Ford Performance NASCAR: Custer Wins First Race While Hornish Delivers Owner's Title to Team Penske Inbox x

SAM HORNISH JR. -- No. 22 REV/Fleetwood Ford Mustang -- “Great day. It didn’t look really good after the first stint. I didn’t have any brakes left. Not sure what happened. We’ve been having a little bit of a brake issue. I may have rode them too hard trying to get the car to do what  I wanted it to do. The Ford Mustang came to life after we were able to make some changes on it on the first stop. I basically didn’t use any brakes on the last 155 laps. It was great that we didn’t have a bunch of restarts. I felt that if we did we might have had to makes some adjustment to run with Cole. Congratulations on Cole (Custer) in winning his first race and William (Byron) for winning the championship. (They) brought me down here to take care of the car and make sure we got our goal accomplished and I felt that we did a good job doing that. As a racecar driver you always want a little more. You want to win the race. Just really happy. Looking forward in getting home tomorrow to see my wife and kids. I just want to thank everyone at Penske for putting me in this car. Thanks to Roger, Tim Cindric and the guys for giving me this opportunity.”

TRAVIS GEISLER -- Competition Director, Team Penske -- ON WINNING THE XFINITY SERIES OWNER’S CHAMPIONSHIP: “It’s what we race for in this series. The Owner’s Championship doesn’t get as much ink anymore but it still means a lot to us. That’s what we’re racing for. The group has done a great job getting four wins and getting Sam (Hornish Jr.) a win. To come down here and do the job that Sam did for us is awesome. I’ve worked with him a lot and been around him a lot and it’s so awesome to see him have success this year. It’s fun to do it together. We accomplished something really cool here tonight and it was a great team effort.”

GREG ERWIN -- Crew Chief, No. 22 REV/Fleetwood Ford Mustang -- “Great day. It’s just nice to close the book on what feels like a really successful season. We had a fairly dominant season from a points standpoint, we just didn’t win that many races. We bring great cars to the race track every weekend. We’ve been in the top two or three like 18 times this year. Great race. Great day. Great way to end the season.”

COLE CUSTER -- No. 00 Haas Automation Ford Mustang -- VICTORY LANE INTERVIEW -- YOU ON DOMINATED.  “Yeah, I haven’t done that in a while.  We were so close to making it last weekend and really wanted to end strong.  We knew we were gonna be really good this weekend, but our Haas Automation Mustang was unreal.  We really wanted to have a good showing at Ford Championship Weekend.  Even though we weren’t in it we wanted to win.  Hopefully, we can sweep it tomorrow.  We obviously have some good cars in the hunt tomorrow, but everybody at Haas Automation, Code 3, Roush Yates Engines -- the engines have been unbelievable all year -- XFINITY, everybody at NASCAR, it’s just been unbelievable.  Going into this year there were so many question marks with how my year went last year and we had nothing in December.  To see how far this has come is really unbelievable.  I have to especially thank Gene Haas.  I would never be here without him and I can’t thank him enough.”

HOW DOES THIS FEEL?  “It’s unbelievable.  I haven’t been able to do this in a while.  It’s been a pretty long time, but I can’t stress enough how good this car was.  It’s unbelievable.  I have to thank everybody at Haas Automation.  Everybody at Stewart-Haas has been unbelievable with how far we’ve come this season.  I can’t believe it.  Code 3, they did a couple races with us this year.  The car was just unbelievable.  I was just pedaling it going half-speed the last few laps.”

HAVE YOU EVER HAD A CAR THIS GOOD?  “I don’t know.  I’ve had some good cars before, but that was pretty impressive.  I can’t say enough about this group, too.  They’ve worked so hard all year getting it up and going and it’s just unbelievable.  There’s no better team I’ve worked with before and I can’t thank them enough.”

DAVE PERICAK, Global Director, Ford Performance -- “Winning two in a row is the right way to start Ford Championship Weekend, for sure, with the big one tomorrow, but I think what’s more important is that two of our guys that have never won before were in Victory Lane, which I think is fantastic, with Chase Briscoe and Cole Custer.  It’s just another testament to our program and how strong it is and how we’re getting multiple drivers from multiple teams that are making it to Victory Lane.”



TODAY WAS A VERY IMPRESSIVE ENDING TO THE A OWNERS CHAMPIONSHIP SEASON FOR YOU AND YOUR ORGANIZATION: “Thank you. I guess when you look at the guys that drove the car and certainly Sam today with all the pressure on him. The 9, the 18 and 20, there were four of us that could win this championship and obviously the way they ran the race, the strategy was perfect and Cole Custer had a great car so congratulations to him. More importantly is when you think about Austin (Cindric), Ryan Blaney, Brad (Keselowski) and Joey (Logano) all driving this car during the season. We have to take our hat off to Greg Erwin and the guys on the 22 team because they did a teriffic job. We are happy with it. Obviously I hope I am sitting here tomorrow but at the end of the day this is Saturday and we had a great run.”

SAM HORNISH JR., DRIVER, NO. 22 REV/FLEETWOOD FORD MUSTANG -- WHAT WAS GOING THROUGH YOUR HEAD AS THE LAPS WERE CLICKING DOWN? “I kept thinking that if the 00 wasn’t here we would be looking really good and be putting a stomping on the field. We were somewhere between him and everyone else. I was really happy with our Ford Mustang. We had a struggle getting through practices yesterday. We were having some issues with our brakes and made a lot of changes overnight to remedy that and got them to where they worked properly but I overused them in the first segment of the race, first stage of the race, trying to get the car to turn. I pretty much ran with a lack of brakes for the last 150 laps. I wish it would have happened 10 years ago because I probably would have had a win here by now if I would have learned 10 years ago what I learned tonight.”

SAM, DOES THIS GIVE YOU CONFIDENCE TO MAYBE GET ANOTHER FULL TIME DEAL AT SOME POINT? “I have figured out that if we keep all the air in the tires and make it past the second lap of the second stage we do pretty good. We had a rough go in a couple races where we didn’t have great position at the beginning of the second stage and somebody got impatient around us and kept us from achieving a goal we needed to. As far as how I feel about my abilities, I know that when I get in a good car like I was in tonight, that we will go run in the top-three pretty much wherever we run at. I was thinking a lot about coming down here. This is the first time I have been to a track where running on the bottom is the optimal place. At least since I was here last time in 2015. I didn’t know what was going to happen, if I was going to be able to keep it off the wall tonight but the good Lord is good. He gave me a car I could run the bottom all night long so I didn’t have to run up near the wall. I was real happy with it. I enjoy spending time with my wife and kids when I can do that and when I get the opportunity to get in a top-shelf race car I gotta jump at it. I am thankful to Roger and everyone at Penske for just giving me the opportunity because there are times when I sit there and watch it on TV and I just wish I could be out there. Then I remember getting in the car and I am like, ‘It has to be the right car.’ I am not a very happy person if I am running 25th.”

ROGER PENSKE CONTINUED -- HOW DO YOU EVALUATE THE WAY STAGE RACING HAS PLAYED OUT THIS SEASON AND IF THERE IS ANYTHING THAT SHOULD BE TWEAKED OR ADJUSTED? “I think it has made the racing much better. There are some things we know are going to happen in the stage and we know there will be yellows and pit stops and pit lane will be more important. I would say NASCAR hit a homerun. I think after this first season the fans will understand it better. That is one of the things we have to do. Communicate it to the general public and say here is what is going on. For the teams it has put a lot more pressure on. I think you have seen a lot of these restarts at the end, after the stages it has been a lot of elbows. I applaud them for continuing to try to make the sport better.”

IS THIS SEASON A SUCCESS OR DO YOU NEED TO WIN TOMORROW? “Well, tomorrow is tomorrow. I think it is a series that we love, we have had some great success and some hard times. I think karma must have been with us at Phoenix when you think about where Brad was at Martinsville. I think the team stayed together when maybe the 22 didn’t come in. That pulled us together. We are in the race tomorrow and we are here to win it. I think that to see two Fords in there is really key because we have a great partnership with them. Listen, tomorrow is another day. I will never be satisfied unless we can be up front. I think that is what all of us think on Team Penske. We have had a great season. In IndyCar, we are running well in Australia and this is tough stuff here. Whether it is Xfinity or the Cup series on Sundays, there are so many cars that can win but to me our group of people at Team Penske have just done a terrific job. Our sponsors, we have a lot of capable sponsors that have worked with us. We are looking forward with Blaney’s success this year that has made a huge difference and the Wood Brothers will have a full season again next year and we look forward to having Ryan in the 12 car next year.”

IS DANICA (PATRICK) DRIVING FOR YOU AT INDY OR CHIP? “I don’t know. I wasn’t ready to make an announcement and I am not sure he is. I sent him a note saying congratulations on Danica driving his car at Indy. I think that is a great seat for her. If she is gonna drive, they are a great team and always competitive there. I take my hat off that she wants to go back to open wheel. That will be terrific for the sport and interest around the country.”

“I don’t think you can say she is closing here career. She has built a reputation commercially and has been someone we all look up to taking on the group she has here at the Cup level. I think she will come back to IndyCar a lot tougher having run in NASCAR and Xfinity and what we are doing here. I think she will be really someone, in a good car, she will pick it up. She has plenty of time to practice. It is a little different than some races but I take my hat off to her. If she can run the Daytona 500 where she has been on the pole and been competitive, it is a great way to go back to the two biggest races and see if she can’t get on top.”

SAM HORNISH JR. CONTINUED -- “I think it is a great opportunity for anybody. If it is a close to a career to run the Daytona 500 and Indy 500, you think of how many people as kids or adults that dream to be able to run in one of those two races - to be able to do both in one year is a great thing. You think about the time span and the difference in the cars from when she was in them last, there will be a difference in the way the races are run. I think that if you look at the way things are over there, patience is a big key to what the 500 is and positioning yourself at the end and that is so much of what NASCAR is. I agree with Roger on the fact that she is probably going to have a better shot at Indy because of what she has done here the last five years.”

WHEN YOU WIN AN OWNERS CHAMPIONSHIP LIKE THIS, YOU HAVE WON OTHER CHAMPIONSHIPS, IS THIS DIFFERENT BECAUSE YOU HAD TO DO IT WHEN OTHER DRIVERS WERE A PART OF IT? WHAT IS THE FEELING LIKE WHEN YOU BRING IT HOME FOR ROGER LIKE THAT? “It is a heck of a lot better feeling than it was four years ago sitting here finishing second in the drivers championship and the way everything played out. I feel great to be a part of it. I really wanted to win at Mid Ohio for 20-plus years and to be able to do that this year, I kind of watched as the 22 went through it and of course my loyalty to Team Penske.  I want those guys to go win every race but there was a little part of me that knows if they win every race and make it through the stages and I get in the car at Homestead, the whole year is on you so good luck. There is a little bit of pressure there. I have always felt like I have been able to deal with that well and turn it off when I got inside the race car. After the first stage was one of the most comfortable nights. It felt like with a couple changes and pit stops and a short run I would have something for the 00. I knew the other guys wouldn’t catch us from behind. It is a great feeling. It isn’t like my name being on the roll of Xfinity champion but it is a lot closer than I was three or four hours ago.”

ROGER PENSKE CONTINUED -- THERE ARE BENEFITS TO HAVING ANOTHER TEAM OUT THERE TO SUB DRIVERS IN AND LEARN, WHAT ARE THE BENEFITS OF WINNING AN OWNERS TITLE? “I think the sponsors, Discount Tire, Fitzgerald, the Rev Group, knowing we won the owners championship is key. It isn’t something everyone does. I know that Blaney this year, everytime he could get in that car he wanted to because he felt he learned. Running that extra car, running two a couple races, has been very beneficial to the team. I would also say the first race Sam won for us was here back in 2006. It is a cool statistic people don’t know. It has been good to him. I told him today that we needed to do what we did in 2006 when we won the Indy 500 that year. He has done a great job for us. He is a guy we can always call. We had to give him some work this weekend.”

SAM HORNISH JR. CONTINUED -- “Another good point and I know a lot of people don’t want to hear it. When you look at the 2 car and the sponsors that when you go across it with Alliance Truck Parts and Wurth and the cultivation. Not every sponsor is ready to go and put 15 million when you get going. To be able to cultivate them and see what Team Penske is all about in a less stressful format where they don’t feel they are putting everything on the line for their company. It allows them to build things. If you look at the sponsor relations, the greatest thing about Team Penske is that most of the sponsors there are like 15, 20, 20-plus years of being involved with the organization or they thought there was a better deal out there and came back after a couple years. It is a good feeling that Roger takes care of his people and the sponsors are first and foremost too.”


2002 -- Jack Roush (No. 60)

2011 -- Jack Roush (No. 6)

2013 -- Roger Penske (No. 22)

2014 -- Roger Penske (No. 22)

2015 -- Roger Penske (No. 22)

2017 -- Roger Penske (No. 22)


2011 -- Driver’s Championship (Ricky Stenhouse Jr.)

2011 -- Owner’s Championship (Jack Roush, No. 6)

2012 -- Driver’s Championship (Ricky Stenhouse Jr.)

2013 -- Owner’s Championship (Roger Penske, No. 22)

2014 -- Owner’s Championship (Roger Penske, No. 22)

2015 -- Driver’s Championship (Chris Buescher)

2015 -- Owner’s Championship (Roger Penske, No. 22)

2017 -- Owner’s Championship (Roger Penske, No. 22)

Ron Fleshman with John Davison

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 10:33 PM, 11.18.2017