Kobalt Tools 400 Advance
March 9, 2012 Las Vegas Motor Speedway
Las Vegas Ford Facts:
• Ford Racing has won half of the 14 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series races at Las Vegas Motor Speedway and all of them have been by Roush Fenway Racing drivers.
• Roush Fenway Racing has 12 wins combined in the NASCAR Sprint Cup and NASCAR Nationwide Series at Las Vegas Motor Speedway (29 total races).
• Las Vegas Motor Speedway first hosted the NASCAR Nationwide Series in 1997 before the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series joined the schedule one year later. Ford and Roush Fenway Racing have come away with at least one win in either series in 10 of the 15 years the 1.5-mile track has been in existence.
• Matt Kenseth and Carl Edwards each have two NSCS wins at LVMS while Greg Biffle has one NNS victory at the track.
Matt Kenseth, driver of the No. 17 Zest Ford Fusion, is fourth in the point standings after two races. He met with members of the media and introduced new sponsor Zest in the Las Vegas Motor Speedway infield media center.
JIM DANIELS, President/CEO, High Ridge Brands – “First of all, we’re all very excited about this opportunity. High Ridge Brands is a new company. We were just formed in January by a private equity group and we bought the Zest brand. Zest had been an iconic brand, but neglected for a number of years, so we’ve taken this brand, we’re investing in it and we thought, ‘What better way to show our interesting in growing this brand and investing in than coming to NASCAR,’ which is obviously a huge sport, a loyal population and fan base, and, of course, when we had the opportunity to work with Roush Fenway and Matt Kenseth it was a no brainer, so we’re thrilled. We congratulate Matt on his win at Daytona. It’s a great way to start the season and we’re thrilled to be here working with Roush Fenway and Matt Kenseth.”
MATT KENSETH – No. 17 Zest Ford Fusion – “I was excited to meet Jim this morning. It’s always really exciting to bring a new company in and a new brand into this sport. I’ve used Zest for many years actually, even as a little kid growing up, so I’m excited to have them on board. Hopefully, we can do some good things with them. I’m sure everybody has a lot of cool sayings. I’ve already heard how people want me to clean up the competition and I’ve been hearing all kinds of fun stuff, so I’m excited to have them on board and I’m looking forward to flying their colors.”
JIM DANIELS CONTINUED – “And hopefully he’ll be singing the Zestfully clean jingle in the winner’s circle on Sunday.”
MATT KENSETH CONTINUED – DO YOU HAVE ANY FAVORITE MEMORIES OF ALL THE MILITARY ACTION THAT GOES ON HERE AT NELLIS? “It’s neat to see them, but sometimes it’s not so cool to hear them when you’re trying to sleep, but they’re always loud and flying over the track. I’ve been real fortunate throughout my career. Before he retired I knew Gen. Denny Larson pretty good. He was from Wisconsin and he was stationed in Texas and was a big fan, so he got me in a F-15 out of Charlotte one time and an F-16 out of Luke and met some cool people. I heard a lot of cool stories, so I always said if I ever had to go back and have a different career, I’m flying one of those things and going into the Air Force and trying to be a fighter pilot would be something I’ve always dreamed of.”
MATT KENSETH CONTINUED – HOW ARE YOU GOING TO SPEND YOUR 40TH BIRTHDAY TOMORROW? “How am I going to spend it? Well, I haven’t made it there yet (laughter). I’m gonna spend it at the race track trying to get our Zest Ford Fusion dialed in to hopefully have a good day on Sunday, and then I’m taking the team out for dinner tomorrow night.”
HOW WAS IT TO FINALLY GET HOME AND SLEEP IN YOUR OWN BED AFTER WINNING THE DAYTONA 500, AND HAVE YOU HAD ANY EFI ISSUES? “It always feels good to get home for a few days, especially after being gone that long. Winning the Daytona 500 is a dream come true and to do all of that stuff afterwards is certainly something you try to take in and enjoy and certainly not complain about, so I was happy to get home, I was happy to sleep in my bed and see my kids and see Katie, and spend a few days to get caught up, but it was still a short week and it will probably be another week or two before you feel like you’re back to normal. The EFI stuff, we haven’t had any – knock on wood – big problems with that that I really know of so far.”
WHEN YOU MAKE A PIT ROAD CALL IS IT REALLY A RISK OR GAMBLE? “Every situation is different. Everybody is probably getting a little different fuel mileage. They car is handling a little different or what have you, but like last week it was difficult to pass and I think when everybody pitted there, I can’t remember where we were running – seventh or eighth – a lot of people decided to get two tires because the left sides were really the only tires that were wearing last week, and we got four and got about seven or eight people in front of us and half of them I never saw the whole race because we were in front of them, and I was never able to get back by them. Pit strategy and track position is very important in today’s racing, especially at a track like Phoenix, and when you know you’re four or five laps short and you’re gonna pit and do that, that’s a gamble, but pretty much everybody was in the same boat. As long as they had a few cautions, most of the guys were gonna be able to make it, so we decided to come and top off because we got four and were in the back anyway, so without that last caution, I feel like we maybe would have got five or six more of them that would have run out of fuel, but the only thing you can really do is look at the past history of the races a little bit and take a calculated gamble.”
IT’S BEEN A YEAR SINCE CARL WON A RACE. CAN YOU UNDERSTAND WHAT THAT’S LIKE AND DO YOU THINK HE HAS BEEN PRESSING AT ALL? “I’ve never really talked to him about it, to be honest with you. Carl was extremely consistent last year. He was only able to win that one race, but he was in contention to certainly win a few more races and came up short for whatever reason, so it’s really, really hard to win these races. I’ve been through almost a two-year spell before we won last year in April, so it’s hard to win these races. You have to enjoy them when you can win them because, like I said, it is difficult for anybody out there no matter how good you are to be able to put everything together just right on Sunday’s to be able win those races.”
HOW MUCH DIFFERENT IS THIS TRACK SINCE IT WAS RECONFIGUED? “It’s a lot different than what it was. There are a few things that are similar, but it is quite a bit different. We’ve done OK since they’ve reconfigured it, just had some problems here or there. I think the first race afterwards we were running second or third when Jeff had that big wreck and he took us out in that wreck, and last year we had that flat early. We’ve had some problems and haven’t won on this configuration, but I like it. They did a good job re-doing it. I think the racing is probably as good as it was before they paved it, although I thought it was pretty good before they paved it. It’s a nice race track. I think we all like coming out here. It’s a great place for a race, having the city right here and the race track is great as well.”
MATT KENSETH CONTINUED — DO YOU HAVE ANY BRISTOL EXPECTATIONS? “I like going to Bristol a lot. The track is different there after they reconfigured it there as well, so it’s one that is always a challenge. You need to be ready for it because it’s a real fast track and things happen in a big hurry. I’m looking forward to going there. We haven’t done spectacular since they reconfigured it, but I think we had pretty decent runs there last year, so I’m looking forward to getting there. I always look forward to going there. It’s one of the most fun races of the year. I think everybody always looks forward to getting there.”
WHEN DO YOU GET A FEEL FOR WHERE YOU STAND VERSUS THE COMPETITION? AT WHAT POINT IN THE SEASON? “I think probably this year, looking at the schedule, probably the Easter break or maybe after California. I think when you get done with that you have a plate race, which doesn’t have a lot of bearing on the rest of the season, you had a flat one-mile oval at Phoenix , you get an intermediate here, a two-mile at California, and a half-mile short track at Bristol, so I think you get through those races – maybe I should look at it before Martinsville – and then kind of see where you’re at, and then you’ve got Martinsville too and you get that Easter break, so I think that’s a pretty good mixed bag of what the season consists of and see how you’re running at all of those tracks – kind of evaluate there and go from that point.”
DID YOU HAVE A CHAT WITH BRIAN VICKERS AT DAYTONA? DID YOU TALK ABOUT LAST YEAR’S RACE AT MARTINSVILLE? “I ran into him at Daytona. That’s a bad choice of words. I saw him at Daytona (laughter) and we talked for a few minutes – nothing about anything racing – but I just saw him in the motorhome park. But we talked at Homestead and, from my end, I’m not worried about anything there, so I think that’s in the past and I’ll kind of leave it there.”
HOW TEMPTING IS IT WHEN YOU GO TO A TRACK AND HAVE HAD SUCCESS IN THE PAST TO NOT TINKER WITH ANYTHING AND MAKE CHANGES? THERE’S ALSO A DIFFERENT TIRE THIS WEEKEND. WILL THAT HAVE ANY EFFECT? “In years past you used to run into that – six or seven years ago – you’d go somewhere and run good and bring back your same car – when all of the cars used to be a little bit more unique. You’d have one car and the body would be a lot different than the next car, whereas these cars are a lot more of the same, and you’d go back and wouldn’t want to change anything and wouldn’t run good the next time just because people learned things from one race to the next, so we don’t really have that anymore. I think you come to each and every race, I think our sim group does a good job of looking through everything – what happened last time – maybe some trends at some intermediate tracks leading into the next race and some things we did different throughout the year or better and make the changes according to that. The tire, I’m not sure about to be honest with you. I don’t really know what it is or what they changed on it.”
Greg Biffle, driver of the No. 16 3M Ford Fusion, comes into this weekend holding down second-place in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series standings. He held a Q&A session Friday morning before practice to talk about the start to his season.
GREG BIFFLE – No. 16 3M Ford Fusion – HOW IS YOUR CONFIDENCE LEVEL RIGHT NOW? “Confidence is really good. This swing was kind of marked on my calendar, so to speak, for the beginning of the season for a few reasons. One, we had a good run at Phoenix last year and we had an excellent car and a very fast car here last year, so, obviously, the result – if you look at it – five laps down wasn’t what we were after, but we had a fueling issue with our car and ended up costing us a bunch of time, but I felt like I really wanted to come back here and kind of redeem myself. We had a good car, really fast, and it’s a good track for us.”
HOW MUCH DIFFERENT IS IT MENTALLY WHEN THINGS ARE GOING WELL VERSUS WHEN THEY AREN’T? “There are kind of two different aspects as far as running good and not running good. The problem with last year, take this race for instance, the problem with last year is we were about two-tenths or so over the same speed – a little faster – than the leader the entire day and we finished five laps down. That’s very, very frustrating, but you still leave with a lot of confidence going to the next race. After a while that will wear you down, run good up to the last pit stop of the day, drop the lugnut, something happened, everybody did two but you did four, come out of the pits 15th and finish right around there after leading the most laps or running up front or whatever might have happened, so that really, really, really takes a toll on you because you know you’re competitive, you know the car has speed and it’s fast, but you just can’t close the deal. With the changes we made in the team, that started to turn around. I’d rather be in that position than the other side is you’re sitting back scratching your head where 16th is the best you can do – had a great day, pit stops were good, but we had a 16th-place car, so there are two ways to look at a finish. Last year we were on the other side of the deal. We had really fast cars, really, really good, but couldn’t close the deal. The year before, we made the Chase after starting the season with six top-10s in a row and didn’t have very fast cars, or were just a real solid team but was missing a little bit. Now, we’ve kind of put them both together. We’re having good pit stops. The caution flag isn’t coming out and trapping us a lap down or something after we made a green flag cycle, so the confidence level is really, really high. I feel really good about this race track. We’ve run very good here the last three years and I think that this year will be no exception, but it’s great to be off to a good start and have good, fast, competitive cars and a guy like Matt Puccia heading this team up. He’s the one that is making the difference right now.”
WHEN DO YOU KNOW HOW YOU STACK UP WITH THE COMPETITION? “I think that you can answer that question when you leave here. I really do. This race track is not like a lot of the other mile-and-a-halfs, so it’s a little hard to judge off of this one, but we ran good at Phoenix. We were competitive and qualified good. I expect we’ll do the same here and then after this weekend is over, I think you can really look and say, ‘OK, our program is in pretty good shape. Let’s look at California.’ I mean, California is gonna be a good indicator too. That race track is old pavement and it’s a little bit more traditional, and that will give you some indication on how you’re gonna be on those type of tracks. Martinsville, that’s sort of a crapshoot. You just throw the dice. If you’ve got good brakes and can semi keep the fenders on it, you can have a decent day there, so I think we don’t really judge how we’re gonna be for the season off of that particular race, but Bristol and California and here are definitely indicators.”
GREG BIFFLE CONTINUED – WHAT DO YOU MAKE OF NASCAR GAMBLING HERE IN VEGAS? HAVE YOU EVER GAMBLED ON THE SPORT? DO YOU LOOK AT THE ODDS? “I look at the odds. When we came here in the Truck Series, my truck was super, super fast so I bet on myself to win and lost on the last lap, so ever since then I decided not to bet anymore. I made my motorhome driver bet a little bit of money this weekend. I told him it would be a good idea for him, so we’ll see. I look at the odds. It’s fun to look at the odds and see what they are, but it’s neat to come to Vegas. I love to gamble, so this is a great stop for me. I like the west coast because I get to play in town and I like this race track.”
HOW MUCH GAMBLING IS THERE ON THE TRACK AND HOW MUCH IS PLANNED OUT AS FAR AS PIT STRATEGY? “That’s a good subject because, for instance, last year at Loudon we were running second to Ryan and catching him and a caution came out and they’re like, ‘You’re going to have to pit.’ And I’m like, ‘What? How many people are gonna pit? Is the whole field gonna come?’ And he goes, ‘Oh yeah, I think a lot of them have to come.’ So three of us pitted and I started at the back, but we were 12 laps short of making the race. Gambling is gambling, but there’s also reality and the reality is 12 laps short on fuel you’re probably not gonna make it. Last week, we were two laps short on fuel, so that’s a gamble. Twelve laps pretty much isn’t a gamble, so, yeah, there are times you want to go for it and try to save fuel, and there are times where the reality is this isn’t going to work – like jumping over the puddle of water. At some point, no matter what happens here, I’m probably not gonna make it. There’s a spot to gamble and a spot not to.”
HOW MUCH DOES THE INDY CAR INCIDENT HERE LAST FALL COME INTO YOUR MIND AND WHAT DO YOU THINK IT WILL BE LIKE FOR DANICA PATRICK, WHO WAS IN THAT RACE? “That’s tough. I was thinking about that when we were coming here – if we were gonna be the first race on the track since the accident. I don’t pay attention to what other series they run here, but I don’t really know of a big race that has run here since then. It was devastating. I thought about it when I drove through the tunnel last night coming here. We all think about it because what we do is a dangerous sport. That’s an underlying factor we know that can happen with what we do, so you try and be the best prepared you can be when you go into all these races and anytime you get in the car, so that’s what I concentrate on is just being prepared inside and outside the car for what can happen. As far as Danica, I’m sure it’s gonna weigh a lot heavier on her when she gets out there on the track. That definitely would certainly be something to be thinking about.”
WHAT HAS YOUR IMPRESSION OF THIS TRACK SINCE IT WAS RECONFIGURED? “I really like the track. The old layout was a lot of fun and I thought it produced pretty good racing. I wasn’t a huge fan of reconfiguring it and re-doing it, but it’s turned out that they did a fairly good job at reconfiguring it and it’s been pretty competitive in the post-change too, so I think either way. I really enjoyed the track both ways. It’s a little bumpy and it kind of has its character now, and it had a little different type of character before, so I like it. I think they did a good job with it.”
YOU WERE 28TH A YEAR AGO COMING INTO THIS RACE AND NOW YOU’RE SECOND. HOW IMPORTANT IS IT TO BANK THESE POINTS GOING FORWARD? “It’s very important. Another note is I was 33rd when I left here, so I was two positions away from having to qualify on time to get in the show. That’s just not indicative of how our team runs. We ran so much better than that, but we weren’t able to produce the finishes of where we were running and, like I said, Matt Puccia has a lot to do with that. He has got a good team together and really has this thing organized, and we’re even faster than we had been, so we’ve got a lot of things going for us. I tell you what, it feels good coming here running as well as we have and being where we’re at in the points.”