Ford Performance NASCAR: Patrick, Reed and Custer Q&A Sessions From Auto Club Speedway

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Ford Performance NASCAR Notes and Quotes

Auto Club 400 Advance – Auto Club Speedway

Friday, March 24, 2017


Danica Patrick, driver of the No 10 Aspen Dental Ford Fusion, was part of a press conference today in which it was announced that Aspen Dental signed a multi-year partnership as the ‘Official Dentist of NASCAR.’  In addition, she answered some questions about various issues within the sport and this weekend’s race at Auto Club Speedway.

DANICA PATRICK – No. 10 Aspen Dental Ford Fusion
– YOU WERE FINED A COUPLE YEARS AGO FOR WRECKING DAVID GILLILAND UNDER CAUTION AND LAST WEEK AUSTIN DILLON WRECKED SOMEBODY UNDER CAUTION AND DIDN’T GET FINED.  DID THAT UPSET YOU?  “Give me my money back.  I also got fined here last year for Kasey Kahne right-rearing me on the front straightaway at 215 miles an hour and I gave him this sign, and I got fined for that, too.  I think NASCAR makes a really big mistake of fining for some stuff, especially something that happens in the car because it makes for good TV – just like fights and all that stuff.  We can handle it.  I think it’s a mistake.  I might be speaking too much, but I’ve been fined a few times and I think that it makes for good TV and I think that we handle it out on the track ourselves.”

SO YOU LIKE THE FACT THAT THEY HAVEN’T FINED PEOPLE THE LAST COUPLE OF WEEKS?  “Yeah, I’d rather that be the standard.  I mean, what does that really do?  I’m not gonna not go on vacation.  I would actually rather know what it did.  I would actually love to see like the playground that got built for it, or homeless people that got food.  I would like to see actually what the money does for fines because it’s supposed to go to charity, right?  So what does it really do?  I would like to see that.”

WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ABOUT RACING HERE AND AT THE UPCOMING SHORT TRACKS?  “I think what happens at the short tracks for me as that while I have spent a lot of time over 200 miles an hour in an Indy Car, it’s more traditional passing on short tracks and that falls more into the road course background of setting the pass up, timing it right, getting inside of them – all the things that it takes – whereas on a mile-and-a-half or a bigger track you just carry momentum through the corner and you’ll be two, three, four-wide and it’s all fine.  So I think that’s what happens with the short tracks, especially the ones where you run the bottom like a Martinsvillle.  Then I think to like a Bristol, and I have had some good results at Bristol and some good races going, but we do run at the top, so I think anytime where there’s a traditional pass being made, for me, it’s familiar and it’s comfortable.  And I think usually when that’s the case too, it requires you to be disciplined to hit the line every time, so something else that I think plays into my strengths is the discipline and the focus of not making the mistakes.  I think that helps me, too.  But, then again, I’ve had great races at Fontana.  It’s probably one of my better tracks.  I feel like there’s been a lot of races where I’ve been in the top-15 and getting stronger as the race goes, so hopefully this weekend is a good race for me at Fontana.  I would love to do that in the Aspen car and love to just have a good race.  At the end of the day, what I said at the beginning of the year is that I want to do this and have fun, and when you do well you have fun, so, hopefully, it’s a good race.”

Ryan Reed, driver of the No. 16 Lilly/American Diabetes Association Ford Mustang, is competing at his home track this weekend.  The Bakersfield, CA, native is third in the NASCAR XFINITY Series point standings with one victory in the season-opening event at Daytona International Speedway.

RYAN REED – No. 16 Lilly/American Diabetes Association Ford Mustang – “I think the whole NASCAR Goes West swing has been awesome.  I think over the last few years you’ve seen NASCAR really push it out and fans get excited about it, but, for me, the west coast being home for me is really, really cool.  I get to see a lot of friends and family, especially when we come here to Fontana, but this week they kept me busy.  Tuesday, I went and toured the Miller Coors facility in Colorado and that was unbelievable.  They took good care of me.  That’s the first appearance I got to drink beer at, so that was cool, and it was just a really cool way to spend a travel day on Tuesday heading out here.  Wednesday, I actually went to a school in Rancho Cucamonga and that was really cool.  I got to hang out with kids and talk about racing and I think, for me, some of the coolest things that I’ve gotten to do, appearances I’ve got to do are hospital visits and schools and talking with kids about pursuing your dreams in racing – for me they were racing.  I met a kid with Type I Diabetes and she was really excited, so that was cool.  Anytime I get to meet a fellow Type I Diabetic it’s really neat and share a lot of experiences, so that was cool.  I had a really good week and I got to see a lot of family.  I got to hang out with people that I only get to see but once or twice a year, so it’s been a good week.”

FORD HAS A SIMULATOR PROGRAM WHERE YOU CAN PREPARE AHEAD OF COMING TO THE RACE TRACK.  DO YOU USE THAT TOOL?  “Yeah, Ford built a pretty state-of-the-art simulator.  I think most of the manufacturers have them now, but Ford built theirs a couple years ago and I’ve been on it quite a bit.  It’s not a weekly thing.  It’s not something where every week you have Wednesday at 11 o’clock where you go prepare.  It’s not quite like that, but you may go and do four or five tracks in one day and you’ll be in the simulator for six or seven hours, do four or five tracks, go through a bunch of stuff and then two months later you go in and do another four or five tracks.  Sometimes we go in and work on one specific problem or one specific area that you feel you need to work on, so it just depends.  I think, for me, what I really try to ask for are the tracks I struggle at, so I feel I can get a lot better at Bristol and Dover, so those are the tracks I always push really hard to get on and spend as much time on there as possible.  I feel like any laps around those places I can get will help, so it’s really cool and it’s great to see Ford make that investment into the sport and just one more tool to be able to help us.”

WHAT IS THIS TRACK LIKE FOR YOU?  DOES IT MATTER WHERE YOU START?  “I do think qualifying matters here.  I think because tires are not necessarily an issue because I love that we’re able to have tire wear and stuff like that, but tire management is key around this place.  So if you can start up front and manage your day a little better and really kind of just be able to conserve tires from the word ‘go’ it’s gonna be big, so I think qualifying we definitely try and put an emphasis on that around this place, but this place is awesome.  It’s been if not my favorite track, one of my favorite tracks.  The style of racing here, where you can run all the way down by the grass or all the way up at the boards or right on the wall is a lot of fun, and it changes throughout a run, so I think that, for me, some of my favorite race tracks are where you may start a run on the bottom and then move up or you just kind of have to search for grip all day.  That makes the race track really fun and makes it fun to watch because throughout a run you’ll see a guy that might be dominant early in the run fade later in the run, so I think that’s what creates passing.  This track really promotes that and it’s just a great race track and also it’s home for me, so I get to have 100 friends and family in the stands that are cheering me on.”

HOW CONCENTRATED IS YOUR TEAM ON THE PLAYOFFS AFTER YOUR WIN IN DAYTONA?  “You’re always going for a win.  I think we definitely want to rack up as many as we can get, but we also know we’re in a unique position to be locked into the playoffs and if we want to go try something – Phoenix last weekend we got to take a lot of notes.  I didn’t think we were that good, so we have to learn from that and say, ‘OK, in the playoffs we need to be better,’ but also too we were in a great position to where we can go for wins, but if we don’t get the win that day – if we struggle – there’s still a great amount of confidence with our team.  We are locked in.  We know that we started the year off really strong and backed up our win with a top-10 at Vegas, so we’ve got a lot of confidence right now and having a ton of fun with all the guys.  I’m just enjoying it because it’s tough to get a win in the XFINITY Series as we all know with racing against Cup guys on a lot of weeks, so it can be few and far between and when you do get a win and you do get locked in, enjoy it and hopefully we have more wins to come in the near future and I would love to get my first win at my home track here in Fontana.”

HOW KEY IS IT TO COMMUNICATE WITH YOUR CREW TO MAKE THE RIGHT ADJUSTMENTS DURING THE RACE?  “It’s huge.  I felt like we had a top-10 for sure, and maybe a top-5 day going here last year.  I had probably the best race car I’ve ever had in my career.  If there was one race I could re-do from a year ago it would be that one, and we had a pit road penalty that cost us our day.  We got trapped a lap down and never got to overcome it.  I think we’ve all seen in this sport the last few years that pit stops become more and more and more important and there’s no room for error.  I’ve got to be on the top of my game and hit pit road perfect and execute perfectly and my guys have to as well.  My crew chief has to make good calls on top of the box, so if we go in there and have a no-mistake day tomorrow, I think we’ll have a good day and if we’re really on top of it this weekend, we can contend for a win.  I’m really excited to be here and excited to get back on track here.”

Cole Custer, driver of the No. 00 Haas Automation Ford Mustang, is another native of California who is returning to his home state for this weekend’s race.  Custer is currently 12th in the NASCAR XFINITY Series and answered questions from the media before today’s practice session.

COLE CUSTER – No. 00 Haas Automation Ford Mustang – HOW DOES IT FEEL TO BE BACK HOME?  “I’m really excited.  I’ve never raced here before, so it’s gonna be exciting just getting on the track and for a home town feeling, so that will be cool.  I think we’ve had some pretty solid Haas Automation Mustangs to start the year off.  Every race I feel like we’ve had a good-enough car for a top-10 and hopefully we can start out good this week and have a solid race.”

HOW DID YOUR MEETING GO THIS MORNING WITH NASCAR AND AUSTIN DILLON, AND ARE YOU OK WITH HIM NOT GETTING FINED?  “Yeah, it went really good.  We both have things that we wish we would have done different in the moment, but it is what it is and we’ll just try to move on from it.”

EVEN THOUGH YOU HAVEN’T RACED HERE BEFORE, HAVE THE PREVIOUS RACES HELPED PREPARE FOR THIS PLACE AND ARE YOU PLANNING ON GOING TO IRWINDALE SPEEDWAY TOMORROW?  “Yeah, a lot of things translate from track-to-track, especially on your mile-and-a-half races for here.  I think we’ve been pretty solid on those races, so we’re looking forward to seeing what we have unloading here.  I think we should be pretty good.  We’re pretty confident and now it’s a case of getting me used to the track because I’ve never been here before.  I don’t have any plans to go to Irwindale.  I wish.  We’ve been pretty busy, but if I can try to get over there, I will.”

WILL YOU GET HELP FROM SOME OF YOUR CUP TEAMMATES WITH THIS PLACE?  “Yes.  I talked with Kevin Harvick this morning and tried to get as much as I could from him because he’s definitely one of the best here.  That will definitely help me a ton.  I feel like he’s gonna help me a ton just with those first laps on the track because I’ll know where I want to be.”

WHAT WAS GOING THROUGH YOUR MIND LAST WEEK WHEN THE INCIDENT HAPPENED AND HOW MUCH ANXIETY DID YOU HAVE LEADING UP TO THE MEETING TODAY?  “I pretty much got a good run off of four and I probably got in a half car length too deep and the second I hit the brakes the back end just got real light and I couldn’t hit the brakes anymore because it was trying to come around.  I just got in there way too deep and took him out pretty much.  It was a mistake and I wish I didn’t do it.  I didn’t have too much anxiety coming into it because I didn’t think we were on bad terms, really, but just with what he said on Twitter and everything, but I wasn’t too nervous about it.  It went fairly well.”

DID YOU TALK TO ANY OF YOUR TEAMMATES ABOUT WHAT IT WAS GOING TO BE LIKE?  “No, I’ve been in the NASCAR hauler before.  It’s not a new thing.”

WHEN YOU HAVE A MEETING LIKE THAT DO YOU TWO CONVERSE?  WHAT GOES ON?  “It depends on the situation, I think.  For that situation, I think we both felt like we got along pretty well and we weren’t on bad terms that much, so we talked a little bit about it and just said how we messed up.  If it’s a pretty bad situation, sometimes you’ll just sit there and say nothing, but it just depends.”


IS THIS NEW TO YOU IN TERMS OF HAVING THESE TYPE OF INCIDENTS?  “I haven’t been there too often, but I’ve been there before.  It’s not too difficult.  It’s just another one of those things.”


Greg Engle
About Greg Engle 7421 Articles
Greg is a published award winning sportswriter who spent 23 years combined active and active reserve military service, much of that in and around the Special Operations community. Greg is the author of "The Nuts and Bolts of NASCAR: The Definitive Viewers' Guide to Big-Time Stock Car Auto Racing" and has been published in major publications across the country including the Los Angeles Times, the Cleveland Plain Dealer and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. He was also a contributor to Chicken Soup for the NASCAR Soul, published in 2010, and the Christmas edition in 2016. He wrote as the NASCAR, Formula 1, Auto Reviews and National Veterans Affairs Examiner for and has appeared on Fox News. He holds a BS degree in communications, a Masters degree in psychology and is currently a PhD candidate majoring in psychology. He is currently the weekend Motorsports Editor for Autoweek.