Ford Performance NASCAR: Las Vegas (Ford Sweeps Top Four Spots with Bowyer on Pole at Vegas)

Ford Performance Notes and Quotes
Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series (MENCS)
Saturday, September 14, 2019


1st – Clint Bowyer (P)
2nd – Daniel Suarez
3rd – Kevin Harvick (P)
4th – Aric Almirola (P)
10th – Michael McDowell
11th – David Ragan
12th – Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
17th – Ryan Newman (P)
18th – Brad Keselowski (P)
21st – Paul Menard
22nd – Joey Logano (P)
23rd – Ryan Blaney (P)
29th – Matt Tifft
33rd – Corey LaJoie

(P) Kevin Harvick, No. 4 Mobil 1 Ford Mustang – Qualified 3rd

“Our Mobil 1 Ford Mustang is fast. I kind of blew it right there getting up to speed. I got sideways accelerating coming off pit road there. Our guys have done a great job and we have done a lot of things to make our cars handle better and knocking speed out of them so they have done a great job.”

DOES THE MOMENTUM FROM YOUR WIN LAST WEEK HELP YOU TOMORROW? “It never hurts. Anytime you can get to victory lane and capture some of that momentum it is something that you have to forget but it definitely doesn’t hurt.”

(P) Aric Almirola, No. 10 Smithfield Ford Mustang – Qualified 4th

“You have to qualify well because it puts you in position to start the race on a good note and stay up front and keep some track position and it really sets you up to score points in Stage 1. That is really what qualifying well does for you. I think that is the biggest thing. With the points as tight as they are, qualifying well and getting some stage points in Stage 1 really helps. So usually if you qualify 25th it is really hard to get stage points in Stage 1. Qualifying well is important and I am happy about that and really proud of everybody at Stewart-Haas Racing. There is so much effort going in week in and week out and I feel really good about where we are at.”

(P) Ryan Newman, No. 6 Oscar Mayer Bacon Ford Mustang – Qualified 17th

“That was an improvement for us for sure in speed. I felt good yesterday in practice with our Oscar Meyer Ford. We will see where we go from here. Obviously it will be interesting to see what the track does as it cools off starting the race at 4 pm, we will just have to go from there.”

WHAT DO YOU THINK THE RACING WILL BE LIKE TOMORROW? “I don’t really know what to expect. I think this race a year ago can be used to predict it more because of the playoffs. I think it is going to be – I don’t know. I think there will be more cautions than there was in the spring, without a doubt. Maybe not to the extent of last year. We just need a clean race for us to keep ourselves in contention and keep up the consistency part of what we have been doing but also improve our performance and we did that today in qualifying. We definitely aren’t where we want to be but we have improved on the gap that we needed to close up.”

(P) Ryan Blaney, No. 12 PPG Ford Mustang – Qualified 23rd

“I think we are a little slower here than we were the first race. Race pace will be a little slower I think with less grip. Maybe towards the end of the race when the sun gets off the race track it will be a little more gripped up. Not a ton different, just a little more slick and teams kind of change the way they build their cars. This race was early in the spring and people were building their cars differently and now I feel like teams have gone in different directions and it has been interesting to see that.”

(P) Brad Keselowski, No. 2 Autotrader Ford Mustang – Qualified 18th

“It is hard to say with the impound qualifying. If they have that speed in the race then it is time to worry. But right now it isn’t really a good indicator with this qualifying format. It might be and it might not be. We should know about 20 laps in who really has what.”

(P) Joey Logano, No. 22 Pennzoil Ford Mustang – Qualified 22nd

“That was not very fast. We were set up to handle and obviously, it is pretty obvious when you look at the rundown of who has speed and who is dialed for handling. If the Stewart-Haas cars have both we are all in trouble. It is a trade-off when you come to these places. It is really hard to have both. You can’t have both. You have to make your bed and lay in it. We have made our bed and we will lay in it tomorrow. Hopefully it is the right direction, we will see. As the sun goes down we might lose some of the advantage of having the handling but time will tell.”

HOW SOON WILL YOU KNOW IF THE SHR CARS HAVE MADE THE RIGHT TRADE-OFF? “If they stay up front it will be pretty apparent that it is probably okay. As tires start to fall off and you catch lap cars you will be in dirty air. If you are out front it is a pretty big advantage if you have a trimmed out car. It will be tough to pass them on restarts when they have the grip in the tires to beat them. If you run longer, I think we will bury them in the pack to where it will be hard for them to come back from it. That being said, at the end of the race when the sun goes down, they are probably going to come back with the speed they have.”

(P) Clint Bowyer, No. 14 Toco Warranty Ford Mustang – Qualified 1st

IT IS YOUR FIRST POLE IN 12 YEARS: “It beats the hell out of me, guys. I am as shocked as you are. It is tons of fun. Obviously bragging rights for the guys first and foremost and I am extremely proud of the effort. Hey, we sit on the pole but look, my gosh, 1-2-3-4 for Stewart-Haas Racing and I think that shows a lot about our hard work, dedication and focus on the qualifying lap. Now, that being said, what does that mean for tomorrow? I think we have seen in our sport before that cars that are bad fast on Saturday or on qualifying day sometimes can’t hold it for 400 miles. That is going to be a tall order for tomorrow. Obviously if those things are that fast they are trimmed out quite a bit for that speed. That being said, you do make adjustments and go back into race trim and we all know clean air is very important on a race track like Las Vegas and we have that. That is in our favor. I am going to have to be aggressive to hold my teammates off on starts and restarts and Mike has to do a good job of playing the strategy game. We are back to a 1.5 mile track and a tire that is conducive to an untimely caution that breaks up a stage and you have a decision to make. We are here in Sin City and there is some gambling to do tomorrow that just might win you a race. I think that is a fitting thing for being at this race track in this situations in the playoffs and everything else with it being for all the marbles.”

THESE GUYS HAVE BEEN MAKING SOME PRETTY GOOD JOKES ABOUT HOW LONG IT HAS BEEN SINCE YOU HAD A POLE WIN: “Yeah, well, it used to be that you got a check. I don’t even think the pole pays anything anymore, I don’t know. I got a flag! I didn’t even get a beer. This is the Busch Light Pole Award and there was no Busch Beer out there.”

KYLE BUSCH IS THE ONLY DRIVER TO WIN FROM THE POLE HERE. WHY IS IT SO HARD? “Well it turns out he is pretty decent. There is fixing to be two tomorrow. It is hard, man. The fastest car doesn’t win the race more often than not when you look at our sport. That just goes to show you all the things and all the components that go in to finding success on any given Sunday on any given weekend on any given race track. It is always different. The same recipe that will apply this weekend in Las Vegas won’t apply next weekend in Richmond or again the following week in Charlotte. The only things that do apply are confidence, momentum, hard work and dedication and seeing all those through and putting all those pieces together. We have done a good job, my race team, Mike and all the guys on the 14 car of preparing ourselves for these playoffs. Things ratchet up in the playoffs and the pressure is intense. You have to be able to perform your best in the most extreme situations and we have kind of been there for the last month and a half as we have been grinding it out and looking over our shoulders to make all the right decisions. Don’t give up too many stage points here and don’t sacrifice here to be good on the second one. Go for a win, whatever the case may be you have to read every situation accordingly and pull and audible if needed and those are the things you have to do to survive and go to the next round in the playoffs. Again, momentum, coming off three good finishes with us we are building. Timing is everything and certainly, hell it has been 12 damn years since I have been on the pole and we are starting off the playoffs on the pole. I think we won that race by the way in New Hampshire. It is so long ago I don’t really remember. I am proud of the situation and proud of the effort first and foremost and certainly proud to lead a strong field to the green flag here at Las Vegas.”

IS THERE A CERTAIN AMOUNT OF POSITIVE VIBE YOU HAVE BEING IN THE FIRST PLAYOFF RACE AND STARTING FROM THE POLE? “Well, you can’t just make up momentum. You can’t make up confidence. There is only one thing that breeds that and it is success on the race track. You can’t just wake up and say, ‘Alright guys, we are going to change our attitude.’ My old man used to tell me all the time to fix my attitude and my attitude sucks. Well damn dad, I can’t just put a smile on my face and go from 25th to the pole. It doesn’t work that way. You have to build and work hard and start the infrastructure from within and a positive attitude goes a long way. We have been learning this Ford Mustang body all season long and we have been learning this new format all season long and it is time to put all that to good use. Certainly the timing is in our favor right now. Getting out of race cars and situations, whether it is qualifying or the race the past three weekend and you have a smile on your face. You are confident and proud of the job you did. That is the momentum I am talking about.”

HOW CONFIDENT WERE YOU GOING IN THAT YOU COULD WIN THE POLE? “Well, it was really fast yesterday in our qualifying run so I kind of had that in the back of my mind. To be honest with you it was a handful yesterday. The other thing about it is we ran that mock qualifying run in the first practice. In happy hour we changed quite a bit of our fundamentals of our race car, the front end geometries and things and both rear springs, some pretty big hitters to be good in that race. You don’t know what that means to the balance of that race car and you don’t know what that means in terms of if it will knock speed out of your car. It is the first time in my career where you can knock the drag out or put downforce in. It is a trade-off and you have to find a happy medium. You can make those things like a bullet and streamline through the air and be sleek and extremely fast but it comes at a downforce deficiency. You put too much downforce on and then there is too much drag and you are slow. You see teams that are more in that favor and you will see them tomorrow drive up through the field. We all know that those Gibbs cars have been strong all season long and they don’t qualify very good but as soon as you look in the mirror here comes the ol’ 19 car. It is a design built within these race cars and a thought process and mentality. Sometimes it doesn’t even go as far as mentality and thought process. Sometimes it is the card that you have in your hand that you are dealt. Sometimes those things are in your favor and some years they are in your favor and they change the rules and maybe next year it is not. You go to work and try to make it the best you can for any given situation.”

WITH DANIEL STARTING BESIDES YOU, WILL YOU TALK TO HIM AT ALL TO SEE IF HE WILL WORK WITH YOU? “Daniel is going to race me as hard as he can no different than I am going to with him. I wouldn’t expect him to do anything less. The only thing that we could do is the cars behind us need to probably get all four of our cars off and running and established early. I think we can all race each other cleanly and hopefully finish that first stage 1,2,3,4 and hopefully finish the second stage 1,2,3,4 and finish the race 1,2,3,4 in the exact order that it is. Kevin has already won some races, he will be fine. Third place will be good enough for him. It can stay just how it is. But I don’t think it will probably go that easy.”

FROM 2007, THE LAST TIME YOU HAD A POLE TO NOW, HOW HAS LIFE CHANGED FOR YOU? “Man, I had Jack Daniels for a sponsor back then. Let me tell you, that day was celebrated roughly. Yeah, those were the days. Thank God I was younger back then. I remember going to that race track which was a good race track for us and having a lot of confidence knowing that we could take care of business and unloaded off the track extremely fast and it started off the Chase and we sat on the pole and kicked their ass that day. It was a ton of fun. I didn’t remember that it was this exact day 12 years ago but I certainly remember that day and that win and what it meant to me and my family. It was literally the answer to everything we had ever wanted.”

LAST YEAR YOU HAD A PRETTY SOLID FIRST ROUND OF THE PLAYOFFS WITH THIS BEING YOUR WEAKEST TRACK. IS THERE POTENTIAL THIS YEAR TO REALLY TURN YOUR ENTIRE SEASON AROUND IN THIS FIRST ROUND? IS IT HARD TO LOOK AT THAT WHEN YOU ALSO NEED TO FOCUS FIRST ON SUNDAY? “The playoffs have always been fun for me. It is a perfect time in the year. It is not that you lose focus or wore out or whatever the case may be it is just the long summer grind is hard on all of us. I see you guys back at the playoff media day and it is not a new day at school but it is kind of like that. It is a new life and new opportunity to sell yourself as a race car driver or you guys something new to sell. It is something new. For right now, for me, it is a shot in the arm to make it and a shot at new life and new opportunity and it is right in front of us. It is instantly exciting and gets your mind back sharp and honed in and excited and hungry to wake back up the next morning and do better than you did the last time.”

HOW DO YOU TRANSFER ALL THIS FUN YOU ARE HAVING INTO PERFORMANCE? “Well, you can’t just wake up and decide that you are going to have fun today and do good and do better than you did yesterday or last week. It is hard work. But I feel like the playoffs are extremely intense on the crew members, crew chief and engineers and everybody. It is a lot of pressure. It is something that people see that I am just light hearted and think that I don’t care but it is kind of strategic for me and what works for me. You have to have fun within those situations and allow people to make those decisions constantly instead of with their butt puckered up all the time. That guy has to be able to do his job on the box and not be worried about messing up. He has to be confident in his decision and know that is the right thing come hell or high water.”

HOW AS YOUR CAR IN RACE RUNS? “It is a different agenda tomorrow. Our cars are trimmed out to go fast. You can make subtle adjustments to be able to be better in race trim over the course of a long fuel run or something like that. Time will tell. Clean air is very important. You have to have a sleek car and have a fast car to have the clean air. You also have to make sure that you don’t make any mistakes on the race track, on pit road, on strategy calls, on an adjustment or anything. You can’t afford to get back there in traffic because they don’t like to be back there. They like to be up front. There is a reason they are sleek and fast. Like I was alluding to earlier, there is a balance there. You can take downforce away and make them faster, make that bullet go faster down the straightaway but you get it back there in a pack where it is sheer aero and you are at a deficiency. That is a balance that every race team in every organization in the sport was going through right now. Certainly it is time to go. We have watched Kevin Harvick dominate Indy last weekend and was extremely fast. We qualified well and he stayed up front. We lost some track position there that first pit stop and I couldn’t get it back. We were just riding back there and all of a sudden you are in a playoff type situation where you aren’t racing Kevin Harvick for the win anymore, you are racing the three cars that we were trying to beat for the playoffs. It is going to be a challenge tomorrow. Damn right it is gonna be.”

ARE YOU AT ALL SURPRISED THAT HALF OF THE TOP-10 QUALIFIERS ARE NOT PLAYOFF DRIVERS? DOES THAT CHANGE THE VIBE AT ALL? “It all goes back to what I am talking about. That balance of downforce and drag and everything else. Teams don’t have anything to lose and you are going to make that thing as fast as possible and they are going to tell you they want to put it in the drivers hands. It is a collective effort. You have to have that thing in clean air and up front and that goes as far as making the right decisions when a caution comes out. Are we four tires? Two tires? Do we give up track position here to gain it later? Then the gambling starts. It is a collective effort across the board with any race team on pit road tomorrow.”

“You are going to see everybody that is in the playoffs is accustomed to running up front and you will see them running up front tomorrow. They are going to be the ones. The same guys every week, week in and week out, that you have to beat for any given win will be the same guys I have to beat tomorrow at Las Vegas.”

HOW HARD TO YOU PUSH THE AGGRESSION ISSUE IF GUYS THAT AREN’T IN THE PLAYOFFS ARE RACING YOU HARD OUT THERE? “Accordingly you have to. YOu have to keep up with the Joneses. You have to stay in front of them and you can’t let them take advantage of you and lose track position and everything else. That is what I have been preaching for the last 30-,oinutes. I need to keep that thing up front no different than my teammate Daniel Suarez has to do or Kevin or Aric or anybody else. It is playoff time. It is going to get intense and it will happen right off the bat. Every single year we see it here. I say it every year. You can’t win the championship at Las Vegas but you can lose it here. You certainly can knock yourself out of an opportunity. We have great race tracks coming up in this first round. They are good tracks for me, back in my wheelhouse where I am comfortable and confident racing. This one is the question mark of the first three for me. My team has helped me answer some of that and fix some of that question mark with an exclamation point with qualifying up front, for sure.”

(P) – indicates NASCAR Playoff driver

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of

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