Ford Performance NASCAR: Blaney Wins the Pole at Phoenix

RICKY STENHOUSE JR. – No. 17 Robert Yates Tribute Ford Fusion – HOW WAS IT WITH THE SUN?  “It was typical.  It was difficult.  Right there I locked up the left-front pretty hard the first time out and it flat-spotted it, so we went back in the pits and kind of went back out there just to try and get a little bit better lap to get a better pit stall, knowing that we’re gonna have to change our tires anyway and have to start at the back.  It was a bummer.  I wanted our Yates Tribute car to start closer to the front, but we’re gonna have to pass a lot of cars during the race.  This was a good race for us in the spring and I feel like from practice today I had an OK car.  We’ll see how it goes tomorrow and hope to pass a lot of cars come Sunday.”

DAVID RAGAN – No. 38 Ford Fusion – COULD YOU HAVE GOTTEN TO THE NEXT ROUND WITH ONE MORE RUN?  “Absolutely.  We can always go faster.  I think we could have.  We kind of played our cars early in that first round.  We waited until six or seven minutes to go, waiting for that sun to pop down underneath the grandstands and try to get a little extra shade.  At the time we went we were 20th, but I knew some guys were gonna go back out and pick up.  The tires don’t fall off a tremendous amount here, so, overall, that’s a great qualifying effort.  We probably could have been three or four spots better, but we got two laps on our tires.  We’ve got a new partner this weekend with  So our race car looks good and it was pretty good off the truck, so we’ll have plenty of time to fine-tune it tomorrow and we’ll be fine.”

BRAD KESELOWSKI – No. 2 Miller Lite Ford Fusion – CAN YOU GET DONE WHAT YOU NEED TO GET DONE FROM 16TH ON SUNDAY?  “We’ll find out.  It’s a short race and if there’s a track to qualify well this is one of them.  It’s not where we want to start, but when the track gets hot and slick we seem to run better here than when it cools off at night.  I don’t know, maybe that’s my style.  I’m not sure, but we’ll go race and see what we’ve got.”  WAS THERE FRUSTRATION WITH QUALIFYING TRIM TODAY?  “Yeah.  I had one pole here in 2014 and it seems like the fall race here I can never seem to get qualifying hooked up here.  Maybe I’m doing something wrong.  My teammate Blaney is real fast, so I know we’re all real similar and we’ll have a little confidence in that.”  WHAT HAPPENED TODAY?  “I’m not real sure.  We hope we’ll find it for Sundaywhen it counts.  Qualifying here hasn’t been my greatest here as of late, so we’ll just kind of do what we can for Sunday.”  HOW DOES QUALIFYING HERE CHANGE WITH THE SUN GOING DOWN?  “It’s certainly a challenge, but it’s equal for everybody so you can’t really complain about it, but the track certainly gains a lot of grip when that sun goes down.”


KEVIN HARVICK – No. 4 Busch Light Ford Fusion – WHAT IS YOUR MINDSET THIS WEEK KNOWING YOU’RE IN AT HOMESTEAD?  IS THERE ANY PRESSURE?  “There’s a different kind of pressure.  Obviously, you want to succeed and there is a lot of effort that goes into the car from the guys at the shop.  Winning would still have more momentum going into Homestead than not, so, yeah, I think it’s not that ultimate you have to do this to have a chance to race to Homestead pressure, it’s more putting pressure on yourself to try to win a race and have good notes for the spring.”  ARE YOU HAPPY WITH WHERE YOU’RE AT FOR SUNDAY? QUALIFYING WAS CONSISTENT.  “Yeah.  We didn’t run very well here the first time.  We haven’t consistently qualified well here, so to qualify well for us is a very good thing because I feel like our car ran well in race trim.  We made one qualifying run, probably just did a couple things wrong myself on the car with the track bar and the way that I drove it the last round with the fall off in the tires and the way the car handled right there, but we still gave ourselves a chance.  Our car is fast enough.  It really was just gonna come down to me making all the right moves with the line and decisions and things like that.  It’s been a great day and hopefully we can continue that on Sunday.”

JOEY LOGANO – No. 22 Shell/Pennzoil Ford Fusion – “That wasn’t as good as we wanted to be, but it’s a start in the right directions – ninth.  We’ll play from there.  I maybe just kind of blew the second lap a little bit in turn one, so I wish I had that one back, but we’ll move on.”

RYAN BLANEY – No. 21 SKF Ford Fusion – POLE-WINNING PRESS CONFERENCE – “We got better each round, which is all you can ask for really.  I thought the last round was our best.  We ran our fastest time and it was enough.  That says something strong about this team.  I think we started second here in the spring and to back that up and better it at a big weekend like this, where we have to perform well, that’s definitely encouraging and it gets our weekend started off on a good foot.  Hopefully, we can keep this momentum up and keep it going and see what we have for them on Sunday.”

DOES THIS CHANGE YOUR APPROACH FOR SUNDAY WITH DENNY RIGHT BEHIND YOU AND BRAD 16TH?  “Not really.  Those guys are gonna be good in the race.  The 2 car struggled in qualifying, but he’ll find his way up there.  Our mindset coming into this weekend was really trying to win the race and sitting on the pole my mindset doesn’t change.  I still want to go try to win the race, so that’s the mindset we’ve had all week and hopefully we can keep that and I think that’s our goal.”

WHAT DOES IT TAKE TO LEAD THE RACE AND RUN A GOOD RACE UP FRONT?  “Honestly, I don’t really know.  I’ve never really had the best races here.  We’ve had moments of greatness here and then most of the moments we haven’t been fantastic here.  I think just trying to connect your car.  It’s completely different – one is q-trim and two it was really cool outside when we qualified here tonight and it will be really hot on Sunday.  Just trying to make your car be able to last long.  We usually see long green flag runs here and try to keep everything cool – brakes and tires and things like that.  That’s kind of the opposite of what you want to do in qualifying.  You’re trying to get everything in one lap, so we’ll see where our car is at.  I thought we were OK today in race trim.  I didn’t think we were great, but we’ll have all of tomorrow to try to get that a little bit better.  But just trying to keep the car under you on long runs, that’s what we always see here and I felt like that’s kind of been a struggle for us and hopefully we can change that come Sunday.”

DO YOU THINK IT’S REALISTIC YOU COULD GET IN ON POINTS?  “Yeah, you never know what can happen.  If you go and you get a good couple stages in you and the 11 or the 2 don’t have very good stages, you might be right there.  You never know how it’s gonna be.  You just kind of assume those two cars are in the positions they are for a reason – because they run up front every single week.  You just kind of realize the situation that you’re in and where they’re running, but it is possible to point our way in, but I’m not really banking on that.  That’s gonna be really tough to do, along with winning the race.  They’re both gonna be tough, but the points thing is not out of the question.”

IS HAVING PIT SELECTION MORE OR LESS IMPORTANT HERE THAN OTHER TRACKS?  “I think it’s really important no matter where you go.  Here, it’s kind of nice to have this number one pit stall because you’ve got the curved ending to the pit road.  That’s kind of nice to have so you don’t have to watch cars coming out of their stall if you’re pitted way back here, and maybe here you can kind of see which cars do two tires and no tires if they’re really far down pit road.  Our spotter can relay that to my crew chief before we even get to our stall and they can make an audible call or whatever.  It’s important anywhere.  I don’t really think this place is more important than anywhere else to have the first pit stall.”

RYAN BLANEY CONTINUED -- UNTIL THE LAST THREE WEEKS YOU HADN’T PUT TOGETHER BACK-TO-BACK TOP 10 FINISHES AND NOW YOU’VE DONE THREE IN A ROW.  WHAT HAVE YOU DONE TO MAKE THAT HAPPEN?  “It’s something I’ve noticed this year.  We’ve had great weekends and then we can never seem to really back it up.  That’s something that’s frustrating.  I think we’ve had mostly good cars all year and I feel like what’s changed in the past few weeks is multiple things.  I think we’re getting better as a team.  I think our cars are getting to where they need to be and we’re just cleaning up races, whether it’s on pit road or on the race track.  We’re getting those better and we’re able to finish a lot better.  We’ve been able to finish off races very well, and another thing is everybody on the team’s confidence is up right now.  We’re in the Round of 8 and we’re only 20 points out and that’s motivating to everybody and it pumps everybody up.  It makes me really excited and it shows that we deserve to be here, for sure.  I think it’s just everybody working well together and things finally coming together for us, which is the right time for things to come together, to be honest with you.  It’s just been nice to kind of see these weekends get a little bit more steady and be able to put together these 400 or 500-mile races.  That’s pretty nice and it makes me really proud to see the growth as a team and hopefully we can keep building on that.”

DID THE EXPERIENCE AT KANSAS HELP YOU THIS WEEKEND AS FAR AS HANDLING PRESSURE?  “Yeah, I don’t really feel a lot of pressure in any situation.  I thought the situation at Kansas was a big challenge for us and I thought the way that we handled it in overcoming it was a big statement for our team and a big realization for us that we can come from the back, we can race with the best teams and cars and we deserve that right.  I thought that was a big confidence booster for everybody, not only me.  I don’t really think it’s any handling pressure.  We’re really not under any pressure right now.  We’re out.  If we were in right now, if we were like in a spot where we could get bumped out, that would be pressure and we really don’t have much to lose just because we’re not in a position to where we’re already locked in.  I just think we’re up for the challenge.  I think this time rises to those occasions and that’s what I like.  I think that’s when real teams show what they’re made of.”

WAS THERE ANY JUMP FROM RACING IN CUP TO BEING A PLAYOFF DRIVER RACING IN CUP?  “Yeah.  You hear everybody talk about the jump from series to series, especially XFINITY or Trucks to Cup racing.  It is harder than you can imagine trying to go up there and not only be competitive for one week, but weeks on end and then when the Playoffs start, being a part of it, that intensity level just rises and there’s no messing around at all in any of these 10 races.  Honestly, it’s been awesome to be a part of.  That’s what I like.  You should race hard for 400 or 500 miles.  That’s kind of always what I’ve believed in.  Like I said, I like challenges and it’s been a huge challenge in the Playoffs, but it has been a jump.  I wouldn’t say as big of a jump going from XFINITY to full-time Cup, but from regular season Cup racing to Playoff racing it is a jump in the levels of intensity in the competitors and how they race.  You’ve seen a difference in how everyone has been racing in the Playoffs.  It’s just good, hard racing because there’s so much on the line, but that’s a good question and you do feel a little bit of a jump for sure.”

SO HAS THIS EXPERIENCE BEEN ANYTHING YOU DIDN’T EXPECT IN THE PLAYOFFS?  “Not really.  I came in expecting it to be really intense just from watching the Playoffs in previous years, whether it was last year when I wasn’t in them or before that even when I wasn’t racing in Cup – watching that intensity level pick up was really cool and I wanted to be a part of it.  It’s just really neat to be a part of it and it is kind of everything I expected.  There are some moments that get a little crazy and you’re kind of dumbfounded that things happen like the Martinsville stuff was like, ‘Wow, people are racing hard,’ and there are some things that surprise you, but it is really everything that I expected.”

Ford Qualifying Results:

1st – Ryan Blaney

6th – Kevin Harvick

9th – Joey Logano

15th – Kurt Busch

16th – Brad Keselowski

20th – Clint Bowyer

22nd – Aric Almirola

24th – Danica Patrick

25th – Trevor Bayne

26th – David Ragan

27th – Ricky Stenhouse Jr.

30th – Matt DiBenedetto

32nd – Landon Cassill

Ron Fleshman

RIS NASCAR Editor.  Has been with RIS since the middle 90's. Writes on each of the three main series of NASCAR.

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Volume 2017, Issue 11, Posted 9:41 PM, 11.10.2017