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Ford Performance NASCAR: Newman, Nemechek, Logano, Keselowski, McDowell

RYAN NEWMAN, No. 6 Oscar Mayer Ford Mustang — “Really proud of everybody’s effort today to unload the Oscar Mayer Ford as good as we did.  We started pretty strong and for the first 180 laps or so we were really good, then we got the car too free and we needed it to turn better, but we never got the front to work and made the back loose. Overall, great to be back in the race car, proud of how everybody worked, not just our team, but everyone in NASCAR to break the ice on getting the world back in motion.”

JOHN HUNTER NEMECHEK, No. 38 Scag Power Equipment Ford Mustang — “A solid day, very excited, an awesome day coming home P9.  An amazing job by my team and the pit crew.  Everybody executed all day with no mistakes.  We made the right adjustments.  Seth and the engineers did a great job.  The pit crew was flawless and I couldn’t have asked for a better day.  It was great to get kicked off on the right foot for these races coming up.  Hopefully, we can continue to build on this and create some momentum and continue to get our cars faster each and every week.  It’s great to be back and I’m so excited to be able to race again next week.  Thank you to all the fans that are out there supporting.  We miss you at the race track.  It’s definitely different without you guys there and I can’t wait until the day that you guys are back, but I have to give the glory to God and thank him for this plan and the life that I live.  It’s amazing and I’m looking forward to the future.  Thank you Scag Power Equipment, Ford, everyone for helping out this weekend.  Every sponsor that we have, thank you for getting us to the race track.  None of this would be possible without you guys.”

BRAD KESELOWSKI, No. 2 Discount Tire Ford Mustang —  WHAT DID IT FEEL LIKE COMING BACK TO THE TRACK UNDER THESE INTERESTING CIRCUMSTANCES? “First off, welcome everybody to the media availability and your willingness to adjust and adapt. We had an up and down day and it finished on a down note after we lost the handling at the end. It was nice to be leading for quite awhile. It felt like with 100 to go we were going to win. I came off of pit road second and I don’t know if I just lost the clean air or what it was but it just went completely away and we just fell back. We ended up finishing 13th which was a major bummer but it is what it is. It is nice to be back and get the opportunity to race and try to put that all in perspective.

WILL IT BE STRANGE TO JUMP BACK INTO A CAR ON WEDNESDAY INSTEAD OF HAVING A WEEK TO DEBRIEF AND THING ABOUT WHAT IS NEXT? “I think we would all like to think we can do better the second time around. Although the conditions will be much different with a night race and shorter race, everybody has some of the jitters worn off. I am sure it will be different.”

CAN YOU TALK ABOUT THE VIBE OUT THERE TODAY AND WHAT STRUCK YOU THE MOST? “I think probably what struck me the most was that we think we know what it takes to put a race on and when you get pushed into a corner like we have, we really figure out what it takes to put a race on and how minimalist you can get. To some point, it is not sustainable to race without fans but outside of that equation there are a lot of other things that I think we will come to find efficiencies in situations like this that can become key learning to make the sport better and eliminate potential waste. That is always a good thing. You try to find the opportunity and the events that maybe aren’t your favorite thing to deal with but there are definitely some opportunities for key learnings about ourselves and others.”

WHAT WAS IT LIKE DURING PRE-RACE NOT HAVING FANS AROUND FOR AUTOGRAPHS OR PHOTOS AND HANGING OUT BY THE CAR FOR THOSE FEW MINUTES? “It was definitely a different vibe. There was tension because of everything going on and trying to make sure you do everything right. It is a huge feeling of hoping you didn’t miss something. We haven’t really been in contact with our team other than conference calls or video calls or whatever and that is so much different than a normal week for us where you might spend some time with the team and sit with them before at practice and debrief and do all those things. To not have the opportunity to do any of that, it really plays with your head. The whole time before the race starts you are just thinking, ‘Oh God, what have I forgot?’ It was such a relief to get the race started, at least for me, because all those feelings kind of go away and you just go out and do it. At least that was the vibe on my team. I shouldn’t speak for everyone else.”

YOU HAD A GOOD FIRST TWO STAGES. FORD WON THE RACE BUT NO OTHER PENSKE CARS WERE IN THE TOP-10 AND ONLY ONE OTHER FORD IN THE TOP-10. IS IT A CASE OF THE TRACK CHANGING AND TEAMS NOT KEEPING UP? “Kevin was really good the whole race. I had a good draw there to start at the front and my team was on fire on pit road. Every run we would lose one or two spots and they would recover it. That was great. Eventually toward the end we just didn’t have enough speed and lost the handle more than we had been and that was a real bummer. The race played out very similar to what I thought it would have. I thought the 88 would be the best car here and I think he was. I think Kevin (Harvick) probably drove the best race. Some other things happened in between but I wish we could have been just a little bit faster there at the end to keep them honest there.”

HOW BIG WAS IT FOR THE SPORT TO RACE THIS WEEKEND? “Racing this weekend was not easy to pull off. It is easy to say that but the reality is that a lot of things have to come together. I am probably one of the first guys to criticize NASCAR on a lot of things and usually rightfully so but in this case they deserve a pretty big pat on the back. They worked their butt off and brought a lot of different entities together and made it happen. Sometimes I think about the history of the sport and I look back at some of the other sanctioning bodies that have existed over the last 100 years and you wonder why they didn’t make it and why NASCAR did. I talk to some of the owners in the sport and they talk about similar moments like this where the sport was in peril and some sanctioning bodies made good decisions and some didn’t. The ones that made good decisions lived. NASCAR made some really hard, tough decisions that brought together a lot of different stakeholders and found a way to make this happen and make this race weekend happen in spite of a lot of obstacles. Because of that, I think NASCAR is going to come out okay. The sport will come out okay. This was a really big moment for the sport to be able to pull this off. I think that NASCAR and the management team and people in place deserve a lot of credit for that. It kind of blew me away honestly that they pulled it off, up until probably two or three hours before the race I was ready for something to go wrong. Like, alright, what is it going to be. Is someone going to be sick? Is there going to be somebody boycotting outside the race track? Nobody did. Nothing bad happened. They pulled this thing off and it feels a little like a Christmas miracle. The people that worked so hard to do it from the France family to Steve Phelps and O’Donnell and a lot more people I can list like Helton and so forth, they made this weekend happen when it would have been really, really easy to just say, ‘We will wait for the NHL, NFL or NBA to be the guinea pigs.’ They didn’t take that attitude and I have a lot of respect for them making that decision.

JOEY LOGANO, No. 22 Shell/Pennzoil Ford Mustang — TELL US ABOUT YOUR RACE AND THE THOUGHTS OF BEING BACK AT THE TRACK: “First I think NASCAR and everybody did a great job to give us the opportunity to go back racing. I think that is the storyline here more than anything. The teamwork that the whole sport put together to successfully put on what I think was a great race. It was hard for me to see from where I was. It was a race nonetheless. Our race was up and down. We started off and the cars balance was way off. We made some adjustments in a few pit stops to get to the other side of it. We got to where we were okay and got up to third or fourth place at one point. Then we struggled with a loose wheel and we were able to maintain on the lead lap. Then we were able to recover some spots and then at the end there we just lost the handle on it, same as Brad, and couldn’t move forward. I thought that after our loose wheel that we could probably still scrape out a top-10 or maybe a little better but the car just didn’t do what I was asking it to do anymore. It seemed like a common trend between the two of us so we will have to figure that out.”

WILL IT BE STRANGE TO JUMP BACK INTO A CAR ON WEDNESDAY INSTEAD OF HAVING A WEEK TO DEBRIEF AND THING ABOUT WHAT IS NEXT? “I think it is a great opportunity. There have been many times when you leave the race track and you wish you could rerun the race. We have a chance to do that now. Yeah, we only have a couple days to turn this thing around and come back down here but we have never really had the opportunity to come right back, besides the All-Star race to the 600. That might be the only time with something similar to this. We get a rematch on Wednesday. We have our work cut out for us to figure some things out.”

CAN YOU TALK ABOUT THE VIBE OUT THERE TODAY AND WHAT STRUCK YOU THE MOST? “I agree with what Brad said. Obviously the vibe itself was a little different. Maybe once the race started you kind of zone in and don’t really notice much. I am sure for Kevin (Harvick) that felt weird after he won the race and there was an empty grandstands. I don’t know what the ratings were but that might have been the biggest crowd he has ever won in front of. That is probably a weird feeling not knowing that at the time for him. Pre-race was kind of interesting. You walk out there and it was kind of funny because about 10 minutes before we are supposed to be there all of a sudden you see drivers popping out of their motorhomes carrying their helmets and walking to the grid. That was funny. I have never seen anything like it. But once you strap in and take a couple of laps, everything is kind of back to normal and you remember all of it.”

YOU SAID YOU NEED TO LEARN HOW TO DO SOME THINGS BETTER FROM THE LAST RUN, BUT YOU WILL START TOWARD THE FRONT ON WEDNESDAY. HOW DOES THAT PLAY INTO THINGS? “It sounds nice. The only problem is that I will start on the bottom and that was a tough place to be today. Still, being towards the front will be better than where we started this one. I feel like track position is so important. Restarts in particular. You get the right lane, you move up three or four spots. Then you can maybe pass one or two more throughout the run. It is hard. Pit stops, getting in the right lane for the restart and maintaining this track position, unless you are the 4 who seemed to be able to drive through everyone today. It seemed there were a bunch of cars outside of maybe three cars good. I think fourth or 10th-12th were all pretty close to the same so track position meant a lot. That is funny because we all had no practice and there were only three cars that were really good. Starting closer to the front will be great. Night race will be different. Stages and strategy, that stuff will change depending. We never really saw a long run today.”

“I was the first driver to the race track today and I go to put my shoes on today and had two left shoes. All I had was two lefts. Thankfully there was an extra pair in the hauler, but I thought that was funny.”

YOU HAD A LOOSE WHEEL AT ONE POINT AND IT SEEMED THERE WERE A LOT OF THOSE TODAY. IS THAT RACE TRACK RELATED OR RUSTINESS OF THE PIT CREWS? “I can’t answer that honestly yet because I don’t know what happened. From what I hear it was a good pattern that he hit. I don’t know why. I will have to go back and look at the footage and all that. Why there were other loose wheels, I don’t know.  You can look at it three or four different ways and say, ‘Oh, maybe it is the first race back or maybe it is equipment.’ There are a lot of variables. Just like a race car driver. When they have a bad day, is it the driver? Same with a pit stop. Is it the gun, the changer, the carriers, there are a lot of variables. We will get to the bottom of it but at this point I don’t know what it was and I can’t speak for anybody else either.”

HOW BIG WAS IT FOR THE SPORT TO RACE THIS WEEKEND?“Just like the economy, we needed to get things opened back up in the safest way possible. That is important for all of us. For NASCAR’s economy, as you guys I am sure know because it has impacted you guys as well, we need to be on the race track for everything to work and make sense. There are a lot of expenses these race teams have to absorb. Without racing on the race track, whether it is winnings or having sponsors on the car actually on the race track, that is key. I think that is one thing that was shared between every single driver, owner, media member. I think we all shared the same thought there. That we wanted to get back but it was very important that we did it in the safest way possible. I feel like we did that. Honestly, for me personally, I didn’t feel concerned about a thing. I barely saw anybody all day. We put on a successful race.”

MICHAEL MCDOWELL, No. 34 Car Ford Mustang — “It was fun to get back racing again the Car Ford Mustang.  It was not the day we hoped for.  We started out decent and then had a little bit of a loose wheel and had to overcome that, but a really great effort for John Hunter Nemechek and everybody on the 38 crew, so great finish for Front Row.  Now we have some good notes to look at for next week and we’ll get back after it.  Overall, a great day for our team.  We learned a lot and hopefully we can get both cars in the top 10 next week.”

— Ford Performance —