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MAR 17, 2017 | Ford Performance Staff

Logano & Blaney Make it All-Ford Front Row


PHOENIX, Ariz. - It was a fast day of qualifying for Ford Performance with Joey Logano and Ryan Blaney making it an all-Ford front row for Sunday's Camping World 500.

Joey Logano
2nd Ryan Blaney
6th Brad Keselowski
11th Kurt Busch
14th Clint Bowyer
21st Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
23rd Kevin Harvick
24th Trevor Bayne
26th Danica Patrick
28th Aric Almirola
29th Landon Cassill
30th Matt DiBenedetto
34th David Ragan

JOEY LOGANO (No. 22 Shell Pennzoil Ford Fusion) -- Qualified 1st
“The guys did a great job on the Shell Pennzoil Ford. I was able to hook the bottom pretty good off two and got a little free off but I thought it was still a decent corner. Three and four is where nothing went right. I got down there and lost the nose and kind of stayed tight off and then broke loose late off the corner. I didn’t think it was going to be quite good enough. I pushed as hard as I could but sometimes you overdrive a little and still make speed. Proud of this team and proud of a Ford front row. That is a pretty special deal. I am excited for the race now.”

RYAN BLANEY (No. 21 Motorcraft/Quick Lane Ford Fusion) -- Qualified 2nd
DID YOU GET EVERYTHING THERE IN THAT FINAL ROUND? “Close to it. We missed it a little on the first lap and I messed with the track bar to do a little better the second lap. I thought we had a lot of speed all day which was really nice. It is nice to have good starting spots the last two weeks. We were third and now second this week. We have been creeping up on it. I really want a pole. I have never been a great qualifying but it is something we have been working on as a team. I think we have a really fast Motorcraft Quick Lane Ford Fusion and the other side is pretty good as well. It is nice being here in Phoenix, I have always liked this place. It is going to be a good race Sunday.”

BRAD KESELOWSKI (No. 2 Alliance Truck Parts Ford Fusion) -- Qualified 6th
“It was a pretty decent day. I haven’t had a chance to really analyze it yet. We were a little bit of everything out there today. It is a great day for my teammates for sure. It is great to see Joey on the pole and Ryan right there with him. Great 1-2 starting spots for Ford, that is for sure.”

CLINT BOWYER (No. 14 Rush Truck Centers Ford Fusion) -- Qualified 14th
“Our Haas Automation Ford, it is a credit to the team behind me. I was way off and I didn’t think we would be remotely close to making the third round but they made some good adjustments to get us that far. I was looking at the leaderboard there and there is some good iron behind us. It is fun to take a car that was quite a ways off that first lap, talk about it, make adjustments and have everything work the way it is supposed to, almost.” That first lap was really bad but the team made great adjustments and got me a lot better there than I was really anticipating. 13th two weeks in a row. We will keep working on it and keep gaining on it. It is a long race. Always a fun race here. It will be a hot one. It will be slick and hopefully we will get to end”


KURT BUSCH (No. 41Haas Automation/Monster Energy Ford Fusion) -- Qualified 11th
“We were battling a tight condition in the center since we unloaded. We are trying to figure out where that is coming from. We thought with the changes we made we would rectify the issue. It is like the car just doesn’t have the mojo or the excitement value of cutting through the center, so we have to find something to help us there.”

KEVIN HARVICK (No. 4 Jimmy John’s Ford Fusion) -- Qualified 23rd
“We just haven’t really qualified that well here lately at this particular race track. Our race stuff has been pretty good though and we will just look to do that again.”

ARIC ALMIROLA (No. 43 Smithfield Ford Fusion) -- Qualified 28th
“We were just really tight. The front tires were not connected to the race track. We’ve got some work to do for sure. We haven’t been that great unloading and we have more work to do. We thought we made some gains on it in practice but it just wasn’t enough. We are still really tight. We will keep working on it and try to get this Smithfield Ford Fusion up front. We qualified poorly last weekend but fought hard all day and got out of there with a 14th place finish which was a solid day for us. Hopefully we can do the same thing again this weekend in Phoenix.”


IF IT WASN’T FOR JOEY LOGANO, YOU’D BE UP ON POLE THIS WEEK. “Yeah, if it wasn’t for him we would be. That is something I felt like we wanted to improve a lot in the offseason, getting better qualifying, getting better round to round. That is the toughest thing, to adjust for three of them. That was really hard on us last year. So we sat down, my team and I, and tried to figure out what we need and what is more important, going from round to round, and what really helps our car. The last two weekends we have shown really good speed in qualifying trim. It is nice to have fast race cars. You have seen it the past two weeks. Our Wood Brothers car and the Penske group have been fast in qualifying trim. That is something to be proud of as the two organizations work well together. We just needed a little more to get there but we were close.”

WITH ALL THIS HEAT IN THE TRACK, WHAT DO YOU EXPECT SUNDAY TO BE LIKE? “This is probably the hottest race here in awhile, maybe ever, with this new pavement. It will be nice. Hopefully we can move around more than we are used to. It widens out a good bit but kind of stalls out halfway through the race when the pavement gets completely rubbered in. Hopefully we will have room to move around. We will have a better idea of that tomorrow after we get some race runs in. It is just typical hot, slick race track and this lower downforce package, the first time down, you will see us having to use more brake, roll longer and that usually makes us move around. Hopefully that will be good for us and the fans to be able to have some versatility through the race.”

HOW HAS THE ALLIANCE WITH PENSKE HELPED THE WOOD BROTHERS? “It has helped a ton. It has put us in position to run well ever since 2015 when we did our part time schedule with them. That has been a huge help and the Penske group has been very open to what we need and not only on the driver's side with Brad and Joey but on the team side as well. Our crew chiefs are very close and sit down a lot and same with the engineers. Everyone back at the shop, they all work together. i think that is what you need to have a successful team, even if it is a one car team and you don’t have a teammate. The more you can share information, the more you are willing, the better all around it is. That has always been the model at Penske since I got there and it is nice to have the Wood Brothers in the same loop as well. That has helped us out more than I could ever think it would.”

MRN SAID WOOD BROTHERS IS HIGHEST THEY HAVE BEEN IN POINTS SINCE 1992. HOW DO YOU CONTINUE THAT SURGE GOING FORWARD? “Just keep doing what we have been doing. We want to get better every single week, be aggressive, work really hard and it is really early in the year and you never know how mid season goes but you always have to keep improving. I feel like the fire in everyone’s belly is burning bright. They want to be competitive and show and prove to everyone that the Wood Brothers deserve to be up there, because they do. They work hard enough to be up there. It is nice to start off strong but it is all about always improving, getting better and staying up there, staying on top of your game. You can never really get relaxed because other teams and drivers are always getting better. The Wood Brothers are really happy, they are all really happy over there and that is a good vibe over there.”

WHATEVER YOUR EXPECTATIONS WERE COMING IN THIS SEASON, WHAT DOES IT DO FOR YOU AND YOUR TEAMS CONFIDENCE AS EACH RACE WEEKEND TAKES OFF AND YOU GUYS ROLL OUT CONTINUOUSLY FAST? “Everyone's motivation is the same. Running well pumps everyone else. It makes you want it even more to be better and better. The communication side, the mood in the garage area and race shop is really good right now. To be honest, everywhere between the Wood Brothers and Team Penske we are all fast right now. It is easy to be motivated when you are fast and just need to work on little things and not completely overhaul race cars. It is nice to be ahead at the beginning of the year. You never want to play catch-up. You want to be ahead and try to stay ahead.”


WALK US THROUGH THAT LAP YOU LAID DOWN? “I am glad we finally got a pole here. We have qualified really well here, I don’t know what our average starting position is but I feel like it is really good, but we have never really put the whole deal together in the last run. We have won plenty of rounds but have never actually gotten the pole. I am glad we could finally do that. I thought it wasn’t going to be good enough. My one and two were good but three and four were tight and I was coming up the race track and I didn’t think it was it. But it was good enough to get the pole. Either way, it was good enough so I am happy about that.”

WITH ALL THE CONTROVERSY SURROUNDING YOU RECENTLY, WHAT DOES THIS DO FOR YOU AND YOUR MOMENTUM? “I woke up this morning thinking about our race car and how we can end up sitting here at the end of the day. That is the goal. In between do I have to think about other things? Yeah, obviously we had that meeting today and there were a lot of distractions that we don’t typically have but it is a matter of managing those distractions and getting your head back in the right spot for when it is game time. I was able to use everything the right way, use our tools and our people around me to help me get my mind back where it needs to be and be able to focus and lay down a good lap.”

WHAT WILL THE HEAT DO TO THE RACE ON SUNDAY? “Well, it will make me sweat a little bit. It will be a little toasty. I think racing in the heat of the day when it is hot out is the best racing. I think maybe the whole garage may agree with that besides the fact that it is just hot out. When it is hot the track gets wide, it is greasy, there is a lot more passing, tires become more important due to more fall-off and everything points to a very good race when the sun is out. In my opinion the racing gets a lot better. It will be warm but we train for this, it shouldn’t be a big deal.”

TALK ABOUT THE STRONG START FOR RYAN BLANEY AND WHAT HE HAS ADDED TO THE PENSKE ORGANIZATION: “Ryan is really turning into a very, very good driver. Everyone has to go through kind of the stages. Some are quicker than others. It took me four years to get to where we are today and I am still not where I want to be but I am getting closer. I think when I look at Ryan Blaney, he has come up very quick in my opinion. He has been able to figure out what it takes and you think about the situation he is put in, does he have fast race cars, yes, but he is new to racing these things. Jeremy Bullins is doing a great job when he was new to being a Cup crew chief. This is something Todd and I went through our first year together, trying to figure out what works at each race track. You have to build that notebook. We talk about that all the time. To be fast you have to understand what works for you. I will be the first to tell you that Ryan drives different than me and a lot different than Brad and I drive differently than both of them as well. You have to figure out what works for you and each race track and build off of that. That is where the 22 team has gotten to where it is at today, figuring out what works for us. A lot of times it is different and a little out there but it works for me and Todd and we are able to make something out of it. That is the same thing that Ryan and Jeremy have to go through and you can see a lot of the hard work coming through right now.”

CAN YOU SEE HIS CONTRIBUTIONS TO THE PENSKE ORGANIZATION? “For sure. You want your teammates to be fast and pushing each other. When you are always the number one guy, that doesn’t push the team ahead. You have to have someone applying that pressure and pushing you ahead a little bit. Brad and I have been able to do that for a long time and now with Blaney in the 21 car that has been able to start pushing us as a race team as well. That is all great things for us. That is what we want to see. We want that. He qualified third last week so he has speed. He raced really well last week too. It is good. It is really good.”

CAN YOU SEE THE DIFFERENCE OUT ON THE TRACK WHEN YOU ARE RACING GUYS LIKE CHASE (ELLIOTT) AND RYAN COMPARED TO LAST YEAR? “How much better they get? Yeah. They are pretty good. That is healthy for our sport. Lets face it, we are getting to the point where a lot of top race car drivers will be retiring in the next five years or so, give or take. There has to be some good talent coming up to have this series move on. Those names have to grow. We need to have star power in our sport. You see that with a lot of these young guys coming in. They are making their brands for themselves and who they are and the way they race and what they do. It is interesting to watch it evolve for sure and you can see it on the race track as well with the moves they made their rookie season - you make rookie mistakes - and then you see as they move on the thought process before they make a move to gain a spot.”

DO YOU WISH YOU WERE RUNNING THE XFINITY RACE TOMORROW? “I hate watching racing because I want to race. I love the sport. Don’t get me wrong. I love watching racing and I am a fan of it but when you do it, when you are a race car driver, you want to be in the car all the time. I want to race every chance I can. I understand the rule and how it is and that is okay. It is part of it. I will be happy to watch it and root on Blaney out there but when we sit down at the beginning of the year I want to race all of them and we have to somehow figure out the right ones to race now that we can only run 10. This being a race that really none of us can race because you have to have five years experience or less. It will be interesting to watch. I think it is a good opportunity for a lot of the Xfinity regulars but there are still a lot of guys racing Cup with under five years experience that are really good.”