Daytona 500: FORD SWEEPS DAYTONA 500 FRONT ROW FOR SEVENTH TIME







Published by Gerald Ferreira Date: February 20, 2012
Categories: Ford, Ford Racing

Edwards and Biffle Give Ford Sweep in Daytona 500 Qualifying

  • Roush Fenway Racing teammates Carl Edwards and Greg Biffle will be on the front row for the 54th running of the Daytona 500.
  • This marks the first Daytona 500 pole for Edwards and the 12th overall for Ford Racing.
  • It’s the second Daytona 500 pole for car owner Jack Roush (Greg Biffle in 2004) and the first time he has swept the front row.
  • This is also the third time in the last 12 years that Ford Racing teammates have been on the front row. In 2000, Robert Yates Racing teammates Dale Jarrett (1st) and Ricky Rudd (2nd) achieved the feat, and in 2007 it was RYR teammates David Gilliland (1st) and Rudd.
  • The last driver to win the Daytona 500 from the pole is Dale Jarrett (2000).

Daytona FordJACK ROUSH, Car Owner, Roush Fenway Racing – “We did great today. Doug Yates and the guys in the engine shop did a nice job. Robbie Reiser and the folks in the chassis and body shop built nice cars and the teams prepared them well. We worked all winter getting ready for this. It’s just the beginning. We hope we can put it together for the Twin 150s and for the 500 next Sunday.” YOU HAVE A WEEK TO CELEBRATE THIS. “Yeah, it surely is. We’d like to have won a championship at Homestead. We missed that last year, but at least we’ve got a week to celebrate this pole.” 

DOUG YATES, Roush Yates Engines – FORD HASN’T HAD A DAYTONA POLE SINCE 2007. “The 2007 season was a special year for us because it was my dad’s last year in racing, so to have our cars on the pole, and to finally get back here. This is the goal every year to come down here and sit on the pole, but this year – with electronic fuel injection being the first time out, and new partners in the sport with Freescale and McLaren, and Ford Motor Company behind us, it’s just really special.” HOW IS THIS VIEWED AS FAR AS WHAT’S TO COME? “You saw the race last night and we’ve been watching it all week and it’s kind of wild. Obviously, the cars have speed and we just need to be patient and bide our time and make sure that we’re there at the end. Starting up front and being locked in and not having to race on Thursday is always a big deal.

There’s a lot of pride that goes into sitting on the front row here, especially for Jack Roush and his team to be able to do this is pretty cool.” HOW MUCH PRIDE DO YOU HAVE RIGHT NOW FOR YOUR GUYS? “I’m so proud of our guys. Our team is just incredible. I’m really blessed to have the people behind it and be able to work with Ford Motor Company and all their support they give to us. It’s really special to be on the front row here at Daytona. Every team in the sport wants to be here right now and that’s how special it is, so we’re really proud of our efforts.”

JAMIE ALLISON, Director, Ford Racing – “What a way to start the season. This is a testament to all of the hard work Jack and his organization have put in during the off-season, and the dedication Doug Yates and the Roush Yates engine shop has displayed throughout this transition to electronic fuel injection. Our Fords are fast. We’ve shown that all week and today our teams were rewarded with the front row. Today is a day for all Ford fans to be happy and celebrate, and I know everyone at Ford is going to enjoy this week leading up to the Daytona 500.”

CARL EDWARDS POLE-WINNING PRESS CONFERENCE

CARL EDWARDS – No. 99 Fastenal Ford Fusion – “It’s an amazing feeling. I just cannot thank Jack Roush enough for all the work that he’s put in, and Doug Yates. I feel like he should be sitting up here with us. Those guys have done an unbelievable job of working through the transition to the EFI and it’s just amazing to know for the next week that Bob and all of us are gonna be working on the fastest racecar here at Daytona and preparing it for the biggest race of the season is a lot of fun. It’s great, so I’m just glad I’m driving it.”

CHIP BOLIN, Head Engineer, Roush Fenway Racing – DID YOU THINK YOU WERE GOING TO BE ON THE POLE? “We would like to think we were going to be. Our goal was to sit on the pole. You come down here to try to run the fastest lap you possibly can and the guys at Roush Yates Engines have worked really hard to get us ahead on the EFI curve, and we were discussing last week. We felt like this was the best crop of superspeedway cars we had brought to the race track in a long time, so our entire organization was really confident about it. Bob has built this program on steady, calculated moves and we just tried to execute the plan that he expected us to do and here we are.”

JACK ROUSH, Car Owner – No. 99 Fastenal Ford Fusion – “It obviously starts in the shop. Robbie Reiser is under the weather today as well, but he’s worked really hard all winter. He’s got a great manufacturing program for us. Chip has behind the scenes with leading the engineering group with the simulations and the predictive things, and the wind tunnel work that’s being done, and the kinematics on the suspension. I tease him as he’s bringing up new stuff all the time, but there’s a lot to this. There’s a lot more than driving the car fast and a lot more than having a fast engine. You’ve got to coordinate every piece so that it’s ready to do its job when it’s time, and it all came together for us today. I think we may have been a little bit lucky on our wind too. I’m not sure that we didn’t have more favorable wind than some of our competitors. Certainly I think Greg’s lap was impacted more than Carl’s was, but it’s just a crapshoot when you line your stuff up and see what you’ve got, but if you’ve got great people that we’ve got behind the organization, if they’re as diligent and ambitious as they are – on a good day you can have the success we had today.”

YOUR REACTION TO THE FIRST FIRST BEING ON THE FRONT ROW IN THE 500 SINCE 2007? “It was great. We had a sweep that’s also in the record book in 2004. We had one of Robert Yates’ No. 38 car and Greg Biffle’s No. 16 car then, but it’s great for Ford Motor Company. Ford has been behind my racing and been a great partner for more than 40 years now. Many days they don’t get what they deserve, but today we’ve rejoiced in success and I’ll be happy to get the phone calls early in the week from people as they go back to work and read the newspapers and figure out what’s happened. Hopefully, they can sell some more Fords on Monday as well.”

CARL EDWARDS CONTINUED – HOW DO YOU ACCOUNT FOR THE SPEED YOU RAN? “It’s not that simple. It’s not the same rules package, so a lot of that is just chance. Our speed is based on what package NASCAR thinks is gonna race the best and works the best for the current rules. You can’t really compare speeds here from year to year. Really, all you can compare is where you stack up against the rest of the field on a given day. For us sitting up here, that’s where the pride in this accomplishment comes from is we got done with the season last year and we ended on a very high note, but, obviously, this shows that everybody went back to work hard and they brought the best racecar that we could here. And like Jack said, the wind worked out in our favor and everything went our way, but at the end of the day it’s not just one Ford up there it’s two of them - -two Roush Fenway Fords – so I think that says a lot about the organization.”

HOW DOES IT FEEL TO COME OUT OF THE BOX LIKE THIS? “It feels really nice. This is our second pole in a row, so it feels nice to pick up right where we left off. I’ve been telling everybody – it seems like every media question and all anybody says is, ‘How great would it have been to have one more point and how did you deal with that this off-season?’ I think this is nice to come here and show everyone that, hey, it isn’t just talk. Everybody at Roush Fenway went back and worked hard and kept their heads down and dug, just like Chip said, they’re the best racecars we’ve had in a long time, so I thank Jack Roush for that and I thank Chip and Bob and Robbie Reiser and Doug Yates and everybody who builds these racecars for not letting the disappointment of not winning that championship slow us down, but, instead, giving us real motivation.”

HOW DOES THIS RATE IN YOUR CAREER? “This is very special. It’s not a driving accomplishment, this is a team accomplishment, this pole. Any one of the drivers that would have gone out at the time I went out and would have been driving that 99 car, the Fastenal Fusion, the would have run the same lap time that I did, so this pole and these qualifying sessions at these restrictor plate tracks shows you what the guys are doing at the shop. It shows you the engine capabilities and the engineering and the decisions by guys like Chip and Bob, so this is about the team. Today, there’s a lot of pride in this for everyone. Just like Jack said, I’m excited to have all the guys back at the shop this week know they sent the best racecars down to Daytona.”

THURSDAY WILL BE DIFFERENT. HOW ARE YOU GOING TO APPROACH IT? “That’s one way to look at it, but the other way is that I know how good our back-up car is and I also know that you can’t give these other guys any advantage and if I were to not race and not understand the dynamics that are gonna happen during the daytime here at this race track with this package, I’d be giving them something, so I’ve got to go out there as a driver and mix it up and race and see how our car handles, but there is a little bit of a, ‘Man, there might be something really special about this car,’ so I’ll talk with Bob and I’m sure Jack will have some words for me before that race.”

JACK ROUSH CONTINUED – “We’ve talked about it. I think you’ve been a little late going to the front sometimes, so you should go to the front a little earlier tomorrow. That would be my advice. (laughter)

CARL EDWARDS CONTINUED. “Okay. I just do what I’m told. You guys write that and we’ll see what happens (laughing).” ANY CHANGE IN QUALIFYING STRATEGY FOR YOUR TEAM? “Jack hasn’t been doing much carburetor tuning, have you? (laughing). JACK SAYS: “Yeah, they’re working me closer to the door. The further this technology thing expands, the less there is for a dinosaur like me to do anything worthwhile, so I’m just a comedian now (laughing).” CARL CONTINUES: “Bob and I and Jack and Chip and everyone, we’ve recognized the last couple year that qualifying is more important, that it’s harder to pass and I do get a lot of really good advice from Robbie and Jack and Bob and all these guys about my shortcoming as a racecar driver. They’ve kind of kicked me in the butt a little bit and we’ve all agreed that we need to focus more on qualifying. I think that our success out there comes from some of that recognition that it is important and focusing on it.”

JACK ROUSH CONTINUED – “One of the things that happens is the qualifying event and the race are totally different, except for an impound race. We’ve made an effort with Chip’s support and the direction that he’s had with his guys back in the shop, to be able to bring a racecar to the track that was set up with known things that would be of benefit for a qualifying package. We started with those in our practice and dedicated time that otherwise might have been fretted away looking for that last shock absorber, that last pound of air-pressure or whatever. There’s been a focus made that start with Chip and the guys in the shop that the crew chiefs have carried forward to dedicate a certain amount of time in practice for the qualifying event.”

CARL EDWARDS CONTINUED – IS THERE ANYTHING OTHER THAN LUCK THAT MADE LAST YEAR END THE WAY IT DID WITH A TIE? IS THERE ANYTHING YOU WOULD HAVE DONE DIFFERENT? “No. It’s just like the 4000th time I’ve been asked that question , but I know what you’re saying. I’m just giving you a hard time. We sat down and we had a meeting. We all sat there and it was Jack and Robbie and (Chip) and Bob and me, and the first thing Jack asked was that same question. And I started to kind of think and Bob said, ‘Hey, no. If we started that Chase again right now, we’d do the same thing. We’d put our effort in the same places and I wouldn’t change a thing.’ As we sat there and talked about it, there were some races – Martinsville and Kansas in particular, where we were truly running somewhere in the high twenties or low thirties. We were running laps down and we were able to come back those days and finish ninth at Martinsville and fifth at Kansas. I know that doesn’t seem as exciting as a victory, but those days I was more proud of those and our ability to gather up those points those days. Those two days themselves were probably 40 points we didn’t really deserve, so at the end of the championship when you look at it, we tied a guy who won half of the races, and I venture to say that if we would have been able to win half of those races, we’d have just dominated that thing. So, I guess that’s a long version of me saying that we did the very best we could and there weren’t any races where I got out of the car and felt like, ‘Oh man, I could have got another spot.’ I got out of the car in seven or eight of those races and I thought, ‘Thank you Lord for the spots you gave me,’ and we were able to capitalize on it. In the end, it ended up a tie and that’s it. I don’t know how else to look at it. Another simple way to put it is we didn’t lose it. We didn’t go out there and do anything wrong. We went out and raced hard and raced well and they came and they beat us.”

DOES IT GIVE YOU RELIEF TO KNOW YOU’RE STARTING AT THE FRONT ON SUNDAY? “I don’t know. We’re likely to wreck up there in the front too. Last night, I was running second behind Greg and Clint was third and he got turned sideways coming out of the tri-oval, so I truly don’t know there’s a safe place on the race track with this style of racing, but the think that’s really good for me is that Greg is a guy who has been my partner at these restrictor plate races is starting right there with us. Him and I can work together. I know Greg has my best interests and Roush’s best interests in mind, just as I do for him, so that kind of makes me feel better, that we’ll be together at the start and we don’t have to go find each other to help one another later.”

DO YOU GO INTO THE RACE ASSUMING THE 500 WILL END GREEN-WHITE-CHECKER? “I think you have to. Chip and I last night, he was calculating fuel based on going through a green-white-checkered and I think everybody knows that’s very likely to happen. As a driver, in your mind you have to plan how aggressive you’re gonna be and get a plan for that too, so, yeah, we take that into consideration.”

THERE’S A SENTIMENT THAT PLATE QUALIFYING DOESN’T MATTER AS IT PERTAINS TO HOW YOU FINISH ON SUNDAY. “That’s what I’ve always said, but I’ve never qualified up front (laughing).” OTHER THAN THE MARKETING PART OF THIS WHY DOES THIS MATTER TO YOU? “It probably wouldn’t have mattered to me the first time I came down here or the second time, but now after seeing how hard everybody works all winter and how much pride the guys take in how these cars qualify, it does mean something to me. It’s a sign of the strength of your team and it’s not that we just have one car up there, to have that whole front row says a lot about Roush Fenway Racing, about Ford. It’s huge for our sponsors. You said other than the marketing, but there’s no part of sport that is other than the marketing. The sponsors and their ability to use this racing to benefit their business is huge, so for Fastenal to come down and be on the pole for the Daytona 500 in their first Cup race, that’s huge too. But your question is specifically what does it mean to me? It’s that understanding of how much goes in to it and now that I’ve been in this for a little while I recognize that this is huge for everybody at the shop.”

JACK ROUSH CONTINUED – WILL TREVOR GETTING A SPOT HELP YOU FIND SPONSORSHIP? “Certainly it helps. Trevor is the reigning Daytona 500 champion and we have not managed to put together full sponsorship for either the Cup program or Nationwide program, but we do have ongoing conversations. I don’t know that there will be any great improvement in our prospects based on this, but it would certainly have been a downer if we had failed to qualify or if we would have had a problem with our car on that lap.”

WHAT HAS FUEL INJECTION BEEN LIKE SO FAR? “It’s been like Doug Yates and Ford Motor Company have set the curve. We’ve had three or four tests where we were invited to bring our fuel injection and our system worked better than everybody else’s every time we went out and today, it’s not a well-kept secret, but we had a qualifying calibration for the fuel injection and I think that some of the speed we found in our car from the practice on Saturday to what we had on Sunday here was the result of the work that Doug and the guys did in the shop and with Ford Motor Company’s support. So the fuel injection thing has been a boon for us based on our support and our partnership with Ford and the insight and the inspiration that Doug and the guys have had.”

CARL EDWARDS CONTINUED – SHOULD THEY MAKE THE CARS MORE STABLE IN THE REAR? “I guess you’re right. I don’t know. In my mind if they just take the front splitter off and the rear spoiler off the thing entirely it would be better. To me, the less stable they could be the better because it would separate the cars a little bit and make it a race, but that’s not what people want to see. They want to see that pack, so what NASCAR has done, and I give them credit, they’ve done a really good job of making the cars just stable enough that everyone can stay together in a pack, but they’re not stable enough to really partner up well and push one another. Now, Kyle and Tony were able to do it and we’re gonna look close at that and figure out how we can be able to do that ourselves, but you’ve got to look at the big picture of what’s happening here. We’ve got a race track out there that could hold such high speeds and they’re trying to slow the cars down enough to where you keep them under a certain speed, but that speed makes it easy for the cars to drive, so then they have to take downforce away to make them harder to drive, but not so hard that all the drivers complain that things get strung out. NASCAR is just trying really hard to keep this race so that it keeps everybody happy.”

JACK ROUSH CONTINUED – DO YOU FORESEE ANY ENGINE ISSUES? “We pretty much decided that 250 degrees water is all we recommend for water temperature. It’s down substantially from what we had before NASCAR got involved with the number of things that they required as limitations in the system. Everybody that loses water in their engine has an indication that the water is leaving and there may be some situations where there will be cars hit pit road for a drink of water, but I don’t think it’ll be a major factor. I think the bar has been lowered with what the tolerance is for temperature for the engine and I think everybody understands what the impact of that is and it’s gonna be okay.”

CARL EDWARDS CONTINUED – DO YOU FEEL THIS CAR IS REALLY GOOD? “We’ve been able to do the things that we’d done at these restrictor plate races, which, for me, I don’t have a win yet, but we’ve had some really good runs with cars that were not this fast on qualifying day. So, to me, I’ll take a little extra speed anytime. There are times, no matter what anyone says, when you’re running around that pack and you can tell one car is just a tick faster than the other. For me, that’s a good feeling to know that I’m gonna get in this Fastenal Fusion on Sunday and I’ve got as good of a car as anyone, even if it’s just psychological or a placebo and doesn’t mean anything. It’s nice to have that feeling.”

CAN YOU TALK ABOUT BALANCING THE FACT YOU WANT TO WIN YOUR DUEL BUT PROTECT YOUR CAR? “We talked about that a little bit earlier and I haven’t thought much about that. I’ve never been in this position, so Bob and I will talk about it and, like I said earlier, I’m sure Jack will have some input and we’ll just decide what we’re gonna do. Even if we make a change halfway through the race and say, ‘Hey, things look smooth. Let’s just go for it,’ or ‘Things are looking insane, let’s save the car.’ I don’t know exactly what everybody will want to do.”

GREG BIFFLE OUTSIDE POLE PRESS CONFERENCE – “The first thing that comes to mind is what a team effort it has been getting these cars prepared and how hard everybody has worked. We’ve got fuel injection and we’ve got all kinds of things that could play factors in qualifying here. One thing is apparent and that is we have good, fast racecars. We were the fastest in both practices and felt like we may have helped the 99 a little bit and pulled a team effort together to get the front row for today, so that’s exciting for us to do that. I remember in 2004, an all-Ford front row with Jack and I on the front row and then Doug Yates with Elliott Sadler in the 38 car, so it kind of felt the same today and, yeah, it’s great to start up front on Sunday.”

JACK ROUSH CONTINUED – “One of the things that is in play in our team, with the dynamics, is the jousting between Matt and Greg is who has been with us longer – the seniority thing. But Greg won the first championship in the Truck Series in 2000 and then two years later he won in the Nationwide Series, so Greg is a champion. He brought us our first championship. It was my embarrassment that I wasn’t able to support him and get him in the Chase last year, but we certainly feel that we’re off to a great start and Greg is committed and he’s motivated and he’s able and I’m glad that he’s on the front row, and I would have been happier if he’d had the pole.”

GREG BIFFLE CONTINUED – WHAT WILL IT TAKE TO AVOID WRECKS ON SUNDAY? “A lot of that is luck and, hopefully, my jar over there that has my luck in it, hopefully, I haven’t used very much of it yet because I missed some big wrecks last night. Every wreck I was right in the middle of and thank goodness I didn’t cause any of them. It’s a matter of paying attention to your surroundings and a lot of it is what position you’re in. That wreck up there with the 24 and the 18, I saw the 18 wrecking on the bottom and Joel was telling me, ‘Get down, get down. Nope, stay up, stay up. Come on, come on.’ He changed his mind three or four times and so did I, and I caught myself watching the 18 car. I thought he was gonna come back across the track, so I’m watching the 18 and I’ve got the gas down and I’m on the brakes and I’ve got the gas down and I’m like, ‘I’m gonna make it,’ and then Joel is telling me, ‘Get to the bottom. Get to the bottom.’ And I looked forward and I see the 24 car is in the air, and I dang near ran right into that wreck because I was watching the 18 come back up the race track at me. So I went from full throttle to skidding the tires again, and then turning down the race track and getting by all that stuff. It’s just paying attention to what’s going on and hopefully nobody is coming at you at that angle. It’s gonna be the same way for the 150s and the 500.”

HOW IS IT WITH NO RADIO COMMUNICATION WITH OTHER DRIVERS? “It’s actually not anymore difficult because we weren’t tandem racing, so I’m not typically gonna be talking to another driver anyway. I was behind that car then that car and that car and that car, so I was never with another car – other than I pushed Kyle to the lead that one time and that was only half-a-lap. Really, it’s kind of a non-issue since the cars are broke apart. Now, if we were tandem racing, I would say we should be talking with each other, but it doesn’t really work out now with the spoiler and all that stuff.”

JACK ROUSH CONTINUED – HOW DO YOU MANAGE THE RISK THAT IS ATTACHED AT THE END OF A RACE? “I’m watching it just like you. You should be asking Greg that question (laughing). The point that’s there is that there’s a limit as to how long the engine can keep its water and there’s a limit as to how long it will go on fuel. As you approach the checkered flag, in a perfect world you would use all of your fuel up and you would use your engine and your water up and just get the checkered flag in time. It is true that these cars are hard to push now. It’s true that they are loose, but I believe it will be the case that the race will be decided, much as it was for the Shootout, I believe it will be decided with two cars that tag up and connect and that are the best two cars running together – not necessarily the best car is gonna win the race, but the best two cars are gonna have a chance to do it. No, I think the best two cars will win the race, but I don’t think they’ll spend that much time doing it throughout the race, which was one of the criticisms that I think fans had.”

GREG BIFFLE CONTINUED – “You’re exactly right. You’re right up the alley. We could beat this horse to death, but the facts are that the fans kind of spoke out and wanted to see these cars back in a larger pack and I think NASCAR wanted to see that as well, and the drivers were about half in half, so they started implementing things to try and break them apart. I think lowering the back bumper another two inches really keeps the cars apart now because I can have a run at that car in front of me and I’m like, ‘Well, I’m gonna push him,’ and I get within two feet from him and it’s like I start looking around and look at the gauges to see if the engine is still running because it just stops and then that guy just takes off like he pushed the turbo button. His car just pulls away because that air just pushes his car, so it keeps the cars from being bumper to bumper and driving around all the time. Carl and I tried it yesterday. I pushed Carl to the lead, but it’s hard to stay connect to the car, for one, and, two, it’s gonna overheat. Your question is, ‘What happens?’ Here is typically what happens when a car overheats. It overheats. It blows the water out, which you can see it’s blowing the water out. Then the gauge is flashing red, and then as it continues to get hotter and hotter and hotter, it just starts losing power, so the car starts slowing down, which is a good thing.”

WILL IT CAUSE A BIG WRECK? “I’m not saying every engine won’t do that, but most of the time – Jack knows as well as I do – they’ll blow the water out, they’ll start getting hot, it’ll blow a head gasket or it starts losing power. It’s that simple. It just starts expiring. It won’t break like that, so it’ll just start losing power most likely. That’s what happens to them.”

JACK ROUSH CONTINUED – IS THERE MORE SUPPORT FROM FORD? THE RESULTS SEEM BETTER THE LAST YEAR OR TWO? “Well, there’s kind of a new sheriff over there. Jamie Allison got his job two years ago and he’s got his legs under him and is doing a real nice job. Andy Slankard does a nice job. Ford has been really consistent in trying to do the right things for the race teams for a long time, but the team that they’ve got right now, I think, is doing much better than average and they’re getting enough experience now to figure out how to bring the resources of Ford to bear. Two years ago we had an issue with our simulations not doing what they might and then we had to make our changes one at a time. You couldn’t make a wedge change, a bar change and an air-pressure change at the same time. Our simulations work great right now. They are certainly cutting edge and that’s Ford’s contribution and, of course, the FR9 engine has come on and Doug has done a nice job with that. We’ve got it now and actually had it in ARCA yesterday on the pole, and we’ve done well with it. In Nationwide we won a championship last year with Ricky, so it’s kind of a special time for Ford. NASCAR is committed to have everybody on the same template package as far as air is concerned, so that means the nuances and small things you do with the four-tenths scale model and the things you do maybe with CFD and the computer simulations are important and Ford is behind us on all that and they’re doing a great job. You’re not wrong in saying that Ford has really stepped up.”

GREG BIFFLE CONTINUED – ANY STRATEGY FOR THURSDAY? “Certainly, my primary concern is to protect the racecar. We know we want to start the race with this 500 car because we’ve got a lot of work into it. Secondly, we need to get in competition with this car and see how it drives and see what adjustments we need to make and what we want to do to it. Obviously, starting on the front row or on the pole for that 150, that’s gonna be a good spot and we’ll try to maneuver our way and stay up front. I’m sure at some point we’ll be back in a little bit of traffic, but we don’t want to get back in the back later part of this event three-wide or something -- back where guys are fighting for their life to try and get in the 500. So we want to be coherent and pay attention to that, so we’re gonna race it just like normal, but if something happens and we get in a predicament where we don’t feel comfortable, or I don’t, then I’ll probably ease my way out of that position. But, for the most part, we’re planning on racing it just like normal. I know the crew chief is not super-excited about that, but that’s what we need to do to get this car ready for the 500.”

IS THERE A MORE RADICAL DIFFERENCE BETWEEN QUALIFYING AND RACE TRIM WITH THIS PACKAGE? “Not so much other than before we used to be able to have qualifying radiators, so we had giant radiators in the car with a ton of water capacity and we could tape the front solid. Some of the cars were taped solid and it makes a heck of a difference on the speed. It’s extremely different on speed, but the problem is the engine will overheat and once it gets that certain temperature, like I talked about, it starts losing power, so then your speed is overcome by the engine losing power and you have a chance of hurting it and not being able to race the 150 without an engine change, and then you’ve got to start in the back. There are differences now, and a lot of times the water you see coming out is just the expansion tank, the water getting to 250 and not having enough air gap. It’ll make itself a little bit of room by puking just a little bit of water, and we see that a lot of times qualifying at different places.”

LOOSE CARS AND BLOCKING. ARE YOU CONCERNED ABOUT THOSE TWO THINGS? “Take and replay the 2004, 2005, 2006 with the old car and it’s exactly the same with cars sliding all over the place. They don’t slide now near as bad as they used to before they repaved it. Before they repaved it, man, you were death grip on the steering wheel constantly. Nobody in here knows what that used to be like, except for us that were inside that car. I mean, the thing would almost spin out by yourself in a qualifying lap, and now you could drive with one finger because the track has so much grip. So anytime in history that you’ve tried to push a car, and Carl and I know this very well, and so does Jack – Talladega 2008, I think – Carl tried to push me out to the front, we were almost to the lead and he was maybe three feet down on my left side and tried to push me in the middle of the corner just a little bit at Talladega and we spun out and it wrecked all of our cars. That’s what I saw last night and in practice when Tony pushed on the 51 car, when Kurt moved up and spun him out. When these other guys pushed on the 20, the car in the middle of the corner and it wasn’t square on his bumper, they’re gonna spin them out. We’re going around the corner. The car has a lot of g-forces on it and if you push it in the wrong spot it’s gonna spin out. My car drives pretty stable. I know a lot of guys have said that their cars are loose. Like David Ragan was in front of me last night and his car was so loose I was glad I was not driving it, but my car, on the other hand, was stuck to the race track like glue. My car, I could drive anywhere. Yeah, when Kyle was pushing me I was white-knuckling it because it just pushes the back of the car around. I don’t know how you fix that. Right now, I think the balance is pretty good on driveability and how long you can push each other. For what NASCAR was going for – to see more of the big pack racing – I think the balance right now is pretty good. Let’s face it, when you saw big packs like that and it was always a five or six-car wreck minimum. That’s just a fact. Unless one guy spins off to the bottom like the 15 did. When you’re bunched up like that and one guy wrecks, you’re gonna see six guys in it.”

CASEY MEARS – No. 13 Geico Ford Fusion – “It feels really good. For so long we came here and struggled at the superspeedways. I just want to thank everybody at Roush Yates and Ford because it just runs so well. It’s refreshing to have that under the hood and to know that we’ve got that kind of quality motor behind us. And, obviously, to get the car from Roush as well has been a big help for us. The guys polished on it too. They didn’t have a whole lot of days to work on it, but the days that we did have we tried to make the best use of it and do all we could to make the car a little better than when we got it. Bootie (Barker) and all the guys were pretty diligent in making sure that we did everything that we could do for that qualifying run.”

CARL EDWARDS – No. 99 Fastenal Ford Fusion – “I’m real happy with it and I hope it holds up until at least through the end of this interview because I’m enjoying this right now. That is a very, very speedy Fastenal Fusion and I appreciate Bob Osborne and all the work he’s done. Doug Yates, the engines are so important in this. It’s so neat to come down here and to be so fast and to really have fun qualifying here. We’ve struggled so much in the past and so many guys have put so much effort in this off-season. I know I’m giving the interview like I’ve won the pole, I know there’s only seven guys that have gone, but I’m enjoying it and I hope we end up in the front because this is pretty cool.” DOES THE WIND HAVE AN EFFECT? “Yeah, the wind is scary. I don’t think the rest of the guys should hold it wide-open and just go easy because that wind is treacherous (laughing). The wind really does make the lap times different. The wind right now is blowing down the back straightaway and I could feel the RPM building to a higher RPM than we’ve seen in single-car runs. It’s like Chip (Bolin) said. He said, ‘You’re one good gust of wind away from the pole,’ and that’s all you can hope to be down here in Daytona.”

GREG BIFFLE – No. 16 3M Ford Fusion – “I’m a little disappointed. I hate the wind. I guess if you’re out sailing it’s good, but coming down the front I was 200 RPM more on my first lap than I was my fast lap. That clearly is at least a tenth, tenth-and-a-half, two-tenths of speed. It was singing down the back, but coming down the front I just got a big gust of wind coming off of four or in the short chute and when I went into turn one I knew I didn’t have it. I was so slow going into turn one that I’m surprised we’re second. It’s just luck of the draw. Right now you feel the wind is really calm, so it all depends if you get a gust or not.” WHAT HAPPENED IN INSPECTION? “You want as much rear weight as you can get to get the back of the car down, and they were three or four or five pounds over on the rear weight. In the inspection process, when you’re off on something you go all the way back around and start over again. So then they moved it forward and it was too far forward, so they had to adjust it again. It was just a minor thing and it didn’t affect the speed of the car.”

MARCOS AMBROSE – No. 9 Stanley Ford Fusion – “It’s great for Ford being one-two-three right now, but we would like to be on the top. Still, we had a good effort. It was a fast car and we’re gonna qualify well. It’s the best speedway car I’ve had down here in my three or four years in Cup. I’m excited for Sunday. I’m excited for the Duels. I think we have a real shot to win it.” LESS INTENSE TODAY THAN LAST NIGHT? “I was actually more nervous today because you know that any small jerk on the wheel can really affect your time. There’s not much a driver can do but mess up out there. They can’t gain any speed, but they can sure lose some.”

ARIC ALMIROLA – No. 43 Smithfield Ford Fusion – “I thought it was good. I’m really proud of Greg Erwin and all the guys on this Smithfield Ford team. The Fords are running really strong down here. That’s something for Doug Yates and everybody at Roush Yates to be really proud of. Everybody at Richard Petty Motorsports has done an awesome job. They’ve worked really hard and it shows. We spent two months over the winter getting ready and prepared for this race and the hard work of all the guys really comes out when you come down here for Daytona for qualifying. We would have liked to have been those top two, but we’re not so we’re gonna go from there and we’ll race our way to hopefully a better starting spot for the Datyona 500.”

RICKY STENHOUSE JR. – No. 6 EcoBoost Ford Fusion – “We’ve got the EcoBoost Ford Fusion paint scheme on there, it’s looking good, and we had some speed in it. I wish we could have got a little bit more of a gust on the back straightaway. It felt like it was pretty calm for us while we were out there, but you’ll have that. The good thing is all the Fords are really fast.” MORE CONFIDENCE FOR THURSDAY? “It will definitely give you some confidence that you’ve got a car that is capable of being in the front and running up front for a lot of the race. It’s just an awesome job that all the guys did back at our shop and the engine shop. They just really work hard on these cars to come down here for Daytona. On Thursday our job is to keep our racecar as clean as we can so we’ll have it for Sunday.”

MATT KENSETH – No. 17 Best Buy Ford Fusion – “I don’t know. We’ve been off Greg a tenth or so, but never that far. We were two or three-tenths off of what they ran there, so it’s a little disappointing. By the same token, it’s encouraging as well that all of the Fords have been real fast. It seems like our stuff has been running good all weekend. I thought last night they had good speed and today it’s just about the top two, so as fast as all the Fords were, I was hoping we could maybe sneak in one of those spots, but we just didn’t have the speed those guys had since we’ve been here.”

DAVID RAGAN – No. 34 Al-Liner Ford Fusion – “That was a great lap. We came down with a good car and obviously a good engine program with Roush Yates Engine Performance behind us, so the crew did a nice job. I think we ran as many laps as anyone did on our practice day and we really picked up a little bit each time, so I can’t say enough about Jay Guy and our Front Row Motorsports team. They made good changes. We didn’t have anything crazy happen and we picked up kind of what we thought we would and our car seems to be pretty fast.”

DAVID GILLILAND -- MHP/Power Pak Pudding Ford Fusion – “This is the same car we ran all last year at all the restrictor plate races and it just never has had a lot of speed by itself, but it drives really well and sucks up good. That’s the most important thing when you get out here racing. Today, if you’re not on the front row it doesn’t really matter, but we’re happy. The car drives good. It’s gonna be a new style of racing and I can’t wait to get out there and do it.”

TREVOR BAYNE – No. 21 Motorcraft/Quick Lane Ford Fusion – “I felt pretty good about the lap. Last year I would have been jumping up-and-down about qualifying in the top 10, but I really thought we had a shot at the pole today as good as our car was yesterday. It’s just the wind was against us. Going through three and four I could feel it kind of gusting onto the nose of our car, so at that point there’s not much you can do. I held it wide-open and they gave me a great race car, so I think it’s gonna race really good and that’s all that really matters. After watching the race last night, it doesn’t seem like it’s gonna matter where you start at.” A RELIEF KNOWING YOU’RE PRETTY WELL LOCKED IN? “Yeah. It’s a lot of relief. Now we’re back to the same position we were in last year. We started the Duel knowing we were locked in and it was just wherever we finished and now we’re back right there, so I’m ready for it.”