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Almirola Posts 3rd in Daytona 500 Qualifying

Almirola's Ford Mustang pictured driving on track

DAYTONA, Fla. - Aric Almirola finished third at the Daytona 500 Qualifying race. Almirola was among two Ford drivers to finish in the top 10.

3rd -- Aric Almirola
6th -- Kevin Harvick
13th -- David Ragan
17th -- Matt DiBenedetto
18th -- Ryan Blaney
19th -- Austin Cindric
21st -- Joey Logano
22nd -- Chase Briscoe
23rd -- Ryan Newman
25th -- Cole Custer
26th -- Brad Keselowski
27th -- Michael McDowell
30th -- Chris Buescher
32nd -- Anthony Alfredo
37th -- Garrett Smithley
38th -- B.J. McLeod
39th -- Timmy Hill
41st -- Joey Gase
42nd -- Josh Bilicki


AUSTIN CINDRIC, No. 33 Verizon 5G Ford Mustang -- “I’m excited for the opportunity.  It’s pretty cool to be out here racing against your heroes and there’s a lot I don’t know right now.  I didn’t get a single lap behind traffic in practice today given where we had to roll through tech having no points.  It won’t be easy, but should be just as much fun as you can imagine.”

WHAT DOES THIS MEAN TO YOU?  “I have to take a step back because the competitive side of me isn’t overly satisfied with our day, but I feel like personally it means a great deal to be here.  It means a great deal to be trying to race to get into the Daytona 500.  I think it’s an opportunity that a lot of drivers work very hard to try and achieve, especially this in this side of motorsports, so for me to have a shot to get in is pretty cool.  But, like I said, there’s a lot of work that needs to be done and that’s pretty much all I’ve been thinking about.  I’ve spent the last three weeks stressing about this day and the next, but it’s good stress.  That means you’ve got something to fight for and that’s starting the Daytona 500.”

HOW HAVE YOU LEANED ON YOUR TEAMMATES?  “Yeah, just trying to understand what’s normal.  These cars drive a lot differently than the XFINITY cars, whether that’s in the pack which I’ve yet to experience or even by themselves.  There are a lot of different procedures and things that go on with it as well and we’ll be extremely unlucky if we don’t get a single Penske-affiliated car in one of our Duels because I think we’ll need some help, but, otherwise, it’s great to have teammates and data and that’s stuff I haven’t had the last couple years.  I’ve been getting used to utilizing that at an equal level, not just, ‘Hey, how do you go faster here and help me out here.’  It’s great.  I love it.”

RYAN NEWMAN, No. 6 Kohler Generators Ford Mustang --
“I think with the amount of practice and qualifying that we’ve had in conjunction with the performances that we’ve had without practice and qualifying going back to last year, I don’t see it as being any kind of issue.  Yeah, you’re probably gonna have one or two outliers there, where somebody doesn’t get their heights quite right or wishes they would have obviously had some practice, but, in general, I think it’s gonna be more about knocking some of the rust off pit road and all the things that go into getting that first round of practice as a team together, not just laps on the race car but practice as a team and knocking that rust off before the 500.”

DAVID RAGAN, No. 36 Select Blinds Ford Mustang -- “It’s always fun to come to Daytona.  For a majority of my career I’ve always been locked in and I have really taken qualifying for granted.  I’ve wanted to qualify well and perform well on Thursdays, but I was always thinking about Sunday.  For I guess the second time in my career here at Daytona trying to race our way in with some pretty tough competition, I’ve really thought a lot about this qualifying tonight, the Duels on Thursday night, and I’m certainly not taking it for granted to be here in a Cup car at Daytona, the birthplace of NASCAR and something my family has been part of for a long time.  I’m very grateful to have the opportunity to come here and I hope that we can make it into the Daytona 500.  That would be outstanding.”

WHAT WAS IT LIKE TO PRACTICE IN THE DAY AND QUALIFY AT NIGHT?  “It was a really fast paced day.  Generally, we have a couple sessions of practice.  We have ample time to make qualifying runs.  The teams can make some small adjustments to find a little bit of speed and today was very fast paced.  We only made two runs with our Select Blinds Ford Mustang, so our team did a really good job of hustling throughout practice.  We had to make some educated guesses on how to adjust for the car tonight, getting your travels just right, making sure that everything is exactly how the crew chief wants it to be, so it was pretty straightforward to make the lap.  It was a little cooler than normal.  Usually, it’s pretty hot on Sunday afternoons, but it was cool and a lot of hard work today from all the team members as they got our car prepared to qualify.”

WHAT RACING PLANS DO YOU HAVE AFTER DAYTONA?  “The only race I have scheduled at the moment is here at the Daytona 500.  I love racing.  I’d love to run a few truck races this year if the schedule works out, but my main priority is working with Ford Performance and the development of the NEXT Gen Ford Mustang.  I’ve been working with some of the young Ford drivers and getting them up to speed at some of the new racetracks that they’re going to be seeing, letting them know what kind of technology that Ford has that can help them and their teams with the limited practice that all the series have, and still working with Fox Sports and doing some analyst work on the Race Hub show, so between all of that I find myself pretty busy, which is great because I feel like I’ve got the best of both worlds.  I can still be involved in the sport that I love, but I can also pick my kids up from school on occasion and be home with them on the weekends and eat dinner with them most every night, so I’m pretty happy with the schedule so far.”

HOW LONG DOES IT TAKE TO KNOCK THE RUST OFF WHEN YOU AREN’T RACING FULL-TIME?  “I’m fortunate that my first race is Daytona, so most of the drivers have been out of the seat for a few months.  I have the Duels on Thursday night to kind of get a warm-up, generally some additional practice, so I feel like I’m on a pretty even slate.  I’ve probably run more laps on the simulator than any of the drivers over the past four or five months, so from that aspect I still feel like I’m pretty engaged with what the cars are doing, the handling.  Obviously, there’s no substitute for being at the racetrack and being behind the wheel, but I’m still listening in on race weekends.  I read over some of the notes from the Ford teams and on the simulator a lot, so I feel like I’m pretty engaged, but I’m fortunate that the Daytona 500 is a pretty unique schedule, so I can ease into it a little bit more and it would definitley be more of a challenge if I popped in during the regular season with no practice and qualifying, so we’ll see if that’s ever the case, but I’m grateful to have a few laps under my belt this weekend.”

YOU’RE IN THE RACE.  HOW BIG OF A RELIEF IS IT?  “My crew chief and I joked we were a little nervous because we failed tech a couple of times.  We were rolling through tech and he thought qualifying was still starting at 7:00, and I’m like, ‘I just saw on Twitter that it started at 7:30,’ and he was like, ‘Thank God.’  That’s a huge relief.  There was some really good teams to come down to Daytona and like I was talking about earlier a lot of times I’ve taken practice, qualifying into the Duels a little bit for granted because my thoughts have always been on Sunday afternoon and what am I gonna do to be in position to try to win the Daytona 500, so it was a different feeling to come to Daytona and not be locked in and knowing that I had a lot of pressure.  I mean, I had a sponsor and employees that our car owner Bob Jenkins invests a lot of money and I didn’t want to let those guys down.  I really thought it could happen either way.  I knew we had a good chance to qualify in and race in.  They built this car new over the offseason.  Doug Yates has great horsepower, but we’re going against some pretty fast race cars, so I  knew that regardless of what happened I was gonna give God the glory and it was gonna be meant to be whatever happened, so I’m grateful that the car ran well, we got through tech and I’m glad to be locked in before Thursday.”

WHERE WOULD YOU LIKE TO BE TO MISS THE BIG ONE?  “I would agree that no spot is ultimately safe, but you want to be up front.  If my car is fast enough and it drives decent, I want to be up front.  I think if you’re in those first couple of rows you are a lot safer than being 8th to 25th.  I think that’s kind of the middle of the hornet’s nest and not only do you have cars in front of you, behind you, besides you, you just have a lot more opportunity for a mistake to be made and damage to have, so there’s really no safe spot that you just know is going to be safe, but if our car is driving well enough and our Mustang is fast I’d like to be in those top couple of rows and hopefully see some daylight in front of me.”

HOW HAVE YOU KNOCKED THE DUST OFF?  “I work for Ford Performance and do a lot of simulator work with the current car for some of the current teams that race every weekend, but then do some development for the  NEXT Gen car we’ll be testing next month.  From a simulator standpoint, I’ve probably made more laps than anybody has over the last six or eight months, but nothing is a substitute for real life experience behind a car, so I still like the Daytona 500.  It’s a unique situation to where most of these drivers have been outside of a car for several months.  We have a little bit of practice.  We have the Duels.  We have some extra laps to get ready, so I feel like I’m on a pretty even playing field when it comes to Daytona.  Now, if you were to just drop me in a normal race weekend where we had no practice and no qualifying and I had to take the green flag and go, there would be a little bit of an adjustment that I would have to make, but I feel like this is a good set of circumstances here in Daytona, where we’ve had plenty of track time leading up into the Daytona 500.  I feel pretty comfortable and pretty good about that.”

B.J. MCLEOD, No. 78 NASCAR Heats Ford Mustang -- “It was pretty cool.  A lot of work went into the car the last couple months and the team getting stuff rolling and to get here and get some laps under our belt finally was really big, just definitely an accomplishment for us.  We’re here and now we can start making improvements.  That’s the part I’ve been wanting to do.”

HOW WAS YOUR QUALIFYING RUN?  “We actually want more speed always and never happy.  I’m not quite sure where we’re at, but I think we beat a couple of cars.  I think today was mainly about getting through the system and passing tech and making a lap, and those were our biggest goals because we definitely have a lot of work to do.  We’re gonna be here every week, so we wanted to get through there.”

HOW DID THE DEAL COME TOGETHER WITH MATT?  “Matt and I have been friends for a long time.  We worked together back all the way to 2011 and we’ve just built that relationship over this decade and always been close even though he was driving for other people the last five or six years.  It was something we bounced around and talked about and it became a reality.  About a year ago we were really trying to pursue this -- maybe a year-and-a-half ago it got a little bit more often in conversation with him and I, and then when the pandemic struck we put a business plan in place to go after this.  If it came up, and we didn’t know if it was gonna be two weeks or five years before we got a chance to buy a charter, but we were gonna go for it when it popped up.  It was very fortunate for us it happened in less than a month, a month-and-a-half, somewhere in that area we got a chance and capitalized on it and here we are for the Daytona 500.”

ANTHONY ALFREDO, No. 38 Speedy Cash Ford Mustang -- “It went really smoothly, honestly.  I’ve been building a lot of chemistry with the team back at the shop leading up to this week and got fitted in the car to make sure everything was right before we got down here.  All of that felt good and I was comfortable inside the car.  The biggest thing was just learning the dash just because I’ve never raced anything with a digital dash, focusing on that.  We really just made single-car runs, didn’t get much drafting and we didn’t really work on the car at all for qualifying, mainly just race runs.  So we went out there and laid down as good a lap as possible, but tomorrow and Sunday are obviously the most meaningful moments for us.”

WHAT WAS PRACTICE LIKE FOR YOU AND WAS IT WHAT YOU EXPECTED?  “Yeah, it wasn’t too eventful, which is a good thing, especially at a superspeedway.  We mainly made single-car runs, not much in the draft and we didn’t work on the car as much for qualifying as we did race runs.  We laid down as best a lap as we possibly could tonight.  It was definitely a blessing to be out there tonight.  I’m looking forward to this whole weekend and this entire year honestly.  I’m just very fortunate and thankful for the opportunity I have.  Thanks to Front Row Motorsports and all our partners with our Speedy Cash No. 38.  I hope to make everyone proud.  I think the biggest thing I have to learn is pack racing tomorrow night.  Hopefully, we can improve our starting spot and then get ready for the big show Sunday.”

YOUR PRACTICE TIME.  DID THAT COME IN THE DRAFT?  “Our lap in practice was not.”

MICHAEL MCDOWELL, No. 34 Love’s Travel Stops Ford Mustang -- “It was fun to qualify under the lights.  I don’t think I’ve done that here at Daytona.  The lights started flickering just before we went out, so that was a little bit of excitement, but pretty low-key day.  Qualifying for the Daytona 500 is obviously something that’s pretty cool, but today was pretty low-key, just made a handful of laps in practice and the car drove good.  I’m pretty happy with where we’re at in our Love’s Travel Stops Ford Mustang.”

YOU HAVE A NEW SPOTTER.  HOW DOES THAT DYNAMIC WORK WHEN PREPARING FOR A RACE LIKE THIS?  “Obviously, having Clayton up on top of the roof gives me a lot of confidence.  He’s won a lot of races and won a championship and has worked with Martin for a long time and worked with a lot of great drivers, so he’s a huge asset that we’re very fortunate to bring to Front Row.  But, like you said, it’s tough to come to Daytona not working with somebody and getting that communication down, so today in practice we jumped right out in the draft and tried to get in the pack just so we could kind of get used to each other a little bit.  Everything has gone pretty smooth and then tomorrow with the Duels that will give us an opportunity to race and then debrief afterwards and talk about what I need different, what he can do different, what I can do different.  But so far it’s been great.  It’s a huge asset for us to bring on somebody of his caliber to our organization and we’re really fortunate to have him and we’re expecting big things.”

YOU WEREN’T IN THE RACE LAST NIGHT, BUT WHAT DID YOU THINK ABOUT THE DIRT AND MUD.  SHOULD CURBING BE PUT IN THERE?  WHAT WOULD BE THE CHALLENGES?  “Obviously, I watched the race just like you all did and it was really hard to tell whether it was just a big off that somebody had that drug it onto the racetrack and the bus stop is always very dirty -- even in the 24-hour race you go through there and one lap is clear and the next lap it’s full of sand and dirt, so you just never know what you’re gonna get, but it’s typically not like what you saw last night where it’s just caked with mud.  So, I think that there’s probably some things that we could do.  The back side of the curbs, I don’t think we need to add curbs.  There are a lot of racetracks and a lot of technology out there that lets you fill in the back side of that curb, so it doesn’t pull dirt onto the racetrack, so I think it will just take a few people getting creative and figure out what to do.”

CHRIS BUESCHER, No. 17 Fastenal Ford Mustang -- HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT YOUR CHANCES MOVING FORWARD?  “It’s pretty early to really put much emphasis on what we’ve been doing today especially.  The Clash was a good read for us.  I think we found some improvements with our Fastenal Mustang.  I think we had some things that were really good about it and we still have some things that are kind of coming more to the top of our list that we need to work on, so I think it was very productive to be in the Clash first of all.  I think we were gonna have a really good day until we got dumped there at the end.  I think it was ultimately a lot of fun to be able to do it and not worry too much about the points and use it to try and learn something.  I think that we have a good start.  We have more to go yet and I really think we’re gonna have to get through probably the first month here and a couple of these different racetracks to get a true test as to where we feel like we stand.”

MATT DIBENEDETTO, No. 21 Motorcraft/Quick Lane Ford Mustang -- “I think our single car speed is just kind of ok, not tremendous but we’ve always been really fast once we get in the race in the draft.  We have great teammates on the Penske side.  The Fords run great, so I feel really good about it and having the iconic Motorcraft/Quick Lane 21 in the Daytona 500 is always pretty cool to drive.”

ARIC ALMIROLA, No. 10 Smithfield Ford Mustang -- “I knew my car was fast just looking at the RPMs based on practice I felt like we were going a little bit faster than practice and it seemed like everybody was close to backing up their practice speeds, so I knew if we were a little bit better than practice we were gonna have a shot at it, and my car felt really good and really fast and our guys did a great job with our Smithfield Ford Mustang.  Man, we came up so close -- one one-hundredth away from being locked in to the front row for the Daytona 500.  I’m frustrated to miss it by that close, but happy about how much speed our car has in it and we’ll have a great starting spot for the Duel tomorrow night.”

WHAT WERE YOUR THOUGHTS ON THE CLASH AND THE DIFFERENT PACKAGE?  “I thought it put on a great race.  The cars were obviously dancing around a lot more, a little bit more difficult in the braking zones and you saw that with people missing their marks and making mistakes.  There were definitely more mistakes made and the track is very slick, so when you take downforce away the cars just don’t have as much braking capability and don’t have as much traction.  The cars were more difficult to drive and a lot more of a handful than with the added downforce that we had here last year.”

JOEY LOGANO, No. 22 Shell/Pennzoil Ford Mustang -- WAS YOUR CAR SET UP MORE FOR QUALIFYING OR THE DUELS?  “I’d say for us we didn’t put a whole bunch of effort into qualifying trim, but I’m not sure really there was much time to put much into it when you look at how short our practice is.  Typically for the Daytona 500 we’d have a lot more Cup practice and single-car runs where the 55-minute practice we had was a track filled with cars, so you can’t really get a good read on changing anything in qualifying trim.  I hope we’re ready for race trim.  We didn’t go very fast by ourselves, so hopefully it goes a little better in traffic.  I’m sure it will handle good and we’ll be able to make some bold moves and be able to do a lot of the same things we’ve done in the past to be successful on these superspeedways.  We just didn’t have the by yourself speed at the moment.”

HOW WELL DO YOU WORK WITH YOUR PENSKE TEAMMATES?  HAVE YOU TALKED WITH AUSTIN ABOUT TOMORROW IN THE DUEL YET?  “You just told me where I line up for the Duel, so I did not know that.  That’s good to know and yes I will reach out to him and talk to him probably quite a few times over tonight and tomorrow to try to put together a game plan.  Obviously, it’s important for him to make the Daytona 500.  We’re gonna do what we can to try to help that.  At the same time, we’ve got to realize that these Duels aren’t just qualifying races anymore.  They have points attached to them and every point matters in my boat, so you’ve got to have a balance of how that works out.  With Austin being a rookie in the Cup Series and this being his first attempt at running the Daytona 500 we’ll do what we can to try to help him along for sure.  At the same time, we have to have a solid plan for the 22 to make sure that we capitalize on the points at hand as well.”


ANY ISSUES ADAPTING FROM THE ROAD COURSE TO THE OVAL IN CONSECUTIVE DAYS?  “I went from dirt to road course to superspeedway all within three days, so it’s been a lot of fun for me.  I’ve really enjoyed the fact we get to race different types of tracks.  I think that’s the most attractive piece about NASCAR right now for a driver is that you get road racing, you get superspeedways and everything in-between, and then, oh yeah, a dirt track on top of that.  To me, that’s fun and exciting.  No one else gets to do that in any other racing series -- gets to run that many different types of racetracks, so I like that part and I’m good with it.  To be a winner in today’s world and be a champion in this series, you’re gonna have to be pretty versatile as a driver.”

WHAT ADVICE DO YOU HAVE FOR AUSTIN TOMORROW?  “That’s a tough question.  It’s a tough place to be, trying to race your way into the Great American Race.  A lot of what-ifs can happen in that draft.  It’s gonna come down to the last lap.  We’ve seen that happen every time here.  Everybody is gonna race hard to try to get into this thing, so you just try to position yourself in a safe place, make sure you survive it, but also try to move yourself forward.  You’re gonna have to be toward the front to make this thing.  I don’t think you can ride around and 12th-15th place and expect to make it.  I think you’re gonna have to get up there.  It’s a matter of understanding the draft.  My advice, make mistakes early in the race.  Go for it.  Make a bunch of moves.  Screw up a lot.  As long as you don’t crash your car you’re gonna learn, and hopefully you can use that later on.”

COLE CUSTER, No. 41 Ford Mustang -- WAS YOUR CAR SETUP FOR QUALIFYING OR THE RACE?  “I would say the same thing (as Logano).  We’re kind of in the same boat.  We kind of focused more on race trim, making sure it races well just because everybody wants to put that big number up tonight and be on the top of the board, but at the end of the day when you get to the race tomorrow a lot of times it doesn’t matter as long as you’re not on the front rows.  We have a good handling car, it’s just a matter of staying out of the mess and making sure we have a clean Duel.”

“I agree with Joey also.  I think it makes it fun to kind of have that many different disciplines that we have to figure out and it does it make more interesting just because there’s more to study and more to prepare for before the race, and there’s a lot more adapting also.  It makes it fun and more difficult and it’s something that definitely brings some intrigue to the sport.”

CHASE BRISCOE, No. 14 Ford Mustang -- WHAT WAS IT LIKE DRIVING THE CUP CAR FOR THE FIRST TIME AND WAS IT WHAT YOU EXPECTED?  “So far it’s been pretty similar at least.  I haven’t been in a huge pack.  I think tomorrow is gonna be totally different and something totally new, but today being out there with four or five other cars in the pack and then qualifying obviously it was pretty similar.  I think tomorrow I’m gonna be in for a rude awakening once I kind of get in a big pack, but so far, so good.  It’s not been anything too crazy I don’t feel like yet, but I feel like tomorrow is definitely gonna be the real game-changer in all that, just being out there with that many more cars and just the air and everything else.  These cars are so different than what I’ve run in the past.  It’s gonna take some time to learn, but obviously I wish we would have qualified on the pole, but if we can’t be on the front row, I did feel like this is probably the best situation for me just kind of starting in the middle of the pack tomorrow and just really trying to learn as much as I can.”

HOW DO YOU APPROACH THE START OF THE DUEL?  “It’s tough.  I don’t really know what to expect, but for me I just want to try to learn as much as I can and get comfortable is the biggest thing.  There are some things that are different in the car.  Even the left-side mirror and the rearview mirrors, I’m very limited on visibility compared to what I’m used to, so that and working with a spotter I’ve never worked with on a superspeedway before, so really it’s gonna take probably the first half of the race just to even get to where I’m comfortable.  In the past, I feel like on the speedway stuff I’ve always been the best when I can be the aggressor and just try to take every run and do something with it, but I think you have to be smart tomorrow.  We don’t want to have to pull a backup out.  We need to keep the primary clean, so I think it’s all trying to take risks that are not gonna put you in too bad of a box if something goes wrong, so just that risk vs. reward.  I think I need to mix it up tomorrow just so I can learn as much as I can really figure out what this car can do and what it can’t do, and just get myself in those situations that I’m gonna have to be in on Sunday if I want a chance to win the race.  It’s gonna be a big learning curve tomorrow, but I’m looking forward to it.”

HOW MUCH TIME DO YOU SPEND WITH YOUR TEAMMATES OR DO YOU JUST FOCUS ON HOW THE CAR WORKS AROUND OTHER MANUFACTURERS?   “I think it’s both.  I think I just need to learn the Cup car in general, but I’m definitely gonna rely on my teammates as much as I can.  I think looking at the qualifying results it looks like Harvick is gonna be in mine, so out of all the guys I feel like that’s certainly the guy I want to learn from, so that will be good just being able to hopefully rely on him.  Hopefully I’m around him tomorrow and can help each other out, but Ford always does a really good job of trying to work together with the One Ford mentality, but at the same time I have to figure out how to race around other cars no matter what manufacturer it is and get comfortable, so that will be the primary goal at least for me personally tomorrow.”

WHAT IS YOUR STRATEGY GOING INTO THE DUEL?  “First and foremost not tearing the car up, I think, is the most important thing.  I think outside of that just trying to learn as much as I can and just really trying -- I don’t even know how many laps, it’s 60 laps or whatever that is and just really trying to learn as much as I can in that 60 lap period to prepare myself for the 500.  It’s a limited practice and not getting around in a pack I feel like it’s gonna be very crucial to learn as much as I can in that short amount of time, so just trying to maximize that and just get comfortable to all those things that are new to me now and just trying to be the best I can be for Sunday.”

WHAT HAS BEEN THE BIGGEST SURPRISE SO FAR?  “Nothing really yet has felt different.  The speed is definitely a little bit faster I could tell, but from a driving standpoint the small pack I was in today was maybe four or five cars, so it was pretty standard compared to what I’m used to, but I know talking to other people and just watching tape it’s gonna be a totally different deal when I’m 10th in the pack and there are that many cars in the field, so it’s definitely gonna be a big experience for me tomorrow just to get out there and be around those guys and just try to learn as much as I can.  A lot of these guys I’ve never even raced against, so just trying to learn their tendencies and then make them comfortable around me.  If they’re gonna help me on Sunday, they need to feel comfortable where they can trust me, so just trying to do all those things.”

KEVIN HARVICK, No. 4 Busch Light #TheCrew Ford Mustang -- WHAT IS THE STRATEGY TOMORROW NIGHT?  “I think you want to do as well as you can.  I think, for us, it’s to try to go out and win the race and I think that’s the best thing you can do to try to put yourself in a good position and get the best quality reps that you can getting on pit road, getting in the pit stall, doing all the things you do in a normal race environment, so it’s basically a race that we need as far as reps and doing the things that you’re gonna do on Sunday.   I think it’s worth it to go out and try to win the race.”

WHAT HAS STOOD OUT TO YOU ABOUT CHASE BRISCOE?  “I’ve had one conversation with him since he’s been in the garage on the Cup side, but I’ve had a couple years of having a lot of conversation with Chase just about little things here and there, but Chase is a true racer.  He’s got the pedigree to go out and do the things that it takes to figure this all out and got here for all the right reasons and that was because he knew how to race well and his racing IQ is very high, and in the end he’s just a great person.  You always want to see good people succeed and he’s one of those and I’m sure there will be some bumps in the road, but he’s going to excel at being on the Cup side.”

WHERE DO YOU WANT TO BE WHEN THE BIG ONE HAPPENS?  “There’s really no right or wrong answer to that.  I’ve been at the very front of the pack and wrecked.  I’ve been the next-to-last car in the building and got run into by the last-place car in the field, so you just got to be lucky.  That’s really what it boils down to.  I think the further you can position yourself towards the front, the better off you’re going to be, but you’ve got to have luck on your side to make it through.  I think there will be more than one and you’re going to have to be a little bit lucky.”

YOU HAD A DIFFICULT EVENING IN THE CLASH.  WHAT DID YOU LEARN THAT WILL HELP FOR NEXT WEEK?  “For us, we were trying to be aggressive on some stuff and about lap three some of those things did not work out for us and the track was a complete disaster in the back with all the dirt all over the racetrack.  The car in front of me went through dirt and I spun out and I got spun out again, so a few things went wrong.”

DO YOU HAVE ANY THOUGHTS ON HOW THE CAR FELT WITH THE NEW PACKAGE?  “It was hard to tell.  You’ve got a completely different rules package and it’s at night.  We had so many things going on that it would be hard for me to give you a reference on that.”

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