Ford Performance NASCAR: Bowyer and Logano Q&A Sessions (Charlotte)

Ford Notes and Quotes
Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series (MENCS)
Bank of America Roval 400 Advance (Charlotte Motor Speedway, Concord, NC)
Friday, September 28, 2018

Ford Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series drivers Clint Bowyer, Joey Logano, Ryan Blaney and Aric Almirola all came into the Charlotte Motor Speedway infield media center on Friday morning to talk about their respective positions in the Playoff standings and Sunday’s debut race on the Roval. Here are transcripts from each Q&A session with the media.

CLINT BOWYER, No. 14 Mobil 1/Advance Auto Parts Ford Fusion – DO YOU SEE ANY SIMILARITIES THIS COURSE HAS WITH ANOTHER PLACE? “Hell no! But, hey, this was a good gauge for me. Yesterday, we did a fan day at the shop at Stewart-Haas Racing. The turnout was phenomenal. It really took me back pre-08 in the world and especially our world of NASCAR and the energy, the turnout, the crowd. That’s the way I remember the height of this baby. We finally have something new to sell to a fan and, let me tell you, they’re excited to see it. That got me excited, you know what I mean? I think Marcus has done a good job of turning this into an event and not just another race, and I think we’re all gonna be pleasantly and excited to see the crowd that shows up for this race. I think we’re all in store for something new and it’s pretty exciting to know we’re on the forefront of that.”

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IS THAT A SIGN THEY SHOULD DO MORE OF THIS AND CHANGE THINGS UP ON THE SCHEDULE? “We’re trying something new in our sport and I’m happy that our sport is doing that. Yes, I’ve said for a long time we need something new. I don’t think that every mile-and-a-half track needs to put a road course in the infield. I don’t mean that by something new, but certainly Marcus having the ability and vision to be able to change one of his races at Charlotte Motor Speedway and make it something new for the fans is pretty remarkable in today’s day and age. If you look around there’s a lot of signage, there’s a lot of infrastructure, there’s a lot of change, a lot of investment went into this event this weekend and I hope for his sake that it goes off with a big bang.”

I PRESUME THE ROLEX 24 MAY BE THE CLOSEST THING TO THIS AND YOU’VE RUN THAT BEFORE. DOES THAT GIVE YOU ANY SORT OF EDGE? “Yeah, we ought to make this a 24-hour race. It would be a lot more fun. We might as well. We’ve done everything else. I think the 24 would be fun, but I want to do it all myself.”

CAN YOU TALK ABOUT YOUR POSITION IN THE PLAYOFFS? “I think anytime you have something new like this you’ve got to look at it as an opportunity. I need an opportunity. Four points out of the Playoffs you need an opportunity and this is exactly what this track is. We had a good test here. I made a lot of laps here relatively comfortable and enjoyed it. I’m gonna enjoy this weekend and I think the opportunity is there and we’ve got to go out and take it.”

CAN YOU APPLY ANYTHING FROM SONOMA OR WATKINS GLEN TO WHAT YOU’LL DO HERE? “I think just the rhythm. It’s rhythmatic. You’ve got to get out there, find that rhythm, find that comfort zone and ride in it – take care of those Goodyear tires and pace yourself, but rhythm, rhythm, rhythm, rhythm. Get in that rhythm. Don’t make mistakes. Stay on the race track. Focus on what you’re doing and that’s always been the principle that I’ve learned and went by and has always put me in the money on the road courses, so you’ve got to enjoy these weekends. You can’t go into this thing scared to death and panicked and worried about anything. I mean, you’re driving down here and it starts raining and I’m like, ‘Let’s see what happens.’ It doesn’t do any good to worry about it or try to think about what the race is gonna hold. This thing is gonna go either one of two ways. At the test, I saw a lot of cars – obviously we saw cars wrecking, but we saw a lot of cars spinning out in maybe one corner or the other and getting it gathered up and going on. If those turn into full course cautions, then you’ve got a race that all hell is gonna break loose. If they can get that thing gathered up and get going and just keep it as a local caution or whatever they call it, I think somewhat the race will play out and run green. But these are the best racers stock car has, motorsports has, so we’re gonna go out there and put on a show and race hard. People are always expecting the worst and I think you’ll see the best. I really do.”

WHAT ABOUT THE PREPARATION FOR THIS EVENT? “The same thing you do every week – go work on the task at hand. For two years you’re not worried about this track, you’re worried about last week I was worried about Richmond. This week I’m worried about the Roval. You can’t worry about one specific track or one specific weekend in this thing, you’ve got to be good on all of them. You can’t just be good on one of them.”

DO YOU AS A DRIVER GET CAUGHT UP IN THE HYPE OF THIS THING? “I’ve always been a realist and always cautious to oversell something. You always want to over-deliver. The scariest thing to me is getting all this hype and it’s no different. You see anything in the media this day and age it’s oversold pretty much and sometimes it’s under-delivered. I think we’re gonna deliver in a big way. I think fans are gonna see something they’ve never seen before. Is there gonna be havoc? Yes. Is it gonna be a race full of it? I don’t think so, but it could be. But I think you see that at every track. Every now and then, for whatever reason, it doesn’t matter if it’s a mile-and-a-half, short track at Bristol, it doesn’t matter, just all hell breaks loose and you can’t get out of it. It’s just a vicious cycle and at other times it’ll go green all the way through. I really think you’re gonna see one or the other here. I think it’s gonna be those cautions will breed cautions just like they always do, or this thing might go green and surprise everybody until the end and a caution comes out and all hell breaks loose. I think all hell will break loose, I just don’t know how it’s going to and when it’s going to.”

 

JOEY LOGANO, No. 22 Shell/Pennzoil Ford Fusion – WHAT ARE THE THINGS THAT NEED TO BE LOOKED AT AFTER THIS WEEKEND AS TO IF THIS WAS A GOOD IDEA OR NOT? “I think as far as the hype and the talk around the Roval, I think from a marketing standpoint it’s already been a win from that standpoint. Honestly, we would not be talking about Charlotte so much if it wasn’t the Roval because we’re all concerned on what it’s gonna be. Now, that’s just hype. The answer to how whether it’s a success or not will be after the race and depending on what we thought was good racing. One’s definition of good racing sometimes is different, so I think if we give ourselves a couple of weeks afterwards and we understand what was good and what wasn’t and as open as the track seems to be as far as making adjustments to the track and how many times they’ve adjusted the layout of the race track. They’ve got maps up to here for us to look at, which is kind of funny, but I think as they’ve changed it a lot throughout testing, maybe after the race they’ll see something that can be improved and adjust that, or I guess there’s always the opportunity if it doesn’t work you can just punt and go back to what we were doing, which wasn’t so bad either. I think it’s cool we’re trying something different. Do we know that it’s gonna work? No, we don’t know that. I’m gonna be as excited as anybody else to watch this XFINITY race and see how that’s gonna go and figure out where the passing zones are, how restarts are gonna be. I think that’s probably what has everybody the most nervous is how these restarts are gonna be. There are a lot of areas on this race track that are pretty slick. There are a lot of areas that if you get out of control you will hit something and cars will bounce back out in front of you and block the whole race track, so there is an opportunity for chaos like that, but that being said, I think everybody realizes that and may give each other more room. Some drivers have nothing to lose. Some have a lot to lose, so there are a lot of different agendas out there for drivers, but I think at the end of the day, to answer your question, whether it’s gonna be a success or not is probably up to everyone’s opinion at the end of the day – what race fans think, what the driver’s think, ultimately what you guys think. I think it’s all gonna have to come down to each party and just figure out what we’ve got to do to make it better if it’s not great, and if it is, hey, we tried something. I’m excited about it. I think it will be interesting. I think the craziest piece is that it’s in the Playoffs. I think everyone agrees that that’s a little bit crazy, but it’s the same for everybody.”

IS THERE A CORNER OR SECTION OF THE TRACK THAT IS MOST TREACHEROUS AND IS THERE ANY SORT OF SIMULATION YOU CAN USE? “We’ve been working a lot on the Ford simulator and trying to figure out what we can. I’ve had one test here and we made as many laps as we can and made as many adjustments as we can, but that’s all that we have for a notebook is what our teammates were able to do when they tested here and what we were able to do when we were here and then trying to plug that data into all of our sim tools to be able to be better on that. Is there a corner that I think is gonna be the craziest? Let me look at my map over here (laughing). There’s a lot of them and they’ve got them numbered for me up here, which is good because I can’t remember all of the turns. There are 17 of these things. That’s a lot. There are a lot of turns. To me, probably what stands out the most is I guess turns 11 and 12 – the bus stop – whatever you want to call it. Down the back straightaway there’s that little turn thing down there with a lot of curbs. That, to me, is gonna probably make me the most nervous. There’s no room to go two-wide.

“You’re gonna kind of be off-cambered as you’re going down into that curb, and then there’s a big tire barrier on the exit and that’s gonna destroy some cars, in my opinion. We’re all gonna have to be pretty careful getting through that piece. That and those curbs are big. They’re big curbs. They possibly could tear up tires – steel curbs like that and the lips that are there. We’ve seen some issues with testing on that. I think Goodyear has changed the tire and have hopefully have fixed that problem. It didn’t seem like anyone had any problems in the XFINITY practice with that, so I think we may have fixed that problem, but I think that piece there – when you’re going two-wide in that corner someone is gonna have to give, so it’s kind of a game of chicken as you’re braking down into that corner because two-wide is gonna be pretty tight through there and there’s no room for error. You’ve got a wall on one side and a big tire barrier on the other. If you think of a similar turn like the bus stop at Watkins Glen, you think of the runoff that’s there. You have this big paved area out in the open there before the wall and then on the exit you have a lot of grass. You think about how many cars drive through the grass on restarts there. There’s no grass. There are just items to hit, so we just have to be careful getting through there and I think that’s probably gonna be calamity corner if I had to pick one. But turn one scares me too, so we’ll see.”

HOW DO YOU TELL YOUR CREW CHIEF WHAT TURN YOU’RE IN FOR ADJUSTMENTS. THERE ARE SO MANY? “When I started I was like for turns three and four I was like, ‘By the motorhome lot. It’s where we used to park the busses.’ I used to say that, but I’ve kind of learned most of the turns. I think everyone is probably gonna have their own lingo. I call it NASCAR one and two and NASCAR three and four when we get onto the race track and I call it the last little chicane. I think everyone has their lingo. The good thing is we’ve talked about it enough to kind of know with Todd and I what our lingo is gonna be. I think I actually have the infield numbers right, but when I get onto the race track it gets so confusing. Nine and 10 on the race track, that’s one turn. I don’t know. There’s just a lot – 15, 16, 17 at the end, holy cow, that’s like two turns to me, so it gets really confusing when it gets to those pieces. I think we kind of have our lingo. I call it the bus stop in the back. I don’t know what they want to call it – an inner loop or whatever they call it – but what is there a heartburn turn or something I see now? Heart attack turn, something? That’s there. What else do we have for fun turns for names? I hope I’m not the one that comes up with names for these things, but there is a lot of unknowns for us. Like you said, the names of the turns will be interesting on how we number them and what we call them and everyone will have their own lingo, but that’s just one of the small pieces we’ll have to figure out here today.”

WHERE WILL YOU BE GOING THE FASTEST ON THIS COURSE? “Headed down the back straightaway into what they have here as number 11. That’s gonna be your fastest point. After that, you can get wide-open out of the bus stop and be pretty much wide-open through NASCAR three and four or 13 and 14, whatever you want to call it, but you won’t have the same amount of speed because you get off of turn eight and you’re wide-open all the way through nine and 10, down that back straightaway.

“You’re getting a good amount of speed there, and then you’ve got to check up a fair amount to go through 11 and 12. Thank you for putting this map up here because I’ve been staring at it for these numbers. This is good.”

HOW HARD WILL IT BE TO SLOW UP FOR THAT CHICANE GOING INTO NASCAR TURN THREE? “Like you said, there’s not much room for error, but there’s such a reward in speed there. We saw in the test that there’s a big chunk of speed that happens through that bus stop – the same thing as Watkins Glen. You can gain a little tenth here or a tenth there and each gain is kind of small. You can gain or lose a half-a-second through the bus stop or 11 and 12. It’s a similar thing to Watkins Glen. There’s a lot of speed there if you can get through it, but there’s way more risk pushing it through there than there is at Watkins Glen because of the things you can hit and ultimately ruin your day. We’re not one of those four cars that are pretty much locked in that don’t have anything to worry about or the cars that aren’t in the Playoffs have nothing to worry about. We have to smart about how we run this race all the way through it, and I think of corners like that, those are the ones that stick out in my mind.”

SOME FELT TALLADEGA AS A CUTOFF RACE WASN’T FAIR. DO YOU THINK SOME WILL FEEL THAT WAY AFTER THIS RACE IS OVER? “Oh yeah. There will be a driver that gets crashed out that’s gonna be angry at the infield care center that is gonna mouth off and say something about the Roval and I think it’s important for all of us to understand his perspective at that point. It’s the same thing at superspeedways. You talk to the guy that won the race and it’s like, ‘I love superspeedway racing. It’s great.’ And you talk to the guy or the half of them that got crashed out and you say, ‘Oh, this stinks.’ It just depends on what’s going on. When there’s this much on the line. You can control most of your destiny, but there’s a chance, like I said, you go through turn one on a restart and something happens on that little chute, that little funnel that goes to turn two, it’s gonna lock up the whole field and you might not be able to avoid that. So that’s gonna be a situation that someone is gonna get angry about and want to have it changed or fixed or say this may not be the right thing. They may be right or they may be wrong, but everyone is gonna have a different perspective at the end of this thing. The guy that wins is gonna say it’s the greatest thing ever and they love it, and the drivers that miss the Playoffs and don’t go on to the next round are not gonna like it. That’s why I said it’s gonna take a lot of different opinions at the end of this to understand whether this is a success or not, and all of us may not agree whether it is or not.”

THEY’RE SKIPPING THE CHICANE ON RESTARTS. IS THAT A GENERAL UNDERSTAND OF THAT’S JUST WHAT NEEDS TO BE DONE BECAUSE OF THE CIRCUMSTANCES? “Yeah, I mean, you look at those last two turns right before, all the other road course – Sonoma, you have turn 11, but it’s a long ways down. All of the cars are straight on a straightaway pretty much besides that little kink, when they go green. Watkins Glen, turn 11 there is way back and all the cars are pretty much straight. This, if you had the restart zone right after turn 17, you’re gonna have half the cars still in the chicane and bumping into each other to take the green. It just would not work, so having that last chicane opened up for restarts is a good move because all of us will be a little more situated.

“Now the piece that’s gonna be different is we’ll be going faster into turn one on restarts than we will be under green because we should be able to accelerate earlier in that restart zone and you’re already coming out of 17 at a slow speed, so that amount of speed you’re carrying into one is gonna be quicker and you’re gonna have cars all around you and it’s a really, really slick corner. I can’t tell you enough how slick the front straightaway is here. I don’t know why, but there are parts of this race track that grip up and you’re like, ‘Wow, that’s got a lot of grip,’ and then there are other spots that are like, ‘Whoa,’ and you’ve got nothing. And turn one, to me, is one of those slick corners. We see a lot of cars crash during the test. It’s a corner that looks like you can drive in way harder than what you do, but when you realize how much grip is in that straightaway there’s not much and that’s why everyone has been wadding them up over there.”

HOW MUCH WILL YOU OBSERVE THE XFINITY RACE TOMORROW? “I think everyone is gonna have their eyes wide-open watching that race, trying to figure out what’s going on. My plan is to go to the roof and watch – somewhere up there where I can get a good view of everything that’s happening, see passing zones and see things, and then probably re-watch it afterwards and try to understand where the crash spots are, where the passing zones are, how restarts go, how strategy is gonna be. It’s new for everybody, so if you’re the first one to figure something out, you’re gonna have a huge advantage. Advantages only last for one race most of the time, so anything you can do to try to figure something out would be huge. If we all had the opportunity, we would be racing this XFINITY race if we could. Obviously, we can’t, so the best thing we can do after that is just watching it. I’m glad we’re not the first race. I’m glad we’ve got someone else to watch first and hopefully learn from a lot of their mistakes.”

WILL QUALIFYING BE MORE IMPORTANT THAN USUAL HERE DUE TO LIMITED PASSING ZONES? “Yes. To answer your question, yes. Not only the limited number of passing zones there may or may not be, there may be more than you think as far as passing zones, but as far as just putting yourself in a better spot. The further back you are, the better chance you have of getting caught up in a crash, whether it’s another car spinning out, a car checking up in front of you. I think of turn one on these restarts and how early it’s gonna check up. You think about Sonoma when we go up the hill and we get to turn two there and how slow everyone on the inside line gets stacked up. That’s gonna happen in turn one the same way. If you don’t check up in time, you’re gonna hit the car in front of you and if the car doesn’t check up behind you, he’s gonna hit you. There’s gonna be that chain reaction. The further back you are, the more abrupt that chain reaction is, just like down the highway. You see one, two and all of a sudden there are 15 cars that hit each other when there is a traffic jam. It’s gonna be the same thing. The further you are towards the front of that thing, the better chance you have of getting through it, so qualifying because very important for that reason.”

WHAT ARE YOU LOOKING TO LEARN HERE THIS WEEKEND? “Looking to learn and looking to do is two different things. Obviously, we want to learn as much as we can and try to make our car as fast as possible, but the goal is to get through this round. We have 25 points. We’re fifth in points It’s an OK spot, but it’s not a comfortable spot. It’s more comfortable than most, but if something happens early in the race, all of a sudden we’re the ones looking out, so we have to keep that in mind throughout this race and understand what we need to do to get through, and I think that’s the most important piece. The good news is there are plenty of other people in that situation and in worse situations, so it’s one lap at a time for us and be smart. Our goal is always to win the race, but the goal in this race might be more to just make sure we get through to the next round because the ultimate goal at the end of the day is to win the championship. That’s what we really need to do, so to do that we’ve got to get through this round. We’ve built ourselves an OK cushion, but I don’t think you feel comfortable with that when you line up at a race track where there are so many unknowns. The goals are a little bit different. And looking to learn, we’re just looking for practice and stuff we’re looking to learn as much as possible and trying to find speed. Our car was good at the test through the infield piece of one through eight, and it felt like we lacked some speed from nine to 15, so there are gonna be cars fast in one spot and not in others, so trying to balance all of that.”

DO YOU WISH THIS RACE CAME EARLIER IN THE SEASON AND NOT NOW IN THE PLAYOFFS? “I think everyone would rather it not be in the Playoffs, honestly (laughing). But, like I said, it is the same for everybody. There’s just so much on the line and it being the Playoffs it’s a very aggressive move, but, like I said, it’s the same for everyone. We all have the same opportunity to figure this thing out first. We all have the same opportunity to get through this race. The risk piece of it from a race team side becomes a little greater because it’s not just one race and if you don’t have a good race during the regular season it hurts your chances for a championship obviously because everything is tied together now, but it doesn’t have as large of an effect as when it’s in the Playoffs like this weekend is.”

ARE YOU CONFIDENT IN THE SPEED YOUR TEAM HAS NOW? “I believe our confidence is growing, for sure, as a race team. You see not just Brad but our team, Blaney’s team, we’ve been able to close that gap a little bit on that big three that we’ve talked about all season. The gap has closed some, but that being said they’re still really strong and we’re not where we want to be yet, so we still have to keep forcing forward and trying to do that right now. I feel like our speed is probably right on the edge of being one of those Championship Four. We need to be better than where we are right now to be considered, I think, in that four, but so many things happen so quickly throughout these next few weeks and a lot of race teams develop their cars and find something that gets applied to their cars so quickly these days that it can change from race to race. I feel like we’re closer than we’ve been in the last year-and-a-half, so that gives me some confidence for sure. Like I said, if we get through this race and get to the next round and then kind of have that reset, get through the next couple of races and see where we’re at – we have this wildcard, we have Talladega that we know is a wildcard. It’s been a great race track for us in the past and being able to win there this year, so we feel confident with that, but it’s also a race track that’s kind of a 50/50 thing, so you have that one as well that we’ve got to get through.

“I feel like our speed on the normal race tracks is about fifth to eighth sometimes a little better than that recently, maybe third to eighth depending on the weekend, so I feel like we’ve made some good progress there. With the right circumstances we can win a lot of races, we just have to get maybe a little bit quicker.”

HOT WHEELS IS CELEBRATING ITS 50TH ANNIVERSARY. DO YOU HAVE ANY MEMORIES OF HOT WHEELS? “ Obviously, just like most other kids that are into cars, I had a bunch of Hot Wheels that I raced down the hallway all the time growing up. One of the coolest things that recently happened is one of the designers for Hot Wheels happens to be from near my hometown in Connecticut. I did not get to meet him, but he sent me a drawing of the 22 race car, my race car, in kind of a Hot Wheels form. It looks cool with the big motor coming out of the hood and all that. He sent me a nice letter about it, saying how we were from the same place. I thought that was pretty cool to be honest. I think they had something just down the road from here recently, maybe a couple months ago, with Hot Wheels. I think every kid, I was always excited. That was, to me, one of the coolest Christmas gifts. You’ve got Hot Wheels and you race them to see which ones are the fastest. That’s what I always did.”

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of SpeedwayMedia.com.

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