NASCAR Cup Series Ford Performance NASCAR: Daytona (Ford OEM/Owners Press Conference)

Ford Performance NASCAR: Daytona (Ford OEM/Owners Press Conference)

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Ford Notes & Quotes
Ford OEM/Owners Press Conference
(Daytona International Speedway)

Saturday, February 17, 2018 – Page 1

Good afternoon, everybody, and we are going to continue ahead here with our media availabilities here at DIS, and this is the third of three OEM availabilities, and we’re joined here by our friends from Ford with an esteemed panel, our largest one yet. With me today, Mark Rushbrook, global director, Ford Performance Motorsports; Roger Penske, Team Penske; Jack Roush, Roush Fenway Racing; Tony Stewart, Stewart‑Haas Racing; and Eddie Wood, Wood Brothers Racing. Thank you for spending a little time with us today.

Mark, Ford Performance is heading into this weekend as reigning Daytona 500 champs and had a lot of success last year. Talk about some of the things you’re looking forward to in ’18.

MARK RUSHBROOK, Global Director, Ford Performance Motorsports: “Yeah, I mean, first of all, in 2017, to be up here with these guys, we had a great year with each of the teams winning last year across a lot of different tracks, so one of the things is the teamwork across these four different teams, where we’re working together as one team in a lot of cases. For 2018, there’s been driver lineup changes in a lot of these teams. I think all strengthening their positions and strengthening the overall Ford lineup, a lot of work with the teams adjusting to some of the rule adjustments, and we’re really looking forward, having worked hard all winter, being back out here and racing in the 500 on Sunday.”

How is your team poised for this year?

ROGER PENSKE, Owner, Team Penske: “Well, obviously with Blaney coming over as part of our plan working with the Wood Brothers last year and the success we’ve seen here so far, the last week or so has been amazing. But it’s been really a team effort with Ford’s support, no question, the aero work we’ve been able to do together and working in the full‑scale tunnel and also our models, and I think ‑‑ I said to Jack here earlier, what they’ve given us from Roush Yates from an engine perspective is amazing. You see all of these cars are fast, and I think the drivers are going to be the ones that make the difference in the race. It’s certainly been a good year for us, and we’re looking forward to going forward after here.”

JACK ROUSH, Owner, Roush Fenway Racing: “Yeah, we’ve built as many new cars and worked as hard in the shop as probably we ever have. The big challenge that I’ve taken on in the last two or three years is to try to follow Ford’s lead and get my management organized to be able to be conversant in all the technologies that have come to bear. The involvement of the computer in both the testing and the simulation and the data acquisition at the races has really brought a new dimension, and unless you’ve got your managers really keyed in on that, you really can’t take advantage of the tools that are available. I know CFD is a big thing, and all the predictive work and the race track simulator that Ford makes available really puts a challenge on the management team to figure out how to be a traffic cop and send people to the right people doing the right things on the right days. We’ve worked at the management side of it as hard as we have the cars this winter.”

TONY STEWART, Owner, Stewart-Haas Racing: “Yeah, we’re excited to have Aric on board this year, obviously. I feel like we’ve had a winter where we didn’t have to thrash, so that was kind of nice, except for a couple rules packages that NASCAR threw at us at the last minute, but that’s normal. For the most part, I think having the first year with Ford, it was a great experience for us, something that went as seamless as could possibly happen, to be welcomed into their family, and hopefully they feel like they’re a part of our family now. To be able to come down here and win the Daytona 500 last year was a great start for us. But we’re just looking forward to it. It’s really the biggest change was just bringing Aric on board this year, which it’s nice to have that small of a change in our organization, considering what we’ve had to do the last 10 years. I know Aric is excited. I know all of our drivers are excited. Exactly what Jack and Roger have mentioned, the technology and support that we are getting from Ford is second to none. It makes that side of it a lot easier. I know the engine package is something that’s a big box each week that we don’t even worry about and think about because the drivers are happy with their motors, and that lets us focus on other things that really make these cars go fast, and that’s making them turn. Getting the handling the way we want it for these guys is a big part of it, and our group has done a really good job over the winter, I think, of trying to find and massage on the things that the drivers were wanting to change between last year and this year. So I feel like we’re in good shape and ready to go race.”

Eddie, your thoughts on ’18?

EDDIE WOOD, Owner, Wood Brothers Racing: “Yeah, for ’18, of course, we’ve got a new driver, Paul Menard. We’ve already had one test behind us; went to Vegas and tested, and that went really, really well. We’ve got quite a few new people, and most of them are from my team that’s been with us for years, and we’ve got a new crew chief in Greg Erwin, and he and Paul have spent a lot of time this winter in the simulator over at the Tech Center with Ford, and that kind of gets into how much resources we have at our hands. I mean, I’ll go way back, and the resources like that’s available now from just say Ford Performance is just unbelievable, just in the last two or three years. You know, when a guy can go in a Tech Center, put on his driving suit, bolt on a helmet and get in a car and it be exactly like where he’s going to race, I mean, you can’t ‑‑ that’s something you would wish for that you wouldn’t think anybody could invent. But anyway, Paul and Greg have spent a lot of time there. We had a really good race Thursday night. Got shuffled back early, and Paul worked his way back up actually to second by himself, pretty much just one car at a time. Their 10 was going to go with Tony’s two cars, they kind of got shuffled around and it didn’t work out, but we thought we had a shot to win the race.

So we’re looking forward to that. It’s just been like the off‑season, just so much work been done by everyone working together. I think that’s the one thing that I think Ford has an advantage is the Ford One concept. There’s things that you don’t share, but they’re so small, they’re almost insignificant. And then you get back to the Roush Yates engines, like Tony said, you don’t even worry about it. That’s a constant. It doesn’t matter where you’re racing, if you’re not running, you go work on something else because it’s not going to be the engine. Anyway, we’re really happy.”

 

Roger, when you made the switch to Ford Performance, you talked about it being about human capital and commitment to technology and innovation. How do you see that playing out across the sport?

ROGER PENSKE: “Well, there’s no question, we had finished up with Dodge, they decided to leave the sport, and we looked to see what would be the right partner to have, and I think the fact that we watched what Ford had done, the success they’ve had, and they really talked about technology, and they talked about having a simulator, they talked about their wind tunnel programs and things like that, and all of the fluid dynamics and things that we work with, and it really connected us from a technology partner perspective, even though they were going to become the race car that we drive would be a Ford. It was something that our whole organization looked at before we made that decision. But it certainly proved to be beneficial. We, in fact, shut our engine shop down if you maybe don’t remember that, and that was a question Jack and I talked about; maybe we thought we should keep ours or have an edge, but it was so apparent with the commitment, you go over to the Roush Yates and you see the commitment there that they have and it was deep and long and the people that they brought in even to support it has been amazing. We get continued support from Dearborn, and with the Tech Center they’ve built now, it just continues to get better. We couldn’t replicate that ourselves.

Mark, obviously you’re not going to spill the beans and tell us the scoop on what you’re doing next year with the new car, but when the Camaro came out, obviously it makes the other manufacturers sit up and pay attention. What’s the reaction when you hear that another manufacturer is bringing a car to Cup and you’re still in the process of bringing your car to fruition?

MARK RUSHBROOK: “Yeah, the way the rules are set up with the body and the whole process that you go through, it’s something that we’re always working on, and it’s deciding when is the right time to bring a new body to the track. Obviously Toyota did it for 2017, Chevy has now done it for 2018. It worked for them. But we’re always working on every part of the car, the body is one of the most important with the role that aerodynamics plays. So we’re watching to see how the Camaro races on track, and we’ll make our decision about what we do in the future.”

Eddie, it’s been an eventful first week already for you guys, getting down here, illness, your dad not being here. Tell us a little bit about what you’ve gone through just to get to this point right now.

EDDIE WOOD: “I don’t know if anybody wants to hear all that mess. I had heart surgery in early December. I got through all that mess, and doing really well, and my goal was to be down here ‑‑ I told the doctor, if he can fix me in eight weeks, by the first week in February, we’d do it. So he said, okay, we can do that. So we did. So everything is kind of ‑‑ I’d go to the shop ‑‑ I didn’t go to the shop a lot because I get tired. But on the way down here, I’ve got one of those Focus STs that’s really, really fast that these guys made ‑‑ it’s actually my wife’s car, and I’m riding down the road by myself last Tuesday, and everybody’s car has got “to empty,” so‑and‑so miles to empty. Well, I’m running along there, and I’m not used to driving that car, so it’s like 50 miles, and next time I look, it was 30, 20, and it’s a six‑speed. I had it in fourth. I didn’t know it.”

TONY STEWART: “Well, now we know why you didn’t have a driving career in this sport.”

JACK ROUSH: “The comments that I’ve gotten, people that know Eddie have known that there’s been something a little different about Eddie, but most people figured that he had a hole in his head. Turns out he had a hole in his heart. He’s still got the one in his head.”

 

EDDIE WOOD: “Yeah, they fixed that one. But it didn’t stop there. So I’m riding down 95, and it’s dark, and I glance down, and it’s on seven. Like oh, man, so I start looking for exits. Finally find one. By the time I get to the exit, it’s about four, and so there was actually a Shell station right off of 95. So I roll down the ramp, I almost turned over with it out of gear, to fill it up with gas. I said, damn, I’ll never do that again because I’ve always been a believer, and I’m sure Jack and Roger will say the same thing, you want to be full of gas unless you’re on fire. (Laughter.) So I’m thinking, I’ll never do that again. I got all the way ‑‑ it did the same thing again. I got it in fourth gear. I don’t know how I keep doing that. I mean, I checked it, I thought. I mean, it’s real close, and the car will absolutely fly, probably 140 miles an hour. But I’m riding down the road, and it’s like 12, and then, oh, s‑‑‑ I started looking, and I reached ‑‑ I knocked it out of gear to coast down this hill, which is not much hill here (laughter). So it gets going again, and I pulled it back and forth again and didn’t know it.

So all of a sudden it’s at one, one mile, and I’m like ‑‑ I see green signs, one mile to the ‑‑ and it was this exit right out here to Deland, 92. So again, knocked it out of gear, rolled down the hill, turned into the service station ‑‑ I mean, I must have turned in at 80 miles an hour, and this is no joke. I mean, it’s stupid to even tell. But I don’t really get excited about stuff, like it just winds me up. But I was up on the steering wheel like this right here, I was almost like through the windshield. This just‑fixed heart was going bam, bam, bam, bam. It took me until about midnight that night to calm down. I never had anything like that happen to me, ever. So anyway, that’s how stupid I am.”

TONY STEWART: “So the moral of the story is do not go on a road trip with Eddie Wood. Anywhere.”

JACK ROUSH: “If you got a secret you want to keep it from Al because Al will ask you questions and push your buttons.”

EDDIE WOOD: “He always does. Right, my dad is not coming down. This will be the first race he’s ever missed since 1947. He watched them over on the beach. But he’s in really good health. My mom is good now, but with the flu and everything that’s going on everywhere, we just didn’t think the risk was there, and he made up his own ‑‑ we didn’t ask him anything. We were just like, if he wants to go, he’ll say so, and he just made the decision himself that he just didn’t want to risk getting sick. And then I come down here after running out of gas, I get bronchitis. I’ve had a big week. We did have a good race the other night. I’m really happy about that. Like I said, I’m going to let somebody else talk. (Laughter.)”

Tony, Cole Custer ended the 2017 season on a really high note, dominating at Homestead. What’s the plan for him moving forward to the Cup Series at some point?

TONY STEWART: “Well, obviously we’re looking forward to having him in the Xfinity car this year again, and we’ll keep watching him. But he keeps impressing us. I mean, he keeps running better and better, and his performance at Homestead, that was an awesome, dominating performance. It makes me wish we could have got those ‑‑ obviously we wanted to get him in the Final Four there for Homestead, but to miss it by, what, three or four points like we did makes you wish what could have happened if we got him in there and had that kind of a run. Just those two or three spots could have been the difference between him making it to Homestead and being the champion. We’re proud of him. I’m excited about it. I think both him and Jabbo are real excited to work together again this year, and we’ll keep watching him, but we’re excited about him.”

 

How difficult has it been changing the motors, and I believe you’re doing your own chassis again. How much more work is involved? Does Zippy go home at all?

TONY STEWART: “No, we don’t let Zippy go home. We’ve been attached at the hip for 10 years, and he used to boss me around for 10 whole years, so now I figure I get 10 years where I get to boss him around, and he’s on, I think, year five of that now, so we don’t let him go home. That’s one of the things that I’m extremely proud about our organization is you look at what has happened with that organization over the last 10 years, to go from a two‑car team that was leasing engines and buying their chassis from Hendrick to now a four‑car team building our own chassis, switching manufacturers. I’m excited about our group. I feel like we’ve got an extremely strong group of people that never get to go to the racetrack, but they do an awesome job at the race shop. It takes somebody like Greg Zipadelli to organize and choreograph everything, so I’m proud of him. We let him go home once in a while just to change clothes, that’s it.”

I’m reaching retirement age, so this is sort of a self‑exploratory question. All you guys are past retirement age; what keeps you going? And I need an answer from each of the other owners here.

JACK ROUSH: “I said when I started, I was 46 years old when I started in the Cup Series, 1988, and at that time I said that I wouldn’t want to go out the back door doing this thing, that when I got to where I couldn’t keep up, just shove me over in the ditch and keep on going, and I’m getting close.”

ROGER PENSKE: “I think that racing has really been the common thread through our businesses, and as we grow our brand here in the U.S., the racing is certainly a key part of that. I always say it’s my fishing trip and golf game on weekends to go to the races. I’m planning to be here as long as I can, and we’re going to continue to try to support the sport and the teams and the people. I get the biggest probably satisfaction out of seeing the young people that grow up in the organization, people that maybe come to go to work for you. They start polishing wheels of the truck, and the next minute they’re a crew chief or even could be a driver, and I think that’s the great thing about the sport when you look at the garage and you see how many people started here with very little and what they’ve been able to ‑‑ really to bring to the sport, and obviously it’s been the cornerstone of my business for 50 years.”

Ford has won a lot of big races, but you’ve only got one driver’s champion in the last 13 years, and it goes back to I believe ’02 for a manufacturer’s. How much pressure do you feel to get back on top of the sport? MARK RUSHBROOK: “A lot of pressure. No, we’re here to win races to win championships, so that is definitely the focus that we have and everything that our team inside of Ford Performance is bringing to our race teams is we want to have one of the drivers, one of these teams with a championship, so we’ve got all of our resources applied to it. We think we’ve got some good partners, some great teams, crew chiefs, drivers, and definitely looking to get back to Homestead for a championship at the end of the season.”

Roger, your three guys have been able to race one, two, three in both of those situations. What will you tell them going forward into tomorrow, and is one of the things you’ll tell them that one of them better win the race?

ROGER PENSKE: “That’s a secret. (Laughter.) That’s a good answer, isn’t it? I’m telling you the truth.”

JACK ROUSH: “It’s pretty obvious that he cut them loose with one lap to go the other night.”

ROGER PENSKE: “That’s right.”

JACK ROUSH: “What you can expect, I think, from all of us.”

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