NSCS Ford Performance NASCAR: Daytona Media Day (Jeffrey Earnhardt & Greg Biffle)

Ford Performance NSCS Notes and Quotes
NASCAR Daytona Media Day
Tuesday, February 16, 2016

JEFFREY EARNHARDT, No. 32 Can-Am Ford Fusion – IT MUST BE A RELIEF TO BE LOCKED INTO THE RACE SUNDAY. “Yeah, definitely. Not having to worry about qualifying in every weekend for this whole year is a huge stress reliever. That is tough when you know you aren’t locked in on race weekends. We fought it for the two races I ran last year worrying about if we would make it or not. We barely made it in both of those races. Going into this season knowing that is not a factor anymore is a huge stress reliever and makes it a little more easy to where you can focus more on making sure the car is handling right and making sure your guys are understanding what you are saying the car is doing and making sure that you are going to be set for the races. We made the mistake last year at Richmond of adjusting on the car and not having it dialed in because we were too worried about going fast and not longevity and thinking about how the car was going to change as we went into the night. It is definitely going to be a huge help for us at GoFas.”

IT IS IMPORTANT FOR CAN-AM THOUGH WITH THEIR HUGE INVESTMENT IN THE SPORT AND WITH YOUR TEAM, SO IT IS IMPORTANT FOR YOU GUYS TO BE LOCKED IN. “For sure. Can-Am coming on board has been a huge help and 90-percent of the reason I am even here. Without them I wouldn’t have this opportunity and I am very thankful of that. To be able to guarantee them being locked in every weekend and the investment they made being the Can-Am Duels coming up on Thursday and everything they have invested in the sport and team and myself is huge to be able to know we will be there every weekend and not that we might not make it in. That is always tough to tell a sponsor to give you sponsor dollars but you might not make the race. The fact we are locked in is a big help.”

HAS YOUR NUMBER OF RACES BEEN LAID OUT? “Anywhere from 20 to I might just miss this Daytona race. That might be the only one I miss. It is kind of up in the air. It could be everyone from Atlanta on out. It is 20 for sure, but it could be more. It could be every one of them from Atlanta on. Hopefully that is what it ends up being. That is all about sponsor dollars and being able to put the whole program together. They have a few races sold already so we have to figure out what we would do there. Hopefully it works out to where I will be at every one of them from Atlanta on.”

CHANGES WITH THE CAR THIS YEAR. HOW HAS THAT AFFECTED YOU SO FAR? “I think just talking with everyone, I am buddies with Matt DeBenidetto and I was talking with him about some thoughts he had and I think the lower downforce package is the way to go for exciting racing. I think the drivers seem to like it better so I think that will be a plus. I think it will help out some of your teams that don’t have all the big motor and all that. It puts a little more back in the drivers hands. It puts it back the way it should be. I guess the better driver will come out on top. That will be a big help. The digital dash, I haven’t figured that out yet. It is going to be different. It is cool because it allows you to have a couple different scenarios but it would be very unfortunate if it was ever to go out or quit working in the middle of the race. Your gauges are what you rely on. If the car starts overheating you need to know. Hopefully it will be good and be a positive thing but as I said I haven’t had much time to mess with it so I can’t really give you a positive or a negative answer on it.”

HOW DO YOU CHOOSE TO CONNECT WITH FANS? IS IT SOCIAL MEDIA OR APPEARANCES? “I enjoy doing appearances. I like spending time with fans because they are the backbone to this whole entire sport. Without fans – if we didn’t have people coming out here to watch us we would be helpless. They are your supporters. They are the reason you get to do what you do and do what we love. I love doing appearances. As many as I can do without missing a race, I have cut it pretty close a few times having to run out to driver introductions. I am terrible at social media but I try really hard. Sometimes I think my phone is a lot smarter than I am. I try to stay interactive with the fans on Twitter and I like to post a lot on Instagram because I feel like it is more personal when they can see an image. Whatever the fans want is what you try to do. They are the reason we are here and the reason we get to enjoy this sport. You have to take care of your fans and take care of your supporters and sponsors. Social media has been a real big push lately and that seems to be the way of the world these days.”

IT USED TO BE THAT PLATE RACES WERE A TOTAL CRAP SHOOT FOR WHO WOULD WIN, BUT IT SEEMS LATELY THE LEADER IS ABLE TO BLOCK AND DO SOME THINGS. DOES THAT MEAN IT ISN’T AS MUCH OF A CRAP SHOOT ANYMORE? “Unless Dale Jr. is leading I think anyone can still win. I think he is probably the best one at working the draft like that, in my opinion. I might be biased because it is my uncle but it does change up the sport a lot because a guy can get out front and control the lead the whole time but you still never know. Someone can get a strong run coming and you are fighting to maintain the lead. It is not going to be easy. It isn’t necessarily a crap shoot, it is still anyone’s race to win and can go in favor of the small teams or you can have guys like Dale Jr. go out there and control the lead the whole time. I think it is anyone’s race.”

WHAT IS THE ONE THING YOU ARE LOOKING FORWARD TO THE MOST THIS SEASON? “Honestly I am looking forward to learning. Just learning all I can. I have a lot to learn. Going into this season it is going to be about trying to better myself, setting goals and trying to beat them and then setting them higher the next weekend and trying to keep building that up. Some of that stuff I did in the XFINITY series, try to better ourselves and we always seemed to every time I tried to set that goal. I am just trying to set goals, achieve them and keep bettering ourselves as the season goes. That is my main goal. You know, we also want to run good too. If we do, if we achieve our goals we should be running good. I have a lot to learn and I know that going into the season and I think with the team and guys I have around me the pressure won’t be as bad. We are locked in every race with the charter deal so that will help a ton but we will set goals, try to achieve them, go to some of the tracks I live – I am looking forward to going to Bristol. I have run well there the last couple of years. Bristol is my favorite because I have run so well there. It is a big year for me and I am trying not to let the pressure get too bad. Just trying to stay focused and learn all I can.”

GREG BIFFLE, No. 16 KFC Nashville Hot Ford Fusion – HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT THE NEW CHARTER SYSTEM? “I think it is good. I don’t know a tremendous amount about it but I know bits and pieces and I think it gives owners and investors something to build upon over time. It gives them some value I think. I get all of those things because after all, if somebody wants something at the end of the day for their time and effort they put in that a charter system heads in that direction.”

DID IT REQUIRE RENEGOTIATION OF YOUR CONTRACT? “We are still working on that. I haven’t had a chance to sit down with our people yet. Our contracts were based around the old system so obviously the new system won’t work around the old system so we have to figure out how that translates.”

HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT THE MEDICAL WAIVER SITUATION? IS THAT SOMETHING YOU PUT IN YOUR BACK POCKET IF YOU BREAK YOUR WRIST OR SOMETHING? “I do think that it is good for our sport to recognize injuries and be able to still compete. I think that is important. I don’t know all the finite details of it and hopefully I don’t have to use it but I think it is good.”

DO YOU THINK THERE SHOULD BE A MAXIMUM NUMBER OF RACES YOU CAN MISS AND STILL BE CONSIDERED CHASE ELIGIBLE? “Yes. I don’t know what that number is thought. Keep in mind I haven’t looked at the latest but I think you have to be top-30 in points. So basically last year Kyle Busch if you were to use him as an example he missed the maximum amount of races you could miss right? He barely made it. I think it kind of polices itself.”

“I think there needs to be something in there – I don’t know exactly what it is but I think every circumstance is different too. Were you inured in a race or were you injured outside of the sport? I think there are a lot of moving parts to that. I don’t know. You probably aren’t going to take a guy that is going to run five races and win one of them and make the Chase. It is probably unlikely that he is going to sit out that long and then come in and win a race and be in the Chase automatically. I don’t know. That is a difficult position. It has to be fair for all the other guys too, not just that guy.”

WHAT WERE YOUR THOUGHTS WHEN YOU ROLLED UP ON TONY (STEWART) OUT THERE? “I never saw him. We were in the same riding area but I wasn’t with him at the time or see where he was or any of that.”

BUBBA WALLACE SAID IT HAS BEEN HELPFUL TO HAVE YOU AROUND. WHAT IS YOUR RELATIONSHIP LIKE WITH THOSE YOUNGER GUYS? “It is a lot of fun. You have that opportunity to do that and one day they will be sitting in my shoes if they are lucky. They may not being doing this for that long of a period of time. It is fun. I enjoy spending time with those guys and kind of guiding them a little bit. Let’s face it, we all know when we were young or teenagers or whatever that we always knew more than what people were trying to tell us. It is probably still that way. An old-timer comes up and tells you something, it is probably true because he has been there and done that. It doesn’t matter what stage you are at in your life, advice is always good advice.”

WITH ALL THE CHANGES AT ROUSH, IS THERE APPREHENSION ABOUT GETTING STARTED? “There is a lot of unknown. We have a bunch of new people, a new crew chief, new car design, new aero package – this is probably the most changes I have had in one season in my entire career. This is like all new. Every aspect of it.”

WHAT IS THE ASPECT YOU ARE MOST CURIOUS TO SEE HOW IT PLAYS OUT? “If our cars have speed now. We will find out soon enough.”

WHAT DO YOU MAKE OF THE IMPACT THE CHARTER SYSTEM HAS HAD ON DRIVERS AS A WHOLE? “I think two things. This is just purely my opinion. I know they worked very hard on the charter system and spent a great deal of time on it and I believe it is a great thing for NASCAR and the teams and owners and investors across the board. The bad thing, and not by design, was that it got done – they worked all through Christmas and everything – but it got done two weeks before or a week before the season started and our contracts are built around the old system so now it is almost like that gets kicked out of the system and has to be redone or renegotiated or whatever. You have Daytona a week away and I will have to say also that I wasn’t up on what all the changes were going to be and how it affected us. That is probably my fault. Until it was done did we know that it happened. I don’t know if other drivers were privy on how it would go down. I knew it would change, and it isn’t a bad thing, but the timing is more of an issue than anything.”

HAVE YOU HAD YOUR DEAL REDONE? “Not yet. Steve (Newmark) has bugged me a couple times that we need to sit down and go over it so that we can get it and we had media things and KFC commercials to shoot and I have been very busy doing stuff so we haven’t had a chance to sit down yet. I think it is just a matter of economics or math. We are all going to want to keep our same deal, it will just be derived differently. It will be the same as it was just instead of coming from one column it will come from four but ultimately will be the same.”

STEVE NEWMARK HAS TOLD YOU THAT YOU WILL GET PAID THE SAME AS LAST YEAR BUT JUST A DIFFERENT STRUCTURE BECAUSE THE PURSE IS DIFFERENT? “That is what I anticipate. He hasn’t used those exact words but I don’t think anybody is taking it as an opportunity to change driver contracts.”

HAVE YOU SEEN THE CHARTER SYSTEM, THE DEAL AND HOW IT DIVIDES UP THE MONEY DIFFERENTLY THAN BEFORE? “No.”

SO THEY AREN’T GOING TO PUT PURSE WINNINGS IN BOX SCORES AFTER RACES ANYMORE. DID YOU EVER LOOK AT THAT? “Not really because it was really a phantom number because it had planned money or TV money or contingency money. You could look at it as a sea level type thing of what that race paid to win because there is some variance if you are going to Texas or Darlington or Michigan, there is a little variance, but I didn’t look at it to try to figure out what I was going to get out of a certain thing.”

WHAT IS A TYPICAL WEEK LIKE FOR YOU? “It is a lot of stuff. You are doing media stuff that takes up a lot of your time, whether it is for the sponsor or for Roush Fenway or Fox or NBC or others. So I did NASCAR in America show and Race Hub. Phone interviews with Claire doing Jack’s Garage. Team lunch. Come sit in the car to fit the mirrors and the seats and this and that. Drivers meetings with all the drivers. Team meetings with all the engineers and preseason meetings. Then you have your personal scheduling that you have going on top of that layered in. It is very busy. Now, in December was I busy? No, but they didn’t have the charter system done in December. They got it done a week before the race. There again, no fault of anybody, that is how negotiations and creating things go. I get that. I am totally fine with that. I don’t have a problem with that. I am not worried about getting to sit down with Steve and get our deal updated. That is all I call it, an update. It is simply an update, we are not renegotiating anything. We are just updating a part of the contract to reflect the new system. I am not panicked or in a hurry to get in there to get in front of it.”

YOU HAVE HAD BACK TO BACK WINLESS SEASONS. HOW DO YOU DEAL WITH THAT? “It is tough. It is very tough. I would not be dealing with it very well if I didn’t have two or three new aero guys, simulation guys, new crew chief and a different body package. That would be way different for me. I am optimistic now. Last year, unfortunately, we knew that next month we weren’t going to show up to the race track and win. We didn’t have the cars to do it. We didn’t have the speed. Now I feel good. Now I feel really good. Our 500 car has speed and we are really excited about that. How do I feel about Atlanta and Vegas? I don’t know yet. I don’t know til we get there and get through practice. If the car has speed and long multi-lap speed, six, eight, ten lap speed and we are close to the competition then I am happy.”

DO YOU FEEL LIKE YOU NEEDED A NEW CREW CHIEF? “I wouldn’t say I needed a new crew chief but it is a matter of personalities and chemistry and all of that. We needed a change. We have a whole bunch of changes and a new crew chief. I think Brian (Pattie) will bring speed to our organization, not just the 16 car. He will bring stuff that will help the 6 and 17 from being over at Waltrip. We needed outside information. Setup information and knowledge. We needed that also along with new people.”

WITH THE NEW NOSE, SIMUATION AND AERO, HOW MUCH OF EACH PART IS PLAYING INTO SPEED AT DAYTONA? “All of that doesn’t come into effect until Atlanta. All of this is just our guys digging deep over the winter. This package is the same as last year here. It is Jimmy Fennig, the head of the restrictor plate program. Brian Pattie going over every nook and cranny of the car. Doug Yates and those guys. Brian brought some speedway ideas with him from Waltrip and all those things made speed for us. Our cars are very, very fast here.”