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Happy Hour: Biffle, Edwards pleased with fast Fords at Kansas

June 03, 2011, Dave Rodman,

KANSAS CITY, Kan. -- Both drivers enjoying 'hot, slick' track conditions; Logano paces Happy Hour

Given Ford's success rate on the Sprint Cup Series' intermediate race tracks this season, not many people were surprised when Roush Fenway Racing teammates Greg Biffle and Carl Edwards put their Fusions 1-2 on Friday's first practice sheet at Kansas Speedway.

Joey Logano was quickest in the second session, projecting his Toyota into the mix for Sunday's STP 400.

"This is the most excited I have ever been to run this race in my Cup career. I am looking forward to it."


Two-time Kansas winner Jeff Gordon did his part to do the same as his 32.54-second average lap in Happy Hour was the best of the cars that did more than 10 laps during the session.

But Sprint Cup points leader Edwards, in particular, did his best to defuse Tony Stewart's contention that everyone else was "bringing a knife to a gunfight" when it came to battling Roush-Yates Engines' Ford horsepower this weekend.

"I am just going to have to disagree with Tony and say that we don't have a huge advantage -- it is even," Edwards said. "We can go out and look at the dyno stuff NASCAR has if you like, but I can see it on the race track. We are not head and shoulders above other people -- we have caught up.

"I don't think we have an advantage. We might have a slight advantage at these mile-and-a-half tracks. I feel like we are very competitive. The competition is really close and nobody is better than us right now. That is probably the best way to put it.

"I feel like, before, we were behind and worked on our cars quite a bit and now that we have caught up it looks really good. There are engines I raced against last weekend -- and we were a little conservative in our package -- that was making a lot more power off the corners."

NASCAR chassis-dyno'ed engines from the four series' manufacturers after the race last month at Dover and found their horsepower ratings at the rear wheels to be "within one percent," NASCAR spokesman Kerry Tharp said.

After struggling in recent years, Ford suddenly has won four of the first 12 points races this season and swept both events during Sprint All-Star Race weekend. Edwards won the last two races of 2010.

Biffle, Edwards and teammate Matt Kenseth dominated last weekend's Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte before Kevin Harvick took advantage of a fuel-mileage scramble at the end, to win. But their performance has both Edwards and Biffle, who won the most recent Kansas Cup race after also winning the 2007 race here, smiling.

"I told Bob [Osborne, crew chief] this week that this race is really important to me," said Edwards, who grew up a couple hours east of Kansas City, in Columbia, Mo. "I mean, all of them are, but to win here in the Cup Series would be huge. We have what seems to be a really fast race car and practice went really well.

"It is going to be hot and slick, which should be a lot of fun. I am just glad to be here racing and looking forward to it."

The track conditions were one thing Edwards, Stewart and Biffle could agree on. With Friday afternoon's temperatures over 90 degrees and more of the same forecast for Sunday, it was no surprise there was a lot of slipping and sliding going on Friday.

"It's hot and slick out there right now, but that's the way I like it," Stewart said after posting the fourth-best time in P1. "It's a challenge for sure to get your balance right and guys are already using the whole race track. It's definitely going to be a hot, slick day for the race on Sunday, too.


Happy Hour Speeds
2.Jeff Gordon170.12231.742
3.Brian Vickers170.08431.749
4.Mark Martin169.61431.837
5.Paul Menard169.50231.858

"I don't think anybody -- you can have the best car out there right now and you're still not going to be happy with it. We're sliding around a lot, which is good. I like that side of it. It makes you never happy with it until you think you have it fixed all the way. It's just a constant challenge right now."

"I really like this race track [and] it being hot and slick is kind of my favorite," Biffle said. "It is hard to get a hold of this and it is different on both ends. This place you can run up the race track, which is fun to do -- right up against the fence.

"This place has a lot of grip in the center of it, too. There are a lot of options and it has a little slower corner speeds and you have to be a little technical, which has played into my hands over the years, I guess."

"I think the car and the slick race track will have a bigger impact on the outcome of the race," Edwards said. "The deal is that there are a lot of guys out there that are physically fit and if they aren't fit they are just plain tough.

"What ends up happening is that a car and the effects of heat on the race track and the way the tire interacts and the speed slowing down, I think, has a bigger impact on the outcome of the race than driver fitness and ability to handle the heat. It is definitely two parts."

Edwards did admit, "You start to get uncomfortable and it is easy to make mistakes." And Edwards did say the 2008 Cup race here, where he smacked the wall on the last lap after making a banzai move into Turn 3 trying to pass winner Jimmie Johnson, was the single event in his career that he regretted most.

He added that he knew what he would have done differently, though he declined to reveal it. But he also said he felt like he had his best chance to win what he considers his home race, in his eighth attempt.

"It does feel that way [because] we have been running really well," Edwards said. "In 2008 we were on a tear and running great. Our mile-and-a-half program has been on a tear. This could be a good shot.

"Practice was good. We weren't the fastest car but the balance wasn't perfect so now we are going to tune on it in the next couple of days and Bob will do his magic with the computer and come up with a good set-up. I am really excited to run this race. This is the most excited I have ever been to run this race in my Cup career. I am looking forward to it."

But maybe not any more than Biffle, who kicked off Ford's resurgence when he won last summer at Pocono, in August. Biffle had the 15th-best lap in Happy Hour and a 32.79-second average in 58 laps.

"The first part of the [first] session we were in qualifying trim and we were very unhappy with our race car in qualifying trim -- we were a lot happier with it in race trim," Biffle said. "This place has gotten a little bumpier every year. It has lost a little grip. Naturally that is what race tracks do. It is hot, slick and hard to get a hold of. That typically produces pretty good racing."

Despite numerous wild slides and some evil-handling race cars -- marked by an abrupt verbal outburst on Biffle's in-car radio when his car abruptly darted erratically up the race track into Turn 3 on his last qualifying run of the first practice -- there was only one stoppage in two Cup practices. Kurt Busch spun his Penske Racing Dodge without making contact in Turn 4 with just under 30 minutes left.

Edwards made only five laps in Happy Hour, with a sporty 32-flat average, before he departed for Chicagoland Speedway, where he planned to take over the wheel of his No. 60 Ford Mustang from Brian Ickler, who practiced the car for Edwards. Brad Keselowski made 80 laps at Kansas -- the most of anyone in Happy Hour -- before he also left for Chicagoland.

Kevin Harvick and Joe Nemechek also have Nationwide Series cars, but neither driver planned to head that way until after Saturday's Sprint Cup qualifying session.