Ford Performance NASCAR: Blaney and Nemechek Phoenix Media Availabilities

Ford Performance Notes and Quotes
Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series (MENCS)
Friday, November 8, 2019

EVENT: Bluegreens Vacation 500, ISM Raceway (Media Availability)

JOHN HUNTER NEMECHEK, No. 36 Yanman/Martin Generators Ford Mustang – HOW HAS YOUR ADJUSTMENT BEEN TO FRONT ROW? “The second week in a Cup car and I’m still trying to learn. Texas was a learning process of trying to figure out your balance to run as close to wide-open as you possibly could, and it was all about having your car trimmed out or not trimmed out to run wide-open or not wide-open – just trying to figure all that stuff out. Here at Phoenix it’s a little bit different – high downforce and high horsepower and trying to figure all of that out as far as throttle time, brake, how much you need to roll. There are a lot of different characteristics that go into the race track here at Phoenix, so just trying to figure that out to be better for Sunday. We improved all of first practice, made some really good adjustments and hope to continue doing that soon.”

HOW DO HANDLE THINGS LIKE RESTARTS HERE IN A PLAYOFF ELIMINATION RACE WHEN YOU’RE STILL TRYING TO GAIN EXPERIENCE? “We’re here to run all the laps. It is an elimination race, but going back to Texas you just don’t want to be the headline. You don’t want to be the story of taking out a chase guy, so you’re mindful of that. You just have to kind of figure it out and stay out of the way, just run all the laps. I’m here for experience with the team that we’re with, filling in for Matt and only being my second Cup start, we’re here to try to make improvements through the race, try to make improvements to the car and for myself as a driver it’s a big step going to the Cup Series, so I’m trying to better myself as well.”

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WHAT WAS LAST WEEKEND LIKE FOR YOU? “It was fun. It was a good weekend. I feel like it was a solid debut, being able to finish 21st only one lap down. I feel like we were on the lead lap most of the race and I feel like that’s really hard to do your first time in a Cup car. We went back to debrief at the shop, looked over a lot of pit road stuff, some on track stuff – throttle traces, what other guys were doing – so just trying to figure out everything that really goes on throughout a race and how to better myself as a driver. It’s a big step going from XFINITY to Cup. That’s why they’re the best of the best and that’s why they’re at where they’re at.”

HOW HARD IS IT TO BE THROWN INTO A TEAM LIKE THAT WITH JUST A COUPLE DAYS ADVANCE NOTICE? “It’s hard being with a different team, different crew chief, different guys, different organization. It’s kind of hard to factor in that I’ve never met those guys until two days before we left to go to the race track, so trying to get the communication down. I felt like we communicated well all weekend and they kind of kept me in a box, which was good and what they thought was gonna be the right choices on adjustments and stuff, so I felt pretty good about it.”

HAS THIS WEEKEND BEEN ANY EASIER AT LEAST OFF THE TRUCK? “No, not really. It’s still a learning process for me. Every time we go to a new race track in a Cup car it’s gonna be a learning process. Nothing is ever the same from one race track to another. There’s definitely some instances and scenarios from restarts and stuff that you can bring from last week to this week. In the Cup Series it’s pretty big. They’re four or five-wide and they’re getting after it and they’re able to get away with that compared to sometimes in the Truck Series when you make it four or five-wide you don’t get away with it, so definitely it’s an improvement for sure going from Trucks to XFINITY to Cup. Three huge steps and going from XFINITY to Cup is the biggest one.”

HOW WAS PRACTICE? “It was OK. I feel like we got better as the runs went on. We just need to keep adjusting and keep getting better as the day goes on in this next practice. I feel like I don’t really know what to expect qualifying, but it’s not where you start it’s where you finish. I just hope to improve throughout the weekend.”

YOU GREW UP IN THIS SPORT AND KNOW A LOT OF THE GUYS ON THE CUP LEVEL. IS THERE ANY INTIMIDATION RACING GUYS LIKE KEVIN HARVICK OR JOEY LOGANO? “I grew up underneath a lot of these guys. Kyle’s first XFINITY start, I think, was in one of my dad’s cars at Nemco Motorsports, so it’s pretty cool to be able to be out here racing against those guys and grow up underneath them and already kind of establishing a relationship. I can lean on them for advice, which I think is really good.”

BUT YOU’RE NOT IN AWE OF THEM. “No. I think when I was younger I was intimidated by them because they are who they are, but in the end you can’t be intimidated by them. You’re out there racing against them. You’re one of them. When you get behind the wheel and put a helmet on you’re the same size as they are.”

RYAN BLANEY, No. 12 Dex Imaging Ford Mustang – DOES NASCAR NEED TO GET INVOLVED IF A DRIVER INTENTIONALLY CAUSES A CAUTION? “I think it’s a judgment call on their part, and I think what I read was they made a judgment call and stuff like that. I don’t know if his tire was down or not last week. You couldn’t tell, but everyone has done it. I’ve never done it, but I’ve never really been in that spot where I had to make that decision right then and there. I know it messed up a good amount of guys’ days last week under green flag stops, so that really stinks. I don’t know. I can’t really comment on that because I’ve never been in that spot before.”

THE WAY THEY’VE CALLED IT THE LAST COUPLE OF WEEKS WOULD IT CHANGE WHAT YOU DO IF YOU GET A FLAT? “That’s an in the moment thing. I can’t really sit here and say what I’d do if I did have a flat. I’ve had flats before and I’ve come to pit road, but I’ve had tire rubs before and stay on the track until it blows. That’s almost you could say an equivalent to that. Your tire is rubbing bad and you don’t come to pit road you know it’s gonna blow out, but the difference is you spin out you save your day. If you don’t come in with a tire rub, you wreck your car. I don’t know. You don’t want to see it. I probably would have been more upset if it ruined my day. We didn’t pit yet, so it didn’t ruin my day, so I don’t know. That’s up to NASCAR.”

KYLE LARSON SAID HE WAS SURPRISED EVERYONE WAS STILL TALKING ABOUT IT. WHAT DO YOU THINK? “It’s been going on for years, decades people have been spinning on purpose to cause cautions so it saves their race. If you have a flat tire and pit under green, you’re gonna lose a couple of laps at least. If you spin out and cause a caution, maybe you stay on the lead lap, so it’s been going on forever. Yeah, I’m surprised it’s still being talked about. I know he brought it up. He brings it up and he’s surprised it’s still being talked about, well it’s like, ‘You brought it up.’ But, I definitely think it’s getting talked about more than it has in the past, but it’s not a new thing. It’s been going on forever, but when it causes implications to some peoples’ days, it definitely gets talked about more, especially when it’s in the playoffs.”

HOW DO YOU LOOK AT THIS WEEKEND? “Hopefully pretty good. I thought we had a pretty decent practice today. This place was really good for us in the spring, so we led a lot of laps and had a shot to win it at the end and the 18 just got us. I think we’ll be pretty good. I’ll know a little bit more here in a about an hour.”

DID YOU LEARN ANYTHING FROM THE SPRING THAT YOU CAN APPLY TO THIS RACE? “I hope so. You try to take what you learned from previous races, especially when we go to these places twice a year and try to apply them to the next race. We’ll see. We definitely came here a little bit different. We came here trying to be close to where we ended the spring race to try to start a little bit closer to where we think the track is gonna go. Every team does that, it’s not just us. Everyone who was good here is still gonna be good here and hopefully we’re still up in the top handful.”

WHAT IS YOUR PHILOSOPHY TO MOVE ON THIS WEEKEND? “We’ve got to win the race. We’re not in a must-win, but it’s gonna be hard to make up points on two guys that are in right now. We’re 23 out. That’s a lot of points. Those guys could have trouble. You never know how it goes, but it’s gonna be really hard for me to believe those guys aren’t gonna get any stage points all day and we’re gonna get 20 stage points. That’s hard to believe. They’re gonna get something. They’re here for a reason and they run well enough, so we’ll just go try to win the race. If something happens to those guys early in the race maybe you switch your mindset and say, ‘OK, we’ve got to beat the 42 and the 11 on points,’ but my thought is just trying to win.”

HOW DIFFERENT IS IT WITH THE NEW CONFIGURATION OF THE TRACK, ESPECIALLY THE NEW TURN ONE? “You saw it in the spring – wild restarts. I mean, four and five-wide. You definitely want to be going forward on the restarts, not getting put three or four-wide. You want to put people three or four-wide. I know we did that a lot. I got put three or four-wide a couple times and it kind of still worked out for us, but it’s gonna be interesting, especially with the stuff they put down on one and two up top. I think people are gonna be using that later in the day and it’s gonna come into play on restarts, so we’ll find out, but just where the start-finish line is and you’ve got all that apron. It’s really enticing to go down there and you definitely want to be the aggressor on that stuff when it comes to restarts now.”

IS IT MORE STRESSFUL OR LESS KNOWING WHAT YOU NEED TO DO? “It’s the same as every week. I don’t really get stressed out too much. You know what the goal is every single week. You fight all season to try to get to this spot and you’re thankful you still have the opportunity. While we’re not in a must-win situation, it’s more than likely we’ve got to win the race, so you just try to do the best job you can. That’s what our mindset is every single week, whether it’s week one or week 36. You just go do the best you can and if the best you can do is win the race, that’s amazing. If the best we can do Sunday is fifth, then we did our best, but you just try to stay positive all weekend and work really hard on what you need to work on for the whole race.”

WHAT DOES YOUR POST-HOMESTEAD WEEK LOOK LIKE? “It’s just gonna be nice to be home for a weekend. I haven’t been home, even our off weeks this year, I think I traveled and went overseas or something like that and saw some places. The first week is gonna be nice. Maybe I’ll go up to West Virginia and see my sister and her kid, but just be home and kind of unwind and see everybody at the race shop and things like that. The family time is good. Obviously, part of you wants the season to be over and part you doesn’t want the season to be over because this is what you love to do and this is what you look forward to every single weekend, but it is nice to get a little bit of a break every now and then.”

WHAT WERE YOUR THOUGHTS ON ROGER PENSKE BUYING IMS? “That was a big news announcement. I knew actually nothing about it until Monday morning. I got a call really early Monday morning that said this is what RP did. I was like, ‘That’s pretty big news.’ It’s amazing they kept it secret because you can’t keep anything secret nowadays. It eventually gets out and they did a great job at doing that, but if there was any person that was going to do that, whether buy Indianapolis Motor Speedway or buy Indy Car, I could think of no better person to do that. He’s been the face of Indianapolis for a long time, having 18 wins there in the 500. He’s been the face of Indy Car for a long time and I think it’s great. I think he’s gonna to a great job at integrating new things, not only to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, but Indy Car as well and NASCAR. There has been a lot of talk about, not from him, but about maybe doing a dual weekend and I think he’s the guy that could definitely make it happen and I think he wants to make that happen. I don’t think there’s really anyone better at figuring out how to make things better. It’s no secret that the Brickyard has been struggling for the last handful of years and I think he’s really gonna bring it back to life. I was really excited to hear that news.”

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