Ford Performance NASCAR: Pocono Media Availability Transcripts

Ford Performance Notes and Quotes
Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series (MENCS)
Friday, May 31, 2019
EVENT: Pocono 400 Media Availability

DAVID RAGAN, No. 38 ExploriaResorts.com Ford Mustang – YOU HAVE A NEW SPONSOR THIS WEEK. “Yeah, I was there earlier today. I didn’t want to come to the race track. I wanted to hang out by the swimming pool. Exploria Resorts has a lot of properties around destination towns around America and happen to have a few here in the Poconos, so it’s great to have them on our Ford Mustang this weekend. Exploria Resorts also has some in Daytona Beach, Orlando, some places near Bristol around Dollywood and some of the areas in Tennessee, so it’s neat to have a company that has a lot of race fans staying at their places here in the Poconos this weekend for some action, and I was able to visit them this morning and head out for some practice later on today, so it worked out good and I’m happy to be out here at the race track and making some laps.”

HOW MUCH ARE YOU LIFTING OR BRAKING IN ONE AND THREE AND IS IT DIFFERENT FROM WHAT YOU THOUGHT COMING IN? “It’s pretty similar to what I thought. The teams have so much data and simulation is very, very accurate when you put in engine models and aero maps into a simulator you can pretty much be 95 to 99 percent accurate when you show up – close. I would say that we’re using 50 percent less brakes about everywhere – 250-300 pounds getting into turn one, which is the most, and then 50-100 pounds lightly dragging the brakes into the tunnel turn and turn three. A lot of it will depend on what kind of run you get in traffic, but by yourself that’s pretty consistent. I would say 50-60 percent less than what we had here a year ago.”

WERE YOU ABLE TO DRIVE IN TRAFFIC IN PRACTICE? “Yeah, a little bit. I got out there around a couple of cars, within five or 10 car lengths. I passed one and somebody passed me and the cars were pretty stable and predictable and I felt like that handling is still very, very important and it’s a good mixture of who can trim their car out to go very fast down the straightaway, but you also have to handle through the corners. If you don’t stay in the throttle, if you don’t drive off of turn three straight and throttled up, you’re gonna pay the price down the whole front straightaway, so it’ll be interesting to see. I know all the crew chiefs and engineers right now are probably burning their computers up trying to figure out that sweet spot to find for final practice and for the race on Sunday.”

DO YOU MISS SHIFTING AT ALL HERE? “I do a little bit, yeah. It makes it a little bit more interesting, exciting from the driver’s standpoint. I don’t know that from the fans perspective or from a TV perspective you would be able to tell the difference, but from a driver’s perspective I felt like it did give you some more options. If you messed up a corner, you could downshift. If you got through there in clean air, you didn’t have to. It just gave options and drivers do like options. I’m not really sure what NASCAR’s incentive was to prevent us from shifting, but I don’t think you’ll see any of that this weekend.”

HOW MUCH DOES WEATHER AFFECT YOUR PREPARTION FOR EACH RACE? “I have the Accuweather app and I use it pretty regular and it’s something that we all want to be meteorologists in the garage. I think we definitely pay attention to the temperature, to the amount of sunlight you have on the race track because that dictates the asphalt temperature, which dictates the amount of rubber that’s laid down, so that’s something we pay attention to very closely, and, like I said, every driver, crew chief and engineer is a wannabee meteorologist and with all of the great weather apps you have at your disposal it’s easy to get a lot of information, so I do look at it fairly regular. My wife majored in meteorology and so that is something that we kind of act like that old couple, we’ll sit around and just have the Weather Channel on in the background sometimes and just watch it. We pay attention to it very closely.”

DID THAT FINISH LAST WEEK GIVE YOUR TEAM A LITTLE MORE PEP? “Anytime you can run well in a race you feel good going into the next weekend. I think we had a better car than a 15th-place car, but the way the scenario worked out at the end that’s where we ended up, but it was encouraging that we did find some speed in our cars. We do have some newer cars at Front Row Motorsports that we’re bringing out over the next three or four weeks into the summer months, based off of things we learned the first third of the season, so it was encouraging that we feel like we’ve got better race cars coming through the pipeline now and anytime you can run well in a big marquee event like the Coca-Cola 600 in our hometown, a track of Charlotte Motor Speedway for our race team, it was a fun race, it was good from my perspective and I don’t know that anything from that week will correlate setup-wise to Pocono, but anytime you can race in the top 10 and get a top 10 or 15 finish that’s good for any team and certainly for Front Row Motorsports.”

ARIC ALMIROLA, No. 10 Valley Technical Academy Ford Mustang – HOW WAS CHARLOTTE FOR YOU? “It was kind of an up-and-down weekend. We qualified really well and ran up front for the first little bit and then we had a penalty for an uncontrolled tire and got back in traffic and quite honestly we weren’t good enough to recover from getting put back in traffic. We kind of struggled and fought the rest of the day to salvage a respectable finish, but as long as we were up front and in somewhat cleaner air I thought we had a relatively competitively race car.”

WHAT WOULD YOU SAY ABOUT WHERE SHR IS ON THE 1.5-MILE TRACKS? “I still feel like we have work to do. I think all of us feel that way – all the guys at the shop and all the drivers and crew guys. It’s a work in progress. We’re finding speed and we’re qualifying really well and we’re making our race cars go fast, but then there’s the whole other element, which is really important and it’s race-ability in the car, so we’re just trying to work through that and make our cars race better in traffic and all the situations that we get put in the race. There’s more work to do.”

IS IT A COMBINATION OF IDENTIFYING WHAT THE CAR NEEDS MORE QUICKLY OR JUST A STRUGGLE WITH LITTLE THINGS THAT MAKE A BIG DIFFERENCE? “It is a lot of different things. I feel like as this sport has evolved and as the tech process has continued to improve and get everybody in a smaller box you’re not finding huge advantages anymore. It’s really about stacking pennies and so we’ve done a really good job of that in year’s past. Last year was an incredible year for Stewart-Haas Racing and I felt like we had a pretty good handle on what we needed each and every weekend we showed up to the track, and now we’re showing up to the race tracks and still just kind of open-minded and not 100 percent certain when we get to the race track and we unload on what exactly our balance is gonna be.”

WHAT IMPACT DO THE CHANGES IN PRACTICE AND QUALIFYING HERE HAVE ON YOU GUYS? “I think it certainly is different. When we used to we would show up and just get ready for qualifying on Friday. You’d qualify Friday evening and then Saturday really focus hard on race trim and then come up with a game plan Saturday night to get ready for the race. Now, that’s obviously different. We’ve got two practices on Friday and they’re short. For as big as the race track is and for as long as it takes us to get around here to get back into the pits to work on our car you don’t actually get a lot of laps on the race track in these short 50-minute practices. And then on top of that you’re trying to get in a qualifying run and just trying to make one qualifying run takes about 10 minutes out of your practice, so now a 50-minute practice is only 40, so it is challenging to get the amount of laps on the race track and come up with a plan to get ready for the race in just a short amount of time for that impound qualifying on Saturday.”

HOW WILL THE NEW PACKAGE IMPACT RACING AND RESTARTS HERE? “I think if you’ve watched any of the previous races you’ve seen that the restarts are pretty wild and crazy, and Pocono has always been a place – even with the old package – that has really led itself to having crazy restarts. The front straightaway is long and very wide and then trying to get off turn one and down the short chute there down Long Pond it’s the same thing. It’s just wild and crazy, so I think you’ll see more of the same. I think we’ll be four, five-wide, drafting, running into each other and trying to get positions on restarts because that’s when all the action happens.”

DOES SOMETHING NEED TO BE DONE ABOUT LAPPED CARS GETTING IN THE WAY? “Every race car on the race track deserves to be out there and they’re as much a part of the show as anybody else, but what you don’t want is you don’t want those cars that are multiple laps down and not really in the race in a lead lap position to have an affect on that race. You want those cars to really battle it out amongst themselves and you don’t want those cars to really interfere or impede in that race, and when that happens I feel like that’s when the guys on the lead lap really get upset and frustrated because sometimes those guys are racing on a lap all by themselves. They could be six or seven laps down not really racing anybody because there’s nobody even on the same lap as them, but yet they could hold a lead lap car up for a lap or two and the next thing you know the guy that they’re racing for position has caught them and got around them or something of that nature and that’s really frustrating.”

IT SEEMS THERE HAVE BEEN SOME EXTRA LAPS UNDER CAUTION. HAVE YOU NOTICED THAT AND DOES IT AFFECT YOU? “It doesn’t have any affect on me other than we’re just slowing the progress of the racing down, but I have noticed that. I’ve noticed that the lineup has been a challenge, especially if just a few cars had pitted and the caution comes out. That has been a challenge for NASCAR and the guys in the tower to figure out how to get the lineup correct.”

WHAT IS YOUR THOUGHT ABOUT MICHIGAN NEXT WEEK WITH THIS PACKAGE? “My initial thought is it’s gonna be like driving slot cars around there. We’re gonna be wide-open, really, really fast and doing a tremendous amount of drafting. I just hope that the race track gets wide enough for us to put on a great show for the fans and everybody. That track has notoriously been kind of a one lane race track, so hopefully we can get it widened out to two-and-a-half, three lanes to where we can put on a great show. I know the straightaways and the restarts are gonna be crazy. Those straightaways are extremely wide, so there’s gonna be a lot of bold, aggressive moves, but then you’ve got to funnel back down to hopefully more than one lane.”

CAN YOU FLAT-FOOT IT AROUND THERE? “I don’t know because we haven’t been there yet, but I’m gonna assume yes.”

NEXT YEAR THERE WILL BE A DOUBLEHEADER HERE. CAN YOU IMAGINE THAT? “Yeah, I’m excited. I think that’ll be fun to show up here and do some practicing and qualify and then race on Saturday, and then sleep it off and think about, ‘Man, what did we good? What did we do bad? What do we need to improve on?’ And then go do it again and try to make improvements to your race car for the race on Sunday. So often we Monday morning quarterback and think, ‘Man, if we could just run that race over again and we did x, y, or z, we would have been better.’ Well, now we’ve got that opportunity.”

RYAN BLANEY, No. 12 Menards/Libman Ford Mustang – HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT POCONO? “We always talk about the same thing every year, it’s hard to get your car working good in every corner. That’s the main thing and just trying to get it well-balanced, and it’s hard to do. Today, I’m one way in turn one and I’m another way in turn three, so it’s kind of hard to work on. You have to compromise a lot, so that part is tough. Figuring out a new package takes a little bit to kind of get rolling, but once you get rolling it’s fine.”

HOW ABOUT SOME PERSPECTIVE ON LAST WEEK FROM CHARLOTTE? “I thought our cars were really good. We didn’t qualify great on Thursday, but we practiced great Saturday and our race car was really good. We had to come from 19th to get up there and got the lead at one point and I thought our car was easily a top-three car all night. We were racing hard with the 19 and 22 there at the end and I felt like if we could have got the lead at that point I thought I was the best car at that point, but I just couldn’t get around them. That’s the way things go, and then we had a reoccurring issue, something we’re working on, but I thought our cars were pretty strong Obviously, there are things we need to work on, but I feel like our company right now is top-two. I think us and Gibbs are really strong. All of the teams are always getting better. Hendrick is great. Haas cars are getting to where they need to be, but I like the direction our company is going, we just have to keep working.”

WHAT IS YOUR THOUGHT ON LAPPED CARS THAT ARE A LAP OR MORE DOWN. THEY HAVE CAUSED SOME HEADACHES FOR LEADERS. ARE WE AT A POINT WHERE SOMEBODY NEEDS TO ADDRESS THAT A LITTLE BIT? “I don’t want to say anything bad. There are some that are worse than others. I’d say there are probably three pretty bad ones, and I know their cars aren’t the best. Their cars are off the pace, but leaders usually expect somebody to pick a lane and stay there. When you’re coming a second faster a lap and you catch them at that wrong point to where they’re just getting in the corner, 20 car lengths in front of you, and they’re going on the bottom and they slide up to the fourth lane that’s what really frustrates you. I got mad at somebody last week for doing that. Just pick a lane and I’ll find a way around you. When you cross four lanes of track in one corner that’s a problem, and I just don’t know where you’re going. It’s hard to get mad at them. They’re not having fun either doing that, so you’ve got to think if you’re in their shoes, but at least try to be as respectable the best you can and just stay on the bottom, stay on the top or stay in the middle – just pick a radius around the corner and stay there. It’ll make it a lot easier.”

DO YOU FEEL ANY EXTRA PRESSURE TO GET A WIN? “Not really. Any given week I feel like any team can with the race – us, Gibbs, Hendrick, Haas – there are a couple others in there that have moments. The Ganassi cars come from Gibbs, but I don’t feel pressure. You just go out and do your best. That’s kind of the last thing I worry about. I just worry about not having problems at the race. We’ve had so many weeks where we’ve had problems throughout the race and promising runs just go down the drain. We’ve got to fix some issues and try to clean up some things. That’s the main focus and then the other stuff will come. The wins will come if you clean up that side of it. The speed is there and the team potential is there, it’s just a matter of kind of sorting some things out that we need to and just having some smooth races. Once you get that fixed up, then everything seems to come together. Nothing is coming together right now. We’ve got most of it, but the last little quarter is just not working.”

HOW ARE YOU WHEN THAT HAPPENS? DO YOU POUND ON THE TABLE OR ANYTING LIKE THAT? “I get upset. I get upset on the radio and things like that. Honestly, I wish I didn’t get as upset as I do on the radio. That’s something I work on but it’s frustrating at times. Honestly, you try to forget about it the best you can – like right away you have to reload and reset and when something wrong does happen you just have to say, ‘OK, there’s nothing I can do about it now, at least not in the current moment, so let’s just try to figure out how to get better.’ But it frustrated you when it keeps happening over and over again and you just learn that everyone makes mistakes and things happen and that’s just our sport. I make mistakes. I hit the fence sometimes, so things just happen. You can’t really let it bug you too much. It’s something I’ve tried to get better at, not letting things kind of irritate me when things do go wrong of getting as upset and kind of in your mind thinks of what went wrong instead of it went wrong how do you overcome it. It’s something you get better at hopefully as you kind of get older and grow up a little bit.”

ARE YOU GAINING GROUND ON YOUR ISSUES? “No, there’s no change that we’ve made. You just realize it. We’ve had a bunch of talks this week, myself and Jeremy and some other people just about personal stuff and trying to figure out how to be better behind the wheel and be a better leader. All of that stuff will hopefully come together. You’re constantly working on it, but it’s kind of a priority of mine because the last month or so it hasn’t been to my liking just personally. It’s not anyone on the team, but just personally and that’s something I’ve tried to get better at and hopefully we’ve got to make strides.”

HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT A DOUBLEHEADER HERE NEXT YEAR? “I don’t know. I don’t know what the schedule will be like. Are we bringing two cars? They haven’t told us any of that. We’ve been trying to figure it out, hopefully soon we’ll figure it out so we can figure out what to do. I think it will be neat. I think it will be interesting. I’m curious to see what the race lengths are. I’ve got to think that they won’t be as long. This race is a 400-miler now, so maybe it’s a 300 or two 250s, so that will be interesting to see. I think it’s a good idea, a doubleheader weekend is cool. I think the XFINITY and Trucks are with us as well, so that’s a lot of racing going on. You get to see two races in one day, so that’s really cool. Hopefully, the fans will enjoy that. It’s a unique thing that I thought was intriguing about the new schedule.”

HOW ARE YOU LOOKING AT MICHIGAN? “I don’t know. It’ll be a truck race. I don’t really know. That will be a lot different. Teams have been balancing out drag versus downforce and you hear guys talk about, ‘I think these guys have less drag, but they don’t handle as well,’ and ‘these guys have more downforce, but more drag.’ That place is gonna almost be a superspeedway. That place is so big, so smooth, so fast you’re just gonna want to knock all the drag out of it you can. I feel like that’s the direction everyone is gonna go, so that will be a little different race than what we’re used to. I see us running wide-open around there for a long time. I think that will look more like a truck race than anything else just because of the race track. Everywhere else this year I haven’ t really associated with truck racing. I raced trucks for a long time, so I think Michigan would kind of be like a truck race. I think they put on a good show there, so I just hope for a good show. That’s all you want to do is put on a good race for the fans and hopefully the cars are raceable and you’re able to make cool moves around people. That’s all I really hope for when I go to a place like that.”

RYAN NEWMAN, No. 6 Wyndham Rewards Ford Mustang – WHAT WAS CHARLOTTE LIKE FOR YOU FROM A DRAFTING STANDPOINT? “We had a much more competitive Ford last week than we’ve had in the past to be able to do that. We still have a lot of gains to make, but, overall, the racing at Charlotte I thought was fairly good. You get a restart like that at the end when you’re four-wide coming off of turn two with five to go, you really can’t complain about the racing.”

WHAT ABOUT MICHIGAN NEXT WEEK? “I don’t know. I think we’re all learning as we go. I think this weekend is an opportunity to learn and apply towards Michigan just because of the speeds and the banking and the type of racing that we have here. We get into the start of this summer stretch where you have a couple of Michigans and a couple Poconos and an Indianapolis, so you spend a lot of time on two and two-and-a-half mile race tracks and this is kind of our first real experience with that with this package, so outside of Fontana when everything was so new that I don’t think anybody besides the 18 knew.”

DO YOU FEEL ANY ADDED PRESSURE TO DO WELL AT MICHIGAN WITH ROUSH HAVING SO MUCH SUCCESS THERE? “I quit feeling pressure a long time ago. Pressure is in bombs. It blows things up and it doesn’t make anything any better. Confidence is more important to me than pressure and confidence is knowing that you have an organization behind you that has a lot of experience and knowledge and has been there. That’s much better than having an organization that has never been or maybe never was and probably won’t be, so that confidence is way more powerful to me.”

HAVE YOU AND RICKY TALKED A LOT THIS YEAR OR MORE RECENTLY ABOUT THE CARS? “We talk a lot at debriefs and compare notes. He’s got a little different language than I do. Part of that might be from Mississippi. We’re a lot the same in our upbringing being dirt track, open-wheel racers or just open-wheel racers in general, but I think I have a much more technical understanding and background of the car being an engineer, having an engineer mindset, and he doesn’t have that. So for me it’s about understanding his vocabulary, understanding his perspective and watching him work with Brian Pattie to understand what Scott and I can do to be better, or what Scott and I can do to help them be better because that in turn will make us better. I think it’s been a good relationship. Ricky and I have always gotten along on and off the race track. As I said before, we have a lot of passion about open-wheel racing. We’re kind of both partners with the same guy for dirt, sprint car racing – him with the winged car and me with the non-winged car, so there are lots of levels of our friendship.”

WHAT DO YOU HAVE PLANNED FOR THE OFF-WEEKEND? “I think we’re gonna do a trip up to Michigan actually for a little family vacation, spend some time with some friends. That’s the plan as of right now.”

WHAT WAS YOUR FONDEST MEMORY WITH YOUR DAD? “Just winning for him with him. Probably equally the midget race I won at Salem as much as the Cup race that I won at Michigan on Father’s Day weekend. At Salem we got in a fight over something stupid, which is what fathers and sons do because they’re passionate. I think I ended up lapping all the way up to seventh in the feature and came in and kind of lofted him the trophy and said, ‘Happy Father’s Day.’ That was my way of proving my point. Whether I did or not you have to know me and my dad to understand that. Those moments, I think, whether they’re good or bad or indifferent are ones that are special and Father’s Day or not, something you always remember the rest of your life.”

COREY LAJOIE, No. 32 VisoneRV Ford Mustang – ANY PLANS TOMORROW AFTER QUALIFYING? “I’ll probably take a nap and watch the XFINITY race and see how that thing plays out. My wife is coming up tomorrow morning. Her sister lives up here, so we’ll probably go do something. We like going to the Kalahari. I’m just a big kid, so I’ll go down the water slide and knock little kids out of the way to get in line first (laughing).”

ARE YOU GOING TO ASK YOUR ENGINEER TO GET EJECTED MORE OFTEN? “Yeah, we’re gonna leave him at home more often (laughing). I guess in his defense if you’re gonna get kicked out, you might as well get kicked out at home so you can watch the race from your couch. He thought about going to the Ferris Wheel and sitting on the Ferris Wheel and taking a picture and sending it to us, but Roy is a great asset to our team. Obviously, I hated losing him there on Thursday because we couldn’t get through tech for a little bit of left-rear toe, but that’s part of the rules. He was helping do fuel mileage from the couch on his computer and they can stay linked in. He just didn’t happen to have his butt on the pit box.”

SO, HE WAS IN COMMUNICATION? “That’s the thing when they used to throw crew chiefs out back in the day or crew chiefs were suspended they would be hanging out in the driver’s bus or hanging out in the front of the lounge and they never see them. They’re still there. They’re still engaged. They can say they kicked him out and he’s not there, they just have somebody fill in for him but he’s still calling the ultimate shot. It’s not this big secret that he was still sending text messages and sending the Google documents or whatever the software they use to stay in contact with everybody. It’s just part of the deal. He just happened to be watching on the couch and he can drink his own free beer while he’s watching the race.”

YOU’RE HAPPIER WHEN YOU FINISH 12TH. “Yeah, because when the pay window opened up it doesn’t matter how you get there, when the pay window opened up we were 12th and that feels pretty good. I feel more content and I guess you could put more weight into that 12th than you can at Talladega because people know going to Talladega it’s kind of a crapshoot, but over 600 miles you can’t really back into a 12th-place finish.”

TY DILLON HAD SOME IDEAS ON HOW TO ENHANCE THE FAN EXPERIENCE. DO YOU HAVE ANY IDEAS? “I read what he said and he has some good ideas. I think maybe the top 25 guys should have cameras. I think a majority of the F1 cars have those halo cameras on every week because it kind of gets old seeing the same narrative, the same guys winning every week. Their cars are just that much superior than the others because there have been only two teams that have won a race that’s not a superspeedway this year, which is Gibbs and Penske. I think it’s a glowing fact that nobody wants to talk about if you don’t drive for one of those two teams, you’re not winning any points races, but that wasn’t the question. How do you make the broadcast better? It would be cool to livestream an in-car camera on your social media platform. That would be another way to monetize things for the drivers as well as the sport as well as improve our social media platforms – give us all the content because that’s all you hear about is content this and content that. There’s lots of things that happen in the back of the pack that TV cameras never see because there aren’t any back there. If they put in-car cameras in all of them, they wouldn’t miss anything. I think we need more visor cameras because those are cool shots – maybe four or five of those. Beyond that, I think we also need to tell a story on how the drivers get fatigued more. People assume we drive around in circles and your heart rate doesn’t get about 100 beats per minute, if they had heart rate monitors and graphs and percentage of body weight lost so they can see with different technology nowadays, that would be pretty cool to put in a broadcast. And there are also stories they can tell on pit road with pit crews that don’t get told a lot, so I think there are different areas where the whole broadcast could probably get a little bit better, but I think for the most part they do a pretty good job.”

WHAT DO THESE TOP 15 RUNS OF LATE MEAN TO YOU PERSONALLY? “It feels good because nobody expects us to go up there and run in the top 20 on average let alone get up in there and race in the top 15, so to have those couple good days we just put those down in the bank and try to do it again. Those runs aren’t gonna come every week. We know that because we’re a 26th to 28th-place car on speed usually and there’s not really any momentum you can carry from there to here. I was talking to Nate Ryan and I told him we were gonna be 28th to 30th and where were we? We were 30th in practice. I do it every week, so I kind of know where we’re at. You just have to be realistic and check the boxes that we can check and not make any mistakes and if the race plays out in our favor, then we can run 12th and if it doesn’t, then we run 29th.”

IS IT HARD GOING TO A TRACK KNOWING THAT’S THE CASE? “I’m probably overly realistic sometimes and I get picked at because I’m not optimistic most of the time. I figure we’re a half-second off the pace at Charlotte and if you figure it up we’re gonna be six laps down by the end of the race. That’s what my outlook is. Anything better than that is a gain, but Pocono is a place where downforce is important and obviously horsepower is important. I know we lack a little bit in those areas because we don’t have the A programs and we don’t have any wind tunnel time, so you just go in here and expect to beat the cars you’re supposed to beat and hope you can race against the teams that have a little bit more to work with than us guys do.”

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