Brad Keselowski Tops Ford Drivers in Phoenix Cup Qualifying

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Ford Qualifying Results:

11th – Brad Keselowski
12th – Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
15th – Carl Edwards
17th – Greg Biffle
18th – Aric Almirola
22nd – Marcos Ambrose
24th – David Ragan
31st – David Gilliland
32nd – Joey Logano
36th – Josh Wise
39th – Scott Riggs
42nd – Ken Schrader
43rd – Casey Mears

DAVID GILLILAND – No. 38 Long John Silver’s Ford Fusion – “The car drove pretty good. It was fast when we went all day in practice, but an early draw is not optimum. I was looking at what some of the other people ran around us and we’re closer than we’ve been here in the past. I’m looking forward to it. I think our car in race trim was very good. We spent 99 percent of the day in that, so we’ll continue to build on that and see what we’ve got. It’s slick out there, for sure. The first five to 10 cars that go out here is not where you want to be and today was just the luck of the draw. That’s where it put us.”

ARIC ALMIROLA – No. 43 Farmland Ford Fusion – “It was OK. The track was a little bit different than what we had in practice, so the car was a little bit different. That kind of caught me by surprise a little bit, but, all in all, it was a decent lap. We picked up about a tenth from practice, and it seems like Denny was a really good car in practice and he ran about the same, so I think as long as we picked up there we’ll be OK. That draw is just gonna hurt us real bad. All the cars that go out late are gonna pick up a ton.”

DAVID RAGAN – No. 34 Front Row Motorsports Ford Fusion – “I think our Front Row Motorsports team did the best we could with what we had. We spent a little bit of time in race trim and made a quick qualifying run at the end. You have these new surfaces and you’re still going through whether or not you qualify on stickers or scuffs. This is a little bit of a different time than what we qualified for this race a year ago, changing it back to Friday qualifying, so we made some good adjustments. We picked up a little bit, but it certainly doesn’t help going out fairly early. I’m sure as the sun goes down the speeds will pick up a little bit, but we had a small pickup and we’re still learning about this Gen 6 car.”

JOSH WISE – No. 35 Blockbuster.com Ford Fusion – “We definitely wanted to have a better qualifying run than that. The track speed is still there. We just didn’t pick up as much as the other guys did. But we’ve got all day to work on it tomorrow, and we’ll get the Blockbuster Ford ready for Sunday.”

June 29, 2012, Sparta, Kentucky USA Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (c)2012, Nigel Kinrade Autostock

June 29, 2012, Sparta, Kentucky USA Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (c)2012, Nigel Kinrade Autostock

RICKY STENHOUSE JR. – No. 17 Best Buy Ford Fusion – “The first lap was a little tight for us, but I definitely had really good grip on the second lap. It turned a lot better than I expected and we drove across the apron down in three and four, so we definitely left some good speed out there, but I’m happy with what the Best Buy guys did as far as getting the car ready from practice to qualifying. This is the first time as a team being in a situation like this, so I think they made some good adjustments from practice to qualifying and those are the things we have to look at to keep building this race team and making it stronger. I think they did an awesome job, it just turned a lot better than I thought.”

Brad Keselowski during NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Test at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

December 11, 2012, Concord, North Carolina USA.Brad Keselowski during NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Test at Charlotte Motor Speedway..(c)2012, Matthew T. Thacker.Autostock..

BRAD KESELOWSKI – No. 2 Miller Lite Ford Fusion – “It was OK. I wanted to obviously be on the pole if I could, but we just didn’t quite have enough speed to do that. It’s kind of disappointing because I know my car is so fast in race trim and I was hoping that would carry over to qualifying, but we haven’t been able to hit that for whatever reason. We’ll just go back to the drawing board.”

CARL EDWARDS – No. 99 Subway Ford Fusion – “We were just a little bit tight. We expected it to handle a little bit differently there and it didn’t. Hopefully, we can get it better for race trim. I thought we were better than that in practice. The car has a lot of speed in it, but I think maybe I asked for the wrong thing balance-wise, but it should be good in the race.”

Travis Pastrana - Darlington Raceway

Travis Pastrana, driver of the #99 Boost Mobile Toyota, stands on the grid during qualifying for the NASCAR Nationwide Series VFW Sport Clips Help a Hero 200 at Darlington Raceway on May 11, 2012 in Darlington, South Carolina.
(May 10, 2012 – Source: Jeff Zelevansky/Getty Images North America)

Travis Pastrana, driver of the No. 60 Roush Fenway Ford Mustang in the NASCAR Nationwide Series, kicked off the weekend at Phoenix International Raceway by answering questions from the media about last week’s 10th-place finish at Daytona and on being an expectant father.

TRAVIS PASTRANA – No. 60 Roush Fenway Ford Mustang – CAN YOU TALK ABOUT YOUR BABY NEWS AND LAST WEEK’S RUN AT DAYTONA? “It’s just really exciting. I got married about a year-and-a-half ago and having a kid is gonna be awesome, but, for now, I’m just focusing on the job at hand and going out and trying to drive some race cars. Daytona was awesome. We just really stuck to the plan. Unfortunately, most of my teammates kind of got caught in a pile-up with about five laps to go, so all of my buddies were gone and we were kind of a sitting duck at the end. Up until then it was a perfect race. A top-10 finish is exactly what we had hoped for, but coming into Phoenix, I wouldn’t say it’s the first real race of the season, but Daytona is a completely different ball game. I learned a lot. I’m excited about it, but this is where we’ll tell whose really got it for the season, so I’m excited about just being on the Roush Fenway team. I know we’ve got a great car, so I’m looking forward to it.”

YOU STUNNED PEOPLE WITH WHAT YOU DID AT DAYTONA FOR SOMEONE WHO HAD NEVER RUN A RESTRICTOR-PLATE RACE OR DRAFTED BEFORE. WHAT WAS THE PLAN AND DID YOU SURPRISE YOURSELF? “We really didn’t know what to expect. I knew we had a great car coming into the race. I mean, qualifying fourth and driving Daytona by yourself, as a driver, just about anyone could basically put that car about where the car is gonna finish based on speed, so I knew we had a great car. And with that, I knew a lot of people were gonna be willing to take the chance with the yellow stripe on the back and maybe help out a little bit. My big thing is I’m not in on qualifying, so my first two races are like, ‘Look, we’re gonna focus on qualifying. We’re not gonna try to qualify on the pole, but we’ve got to make sure you do a nice, conservative, but good run to get in.’ So we did all of our mock runs and test runs, and Trevor pushed me around a few laps, but the big thing was ‘let’s not mess up this car because we know it’s good.’ So when I went out there, starting fourth, we jumped right in there and I was getting pushed and pushing the guys in front of me. It was just a complete, wild cluster and we went into the first turn on the first lap and all of a sudden I turn in and it had always worked before, but in the pack the downforce was off the car, so I turned in and I was in the third row up on top and nothing happened. I missed the wall by about an inch at 200 miles an hour. I’m like, ‘Holy cow!’ So we dropped to the back like the team had told me. They said, ‘Just sit it out,’ and it was awesome because Tony Stewart was back there, Dillon was back there, and that was good, so we sat most of the race back there. I kind of gained confidence with those guys and really just started pushing a little bit and started to be pushed more, and those guys gained confidence with me. Unfortunately, with about 20 to go they said, ‘OK, follow that 43.’ And when Annett took off we went from somewhere around 30th to, I think we got up to third in like four laps and, all of a sudden, it’s lap 18 and I’m like, ‘Oh man, we got up too fast.’ Now we’re running three-wide and I don’t know what to do, and all hell broke loose like it always does and poor Michael, he went from the left of me to the right of me and gone before I had a chance to lift or move the steering wheel. The speeds there are so fast and once that happened, we didn’t have a lot of help because the 5 was pushing me and the 43 was following and I don’t know where Tony went, but I think it was to the front, obviously.”

ARE YOU GOING TO LET YOUR KID DO ALL THE STUFF YOU DO? “I definitely feel for my parents now with everything I’ve put them through, but we’ll encourage whatever we have – a boy or girl – to follow their passion. I’m hoping their passion is golf, maybe (laughter). But with what we have around us in the action sports community, the action sports family and even now getting into the racing family, it’s a tighter-knit community with more role models and more people that I would like my kid to look up to and to be a part of and to be influenced by, so I really do hope that they’re in this industry. Being in there is one thing because I know that it’s worth it. Every second is worth it, and I’m passionate about what I do and I love that passion, but I hope they’re passionate about whatever they do.”

BEFORE LAST WEEKEND YOUR ONLY DAYTONA EXPERIENCE WAS ON TWO WHEELS, RIGHT? “Actually, I did the Daytona 24 Hours, so that was good and gave me some pit practice, but I never did the full loop.”

BUT YOU DID BIKE WEEK STUFF THERE, CORRECT? “I got my first Supercross win at Daytona.”

THOUGHTS ON RUNNING HERE AT PIR? “This is my first run on this configuration. I ran K&N two years ago. I’ll definitely be learning. My biggest thing is coming from dirt with a Rally car background and motorcross, I usually do better with the tracks that are more worn out, so this being a newer track – especially last year – I was talking to all the other drivers and they said it’s a really slick course, so you need to kind of have that seat-of-the-pants feel, which I feel very good about driving cars and controlling stuff that’s sideways, but I’m still getting used to that, ‘yeah, OK, it’s about to break loose, but it’s not there yet’ kind of feeling and the pavement kind of driving, so I’d imagine this is gonna be one of my tougher tracks, but I definitely have more experience on short tracks, so we’re gonna go out there and my goal for the first three races especially is we’ve got to get our car qualified. We’re not in on qualifying, so let’s do the best we can. My goal is to be in the top 10. Whether that’s realistic or not I’m not sure, but if we’re running second on the last lap, I’m going for the win. We’re not happy until we win, but if we could get around a 10th-place finish here this weekend, we’ll be good.”

CONSIDERING THIS IS YOUR FIRST FULL SEASON IN NATIONWIDE IS THERE A TRACK YOU’RE REALLY LOOKING FORWARD TO ON THE SCHEDULE? “For me, my hometown track was always Dover. I’ve never gotten to drive anything around Dover and they say it’s like dropping into a rollercoaster every corner and jumping coming out. It doesn’t look like a jump when you’re watching, but if all the drivers say it, I’m looking forward to it.”


Aric Almirola, driver of the No. 43 Smithfield Ford Fusion in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, will be pulling double-duty this weekend as he fills in for injured driver Michael Annett in the No. 43 Pilot/Flying J Ford Mustang in the NASCAR Nationwide Series. Almirola spoke about competing in both events after Nationwide practice on Friday.

ARIC ALMIROLA – No. 43 Smithfield Ford Fusion – HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT RUNNING BOTH RACES THIS WEEKEND? “I think first and foremost we all hope that Michael gets well quick, but, as far as for me, I think it’s fun. I’m a race car driver and I love to race, so any time I get an opportunity to go race is fun. I’m excited about this weekend. These guys have got a great group on that Pilot/Flying J Ford. Philippe (Lopez) and all those guys on that team do a great job and Michael did really well last year by finishing fifth in the points, so they’ve got a great program and they’ve got really fast cars. I’m looking forward to racing here tomorrow.”

IS THIS YOUR FIRST TIME RUNNING THE MUSTANG? “Yeah, it is. I didn’t think about that, but this is my first time and it’s great. I love how it looks and it’s pretty fast as well, so I can’t wait until we get it out there for tomorrow’s race. It’s much different than the Cup car – drastically different from the Cup car – but that’s part of the fun, too. We get to drive something different and have to learn to adapt by driving a completely different car.”

YOU SAID AFTER THE 500 LAST WEEK THAT YOU WERE HAPPY TO GET OUT OF THERE AND NOT BE IN A POINTS HOLE. WHAT ARE YOUR HOPES FOR THIS WEEKEND? “We really just want to run well. We want to run like we did for the first 200 laps of the November race here. Our Farmland Fusion was really good out here in November and I know this is a different car, but some of the stuff we learned I feel like can translate over to what we have here. I expect to run well and I’m looking forward to it.”

IS THIS THE KIND OF PLACE WHERE YOU CAN START BUILDING MOMENTUM AND PUT TOGETHER SOME TOP-10, TOP-5 AND POSSIBLY WIN SOME RACES? “I feel like we’ve already got that momentum started at Daytona. Even though 13th isn’t necessarily something to really brag about, it’s still a good way to start the year. I feel real good about the way we started our season and I’m looking forward to keeping all of that rolling, starting right here in Phoenix.”


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Michael "Beach Mick" Hudson

About the Author:

Michael "Beach Mick" Hudson is the founder and Editor of Beach Carolina Magazine. Living along the coast of North Carolina, Mike has a passion for the beach and loves to bring news and events of the Carolinas to others around the world.

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