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APR 13, 2018 | Ford Performance Staff

Four Ford Fusions Land in the Top Five at Bristol Qualifying


BRISTOL, Tenn. - Kurt Busch was 0.002 seconds away from claiming the pole at Bristol Motor Speedway. Busch, along with four other Ford Performance drivers will start in the top five positions for the Food City 500.

Ford Qualifying Results:
2nd – Kurt Busch
3rd – Brad Keselowski
4th – Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
5th – Ryan Blaney
7th – Paul Menard
9th – Michael McDowell
10th – Joey Logano
14th – Clint Bowyer
19th – Aric Almirola
23rd – David Ragan
24th – Matt DiBenedetto
33rd – Trevor Bayne
39th – Kevin Harvick

BRAD KESELOWSKI, No. 2 Discount Tire Ford Fusion 
HOW IS THE TRACK?  “It’s slick.  Every car that runs the track gets a little faster, so it’s the fun gamesmanship of trying to be on the track and make all that work.”

SO MISSING THE FIRST FIVE MINUTES OF CUP PRACTICE DIDN’T HURT?  “No.  We weren’t ready anyway, so I feel good about that.”

HAS THAT EVER HAPPENED TO YOU BEFORE?  “No.  That was different.  I guess they changed the scheduling and we didn’t know.  I found out the fun way.  Better that than the race.”

THOUGHTS ON THE ALL-STAR ANNOUNCEMENT THIS WEEK?  “I wasn’t involved in it this time, but I’m actually pretty optimistic about it.  I think it’ll be really good for one race – really good for one race.  That’s what I honestly think and it will be terrible after the first race just because of chaos theory – with teams not having a chance to prepare the cars and creating all kinds of small variables that will mix it up dramatically and so forth, so it’s kind of one of those things that once the cat is out of the bag and the teams figure it out, then we’ll ruin it again.  But for one race I think it’ll be exciting and you’ll never be able to do it again.  They’re using the car they have, so you might as well.”

YOU DON’T SEE IT IN THE LONG TERM?  “No, it’s extremely diminishing returns beyond the All-Star Race, but I do respect the fact that there is an idea to get one good race out of and they’re using it, so I can respect that, but anything beyond that will be pure garbage.”

RICKY STENHOUSE JR., No. 17 Sunny D Ford Fusion 
“I struggle qualifying here running the bottom.  I looked at some data and figured out a couple things I could maybe do different that helped, but we still just had to get our Sunny D Ford driving the way I wanted it to.  I think track conditions changing actually helped us.  The race track lost some grip and slowed some of those other cars down and we actually picked up a little bit, so it just came around to where we were and some of the adjustments we made.  It was a really good Friday for us.  When we struggle at the start of practice it’s hard for us to figure it out before qualifying, so it was cool to figure it out before qualifying.”

MICHAEL MCDOWELL, No. 34 Love’s Travel Stops Ford Fusion 
THIS IS THE BEST STARTING SPOT FOR FRONT ROW MOTORSPORTS AND YOU AT BRISTOL.  HOW DID THAT GO OVERALL?  “Bristol is a tough place because everybody is so close, so to have three solid rounds like that is pretty awesome.  I’m just really proud of everybody at Front Row Motorsports.  Our Love’s Travel Stop Ford was pretty good in our mock runs, but David Ragan was really good so I looked at his data and tried to figure out what he does that makes him go fast here and was able to learn some things and it paid off.”

PAUL MENARD, No. 21 Menards/Dutch Boy Ford Fusion 
YOU AND GREG ERWIN HAVE STARTED WELL.  “We have a great foundation, for sure with what the 21 guys have done the last couple of years.  They all kind of moved to the 12 car, but they laid a great foundation.  Greg Erwin has done a hell of a job with all these guys on my car.  We qualified seventh and we’re actually disappointed with that.  I thought I could have gotten a little bit more that last run and I’ll go back and look at Dartfish to see what I could have done better for next time, but it’s a good start to the weekend.”

WHAT WOULD IT MEAN TO WIN NO. 100 FOR THE WOOD BROTHERS AND GET THEIR SECOND WIN HERE AT BRISTOL?  “Bristol would be a hell of a place for that.  I didn’t realize they only had the one win here.  I remember watching the race when Elliott (Sadler) won, but they’re sitting at 99 and we definitely want to give them 100.  We’re not picky.  We’ll take it whenever we can and it starts this weekend.”

JOEY LOGANO, No. 22 Autotrader Ford Fusion 
“We ran the same speed the last run as the first run it’s just that everyone got better in between.  We didn’t improve and just kind of stayed the same the whole time, so that’s it.”

KURT BUSCH, No. 41 Haas Automation/Monster Energy Ford Fusion
 “That was super-close.  The guys really found the right adjustments and the way that you have to hit it just right at Bristol because the lap times are below 15 seconds any little miss you know that you’re not gonna get the pole because there’s no time to gain it back.  It’s real similar to like drag racing.  It’s a quarter-mile long and any time you have one little slip you don’t have time to gain it back, except here it’s just two quarter-miles. It’s a half-mile and I just slipped up a little bit in turn one and that was all that Kyle needed to get by us.  I’m really happy with the effort for our Haas Automation/Monster Energy Ford to back up last week’s pole and almost get it again today.  Billy, our crew chief – Billy Scott – lead engineer, Will, everybody is just doing a really good job of reading the track and understanding how to start off the weekend on the right foot.”

IS IT ANY CONSOLATION KNOWING YOU AT LEAST HAVE SPEED?  “It’s a tight rope to walk because of the VHT or the PJ1 that’s sprayed down.  If you’re off of it, it feels like the whole setup is incomplete and then when you hit it just right and you’re driving through the corner and then you come up to corner exit and you jump off the VHT/PJ1 you don’t know if it’s gonna jump sideways or not, so the groove is old-school Bristol.  They were shooting for that.  They found it, but it’s a razor blade line.  I mean, there is no forgiveness right now between that perfect lap and being off.”

IS IT SIMILAR TO CUSHION AND DIRT RACING?  “I don’t have a lot of dirt experience, but this is like a slot car.  If you hit it right, you’re in that slot and you’re fast.  If you slide just too much and you’re back on the old concrete, then it’s really slow.  So it can definitely equate to pushing the cushion at a dirt track.”

IS IT AGGRAVATING AT ALL WAITING ON PIT ROAD KNOWING THE CLOCK IS TICKING AND NOBODY IS GOING OUT, AND WHAT DIFFERENCE COULD IT MAKE GOING TWO OR THREE MINUTES EARLIER?  “It’s a game that everybody plays and it’s not frustrating.  You have to play it and master it and the guy that’s on the pole was the car following me today by two-thousandths of a second.  He was the fifth car in that round to take time and we were the fourth, and you want the other cars to go to heat up that VHT just that little bit for you.  It’s similar to drag racing.  If you’re the first car to go in that round, usually that’s the most unpredictable pairing.  The next group goes, the track gets a little better.  The third group goes, that’s when you have the most consistency in the track and that’s the game you have to play when Bristol Motor Speedway preps their oval like a drag strip.”

THOUGHTS ON THE ALL-STAR PACKAGE.  “That package debuted at Indianapolis with the XFINITY Series and I thought we’d have it sooner in the Cup Series just because like Jimmie Johnson said there’s nothing to lose with that package at the All-Star Race.  We don’t want to upset a points race, but we need to give it a fair shake and usually test sessions when it’s an open track day for Goodyear or for the manufacturers you just don’t get a real read until you put something on the line.  So for $1 bucks I guarantee everybody will be giving it their best effort and that’s the best way to evaluate a potential aerodynamic package, along with the restrictor plate.  It’s gonna change numerous things – way too many to mention – but I think it’ll be exciting for the All-Star Race.  The crowd will now have at Charlotte Motor Speedway three distinct, different tickets that they’re gonna buy this year.  The All-Star Race will have this package.  The 600 is one of the premier events of our circuit and then they’ll have the Roval, the road course when we go back there in October. Charlotte Motor Speedway is always on that cutting edge of pushing our sport and trying to carry it to new levels and I think this will help.”

CAN YOU ADDRESS THE ACTION ON THE SHORT TRACKS WITH RICHMOND NEXT WEEK?  HAVE WE LOST SOME OF THE ATTITUDE BETWEEN THE DRIVERS?  “The attitude is still there.  The stakes are just as high.  I think that the beginning of the season and you’re racing at the short tracks that are part of the Playoffs later on there’s a different mindset.  A track like Bristol is here early in the season and it’s not in our Playoffs later on in the year, so this is the best atmosphere for racing hard, rubbing fenders and getting after it.  So Martinsville, though, is part of the Playoffs.  Richmond will now be part of the Playoffs, so we’ll have to see how it plays out.  In all honesty, if I had a soap box to stand on for a moment and the way that our short track racing has fallen off of the payback mode or that revenge mode it’s because the fenders are so close to the tires that if we take one little tire rub, one little fender rub onto the tire we have to pit because it’s gonna blow out the tire.  We need to get the fender wells opened up and have them bigger.  The shorter the track, the bigger the openings need to be.  That will allow us to race and rub harder and not pay such a consequence with a flat tire.”

IS IT FUN TO BATTLE WITH KYLE LIKE YOU DID TODAY?  “Yeah, and it’s better now with age.  Like wine it tastes better a little bit later on and you have to let it settle.  I can now walk up to him and say, ‘Yeah, I let you have it,’ and he’ll giggle.  He’ll actually laugh, and yet I knew that I didn’t quite hit a perfect lap and if I’m gonna get beat by somebody when I don’t hit a perfect lap, I’d rather it be my little brother.  Yet at the same time it stings because I’d rather have the 41 first and the 18 second.”

DO YOU LOOK FORWARD TO STARTING SUNDAY NEXT TO YOUR BROTHER?  “You know, last week when he was able to snooker the second stage win away from us because I got caught behind a lapped car, I was just hoping to time that lapped car better and there it was, you make that little bit of a mistake and there’s somebody to jump on it.  If it’s Kyle, it stings because he’s my little brother, but yet he’s a champion.  He knows when there is speed to be gained on the track every moment, so to start alongside of him is great, but it’s gonna be an all-race battle just like it was last week, and I hope we’re there at lap 500 to give him a run for his money and get the win this week.”

WHAT’S YOUR TAKE ON MARTINSVILLE WITH FOUR CAUTIONS AND ONLY ONE OF THEM WAS NOT PLANNED?  “It’s an evolution that’s happened in the way that our cars are designed and the way that they’re built.  We’re scraping for every little bit of downforce that we can find and at a short track aerodynamics aren’t as important, but we’re still putting the fenders really close to the tires to direct air and get that downforce.  Why not have a rule at the smaller, shorter tracks that you open up the fenders and that will allow us to race a little bit more so side-by-side and bump and have those moments where you slide up into somebody and not get a flat tire.  But the evolution of our sport, this just didn’t happen this year.  The year before that, the year before that.  This is about a five-year process that I’ve seen, where you can’t muscle anybody out of the way.  You can’t rub them hard or you end up with a fender rub and the next thing you know you’re on pit road.  Who wants to go onto pit road at a short track under green?  Nobody, because you go two laps down and your race is over.”

ARE YOU DRIVING DIFFERENTLY NOW ON SHORT TRACKS THAN YOU USED TO?  “You have to know when that pass is gonna be made and you have to make it quick and clear.  That’s why you see more people yielding to each other to get back into that single-file line.”

DO YOU AGREE WITH THE ASSESSMENT THAT THE VHT HAS CHANGED THE GAME AND HAS MADE SOME GUYS WHO HAD BEEN SUCCESSFUL BEFOREHAND NOT AS GOOD?  “My first group of years coming here from 2000-2007 the track was very consistent.  They didn’t mess with it and the cars were the same.  In 2008 with the Car of Tomorrow, that’s when I think I was three laps down running around trying to find the setup.  Then with the reconfiguration with the banking and the progressive bank that changed it.  Then they went to go grind the top groove, so that we’d all go run the bottom and then the top groove ended up with more grip once the tires heat up and once that concrete heats up, and then they start with the VHT.  So now they want me to review tape, they want me to watch the notes and review the driver debriefs from all the cars on our team and it’s like they’re just gonna throw down more VHT and you don’t know when they’re gonna throw it down, you don’t know when they’re gonna scrape it, so you roll into each practice session not knowing what to expect and you’ve got to roll with whatever they’re gonna give this time around.  Some of that I learned from Eli Tomac running Supercross.  I was like, ‘So you’re gonna do this set of triples?’  He goes, ‘Yeah, I can do it when the track is fresh, but I can’t when it gets rutted up.’  You just have to change and adapt and they do it every single lap through their main event.”