Ricky Stenhouse Jr. Claims First NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Pole

Ford Racing NSCS Notes & Quotes:
AdvoCare 500 Qualifying (Atlanta Motor Speedway)
Friday, August 30, 2013

Ford Qualifing Results:
1st – Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
2nd – Carl Edwards
11th – Joey Logano
14th – David Ragan
19th – Casey Mears
20th – Marcos Ambrose
23rd – Brad Keselowski
24th – Greg Biffle
29th – Aric Almirola
31st – David Gilliland

BRAD KESELOWSKI – No. 2 Miller Lite Ford Fusion – AN EARLY DRAW DIDN’T HELP, BUT ARE YOU HAPPY WITH YOUR CAR FOR THE WEEKEND?  “Yeah, I thought I actually ran a faster lap than what I did, but the car has been pretty decent so far.  We’ll see when we come to race.”

American Muscle

GREG BIFFLE – No. 16 3M Ford Fusion – “I hadn’t run up on the top in qualifying trim.  I ran up there in practice, but not in a race run, so you just don’t know what to expect.  It looked like the two guys that were first and second on the board ran the top, so we said, ‘We’ve got nothing to lose, let’s try the top,’ and the nothing to lose attitude was probably the wrong one to have considering we’ve got two races to get in the Chase.  Qualifying is probably important, so we’ll have to come from the back.  We feel like we’ve got a pretty good car, so we’ll be OK.”

DAVID GILLILAND – No. 38 Long John Silver’s Ford Fusion – “We were a little bit tight there.  We just ran the bottom in practice, but it looked like people were making speed up high, so we decided to commit to going up high.  I think Greg Biffle did, too, and without running it in practice I guess you’re just hoping there is some speed up there.  We probably should have stuck to running the bottom and what we ran in practice, but you never know.  Our car was really good in race trim.  We spent a lot of time in race trim in practice, so we feel good for Sunday.”

JOEY LOGANO – No. 22 Shell/Pennzoil Ford Fusion – HOW IS YOUR TEAM FOR THE CHASE IF YOU MAKE IT?  “Pretty good.  I feel like we’re one step off.  We’ve got decent speed.  We’re a top-five car.  We’re close to being the winning car, but we’re just one little step away from that and I think we can deal with that.  We’ve got to get in first and then we can worry about that, but I do feel like this team is actually capable of doing it this year.”  HOW WAS YOUR LAP?  “I overdrove it a little bit.”

MARCOS AMBROSE – No. 9 Stanley Ford Fusion – “It’s a really tough place to qualify here because you’ve got to pick a lane and go for it.  I was gonna pick the top in one and two there and I changed my mind and went down the middle.  I made an error there because I think the speed was up high, but we’ll start in the middle of the pack and we’ve just got to make our way through in the race.”

DAVID RAGAN – No. 34 Peanut Patch Boiled Peanuts Ford Fusion – “That was a good pickup.  We’ve put a lot of effort into this race because we are 12 races out and we want to finish the year strong.  We don’t have a chance to get in the Chase, so it’s important for the teams 13th on back to race hard, so we were able to come down here and test and had a pretty good test.  We learned a few things and we’ve worked really hard on our mile-and-a-half program, so I think David and I are both pretty happy with our cars in race trim.  It was a good pickup.  We didn’t really know we’d run that quick, but I’m happy with that lap.”

CARL EDWARDS – No. 99 Subway Ford Fusion – PRESS CONFERENCE – THEY WERE JOKING ON TV ABOUT HOW JACK TOLD RICKY TO RUN THE BOTTOM.  “So the problem is Jack told him to run the bottom.  I ran the top and I thought the top was the deal.  That was it, and Jack said to run the bottom and they joked on TV and asked me what I thought he should do and I said, ‘Oh yeah, he should run the bottom,’ because I thought there was no way he’ll beat us if he runs the bottom, and there he did it.  It’s pretty interesting because in practice we ran the top, Juan ran the top and we thought the 42 car was gonna be the fastest car and Ricky ran the bottom the whole time, so it’s really difficult.  I give Ricky a lot of credit for not changing his line after seeing how fast we were on top.  That’s really tough to stick to your guns and stick to what you know, so he did a great job.”

DOES THE TOP OR BOTTOM CHANGE ANYTHING FOR HOW THE TRACK WILL BE IN THE RACE?  “I don’t know.  As soon as he went to the bottom I thought, ‘He gave it up.  It’s done,’ so it did shock me that he was able to go that fast on the bottom.  I think this race will change a lot throughout the event.  The track changes a lot through the race and I think whatever works at the beginning of the race won’t work at the end, and I think you’ll see a migrating groove.  The fast line won’t stay in the same place, but it definitely will make it tough for him to pick which line to start in.  I’ll be curious to see if he picks the bottom or the top, but it is a 500-mile race and the biggest thing is to work tomorrow to have our cars fast on the long run.  It seems this race is always won by the guy who is good over 30 laps and not the guy who is fast on the short run, so qualifying is probably not as good of an indicator of race success here as it is other places, so we’ve got to keep working even though we’ve qualified well.”

SHOULD WE VIEW THIS POLE AS A SIGN OF RICKY’S PROGRESSION IN CUP OR IS IT JUST A FAST LAP ON ONE DAY?  “I think Scott Graves and all of those guys have been working very hard and I know that they’re better than their results have shown.  Everybody in here has seen what Ricky Stenhouse can do and I think it just shows you, I don’t think this pole is an anomaly.  I think their struggles just show you how tough this series is, but the way our cars have been running and as much work as we’ve been putting in, and the communication between our teams that we have, it wouldn’t surprise me if Ricky wins a race before the year is over – maybe even two of them.  They should have won at Kansas.  I don’t know if you guys remember that, but if it weren’t for that last caution, he would have won that one, so the mile-and-a-halves is where they’ve been pretty good.”

DO YOU THINK THE FACT RICKY IS SO YOUNG AND NAÏVE AT THIS POINT IN HIS CAREER THAT HE DIDN’T KNOW ANY BETTER AND JUST RAN THE BOTTOM?  “It might be the fact that Jack signs his checks.  I mean, if Jack would have come over and told me to run the bottom, I probably would have run the bottom.  I talked to Scott Graves a little bit out there and he said that’s what they practiced, so I can’t speak for Ricky, but I bet the question was whether or not he should alter what he practiced.  I don’t know if it was as much what they thought was the fastest as it was what they thought would work best for them.  That’s the way I understood it, but it’s not very often that Jack comes down and tells you how to drive the race car, so he must have seen something that stood out about the way Ricky’s car ran around the bottom.”

BRAD SAID EARLIER HE THOUGHT THE FORDS WERE BEHIND ON AERO BECAUSE IT WAS THE FIRST 2013 CAR SUBMITTED AND HE’S EXPECTING A CHANGE FOR 2014.  CAN YOU SPEAK TO THAT AT ALL?  DO YOU FEEL YOU’VE BEEN OFF A LITTLE ON THESE 1.5-MILE TRACKS?  “Yeah, I feel like we have been a little bit off.  I think that Joey doing what he did a couple of weeks ago kind of makes it hard to sing the blues here, but I know that Ford and the other manufacturers are always working, and I know that they’re currently working on trying to make sure that there’s parity among the cars.  As much as the Gen-6 car is about separating the manufacturers with identity, our Ford Fusion, when you look at it on the race track, you know it’s a Ford Fusion.  That’s important to Ford and all of us and all of the manufacturers, and specifically Ford, and we want to make sure that no one has an advantage and that all of the cars are the same.  I know they’re working on that right now and that means a lot to me that they are because it’s one thing to get beat by another driver or get beat by strategy, but you always want to make sure that you’re coming to the race track with the same tools to work with.  I don’t know if this track is as much of an indicator of your aero package as some of the other tracks just because the mechanical grip level here is high and it varies a lot through a run, so pit strategy and fresh tires versus no tires has a huge effect here.  If all the tracks were like this, it wouldn’t matter if the cars were a little bit different if there was a better car here because you’d be able to make up the difference.  The problem is when we go to tracks where you rely really heavily on your aero package and it’s very difficult to pass.  Those tracks makes overcoming a deficit with your equipment very difficult.”

DO YOU AND RICKY HAVE SIMILAR SETUPS?  “I have no clue, but I’m sure I will know here in a little while.  I’m gonna go down to the garage and talk to Jimmy and if he hasn’t smashed his computer, then we’re gonna go ahead and compare our car with the 17 car and try to figure out how he beat us.  The difficulty will be that he ran a different line, so even when you look at the data it will be hard to tell what the issue was, but, overall, even though we didn’t get the pole, with is frustrating, but I just want to say one more time that it is awesome that Ricky has got the pole.  He deserves it.  Those guys have worked hard and I’m proud to be on the front row with Fords and Ricky, and to top it off, I don’t know what it looks like to you guys, but it’s fun to drive around here.  You’re just sliding the car around and it’s a blast, so I love this place and I can’t wait to race on Sunday.”

RICKY STENHOUSE JR. – No. 17 Best Buy Ford Fusion – POLE-WINNING PRESS CONFERENCE – WHAT ABOUT YOUR LAP?  “I love Atlanta.  It’s been a good track for us in the Nationwide car.  I think our worst finish was 10th.  We’ve had a third and first, so Atlanta has been a fun race track I enjoy.  Friends and family get to come out because it’s not too far from home, and the guys worked really hard on the Best Buy Ford Fusion today.  We unloaded and weren’t very good and we kept making changes and kept making big changes and got it to where it needed to be.  So I was a little hard on them today, but everything paid off.  They work hard and we’re excited.  Like Carl was saying, we’ve got two Roush Yates Fords on the front row and it takes a lot of horsepower to put a lap down like that here at Atlanta, so, like I said, it’s a fun race track.  I’m not 100 percent sure, but I think Carl got his first win here, so hopefully we can do the same thing.  It’s a fun race track.  We enjoy it and I’m looking forward to Sunday.”

DID YOU SURPRISE YOURSELF WITH THAT AND DID THE DRAW HELP?  “It’s good to get something accomplished this year.  We’ve not gotten much accomplished of what we thought we should or the goals that we were setting out to reach, but I felt really good about our race car.  We ran a lap at the end of practice on new tires and looking at the guys that also made runs at the end we stacked up right there with them.  I think Carl ran a 29.88, we ran a .92, Gordon ran a .91.  I thought the 11 was really fast.  He probably got hurt going a little bit early as well as the 18, but the draw was a huge benefit to us.  It’s good to finally get something accomplished.  It was a lot of fun today and hopefully we can run strong in the race.  We’ve got track position starting out, which is key, especially here at Atlanta when you’re gonna take four tires every time.  A place like Michigan you can take no tires, two tires.  A place like Bristol to try to get that track position, but here at Atlanta you don’t take two tires, so it’s good to have that track position already.”

WHAT DOES THIS SAY ABOUT YOUR PROGRESSION OR IS IT JUST A FAST LAP ON FRIDAY?  “It’s a fast lap on Friday.  There’s no doubt about it, it doesn’t translate and doesn’t automatically go into the race.  We’ve got 500 miles here, but I do feel like the last few weeks we’ve been a lot better than we were at the beginning of the year.  I felt Michigan running in the top 10 and blew a right-front and then last weekend having a little bit of engine trouble there running 12th, so I feel like we’ve been running a little bit better.  I’ve learned a lot this year and it’s not fun not running up front and being consistently in the top 10 and top 5, but that’s still our goal.  We’re still striving to do that and we’re working really hard and the guys are putting all they’ve got into it, so I’m enjoying this fast lap and hopefully we can get the Best Buy Fusion to drive as fast in race trim tomorrow.”

WAS THERE ANY APPREHENSION OF DRIVING THE LOW LINE WHEN JACK TOLD YOU TO DO THAT AND WHAT WAS IT LIKE DOWN THERE?  “We were sitting in the trailer after practice and Jack asked me what line I was gonna run in qualifying and having a late draw I told him, ‘Well, whoever is on the pole at that time I’m gonna run where they ran,’ and he said he didn’t want to hear that, he wanted to hear that I was gonna run the bottom because it makes him less nervous when I’m on the bottom.  After Carl ran out there and the 42, they were first and second after running the top, I got all the way to about three-quarters of the way down the front straightaway and was still trying to contemplate whether I was going to the bottom or the top and once I pulled it down to the bottom I felt like if it stuck when I went back to the throttle we were gonna have a good lap and the guys had it free enough for me that the front still turned and we were able to hold the throttle down and use all of our Roush Yates power off the corner.  Then I felt like I got through one and two really, really good, and knew I just had to maintain through three and four and not miss the bottom and we were able to do that.”

DO YOU FEEL YOU CAN WIN A RACE OR TWO AND WHAT HAPPENED AROUND KANSAS WHEN IT LOOKED LIKE YOU WERE READY TO BREAK THROUGH?  “I think there’s a lot that has changed.  Jack has held nothing back.  We’ve built new cars.  We’re doing everything that we can at Roush Fenway and Doug Yates is working on the engines as hard as he can and Ford is working really hard, so I think our cars are getting a lot better, which, in turn , has helped me run a lot better.  I’m learning these cars out and learning how to drive them throughout the race and throughout practice so that we’re good in the race.  I felt like early in the year I was just driving as hard as I could throughout practice and it didn’t really translate to the race.  When you started racing guys their car drove totally different.  Kansas was a track that we went and tested at and we showed up and knew we were gonna be fast, we felt good, and almost had a win there.  We led laps and felt really good and I thought we could carry that momentum out through the year and it just hasn’t played out for us.  We’ve struggled with a lot of things, but we’ve learned from a lot of them and hopefully we can apply that to the rest of the year.  I think in 2010, my rookie year in Nationwide, it was about now that we started running a little bit better and we kind of carried that throughout the rest of the season.  I can’t promise you that’s what’s gonna happen, but that’s what we’re gonna try to do and carry that momentum into next year.”

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