Ford Performance NASCAR: Aric Almirola and Jeffrey Earnhardt Talk Atlanta

Ford Performance NSCS Notes and Quotes
Folds of Honor/QuikTrip 500 Advance – Atlanta Motor Speedway
Saturday, February 27, 2016

Aric Almirola, driver of the No. 43 Smithfield Ford Fusion, is scheduled to start 27th in tomorrow’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race.  He provided his comments about the new low downforce package before today’s practice session.

ARIC ALMIROLA – No. 43 Smithfield Ford Fusion – QUALIFYING OBVIOUSLY DIDN’T GO AS WELL AS YOU HOPED.  HOW WAS THE FIRST DAY WITH THIS NEW PACKAGE?  “We had a good day yesterday actually.  I thought our car was really good in race trim and we switched over to qualifying trim and I was pretty happy with my car, and we went to go qualify and I really think we got a bad set of tires or something.  My car was just awful.  We don’t really know what to expect.  We put the car back to what we had for race trim and we’ll go practice this morning and see what we’ve got.  We actually saw last year on this dual compound tire that if the date codes and stuff were just a little bit off from set to set that the car was drastically different in the way it handled.  I’m disappointed in qualifying for sure, but that’s OK.  This place is easy to pass at if you have a good handling car.”

HAVE YOU GOTTEN A FEEL FOR THE NEW TIRE?  “I think they drive OK.  I don’t really notice a huge difference, but the biggest thing is I think from set to set there are variations in how the car drives.  We’ve seen that in the past on these dual-zone tires, so we’re just trying to get a handle on that and understand the codes and spring rates and all that stuff on these particular tires has been a challenge for us.  We’ve always struggled with these dual-zone tires.  I’m not sure what we’re doing that’s wrong, but a perfect example was yesterday.  We felt really good about our car going into qualifying and then we went to go qualify and it was just all over the place.”

GOODYEAR SAID THE TIRES FOR CUP WILL BE DIFFERENT THAN XFINITY JUST ABOUT EVERY WEEKEND.  DOES THAT CHANGE HOW MANY XFINITY RACES YOU MAY WANT TO RUN?  “Not really because the biggest thing is just how the track changes.  I know the tire is gonna be different, but the characteristics of the track as the track rubbers up is gonna be the same, so I still think that will be a factor.  And really just getting the laps and the repetition.  Honestly, it helps me sleep on Saturday night.  Getting a 300-lap workout in in an XFINITY car and getting a race under my belt just really relaxes me and gets me ready to go for Sunday.  And it gives me something to talk to Trent about on Saturday night about how the track changed throughout the race.”

WAS IT NICE TO SEE YOUR TEAMMATE HAVE A GOOD QUALIFYING RUN?  “Yeah, that’s good.  That’s the beauty of having team cars is that when one car is off you can go look at their notes and kind of see what’s different and get an understanding of maybe where we missed the boat.  It was great to see Brian get off to a good start here at Atlanta.”

Jeffrey Earnhardt, driver of the No. 32 Can-Am Ford Fusion, will be making his 2016 season debut with Go FAS Racing.  He spoke about starting 38th in tomorrow’s race and what his goals are moving forward before today’s NASCAR Sprint Cup Series practice.

JEFFREY EARNHARDT – No. 32 Can-Am Ford Fusion – WHAT ARE YOUR GOALS FOR TOMORROW?  “Qualifying didn’t really go that well for us.  We had some issues with the car, but nothing major.  We had some minor things that make a big difference when you’re talking aero at a place like Atlanta.  I’m really looking forward to learning.  We’re trying a lot of new stuff this year and we’re getting a lot of help from Ford, which is helping a small team like this tremendously.  We’re trying to put all these notes to use, so it’s more of a learning weekend for us, me especially.  This is my first time on a mile-and-a-half in a Cup car.  I’ve raced here a couple of times in XFINITY, but never even driven a mile-and-a-half in a Cup car, so I’m learning a lot myself and learning a lot as a team.  I’m gonna just try and log laps and try to make sure this car stays in one piece because then we can take it on to Vegas and we get a test day there, so if we don’t tear this thing up, it gives us an opportunity to learn more and more and not focus on fixing them.  We’re gonna try to log all the laps we can and keep the car underneath us.  It’s gonna be tough with this low downforce package, but these guys are making it a lot easier for me.  I’ve got a long, long way to go in my learning process.”

KYLE BUSCH STARTS BACK THERE WITH YOU TOMORROW.  MAYBE YOU CAN WATCH AND LEARN FROM HIM WHEN HE TAKES OFF?  “I’d love to keep up with him to learn, but I’ve got a feeling he’s gonna get back up to the front really, really fast.  He’s a wheel man and this track suits his driving style.  He’s a guy that can hang on to one when it’s completely sideways and still be fast doing it.  I don’t think he’s gonna hang out in the back too long, but it would be nice to be around some of those guys and really see their lines and what they’re doing.  After the first round of qualifying I went up on the hauler and saw a bunch of guys doing things different as far as lines they were running, so it made me think a little bit more about what I can do different the next time we qualify here.  This is gonna be a huge learning year for me and to be around good guys like that is great for me.  They’re good for a reason.  They’ve been here a lot and done it a lot, so I’m just gonna lean on everybody and learn the best I can.  Hopefully, we pick up a bunch of good notes from this weekend and can use them in Vegas.”

IS THE GOAL JUST TO LOG LAPS?  YOU’RE A RACER.  YOU WANT TO PASS PEOPLE.  “We’re all competitors.  It’s racing and anything can happen.  Anyone can win a race at any given moment.  I’m not saying we’re gonna go out there and run top-15 tomorrow, but we know the situation we’re in.  We know the level I’m at, which is at the beginning.  This is my first year out in this, but, then again, we’re all racers and we’re all here to compete.  I’m gonna pass every car I can tomorrow, but we don’t want to push the issue.  An issue I had when I first started racing was trying to overdrive the car beyond its capabilities.  It’s something I’ve tried to work on and not end up wrecking because of that, so really it’s just about being patient and giving good feedback to the guys.  That way, they can keep the car underneath me and if we do that, then we’re gonna pass cars.  We weren’t that far off in practice, we just struggled in qualifying.  Qualifying is not really a good judge with how our car is running, but we made some changes that we think are going to make us better in practice.”

JEFFREY EARNHARDT CONTINUED — DO YOU CONCERN YOURSELF WITH GUYS LIKE THE FORMER CHAMPIONS IN THE FIELD?  DO YOU RACE DIFFERENTLY AROUND GUYS LIKE THAT?  “You have to show those guys respect.  They’ve been here a lot longer and if you make them mad, they’re not gonna help you and without their help, you’re not gonna get any better.  To be the best, you’ve got to beat the best and the only way to beat them is to learn from them.  They did the same thing.  They asked questions from all the people coming up when they came in, so you can’t make them mad.  You show them respect.  You want to make sure you stay on their good side because they can make it a bad day pretty quick for you.”

A SUCCESSFUL DAY FOR YOU TOMORROW WILL BE?  “I want to finish top-30 for sure, considering all the circumstances.  Really, I want to log laps and understand these cars better.  My notebook is less than a page long right now because I really don’t understand these cars as well as I’d like to, and it’s only gonna get better with seat time.  As long as we can keep that car on the track and keep turning laps, my notebook is gonna keep growing.  It took a long time to learn that on the XFINITY side and now I’m trying to build that notebook the same way over here.  These cars drive so much different than those XFINITY cars with no height rules and stuff like that, so you don’t really feel the car travel.  You don’t get the full feel of what the car is doing, so you have a lot less to judge off of and you have to find that happy medium.”

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