Ford Performance NASCAR: Chris Buescher, Michael McDowell and Jack Roush Transcript

Ford Performance Notes and Quotes
NASCAR Cup Series (NCS)
Tuesday, August 18, 2020

Ford Performance NASCAR Cup Series drivers Chris Buescher and Michael McDowell, along with Roush Fenway owner Jack Roush, were part of this week’s Ford Zoom call to talk about last weekend’s race at the Daytona Road Course and what lies ahead as the regular season concludes with a doubleheader at Dover and then the finale next week at Daytona. Here’s a transcript of today’s session.

CHRIS BUESCHER, No. 17 SunnyD Ford Mustang – YOUR THOUGHTS ON FINISHING 5TH IN THE ROAD COURSE RACE AT DAYTONA? “That was something that we didn’t’ have any knowledge on going into. I’m sure every driver will tell you about the time they put in in simulators, either from the manufacturers’ simulator units or iRacing. I did a little bit of iRacing and a lot of simulator time. We tried to talk to some other friends in different forms of motorsports, a couple of friends that drove the Grand-Am cars for Roush when I was working on those cars back in the day. Joey Atterbury was giving me some points. Will Kimmel from the ARCA texted me and kind of ran through some of the basic stuff before we got out on track, just tried to talk to anybody we could that had some laps before we did. I watched a lot of racing this weekend before ours trying to learn and I think everybody took note of the backstretch chicane and how destructive that corner could be, so everybody backed up the truck race a decent amount and in the Cup race backed it up even more. At the end of the day it was a really solid day for our Fastenal Mustang team. I was proud of the effort. We didn’t’ start off real good, but we were being conservative. We figured some things out and adjusted it, and then made some right calls. We worked on trying to learn the track at the same time. No matter how much sim time you do, you can’t simulate the real thing 100 percent, so after a stage or two we started getting our bearings and started rolling forward and I was able to really capitalize on that last restart and go from seventh or ninth, wherever it was, up to a top five, so it ended up being a really solid day for us – much needed for this season for our team. It’s been well documented, a rocky year and not really what we had hoped and with the current environment it has stunted our growth as a team, in my opinion. Just the fact that we’re not able to go out and practice and go through changes. We’re not allowed to be able to be around the crew chief and the team in the hauler during the weekend. You can’t go out to dinner. You can’t hardly build relationships, except just through screen to screen contact, so it’s been a tough year, but an awesome weekend at the road course. That should set us up for a much better starting position for the Monster this weekend, so that’s always a help at a track that’s been pretty track position sensitive as well lately. A lot of good from the weekend and a lot to look forward to.”


American Muscle

THIS WILL BE THE THIRD DOUBLEHEADER WEEKEND. HOW DO YOU LIKE THESE? “I would say my overall sense is I do like them. I enjoy the fact that you can get done with one race and figure out what you need and apply it very quickly to the next day, so that’s something that is appreciated. Usually, you’re looking at three or four months before you return back. Michigan, I guess, was really usually only a couple of weeks, but Dover at least we have time to get everything done after a race, as long as you don’t have to go to a backup like we did at Michigan, you can really turn around and learn from it and be a lot better the second day. Now with that, the entire garage has that option, but it’s still nice for us as drivers, as teams to be able to really do a nice comparison between two things we want to try for a weekend if you didn’t hit it right on, or if you have a really good race car day one and you can take care of it, that will obviously carry over right into the second race. The fact that the race has been shortened just a little bit has helped it not be so demanding for a weekend. I think that was the main concern early on was trying to run two 500-mile races back-to-back in the middle of summer nonetheless is something that we were really worried about taking its toll on everyone. These races being shortened a little bit has basically made it like an XFINITY race and a Cup race, which drivers have done for ages, so it’s not that big of a deal anymore from that aspect.”

THE CHOOSE RULE RETURNS THIS WEEKEND. HOW DO YOU PREPARE FOR THAT? “The choose rule is looked at no matter where you’re at on track. It could be argued that it could be utilized a lot better the farther back you are, just it’s harder to do at that point, but I don’t know that there’s a whole lot of added preparation to it. I think the decision is just made beforehand that what lane you think will be dominant we really have to wait until we get to the racetrack and figure that out, but Dover, the top rolls for a lap and then I’d say the bottom is more the preferred lane, but we’ll have to see how it plays out in the race, so that will be something to take notes on and learn from, and then our strategy will change as we go through it and decide how much we would be willing to give up to stay in the preferred lane or how much of a chance we’re willing to take to move up a couple of rows to move into a non-preferred lane. There’s a gambling factor to it that you’re trying to make that decision ahead of time so that you’re not sitting there right at the choose cone right in front of you not knowing with certainty which lane you’re gonna take. Nothing over the top that we have to prepare for now, but it’s something that will evolve as we learn how the different lines and the rule starts to play out during a race.”

WHAT MORE CAN BE DONE TO KEEP YOU GUYS COOLER IN THE CAR? HOW DID YOU FEEL AFTER THE DAYTONA RACE? “I would say two of the three hottest races I’ve ever been a part of have been this year with this Daytona race being one of them and Martinsville being another. The thing that has changed has been a right side window, so there’s pretty clear indication to me of what’s creating this heat that so many drivers are starting to be a little bit more vocal about because it’s almost excessive, so that’s been something that has been tough to deal with. I don’t know what we can do inside the car to really help it a whole lot. We’re using the hoses and the openings that we have to try and cool now. We have a hose going to the floorboard, a hose trying to go to the driver. You’ve got you’re A/C units that condition the air 10-12 degrees at best, so not really looking at nice, cold air by any means, and on top of that coming through a three-quarter-inch hose isn’t a whole lot of volume either, so the heat is something that’s been pretty brutal here lately. Daytona was not that hot. When you look at low 90s or mid-90s, we’ve had races that are a lot hotter than that. Road courses can be a little bit more physical at times, but, usually, with the road courses the fact that the splitter is up in the air, you’re getting a lot of movement up under the car, which is actually cooling a lot more than places like Indy or Michigan, where you’re sealed off the entire time and a lot of that heat will build up and can be just as hot or hotter, but for what it’s worth, yeah, it’s been hot lately. I know a lot of people are talking about it, a lot of drivers are talking about it and trying to figure out what the options are to try and get a little bit cooler inside.”

HOW DID YOU FEEL AFTER THE RACE AND WHAT WAS THE RECOVERY LIKE? “One hundred and thirty degrees would be generous. The heat’s been like 140-150 and that’s where it really steps up, but I felt okay after the race. I mean, it was obviously hot and I was spent by all means, but plenty aware of my surroundings and not to the point where I was struggling. I know that it was a situation where if that race would have been a whole lot longer, it very well could have been somebody had to start worrying about fluids and trying to cool off at the end.”

WHAT DO YOU FEEL HAS BEEN THE BIGGEST STRUGGLE AT ROUSH FENWAY THIS YEAR? “There have probably been a couple things that we could touch on and probably talk a lot longer than anyone has time for, but a lot of it’s gonna boil down to the fact of the environment that we’re in. We’re not able to practice, to build a notebook, I’m new to the Roush Fenway Cup side of things, Luke Lambert coming in is new to Roush Fenway as a whole, me and Luke are pretty much completely new to each other, other than a little bit of communication back in the RCR/JTG alliance days. With this we don’t have ways to learn what we’re looking for in our race cars, in each other. We show up at the track and that race is our practice session for the next race, so if you miss it for that first run in practice, usually you sit there and throw the kitchen sink at it and you get it better through the end of that practice and ultimately fine-tune the second practice, but we don’t have that option right now. I think you’ve seen the dominant teams this season are the teams that have been together for a long time. They have notebooks built up. They’re unloading really close and not having to make big adjustments during a race, all things that we have not had the luxury of having – those notes to look at and know exactly where we’re gonna start, so that’s been the biggest part of what we’ve struggled with is just build a notebook, build relationships with everybody right now and find ourselves a consistent base to start from. Everybody has worked really hard at it and has put in countless hours in the sim time and trying to replicate everything we can, but, at the end of the day, nothing replaces on-track seat time and face-to-face communication throughout a weekend. It’s not an excuse, but it’s the best understanding for us of why we’ve not been able to get going as quickly as we thought we would.”

ARE THERE TIMES WITH THE HEAT WHERE YOU HIT A WALL INSIDE THE CAR AND HAVE TO FIGHT THROUGH IT? “I guess I’ve had that once. We ran a road course race in New Jersey in ARCA and it was triple digits out that day. ARCA races are not typically that long, but in that heat my A/C hose, I didn’t run A/C in ARCA, but I had a one-inch hose hooked to a NACA duct and it fell off lap one, so that was the hottest I’ve ever been in a race car and I got to the point where, yes, it became a lot more of a mental game of just trying to focus knowing that I was severely dehydrated and probably the easiest option at that point was to definitely pull over and get out and go to the care center, but at the end of that race I honestly can go back and say that I don’t have a complete idea of how the last five laps went. On top of the fact it was longer than yesterday and my memory sucks anyway, but that was one of those races where I realized actually too that my hydration and some of my nutrition really needed to be improved as well. It was a race where several drivers had to go straight to the care center afterwards. I didn’t get out of my car for 30 minutes, which seems counterproductive, but just sat there and poured waters down my firesuit just trying to come back to. I’ve never run a marathon. I generally avoid running unless somebody is chasing me, so, with that, I can’t speak to some of the things that happen in other physical activities like that, but there’s a time in our race where it does become a mental game and that heat is something that you really have to work hard to push aside.”

WHAT IS IT LIKE MENTALLY NOW TO BE IN A HAIL MARY TYPE SITUATION OF WINNING TO MAKE THE PLAYOFFS? “Honestly, we probably got to a different mindset three weeks ago, realizing that we’ve had some things hurt us and we’ve had some luck hurt us, something as dumb as being involved in that whatever it was on pit road at Indy. Days like that will just kick you right in the teeth and hurt what we’ve got going on, so from that point, really, has been it’s time to stop worrying about trying to get a decent points day, let’s go maximize, let’s go try to take chances, let’s play strategy that’s different from everybody else even though it may not be the 100 percent correct strategy for an endgame. Take risks. We have nothing to lose at this point, so we can go and stop worrying about points racing and go race and try to win and have the best results possible. Honestly, it’s the way we’d all prefer to do it. I think everybody would say that they hate racing from a points standpoint. You don’t want to have to worry about that. You don’t want to have to give up an opportunity to win and stay in second because you know if you wreck and miss it and lose 35-40 points right there, that that’s going to hurt your end of year. That’s not how we want to race anyway. It’s, honestly, not how I raced I think until my last year in ARCA. We never points raced for anything and had a little bit more fun doing it that way, so the points side of it is a huge part of our sport now and so you definitely have to keep it on your mind. It was in our goals at the beginning of the season to be able to get into the playoffs and it still is, but we do realize now that getting in on points is not realistic. It’s time to have to win a race to get our way in there.”

HOW MUCH MORE STRESS AND AGGRESSION WILL WE SEE AT DAYTONA IN TWO WEEKS? “My stress level is already peaked when we go speedway racing. It’s not gonna add anymore. I think that the end game for Daytona will be the last lap and the last lap only. I think there’s a lot in the same position we are that stage points are gonna be enough, so those aren’t really gonna matter, so maybe you’ll see the stage ends, which have been really clean the last several years – way cleaner than I expect. I would imagine the stage ends will probably be pretty clean if everybody kind of keeps that mindset that it’s win or nothing, but I guarantee you we get down to those last 20 laps and we’re gonna see a lot of torn up race cars, so unfortunately that’s the reality of our speedway racing right now, but we’ll do our best to not be in those torn up cars. We’ve had some pretty good fortune at the speedway races this season already. Hopefully, we haven’t used up all of our speedway racing luck, but I feel like over the past two years I’ve used up all of my speedway racing bad luck, so maybe we’ll be okay and be able to win that thing and get in, but it’s gonna be a wild ending to that race. I’m saying there’s gonna be a lot of caution exercised early on.”

WAS THERE ANY DISCUSSION TO BRING THE HEAT ISSUE UP OR THE RIGHT SIDE WINDOW WITH NASCAR? “Yeah, I do know that it has been brought up to NASCAR and NASCAR is aware of it. The right side window is the thing that changed. The reason it changed is due to the fact that teams started trying to take advantage of the options that we had over there and use it for naturally for a performance gain, so, ultimately, it was getting to the point where the hoses weren’t pointing for driver cooling anyway, so NASCAR decided to step in and stop that and the right side window was the way to do it. What we’re trying to figure out is just because the hoses that were attached over there weren’t pointed, the fact that that window opening was open at the short tracks and road courses made a pretty tremendous difference, so now we’re just trying to figure out the right way to do it. I think that everybody is listening to this. The realization was made after Martinsville that the cars were too hot. I don’t remember what race we tried it, but NASCAR did try to implement a mandatory duct to try and cool off a little bit of interior temperature at another race several weeks ago. Ultimately, it did not do much. I believe it was the All-Star. I don’t think it ended up doing near as much as we had hoped, so they’re still working on it. They are aware of it and they are trying to figure out how to do it and do it in a way to where the teams don’t take advantage of it and take away all of the cooling that we ideally would be able to get and use it to try and make speed.”

HOW IMPORTANT ARE THE FACE-TO-FACE INTERACTIONS AND HOW MUCH TIME ARE YOU SPENDING ON ZOOM? “I’m not adjusting really well. I still spend about three to four minutes of every interview talking on mute and then repeating myself when I realize it. Me and technology don’t get along too well, but it’s dearly missed. The face-to-face interaction is very important. It’s stuff that you don’t think about right in the moment that you can turn around and say, ‘Oh, yeah.’ In talking over these (Zoom calls), you can’t get a good sense for personalities. I talk with my hands a lot, which, luckily, is all below the screen so you haven’t been able to see much of that, but that’s actually very useful in talking to Luke and the team trying to figure out our race cars. It’s very helpful when it’s going on during practice and we get the opportunity to change stuff that’s not a wedge wrench in the rear glass or air-pressure. It’s been very difficult to get by with this and I realize it’s been difficult for the entire country during all this, but it’s been tough for us being the fact that we are all new to each other and haven’t had that time to really learn everybody’s quirks and personalities and build up those friendships as we would have liked by now.”

IS THERE ANYTHING YOU WILL DO TO AVOID CRAMPING AFTER SATURDAY’S RACE TO HELP FOR SUNDAY? “Nothing special, no. It will be more physical than the other two races, for sure. I haven’t even looked at the weather, so I don’t know if it’s gonna be hot or raining. Those are our only two options at Dover, but the fact they’re a little bit shorter, to me, it’s like pulling double duty on a weekend. I haven’t done a whole lot of that, but several years ago when I did it was not something that changed a whole lot of what I did for a weekend. It will be a lot about hydration. I’ve worked a lot on nutrition the last several years now just trying to be more prepared there and that’s helped me a lot, so just stick to what I know and that should be enough. I think it has been for everything else during the last several years, so I think we’ll be fine. The fact that they’re a little bit shorter has ultimately wiped out most of the concern, I would say, for most everybody that it was going to be tough to do those long races back-to-back.”

MICHAEL MCDOWELL, No. 34 Love’s Travel Stops Ford Mustang – WHERE HAS THE SUCCESS COME FROM FOR THE 34 TEAM? “I think that it’s not just one thing, it’s a combination of things. I think we’ve been growing, the team has been getting better and better every year since their inception. Bob Jenkins has done a great job of growing slowly and building slowly, but at a pace that can be sustainable, which, as we see over the last few weeks that’s an important model to have as well. But a big part of it is just people, just the right people in the right places. Our alliance with Roush is a big part of it. Our technical support from Ford Performance, being able to use the tools, simulation and have everything that we need to really unload and be close at these racetracks. So it’s not just one thing, but if I had to break it down into the big chunks it’s just having a little bit of time to put all the pieces together and get all the right people in the right places, so that we can execute at a high level. I think that we’ve had the ingredients over the years, but haven’t had them all at once or had them all working at the same time and this year we were finally able to put it all together.”

WERE YOU INTERESTED IN OPEN WHEEL RACING AND MAYBE THE INDY 500 YEARS AGO? “Yeah, of course I was interested in the Indy 500. I came up through the Pro Mazda Series, the Road to Indy program that a lot of the young guys have come through, so that was my path. My path was to IndyCar, but, at the time, when I had won the Mazda championship and got the scholarship to move on, IndyCar and CHAMP car were split and both series were kind of struggling. They weren’t what they are today and there wasn’t a lot of Americans getting opportunities in CHAMP car and the IRL was just ovals, so there was just a lot of variables and I was fortunate enough to be able to go sports car racing and kind of fill the gap for a little while. I did some IndyCar races in 2005, CHAMP car on road course – not on ovals. I always wanted to run the 500, but it has never really presented itself. As years go by and it gets further and further away, it’s something that I don’t feel like is unrealistic because I’d love the opportunity to do it, it just hasn’t really been at the forefront. I’m not in a position like Kyle or Kurt or those guys that have a big brand and a big name, where they can go sell both races and go back and forth and do it right, so if the opportunity presented itself, I would love to do it, but it’s just never come up.”

WILL DAYTONA BE EVEN MORE CRAZY? “I think the exact opposite and I’ll tell you why, it’s just my perception and I could be wrong. A lot of these plate races you try the strategy to get to the end so that you have a shot at winning, but if you really look at it closely, the guys that win those races run up front all day long. If you look at Blaney, you look at Brad, you look at Joey – you look at the guys that are typically up front, you look at Denny at those plate races, they’re there all day long. So the days of riding around and getting everything timed out just right, where you can make a late-race charge is hard to do. There are some guys that can do it. Newman, putting himself kind of in that position at the 500, but, for me, I feel like we were hoping that the Daytona Road Course we could sneak the win in and not have to worry about the superspeedway because it is such a crapshoot, but I think you’ve got to be up front all day. You’ve got to race hard. You’ve got to be in position, so I think it’ll be more chaotic and more hectic because guys are willing to take more chances. I know for sure I would, just knowing that you have to be in position when it counts. You can’t do it from 15th.”

HOW MUCH ARE YOU LOOKING FORWARD TO DAYTONA? “I love superspeedway racing and, like you said, it’s been really good for us, it’s been good for me, but, at the same time, it’s just as much as a crapshoot for me as it is anybody else. I’ve been on both sides of it and I have a lot of top fives and a lot of top 10s, especially at Daytona, but not so lucky at Talladega. I haven’t really figured out the math of that yet, but I’m starting to hone in a little bit on it. We’re definitely looking forward to it. We know we have a shot at it, but it’s just one of those races you just never know and you’ve just got to see where it ends up.”

HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE WHAT KIND OF HEAT YOU’RE DEALING WITH? “It’s hard to describe. I don’t know. The easiest way to describe it for me is if you live where we live in the south or where I’m from in Arizona and you get into your car that’s been sitting out in the sun all day, and you sit in there and you leave the windows up and you don’t turn the A/C on, that’s what it’s like and you have to sit in there for four hours. Add to that just the intensity of driving a race car at 200 miles an hour. Right now, the cars are so hot that it’s virtually unbearable. I think that we definitely have a lot of work to do and hopefully we’re coming up with a solution, but the cars have just gotten – it’s not a little bit, it’s a big difference even between where we were two years ago. Like Chris said, teams and drivers are their own worst enemies because we’re trying to get every aero advantage we can and all those things, and it’s a shame that we’re like that, but that’s just the competitive nature of it. We need NASCAR to protect ourselves from ourselves, if that makes sense, so hopefully we come up with a solution. Like Chris said, we tried something at the All-Star Race and that didn’t do anything. We just need to get the right side windows out and that will help a tremendous amount and hopefully teams will get on board with not cheating the system so we don’t get stuck cooking in these cars. I think we’re getting to a point where we’re not just talking about fitness level, we’re talking about like dangerous. I mean, I think that there’s a chance that guys could have serious issues from getting this hot, so I feel like it’s a good time to address it.”

WOULD YOU LIKE A DO OVER TO BE ABLE TO START THE YEAR OVER WITH HOW WELL YOU’VE RUN LATELY? “When you go back and you look at the points we gave up early on with some mechanical issues and things like that, and you start doing the math, you could see that we would have a distant shot at it. Yeah, you’d love some do overs, but you don’t get that in this sport. But I am super-thankful and happy that we’re running as well as we are, and hopefully we can keep that consistency going. We definitely have made big improvements, but then we’ve had weekends like we did at Michigan, where we really missed it and didn’t score very many points at all. So you can’t have weekends like that if you’re gonna be a playoff contender, so we still have work to do, but I’m really proud of everybody at Front Row. We’ve come a long way. I know that for the casual fan it’s probably hard to understand what the difference between running 23rd to 25th versus running 15th-17 every week. It is a huge, huge difference and just really proud of the team and the effort to make as big of a jump as we have and it’s definitely given me a lot of confidence and it’s helped us to put ourselves in position. Another thing that’s a big part of making the playoffs is consistently scoring stage points and that makes a huge difference. We haven’t quite had the speed to consistently score stage points, so that’s a big part where you’ve got to not just get there at the end, you’ve got to be up in that top 10 to get those points. But with no qualifying that’s virtually made it impossible for us that first stage. Even at the Daytona Road Course I started 30th, so it’s hard to get yourself in position when you’re starting 25th-30 every week to get some stage points.”

HOW DID THE HEAT IMPACT YOU AT DAYTONA THIS PAST WEEKEND AND WOULD RICHMOND BE THE FIRST POSSIBLE RACE WHERE THE RIGHT SIDE WINDOW COULD BE TAKEN OUT? “I don’t really know the technical side of what NASCAR deems as you have to have a right side window in. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I think the trucks don’t even run the right side window at Michigan, so I don’t think it’s necessarily a speed thing. They have their numbers as far as take off and all those things, so I don’t know all those technical aspects of it, so I don’t even know this weekend at Dover. We’re running the low downforce 750, which is sort of the parameters for the right side window to come out, so I’m not sure how that all looks and works. But the bigger tracks, just to give you an idea, when we’re at Michigan or Daytona or Talladega you’re still getting a decent amount of air flow. The cars are hot, but it’s really where it’s been hot are the short tracks. It’s been the places like the road courses, where you have a lot of brake heat, you don’t have long straightaways where you have that long, consistent air-flow coming in, and so going to those other places that you mentioned, even Darlington, I don’t really think about it as a big deal as much as the short tracks have been.”

WHAT ARE YOU DOING TO PREP FOR DAYTONA AND HOW HAS THE NEW QUALIFYING PROCEDURE AFFECTED YOU? “As far as training for the heat, it’s hard to train for the heat that we experience in the car, but all my workouts for the last month have been outside – just trying to be in the heat and humidity and doing all those things that you can. It’s hard to prepare for the heat because it’s so different inside the race car with not having air-flow, but you increase your heat training and put yourself through more than you’re used to, and as far as the qualifying goes, I think that the new format is good. It didn’t work out for us heading into Daytona because we had such a miserable Michigan, but now going to Dover I think we should start somewhere in the top 15, so I think it’s fair. I think it’s a good way of doing it. It’s a little bit confusing, I think, for the fan to do the math or even myself, but I would do it the two extremes. You do it how we’re doing it now, where it’s all performance-based, or you flip it and you just invert or do a random draw for all 40 spots and keep mixing it up. I feel like this is a good balance in-between that. Obviously, with the doubleheader we’ll have the invert for Sunday, so we’ll see how that all plays out, but I enjoyed seeing the invert. You see Kevin Harvick go and dominate and then have to go and start 20th or 21st at Darlington and struggling to get back to the front. I felt like it just mixes up the field a little bit.”

WITH A PLAYOFF SPOT ON THE LINE AT DAYTONA, DO YOU THINK WE’LL SEE DRIVERS WORK MORE WITH MANUFACTURER-SPECIFIC CARS OR BE MORE FOCUSED ON GETTING A TEAMMATE TO THE FRONT? “I think that you’re gonna see more strategic, not so much manufacturer, but just teamwork. If you’re Team Penske and you know you already have your three guys in, you’re gonna do everything you can to help Matt D. get in if he’s on the outside looking in, and the same for say Erik Jones with Toyota or something like that. So I do feel like that will come to the forefront, but drivers are selfish and so are teams and when it comes to winning a race, I think you’d be hard-pressed to see Kyle Busch not try to make a move on Erik Jones on the last lap. I mean, I just don’t think it would happen, so I think you’re mindful of it. The manufacturer alliance and teamwork is becoming a necessity and so it’s not a matter of do you work with them, it’s a matter of the best thing for you to do is to get all of your cars lined up and working together for a lot of reasons, for the strategy, when to pit and when not to pit, fuel mileage, all those things. So, it started out as, ‘Hey, let’s be smart and work together,’ and now it’s turned into almost and inevitable that you have to, otherwise you’re gonna be on the outside looking in. So I think teamwork is always important, but when it comes down to the last lap you’re gonna see five and six-wide and everybody going for it.”

JACK ROUSH, Owner, Roush Fenway Racing – HOW DO YOU FEEL ROUSH FENWAY HAS DONE THIS YEAR? “I’m obviously disappointed because at this late date we still don’t have cars in the chase, but this viral epidemic and the shutdown that has gone with it – the lack of practice time and the lack of a chance to get the drivers as close as they need to to the crew chiefs has really hit us hard. Of course, Ryan lost time because of his accident at Daytona and he was coming into his second year with us and we had hopes of being able to capitalize on the first year, which has not helped us out as much as I’d hoped. Of course, Chris and Luke Lambert were new to one another and they’ve had very little chance to build the kind of chemistry that it takes to really be successful at this level, so we’ve had an uphill battle all year. We’ve had streaks of brilliance. If we’d have had better track position we might have been able to capitalize and gotten a win earlier. Of course, we missed a chance at Daytona. We missed a chance at Talladega. We hope that the next Daytona will be great for us. We can’t get both of them in at Daytona, but hopefully we can get one of them in if Jimmy Fennig delivers the kind of cars he’s had for us in the recent past.”

ANY TALKS OF EXPANSION WITH TEAMS, MAYBE GO BACK TO XFINITY IN 2021? “I haven’t heard any discussion among sponsor interest from the marketing office. I haven’t seen any interest of our going back to the XFINITY program, but my granddaughter, Josie Rose asked me after Chris did well at Daytona in the last race she asked me if we were gonna start a third team and I said I’d have to think about that, but we’d have more interest in starting a third team than we would, I think, going into the Truck Series or the XFINITY Series.”

WHAT’S BEEN THE KEY TO ACQUIRING SOME OF THESE NEW SPONSORS THIS YEAR AND WILL IT GUARANTEE THAT RYAN WILL BE BACK? “We’re still waiting and thinking about next year. I’m not in the office in North Carolina every day and, unfortunately, I’m not up to speed on the most recent interest and conversations are with sponsors, but Steve Newmark is doing a good job in leading our marketing and sponsor people, our partner people, and we’ve certainly had good success this year at attracting a lot of people that are interested in the stories that our drivers post and the opportunity that NASCAR gives to people who want to hawk their wares to consumers. I think we’ve had more interest than we might have expected early on and certainly gives us hope for the future.”

WHAT WERE YOUR THOUGHTS WHEN YOU SAW CHRIS COME BACK AND FINISH FIFTH AT DAYTONA? “We’ve had a lot of success at Daytona and to see him run fifth at Daytona was something I certainly was hoping for – a top five. I would have rather been further up in the top five, but to see him come back and rebound from the technical penalty that we had was great. I have not been close enough to understand exactly why we had that part on the car, but it was unfortunate and it was certainly something that I’m embarrassed about and hope we won’t have a problem like that in the future.”

WERE YOU PRETTY EXCITED WITH CHRIS’ FINISH? “I was really excited. Chris won his first race in the XFINITY Series at Mid-Ohio and he’s demonstrated to be a better road racer than people would have expected from his background to come in. He’s a natural and if we get the right kind of chemistry relationship with the crew chief and with the engineering and get him better parts to work with, I think that he’ll rise right to the top in road racing. But Chris has got a great future. I certainly have enjoyed being part of his championship in the XFINITY Series and look forward to a lot of success with him coming down the road.”

WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT DOVER THIS WEEKEND? “Dover has been good for us. It’s been our third-most productive racetrack. Mark Martin won four times there over his career. It’s pretty interesting with Mark we went there in 1988 the first time and I was all concerned with talking with Steve Hmiel, the crew chief, about how I was gonna provide leadership and help him with the fuel mileage. I was looking for his advice on two or three small points and he told me not to worry about it, we just had to wait until the first person hit the wall with pushing off a right-front tire and then we’d see how much fuel it took to fill it from that point and then we’d know. For the next three races Mark Martin was the first one to hit the wall by losing a right-front tire, so it was the fourth race before we really got our grasp of how hard we could lean on the tire from an air-pressure and camber point of view. Mark just loved to be there and like to roar up on the throttle leaving down in the corner and coming off hard and punishing that right-front tire, but Dover has been good for us as long as we don’t get caught in a right-front tire problem and we’ve got enough rear shock absorber sensitivity to be able to deal with the bumps I think that we should have a good outing.”

WHAT ARE SOME THINGS YOU WOULD LIKE TO SEE STICK AROUND FOR NEXT YEAR THAT HAVE BEEN EFFECTIVE THIS SEASON? “We’ve demonstrated we can do one-day races and there may be a chance to go to some place we hadn’t otherwise planned to go to that maybe doesn’t have enough hotel room capacity. Some of the other things would tend to rule out having one of our Cup events, so I think that we may be able to take some one-day races, that’ll be fun. The one thing that comes from the short tracks that I hadn’t experienced before, but the choice or opportunity for to have every car and every driver make a choice if he wants to start inside or outside – to weigh against that if he can move up or has to move back to get his preferred line. That’s an interesting dimension of strategy and consideration that I think makes the racing more exciting for me and it may be more exciting for the fans as well, but I would hope the driver choice could be worked out to incorporate that as part of our restarts is good. And being able to go to some new venues, exciting venues that could really accommodate a one-day race will be two things realized from this that would be positive going forward.”

DO YOU EVER THINK ABOUT HOW DIFFERENT YOUR SEASON COULD HAVE BEEN IF RYAN HADN’T BEEN IN THAT DAYTONA ACCIDENT SO CLOSE TO THE FINISH LINE? “The thing that I don’t count on is I don’t count on my chickens until the eggs have hatched, and that last 100 yards or eight-of-a-mile on a restrictor plate race is very much in doubt and anybody that counts on winning a race because they’re in the top two or three positions going into that last charge is probably not understanding or not respecting as much as they should what the risks are. We’ve won races in the last eighth-of-a-mile and, of course, we’ve lost several of them. Ryan was not in a position where he was sure to win the thing, but if he hadn’t got turned he was in a position to watch at least and result some affect on the outcome regardless of who won. But, yeah, I think we would have been a little more relaxed race to race and maybe have taken some chance on some setup ideas that might be a little more removed if we were confident of our status and not had to think about every race as an opportunity to win and couldn’t take a chance on getting too far from what would be the high percentage choices.”

BOB LEAVINE HAD TO SELL AS DID BARNEY VISSER A COUPLE OF YEARS AGO. DO YOU AGREE WITH HOW THE SYSTEM IS NOW OR CAN SOMETHING BE DONE TO HELP CAR OWNERS? “The difficulty is if you’re a businessman and made some decisions to make your pursuit successful, you look at what the prospect is, the sponsorship values, the percentage of the TV money that is distributed to the teams, there isn’t enough money to make everybody solvent and to make everybody have businesses that make the numbers that would make sense. Leavine is certainly a guy that I had great respect for, for the way he conducted his business affairs and I guess when he looked at what he was paying for his services and his cars, he couldn’t reconcile that against what his prospect for income was. I’m really speaking out of turn on that and I shouldn’t comment on that, but I’m trying to transpose if I was in his position what would be my concerns and what would be my dealbreakers and it’s a hard row to hoe to get in the business or stay in the business now with the income stream working the way it does.”

CAN ANYTHING BE DONE? “NASCAR is in a position to take a look at most of the money that comes into the sport and what it takes to run the racetracks or their affiliations with the racetracks, what it takes corporately to make their organization work. I’m not the person to comment on either, but for the money that gets portioned out to the teams it’s not enough to make it very exciting from a business point of view.”

HOW MUCH PRACTICE WOULD YOU LIKE FOR TEAMS TO HAVE NEXT YEAR? “Two practice sessions are better than one. One is better than none. I would like for it to go back to the way it was, so that teams that don’t have as proven and as effective computer programs to help them with the preparations, if you have more practice time and you have two bites at the apple, that would certainly help alleviate the need for having the latest cutting edge computer programs to guide you. It gives you a chance to build the chemistry between your driver and your car chief and your engineer and your crew chief. It does all those things that we’ve lacked this year.”

LONGER WEEKENDS MEAN MORE COSTS, SO IS THERE A BALANCE THERE SOMEHOW? “I don’t see any practical need for the teams to have three-day events. So you’d have two-day events, where you’d have ample time for testing and qualifying and then you’d have your one-day event, where you’d have maybe just a small practice session and a qualifying session, but you’d probably have 30 minutes of practice rather than an hour-and-a-half and have those as the two possibilities for the layout of the schedule of the teams.”


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