Monday, Jun 05

Ford Performance NASCAR: Aric Almirola, Chase Briscoe and Kevin Harvick Media Availabilities

ARIC ALMIROLA, No. 10  Rush/Mobil Delvac 1 Ford Mustang -- WE’VE SEEN THE CAR ON THE SHORTEST AND BIGGEST TRACKS ON THE SCHEDULE SO FAR, WHAT ARE YOUR INITIAL THOUGHTS ON THIS CAR IN RACE ACTION: “I honestly like you can’t really gauge anything off of the Coliseum or Daytona as it relates to here or next week at Vegas. I think these are going to be more of our bread and butter type race tracks for the season and the ones we are going to have to be good at as we go through the season and you want to compete for a championship. You have to be good at the 1.5 mile and 2-mile race tracks. The downforce package is going to be the same all year whereas in years past we have had higher downforce and higher drag at the 1.5-mile and 2-mile race tracks and the lower drag, lower downforce package at the shorter tracks. Now we are going to have the same package with this new car at all the race tracks. How we run here, Vegas and Phoenix will really give us a good indicator of what we are in store for the season. Last week was essentially a superspeedway race like it always is. Daytona is only a really good indicator of what we will have at Talladega. I think even Atlanta is going to be different than what we had at Daytona.”


CHASE BRISCOE, No. 14 Mahindra Tractors Ford Mustang -- “I would echo what Aric said. I feel like the short track deal, a lot of cars are going to drive similar on the short track and same as the superspeedway. I feel like they are all going to have that same look and feel to them. I think this weekend is definitely going to be the biggest test we have seen out of the Next Gen car, not only from a driving standpoint but durability and everything. I think this will be a hard test for the car with how hard this race track is on equipment and how slick it is and a lot of things. It will be interesting how this race plays out and then along with Vegas and then we have laps at Phoenix from testing. It will be interesting. Like Aric was saying, it will be nice to have the same package everywhere we go. I feel like we can finally learn some things.”


THIS FORMAT FOR PRACTICE AND QUALIFYING, HOW DO YOU APPROACH YOUR 15-MINUTES OF PRACTICE AND WHAT IS COMING UP HERE TODAY? “I think it is nice to have practice. We haven’t had that over the last year and a half. On the new car, you can’t really change anything. There are very minor adjustments. It is really just to kind of get a shakedown and have a general idea of what your car is going to do when it goes off into the corner on lap one of the race. I think qualifying was something that needed to come back. Doing the metric deal week in and week out, if you got buried in points you kind of just sucked for the whole year. It is nice to qualify but your strategy, I think with how hard it is to change anything, especially at a big track like this where you aren’t going to get a ton of laps because it is 40-second laps, you have to go run all the laps straight and hope there is not a caution to take away time. I think when you get to short tracks you might be able to come in and make one quick adjustment but outside of that it is going to be hard to change anything. It will be crucial for the teams to truly be on their game when they unload. It is hard to do that when we don't really have any experience with this car. The simulators are going to get more and more use and it will be interesting to see what teams hit it right.”


ARIC ALMIROLA CONTINUED -- “Yeah, I think here you are just not going to have enough time. By the time you roll out unless a car just drives awful on your first out lap and the travels are off or something like that, you are going to run all of practice. You just don't have time. You don't have time to roll down pit road, make a three or five-minute adjustment and go back out because practice will be over. From that aspect, yeah, every race track is going to be unique. When we go to Richmond, you don't need to run all 15-minutes because that will be 45 or 50 laps, so you can go out there and run 15 or 20 laps and come down to make a quick adjustment and then go back out and run another 15 laps. It will be different from track to track for sure but I do think that bringing back qualifying is nice. The 15 minutes of practice, I don't know how much that is really going to help us other than to give us an idea of what our car is going to drive like. Bringing qualifying back is nice and I was on both sides of it. Two years ago it seemed like we started in the top six or seven spots every week because we were up high enough in points and finishing good and running good and had fast laps during the race. It seemed like every week we started up front and it sure made it easier. You ran in the top-10 almost guaranteed the first stage of every race when you start up front and you scored stage points and you have a better selection on pit road which helps you. This past year I was on the opposite end of it where we finished last at Daytona and started the season off on speed and got buried in points and it seemed like we never started inside the top-20 except when we would qualify. We went to Nashville and qualified on the pole and it set the tone for our whole weekend and we had a good car and ran up front, all those things. Qualifying coming back is really nice just to be able to eliminate last weekend. Like, however you ran last weekend good or bad, that weekend is gone. The last couple of years that always seemed to kind of haunt you and carry over.”


IS THERE ANY EXTRA SENTIMENTALITY KNOWING THAT SOME OF THESE TRACKS IT IS THE LAST TIME YOU WILL BE HERE AS A FULL-TIME DRIVER? “Not really. Daytona was that way a little bit for me just because it is kind of home and it is the Daytona 500 but all these other race tracks as much as I enjoy coming and racing at all of them, I have done it long enough. I think this is maybe my 13th or 14th time here in a Cup car, even though it is a different kind of car. I have run a handful of Xfinity races here as well. It is business as usual. Fly out to Fontana, come here and go run a race. For me, it really is no different. I am focused on trying to maximize my weekend here and do everything we need to do in practice and qualifying today to set us up for tomorrow and try to win.”


CHASE BRISCOE CONTINUED -- ANYTHING DIFFERENT FOR YOU BEING THIS IS YOUR FIRST RACE HERE AS A CUP DRIVER? “It will be different in terms of the guys I am racing against and the competition level. The good thing for me is that I don't feel like I am at a disadvantage like I would typically be. Everybody hasn’t been here for over a year and their first laps in this car on this race track are going to be in practice. Last year in the old car, I felt like I would have been at a disadvantage jus showing up and racing and trying to figure it out but now I feel like I am on an equal playing field. I feel good about it. This is a slick, worn out race track and I feel like that has always done well for me in the past at race tracks like this. The Next Gen cars, who knows if you will be able to slip and slide it around like the old car but it will be fun to go out here and be on an equal playing field.”


ARIC ALMIROLA CONTINUED -- HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT SOME OF THE CHANGES AT STEWART HAAS RACING AS WE GET INTO THIS CRITICAL TIME OF THE YEAR? “I feel really good but we always do at this time of year. There is so much optimism starting the year. Nobody starts out the year going, ‘Man, we are going to be terrible this year.’ You don't think that or feel that way until you realize it and usually, it is too late and you are scrambling and trying to figure out how to turn the ship around and that takes time. I feel good about it. I feel like Mike Bugarewicz is one of the smartest individuals in this entire garage and I felt that way when he was my crew chief as well. Moving him to a more leadership position in the organization and allowing him to focus on our entire organization versus just one car is going to be hugely beneficial. Just even after Daytona we came back and had meetings at the shop and his insight and his recommendations and the things that he sees and just his work ethic is already proving beneficial for our entire organization. I think it is going to be a huge bonus for our team to have him in that role. On the flip side, I think Drew is a great team leader and a great crew chief and has a proven track record with a lot of success when he was at Roush and has been at teams that haven’t had as much resources as he has now at SHR. I think he is going to be a great addition to our organization. I feel good abou tit and good about the direction we are headed on the shop floor and the way the whole engineering group and everybody is going about trying to maximize this new car. It is a new opportunity for everybody and it is really about who figures it out and sciences out all the nuances of this new car the fastest.”


KEVIN HARVICK, No. 4 Subway Ford Mustang -- WE’VE SEEN THE CAR ON THE SHORTEST AND BIGGEST TRACKS ON THE SCHEDULE SO FAR, WHAT ARE YOUR INITIAL THOUGHTS ON THIS CAR IN RACE ACTION AND WHAT DO YOU EXPECT GOING INTO THIS WEEKEND IN TERMS OF WHAT WILL BE TESTED WITH THE CAR? “I don't really have any expectations. I feel like this is going to be trial and error as we go through several of these weekends. I don't really have any expectations because I don't have any real-life happenings that are relevant to what we are getting ready to do. I think as we drop the green flag and start the race, that is when you will really start to learn.”


HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT SOME OF THE CHANGES AT STEWART HAAS RACING AS WE GET INTO THIS CRITICAL TIME OF THE YEAR? “I think for our team it was probably our best year that we have had, last year, working through all the things that we did and wound up in the same spot we did winning nine races the year before. I think obviously Mike Bugarewicz is going to be a big key in the whole process and trying to speed that up and implement things and get the information to the crew chiefs and do the things that we need to do there. He has a great relationship with all the guys on the shop floor from his crew chief role and doing the things that he did. I feel like that is the biggest change. I think for our team it is to do exactly what we have done for the last eight years. I can’t speak for the others and what they think but I can speak on what I think of Mike and his position is ultra important because the process that we are going to go through with these cars as we go to these race tracks is going to be pretty rapid as far as the evolution of the car and understanding everything that comes with the car. Right now it is just a guess. It is a very well-educated guess but you truly have no idea until you put all the cars on the race track. Last week was a great example of that. The way you raced in the Duels was not the way you raced in the Daytona 500. They were two totally different situations. Everything at this particular point is somebody’s speculative guess, in my opinion.”


GIVEN WHAT YOU WENT THROUGH LAST SEASON, WITH THE NEXT GEN CAR GOING INTO THIS YEAR, DO YOU AND RODNEY LOOK AT IT AS A RESET? “No. That is what I just said. We are going to do the exact same thing that we have done for the last eight years. Last year is irrelevant. There is nothing to take from last year. It is all so much different. We could have a good week or a bad week and last week is irrelevant too. It is no different. In the end, you look at the box score and we finished fifth in the points both years. Top-10’s, top-fives we were about the same. We just didn’t get to victory lane but we had our chances to win a few of them and didn’t get to victory lane. It is just the way this works.”


YOUR SON KEELAN HAS GONE UP A LEVEL IN HIS RACING, I JUST WONDERED WHAT YOU THOUGHT OF HIS PROGRESSION SO FAR AND DOES HE SEEM TO ENJOY IT AS MUCH AS HE DID WHEN HE FIRST GOT STARTED? “His progression has been fine. He won his first national event in the upper class a couple of weeks ago, so that was sooner than expected. For him, as he gets older and matures and does things and sees and realizes the work that he puts in is rewarded with the results he gets out of it, I think that is starting to become a little bit different in the way that you can see him react when you tell him to do something and it isn’t the defensive, ‘I wanna go play’ look. Holding him accountable is important I think. A lot of drivers don't get held accountable throughout their career and then you get here and get eaten up by the accountability that comes with your job and making those young kids realize, even at his age, that accountability is not only for racing but life in general of your actions and reactions and the things you do have accountability that goes with them. I think the speed hasn’t been a problem. Just teaching those types of things is as important as how fast he goes and how many races he wins.”


KYLE BUSCH SAID WITH HIS SON THAT HE IS STARTING TO PICK UP THINGS THAT HE IS COACHING HIM ON AND THEN WHEN HE GETS TO THE TRACK HE (KYLE) THINKS OF THE SAME THINGS. DOE THAT HAPPEN TO YOU? “Yeah, you know, we coach a lot of the same things. I think being repetitive with the things that you tell him and really implementing those basics of how to drive are important. For Keelan, I think his is a little bit different as we have brought other people in to try to create a little bit of a barrier between dad and son and just tried to coach through the coach and tried to have some sort of separation there. For him, it is received a little bit better. I think it just depends on what period of time you are in and one week they will do great and the next week show up and forget everything you’ve ever talked about and the next day they will remember everything. They are just young kids. At this point, you just want to get them as much experience as possible.”


DO YOU REMEMBER BEING THAT WAY OF NOT WANTING ADVICE OR WERE YOU JUST SORT OF DIFFERENT? “I would say there are a lot of similarities in the reactions and his demeanor and the way he goes about reacting to some of the things that you say. He carries a lot of the same tendencies that I do as far as driving style and things like that. There are some similarities.”


HARRISON BURTON HAD HIS FLIP IN THE RACE LAST SUNDAY. I KNOW YOU CAN’T ALWAYS KEEP CARS ON THE GROUND BUT IS THERE ANY CONCERN ABOUT WHAT HAPPENED AND HAS NASCAR TOLD THE DRIVERS ANYTHING ABOUT WHAT HAPPENED? “I am of the opinion that you will never design a car that will stay on the ground on a superspeedway. I have said that in meetings and everybody looks at me like I have three eyes but if you just go back and look through time, I have seen guys flip over on their own in qualifying. YOu just create so many situations where there are cars sideways and backwards and cars on the door and I just don't know that it is a solvable problem.”


WHAT IS THERE TO TAKE AWAY FROM A RACE LIKE THIS, KNOWING THERE IS A POSSIBILITY THAT THIS TRACK COULD BE ENTIRELY DIFFERENT NEXT TIME WE COME HERE? “You guys all think about that a lot differently than we do. For us, it is one week at a time and it is just another race. If we come back next year and it is a short track then we will come back with a short track setup. This is a driver favorite as far as being able to move around the track and the surface and everything that comes with that but there is also the reality of the type of race that everybody wants to see and short tracks are obviously a focus and something that everybody enjoys. Whatever they do, we will support it.”


IS THAT SOMETHING YOU SUPPORT OR WANT TO SEE CHANGED? “It doesn't matter to me either way. I don't have real deep feelings about it as far as the shape of the race track. It is just another race track.”


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