week and try to give people room and respect every week but at the same time race them as hard as you can to get the best finish you can. I don’t think that will ever really change.”

WILL YOU PAY ATTENTION TO THOSE SPOTS TO SEE HOW THEY PLAY OUT?  “After it is over I will look at it. I don’t think when you are racing you pay much attention unless you are running the last five laps and there is a big straightaway and not much to do you might look up at the board to see if one of the wild card guys are winning. There are a lot of scenarios that I don’t know, so I don’t think I will think about it much until it is over.”

  “You are asking the wrong guy. Jimmy and the engineers and those guys keep pretty detailed notes. I don’t keep any notes. I look at their notes every week and I give them information after the races to build their notebook. They do all of that. I go through it with them but they do that. I don’t keep notes for every track anymore.”

THEY BRIEF YOU THEN AT THE START OF EACH WEEK?  “Yeah, usually on Monday we will go through the previous race and look forward to the next couple of races.”

WHAT ARE THE ADVANTAGES TO BEING IN A BIG TEAM AND TO WHAT EXTENT DO YOU SHARE INFORMATION?  “Things are a lot different than they used to be with these cars. There is more engineering stuff than there is off the old-school, stuff. There is less of that and more computers and things than ever. Having a big team, there are advantages to it certainly.”

Carl Edwards, driver of the No. 99 Kellogg’s Ford, has already clinched a spot in the 2011 Chase for the Sprint Cup. Edwards met with media members prior to Cup practice Friday at Richmond International Raceway to discuss the weekend ahead.

YOU ARE LOCKED IN, BUT I AM SURE YOU WOULD LIKE TO GET ANOTHER WIN TO GET SOME BONUS POINTS.  “Yeah, we would love to get another win. We have been running better here too lately so I am pretty excited about our chances on Saturday. I haven’t been in the Cup car yet but we’ve been working on some stuff and hopefully it works out here for this race tomorrow night. The Nationwide car is pretty fast and the track has seemed to have changed just a little since the last time we were here. The surface is just a little bit different and I think that is good. It has aged just a little bit more and I think it is going to be a good race.”

  “If it weren’t for the truck series my career would have been much different. I probably would have not ended up able to be racing in the Cup series. Mike Mitler is, I believe, has the longest running truck team in the Truck Series. To me, the Truck Series gives an opportunity to a lot of people. Guys like Mike Mitler who want to go out there and build race cars and race at places like Daytona, right out of their shop in Missouri. That is a heck of an opportunity for the owners and an opportunity for drivers. If you look at the guys that came out of Mike’s truck. Kenny Irwin, Tony Roper, Jamie McMurray, me, Allgaier drove that truck. A lot of people have driven just that one particular truck and it is because the Truck Series has historically been an affordable place for guys to go racing. I just saw that they are racing at Rockingham next year. Is that going to be something that the Cup guys are able to go to schedule wise?  That race, to me as soon as I saw it, I thought it would be cool to run that race. Maybe there are some opportunities for the Truck Series to go run at some race tracks that we don’t run at. There are a lot of neat race tracks out there. I remember growing up in central Missouri when they would come to Odessa, that was huge. I don’t know how many of you guys have been there, but if you brought the Truck Series to Odessa next season it would pack the house and people would love it. Same with places like ORP, Rockingham, all these tracks. I think it has a really bright future and people need to remember it is about guys like Mike Mitler and those type of guys that make up the Truck Series and hopefully there are a lot more opportunities for guys like myself.”

THERE HAS BEEN A LOT OF TALK TODAY ABOUT THE PROS AND CONS OF RUNNING DUAL SERIES’. CAN YOU TALK ABOUT WHY IT WORKS FOR YOU AND IF IT IS A DISTRACTION AT ALL TO YOUR CUP PROGRAM?  “It is the only thing I have ever done so it is very possible that next season when I cut back on the Nationwide series that we could do much better. I could perform better but I don’t know if that will be the case. For me, I see it as a positive thing. It has been seven years for me running both and the first couple of years especially I needed those races on Saturday. I needed the track time and to make the mistakes that I was making. Still lately, speeding on pit road, over-driving the car a little on Saturday’s. Those mistakes that I have made in the last month or two I feel like they have helped me to learn what I need to do for Sunday. There are days like today where I am running around back and forth in different cars. I mean, I woke up this morning and put the wrong uniform on. I don’t even know what is going on because I am running all over the place. I think some of these days, when I am not running the Nationwide series that it will be better. Obviously you can’t argue with Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson’s success through not running it. For me it has been a very positive thing. Hopefully I will do better next year, I just don’t know.”

HOW MUCH STOCK DO YOU PUT INTO MOMENTUM GOING INTO THE CHASE?  “I don’t know. It is 10 races and anything can happen in those 10 races. You can have some sort of problem or bad fortune or good fortune at any point in those 10 races and things can change in a hurry. Literally all the way up until the last lap of that race in Homestead, I am going to predict the championship will be up for grabs until the last lap at Homestead. With this points system and as competitive as everyone has been, I  just don’t see a favorite and I don’t see anyone on a real big run that they can’t be beat by one bad race. I think it is going to be an amazing championship run.”

CAN YOU TALK ABOUT ALL THE INFORMATION YOU COLLECT AS A RACE TEAM ABOUT DIFFERENT TRACKS AND HOW YOU CONTRIBUTE TO THAT?  “Each track is different. This one looks very simple but it is very complicated because of different vertical loading of the car through the transitions and different corners. As you go into turn one, the radius decreases and the banking picks up. Turn three and four are much different. The banking and the radius do a lot different changes in the corner in three and four. This track is very tough and there are a lot of things to learn and a lot of variable that could make a big difference. For instance, if we go run tonight in the Nationwide car and we learn some things then there might be something we can apply to the Cup car for tomorrow night. On a bigger scale, things that we learned at the last race we can apply now. Every time we go to a track we look at what worked and what didn’t work and try to use it going forward.”

HOW DO YOU WANT NASCAR TO OFFICIATE THIS RACE?  “They have a lot of confidence in us don’t they? I think they just need to let it go and let it be a race unless something is just outlandish or crazy they just need to let it go. I think there are so many different things that can happen in this race that it will be exciting to watch different strategies. I haven’t sat down to look at the points and what everyone has to gain or lose but there could be guys begging other guys for favors and really trying to get people to work with them. To watch all of that will be interesting.”

AS THE RACE PROGRESSES, HOW DOES IT CHANGE YOUR ATTITUDE? WHEN YOU ARE IN THE CAR, DO YOU FIND YOURSELF THINKING ABOUT STRATEGY DUE TO HOW OFTEN GUYS LEAD A TON OF LAPS AND DON’T WIN OR VICE VERSA?  “Yeah, you do. Last week in the Nationwide race as the laps wound down I thought it was great that we came from the back and had the fastest car but if a caution came up I had no clue what would happen. It seems like track position is more important and the races are more competitive. In the Cup series some of the races this year that have been surprise winners it feels like we were the ones that lost on that deal because we were running well enough that our hands were tied when the caution came out at the end of the race and we came and got tires. There is an opportunity for guys that are running 10th or 12th and you have nothing to lose you can stay out and gamble on strategy and that has worked for a lot of guys. I don’t want to take anything away from their wins, they earned those wins, but it is a different way or facing. The sport seems to be becoming more and more competitive and people are exploiting every opportunity to gain an advantage.”

YOUR BUDDY RANDY SAYS WHEN YOU GO BACK TO LAS VEGAS IN DECEMBER THAT YOU ARE GOING TO JUMP OFF THE STRATOSPHERE AGAIN. IN MARCH YOU SAID ANY MEDIA GUY THAT WANTED TO JUMP WITH YOU, THAT YOU WOULD PAY FOR THEM TO DO IT. DOES THAT STILL STAND?  “Yeah. If you want to go I would love to watch you jump off that thing (laughter). I will pay. Now are you going to use a rope or what? (laughter). It is fun. It is really neat. If you guys want to all take a trip over there I will pay if you guys want to jump off it. It is pretty neat. It is actually scary when you stand there. You are strapped to all the stuff but your heart will be pounding. Especially you Mulhern.”

CAN YOU TALK ABOUT YOU AND YOUR TEAM FINISHING OUT HERE AND HOW YOU ENJOY RACING AT THIS TRACK?  “Yeah, it is a fun track and this is a special weekend. We are going to do our best to honor all the folks that are serving and the ones whose lives were lost 10 years ago. I think there is no better place to do it. There are a lot of military personnel here and a lot of really intense NASCAR fans here and a lot on the line. This weekend has the potential to be one of the biggest weekends of the year. There couldn’t be a better place to do it. The track is great. It is fun to race on. I think all the drivers love it. For us, for our Kellogg’s team this weekend we would love to get a win. There would be no better way to head into the Chase than with a win.”

  “I was in school at the University of Missouri in Columbia and I came out of class and they had a television set up in the commons area and they were showing the footage of what was going on. I think like everyone I was very, very nervous about the scope of it and not knowing what would happen next. That is the think I remember most, just being scared that we didn’t know what was going to happen. To see how it ended up with so many people losing their lives, I think like all of America I felt an overwhelming sense of patriotism and desire to stick together as a country.”