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DEARBORN -- When the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series goes to Michigan International Speedway this weekend, it will be a chance for the Detroit-based manufacturers to gain much of the spotlight. Ford Motor Co. is taking advantage of the opportunity by having all of its NASCAR and NHRA drivers to its World Headquarters in Dearborn. Drivers will sign autographs for employees, meet with company executives, and test drive some of the exciting new products Ford will be offering in the coming months.
JACK ROUSH – Owner, Roush Fenway Racing
Q. HOW BENEFICIAL DO YOU BELIEVE IT IS FOR THE DRIVERS TO GET TO INTERACT BEHIND THE SCENES AT FORD MOTOR COMPANY DURING MIS WEEK?
A. Ford certainly puts on a pretty face. They are very hospitable to the drivers and NASCAR community when we come into town. To get closer to the products and press flesh with the folks that make the decisions on products and the direction of the company is good. When I went to work for Ford Motor Company in 1964, if you worked for Ford then you worked for the Fords, as in the Ford family. Ford Motor Company still has that feeling to it. Bill is very active, his father is still very active, and Edsel is still very active as well. A number of other family members are still engaged in the day-to-day activities of the company. Ford is really a special departure from the way major corporations have developed in our economy. For our drivers to get a chance to go there and have that feeling of being part of that Ford family and working for the Fords as opposed to a big conglomerate is one of the things I take the biggest pride in.
Q. HOW INVOLVED ARE YOU AND YOUR DRIVERS DURING THE MIS WEEK?
A. We will make ourselves available to the Ford folks -- the management as well as with product evaluation. I know that there is a big event at The Henry Ford Museum, so that will be a great deal of fun. It will be great for the young drivers that haven’t been there to get exposed to that, and it will be an eye-opener for them. For those of us who have been there many times, it will be a chance to get our battery recharged on all the pride and technology that is involved with Ford’s background, and, for that matter, the background of the Dearborn and Detroit areas.
Q. WITH SO MUCH GOING ON OFF THE TRACK, DO YOU WORRY ABOUT IT BEING TOO MUCH OF A DISTRATION?
A. I think the benefits outweigh any potential distractions. It is really good to step back, and this is an opportunity for me to step back and see where we have come from and where we are going. To be able to look inside the glass and see what is going on with Ford and think about their past and future is a really good thing. There is a lot going on, but when it comes time to drop the green flag on Sunday, everybody stands a little straighter and a little prouder of what they are and what they are a part of and want to put on their best face.
GREG BIFFLE – driver, No. 16 Ford Fusion
Q. HOW BENEFICIAL ARE THE TRIPS YOU MAKE TO FORD HEADQUARTERS DURING MIS WEEK?
A. It is really fun. I look forward to that more than anything when we go to Michigan. Being able to go to Ford and listen to the top guys talk about the company and where it is going is great. Seeing all the new product is really fun for me. We get a chance to drive all the new stuff and it is always nice to make a trip to The Henry Ford Museum. This week coming up we are going to get to see the museum again which will be nice because it has been four or five years since I walked through the museum and I know that they have some new stuff since then.
Q. WHICH OFF TRACK ACTIVITY IS YOUR FAVORITE DURING THE WEEK?
A. If I had to pick one thing, I would have to go with test driving the new Ford cars and trucks. That is probably the neatest thing for me because I get to see what is coming to market and get a chance to feel it ahead of everybody else. This week I am really looking forward to going to the museum.
Q. DO YOU FEEL IT IS TIME WELL SPENT?
A. Yeah, I feel like it is. Roush has a museum there and we always make a trip up to the headquarters. More than anything we get to see what is going on with the company and what is coming out, which is really educational and a really cool hands-on experience. It is something that even though it can be a big time commitment, I really look forward to it each year.
PAUL MENARD – driver, No. 98 Ford Fusion
Q. ARE YOU LOOKING FORWARD TO GETTING THE ANNUAL BEHIND THE SCENES VIEW OF FORD THIS WEEK PRIOR TO MIS?
A. Yeah, it is a lot of fun. Last year was the first time I got to do that and got to meet a lot of the top guys at Ford. We see the racing guys every week, but to get to know the retail guys and the product guys was really cool and really interesting. To get to drive a lot of the new cars around the test track is really cool. That is my favorite part probably of the entire weekend, test driving new cars on the track there. We learn a lot in the meetings with the executives, but we enjoy the test track the most for sure.
Q. DO YOU THINK FORD DOES A GOOD JOB OF EDUCATING YOU GUYS AND LETTING YOU SEE WHAT THE COMPANY IS REALLY ALL ABOUT?
A. It is much better than the other manufacturers I have worked with. Ford keeps the drivers and teams more in the loop on the retail side and racing side than any group I have ever been associated with. They do an outstanding job of keeping us in the loop, all year long really, but especially when we go to Michigan. That week is really educational and really a great way to learn about the company.
MATT KENSETH – driver, No. 17 Ford Fusion
Q. WHAT DO YOU REMEMBER MOST FROM YOUR TRIPS TO FORD WORLD HEADQUARTERS?
A. It has always been interesting going behind the scenes, especially with the economy and the other two of the big three getting bailouts. We got to learn more about the business side of things the last few years. Usually when we go up there we get to learn about the new vehicles, which are really fun as well, so we can talk to people about the new cars. It is always educational, always fun, plus we get to go to Jack’s museum too and meet all the fans there as well.
CARL EDWARDS – driver, No. 99 Ford Fusion
Q. WHAT DO YOU TAKE FROM THE TIME YOU SPEND OFF THE TRACK DURING MICHIGAN WEEK?
A. It is always very cool to go see the Ford products they are developing and talk to the engineers, sales people and corporate folks about where the company is heading. The neatest thing is the last couple of years we have gone in there and they have described where the auto industry is going to go and where Ford is going to stand up, and it has all been true. They have done a really good job. It just makes me very proud to drive a Ford because of the way they have run their business and the way they have been able to keep the employees going. They make the best product on the road, too.
Q. WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE ACTIVITY THAT WEEK?
A. We get to run the test track and there is one corner if you get through really well that you can jump the car over the next hill. It’s hilarious. We get out there in a Taurus or Fusion and start jumping them, so it’s a lot of fun. I think driving the cars is by far my favorite part of that week. It is where everybody decides what car they are going to order for the next year. You get to drive them real hard.
Q. ARE THERE ANY THINGS YOU MISS OUT ON BECAUSE OF YOUR DOUBLE DUTY WITH THE NATIONWIDE SERIES THAT YOU WISH YOU HAD TIME FOR?
A. Last year, I really wanted to go to the Woodward Dream Cruise, but I just don’t have the time to experience all of that with the schedule I have to keep, but one day I will get to experience all that stuff. There are a ton of things that a car enthusiast can see when you go to the MIS race, whether it is down in Detroit, or the museums, and one of these days I will get a chance to check it all out.