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POCONO -- Doug Yates, who celebrated 20 years in motorsports in May, sat down with Ford Racing to discuss the final rollout phase for the FR9 engine that he and his team at Roush Yates Engines have been working on. Yates discusses the four-team plan for this weekend’s race at Pocono, along with what the rest of the season looks like for the new piece.
Q. WHAT IS THE PLAN FOR THE COMING WEEKS IN TERMS OF WHICH CARS WILL RACE WITH THE NEW FR9?
A. For Pocono, we are going to race the FR9 in four cars -- the 16, 17, 99 and 43. That was a team decision. Going to Michigan, it will be in all eight Roush Fenway and Richard Petty Motorsports cars. We are going through a transition period, so the next couple of weeks it will be some here and some there. When we get to the second half of the year it will be pretty much across the board.
Q. HOW ARE THE DECISIONS MADE REGARDING WHAT CARS WILL RUN THE NEW ENGINE AT WHICH RACES?
A. That is a team-based decision. Jack Roush and Foster Gillett and his organization make those calls. At this point, it is really a parts supply issue. We had planned to run at Michigan across the board. We are actually fast-forwarding it a little bit to run at Pocono. The second half of the year is primarily FR9 and as anxious as the fans are to see that, I am even more so because the project was excellent. We got to work hand-in-hand with Ford to develop this engine. It is the first new engine Ford has had in racing, period. We have always made running changes as we went off of a production-based block. It is a really exciting time for us, and I believe Ford fans have a lot to look forward to and we have a great future. The car company is doing excellent. If we can get our racing program back to where we are used to being, I think it is going to be good times.
Q. HOW DO YOU ADDRESS THE AVERAGE FANS THOUGHT THAT THE FR9 IS A “MAGIC BULLET” AND THE KEY TO FORD BEING SUCCESSFUL?
A. We are excited about the new engine and there are definitely some performance upgrades. Everybody had it at the All-Star race and we got to see that. We have run it some through the year with the 21 car having it exclusively and the 43 car had it at Darlington. I would like to sit here and think the engine was going to solve the search for our first win of the year and get us on the way to a championship, but there are a lot of variables in the equation to make a car go fast. The engine is just one of them. I think there is more work to be done and we are all aware of that.”
Q. WHEN YOU HEAR DRIVERS SAY THINGS LIKE ‘WE AREN’T FAST ENOUGH’, THEY DON’T NECESSARILY MEAN THE ENGINE, BUT IS IT FRUSTRATING TO YOU BECAUSE PEOPLE THINK THAT IS WHAT THEY ARE IMPLYING?
A. Yeah, when you say that, the first thing people think is that it is the engine. Being an engine guy, and also a team owner over the years, you learn that the car has to go through the center of the corner really fast. It is a lot about corner speed, especially at ovals. Back in the 1990s, when my dad and I had our team with Davey Allison, Ernie Irvan and Dale Jarrett, we were at times known for having a serious horsepower advantage. Today, the rules are pretty tight, so you have to work pretty hard to make an advantage on the other guys. We have a great team here at Roush Yates Racing Engines and guys are working night and day, just like the guys on the cars, to find the speed that we need to be competitive week in and week out. I think the thing that people need to also remember is that we have three guys in the top-12 in points. AJ Almendinger had a pole at Phoenix. We were one rule change away from winning the Daytona 500. Kasey Kahne won the Twin 150 qualifier. With a lot of things it’s how you paint it and people can point out deficiencies, but we have been real close to winning several races this year. Matt Kenseth took the lead at Martinsville and was one corner away from winning the race. A lot of it is how you look at it. We have three guys in contention for the championship and hopefully will make the chase. Just like we did in 2004 with Kurt Busch, we want to peak at the right time and those last 10 races is what we are trying to position ourselves for to make a strong run for the championship.
Q. DOES THE WINLESS STREAK, AND THE PUBLIC PERCEPTION THAT THE FR9 WILL BE THE CURE, MAKE YOU FEEL RUSHED AT ALL WITH ROLLING IT OUT?
A. Everybody wants to win. It would be great if we could get a win, but it would be better if we could have cars running at the front every race and be competing for wins every race. To score a ‘W’ would be great, but more important in my mind is to be in contention every week and have fast cars. If you do that, you will get your share of wins. To me, that is what we are searching for. We would all love to win a race, don’t get me wrong, but I think people are putting too much pressure on that right now. The thing we need to focus on right now is to get all of our cars running where they can win and then take advantage of it. I think we will do that in time.
Q. HAVE THERE BEEN ANY MOMENTS IN THIS PROJECT THAT HAVE BEEN TOUGHER THAN YOU ANTICIPATED?
A. I think the things that are always most difficult are the things you can’t control. It is the castings that come in that leak or the parts that you get that aren’t what you anticipated. We have a dyno internally that we can use to run race simulation, and we can load it up and run Charlotte, before we run Charlotte. We never put anything on the race track without it being validated multiple times. When parts come in and they look good initially, and then you realize you have a problem with it, those are frustrating. That is why we have test facilities and do our diligence on everything.