Today was NASCAR Playoff Media Day in Charlotte, NC, with Ford contenders Ryan Reed of Roush Fenway Racing and Cole Custer of Stewart-Haas Racing participating. Here are transcripts from their interviews earlier this afternoon.
RYAN REED TRANSCRIPT
RYAN REED - No. 16 Lilly Diabetes Ford Mustang - HOW DO YOU FEEL GOING INTO THE PLAYOFFS?
"I feel cautiously optimistic. I feel like we've had good cars, we've had not good cars. I think Roush Fenway as a whole has gotten better this year, but we still have some areas we need to improve and some areas I need to improve. But the biggest thing that I'm looking for is if we execute with no mistakes, which there has been lots of times this year where I've made mistakes, but we look at it as a whole and we left stuff on the table. We cannot do that. We need to make sure that we get everything out of each weekend. If we do that, I think we'll be good enough. Last year, I think we finished sixth in the points and fell just short of making it to Homestead, and I feel like we're a better race team this year than we were last year."
HOW DIFFICULT WAS IT LOSING BUBBA WALLACE AFTER POCONO?
"I think definitely on paper it looks worse than it is. I think anytime you go from a two-car organization to one car you're losing notes, you're losing resources, you're losing another team out there to collect information, so it definitely doesn't help. I think, regardless, we can have strong runs, we can be a great XFINITY race team without two teams we just have to a little better job."
HOW DID THE DYNAMIC CHANGE?
"I think you watch it and you go to team meetings and you have Jack in there and you have all the managers, the engineering staff, and they're all talking about the 16 team. They're not talking about the 6 and the 16, but, regardless, Roush has always been a multi-car organization for a long time. They know how to run multiple teams at a successful level, so that part of it, the resources, I never felt like we were lacking those in the first place. It has changed. I don't know if it's better or worse, but it has changed. Like I said, though, we as a race team when we show up at the race track, we're just gonna have to bring our A game. It is what it is. We're not gonna have another team to lean on throughout these Playoffs, so it's really not an option."
HOW BIG WAS THE DAYTONA?
"We took a lot of chances this summer. Some of them panned out, some of them were really aggressive pit calls. I was too progressive with some of the moves I made on the race track, and I don't think we would have done that if we were points racing, so it was really good for us. We learned a ton this summer just about where our limits were as a race team and we tested those limits and tried to push them every single week. Winning is what allows you to do that. We see that on the Cup side and how important it is, but on the XFINITY side there are only a few teams a year that get wins, so to be one of those few teams it is absolutely huge."
ANYONE YOU WANT TO WIN A TITLE FOR?
"I think your family is always important to every race driver. You have a lot of help to get here. No one did it on their own and a lot of times it's their family, but, for me, after being diagnosed with Type I Diabetes, obviously, my partner Lilly Diabetes, who stuck with me essentially from the beginning, but then also too for every person living with Diabetes I would venture to guess 90 percent of them have been told they can't do something because of Diabetes, and winning a championship would be absolutely dedicated to all of them."
HOW HARD IS IT TO WIN AN XFINITY RACE?
"There are a lot of great teams that haven't won this year. You just talked about Elliott Sadler, who won the regular season points without winning a race. It's just that difficult to get wins. You can have fast cars, but nine out of 10 weeks you've got to beat a Cup regular and a Cup regular is a Cup regular for a reason because they're really, really good. Almost all of the guys that race on Sunday that do race on Saturday are with really good race teams, so it's just really tough. Even on our best days I feel like maybe if there was no Cup guys, maybe we would have had a chance to win, but we've got to get a little better before we're beating Cup guys as a race team."
DOES THAT GIVE YOU MORE OPTIMISM FOR NEXT YEAR THAT CUP REGULARS WILL BE LIMITED MORE?
"Obiviously, I haven't put much thought into it. We've been so focused on this year and the Playoffs and what we're gonna have to do to get to Homestead and then to be a contender once we do get to Homestead that I haven't really thought about that. It's such a weird dynamic because you're asking a race car driver, essentially, 'Hey, you can't beat this guy,' and I agree with what they're saying. I think for the fan's perspective, which our sport as absolutely based on what the fans want to see and need to see for a good product, at the same time as a race car driver I want to beat whoever I'm racing against, whether you're talking about Kyle Busch or anybody else. If I'm racing against him, then I need to figure out how to beat him."
WHAT'S YOUR BIGGEST HANDICAP LOOKING AT THE PLAYOFFS?
"Short tracks, for sure. We feel like our short-track program is where we struggle the most. Luckily, the first round we don't have any. Dover is your shortest track, but it does not race like a short track. I think we're got to be a little better at the mile-and-a-halves, but I think we're within striking distance there, but, for sure, short tracks - Phoenix would be where I look to and obviously Phoenix is right there. You have to get through that weekend to get to Homestead, clearly, so that's where we're gonna have to be a little better."
WHO IS YOUR BIGGEST RIVAL ON THE TRACK?
"Us and the 48 have raced hard. You saw us get into it at Iowa. Me and him are almost the same age and it's really interesting because when you're racing a guy that's about your same age and your same spot, you almost feel like you're competing for a job, which is exactly what this series is all about is proving yourself and earning a spot on Sundays. So we've talked since then and really feel like we're going into the Playoffs with a pretty clean slate. You're race car drivers and you're competing against each other giving 110 percent and you're not always gonna get along with each other. That being said, I feel like at those times we've dealt with them and talked to everyone and cleared the air and I don't feel like we're going in there with the risk of being taken out by another driver."
SADLER DIDN'T FEEL LIKE IT WOULD TAKE A WIN TO GET TO HOMESTEAD, BUT THAT YOU WOULD HAVE TO WIN AT HOMESTEAD TO WIN THE CHAMPIONSHIP. DO YOU AGREE?
"Different position. I think he's looking at it from they have stage points and if they can go run top-five every weekend, yeah, you might not have to, but if you don't run top-five every weekend, there's a good chance you have to win to get to Homestead in that last round."
ARE YOU IN POSITION FOR THAT?
"No, not with five bonus points. You'd need to have 15-plus, I think. And also, too, one bad race and with those bonus points - that gap you built - is gone and then some, so it really is a case-by-case basis. I think if you have an absolute flawless Playoffs and don't have a win, yeah, there's a good chance you'll still get to Homestead, but one mistake or a couple average days, you might need a win."
"There are few where you've gotten into it. My rookie year me and Dylan Kwasniewski got into it. We see each other from time to time and there's no hard feelings. Ross Chastain and me at Iowa was silly, but I think in the heat of the moment if you're not that passionate that you're willing to get confrontational, then you're probably in the wrong sport because that's what this sport takes is that kind of passion. I have great partners with Lilly Diabetes and there are a lot of names on that race car that I'm proud to represent, so for me fighting isn't the way. Usually, I don't take to Twitter and talk about it or anything like that. I'd rather just talk to the person directly, but it happens and when it does you try to look back on it and learn from it and move on."
HOW DO YOU GET YOUR TEAM TO THE NEXT LEVEL?
"We're through talking about it and we're working hard to get there. There are so many things that go into it - performance, sponsorship, the team's capabilities and where they're at as a race team in terms of resources - so we're looking at all those things and trying to build a program that can get there. When the time is right I believe we'll be there and I believe we'll be there with Lilly Diabetes and everyone that we currently have worked with and we'll grow at that level. It takes time. We've seen the financial landscape of this sport be very difficult and that's no different for us or any other race team, so we're working hard on being able to put that together and being able to run the absolute best race team we can."
COLE CUSTER - No. 00 Haas Automation Ford Mustang
HOW DOES IT FEEL TO TAKE THE MOMENTUM FROM YOUR BEST RACE LAST WEEK INTO THE PLAYOFFS?
"It means a lot to our team. We're really excited going into the Playoffs. We've got some really good momentum, for sure. I think we'll have a good shot. I think we learned a lot of stuff last weekend that we can take into the Playoffs setup-wise and me also, so it was good to have it and no better time for it."
WHAT HAS BEEN YOUR BIGGEST HANDICAP THIS YEAR AND CAN YOU OVERCOME IT IN THE PLAYOFFS?
"It's been a combination of things for sure. I think one of the things I can definitely get better at are restarts. I think that's one thing I can get better at as a driver. I think our team has been getting better and better throughout the year just working through different setups and everything that we like on our cars, so I think that's another thing we're figuring out."
HOW MUCH OF A CHALLENGE HAS IT BEEN BEING A START-UP SINGLE-CAR TEAM IN THE XFINITY SERIES?
"It's been a little bit of a challenge just because there's only one team, but we do have that second team and that second team helps us a lot when we go to the race track because we can bounce ideas off each other and they're usually doing stuff a little bit different than we are, so we learn different things throughout the weekend. But it's definitely a little bit hard, but we have a lot of smart people that have a lot of experience, so they've done a great job this year."
HAS HARVICK BEEN HELPFUL TO YOU RUNNING THE OTHER CAR?
"Yes, for sure. Even when he's not running I try and ask him for as much advice as I can just because he runs the XFINITY Series a lot and he's one of the best, so he's definitely been a big help this year."
WHAT'S BEEN THE BIGGEST CHALLENGE FOR YOU TRANSITIONING TO THIS SERIES?
"I think it's just being consistent. You're racing every single week and you're getting in that rhythm and just trying to get yourself consistent and get yourself better every single week, so it's definitely a little bit tough when you're going week to week like this."
WHO WOULD YOU LIKE TO WIN THIS CHAMPIONSHIP FOR?
"Definitely Gene Haas. He's supported me through a lot in my racing career, so he's put a lot into it and I think he deserves a championship, and I think a lot of our guys at the shop do too. They worked extremely hard putting this team together in the off season, so they definitely deserve one too."
DO YOU THINK THE CHAMPIONSHIP RUNS THROUGH JR MOTORSPORTS?
"I think there's no reason why we can't beat them. I think we have plenty of speed. I don't think they're going to out-speed us or anything like that, I think the biggest thing is that they set themselves up really good for the Playoffs, so that's gonna be the biggest thing, whether we can get past them through stage points or anything like that. That's gonna be the question, but there's no reason why we can't run with those guys really."
WHAT IS YOUR BIGGEST TRACK OF THESE FIRST THREE?
"I think Charlotte was really good for us at the start of the year and we'll probably bring something similar back again. I've always run pretty decent there, so I'm looking forward to Charlotte. I think that will be good for us."
HOW MUCH HAVE YOU LEANED ON HARVICK, BOWYER, BUSCH AND STEWART AS FAR AS HANDLING THE PRESSURE OF THE PLAYOFFS AND MOVING UP THROUGH THE RANKS?
"I haven't talked to them too much about the pressure of the Playoffs yet. I think I was gonna maybe try to ask them a little bit this week just to have an idea of what to expect, but I think I'll definitely try to bounce some ideas off them just to have an idea of what I'm getting in to. It will be an experience for sure."
HAS THE SEASON GONE THE WAY YOU EXPECTED IT TO?
"A lot of us didn't even know what to expect at the start of the year, so I don't even know how to answer that question. We didn't know at all what was gonna happen at the start of the year, if we were gonna have speed, if we were gonna struggle. So to have the speed that we wanted at the start of the year and we've been getting better and better at getting the finishes. I think it's been a great year so far by making the Playoffs and everything, so I think it's been a great year for all of us."
ARE YOUR PLANS FOR NEXT YEAR SET AT THIS POINT?
"Right now, we're just focused on the championship and trying to run through the Playoffs the best we can."
--- Ford Racing ---