Ford Performance NASCAR: Stenhouse and Kurt Busch Daytona Q&A Sessions

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Ford Notes and Quotes

Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series (MENCS)

Coke Zero 400 (Daytona International Speedway; Daytona Beach, FL)

Thursday, July 5, 2018

 

 

Ricky Stenhouse Jr., driver of the No. 17 Fifth Third Bank Ford Fusion, is the defending winner of this weekend’s Coke Zero 400.  Stenhouse, who is 16th in the current Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series standings, held a press conference this afternoon in the media center.

 

RICKY STENHOUSE JR., No. 17 Fifth Third Bank Ford FusionWHAT WILL IT TAKE TO WIN AGAIN HERE?  “I wish we made Victory Lane the last time we were here.  That would have been awesome, but it’s always cool.  Being at Talladega earlier this year and trying to defend the win from the year before is always fun and came up a few spots short at Talladega, but felt really good about our car.  We felt really good about our car here in the 500.  They’ve made a few changes to the package, but I still feel like our Fifth Third Ford will be strong enough to do what we need to do and hopefully get it back into victory lane here and defend this race win in July.  It’s a great opportunity for us.  We’re still kind of battling there points-wise for 16th and that’s something that we’ve been focused on and have kind of slipped the last couple weeks even though we’ve probably had our better runs at the two tracks we’ve struggled at, but a win would go a long ways.”

 

DO YOU EXPECT RESPECT TO GO OUT THE WINDOW THE LAST COUPLE OF LAPS HERE WITH SO MANY GUYS NEEDING A WIN AND/OR POINTS TO GET IN THE PLAYOFFS?  “I think respect kind of goes out the window at the end of every race.  We all want to win and here at Daytona there’s so many options and so many different things and ways the race can play out.  You might think you have it and then all of a sudden you don’t, but I think that goes all the way back through the field.  For us, if we can come in here and gain 30 or 40 points on the guys that we’re racing for 16th, then we go into Kentucky next week and all of a sudden we’re inside looking at the Playoffs instead of from the outside.  We all go as hard as we can here on these last few laps at the speedways and generally there’s a reason why there are always wrecks at the end because we know it’s a good opportunity for us to win.”

 

ANY GLIMMERS OF HOPE THAT THINGS ARE IMPROVING WITH YOUR CAR?  “We’ve had some tough conversations these last few weeks.  I think I’ve been pretty vocal in the shop and sometimes whether it be in an interview or on the radio probably when I shouldn’t, and I definitely need to respect all of our guys at the shop that are working hard and trying to provide new stuff for us.  We just haven’t got that new stuff as quick as what we wanted.  I think last week I got a little frustrated hearing other teams bringing new cars to the track and kind of seeing their performance have an uptick and then some of those cars we’re racing to get it the Playoffs, so that’s kind of where the frustration comes in.  We were able to somewhat salvage and OK day out of it after being really far off, I felt like, all weekend.  I told Jack that I didn’t think we’d finish inside the top 20 last week because just in practice that’s the way the car felt.  We got a better finish out of it than I thought, but we’re working hard.  We’ve got some things in the works it’s just not here right now.  That’s a bummer.  We’re hoping that we can get some new stuff soon.”

 

— KENTUCKY?  “No.  I wish.  It needs to be now, but, like I said, the process of getting something new and deciding what path you’re going to go down to make the cars better and faster you sit there and kind of get a group together.  It’s been nice having Matt kind of back up what we’ve been saying in our cars and trying to get us going down a direction of fixing that, so it’s been good having him there.  Even when he’s not in the race car he’s still a part of our meetings and still looking at my race notes from Sonoma even though he didn’t race and the same with Chicago.  We’ve been talking a lot of what we need for our cars to be faster, so that’s been a huge positive.  But you’ve got to get in that room, figure out what you want, and then you’ve got to design it and then you’ve got to get it approved and then you’ve got to put it in production to get it to the race track.  It’s not as quick as what I want it to be, but we’ll see.  Hopefully, it’ll be good things to come.”

 

WHAT MAKES THE DAYTONA FANS DIFFERENT AND WHAT MAKES THIS RACE DIFFERENT?  “I think this race weekend is always special.  It’s kind of weird with the Fourth of July being yesterday versus on the weekend of Daytona, but it’s still that patriotic weekend that you feel the atmosphere around this race track and people all throughout Daytona.  For a racer, Daytona is special no matter what.  The Supercross guys think it’s special.  We think it’s special.  The road course guys back when I raced go-karts and came down, even though I didn’t race inside of this track, but Daytona kart week was always special, so anytime you can win or be a part of a race here at Daytona that’s something that you dream about doing and then obviously pulling in to that victory lane is unlike any other.  That’s something we all strive for.”

 

SINCE MATT CAME IN HAS THERE BEEN ANY NEW INFORMATION THAT MIGHT HELP IN THE FUTURE?  “I don’t know.  Matt’s experience is good.  I think he drives our cars and it doesn’t drive anything like he was used to driving before he came over, so that’s the feedback I like to hear is the things I’m complaining about in our race cars and then when he comes and says, ‘Hey, our race cars didn’t drive like that.’  So there’s potential.  I know that if I can get my car driving like I want or like what he had, there’s speed in that.  That’s been nice, more for me to kind of say, ‘Hey, am I asking the car to do something it shouldn’t or is that something that I really need?’  I think he’s kind of validated that that’s something that we need.”

 

WHAT HAS IT BEEN LIKE HAVING TREVOR BACK IN THE CAR?  “It’s been good.  I think Trevor, after he sat out, I have been through this same exact thing in the Nationwide Series back in 2010, and you almost kind of come back with a ‘hey, I don’t really care what you think, I’m gonna tell you what I think and just get in and drive it’ and have like almost a whole different attitude about it.  I feel like he’s come in and given a ton of feedback, really confident in his feedback after listening and being around the track a little bit when Matt was in the car, being in our debriefs after the weeks that he wasn’t in the car, and hearing Matt talk about the same things that he talked about.  So I think he’s got some confidence that he was doing the right things and giving that right feedback.”

 

OUTSIDE OF THAT CONFIDENCE WHAT HAVE YOU SEEN IN TREVOR THESE LAST COUPLE OF WEEKS?  “These races are tough.  We’re not in a position to just run up through the field, so you’ve got to qualify good, you’ve got to have good practices, you’ve got to have good pit stops and you’ve got to execute well.  That’s something that I feel like we’ve been doing a really good job at on the 17.  I think Brian does a really good job of strategy calls in the race and it’s cool to see Trevor get into that mix and want to help make some of those calls after sitting on the outside watching kind of how the races play out.  I think he’s got an understanding of what he needs and how these races play out from watching on the sidelines.”

 

THOUGHTS ON KENTUCKY NEXT WEEK AND THE TIRE DRAGON BEING USED?  “It’s funny.  They used the tire dragon last week at Kentucky, which I don’t really know why you use the tire dragon at Kentucky.  You want the newest pavement you can at Kentucky, you don’t want pavement that rubber has been on.  It kind of confuses us, I think, as drivers when they use it, when they don’t use it or how they use it.  To me, I think the tire dragon should not be run on the first or second lane.  The third lane needs to be drug all the way to the wall.  It’s weird.  Kentucky and the new repaves you just get out of the groove and it’s so slick – kind of like Texas.  We all run the bottom, so we don’t need it drug on the bottom.  We’ll get that run in, so I think looking at Michigan we run semi the middle of the track throughout practice and then we work it down.  It just tends to never work up on the new repaves, so, for me, I like it if it would continue to run a little bit higher than what it has been.”

 

DO YOU VIEW SATURDAY AS THE BEST CHANCE FOR A WIN?  “Yeah, for sure.  I think we’ve got Daytona and I feel like Bristol – there are two tracks that we can still potentially win at, being able to go out and win a race.  Obviously, there are race tracks where things can play out.  I don’t think we have the speed at the mile-and-a-halves yet to go out there and win like we want to, so I think realistically when I go to those mile-and-a-halves I’m like, ‘Hey, let’s somehow manage a 12th-place finish,’ whether you get a couple stage points and you finish 15th and you’re averaging basically a 12th-place finish that’s what we look at when we go to some of those tracks, but Daytona definitely Saturday night is a really big opportunity for us, but for everyone else too.  There could be a team behind us that wins and then now we’re really further out of points because it catapults them up.  It’s all part of the system and you go and put yourselves in the best position you can.  Unfortunately, we’ve gotten more Playoff points than we did last year, but our finishes haven’t been as good, so it’s just trying to balance everything out, but definitely every point is pretty important for us.”

 

Kurt Busch, driver of the No. 41 Monster Energy/Haas Automation Ford Fusion, is seventh in the Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series standings.  The 2017 Daytona 500 champion talked about his current position and what he and his team need to do to reach Victory Lane.

 

KURT BUSCH, No. 41 Monster Energy/Haas Automation Ford FusionHOW WOULD YOU RATE YOUR TEAM AT THIS POINT IN THE SEASON?  “We are a very solid and competitive team each week.  We fundamentally do things well and we’re consistent.  One thing that I told Billy we should really work on with the 41 this year was to get stage one points and we’ve done that.  We have accomplished that goal.  I think last year I might have had single-digit points out of stage one.  This year, we’ve got a ton and that’s got us in the sixth to tenth range in overall power standings and just overall vibe of the 41 team.  We’re sixth to tenth and we know we need to do better, so this is now that second half of the year where we apply the learning process that we went through as driver/crew chief.  We both have good years of experience behind us and we have a great Stewart-Haas team right now with Ford, Roush Yates Engines and everybody that’s pushing all of the Stewart-Haas cars together.  We have to ramp up to that next step and you do that with teamwork and you do that with a lot of research too behind the scenes to look at numbers and predict better patterns for the races.  What I mean by that is we were a competitive car at Chicago.  We almost won stage two and then the second half of the race the car went awful tight and if we really jump into the numbers on things, Bill was with Danica last year and some of the race day notes aren’t as solid as they need to be when you’re trying to compete with guys like Kyle Busch, Kevin Harvick and Martin Truex Jr.  That’s that level that we’ve got to get to in the second half of this year.”

 

THIS IS THE LAST TRACK YOU’VE WON AT.  DOES THAT GIVE YOU CONFIDENCE COMING IN HERE THAT THIS IS THE RACE YOU TURN THE CORNER?  “I think we’re competitive everywhere.  I enjoy this part of the season like with Sonoma a few weeks ago.  Here we are at a restrictor plate race and all of the Fords are super-competitive.  The Fords are dominant on all of the restrictor plate races recently, so it’s a great chance to win.  Chicago was a good race for us with leading laps, but we have to finish the races stronger.”

 

WE HEAR ABOUT THE BIG THREE THIS YEAR, BUT ARE YOU ONE OF THE CANDIDATES THAT COULD MOVE INTO THAT GROUP?  “There’s to ways to look at the big three.  They’re being promoted weird by NASCAR or is it the fact that they have bonus points above and beyond the rest of the crowd.  I haven’t looked at the bonus point numbers, but I’m just assuming Kyle, Kevin and Truex have the most bonus points and if you have 30 bonus points on somebody that has two bonus points, you’re gonna advance much further because you already have a race on the guy.  So that’s what I think is going on is there’s a fourth car that doesn’t quite have as many bonus points as the rest and I haven’t looked at the bonus points to know who that next guy is in line.”

 WILL WE SEE SOME DIFFERENT KIND OF RACING HERE WITH THE DIFFERENT SPOILER?  “I hope that the wider spoiler allows us to have the side draft be more effective.  It was something that I was trying to let NASCAR know about and I’m sure some other drivers have as well is that the side drafting is not as effective right now and when you get on the right side of somebody it really makes that inside car very nervous and that’s part of the disrespect that I felt last week, so this spoiler change we’ll see how that plays into effect with the left side of the car.”

 

YOU TALKED ABOUT FINISHING RACES STRONGER, BUT YOU’VE BEEN IN THE TOP FIVE SO MANY TIMES.  DO YOU FEEL WITH A BREAK HERE OR THERE YOU ARE RIGHT THERE?  “You have to be in position and you have to be able to pounce when others have a miscommunication or a slow pit stop.  I mean, the 18 car wasn’t very effective in the first half of the race at Chicago last week.  The second half of the race, whether it was adjustments or the track came to them and his pit crew leapfrogged him above other pit crews and he put himself in position.  You can’t just expect to win if you’re running fifth with 50 laps to go, you have to execute.”

 

 

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