NASCAR Cup Series Ford Performance Daytona Media Day (Stenhouse and Busch)

Ford Performance Daytona Media Day (Stenhouse and Busch)

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RICKY STENHOUSE JR. – No. 17 Ford Fusion – DID YOU LOOK AT YOUR YELLOW LINE RULING ON REPLAY? “I think in the rule book it does say if you go below the yellow line and advance your position you will be black-flagged or whatever the consequences were. But it also says if you force somebody below the yellow line that that car could be black-flagged, but we asked NASCAR and we haven’t heard back from them on that. Typical. I guess the next time somebody gets to the inside of me I’ll force them below the yellow line and then they’ll have to pit and they’ll be in the same position that I was in. If that’s the way they’re gonna call it, then I guess we’ll race that way. We’ll see if they get back to us before we race tomorrow.”

DID YOU FEEL LIKE YOU ADVANCED YOUR POSITION? “Yeah, I definitely advanced it. I was in the process of advancing it before I got below the yellow line, but I would definitely say that I advanced it, but I think we all thought that in the rule if somebody forced you below there that they would be penalized and not yourself, so that’s what I had in my mind when I went down there. They did say that you could give it back, but nobody told us to give it back until they told us we were black-flagged, so better communication would be nice. I’m still waiting to figure out how they’re gonna call the Duels or the 500, so we can make our decision on how we want to go about things because it’s fairly easy to run somebody below the yellow line if that’s how they’re gonna call it, so we’ll just see how it goes once we hear back from them, I guess.”

WHAT’S YOUR GAME PLAN TOMORROW? “I’m going for points. I already called my team as soon as the race was over Sunday I talked to my crew chief and I told him, ‘Hey, I want to get this Clash car turned around and ready to go in case we need to run it come Sunday.’ I didn’t want to run our backup car that I haven’t raced. I really liked the way our car drove in the Clash, so I told him if something happens to our 500 car in the Duel that I want to bring our Clash car back down here, so we’re bringing it back down. They’ve already got it cleaned up and turned around and ready to go, so it will come back down here. But we want to go get points. We want to win a Duel and collect another trophy and put ourselves in the best starting spot come Sunday, but if something happens in that, I feel really comfortable with our Clash car that we had.”

WHAT IF YOU COULD CALL OTHER DRIVERS ON THE RADIO? “I got so confused trying to figure out whose radio I was on. It was really neat to kind of like do that for once, but I remember I had like this huge dial on which person I was on, but for some reason I would still get mixed up on who I was on. It made it difficult. I think when they did away with that it was kind of nice. I could kind of focus on driving again, but it was neat for a point for sure. As far as having it every race, there were times you would be like, and I guess you’d switch over and ask them what they were thinking. I think that would be kind of funny and entertaining, but, realistically, it would be kind of tough.”

HOW IS BRING YOUR MOM TO WORK DAY GOING? “My dad and my mom came down yesterday. My dad built a sprint car engine for a guy that’s racing over in East Bay in Tampa tonight and tomorrow and through the weekend, so he left this morning to deliver an engine and I told mom to come hang out with me.”

ARE YOU COMFORTABLE WITH THE CONCUSSION PROTOCOL IN NASCAR? “Yeah, I feel really good. Safety is always advancing and I think NASCAR does a really good job of getting our cars to be the safest they can be. Sometimes I think us drivers feel like some of the things we have to do is a pain, but when you sit back and look at it a lot of things are for good reason. I know racing sprint cars and coming up and riding dirt bikes and playing football there are so many things and so many ways you can get concussions, but I think the safety of our cars and our helmets and HANS devices, seat belts, everything they’re doing is really proactive and the protocols that we go through before the season starts, our baseline testing and things like that, are all really good things.”

IF YOU WIN THE 500 WILL OLIVE BRANCH LOOK LIKE PHILADELPHIA? “No, my town won’t tear their own town up. I think that’s the dumbest thing I’ve ever seen. I never understood that or why anybody would tear up their own city for good or bad reasons. I think that’s the dumbest thing I’ve ever seen.”

WHO DO YOU THINK WILL BE THE NEXT MOST POPULAR DRIVER? “I think we’re all under the consensus that Chase is gonna take that back over. His dad had it before Dale Jr. ever came along, so I don’t see why that wouldn’t go back to him.”

WHAT IS THE BIGGEST CHANGE WITH YOUR SPRINT CAR TEAM? “I think we learned a lot last year throughout the whole World of Outlaws season and having Sheldon’s dad over really helped us kind of tune our cars a little bit and then really, I mean, we ran the same cars that we ran the year before and we’ve won an all-star race and the first World of Outlaw race, which is super-cool. We definitely kicked it off on the right foot. Sheldon is super-pumped and ready to go. For him, I think the biggest thing is last year he was working on his car and driving it. This year, he’s just driving, so I think he was worn down a lot last year, so I think he’s gonna be even better as the season goes being able to not have to get up at 8 a.m. to work on his own car and get ready for the race. It’ll be good.”

WHY HAVE FORDS BEEN SO GOOD AT RESTRICTOR PLATE TRACKS? “I think it’s unpredictable. For us, the speed in our Fords weren’t there qualifying like they had been recently. I think the Hendrick cars were really fast. Gibbs cars were really fast in qualifying, so the single car speed I don’t think we’re necessarily as good as what we wanted. I think we lost a little bit of our edge, but driving-wise I thought ours drove really good. I think come the Duel or come the 500 I think getting your car driving good is pretty important. I felt really good with how my car drove in the Clash and I was watching others struggle to get through a 20-lap run in the Clash because their car was driving bad. So it doesn’t matter how fast it is if you can’t hold the throttle down because it doesn’t handle as good, then you’re gonna look like you’re at a deficit. But I felt like we got our cars driving good and maybe our balance in the Fords is where they need to be.”

IS THAT ONE OF THE GOALS FOR THE DUELS? “Yeah, for sure. I think for us we’ve drafted a little bit with our Duel car, but we didn’t do a whole lot. There are a lot of people who didn’t do a lot of drafting with their Duel car, so I thought my Duel car drove a little bit different than my Clash car. We made changes before qualifying to our Duel car to get it like our Clash car because I liked the way it drove. I think, for us, I’m optimistic going into the Duels tomorrow. Being at night is gonna be a little bit different. I’m glad I was able to be in the Clash and kind of figure out how it was gonna drive during the day and hopefully that will set us up good for Sunday.”

WEIRD TO SEE THEM DRIVING SO LOW IN THE BACK? “Yeah, it is crazy how low the cars are. I got to thinking that maybe we could push a little bit, but the cars handle pretty bad where it’s tough to push each other. You do get some pretty big runs, but I think all in all it’s gonna be a good 500. I feel really good. I think the beginning of the Clash was very exciting. I was a little disappointed that they waited to race until the last lap. For me, before we got penalized I felt like I was up in the mix and I was trying to make lanes work and then they got single-file pretty quick. It is a lot easier on the mind running single-file up around the top, but, all in all, I think once we do race the longer runs will be fun.”

 

KURT BUSCH – No. 41 Ford Fusion – DO YOU FEEL PRESSURE TO DEFEND YOUR VICTORY? “It’s a little bit of pressure, but, at the same time, it’s a great feeling because we accomplished something special. I’m probably the one applying the most pressure to defend the Daytona 500 title because I want to go back-to-back like Sterling Marlin did back in the late nineties.”

YOU SEEM REJUVENATED. WHY IS THAT? “I think you’re noticing it more, but I’m the same guy. Things are fun right now with my wife, Ashley, and the time I spend with her. Monster Energy’s involvement in our sport. I’ve been a Monster athlete the last six years and it’s great to see them moving forward with different spots of advertising and it’s a fun fraternity to be part of, so it’s easy to smile.”

WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON THE VISIBILITY OF BRIAN FRANCE? “Brian is around. He’s working hard. He’s behind the scenes as well and he’s out in front. His education around this sport will always be 10 times more than what any driver or team owner will understand. He’s a great leader. He’s taken us in this direction and that’s the direction we’re headed.”

DO YOU FEEL WITH THE CHANGES THAT NASCAR IS HEALTHY? “To me, the way that our schedule works out that’s what I’d like to see adjusted the most, but I like the fact that we’re going to Vegas to kick off the Playoffs in September this year. One thing I think that needs to happen though is that our season finale, the championship, should be a host committee. It should be bidded on and it should move around from track to track and give an opportunity for a Las Vegas Motor Speedway or a Texas Motor Speedway to host it, but that won’t happen because it’s ISC controlled. That’s where I see we need to make moves to keep our sport fresher and more exciting, and really evaluate the TV package on how it handles the two races per track versus a one race track.”

DO YOU LIKE 36 RACES? “Thirty-six is a good number. Shorter would help. It could be just a small change. Making the Daytona 500, the Coke 600, Darlington and the Southern 500 and a roaming race so to speak – it could be Indianapolis – but go to majors, go to marquee events that really generate a lot of interest that could be part of the Playoffs or they could not be part of the Playoffs. Inject more importance per race weekend because I feel it when I go to a track like Kentucky when we only race there once a year, Indianapolis, those just feel more special to me.”

HOW DO YOU SEE DATA SHARING? “It’s a hot topic because we used to see the TV display our throttle trace, our brake trace and the steering with a filter that wasn’t as accurate as it really would be for a race, but the fans appreciated it. Our viewers could understand when those moves were happening from inside the car. Now it’s filtered and it’s so accurate I can see exactly what my teammate Kevin Harvick is doing on a printout or my tablet that I go and review different race notes about, and what I’m hearing is that other teams have the ability to look at other teams, so that’s crossing the line, that’s where NASCAR is blaming the manufacturers, manufacturers are blaming NASCAR. They’re saying that the drivers should have known about this, and there’s a lot of confusion going on about the data sharing.”

WOULD YOU RATHER NOT HAVE PEOPLE SEE YOUR INFORMATION? “I would like to give it to the fans to see it, so they can digest it at a certain level, but to have the other competitors be able to really zero in and see exactly what’s going on, that’s absurd.”

WHO WILL BE THE MOST POPULAR DRIVER? “I would say Chase Elliott. The way his father carried this sport with many, many, many Most Popular Driver Awards, that’s the easy choice in my mind, but it could turn out different. It could be to where fans want to see that guy dominating and getting those race wins and is that most popular from that fashion.”

ARE YOU CONCERNED ABOUT CONCUSSIONS? “It’s not on my mind. It’s part of our sport, though. This is a contact sport or things can happen at a high rate of speed, but I’m real happy with the era that I grew up in here in NASCAR with the SAFER barriers, the HANS device, our seats are incredible and the foam and the material we’re using to absorb all of this energy has really done a great job to protect the drivers over the years, but you never know when there’s that one moment or that one bad angle where it’s gonna come about and that’s the danger side. That is the thrill of being on the edge and racing for wins, but it’s also that danger and that edge of safety and danger effect that really draws people to our sport.”

WHAT CAN YOU TAKE FROM WINNING LAST YEAR? “I think I’ll do a better job of pacing the party this time around. It was tough because we were just in that Daytona 500 spirit for so long afterwards and rightfully so. It’s the Great American Race. It’s the most prominent, powerful and prestigious stock car race and to win it was fantastic. Today is a day where I feel like it is time to shelf it and move on to 2018 and really focus in on trying to repeat, but also to just give the focus to the car, the team and the race on what we have to do to execute as a team. I think the key word is patience. You never know when it’s the exact time to go and you have to go with your gut a lot in this game, and last year I made the right move on the right lap and I hope to do that again.”

WHAT DOES ALMIROLA BRING TO THE TEAM? “His ability to digest a car and to read information and just frankly his freshness in coming up to a top-level team. That’s gonna be exciting for all of us to listen in to on how he believes the car is handling, what he learned from the practice session, or just working with a top-level team. That’s gonna draw extra information out of him and I think that’s gonna help us grow as a group. My lead engineer is now over as his crew chief, so that really ties all four teams in tighter and I think that’s the moves we made in the offseason to make Stewart-Haas Racing more successful.”

WILL YOU DRAW MORE INFORMATION FROM ALL FOUR TEAMS? “Just the fact of when you’re at a team like Petty Motorsports, you’re at the capacity of the investment that the team has made. Now Aric has everything in front of him at his disposal. Wind tunnel notes, extra sessions with the simulator. I mean, the list could go on and on, but the specifics of it is he’s had A-Z to work through before, now he’s got that much more.”

DID RUNNING THE INDY 500 HELP YOU LEARN ABOUT WHY SOME OF THOSE DRIVERS STRUGGLE TRANSITIONING TO CUP? “There are a couple of fun facts that are different between and IndyCar and a stock car. The biggest thing was the dirty air in an IndyCar that people don’t talk about much is 10 times worse than what it is in a stock car. We talk about dirty air here. IndyCar is that much more so and how the draft works and how your handling changes based off where you’re even running and then when you get closer to that car in front of you. Another fun fact is that you actually lift on the straightaway in an IndyCar and then you’re full throttle through the corners. That is 100 percent opposite, 180 degrees in a stock car where we’re always lifting in the corners because our cars are so heavy and they’re lacking downforce.”

DO YOU HAVE SOME PARTY IDEAS IF YOU WIN THIS YEAR? “I have some ideas that slipped through the cracks with the Harley J. Earl trophy on its tour, so if we win it again, I promise you it’s gonna be a good party and a good tour for the trophy.”

WHAT ARE SOME OF THE IDEAS? “More sharing. I want to share it more and have others take it and they need to do things with it similar to like the Stanley Cup where different athletes, captains of the team, coaches, people they do more things with the trophy. It’s not just me.”

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