Ford’s Have a History on the Track of Atlanta Motor Speedway
The boys and girls of NASCAR will be out on the track of the Atlanta Motor Speedway this weekend trying gain ground on the record twelve wins of the Wood Brothers on this historic track. The 13 Fords that will be taking pat in the Emory Healthcare 500 will include race cars fielded by Richard Petty Motorsports, Front Row Motorsports, Latitude 43 Motorsports, Roush Fenway and Wood Brothers Racing. Ford has achieved 30 all-time National Sprint Cup Series wins on the track of the Atlanta Motor Speedway, which makes this track the third most successful place that Ford has raced over the years. Ford has achieved more wins at Bristol (33) and Michigan (31), but Atlanta Motor Speedway has always been a good place for Ford’s, and we expect a few Ford’s to be near challenging for the win in the Emory Healthcare 500.
The top Ford driver all-time on the Atlanta Motor Speedway is Bill Elliot, with five wins, including wins in 1985 and 1992. Carl Edwards is right behind him, with three wins on the track of the Atlanta Motor Speedway, including his first win on this track in 2005. Carl Edwards could be the best bet for a Ford driver that could win in Atlanta this weekend, but Kasey Kahne will be on the grid for the race, and he was a winner on this track in 2006 and 2009.
There is currently only three Ford drivers in a position to qualify for the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup title, which is set to get underway on the New Hampshire Motor Speedway, in about two weeks time. These drivers are Carl Edwards, Matt Kenseth and Greg Biffle, who all took part in a question and answer session on Saturday at the Atlanta Motor Speedway, to talk about their current positions in the points standings and where they expect to be after the next two races of the Sprint Cup season.
CARL EDWARDS – No. 99 Aflac Ford Fusion
YOU WON YOUR FIRST RACE HERE, SO YOU MUST FEEL GOOD COMING HERE?
“Yeah, I enjoy racing here just because of the track and the fans and the way the place drives, and how competitive it is. I also really enjoy it because of the memories I have here. Five years ago, that weekend was really huge and changed my whole career. Everytime I come through the tunnel I remember that and it gives me a really good feeling. It seems like we have good cars in both the Nationwide and the Cup Series. The practices went really well and I’m just looking forward to the race. It’s a long race and the tire, I think, is gonna make it a complex and difficult race for the driver and the crew chief. I think that strategy and the way you drive the car is gonna be huge, and that’s really fun when it’s more in your hands. I like that.”
IF YOU HAVE A BEEF WITH A DRIVER WHO WINS A RACE, CAN YOU ENVISION GOING TO VICTORY LANE TO DISCUSS IT WITH HIM?
“I think I’ve done that before (laughing). It just depends.” KYLE BUSCH DID IT LAST NIGHT IN THE TRUCK RACE? “I didn’t see it, so I don’t know. I can’t comment on that particularly, but I’ve gone to victory lane before to explain to somebody about what happened, so it just depends. It’s racing. Every situation is different, so I guess sometimes I would say that’s acceptable. But, to be clear, I’m not commenting on what happened because I don’t even know what happened.”
AS YOU GUYS HAVE IMPROVED. ARE THERE SPECIFIC AREAS YOU KNOW YOU’RE BETTER AND AREAS YOU STILL NEED TO IMPROVE?
“There are a couple of things we’ve been working on and it starts with that engine – the engine that Doug Yates and those guys have been developing. I think that helps us everywhere, so, right off the bat when we unload we’re a little faster. And then we’ve been working really hard on some other things, but it’s not just one thing it’s a combination and it starts with that engine. It’s been nice. These last six or seven weeks we’ve run very well. Being fourth in points and going up is a good feeling, so we just need to keep digging. I still don’t think we’re as good as we can be and that’s good because here in a couple of weeks if we can peak right when that chase starts, it’s gonna be good. But it’s not one thing. It’s a number of things.”
WHAT DO YOU NEED TO IMPROVE ON?
“I need to qualify better. That’s a big deal. Watkins Glen was really good. Bristol was good and I think that showed us that if we can get that good qualifying position, and work on those qualifying setups in practice a little more, then even if we have something bad happen in the race, we’re kind of ahead of the game. I’d say for us as a team, qualifying is kind of our number one effort and then still all of the stuff with the car – the setup and suspension geometry we’ve been working on – but strategy-wise, it’s qualifying.”
HOW SURPRISING IS IT YOU’VE LED ONLY SIX LAPS ALL YEAR?
“That’s an interesting statistic and, to me, that shows how much we’ve been able to do without a dominant car. We haven’t had a car yet that’s just been a world-beater during a race – that we can lead the whole thing. In a way, it shows me that we’re maybe a stronger team than we have been in the past with cars that aren’t able to go up there and dominate races. We’re able to still have these great finishes and make up all these points. If we can have one of those or two of those or three of those races where we can
go out and dominate, and we can do it in the chase, that’s gonna be really nice. And if we can combine that with what we’ve been doing, it’s gonna be really, really good for us. So it is interesting, but that shows you how hard we’ve been working.”
CAN YOU EXPLAIN ABOUT TIRES HERE?
“I’ll try to explain it the best I can. When you drive down in the corner here, there’s a certain amount of grip that you’re looking for. You expect to drive down in the corner and have the car grip a certain amount, and what’s happening here is that on the entry
and exit of the corner, the tires feel really slick. The car has to be really compressed in the center of the corner to make a bunch of
grip, so it becomes difficult to drive because it’s like ice. You’re sliding and sliding until you get the car compressed in the corner and then it turns. I don’t know what causes that. I don’t think my crew chief knows what causes that, so we’ve been struggling with it. In the race, you’ll see guys kind of go in a little too hard and miss the line or something and the car just takes off sliding. It’s just hard to drive, and I think that makes for great racing. I like that style of racing. I like that type of tire. I don’t know how they can get it to do that at other places, but it’s neat when you drive down here in the corner and you’ve got to pitch the car sideways and wait for it to grip and do all that. I think that’s a neat way to race.”
HOW MUCH DO THEY FALL OFF?
“That’s the other question. I think you’re gonna see tonight in the Nationwide race, if the caution comes out and you’ve got 20-25 laps on your tires – in the Cup race, everybody is gonna get tires – but in the Nationwide race we’ve only got four sets sitting on the ground, so it’ll be interesting to see. I think you could stay out, run a full fuel run, and a guy could almost stop, pit, and get tires in the middle of it and beat you. I don’t know if I’m describing that well enough, but what I’m saying is new tires will make up for a pit stop after a certain number of laps. I think at the end of the Cup race, the decision to take tires, two tires or four tires, I think there will be people taking tires all the way up to six or eight laps to go. The race could be really dynamic at the end.”
CAN YOU TALK ABOUT HOW TOUGH RICHMOND IS TO RUN?
“Richmond has been really hard for us. My first race there we ran sixth and had a car that I think could have won the race. That was my first time there in a Cup car. I was like, ‘We’re gonna dominate this place,’ and then went about eight more races before we had a good one again. But the last race there I think we finished fifth and the car was really good, we marched forward. Coincidentally, we qualified terrible. I don’tknow where we qualified but it was like 35th and then we ran fifth, so I’m pretty excited about that race. If we can come out of here with a decent finish, then all we’re really doing at Richmond is just going
for the win. We’ve put ourselves in a good position in points here, so we don’t have too much stress. That will be a more fun race than it could have been for me, no matter which way it goes, I guess.”