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<< Sports >>

NASCAR NEXTEL CUP SERIES

MICHIGAN INTERNATIONAL SPEEDWAY

Sunday, June 18, 2006 on FOX

Ford Racing Hosts Pep Rally at World Headquarters in Dearborn, MI

PHOTO BY JASON RZUCIDLO / AMERICAJR.com

MRN announcer Joe Moore hosts the Pep Rally inside the auditorium at Ford's World Headquarters in Dearborn.

by Jason Rzucidlo
americajr@americajr.com

DEARBORN, Mich. Ford Racing hosted a pep rally for it's NASCAR Nextel Cup drivers, Craftsman truck series drivers and team owners. The event was held inside Ford Motor Company's World Headquarters, located in Dearborn, MI. There was a question and answer session in anticipation of this weekend's races at MIS.

There are 75 million fans in the U.S. who enjoy the sport of auto racing. Ford has been involved in racing for over 100 years. Ford's drivers and team owners came together for this pep rally inside the World Headquarters auditorium. Ford Chairman CEO Bill Ford Jr. along with Edsel B. Ford II, a member of the board of directors were also in attendance.

Bill Ford Jr. said, "It was our very first bold move." The Chairman and CEO of Ford Motor Company recalls, "My great grandfather challenged the reigning champion of the time in the car you see behind me -- the Sweepstakes car -- and the rest is history." He also noted that 54% of all Ford owners are also race fans. Ford Jr. adds, "By the way, Fusion had its best sales month ever in May."

Two of the top three NASCAR Nextel Cup drivers race Ford Fusions. Matt Kenseth is currently in 2nd place while team mate Mark Martin is in third place. This was the first year for the Fusion to be raced in NASCAR. Formerly, the Taurus was Ford's car used in auto racing.

Edsel B. Ford II is the great-grandson of Henry Ford. He said, "Forty-two years ago, in 1964, a man on this stage was hired as a Ford engineer. Forty years ago, he joined a Ford employee group called 'The Fast Backs.' Well, ended up leaving the company in 1969. I'm pleased to say, he never forgot his roots. Jack Roush, after leaving Ford, founded and now oversees an automotive company noted throughout the industry. He also created a racing empire. Jack Roush's name has become synomous with winning. Thankfully for us, his name is synomous with racing Fords." Edsel Ford II also serves on the board of directors for the automaker. He had the honor of presenting the "Spirit of Ford" award, which is Ford Racing's highest honor, to the legendary car owner Jack Roush.

When Mr. Roush accepted the award, he said, "I came to this building in 1964 as a new hire. One of the things, that was understood around town is if you were Ford employee, you were part of the Ford family. I am no longer a Ford employee but I feel like I am part of the Ford family. Thank you very much." Jack Roush owns five Nextel Cup cars including Mark Martin's #6, Greg Biffle's #16, Matt Kenseth's #17, Jamie McMurray's #26, Carl Edwards' #99 and three automobiles in the Craftsman truck series. He was inducted into the International Motorsports Hall of Fame in April.

The first drivers invited to the stage were from the Craftsman truck series. Six drivers from Ford's truck series were at the pep rally including Terry Cook, Rich Crawford, Marcos Ambrose, Bobby East, Michel Jourdain, Jr. and Erik Darnell. Everyone wanted to know how driving a truck was different from driving a typical stock car. Rich Crawford enjoys racing at Michigan, "Michigan is right next door to where we build Ford cars."

Marcos Ambrose is from Australia. He has won three consecutive titled in the V8 Supercars series which is an equivalent to the U.S. Trans Am Series. This year, he is racing in the Craftsman Truck series. He describes MIS, "It's the first time I've been to a 2-mile oval. We've had great success in Australia. I'm gonna try and get the experience I need." Ambrose has made the transition from open-wheel racing to truck racing. He said, "I've had a big transition. It's been a lot of fun. I'm learning a lot about everybody each week."

Terry Cook is the driver of the #10 Power Stroke Diesel F-150. His automobile was on display on the stage inside the World Headquarters auditorium. He has won five races in the Craftsman Truck series. Last year, he finished 15th in standings. Cook reports, "This is my first two-mile track. Hopefully we'll have a good time."

Erik Darnell drives the #99 Woolrich F-150 in the truck series. He said, "The trucks are totally different. They don't drive like the cars."

Bobby East is the driver of the #21 State Farm Corn Dogs/Dibs F-150. He was the 2004 U.S. Auto Club National Midget series champion. He signed a contract with Ford Racing Technology at the young age of 19. He describes his experiences on the track, "The racing is a lot different. You kinda have to have real good preparation."

After the Craftsman truck series drivers answered questions from the audience, the Nextel Cup series drivers and team owners were invited to the stage. Seven drivers from Ford's Cup series were at the pep rally. Joining them were team owners Jack Roush, Robert Yates and Eddie & Len Wood.

Ken Schrader drives the #21 Little Debbie/Motorcraft Ford Fusion in the Nextel Cup series. He also races in short tracks around the U.S. in addition to racing in the ARCA series. Schrader has raced in 682 NASCAR cup races in his career. He said, "We went to Kentucky and tested last week. We've got the Fusion geared up and we'll be ready Sunday."

Mark Martin drives the #6 AAA Ford Fusion. He is currently ranked 3rd in Cup point standings. This will most likely be his final season in the Nextel Cup series. He was won 35 races in the Cup division. Next year, he will race full time in the Craftsman truck series. Martin describes MIS, "It's really wide. You can run from the very bottom to the top. It's a great race track. It's get the manufactures rivaled up."

Carl Edwards is the driver of the #99 Office Depot Ford Fusion. He joined Roush Racing in 2003 then entered the Nextel Cup series in the middle of the 2004 season. Last year, he won four Cup races and finished 3rd in points standings. Edwards enjoys racing at MIS, "It's a fun race track. That's where I got my first Nextel Cup start." Edwards also races in the Truck series. He reports, "The Cup series is amazingly different."

Jamie McMurray drives the #26 Crown Royal Ford Fusion. This is his first season with Roush Racing. From 2003 until 2005, he was racing for Chip Ganassi. He was named the Raybestos "Rookie of the Year" in 2003. McMurray talks about his season so far, "We still have some work to do. Jack has made some changes. Our team has been a lot better."

One-on-one interview with NASCAR Driver Greg Biffle

To listen to this interview, click here. (MP3)

Here's my question and answer set from my interview with Greg Biffle at the Ford Racing Pep Rally inside the World Headquarters in Dearborn, MI.

Q: You won the August Cup race at Michigan in 2005. Describe the feeling...

A: "It was a great feeling. Winning here in Detroit at Michigan Speedway, home of Roush and Ford and all the manufacturers kind of battle here. It's neat. It's really neat to win here. I look forward to being able to defend our victory again."

Q: You also won the June race at MIS in 2004. What's your secret to winning there?

A: "Lots of secrets but just really good race cars. The facts are that we've won all these races with the same race car. Each year, we put a new body on it and do the updates. This year, it's the same race car we just put the new 2006 Fusion body on it. Ran very well in California. This will be the 2nd race for the season."

Q: Is MIS one of your favorite race tracks?

A: "It is my favorite race track. Absolutely."

Q: You've recently been named a spokesman for the North Shore Animal League. Tell us a little about what they do.

A: "Basically, the North Shore Animal League is in conjunction with my foundation, the Greg Biffle Foundation which is for animals and really what we do is encourage people. We help support spade and neuter programs, adopting pets out of shelters, and is basically for the well-being of animals. We like to try and make a difference and help. If you're looking for a pet, we encourage people to go and adopt from a rescue or a shelter."

Q: Your first Nextel Cup victory was at Daytona. Was it special for you?

A: "Very special. Daytona is a very special place. To get my first victory ever there was pretty spectacular. I think my second victory was as memorable because it was the first non-restrictor plate win and it came here at Michigan. That was a pretty special victory for me as well."

Q: Last year, you won more races than any other driver. How did you accomplish that amazing feat?

A: "We were very, very fortunate. At the beginning of the season, we won a lot of races. I'd won five races in the first 15 starts of the season. The sixth one at Homestead, the final race of the season. Sometimes luck's on your side. We were at the right place at the right time. We've been in line to win about four this year. Unfortunately, only won one. I'm sure we'll win more this season but a lot of it is the right place at the right time. We've been leading races with an engine failure with just as close as 20 laps to go. Leading at Bristol and had a flat tire. Haven't closed the deal but I feel confident that we'll get some more wins this season."

One-on-one interview with NASCAR Driver Matt Kenseth

To listen to this interview, click here. (MP3)

Here's my question and answer set from my interview with Kenseth at the Ford Racing Pep Rally inside the World Headquarters in Dearborn, MI.

Q: How's your season going to far?

A: "It's going great. I don't think our season could've started off much better. I'm real happy. You know how we've been running."

Q: Are you excited about the 3M Performance 400 coming up at Michigan?

A: "I am excited for it. It's one of the best races of the year. Cars can run side by side. There's a lot of room on the track. It's a great track. It's one that we all look forward to coming to."

Q: Congratulations on being ranked 2nd in Nascar Nextel Cup points.

A: "Thanks!"

Q: You've finished six times in the top 10 at Michigan. What's your secret?

A: "Good cars most of the time. We've got great engines and great cars. Michigan takes everything. You gotta handle good on the straightaways too. You gotta have a good car and do everything right."

Q: Your last win at MIS was in 2002. Do you feel lucky this year?

A: "I don't know. I never make predictions like that. We go out there and work as hard as we can work and do the best job we can. That's all we can do."

PHOTO BYJASON RZUCIDLO / AMERICAJR.com

Ford's Craftsman truck series drivers take questions from the audience. Pictured are: Terry Cook, Rick Crawford, Marcos Ambrose, Bobby East, Michel Jourdain, Jr. and Erik Darnell.

 

PHOTO BYJASON RZUCIDLO / AMERICAJR.com

Most of Ford's Nextel Cup drivers are pictured here. You're looking at Carl Edwards, Jamie McMurray, Matt Kenseth, car owner Jack Roush, Greg Biffle and Mark Martin.

 

PHOTO BYJASON RZUCIDLO / AMERICAJR.com

Here is the remainder of Ford's Nextel Cup drivers and team owners. Pictured is team owners Eddie & Len Wood, Ken Schrader, Elliott Sadler and team owner Robert Yates.

 

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