Fennig Has Had Crash Course In Pre-500 Accidents
By Team Ford Correspondent
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- Jimmy Fennig said it best: “While you guys were sleeping, we were working.”
Fennig, crew chief of the No. 99 Fastenal Ford Fusion driven by Carl Edwards, got his first job as crew chief way back in 1986, when Mark Martin drove for what is now Roush Fenway Racing. Fennig won his first Daytona 500 with Bobby Allison in 1988 and his most recent one last year with Matt Kenseth.
The fact that Edwards has been in four wrecks since Speedweeks began doesn’t faze Fennig a bit, nor does it detract from the task at hand: Win the Daytona 500 on Sunday.
“It is normal, nothing big. You just move on,” Fennig said.
Yes, you do.
In fact two of Ford’s more memorable Daytona 500 victories came when teams had to repair wrecked race cards under enormous pressure.
In 1978, Allison was driving for fellow NASCAR Hall of Fame member Bud Moore when they faced long odds. The Budweiser Duel qualifying races were rained out on Thursday and instead were run on Friday. Just a few laps in, Allison wrecked while racing for the lead with Moore’s former driver, Buddy Baker.
Allison thought at that point his Speedweeks had ended.
“It tore the car all to pieces,” Allison said. “So I went to the motel feeling sorry for myself and pouting and all those things I always did when I was younger. I just really suffered through the night, and the next day I decided that I needed to go out there and tell Bud I was going to back to Alabama. Everything had gone sour on us and here we were in bad shape.”
Although Allison didn’t know it, the Bud Moore Engineering crew already was hard at work getting the No. 15 Ford Thunderbird ready for NASCAR’s biggest race of the season.
“We took it and put it on the frame machine to straighten that out on the back, and we went to a Ford dealership to get the Ford panels to fix the car, so we worked day and night getting that car ready,” said Moore. “So Bobby came out to the race track on Saturday about noon and he was gonna tell me that he was going back to Alabama. He walked up and started to say, ‘I’m fixing to leave. I’m going back,’ and then he saw the car sitting there ready to go. He was so amazed.”
“I went back down to the garage and Bud and his group had repaired that car, straightened all the dents out, painted it and lettered it,” Allison said. “I said, ‘Wow, this thing looks so good. If they’ve done this for me, I’ve got to give them one more day.’ So I bit my lip.”
Not only did he bite his lip, he won the Daytona 500.
“It really was a thrill for me,” Allison said. “Bud and his attitude and his support of me and our gang ... It helped me get back on my feet, but it also helped me get back to Victory Lane.”
Flash forward to 2000 and it was déjà vu all over again.
Only this time it was Dale Jarrett, car owner Robert Yates and the No. 88 Quality Care Ford Taurus.
Jarrett crashed during Happy Hour on Saturday at about 3:30 p.m. The damage was so severe that the team had to fly three fabricators from its Mooresville, N.C., shop down to Daytona on Saturday night to help with the work.
The Robert Yates Racing crew worked on Jarrett’s Taurus until NASCAR officials kicked them out at 10:15 p.m. Saturday night. The fabricators continued to work outside the garage until 1 a.m., building new sheetmetal for the nose of Jarrett’s car.
At 5 a.m. Sunday, they were back in the garage and back at it, finally completing their work at 10:30 a.m. so the No. 88 could roll through inspection.
“Man these guys did such an incredible job on this race car,” Jarrett said after winning his third Daytona 500. “From where we were yesterday afternoon at about 4 o'clock, to get here? It's just unbelievable. They worked their tails off. Who knew if we were going to get it back right? Things just went great.”
See? It can be done.
Nobody knows that better than Jimmy Fennig, who is ready to win another Daytona 500.
“It is fine,” said Fennig. “We are here to race. You have to expect it going in and the guys at the shop did an awesome job getting these cars ready and getting enough cars ready for us to come to Daytona.”
Bring it on.
NOTES: There were two rounds of Daytona 500 practice on Friday, but few takers. Only 14 cars went out in the first practice and 22 in the second session. No one pushed it hard, because none of the teams wanted to risk getting in a crash and having to start the Daytona 500 in a backup car. The final Happy Hour round of practice is scheduled for 10:30 a.m.-noon tomorrow.
The new Generation-6 cars have been well-received by drivers, fans and the media so far, although there was little drama in either of Thursday’s Budweiser Duel 150 qualifying races. The reason in pretty basic: Where once, the Daytona 500 attracted 55-60 entrants, there were just 45 cars entered this year. That meant only one car from each Duel would fail to make the 43-car field. The cars that ultimately DNQd — Brian Keselowski and Mike Bliss — were the two slowest cars in qualifying and both finished far back in their respective Duels. So the rest of the drivers knew they would make the 500 regardless and therefore had little incentive to take any risks.
Rap artists 50 Cent and T.I. are among the guests expected to attend Sunday’s Daytona 500.
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Mustangs Sweeps NNS Front Row; Bayne Wins Pole, Hornish 2nd
SAM HORNISH JR. (No. 12 Alliance Truck Parts Ford Mustang) -- QUALIFIED 2nd -- TALK ABOUT YOUR QUALIFYING RUN TODAY. “Everything went almost as well as expected or planned. The car has been great and the guys at Penske Racing have done a really good job over the offseason of building us all new race cars. As soon as we put it on the chassis dyno for the first time and took it to the wind tunnel we knew we had a better piece than what we raced with last year. We are really excited about getting this year going with a lot of new changes on the Alliance Truck Parts number 12 team. New crew chief, car chief, spotter, just about everybody. Things were changed by either people getting promoted to the Cup Series at our program or changes that needed to be made. All in all I am real happy about our opportunities this year. The big thing for me is we have had a few months to think about it and take care of any of the problems that might arise and figure out how to make ourselves better. Now it is time to make it happen.”
WHAT DO YOU THINK THINGS WILL LOOK LIKE IN THE RACE? “You are going to see packs of tandem racing. The great thing about the temperature we are going to have for tomorrow is the tires will wear a little bit more and it will make everything a little bit slicker and you are going to have some guys that will eventually tandem race. I think you might see a little bit of pack and a little bit of spread out stuff. Handling will be an issue at points in time tomorrow. I am excited about that. I wish we had a little less of a spoiler so you couldn’t push quite as much and be so aggressive because sometimes people – the fact that the spoiler is so big they can’t see what they are pushing you into and you can’t get your hand out the window far enough to make them know they need to slow down. It is part of what this racing is. If you win you love it and if you don’t you hate it. It just depends.”
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TREVOR BAYNE (No. 6 Cargill Ford Mustang) -- “I’m starting to like this stage up here pretty good. It normally means something good happens, but I’m excited about our pole run. This whole team, I’ve been talking them up all off-season, but that’s because they deserve it. This group of guys, they’ve won two championships in a row and that’s for a reason. Ricky Stenhouse did them a ton of justice and he’s done a great job in that car, but I’m excited to be the guy driving it this year and we’ve started off with a bang here with the pole. It’s not a win yet, but it’s a good start, so we’ll be happy to see that flag flying up on top of the truck here the rest of the season.”
DID THE DRAW MAKE ANY DIFFERENCE? “It was actually by speeds for Nationwide, I believe. In practice we thought about that and Mike (Kelley), being the crew chief that he is, he was already looking ahead and said it looked like winds were gonna pick up later in the day, so when we went out and did the tandem drafting I kept pulling out to trying to slow the car down to make sure we didn’t go too fast and we could go early in qualifying and it seemed to work out. Later on in qualifying the winds were picking up and the flags were blowing more. It looked like they started blowing down the backstretch for a minute, which is what we didn’t want to see, but as it shifted they slowed back down, so I think it did matter a little bit. Obviously at Daytona the wind always plays a factor, but our car was still really good in practice. I think we ran a couple tenths slower in qualifying than we did in practice, but it was pretty strong.”
WAS IT A DAUNTING TASK TO JOIN SUCH A SUCCESSFUL TEAM? “It was a high expectation going into it, but it was never pressure because, like I said, when I went in the shop and saw how they worked together and the kind of team that they are, you can see why they’re champions. And it’s not because they just got lucky and won a few races or they figured out how to win on fuel strategy every now and then. They are a solid race team – the best in Nationwide – and that’s why they’ve won championships. I was a little bit worried about it going into the shop for the first time that they were gonna expect me to be just like Ricky and do the same things, say the same things, drive exactly the same, but after the first day Mike Kelley sent me a text and said, ‘Hey man, this team has been together for six years. We’ve won races with David Ragan, Carl Edwards, Ricky Stenhouse Jr. and we’re gonna win races with you. We’re happy to have you as a part of our team.’ So that one text was enough to take that pressure off and to say, ‘Alright, I’m part of this team and we’re gonna do it together.’”
DO YOU FEEL YOU HAVE AN ADVANTAGE HERE BECAUSE YOU’VE WON BEFORE AT THIS TRACK? “I think so. Anytime you can get experience in Victory Lane at a race track it brings your confidence up when you go back. In the Duels yesterday when we were leading those laps I was thinking about winning again and how that feels here and what it’s like to be out front. I wish we could have run a little bit better yesterday, but we’ll have that opportunity tomorrow in the Nationwide Series. It’s crazy because every time I come to Daytona it seems like I get the best car of our fleet – the best engine, whether that has something to do with our win or whether that’s just kind of the luck of the draw and the guys I have around me, but last year we were on the outside pole here with the 60 team, which was a part-time team with Chad Norris. They had another good qualifying effort today – I think fourth or fifth – so that team knew how to put it together. The Wood Brothers always bring me fast cars and now with this 6 team, getting the first pole for them at Daytona. For some reason, I just always get the best stuff here it seems like and I’m happy to take that on.”
DOES THIS ESTABLISH YOU WITH YOUR TEAM AND DID THEY TAKE AWAY SOME HORSEPOWER FROM THE CARS? “That’s what somebody asked me about a minute ago and I don’t know that they did that or whether it’s temperature or what, but from talking to Mike before qualifying the cars are exactly the same, so maybe they did make a small restrictor plate difference or a gear change or something real small that I didn’t know about, but that pole, it is Daytona so it’s not a big step. If we were at Phoenix and we set the pole, it might be a little bit different, but it just gives me more confidence in the team. The way Mike Kelley was high-fiving me and all the guys were pumped up I think it’s a good start and it does give them some confidence in me and in our group of guys again, so I’m so thankful that God has surrounded me with this kind of a group of guys and I can’t thank them enough for the race car they brought here.”
HOW IS THE BACKUP CAR ON THE CUP SIDE? “We’ll run some practice tomorrow just to get the splitter heights right. Earlier today we just wanted to shake it down and make sure there were no leaks or anything completely wrong with it, but it seemed to be fast. It’s hard to tell by yourself, but they said it’s a brand new car that’s never been on the track and it went out and picked right up, so I think we’ll be fine.”
WHY DON’T YOU HAVE A FULL-TIME RIDE IN CUP? YOU’RE A CHARMING GUY. “That’s an opinion on the last one (laughing). I would love to be (running full-time in Cup), and I think it’s just timing. I think Ricky being in the Nationwide Series running and winning two championship in a row obviously put him up in the batting lineup to go to the Cup Series in the 17 car. I would love to be the next one to take that step. I think we’ve proven ourselves once and hopefully I can do it again here in the Nationwide Series, and I think that’s what Jack wants to see and he’s given me that opportunity now with the best group of guys. He didn’t take one single guy off that team because he wants to give me what Ricky had the last two years and let me have that shot to go run for a championship. I think that’s what he’s waiting on is just for me to get a little bit of full-time experience and hopefully we can take off next season in Cup. He hasn’t said that exactly yet, but I think behind the scenes that’s all of our plans. I would love to be running Cup again next year full-time. I would have loved to have started two years ago running Cup full-time, but I’ll just take the opportunity I have and try to make the best of it right now.”
WILL YOU DRAFT TOMORROW? “You’ll have to go talk to Donnie Wingo about that one. He’s probably got me parked for a little while, but if we can get two or three cars out there I might go follow them around and see how it handles. That’s what is crazy about the Cup cars now is the turbulence. I know everybody is talking about the windows and all that, but I led thirty-something laps the other day and nothing moved inside the car, nothing was shaking, and I got behind one car -- Kevin Harvick -- and it felt like the whole thing was gonna come apart, so we might have to do a little bit of drafting tomorrow just to make sure everything stays in and we don’t need to reinforce something.”
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TRAVIS PASTRANA, No. 60 Roush Fenway Racing Ford Mustang – YOU MADE IT INTO THE RACE. YOU ONLY HAD TO BEAT FOUR CARS BUT THAT WAS A GREAT LAP. “Yeah, as easy as that sounds and as high as our expectations were and how good the car and crew are it was still a big thing. Chad, my crew chief, said that we were going to do mock runs, qualifying runs in practice because we had to make the show. He said the only thing that matters is to make the show. If we could make it without crashing it is a good day at Daytona. Otherwise a pole would be nice and winning would be nice but we have to take what we can get for now and just get these points up.”
HAVE YOU FELT THE PRESSURE OF ALL THIS INTERNALLY? “Without a doubt. We have such a great race program right now at Roush Fenway Racing and so much expectation from the action sports community. To come out here and be sitting well right now is awesome.”
HOW DO YOU FEEL FOR THE RACE TOMORROW? “All our practice was done to produce a qualifying run that would put us in the field. Now that we have done that, the yellow line on the back of my car is what everyone will be watching out for. Hopefully I can find a partner to draft with me because they know I have a good car from the time we posted and we can find a good partner. Maybe Trevor if I can buy him a nice dinner or something tonight. Maybe I will take him skydiving. It should be good. I am really looking forward to it.”