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OCT 13, 2018 | FORD PERFORMANCE STAFF

Stewart Haas Racing Sweeps Top 4 Spots In Talladega Qualifying

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Talladega, Ala- Stewart Haas Racing had a succesful qualifying round as they swept the top 4 spots, with Kurt Busch coming out on top.

Ford Qualifying Results

1st – Kurt Busch
2nd – Clint Bowyer
3rd – Kevin Harvick
4th – Aric Almirola
12th – Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
14th – Michael McDowell
16th – David Ragan
18th – Brad Keselowski
19th – Ryan Blaney
20th – Joey Logano
24th – Trevor Bayne
27th – Matt DiBenedetto
30th – Paul Menard

POLE-WINNING PRESS CONFERENCE

KURT BUSCH, No. 41 Monster Energy/Haas Automation Ford Fusion –

HOW DO YOU BEAT TEAM PENSKE TOMORROW?  “That was the first question I asked when I got out of the car to make sure that all of us were 1-2-3-4 because I saw that after the first round and, man, that’s impressive.  It’s impressive teamwork and it’s a commitment level to build restrictor plate cars at this level and to get all four of us up there.  It starts with Doug Yates, Roush Yates Engines, the way that our Fords have always worked together since Ford came aboard a few years ago at Stewart-Haas.  This is awesome.  It’s a great way to celebrate a 10th anniversary and one of the key partners that we have that’s behind the scenes that deserves a lot of credit for today is Mobil 1.  They’re a technology partner of ours.  We all went on a field trip up to Philadelphia earlier this year to see a lot of the basic chemistry sets and the way they go about developing their new products and the innovation and technology that they pour into our engines.  I can’t thank them enough.  I’ve been working at this for almost 20 years, to get a restrictor plate pole, and now I have one.  I’m really happy about this one.  This is a huge bucket list item for myself and I have everybody at Stewart-Haas to thank.”

 

WHAT DID YOU LEARN IN THE BOOTH WATCHING THE TRUCK RACE TODAY?  “It was pretty wild.  To paint a picture just with audio is something unique and different and the team that they have assembled to call all the corners, the pit road reporters and the guys in the booth, I just took to sprinkle in something that comes from more of the racing side from the cockpit and what drivers go through, what they see, what they’re thinking, so I just tried to be brief and mix in with the talent that they have and just to have some fun with it.  Talladega is already exciting and there’s not much that a commentator can do to screw it up, and, man, I even picked Noah Gragson with 10 laps to go.  I was like, ‘Maybe that’s a bad thing.  You’re not supposed to call somebody out to try to win it,’ and he was leading when he took the white, but he just didn’t come back around to finish the race off.  Watching it as a Playoff race and a cutoff race and here at Talladega it was just fun to be part of the MRN broadcast and thanks to them for allowing me to come up there and jump in.”

IS THIS SOMETHING YOU’D LIKE TO DO AFTER DRIVING?  “For me, I’m looking at different options in a variety of different things, whether it’s TV, radio.  My wife filmed a lot of TV stuff this summer with CMT, which will be released at a different date, and some of the hardest parts about TV is when you live it and then they want you to go back and relive it and re-enact things and talk about this scene and then fast-forward three months and then go back to something that happened six months ago, there’s a lot that goes on in TV, so I wanted to try audio, I wanted to try the radio, and I pretended that I was driving down the interstate and I wanted to hear the race through the MRN voice, whether it was even my guys working in the garage or a group of people in the backyard barbequing listening to the race.  There are so many different ways to get your NASCAR and I just wanted to experience it from the booth.”

HOW CRITICAL IS IT FOR YOUR RACE PERFORMANCE TO BE PICKING UP LIKE IT HAS BEEN WITH A CUTOFF RACE NEXT WEEK?  “A driver has his part to do and it falls back on the teamwork that everybody is committed to and I have to thank Billy Scott, his crew, and a group of guys that he leads here at the track and back at the shop.  They assemble great cars and to have Stewart-Haas 1-2-3-4 today at a restrictor plate race in the Playoffs this just really sets the tone.  We’ve got six races to go.  We’ve done a good job on the 41 to finish with two top-fives in a row.  It’s here, it’s now.  This is the Playoffs and we want to win this thing, and so today is a big feather in the cap and a pat on the back and now we have to execute tomorrow in the race.”

NEXT WEEK IS KANSAS.  WHAT IS YOUR MINDSET FOR THAT CUTOFF RACE?  “First of all, it’s dependent on how we get through Talladega and the way that the points stack up, but if everything goes well here, Kansas has been a good track as of late for us at Stewart-Haas and for me I think the outside groove is really gonna come into play more so than it has in year’s past, but I just always check the weather coming into one weekend and forecast the next it’s gonna be cold.  It’s gonna be very cool next week and when you have cool temperatures that brings up the speed and it really pushes us back to the bottom groove because the bottom groove will have the speed in it.  We’ll see how it plays out, but a track like Kansas is a track where you just have to execute the fundamentals.  A track here like Talladega you have to execute with Lady Luck on your side.”

HOW DO YOU TRANSLATE BEING FAST IN PRACTICE TODAY TO WINNING TOMORROW?  “The Fords all worked together in practice to run those lap times and then to break off individually to do single-car runs and we saw that speed again.  So that means we have the speed in both left pocket and right pocket, in race trim and qualifying trim, and not it’s a matter of executing in the race together as a team, to be on the same page on when we’re gonna pit, announce through our second channel when we want to pit for the group and for the spotters to gather that intel, and then to execute with no penalties on pit road.  That way we come off pit road together and team back up and get the draft and the speed that we need as fast as possible.”

 PRESS CONFERENCE

CLINT BOWYER, No. 14 Cummins/Rush Truck Centers Ford Fusion  

HOW DO YOU BEAT THE PENSKE CARS TOMORROW?  “The same way we did today.  You’ve got to have fast cars.  You’ve got to be faster than they are.  That recipe changes a little bit for tomorrow.  You have to handle better, you have to do your job in the car and the communication with the spotter, the whole total package aspect of it comes to play tomorrow.  You’ve got to be good with your spotter, you’ve got to be good at call them blocks or call them whatever, catching those runs before they get to you in a timely manner, don’t miss them, don’t be late, capitalize on all those runs in your mirror and things like that, and when you’re behind, which you will be, make sure you make the right moves, whether that’s going up the middle, the outside, the bottom.  It’s such a work of art to try to imagine where your vision where you need to be and then put yourself in that position.  Those are two different things. 

CLINT BOWYER CONTINUED – “Everybody can vision where they want to be and try to get there, but it’s very difficult and challenging to get yourself and keep getting yourself in that position time and time again because that’s what you have to do.  Those opportunities just keep coming, keep coming, keep coming and the guys that are good collectively with their spotters and themselves of staying in front of that, and putting themselves in that position time and time again are the guys that prevail, and certainly those Penske cars and drivers and teams have done a good job of that, but I think it’s our turn, I really do.  Our cars show good speed, drove good in practice, pulled up good.  They were fast.  Those are the things that it’s gonna take.  Our hurdle that we’re up against is trying to dig ourselves out of last week’s Dover race.  We had an awesome race going and it ended up being a frustrating day for all of us.  The guys did exactly what they did right there today, brought cars capable of winning the race and we missed three opportunities at that – four opportunities at that really.  We’ve got to go out there and do a better job this weekend and stay in the game, whether that’s, like I said, on the race track things I was talking about – the pits that we had trouble with last week, we’ve got to get all of that behind us and capitalize on a good day tomorrow.  We need a good day.”

KANSAS IS NEXT WEEK.  YOUR THOUGHTS ON THE HOME TRACK FOR YOU?  “You’ve got to get over this race and I’m telling you that a hurdle, but I look at this race just exactly like I looked at the Roval.  Unfortunately, we went into that Roval not where we wanted to be.  We were behind.  We were down and out, but that’s an opportunity.  Everybody can look at races like that as a costly one or that wildcard or whatever, when you’re behind you’re looking for an opportunity.  If I see two races ahead of me that an opportunity really stands out it’s this one.  It’s not necessarily Kansas.  The cars I’m racing against are going to be good at Kansas and it’s gonna be a lot easier for them to do so.  You’ve got to capitalize on a race like this and take advantage of the opportunity ahead tomorrow.  That way we can roll into home at Kansas and not be freaking out over trying to somehow someway maybe even have to win the race to stay alive.  We need to have a good weekend here and take care of business when we get to Kansas.”

DOES IT MAKE IT ANY EASIER TO CREATE A GAME PLAN AND STAY OUT OF TROUBLE WILL ALL FOUR OF YOU STARTING AT THE FRONT?  “Game plan, yes.  Staying out of trouble, no.  Trouble finds you.  You’re gonna be in trouble.  It finds everybody and it comes in different ways and shapes and forms.  I mean, the whole time you’re out there you’re just like, ‘All right, where is it coming from.’  You’ve got your dukes up.  You have to.  Your spotter has to.  There are a lot of Fords out there with the same power plants that we have.  You know that they’re gonna have the speed.  The toughest thing about looking ahead to tomorrow is the fact that I’ve got to beat and differentiate and separate myself from my teammate.  My teammate, Aric, we’re both 10 points out.  I’ve got to capitalize on that somehow and close that gap here.  Penske cars, other Fords that I know are gonna be fast are the cars that I’m gonna have to beat out the 42 car for a spot and staying alive in the Playoffs, so that’s where the tricky thing is gonna be for us and everybody all eyes on tomorrow is trying to figure out.  It’s a lot like what you were watching at the Roval in play a couple weeks ago.”–

THE CHIEFS GAME GOT FLEXED NEXT WEEK.  ARE YOU GOING TO GO?  “Yes.”  IS THAT A DEFINITE?  “Yes.  Brett Veach is actually the GM and he called me and said that, ‘Hey, the game got moved,’ and he’s such a big race fan.  I met him in the spring at Kansas.  He came over and brought a couple players and hung out in the bus and we just kind of hit it off and I was really amazed – as big of a deal as he is in the NFL and that sport how big of a race fan he was.  I mean, he knew everything – stats, drivers, literally everything.  He was very, very in-tune with what’s going on and anyway he’s a stat guy in the NFL, so it’s no surprise that he was definitely on his game as far as our sport goes, so we’ve been staying in touch.  He’s been telling me how good they are and I’ve been telling him how excited I am and I’m like, ‘Man, I’m getting to a game, just be patient with me,’ and he called and said the game was moved and my butt better be there.  I’ve got a ticket, so my butt will be there.”

WHICH ONE OF YOUR TEAMMATES WOULD YOU WANT TO BE RACING ON THE FINAL LAP AND WHY?  “Any of them.  I remember one of my favorite memories of racing, one of my favorite teammates I ever had was with Jeff Burton and it came at this race track.  We were tandem racing back in the tandem days, which you were probably 10 at the time, and he was leading and our spotter was spotting both cars, so we’re going down the back straightaway and Brett comes over the radio, my spotter now, and he gets giggling and he says, ‘Hey, man.  Jeff wants to know when you’re gonna spin him out and win this race, and when it’s gonna be?’  And I said laughing, we’re literally in one and two going down, one of us are gonna win this race and I’m laughing out loud on the radio and I spin him out off of four and won the race, and it was something I’ll never forget.  So, yes, having a teammate, if you could branch off and be one and two that’s a best-case scenario to be out there with your buddy and duke it out and figure out who is gonna win

 

WOULD YOU WRECK ONE OF THEM?  “Not on purpose.  It’s a lot easier to beg for forgiveness than ask permission.  Boy, that would be terrible bad.  You don’t want to wreck your teammate.  It’s a big win.”

IS THIS REVERSE SKEW HARDER TO DRIVE THE CAR?  “It’s not near as hard as watching yourself on TV over there.  It’s extremely hard to do that if you guys have ever wondered, but that’s really weird to see yourself on TV this many years I’ve been doing this.  It’s like, ‘God, I’m ugly.’  Anyway, yeah, everybody’s got it.  Everybody gets away with a little bit more over the years, the last year or so, Kurt actually has been running about as much as anybody and I’ve been like, ‘Hmmm.’  It seems like there’s some stability there within that, or with more of it less stability and things like that, but there’s also speed, so where’s the tradeoff there and that’s the key is trying to figure that out, what you can get away with, what you’re comfortable with, the downforce and things that are built into your car, obviously a bigger blade maybe that was a little more stability that lends itself to a little bit more of reverse skew, so skew is a big deal, it really is.  It’s not very often in our sport anymore when we have something at our disposal that you can either put more in or take out and be different and differentiate from somebody else and that’s certainly one of them in a package like this at Talladega. 

WHICH TEAMMATE WOULD YOU LIKE TO RACE?  “I told you Jeff Burton was one of them, that was fun.  Kevin is won like seven races, Kevin Harvick, so if I could beat him out of his eighth and get me my third that would be awesome.  He doesn’t need another win, not right now.”

ARIC ALMIROLA, No. 10 Smithfield Bacon For Life Ford Fusion

HOW IS IT BATTLING TEAMMATES FOR THE POLE?  “It’s fun.  That’s what every race team wants is to battle it out amongst yourselves, so I’m just really proud of everybody at Stewart-Haas Racing.  They bring incredible race cars to the track every week and it doesn’t matter if it’s a road course, it doesn’t matter if it’s a one-mile Dover, a downforce track or a superspeedway, they put so much heart and soul and effort into every race car and it pays off, and it helps when you come to these restrictor plate races that have Doug Yates working on your engine package.  They do such a great job with all these Fords making a lot of horsepower at these restrictor plate races, so just proud of all the effort you see in qualifying on a day like today, that’s a group, team effort.  We’ve got some things, I feel like, in our car that are probably hurting some of our speed, but we want to make sure we can hold it wide-open tomorrow.”

KEVIN HARVICK, No. 4 Jimmy John’s Ford Fusion – “That really shows the preparation and the things everybody is doing in the processes at Stewart-Haas Racing to get these cars to repeat and do the things that they do.  So this is all about engines and cars and tomorrow we’ll line them up and play chess.”

WE SAW 204 MPH TODAY.  WHAT WILL THAT BE LIKE WITH 40 CARS TOMORROW?  “Yeah, I don’t really think that’s what NASCAR probably intended to happen when the bigger spoilers and things got put on the car that we did after the McMurray flipover and all those things.  It all happens pretty fast.  As you saw in the Truck race today just one little wrong move or one nudge in the wrong spot can cause a major melee, so we’ve been in our fair share of melee’s through the years and I don’t think it’s any different this week than it has in the past.”

STARTING THIRD, BUT YOU GOT KNOCKED OFF THE POLE BY YOUR TEAMMATE.  “I could care less about the pole to be honest with you.  This is just a huge credit to all the guys in the shop and engine shop and all the effort that goes into all these cars.  I said this the last time that everytime we go superspeedway racing if we leave here and a Ford doesn’t win, we didn’t do a very good job, whether it’s our Stewart-Haas Fords or the Penske Fords or whoever is driving a Ford.  Our cars are fast enough that we should win races.”

JOEY LOGANO, No. 22 Shell/Pennzoil Ford Fusion – “We did not go fast enough in qualifying.  I don’t know where we ended up, but it was a little surprising. I thought we would be a little quicker than that.  I think we were eighth here in the spring and the car felt good in practice, had good speed and it drove really good in the draft, so I though that was good, but it just didn’t go fast in qualifying.  Oh well, we’ll fight from there.”

BRAD KESELOWSKI, No. 2 Miller Lite Ford Fusion –

DOES IT MATTER WHERE YOU QUALIFY HERE?  “You want to qualify well, but at the end of the day it’s the racing.  That’s the bread and butter.  You want to qualify well for the pit selection and all that, but it feels good to qualify well here when you do, but you can wreck starting first and you can wreck starting last for what that’s worth.” 

WHAT HAPPENED IN QUALIFYING?  “I don’t know.  It looks like we’re all pretty similar.  All of the Penske cars are right around that 15th-place range.” 

YOU FEEL YOU CAN WORK TOGETHER AND GET UP TO THE FRONT?  “I’m not terribly concerned about it.  Of course, I’d like to start a little further up, but I’m not terribly concerned.” 

ARE YOU LOOKING FORWARD TO HOW GOOD PENSKE HAS BEEN AND THE FACT EVERYONE IS TALKING ABOUT YOU AS A FRONTRUNNER?  “Yeah, it does feel good and just makes you want to make it a reality.  We could talk about it, but at the end of the day you kind of have to put up, so hopefully we can do that.” 

WHAT KIND OF PRIDE FACTOR IS IT TO HAVE SUCCESS AT THESE TRACKS?  THERE USED TO BE THE RANDOMNESS WITH WINNERS, BUT NOT SO MUCH LATELY  “Yeah, it doesn’t seem that way lately, does it.  I hope it stays that way, but they’re just tracks that we look forward to.  We feel like we have a really good set of moves and techniques that we’ve kind of developed as drivers and the cars have been fairly reliable.  That’s really important, and, knock on wood, we’ve had pretty decent fortune as well.” 

THE NEXT TIME HERE THERE WILL BE A TAPERED SPACER.  WILL THE RACING BE DIFFERENT?  “Next year will be a tapered restrictor plate versus a regular restrictor plate.  It’s still a plate.  Call it whatever you want to call it for branding purposes and we’ll move on, but I expect the racing will be different here next year.  As to what that specifically means, I don’t know.  We’ll see.” 

THE FIRST OF THE PLAYOFFS HAVE BEEN DIFFERENT STYLE OF TRACKS, BUT 1.5-MILE TRACKS WILL DOMINATE AFTER THIS WEEK.  HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT THAT?  “Come next week we’ve got to get into the meat and potatoes of what it’s gonna take to win the championship, which is mile-and-a-half speed.  You kind of get through these weeks if you have the mile-and-a-half speed.  If you don’t have the mile-and-a-half speed, you’re hoping to score a lot of points and knock somebody out who does.  I think it’s good.  I think it’s good that it takes different skill sets throughout the championship Playoffs, but at the end of the day the mile-and-a-halves are gonna win you the championship.”

MICHAEL MCDOWELL, No. 34 Speedco/Rotella Ford Fusion – “I think today went great.  It would have been nice to beat a couple more and make it into the fast 12, but I’m really proud of everyone at Front Row Motorsports to have a car contend for the second round is really good.  We’ve got some Fast Fords and we’ve got Speedco and Love’s on the car, so hopefully we can get to the end.  We definitely have a fast Ford and this is really good for us to be able to come here and have both cars qualify in the teens – to do that at Daytona and continue to do it and keep building and building.  It’s gonna be a fun race tomorrow.”

RICKY STENHOUSE JR., No. 17 SunnyD Ford Fusion – “My prediction is it’s gonna end up 12th.  It was good.  We’ve had shots at poles, we’ve won poles here, but I feel like when we do have those poles maybe the cars don’t drive near as good as what they need to and over the last few speedway races I think you’ve seen handling come into play and our SunnyD Ford, I feel like, is gonna handle really well and I’m proud that we made it to the second round with a car that handles good.  I’m looking forward to that.  Hotter temperatures tomorrow, the sun is gonna be out a little warmer, and I think all of that is gonna come into play.  I’m happy with what our boys have done so far, and I’m looking forward to tomorrow.”

WHAT DID YOU LEARN IN PRACTICE IN THE PACK?  “We changed some things up on our cars trying to find a little more speed, plus the handling package as well.  We got to play around with a couple of little things that were nice, but obviously all of the Fords are really fast.  Doug Yates builds a great engine package and Jimmy Fennig works really hard on our cars, so I’m really happy with that.”