Keselowski Runs Front Row Qualifying Streak to Three

Ford Racing NSCS Notes & Quotes:
Food City 500 Qualifying – Bristol Motor Speedway
Friday, March 14, 2014

Ford Qualifying Results:
2nd – Brad Keselowski
4th – Joey Logano
5th – Marcos Ambrose
8th – Greg Biffle
12th – Carl Edwards
16th – David Gilliland
19th – David Ragan
21st – Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
23rd – Aric Almirola

JOEY LOGANO – No. 22 Shell/Pennzoil Ford Fusion – HOW DID YOUR STRATEGY WORK OUT AT THE END?  “Not good enough (laughing).  I feel like we did what we were supposed to do to be able to go out there and give it a shot for the pole.  Really and honestly Brad’s car has been a little faster than ours today.  I felt like when we won the first session I’m like, ‘OK, we found something between practice and qualifying,’ so I felt pretty good about it.  Denny’s strategy was pretty good.  I think watching what they did in between two runs was pretty impressive to me.  It was a huge pick-up for them.  I’m actually surprised that we were able to go back out.  We kind of ran the same speed we ran for the third run and you saw Brad made an adjustment and went faster also, so that’s the advantage to having a cool down machine.  If this was the same rule we had last week, you can’t cool off fast enough to go back out so you’re never gonna go faster.  Now it’s more entertaining for the fans that now you’ve got something where, hey, they’re gonna cool off and give it another shot and actually have a shot at going faster and not running the same speed if you’re lucky.  The 20 surprised me also because he made two runs in the first qualifying session and then he still went faster.  I’m a little confused (laughing).  I’m still trying to digest everything that happened here and try to make sense of it all, but overall we’re mad about fourth.  It’s not that bad, but it’s a good position to be in.”  

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THAT’S BECAUSE YOU SET THE BAR SO HIGH.  “That’s the bar.  We were mad about finishing fourth last weekend.  That’s a good sign.  When you’re happy about a 10th-place finish that’s not a good sign about the way your season is going.  We’ve got to keep this drive and keep that desire to win and that passion and we’ll push ahead.  This is a good race track for my team and a good track for me, so we’ll be able to see the front from where we’re at.  Fourth, I feel like, is better than third here, so hopefully it all works out.”  

THE CHANGES IN QUALIFYING SEEM TO BE GETTING POSITIVE REVIEWS.  “Yeah, I’m sure everyone was for it.  Everyone was lobbying for this and I feel like NASCAR made the right call in listening to the teams and understanding what our point of view was.  Everyone was kind of nervous about it here because the closing rate here is quick and you saw what happened at Vegas last week – how fast we were going – so it was definitely the right move for keeping us safe out there, number one, and, number two, the competition and the excitement for the fans by being able to make more runs out there and not make cool down laps was also better, so, overall, it’s a win-win.”  

WHAT IS THE NATURE OF YOUR RELATIONSHIP WITH DENNY HAMLIN RIGHT NOW A YEAR AFTER WHAT HAPPENED HERE?  “I feel like we are.  I think we’re fine.  I feel like we get along fine now.  We did that Coca-Cola Family commercial and all sat in a van for about three hours, so I felt like by the end of it we all got along well.  So that’s the good thing about it.  Coca-Cola brings us all back together and puts a smile on everybody’s face.  I feel like we’re fine.  A year is a long time.  It’s over now.  I feel like we’ve moved on.  Obviously, people were talking about it this week because it’s the one-year anniversary of the whole fiasco, but you move on and forget about things.  You’re supposed to forgive and forget and that goes both ways, so we both knew what we had to do and I feel like we’ve moved on and we’re going from there.”


GREG BIFFLE – No. 16 Meguiar’s Ford Fusion – “I’m really happy, but I feel really terrible because I took a really, really fast car, a really good car, and I guess I did a stupid move.  The car was driving so good on the bottom and the middle and I just eased my way – I could see the black and I’m like, ‘OK, people are running there,’ and I didn’t go way up, but I went about a lane above the center and got in the dirt through corner exit and spun out.  It was just stupid on my part because I had a really, really good car.  This car seems to be pretty good.  We made the top 12 and qualified eighth, so we’ll see what it’s like.”  

WHAT WERE YOUR THOUGHTS ON HOW THE MODIFICATIONS WENT IN QUALIFYING?  “I think it’s a smart move.  I’m glad they did it before somebody got hurt because Las Vegas was a little scary at some points where we’re going 200 and a guy is coasting – guys whipping out and passing a guy – you’ve just got to be careful about that.”

MARCOS AMBROSE – No. 9 Stanley Ford Fusion – YOU WERE THE LAST ONE TO GO OUT IN THE FINAL ROUND.  WHAT WAS YOUR THINKING THERE? “Yeah, we were just waiting for a cloud.  It was lot of fun to actually be in that mix and I feel really good about it.  We’ve had trouble with our two qualifying sessions before this one and today we made it stick.  We had a good car off the truck.  We just tuned on it a little bit and we kept working on it and making it better, so I’m looking forward to the race.  This has been a good track for me in the past and I hope it’s going to be good to me on Sunday.”  

WHAT ABOUT THE CHANGES TO QUALIFYING?  “This is way better.  To even think we did it the other way is crazy.  This is the way it should be because it allows the fastest cars to go out there and put on the right show and not confuse the fans.  I think it’s a good change for us and I think these qualifying sessions are gonna get more and more exciting as the drivers and teams work out how to do it.”


DAVID GILLILAND – No. 38 Long John Silver’s Ford Fusion – DO YOU FEEL YOUR STRATEGY PAID OFF?  “We were kind of waiting to see what happened.  I don’t know if it paid off or not.  I don’t feel like the track changed that much, but we were just trying to see what everybody else was doing and kind of seeing how everything played out.  It was a good run for us.   I’m real proud of the guys.  Bristol has been a good track for us in the past and now we’ve just got to finish it off on Sunday.”  

HOW WAS IT WITH NO COOL DOWN LAPS?  “It’s still crazy.  As a driver your nerves still get going when you’re waiting in line and people are cutting in front of you and the time clock is running out.  It’s different.  It was much safer.  I don’t miss going out there and shutting myself off and having a car blow by me at full speed.  That was the least fun part of the new qualifying procedure, so I commend NASCAR for stepping up and making changes and I think we’re headed in the right direction.”


DAVID RAGAN – No. 34 Dockside Logistics Ford Fusion – YOU AND YOUR TEAMMATE WERE THE LAST TWO CARS TO GO OUT IN ROUND ONE.  HOW DID THAT STRATEGY WORK FOR YOU?  “In years past we’ve always been able to run and the top here in qualifying and we kind of felt like after Nationwide practice the top groove might come in a little bit.  It’s really not big difference if you go out early or late.  I had the impression for the 34 Ford that your first couple of laps were going to be the best laps, so we weren’t too concerned with going early and trying to get our stuff cooled down, so we just kind of waited to see if we couldn’t learn something or pick up on something.  It seemed like it worked.  David and I are both in the top 20 and we’ve got good race cars. We always want to be a little bit faster, but I think our Fords for Sunday are gonna be OK.” 


BRAD KESELOWSKI – No. 2 Miller Lite Ford Fusion – PRESS CONFERENCE – “Starting is important, but it’s 500 laps.  At the end of the day a starting position isn’t relevant if you’re not fast in race trim, so qualifying well is great but not the whole world.  What is important is having a good pit stall here.  This track is really dicey on pit road among other things, it’s dicey on the track, but pit road is a huge challenge for the crew and the driver so having a strong selection for pit road is probably the larger piece of the equation besides overall morale and feeling good about yourself when you go to bed tonight, but, either way, I’m happy to be in this spot and proud of the effort.  Things are going pretty well to start the 2014 season for the 2 crew.”  

I ASSUME THE ATTEMPT AT THE END WAS TO TRY AND BEAT DENNY FOR THE POLE?  “Yeah.  I don’t know, is there another thing you could do out there (laughing).”  DID THE NEW COOL DOWN RULE MAKE THAT POSSIBLE?  “Oh, absolutely.  I think that rule change has just made qualifying even better.  It’s removed danger and replaced it with opportunity, which I think is a positive-positive.  I’m very happy with that rule as it stands right now.  It doesn’t matter what I say because we qualified well and everyone is gonna say, ‘Of course you’re happy with it,’ but I think that was for the betterment of the sport and certainly if for no other reason that safety it’s definitely worth it.  But I also feel like being able to go out there and make multiple runs is now a lot more plausible because of that scenario and that’s something that rewards the fans and rewards the teams as well.”


BRAD KESELOWSKI CONTINUED – WOULD LAST WEEK HAVE BEEN A DIFFERENT SCENARIO?  “Yeah, last week would have definitely been a different scenario under the rules.  Yeah, absolutely.”  CAN YOU POINT TO ANYTHING THAT HAS MADE THE FORDS BETTER TO START THE YEAR?  “Yeah, I think the change in the lower fascia, the lower front nose piece, was significant.  When Ford came out with their car two years ago they were the first ones out the door and there was a little bit different understanding as to what the rules were at that time than what they were at the start of the 2013 season and I think we kind of got snookered right there on that particular part.  We were allowed to update that to resemble that of the other manufacturers at the beginning of 2014, and I think that was a pretty significant change for us.  We can point to probably a half-dozen races where that had a severe negative effect for the Ford performance, so that’s probably the biggest one that stands out is kind of getting back on an even playing field with that front fascia, but then again there’s more to it.  There are a lot of small things that add up with the Roush Yates Engine shop has made some gains this year, which we’re proud of, and Team Penske has made some gains on the car side.  I felt like we finished 2013 very strong and with those small improvements we’re even better yet for 2014.”  

YOU WROTE A PERSONAL BLOG ON YOUR WEBSITE THIS WEEKEND.  CAN YOU TALK ABOUT HOW MUCH YOU WEIGHED WHETHER TO TELL THAT STORY AND WHAT THE REACTION HAS BEEN LIKE?  “It’s been really positive, which is great.  It wasn’t exactly sure how that was gonna go, but it was one of those decisions where my lawyers and agent said no and my heart said yes and I followed my heart, and I pushed the send button before they could get too involved.  I think it’s important to show personal stories because there’s so much going on in this garage at all times.  It’s impossible for you guys or anyone to report everything that’s going on.  I think we’re all aware of that and appreciative to the things that you guys do, but some things fall through the cracks.  That particular story fell through the cracks, and, at the time, I was really glad it did, but then with a little bit of time I realized how important it was to share it and help others with it.  It took me a while to get to a spot personally where I could make that happen and I was afraid to share it because of the negative ramifications it might have on my team from having to deal with media that might have pointed at that for any lack of success we had last year.  And I felt that all kind of just go away instantly as soon as we won the race last weekend on the Cup side.  That put me in a really strong position to share it.  I hadn’t really planned on it.  I didn’t set out and think, ‘If we win this race, I’m gonna write this blog.’  It’s just one of those things that kind of happened and it felt right to me, and I think sometimes you’ve got to follow your heart and my heart said that was the right thing to do.  The positive response has really meant a lot to me and I’ll cherish forever.  That’s from the fans and those inside the garage.  There are a lot of people in this garage who have gone through similar struggles that I have and similar struggles to the individual in the story has happened to them or friends or people they know.  So I think it’s a touching point for them that doesn’t get covered and doesn’t necessarily receive the attention that sometimes it deserves, so I was glad in some small way to play homage to that.”  

IS THERE A STRATEGY INVOLVED TO THIS QUALIFYING?  “It’s black-magic.  I don’t think it’s that complicated.  I don’t think there’s any big secret.  If you’re fast, you’re fast and it shows through.  I’m sure Denny would say the same thing.  He has a fast race car and when that’s the case this qualifying format is really easy.  There’s no trickery to it, you just go out and put a lap down and I think that’s been the case for us.” 


BRAD KESELOWSKI CONTINUED — DALE SAID EARLIER THAT THE GUYS WHO HAVE WON ARE IN THE WINNER’S CLUB.  HE SAID YOU WERE THE LAST GUY YOU’D WANT IN THE CLUB BECAUSE YOU GAMBLE REGARDLESS OF THE SYSTEM.  YOU SEEM EXCITED ABOUT THE POSSIBILITY OF THAT IN THE FUTURE. “I am.  You look through the field and on any given weekend the chances you take to run in each position, obviously, the moves that it takes to win a race it’s a low-percentage shot to be able to gamble and win a race, but you can play a higher-percentage shot of ensuring yourself a top-5 or top-10 on a regular basis if you have competitive cars and certainly the Gibbs cars, the Hendrick cars, the Penske cars are right there of being consistent front runners that can run in the top 10 without any strategy, just legitimately on their own.  With that said, it takes that little bit extra to get to victory lane.  It might take the right restart.  It might take the perfect pit stop, or it might come down to strategy.  You don’t know which one it might be, it might take the perfect debris yellow that comes out right when you need it.  Those things are what dictate who wins races, so your odds of being able to pull off a gamble and win are very low, but if you feel like before you were gonna ensure a top-10 day, which was more important because, let’s face it the gambles you take to win could put you in a 30th-place day.  If you’re not worried about that penalty of a 30th-place day, you’re in a great position to really go after that and that’s where we’re at. That’s where Dale’s at, that’s where Kevin is at and I’m sure some more will join that winner’s club pretty soon and it’s a good place to be because it’s stress-free when you know that you can take those chances and if it doesn’t work out, the worst thing that happens is you park a few spots further down on the grid for practice next week.  That’s a really good feeling.”

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