Ford Performance NASCAR: Almirola, Bowyer, Keselowski Charlotte Media Availabilities

Ford Performance Notes and Quotes
Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series (MENCS)
Friday, September 27, 2019
EVENT: Bank of America Roval 400, Charlotte Motor Speedway

ARIC ALMIROLA, No. 10 Smithfield Ford Mustang – HOW DO YOU FEEL AFTER ONE PRACTICE? “I’m already way ahead of where I was last year, knock on wood. Last year, I think I made two laps in the very first practice and wrecked and tore the whole back of the car off, and then never made another lap until qualifying. So I felt like practice went well. I got in a pretty good rhythm. We did not make a qualifying run, just trying to manage our tires for the rest of the weekend for those practices tomorrow, and so we’re already ahead of where we were last year, and I feel like for me it’s really about just getting in a rhythm and then staying in the rhythm throughout the weekend. I feel like our cars have good enough speed. We unloaded and went right to the top 10 on speed, so I feel like we’re good enough and we’re close and then at that point it’s up to me to just get in a good rhythm, stay in it, and don’t make any mistakes. There’s so much that can happen here. We’ve seen that last year and we’ve already seen it in practice. You can beat yourself pretty easily here, so that’s my goal. My goal is to not beat myself and to put as much pressure as I can on all the competition around me.”

ARE YOU COMFORTABLE HERE? “Yeah, I am. I feel like we’ve got a good handle on what we need. It’s very much an unknown and so there is a little bit of uncertainty for sure, but I do feel good about where we’re at. I ran top 10 at Sonoma. I ran top 10 at Watkins Glen and finished 12th, so I feel like our road course program is good enough to do what we need to do to advance to the next round.”

American Muscle

IS THERE ONE AREA OF THIS LAYOUT THAT YOU DON’T LIKE MUCH? “I think all of the spots on the race track are very treacherous. I think that’s one thing that’s very unique about this road course compared to any other road courses that we run on is that all the other road courses that we race at there is a lot of runoff room and you can make mistakes and you might spin out or make a mistake, but usually you don’t destroy your race car. Here, when you make a mistake you destroy your race car, so that’s the challenging part. At any place on this race track it will jump up and bite you.”

DO YOU LIKE THE NEW CHICANE BETTER THAN BEFORE? “I do actually. I think that’s gonna add an interesting element to the race. The old chicane was just really, really fast and it was hard to run through there behind another car. The other car would really gap you because you were in dirtier air trying to go through a very tricky spot on the race track, so now it’s less aero dependent going through that chicane on the backstretch, and a really heavy braking zone getting into it, which can present an opportunity to pass.”

WHAT IS RICKY STENHOUSE’S REPUTATION AMONG DRIVERS? “I think he’s got a lot of talent and he’s a great race car driver. He’s won two XFINITY championships back-to-back, so I think Ricky does a great job and I feel like for most of his career he’s tried as hard as he possibly can try to get the most out of what he’s got.”

CLINT BOWYER, No. 14 Rush Truck Centers/Cummins Ford Mustang – HOW DO YOU OUT STAGE POINT THESE GUYS IF EVERYBODY IS ON THE SAME STRATEGY? “We’ll soon find out. It’s a very good question that nobody has an answer to. You just kind of have to try to, I don’t know. There will be a situation that opens up an opportunity. It’ll also open up a gamble with every gamble there’s an opportunity and obviously a loss to be had, too. It’s always that way. It starts out and everybody is on the same page and you go off of running your race. If you need track position, you’re obviously gonna try to stay out and do something to try to better your track position, which sometimes can put you in better track position for stage points like you’re asking about, or sometimes it can bite you and go the other way. There’s no answer. You can’t look at this and strategize this race out to be able to get you stage points that the guys that you’re racing are not gonna be able to get. Those opportunities are going to be there and you’ve got to be able to be smart enough to see it and realize it and then obviously lucky enough to have it play out for you, but it’ll work out for some and not for others.”

WHAT IS YOUR STRATEGY? “Just do the best we can, do the best I can do on the car and make the best decisions we can. Obviously, we brought the best car that we can possibly build and speeds are good. I made a mistake in the chicane on my mock run and gave up a half-second. That’s what you can’t do here in just a little bit for our lap and then even in that race. It’s minimizing mistakes on a track like this as treacherous as this track is. It’s isn’t like you can just focus on that chicane and say, ‘Oh, man that’s a trouble zone.’ The front straightaway there is crazy. Turn one is crazy. Turn two is pretty crazy. Turn three there’s a really good opportunity to wreck there. Turn four is a little bit uneventful. Turn five is another crazy opportunity to wreck. I don’t know if you’re catching my drift, but there’s a lot of opportunities to make a mistake and end your day. If not, just give up a lot of positions. You’ve got to do the best you can do, but it’s a razor’s edge. You cannot step over it.”

WHAT IS RICKY’S REPUTATION AMONG DRIVERS? “He’s a good kid. I’m not really getting into talking about that stuff.”

IS THIS NEW CHICANE MORE RACY OR TECHNICAL? “I honestly think it’s more of an opportunity to make a mistake now than it was before as crazy as that is. We went from one extreme to the other – very narrow, got to slow the car down a lot. You’re asking a lot out of your car, your equipment to go that fast into that slow of a chicane.”

WHAT DO YOU EXPECT WILL BE DIFFERENT AT DOVER NEXT WEEK? “Nothing. You’re gonna fight the same thing, the same struggles. Everybody will be a little bit better. You’ll learn from the first race and make adjustments as we progress. The teams learn a little bit better setup. The aero boys get a little bit better there, but it’s not like you just get better. Everybody gets better, so it’s kind of more of the same.”

YOU HAVE CONFIDENCE GOING IN THERE? “Dover is a good track for me. It’s a place that I really enjoy racing at and usually when you’re enjoying something it’s because you run well there. It’s just a good track for me.”

IF YOU GET THROUGH AND ADVANCE, HOW DO THE NEXT THREE TRACKS STACK UP FOR YOU? “Yeah, I mean you’ve got to always have confidence, no different than this. This is an opportunity. When you have a track that you say is a wild card race, that’s an opportunity and in the situation we’re in you’ve got to be able to look forward to those opportunities at hand because we need one.”

WHAT’S YOUR STATUS FOR NEXT YEAR? “Those guys have been working hard on it. It’s fine. I’m not worried about it.

WILL YOU BE BACK AT SHR? “I think so, yes. I’m pretty confident about that. Right now, the focus is obviously staying in the Playoffs and really just continuing to do what I always do and make sure that I’m fluid with our partners and work hard to give them the biggest bang for their buck on and off the race track and always looking to the future, too. There hasn’t been a weekend here lately where I haven’t been meeting with a new opportunity to add to our great list of partners and that hasn’t really changed since 2006. It’s what we do. I enjoy that aspect of it. A lot of drivers don’t. A lot of drivers have agents and stuff like that. I mean, it’s just my brother and I and Chip and I feel like we’re plenty capable of learning a company’s world and building a relationship with them first and foremost. That’s the foundation of any of these partnerships on a race car is you’ve got to have the relationship down. That way you work hard for one another to genuinely care about their success on and off the race track.”

IS THAT ALSO JOB SECURITY FOR YOU HAVING THAT KIND OF RELATIONSHIP WITH YOUR SPONSORS? “I don’t know. I just know that people know me and know that they can count of that to go above and beyond and I’ve always said, I think you guys in the media know and tracks know, my motto is yes. There ain’t very many no’s in a request form to me. That’s the way we go.”

YOUR LAST SHR DEAL WAS THREE YEARS. WOULD THIS BE A SIMILAR LENGTH? “I don’t really talk about deals. It’s no disrespect. It’s business as usual just like it always is for me. I guess that’s the most polite and respectable way I can tell you.”

THERE HAVE BEEN A BUNCH OF MOVES MADE IN THE LAST MONTH. IT’S BEEN A LONG TIME SINCE THERE HAS BEEN THIS KIND OF TURNOVER. WHAT DO YOU MAKE OF THAT? “It’s a sign of the times. I think that’s when you have to work hard again, bust your ass on that race track and when you get out of that car you get to the shop and answer the phone and make stuff happen. I remember a long time ago I was probably getting my butt chewed or something and I’m in Richard’s office and he’s got a quote on his desk and it says, ‘People that make stuff happen. People that watch stuff happen. And people that wonder what just happened.’ I try to remember that every time I have an opportunity in front of me and be the first of the three options.”

BRAD KESELOWSKI, No. 2 Alliance Truck Parts Ford Mustang – IS THERE A MARKET RESET IN DRIVER SALARIES? “Sometimes I think yes, sometimes I think no. I’d say certainly some of the bigger stars that retired have probably pulled the average down, but the people that are still around from when they were still there are making the same amount. If you looked at an average sense, yes, I would say so.”

HOW WAS PRACTICE? “It was decent, picked up a few things. We had some handling things we worked through. Last year when we came here we had the low downforce, and this year we have high downforce and it’s drastically different, so trying to adapt to that is a bit of a challenge and one that we’re still working through. Thankful to have qualifying here and two more practices tomorrow to work through.”

WILL THIS BE INDICATIVE OF THE RACE? “I think it’s pretty close. I think you’ll see a very similar race to what you saw last fall, the only question is whether there will be that late race yellow.”

WHAT ABOUT THE NEW CHICANE AND WILL THERE BE MUCH PASSING THERE ON SUNDAY? “Doubtful you’ll see a lot of passing there, but I could be wrong. It certainly slows the cars down a lot more than the old chicane did, and it’s pretty similar in how treacherous it is.”

HOW DO YOU THINK AN INDY CAR WILL LOOK AROUND HERE? “Good. Honestly, I think it’s a good track for an Indy car, maybe even better for Indy car than for the stock cars (meaning the Roval).”

THE BACKSTRETCH CHICANE, CAN YOU RACE INTO THAT CORNER HARDER? “You definitely can’t race into that corner, and I think to his point you’ll see some guys try to and that will be interesting to see.”

SO YOU’RE ESSENTIALLY CLOSED TO BE LOCKED IN. DO YOU APPROACH THIS RACE ANY DIFFERENT? “I think you take more chances. I think last year was the same way. We won Vegas and were able to be really risky and that was probably part of what led to that wreck at the end, but, yeah, for sure.”

WHAT DO YOU EXPECT AT DOVER NEXT WEEK? “I don’t really see anything different than what we’ve had the last few years there at Dover. It’s very, very aero dependent, one groove, long, long runs. That’s kind of the M.O. of Dover.”

ANY WAY TO COMPARE THIS ROAD COURSE TO THE OTHERS ON THE CIRCUIT? “Other than shifting and turning right there’s no real similarities here to the other road courses. The high speeds here are so much faster than Sears Point, Sonoma. The low speeds here are so much tighter than Watkins Glen, so it has in some ways a mixed feel between the two that makes it completely different. It’s like if you played football in an ice hockey arena. It still wouldn’t be football, but it’s still definitely not hockey either.”

WHAT WOULD YOU DO IN THE LAST CHICANE IF THERE WAS A WRECK LIKE LAST YEAR COMING TO THE CHECKERED FLAG? “I can’t say I’ve thought of it. Those are easy things to talk through and generally when you get in the moment it’s a lot different. I think it’s easy for us to say that now because you could see the result, but when you’re in the car I’m sure Martin couldn’t see the 48 spinning beside of him, so I would imagine if I was in that spot I wouldn’t be able to see it either.”

WHAT DO YOU KNOW ABOUT CHRIS BUESCHER? “Chris is a great guy and he’s done a hell of a job in the 37 car. I would expect no less moving up.”

DO YOU LOOK AT WHAT HAPPENED TO THE 20 LAST WEEK AND WITH HOW RUGGED THIS COURSE IS DO YOU SAY IT CAN HAPPEN TO ANYBODY? “Yes.” HOW DO YOU PREVENT IT? “I don’t. I actually try not to think about it. There are certain things you can affect and certain things you can’t. The ones that you can’t affect, you just got to not think about because it will just slow you down.”

IN GENERAL THE ODDS ARE YOU’LL BE OUT OF TOLERANCE SOMETIMES? “Yeah. They’re race cars. They race in a very rugged environment. Certainly, you hope that they don’t move and do those things, and I understand both sides of the equation. NASCAR has rules that they have to enforce and we want them to enforce them, and then on the other side of that it’s still a race track and it’s still a stock car where there’s beating and banging in a very harsh condition. It’s a tough environment for really both sides.”

THORSPORT SENT A LETTER TO NASCAR TO HAVE THEIR TWO DRIVERS REINSTATED TO THE PLAYOFFS BECAUSE OF THE ILMOR SITUATION. HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT A SPEC PART AND DOES THIS OPEN A PANDORA’S BOX? “It’s the problem with spec parts. Spec parts are made by vendors. Vendors have an obligation to their ownership group, shareholders, whatever they might be, to make a profit, but also to go out to bid the lowest price, and I think we see that quite often. Routinely what happens is those pressure come together until there’s a quality issue. Now what that specific one is I don’t know, and I wouldn’t get too caught up on the specific Truck Series example, but if you go to spec racing this will be a very common story that will replay itself more and more. I don’t know what path the sport is gonna go on for the new car, but this is certainly not the last of the conversation if we continue to go more towards the spec.”

IS THERE ANY FAIR WAY TO GIVE IT BACK TO GUYS LIKE JOHNNY SAUTER WHO LOST THEIR ENGINE BECAUSE OF THE SPEC PART AND THEN THE APOLOGY? “Not that I’m aware of. I say that and I was a part of the series when we added a driver to the Playoffs once before, so I’m not sure it really matters, in my opinion, but that’s OK.”

WHAT ABOUT RESTARTS HERE? “This track when you get to restarts they’re much faster than a normal lap and with that in mind all your braking points are different. Of course the track is not in racing condition because it has been under yellow so you’ve got debris that is naturally kicked up and all those things come together and it’s very challenging.”

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