Ford drivers Marcos Ambrose, Greg Biffle, and Matt…
Ford Drivers Ready For Annual Labor Day NASCAR Race at Atlanta Motor Speedway
FORD FAST FACTS:
· Carl Edwards has three NASCAR Sprint Cup Series wins at Atlanta Motor Speedway and is the only current Ford driver to reach victory lane at the track.
· Marcos Ambrose is the only Ford driver eligible to win the $3 million Sprint Summer Showdown on Sunday night.
· Ford Racing has 30 NSCS victories at AMS, which is the fourth-highest total for the manufacturer at any current facility. Bristol ranks first (33) while Daytona and Michigan are next (31 each).
· The Wood Brothers are the winningest NSCS team at AMS with 12 victories.
Greg Biffle, driver of the No. 16 3M Ford Fusion, is still battling for a spot in the Chase field going into this weekend’s race. He spoke about his position and overall outlook before practice today.
GREG BIFFLE – No. 16 3M Ford Fusion – CAN YOU TALK ABOUT THE PASSION YOU GUYS HAVE FOR RACING? “You’re passionate about your career, your livelihood. It’s what you do for a living and what you’ve worked your entire life for. To put it in perspective, and it gets you to think about it a little different, we, technically, only perform or work 36 times a year. That’s what we’re graded on. That’s what makes our career or makes our season and when one of those goes astray from someone else’s doing, you get very excited about it. Number one, you’ve got a lot of adrenaline. You’re hot. There’s a lot of emotion involved and then for something to happen, that somebody you feel did something on purpose or their lack of judgment or whatever else, it really enrages you. That’s what we’re graded on. We work all year long. We do a lot of work outside the car, like what we’re doing right now (sponsor function), but our results and we’re put on that pedestal for 36 races a year and that’s how emotional it can get when one of those gets screwed up.”
WHY ARE YOU NOT GOING TO THE WHITE HOUSE? “First of all, I’ll start by saying that I’m disgusted by the comments I see, that people say we rejected or I can’t believe that Biffle rejected. For one, that’s disrespectful for people not knowing why I can’t go. Number two, I’ve got a picture of myself and the President, Barack Obama, in my bookshelf in my office right behind my desk shaking hands at the White House. I’ve been there and I’ve done that and I respect that. I was very flattered to get the invitation. I got the invitation less than two weeks ago to go and I’ve got a function that I’m obligated to be at with 3M in Minnesota that they’ve had planned for basically nine months. It’s an annual thing, but they have over one hundred-and-some of their business people and customers at that I go for two days. We arrive Wednesday morning early and I don’t get to Richmond until late Thursday night. I called them and talked about the invitation and this was very important to them because the function is designed around me and they really can’t have it if I don’t go. Unfortunately, the date conflicts with the invitation. First of all, define what rejected means. Does that mean I refuse to go? Or does rejected mean I can’t make it, I want to go but I can’t? It’s kind of discouraging to see those comments when somebody doesn’t know the circumstance. If I hadn’t been and hadn’t met him and shook his hand and been in the oval office with him before, I might try to chisel my sponsor a little harder to let me go, and I don’t want to put it on them, it’s simply I have an obligation that I accepted long before this. A lot of times we can move our schedules around depending on what it might be, but when you have people coming from other countries that are planning on meeting you and being with you for a day-and-a-half, it’s really hard to change that.”
IT’S YOUR SPONSOR. IT’S NOT LIKE THE GOVERNMENT SPONSORS YOUR CAR. “Business is business. If he had a business obligation, I’m sure he would uphold that business obligation. I’m very flattered for the invitation. I would love to go and it may be the last time I ever get invited. I don’t know when I’m gonna get invited next, so I’d take advantage of that. I’ve been to Walter Reed seven years in a row. Things like this are important to me, I simply have an obligation and it’s not like this is just an appearance. If I was going to do an appearance, we could move it a day or something. It’s a big event. We looked at the logistics of trying to shift the date and it just really doesn’t work.”
ARE YOU LOOKING AT THESE NEXT TWO WEEKS AS YOU HAVE NO PRESSURE? “Yeah. I could kick and scream and do all the things I’m gonna do and to be perfectly honest with you there’s nothing I can do about it. I learned in this sport a long time ago to look forward to the next week. You get wrecked, you had a bad run, you got a flat, you got a loose wheel, whatever happens it can eat you alive – it can eat you emotionally, personally, physically, it can just drain you, so I focus on the next week and focus on what’s at hand. What’s at hand is winning here. We led a lot of laps at Michigan. We kind of have an idea of what happened to our car. We want to come here and run like we did there and try and win this race. You never give up. Are we out of the Chase? Not mathematically, but more than likely for us to win two races in a row. We haven’t won this season yet, so those are some pretty high odds of maybe not getting that done. People will ask, ‘If you miss, what are you gonna do now?’ We’re gonna try to win the last 10 just as the same as we tried to win the first 26. It’s the same business.”
DO YOU START WORKING ON 2012? “You can experiment a little bit, but, at the same time, 13th in points is an important position – 14th-15th-16th – and there’s only so much we can do within our power. We can’t bring a different car, so we can try stuff with the suspension and whatever else and not worry about, ‘Oh, we missed it and finished 25th.’ We don’t really want to do that because we still have sponsors and fans and all that, but it gives us a little flexibility of trying some different stuff, but the most important thing for us is to win because if we go out and win two races here at the end of the season, people are gonna be talking about that and it’s gonna give us momentum going into the Daytona 500.”
WILL IT BE HARDER FOR THE CHASE GUYS AS FAR AS NON-CHASERS AND HOW THEY RACE? “You know what’s happened to our sport, partly, is the competition level. The bar has been raised so much on pit road, on getting track position on the track, on passing. It’s become so hard. You can’t race a guy differently. I am one that respects the guys that are in the Chase. I’ve always said that and I’m careful around them, to the point that I’m gonna race hard and race them fairly. That’s what I’m gonna do. I’m not gonna wreck them for a 21st-place finish.”
ARE GUYS RACING EACH OTHER HARDER FROM START TO FINISH? “I wouldn’t expect what’s gone on so far seems like it’s been fair for these first 26 races and I expect it to really be about the same. You’ve got to make it fair for everyone. At the same time, you’ve got to show a little respect for those guys that are in there. If a guy cuts down on you and isn’t clear by four or six inches, you probably need to give him a little room, but I do that with everyone. You can’t wreck a guy because he misjudged by a few inches.”
JEFF GORDON SAID HE THINKS GOODYEAR NEEDS TO COME WITH A SOFTER TIRE AT A LOT OF THESE TRACKS. “Yeah, I was a little critical of Goodyear after that Bristol race. The cars were loose in. I saw everybody driving them loose down in the corner and when they’re like that, you can’t get side-by-side, you can pass, you can’t race. A year-and-a-half ago there we had a great tire and it worked well, it was competitive and I think it was a good race. Granted, you always want to try and improve. They tried to improve and the tire wasn’t so good. Then they tried to improve that tire and it was the one that wore out in 30 laps, so then they went back to the one that wasn’t so good, instead of going back one more version to what really worked. Sometimes you go back and say, ‘Why did you change it?’ But I’m not gonna be critical of that because I understand you always try and make a better wheel. You’re always trying to make the wheel rounder or change the spokes in it or whatever you’re trying to do.”
HAVE YOU TALKED TO STU GRANT ABOUT IT? “No, but I will – not because of any reason other than I haven’t seen him – but I do tire tests and I give them straight opinions on what I think is going on. I didn’t think that last week was very competitive.”
WHAT ABOUT THE TIRES FOR THIS RACE? “I haven’t been out there yet.” DID THE TIRE GIVEUP HERE LAST FALL ENOUGH? “I really don’t remember, but I feel like it was. We don’t have problems right now. Our problem is gonna be when they repave all these places. That’s where our problem is gonna be.”
IF YOU DON’T MAKE THE CHASE WILL YOU PUT STUFF ON YOUR CAR TO SEE IF IT WORKS? WILL YOU BE MORE R&D? “That’s been talked a lot about, but the cars are so close in everything we do that there would be very few circumstances where that might pay off. We’re still gonna look at everyone’s setups, but I don’t see them coming to us and saying, ‘Hey, will you try this crazy front suspension geometry and see if it will work because we want to race it or try it.’ We have such good tools at the shop that we don’t have to do that at the track. So our technology away from the track has sort of thrown that out the window because a lot of times we know before we show up. Now, if I’m hauling butt at Chicago, they’re definitely gonna come and look at what I’m doing and put it in their car, just like we do here. If Carl is fast or Matt’s fast, we’re gonna be looking at what they’re doing. If I’m fast, they’re gonna be looking at what we’re doing, so that’s not gonna change.”
HOW DID THE DISCONNECT WITH YOUR SIMULATION PROGRAMS AND ENGINEERS GET FIXED? “It’s hard to put a finger on that because I don’t know that much about it. What we were doing wasn’t relating to the race track, so either you’ve got a number plugged in there wrong or some kind of calculation wasn’t actually coming out. You could still criticize anybody’s data or formula because it’s never perfect. It’s only as good as what the weather condition and the moisture level and the humidity and whatever the tire is gonna be for that particular day, so you can always be better.”
IT SEEMED YOU GUYS CLICKED ALL OF A SUDDEN. “For us, what a lot of it was – I remember Chicago was a turning point for us – we put a hybrid version of the RPM suspension and ours on our car. At the same time, we were starting to gain and make strides in our simulations, so it was kind of a combination. The thing is you’re always working this wheel every side. The engine is coming along, lower center of gravity, little better cooling, RPM front suspension stuff we got a gain from, simulation got better, the aero guys kept getting it better, we built our cars lighter – it all started to formulate into something where all of a sudden we were a little bit more competitive. But everybody else is doing the same thing and it’s sort of like making steps. People are constantly figuring stuff out.”
YOU COULD MAKE THE CHASE WITH JUST ONE WIN DEPENDING ON THE SITUATION, PLUS YOU HAVE THIS SMALL BUSINESS PROMOTION THIS WEEKEND. DOES THIS MAKE IT MORE FUN OR MORE STRESSFUL? “I think it makes it more fun because no matter how we slice the pie or how long we talk about it or wear it out, we came here for one thing this weekend – it’s the same thing we went to Bristol for and the same thing we’re going to Richmond for – to win. Nothing else matters except for that, and after that happens, then wherever the cards fall they fall. If we win, then we’ll look at the points and see how everybody else did. Then we’ll go to Richmond.”
Marcos Ambrose, driver of the No. 9 Stanley Ford Fusion, is one of four drivers with an opportunity to win $3 million in the Sprint Summer Showdown Sunday night. Ambrose was part of a press conference this afternoon that talked about his chances for finding victory lane.
MARCOS AMBROSE – No. 9 Stanley Ford Fusion – WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS GOING INTO THIS RACE? “It’s just an awesome opportunity to try and win $3 million. My charity is obviously with Richard Petty and the Victory Junction Gang Camp. I’m really excited about trying to win $1 million for them as well as the Sprint voter. This is my first race here for my team and we have an outside chance, but there’s no reason why I wouldn’t take the money if I get to victory lane.”
HAVE YOU TAKEN AWAY AN ATTENTION FOR MARK WEBBER IN AUSTRALIA? “No. It was great to get my first win, but, to be honest with you, we have absolutely nothing to lose here this weekend. If we can snag another win here and win $3 million, it’ll be a bigger story than Mark Webber in F1 for sure. Mark has done great. He’s a fantastic driver and a good friend of mine, so I’m not gonna steal any thunder from him. He deserves all the attention he can get, but NASCAR is definitely gaining a lot of awareness in Australia and winning at Watkins Glen helped a lot.”
Matt Kenseth, driver of the No. 17 Crown Royal Ford Fusion, has already clinched a spot in the NASCAR Chase for the Sprint Cup. He spoke about this weekend’s race and what lies ahead during his weekly Q&A session before practice.
MATT KENSETH – No. 17 Crown Royal Ford Fusion – YOU’RE GOING TO THE WHITE HOUSE NEXT WEEK. HOW SPECIAL IS THAT TO BE INVITED AND GO? “I’ve been fortunate to be there before and it’s pretty cool, especially the first time I got to go up there. I think it’s the most fun to go as the champion. In my opinion, it’s to honor the champion, so I’m going for Jimmie and NASCAR to help support him and congratulate him.”
THE ANNIVERSARY OF 9/11 IS COMING UP. WHAT DO YOU RECALL ABOUT THAT WEEKEND AT DOVER? “It was neat to go to Dover. I remember the week was a very odd week. Katie and I were actually camping up at our property in Wisconsin. We didn’t have a phone or anything up there, so we didn’t really know about it until it all happened. We were like everybody else. We were stranded in Wisconsin, so we ended up driving back because there was no air travel. About Tuesday or Wednesday, I can’t remember when they called it off, but I started getting pretty stressed out about if we could even make it to New Hampshire if we had to drive, so it was a weird week besides the tragedy and everything going on around it. There was certainly a lot of uncertainty across the country with air travel.”
WAS THERE A GREATER FEELING OF PATRIOTISM AT DOVER? “Yeah, there really was. It was neat to go back there and it was cool to see all the fans. It still doesn’t seem like it was 10 years ago. It doesn’t seem that long ago. We all watch TV shows and movies and read books about that kind of stuff, but you don’t really think it’s real or could really happen. Even though it’s been 10 years, it still doesn’t really seem real to a lot of us who weren’t there and part of it.”
WHAT WAS IT LIKE TO BE A PART OF SOMETHING THAT HELPED TAKE THE COUNTRY’S MIND OFF THE SITUATION FOR A LITTLE WHILE? “I don’t know that it really helped take your mind off of it, but I think it was good when everything got back started. They cancelled NFL football games and races. I think once everybody got back to doing some of that stuff it helped a little. Obviously, it doesn’t really help the people who lost loved ones, but I think for the country, you hate to say back to normal, but when things started going on that were normally supposed to be happening and gave them other events to go to or watch, I’m sure that was good for people.”
HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT THE SCHEDULE THIS WEEKEND? YOU DON’T HAVE PRACTICE AFTER QUALIFYING. “First of all, I don’t know who in the world came up with these track schedules this year, but they are just the goofiest thing I’ve ever seen. This place especially it’s gonna make it a little more difficult because today when practice gets over it gonna be as close as you get to race conditions, but that’ll be the fastest the track is and they line up qualifying order by how fast your lap is the first practice, so you’re gonna want to think about qualifying, and it’s a track we haven’t been to in a year or tested at, so it’s really unique. If I had it my way, and I was talking to Jimmy about it, we’d probably just work on race practice the whole time and just forget about qualifying. Get the best lap you can on qualifying day and wherever you start you start. It’s a four-hour race and the track is real wide. There are a lot of passing grooves out there, so qualifying is probably less important here than it is in a lot of places we go to. I think trying to hit that race setup that feels good is gonna be difficult to do, but it’s gonna be really important.”