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Ford Performance NASCAR: Blaney Wins Third Straight Pole; Takes Top Spot at Richmond

Saturday, Apr 02 239

FORD QUALIFYING RESULTS

1st – Ryan Blaney

4th – Chase Briscoe

7th – Kevin Harvick

10th – Aric Almirola

11th – Joey Logano

12th – Cole Custer

17th – Harrison Burton

18th – Chris Buescher

19th – Brad Keselowski

20th – Austin Cindric

22nd – Todd Gilliland

24th – Michael McDowell

33rd – Cody Ware

34th – BJ McLeod

35th – JJ Yeley

 

POLE-WINNING PRESS CONFERENCE

 

RYAN BLANEY, No. 12 Menards/Richmond Water Heaters Ford Mustang -- THIS HASN’T BEEN YOUR BEST TRACK, BUT THINGS HAVE BEEN GETTING BETTER.  WHAT HAS CHANGED AT THIS PLACE FOR YOU?  “I will say it’s definitely not been my best place at all.  I struggled here really bad for years and I still don’t feel like I’m great here at all, or let alone very good.  We’ve worked really hard on figuring out what to do better here from myself to how we kind of unload with the car to be more competitive in the race, and that’s been year’s in progress of me just trying to figure out what the heck I need to do.  I feel like everyone has done a really good job to bring a fast car.  Qualifying on the pole here is one thing.  Racing here is a completely other thing.  It’s great we got the pole, but now it’s time to switch to race mode and, ‘OK, what do we have to do to be able to hold on in the race?’  The new car is a little bit different here driving-wise.  It’s kind of a fresh start for me having a new car here at this place and just working really hard with everybody at Penske on the 12 team to figure out, ‘OK, what do I need to do to just get more competitive here.’  Even though it’s not in the playoffs this year, you don’t want to run bad anywhere.  You need to be able to adapt to different racetracks, so just a fast car and a lot of hard work.”

 

HOW MUCH WAS SAVING THAT ONE LAP BY DESIGN AND THEN TO HAVE IT WORK OUT?  “We planned on running two.  I feel like most guys were better on their second lap and we just put down a good lap on our first lap and Josh called me off of two.  I think that helped out, for sure.  The air-pressure stuff, we didn’t really bank on having crazy high air-pressure for like we just need one lap, but it just worked out that way to where we were able to save half-a-lap on tires and I think that definitely played into it.”

 

HAVE YOU SEEN THINGS CHANGE THE LAST 5-7 YEARS WHERE THIS SPORT HAS BECOME MORE CUT THROAT TO WHERE GUYS HAVE TO DO WHATEVER IT TAKES TO WIN?  “Yeah.  I feel like it’s all situational.  Obviously, the playoff system and the way it is you have to take your opportunity when you can to try to get in – win and get in.  The deal last week, a lot of people gave Ross a hard time for that, but he got moved first and he moved AJ back and the 48 was unfortunately just kind of an innocent bystander, but I thought it was fair game last week.  Restarts get more aggressive, ramped up than I’d say they used to be.  I wish I could tell you why, but that’s just kind of the way it is and you have to adapt and do the same as everyone else because if you’re not the aggressor, you’re getting used up by somebody else who is going to be the aggressor on these restarts and throughout the race.  I think just a huge emphasis on winning, especially when you’re going for your first win.  I think that’s fair, but that’s kind of the way things are right now.  You have to be the aggressor to an extent.  You can’t really do anything malicious.  I’ve never really been that way, but you have to do what it takes to try to win the race and put yourself in the best spot possible to have a good end of the season.”

 

ARE YOU TALKING ABOUT TAKING CARE OF TIRES WHEN YOU MENTION RACING DIFFERENTLY?  “Yeah.  The tires fall off so bad here and you have to kind of be able to separate the two from qualifying.  You’re not gonna run any laps in the race like we just ran in qualifying as far as how you drive the car.  You just can’t abuse the tires like that or else you’re really gonna be struggling, so we made a really long run in practice.  We made one 45-lapper and just try to get your head back in that mindset of, ‘OK, this is what I’ve got to do to save my tires,’ and things like that.  It’s just such a different mindset from qualifying to the race here, I feel like, more than most other racetracks that we go to just because the pace slows down so much and your grip after three laps just continues to go away.  So changing that mindset up and trying to change your car up a little bit to account for that and hopefully we hit it right and hopefully I can do a good job tomorrow and learn from what we’ve learned here in the past.”

 

YOU WERE FASTEST IN 10-LAP AVERAGE?  “Yeah, I felt like we were OK there.  We’ll try to get better, just like late in a run – like 35 laps on.  There were some guys that were better than us, so just trying to work on that.”

 

WHAT ABOUT THIS NEW CAR HAS ALLOWED YOU TO QUALIFY SO WELL?  “Yeah, it’s been really neat and fun Saturdays for sure.  I think that’s three poles in a row for us – every time we’ve qualifying – Phoenix, COTA and here.  It’s been a lot of fun.  I don’t know.  I wish I could pull one thing out.  Obviously, really fast race cars.  Jonathan Hassler has done a great job of unloading pretty quick this year, right away, and then backing it up with pretty fast race cars even though some of the finishes we’ve had hasn’t really reflected on how we’ve been running this year.  I feel like we’ve had a really good year, it’s just trying to clean some stuff up and get some things better.  We’ve got really fast race cars.  I thought the race car kind of saved me a little bit today in the second round.  I thought I had a pretty ugly lap I put together and the car had enough speed to put up a good lap.  Everyone on the 12 group, Jonathan Hassler and everybody, is doing a good job and continue to do it.”

 

CONSIDERING THE SEVERITY OF LOSING A WHEEL.  HAVE YOU SPENT MORE TIME FOCUSING ON THAT ASPECT OF YOUR PIT STOPS?  “It’s a big penalty.  We’ve tried to put a big emphasis on that from day one.  When there was a handful of guys who had that problem at Daytona that kind of got sorted out as far as the way they make the wheels.  To be honest with you, we’ve kind of been too hesitant on that to an extent of having too much torque on our nuts – making sure that doesn’t happen and it slows the stop down by making sure of that.  So, it’s a balancing act between the two.  How tight do you want these things to get torqued each pit stop, which you’re losing time, but the penalty and the risk is huge.  We have a great pit department.  They do a great job on figuring out what things need to happen and what things absolutely cannot happen.  It’s about communication, too, from changer and jackman.  I mean, those guys have to be on the same page.  If the jackman drops it early and the changer doesn’t know, it’s a bad deal.  We’ve put a big emphasis on it, for sure, but sometimes it kind of catches guys out to where you don’t know maybe if it’s loose and it comes off before you can even get to pit road.  It’s not like last year where I’ve got a few lugnuts off, I’ve got to come back down and put lugnuts on it.  You’re most likely not making it back to pit road if it’s that loose, so it’s a thing our team really has focused on because it’s a big penalty – for a lot of guys.”

 

F1 ANNOUNCED A THIRD U.S. RACE BEING ADDED TO VEGAS.  WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON THAT AND IS IT BECOMING A COMPETITION FOR THIS SPORT AND OTHER FORMS OF MOTORSPORTS IN THE U.S.?  “I don’t think it’s a competition.  Have at it.  Come over here.  I love F1.  I think if you ask anybody in motorsports, you’re just fans of other forms of motorsport.  You’re fascinated by what’s different and what’s the same.  How they operate compared to us.  I got the chance to go to an F1 race in Spa a few years ago and it was really, really cool just to see their world.  There are a lot of similarities of how it operates, but a lot of different things, so I think it’s great.  It’s cool that they’re coming to two brand new tracks in the U.S. from Miami and then Vegas, so I think it’s great and it’s definitely not a competition.  It’s not gonna hurt our sport any.  I think it’s just great to have a different form of motorsport over here because for the longest time there was no F1 races in America very much and I think it’s good to have more interest from America into the F1 scene.  I think it helps motorsports all around,j so I would definitely like to go to the race if I get the chance next year, but, no, I think it’s just great for motorsports in general and I welcome them with open arms.”

Ford Performance PR

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