DANICA PATRICK, NO. 10 GODADDY RACING CHEVROLET, met with members of the media at Phoenix International Raceway and discussed her relationship with COPD, finishing out her scheduled races in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series for 2012, racing at Phoenix International Raceway and much more. Full Transcript:
WE KNOW THAT NOVEMBER IS COPD (CHRONIC OBSTRUCTIVE PULMONARY DISEASE) AWARENESS MONTH AND YOU HAVE A RELATIONSHIP WITH THEM. TALK A LITTLE BIT ABOUT WHY IT’S SO SIGNIFICANT TO YOU:
“November is the month and orange is the color. I have been working with COPD on raising awareness for that disease which is chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, for a few years now. My grandma had it and she passed away and it was an opportunity for me to do something really good and try and help other people.”
WHY IS IT IMPORTANT TO LET THE PUBLIC KNOW ABOUT COPD AND ITS AFFECTS?
“It’s one of those diseases that is slow going, but once it takes hold the damage is done. Early detection is really the most important thing with that disease. Trying to bring people to be honest with themselves about how they are feeling and if they might have it is the most important thing so that they can have as normal of lives as possible because the disease is just progressive.”
ARE YOU HAPPY THE SEASON IS ENDING? WOULD YOU LIKE IT TO GO PAST HOMESTEAD? DO YOU NEED A BREAK?
“I definitely showed concern years ago about the length of the season. That was kind of one of the things that really in my mind held me back from wanting to commit to NASCAR. Now that I’m in it and I feel like I’ve had a nice transition into it, I don’t mind at all. I like racing every weekend. The season could keep going or not. I never turn down off time and there is definitely a lot of stress for sure and it’s a lot of work, but it’s fun at the same time. The season could keep going, which is surprising to me. I thought I would be very tired by this point in time, but I feel like I’m just kind of figuring it out.”
WHEN YOU LOOK AT JR MOTORSPORTS AND THE OPPORTUNITY THAT TEAM GIVES DRIVERS WHO ARE MAKING THEIR START IN NASCAR, WHEN THE SPORTS MOST POPULAR DRIVER, DALE EARNHARDT JR., GIVES YOU HIS ENDORSEMENT HOW DOES THAT AFFECT YOU?
“Very positive, between Dale (Earnhardt) Jr. wanting me, giving me the chance to run for his team. Then of course more recently Tony Stewart with Stewart-Haas, those endorsements are really big for me in the garage area. I think it helps with drivers too, although I feel like you still need to go out there and you still have to earn their respect when you race against them. But perhaps there is a little bit more established from the beginning. It’s very important and I think it’s played a big role in being accepted in the sport like I have.”
AFTER A FULL SEASON OF NATIONWIDE AND NEXT YEAR A FULL SEASON IN SPRINT CUP, WHAT IS YOUR EXPECTATION FOR 2013? IS THERE ANY EXPECTATION FROM YOURSELF OR MAYBE YOUR SPONSORS?
“I think it’s difficult to establish what my expectation will be right now for Sprint Cup next year. I think that it is going to be a build from where we are right now. I think Tony Gibson (crew chief) and I still… we should probably have a very specific conversation, I think it will happen over the winter about exactly what our expectation level should be at the beginning of the season. It probably varies track to track a little bit, but overall where do we hope to qualify then where do we hope to race and what do we hope that happens with lap time in the race and competitiveness with that. I think that will be something that we will sort of establish over the winter when we have time to reflect and think about it and look forward to next year. Right now I feel like it is just about getting familiar with each other and getting these two races under our belt.”
CAN YOU TALK ABOUT YOUR THOUGHTS ON RACING THE CUP CAR FOR THE FIRST TIME AT PHOENIX:
“I think it’s really good that I am doing this short-track race. I think short-tracks are something that I need to get more comfortable with. Although I think it’s really come a long this year, I think some of my better Nationwide races have actually come at places like Iowa and Loudon. It will be a good experience for me. It will be a good learning experience to end on for this year. I feel like we have made a lot of progress on the 1.5-mile tracks and we obviously got a lot of really difficult ones out of the way like Bristol and Dover and Darlington. I’ll look forward to next year and I think we’ve created a really good base of various different tracks to think about for next season.”
WITH THE ANNOUNCEMENT YESTERDAY ON THE SUPERBOWL ADS WERE YOU EVER REALLY CONCERNED YOU WOULDN’T BE IN THEM? IS THAT A BIG DEAL TO YOU?
“First and foremost it is a big deal. I’m always really honored to be in those commercials. I think it’s great for, and this is what I said yesterday, about feeling like I’m the lucky one in the partnership. Even though Bob (Parson) said he feels like he benefits more. I feel like I do and it’s because that is some amazing exposure for me as a brand. Then to link that up with GoDaddy and really only continue to solidify our partnership and our value in each other is very important to me. Was I surprised? I heard from Bob a couple of weeks ago after some news came out about maybe not being in them. He called and said ‘look I just want you to know that it’s my intention, it’s my plan that you will be in a Superbowl ad.’ So yesterday when we had our press conference to announce the Semper Fi Fund promotion to raise a million dollars that Bob will match and that I’m going to run the Semper Fi Fund logo on the front of both my No. 7 and No. 10 GoDaddy cars he announced that I was going to be in both of them. That was definitely news to me yesterday. Great news.”
THERE ARE TWO GENTLEMEN VYING FOR THE CUP CHAMPIONSHIP WITH DISTINCTIVELY DIFFERENT RESUME’S AS IT PERTAINS TO CHAMPIONSHIPS, WHAT IMPACT DO YOU THINK EACH OF THEM WOULD HAVE IF THEY DO GO ON TO WIN THE CHAMPIONSHIP FOR THIS SPORT?
“Well you obviously have Jimmie (Johnson) who has done it a handful of times. It’s an incredible feat and he’s on his way to continue to break more records there probably. I think it’s definitely an interesting story with Brad (Keselowski) and how he’s only been in the series for a short amount of time and accomplishing great things early. We saw the success in Nationwide as well with him. Yeah, probably a little bit different approaches maybe. I mean Jimmie has the experience and Brad is young and it’s new and it’s not been obtained yet so I don’t know what that kind of brings up inside of him verses someone who’s done it so many times. Experience does tend to pay off, so I’m sure it’s going to be exciting. I look forward to watching it. I’m not going to be racing Cup next weekend so I’ll be sitting on pit lane watching it all go down, and watching the excitement like everyone else will. I think they are both good stories, I think everybody loves to see a legacy and a dynasty like Jimmie has. That’s just something really special in sports. Brad’s story is just new and exciting.”
WHO WOULD YOU RATHER SEE WIN AND WHY?
“I don’t really know. I don’t think I could answer that. I like Jimmie and I like Chad (Knaus, crew chief). I know them pretty well. I know Chad pretty well. So, I tend to cheer for the people that I know best, but I also love a new champion and I love a little bit of an underdog, and that’s probably impossible to describe Brad as that but with a guy like Jimmie that’s done it five times I guess you would almost have to put him as the underdog.
I don’t know. I cheer for both stories.”
LOOKING AHEAD TO DAYTONA NEXT YEAR, HOW DOES BEING IN THE CAR FOR 3 ½ HOURS AND 500 MILES AFFECT YOU? WHAT DO YOU LIKE, DON’T LIKE?
“Most of my races have been 500 miles this year and the 600. Gosh when those 400’s come up I’m like this is a walk in the park. I remember getting back into a Cup car for the first time for a couple of months at Darlington and I think the Nationwide race was 130 or 160 laps and it was way more than double that in the Cup car. That was an intimidating number. I think this year, I remember talking about it just this last week or two, that the Cup races are really just so long and they do kind of feel like that at times. It feels like the first 100 takes a while and then you think wow, we’ve got 200 left and all of the sudden it’s the last stint and it go time. Things definitely go by a lot quicker once you get in the groove. It’s just something to adjust to and something to get used to. No different than a schedule and getting use to traveling every week or something like that. I’m already kind of getting used to it a little bit.”
YOU’RE GOING FROM A NATIONWIDE POINTS SYSTEM THAT HAS BEEN PRETTY EXCITING THIS YEAR TO THE CHASE FORMAT NEXT YEAR, DO YOU HAVE ANY PREFERENCE WHEN YOU LOOK AT THE WAY THESE THINGS PLAY OUT?
“It’s supposed to be realistic, the Chase is a pretty long shot for me coming next year so I don’t know if I’ve really put a lot of thought to it. You never know though. Anything can happen. I think that for me that will be something that will come up in the years to come as that becomes more realistic and something to shoot for. I am all for anything that makes this sport more entertaining, makes more news, and brings more sponsors in. I’m sure that being someone that leads the championship going into the Chase and then being basically even with 12th is definitely disappointing on some level. At the same time, if that’s what keeps the sponsors and the fans engaged, then that’s what we need to do.”
HANNAH NEWHOUSE IS A 15-YEAR-OLD DRIVER THAT IS ENTERING THE K&N SERIES, WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ABOUT HER?
“They can race at 15 now? Well how old am I? (laughter).”
SHE SAID YOU PAINTED THE IDEAL PICTURE FOR WOMEN DRIVERS. ANY THOUGHTS ABOUT THAT AND WHERE SHE IS GOING?
“I painted the ideal picture. Wow, that’s very flattering. I always encourage young drivers coming up to not want to be like me, but be better than me. That’s what I thought when I was growing up. I just wanted to be better than everyone. I never really had an idol or somebody like that I wanted to be like. I didn’t know why then, but I think internally I always knew that I was maybe different. I didn’t let other people guide me on what I should be looking to achieve necessarily or a path to take. That’s very flattering and thank you but I think you just have to have the big goal in mind and then let it take its course. There’s not one certain way to get to the top of racing, that’s for sure. It’s a matter of taking the opportunities and being confident and knowing they will all teach you something.”
HOW MUCH DO YOU THINK BEING IN THE SUPERBOWL ADS INCREASES YOUR ABILITY TO GET THEM TO SPONSOR YOU TO RACE? GODADDY AND POSSIBLY OTHER COMPANIES IN THE FUTURE IF GODADDY EVER NOT WANTED TO SPONSOR YOU?
“I think what it does it establishes not necessarily just my brand and GoDaddy’s brand, but our brand together. That we each on some level need each other. That’s a great scenario for someone like me. I can only hope that works for the other person, this being GoDaddy. We’ve had tons of success together. They’ve become an incredibly big company and had a lot of success. I want to keep that going and be a part of it. I just think it solidifies our branding together as the important part.”
WHEN THE SEASON IS OVER AND YOU CAN SUMMARIZE IT, IS THERE ANY TRACK THAT YOU REALLY LIKED AND ONE TRACK YOU DIDN’T?
“This question kind of gets asked in various forms. To be honest, all that really matters is how you do at the track. So if it’s a track that you do well at, you’re going to like it. Sometimes that changes. Gosh, I remember being in Indy Car and going to Sonoma for the first time and just hating it. I remember I drove by one time and gave it the finger. I was not in favor of Sonoma. Then I go back in 2007 and I qualify on the front row and I’m like I love Sonoma. I think that it just depends on how you do and that changes from time to time, and year to year.”
RYAN NEWMAN, NO. 39 QUICKEN LOANS CHEVROLET, met with members of the media at Phoenix International Raceway along with special guest Paul Knowles, a Vietnam Veteran and discussed his special Veterans Day paint scheme, the Chase format, getting on the same page with crew chief Matt Borland and much more. Full Transcript:
YOU HAVE A UNIQUE VETERANS DAY PROMOTION WITH YOUR SPONSOR TALK A LITTLE BIT ABOUT THAT:
RYAN NEWMAN: “We’ve got an awesome paint scheme with our Quicken Loans Chevrolet. The digital camo (camouflage), it’s not just digital camo it’s kind of desert camo and on the bottom part of the race car there are over 250 black and white photographs of service men and women who have closed a mortgage at Quicken Loans. A great tribute to the Veterans on Veterans Day weekend, very much appreciative of what Quicken Loans does for the Veterans with their mortgages and obviously just tributes like this on special occasions. The TV panel on the bumper cover of the car says it best. Home of the free because of the brave, that is why we are proud to represent Quicken Loans this weekend.”
IF YOU CAN TALK A LITTLE BIT ABOUT YOUR SERVICE AND THEN THE OPPORTUNITY TO BE ON RYAN’S CAR THIS WEEKEND:
PAUL KNOWLES: “Well first off the opportunity to be on Ryan’s car is really nice to have. The car with Quicken Loans and backing up all the Veterans that is really a plus. Making a loan with Quicken Loans for that new house I just bought was just painless it was wonderful. They have done a really great job on working with the Veterans. I spent a year in Vietnam in 1968 and 1969. I was lucky when I made it back. So now I am just a Vietnam Veteran got out of the service and enjoyed the tour.”
YOU HAVE A SPECIAL PAINT SCHEME THIS WEEK ARE YOU INVOLVED IN PUTTING SOME IDEAS INTO THE PAINT SCHEME OF THE CAR?
RYAN NEWMAN: “No, that is one of the things at Stewart-Haas I’ve always been extremely proud of is they put together great paint schemes for great reasons. Quicken Loans has been a big part of this like I said. With the people at Stewart-Haas obviously have to do the final layout of the car and make sure everybody is happy sponsor wise and everybody is happy as far as their logo placement. Just really happy with the way the car looks it’s an amazing looking car. Hopefully, it adds maybe a half second a lap to it something like that so we can have it in Victory Lane and we can show everybody really what Veterans Day is all about.”
IS THERE ANYTHING THAT YOU CAN DO IN THESE LAST TWO RACES TO HELP PREPARE FOR NEXT YEAR SINCE YOU ARE NOT IN THE CHASE?
RYAN NEWMAN: “Win. Just win. Just win everything, win the poles and win the races. That is one of our goals these last two races is to get a pole just like every other race before that, but we are not in the Shootout as of right now. It’s an important part of my career to keep that streak alive. Obviously, it’s a goal no matter what to be the fastest and be the best. That starts today. We will see how we can do. We had a good car in the spring; I got crashed out about the middle of the race. Look forward to this race track; it’s always been a good track for me both on Friday’s and on Sunday’s.”
LAST WEEK TONY (STEWART) MADE THE REFERENCE TO (BRAD) KESELOWSKI HAVING A D
EATH WISH I WONDER IF YOU COULD EXPAND ON WHAT YOU THINK THAT MEANS AND ALSO IT COMES UP EVERY YEAR WHAT IF THERE WASN’T A CHASE HOW WOULD THINGS BE. WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS DO YOU LIKE THE CHASE OR NOT?
RYAN NEWMAN: “I’m not sure about the death wish. I really can’t comment about that. I don’t know what he was talking about. If it was something he said or did or whatever. That is not my place to say. The Chase part of it I think a percentage of it adds hype. As I said from the very beginning in the beginning it was 10 drivers that got the extra hype and the rest of them didn’t. Now it’s 12 that get the extra hype and having missed it two of the last four, made it two of the last four, I can kind of speak on both sides of it. It does change your outlook and your outcome for the next 10 races after Richmond as far as what you have to look forward to. If you have an opportunity, if you don’t have an opportunity at a championship, but ultimately we are there to win each and every race so that part of it doesn’t change. Sometimes it’s bitter sweet because of the situation you are in, but it is what it is. There is still an opportunity for a champion each and every year. In the end if you look at it from a point’s stand point it really doesn’t change who has that opportunity whether we have a Chase or not. It’s still a group of four or five drivers at the end of 26 that are still in that group of four or five going into the last few.”
WERE YOU A LONG TIME NASCAR FAN ALL THESE YEARS OR WAS THIS A SURPRISE WEEKEND COMING TO YOU?
PAUL KNOWLES: “Truthfully hate to say it I haven’t been a NASCAR fan, but this adds some credibility for me to see what it’s all about first hand. It’s a very good thing for me.”
YOU GET A LOT OF GUESTS THROUGHOUT THE YEAR THAT YOU MEET AND GREET AND SPEND THE WEEKEND WITH. WHAT IS IT LIKE WHEN YOU GET A GENTLEMAN LIKE MR. KNOWLES WHO WASN’T REALLY A NASCAR FAN? IS THAT EQUALLY AS CHALLENGING, BUT YET AS FULFILLING AS ANY OTHER TYPE OF FAN?
RYAN NEWMAN: “Well just as I always said having the U.S. Army as a sponsor it’s a different kind of sponsorship when you meet people like that who represent your brand I guess you could say. Meeting Paul (Knowles) it’s extra special this weekend because it’s Veterans Day and everybody needs to recognize that. That is the point of it is to give thanks to all those who have served and given us the opportunity to do the things that we do and not have to worry about what kind of plane if flying over our head. Just really proud like I said of Quicken Loans, this is their program, this is their race and obviously it ties in with the U.S. Army which is another sponsor. I’m thankful and it’s an honor for me to drive a race car that pays so much tribute to so many special people.”
IS THIS ONE OF THOSE SEASONS THAT YOU WISH WOULD END OR ARE GLAD IT’S CLOSE TO AN END? RYAN NEWMAN: “People have asked me, friends, family, whoever if I’m looking forward to the off season and I answer yes and no. Yes I am because my ultimate goal of winning the championship is not within grasp by any means. I still have the opportunity to win two races so there are things to look forward to, but my ultimate goal I cannot achieve this year. At that point, you want it to end and get started on next year. I really enjoy the off season; I enjoy the 90-plus days or whatever it is of being able to spend time with family and the outdoors and hunting and a little bit of fishing. Just getting a chance to vacation at home. That’s what it’s all about. It’s a ‘catch 22.”
DO YOU THINK JIMMIE JOHNSON WILL PULL AWAY FROM BRAD KESELOWSKI OR DO YOU THINK THIS WILL GO DOWN TO THE LAST LAP AT HOMESTEAD?
RYAN NEWMAN: “There’s a good chance of anything. There was as good of a chance of Brad (Keselowski) winning that race last week as there was Jimmie (Johnson) in my opinion. I believe, if I remember right, Brad was on two tires and Jimmie was on four. There was strength there to that 2 car that was pretty dominant all race long. Anything can happen here. I especially say with the dog-leg in the backstretch that things can get exciting here that we don’t anticipate. I think that’s kind of escalated over the last two races here so we’ll see how that goes. This is a fun race track for me. It’s fun for a lot of guys. It’s challenging because it’s different on both ends. Homestead itself is relatively simple when it comes to the racing part of it because it’s so wide and you can use the top to the bottom of the race track, both ends and we saw how well Tony Stewart was last year with being able to pass cars. To me, this is more of a challenge from a racing standpoint in these next two races than Homestead is.”
WILL IT TAKE A LONG TIME FOR YOU TO GET BACK ON THE SAME PAGE WITH MATT BORLAND SINCE IT HAS BEEN A WHILE SINCE YOU BOTH WORKED TOGETHER?
RYAN NEWMAN: “I don’t think we ever had to worry about getting back on the same page, it was more a matter about catching the right paragraph. We think so much alike, we understand the principles of the race car, but for him I think it’s more about just adapting the physics of the race car to my feels and the comments that I make, having not had my experience with that over the past five or seven years or whatever it’s been. We’ve always been on the same page when it comes to understanding the race cars. It’s just a matter of us creating that fine tuning of what we need to do to make them perfect.”
HOW DOES THE RESPECT FOR THE TITLE CONTENDERS CHANGE WITH TWO RACES REMAINING? IS THERE MORE RESPECT THAT HAS TO BE GIVEN OR IS IT A MISCONCEPTION?
RYAN NEWMAN: “I guess the best way to describe it is to race them equally. Like you said, there are two guys that are in the contention right now for the championships so if you’re in a position where you race the No. 48 (Jimmie Johnson) a certain way, race the No. 2 (Brad Keselowski) the same way. They know me and they know my passion for not letting them go by. That’s just the way I am. Sometimes it helps me and sometimes it hurts me. For the most part, race each other the way you would want to be raced. If it was you racing for a championship, give and take the way you would want to be given and taken to. That’s maybe the best way to describe it. To me, there’s not more of an allowance. There’s a level of respect in a situation. If I’m racing for a lucky dog then it’s different than if I’m racing for the win. That really doesn’t change much, maybe a little bit. To answer your question, maybe a little bit, but not really. I’m still here to win the race and my sponsors and my fans and everybody around me and my team especially expects me to not lay over and give them extra respect because of their situation. My situation is that I’m still here to win a race.”
DID YOU SEE THE RESTARTS AT THE END OF THE TEXAS RACE AND IF YOU DID, WHAT WERE YOUR THOUGHTS?
RYAN NEWMAN: “I quickly saw I think it was the last restart when Jimmie (Johnson) kind of pulled the air off the 2 (Brad Keselowksi) a little bit, which is fine, that’s racing. If I remember right, Brad had the opportunity to pick the lane and he chose the inside. He very easily could have picked the outside. I don’t think there was anything wrong with any of it from what I saw. I didn’t see all of it.”
JIMMIE JOHNSON, NO. 48 LOWE’S/KOBALT TOOLS CHEVROLET, met with members of the media at Phoenix International Raceway and discussed racing at Phoenix International Raceway, what it would mean to tie Dale Earnhardt Sr. on the all-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series win list and other
topics. Full Transcript:
TALK A LITTLE BIT ABOUT COMING TO PHOENIX:
“I’m excited to get on the track. It looks like it is still pretty slick. I watched the Trucks practice last night and there have been a couple of quick cautions this morning. I’m hopeful the Nationwide cars really rubber the race track in and we can get the track to evolve short order and have a great practice session here in an hour or so.”
YOU HAVE BEEN HERE BEFORE MANY TIMES IN THIS SITUATION HOW DOES RIGHT NOW COMPARE TO YEARS PAST AND HOW DO YOU LIKE YOUR CHANCES?
“At this point regardless of our points situation I still came here ready to race and we’ve won some races here and have been able to run in the top-five which is very important to lead into a comfortable Homestead. I’ve been on the ropes here racing Denny (Hamlin) and things worked out from a fuel mileage stand point that closed the gap, went to Homestead and had to race for it. I’ve been here before with (Jeff) Gordon dueling it out. We won and he might have been second or third in the race and that is the year that reminds me the most of what I’m dealing with right now. I expect for Brad (Keselowski) to be strong here. He and I raced real hard for third or four positions in the closing laps of the spring race. I would assume that we would be right there running nose to tail once again when the checkered flag falls on Sunday.”
WHAT DO OTHER DRIVERS SAY TO YOU IN PASSING OR WHAT NOT WHEN YOU SEE THEM IN THE MOTORHOME LOT OR WHAT NOT ABOUT BEATING BRAD? WHAT ARE THEIR COMMENTS TO YOU ABOUT YOUR OPPORTUNITY TO WIN THIS CHAMPIONSHIP BECAUSE YOU ARE RACING HIM?
“I haven’t had anybody specifically point out the competition with Brad. I’ve had guys talk about here you are in position again, give me some encouragement. I just saw Clint Bowyer in the motorhome lot and he said a lot of things that I can’t say on TV (laughs). Something about the rear end of anybody and I’m that part for winning last weekend. Not the cheeks the other part in his words (laughs), highly entertaining whenever it comes to (Clint) Bowyer as we all know. I feel like I have a lot of friends in the garage area and people are maybe they are not happy to see me in position to win a championship, but I think a lot of people respect the position we are in and what the team has done, what I have done. I think that respect shows on the race track too. There has been a lot of respectful driving around Brad and I on the race track and guys will let us race for this thing. It’s been good.”
WITH 60 WINS YOU ARE EIGHTH IN ALL-TIME WINS (DALE) EARNHARDT (SR.) SEVENTH WITH 76 HOW IMPORTANT IS IT TO YOU TO GET TO THAT LEVEL THROWING CHAMPIONSHIPS ASIDE BUT WINS? ALSO, I SAW YOU RUNNING YESTERDAY ARE YOU ABLE TO DO THAT AND GET THE STRESS OUT WITHOUT GETTING RECOGNIZED BY A LOT OF PEOPLE?
“Kind of, I left the track and ran out through the motorhome lot and on my way out no one saw me. On the way back people knew I was coming and signed a few autographs, took a few pictures. Training, I have my event coming up in December, so I have to keep the miles in and keep going. It’s been a great way to make sure that I’m tired every night and go to sleep with a clear mind. Just continuing to follow my routine and what I do. As far as chasing (Dale) Earnhardt (Sr.) I didn’t know that he was the next one in line. There is a good gap between 60 and 76 so I hope to get there. It would be a huge honor for me to be able to tie ‘The Man’. I hope to do that certainly.”
IS THIS A WHOLE NEW LEARNING PROCESS OR IS THIS STILL THE PLACE WHERE YOU HAVE WON FOUR TIMES?
“I really think it’s a new place. The old track was really abrasive and tire wear was important. We did see a few things come down to fuel mileage at the end, but the mindset really was working on your race car, tire fall off and you would come in and pit and put four on. That game has changed here now. I would assume the track has evolved a little, but what we have seen with these new repaves whatever the mix is that they put down it takes a long time for it to evolve. I look at the Charlotte track as the best example. It maybe a little easier to drive on now, but it’s still the same tire wear as when they repaved it four or five years ago. It hasn’t changed back to the old Charlotte yet. This track is going to be very similar to the way it was in the spring. I feel like we are on a new sheet of paper with the track as it is. I feel like our fourth is representative of where we are now with the new track. We had a great performance, a little room to improve, but not the track that it was before.”
YOU HAVE HAD TIMES IN YOUR CAREER WHERE YOU HAVE PULLED OFF CONSECUTIVE WINS, WHAT DOES IT FEEL LIKE TO BE IN THAT ZONE?
“Man, it’s crazy to experience it. In years past when we have been on those runs there is plenty of challenging moments through the course of a race weekend. To have things work out and to watch a team come together and work so hard to work through adversity and to not let adversity affect the execution, the temperament of the team, the moral of the team it’s something special to be a part of. We had some amazing years where we could string those together and I hope that, we have two going, we can keep that string going right now and rattle off two more.”
WHY DIDN’T BRAD (KESELOWSKI) GET MORE AGGRESSIVE WITH YOU LAST WEEK? BACK IN THE DAY WHEN HE WAS REALLY AGGRESSIVE THAT IS SOMETHING HE MIGHT HAVE DONE. WHEN YOU LOOK BACK ON THAT AND THE PROGRESSION HE HAS MADE DO YOU THINK ABOUT THAT? WHAT HAS CHANGED ABOUT HIM AND WHY DO YOU THINK MAYBE HE DIDN’T GET REAL AGGRESSIVE THERE AND MAKE A MOVE LIKE THAT AND JUST GO FOR BROKE THERE?
“I really feel like he was extremely aggressive and had that mindset of going for broke. But we all evolve as drivers and I think he was more in control of his vehicle Sunday night than he was when he was new to the sport. Then the other thing is certain drivers and I’ve been a part of it too, you have a magnet for a certain car. It was Carl (Edwards) and Brad that had that issue that was going and where a lot of that came from I don’t really recall him having big issue with other drivers. “
WITH DENNY HAMLIN…
“With Denny (Hamlin) he did? I don’t even remember that one. I know our history between Brad and myself we haven’t had that. I’ve always raced him with a clear mind and not worry. Sure racing stuff happens and you make mistakes, everybody does. I make plenty myself, but it never crossed my mind that he would make an intentional move to dump me. There are only a few people out there wired like that. I think in today’s world there is probably less like it or not it is just the way it is. People race really, really hard and I think Brad did, but to just go in the corner and dump someone man that is tough to do. Then you play into the Karma thing and then there is always next week. There is a variety of things that come with that. I just don’t think there are many guys out there that would haul off into the turn and just dump their competition for the championship.”
CHAD (KNAUS) SAID EARLIER THIS WEEK THAT AT THIS TIME OF YEAR PEOPLE WHO ARE CHASING YOU HAVE TO RAISE THEIR GAME, BUT THE NO. 48 TEAM DOESN’T HAVE TO. YOU SORT OF REMAIN ON AN EVEN PLANE. IS THAT THE WAY YOU OPERATE AS A DRIVER?
“I think it’s really led by Chad’s direction. He treats every race as if we are in the Chase and leans on us all. There are parts of the year where myself, my team members look at him and are like ‘man its June why are you cracking the whip so hard?’ But that is the
way Chad operates. I’m thankful that he does because he never sits back and relaxes on past performance and it’s all about the present and working as hard as you can each and every week. He made the comment and a lot of that is due to his personality and the way he runs a race team. Myself I’m usually a little more laid back. It’s not that I’m trying any harder now, but I can let stuff fall off my shoulders a little easier middle of the year than he can. Right now if you are going to be the champion you can’t shrug something off. You have to focus on every single point and make sure you can get every point you can on the track. I guess maybe I’m more like his mindset when the Chase starts and prior to that I’m a bit more relaxed.”
DO YOU HAVE A SENSE THAT THE NO. 2 IS NOT GOING TO CHOKE NOT GOING TO DISAPPEAR AND YOU ARE GOING TO NEED TWO TERRIFIC RACES TO WIN THIS THING?
“Yeah, that is the way I have to enter each race. I have to expect the best out of them and I’ve said that through the whole Chase. When there were 12 of us that had a shot I was focused on all 12 and then it’s worked its way down to really just one car. We are here to race. We need to get every point that we can and expect the most out of the No. 2.”
WHAT DO YOU THINK TONY STEWART MEANT BY BRAD KESELOWSKI HAVING A ‘DEATH WISH’? DO YOU THINK WITH THE NATIONWIDE POINTS BEING SO CLOSE THAT IS AN ARGUMENT TO NOT HAVE A CHASE FORMAT ANYMORE?
“I didn’t see the comments after last weekend with what Tony (Stewart) said so I really don’t know what he’s referencing. The Nationwide stuff, we saw it time and time again in the Cup Series that you would get a couple close years here and there, but really there was a runaway year. I feel like from an odds standpoint, your chances of having a close championship battle are best with the Chase. The Cup Series is proof of that. We wouldn’t have changed if it wasn’t the situation. I’m happy to see the Nationwide Series tied right now. It’s great TV and it’s great to watch. It’s very hungry guys out there trying to make their mark.”
WHAT ARE YOUR FUTURE GOALS AND WHERE DO YOU WANT TO BE WHEN YOUR CAREER COMES TO A CONCLUSION?
“It’s hard to say and I still live my life and live each day just looking at what’s right in front of me. I’ve been asked the question a lot about long term and where I want to be, the mark I want to leave on the sport and it’s something that I haven’t put a lot of thought into, but I feel like I’ve had lame answers for everybody over the years and I need to think about it for once and have a good answer. I made this reference a few times, but a friend of mine said to me that limits begin where the vision ends. I want to be considered the best driver to ever sit in a stock car. The undisputed way to pull that off is to win eight championships. That’s what I said a few months back and I know that I put that mark way, way out there in front of me and it’s a lofty goal. I’ve accomplished every goal that I’ve set in front of myself, I’ve knocked down and I’m going to put one way out there and hope I get there. If I don’t, I know that I’ve tried and given 100 percent and very proud of whatever the stats are at that point when I retire. Putting one way out there and we’ll see if I get to it.”
DO YOU HAVE AN UPDATE ON THE ‘SUPERSTORM SANDY’ FUND?
“I’m not sure how it’s going. I know we made our contribution and I’m hopeful that others have donated as well. I had some news that where our apartments held, it could be three more months before we have power or be back on our own power system. They have some auxiliary power that they are hopeful to get in within two weeks, but before the building is functioning like it was, it’s at least another three months. Believe me, the apartment wasn’t cheap. This is a nice place. I can only imagine the devastation and destruction on many levels throughout Manhattan, Staten Island. Our motor home is on the New York satellite and we were watching the local news from Staten Island, I can’t believe the devastation there. Hopefully, others are inspired to donate as well and we can try to help out.”
ARE THERE MISCONCEPTIONS ABOUT YOU AND DOES THAT BOTHER YOU?
“I learned a long time ago that it’s hard to make everybody happy. I have seen in the last three or four years and there are plenty of markers to show it in the fan base that has shifted heavily that there are a lot of very avid 48 fans that are out there. With that said, I’m sure there are some that just don’t like us. That’s fine, that’s cool. It’s this sport. It’s how it is. Nothing has bothered me, I’ve heard it all and I guess also in my lesson a while back I learned that if I know someone and they have a problem with me then I should take heart. From a fan’s perspective, in the way things happen within sports, if somebody says something ugly, they don’t know me so why am I going to take it to heart. It’s just fandom. People supporting their teams and who they want to support.”
HOW DOES IT MAKE YOU FEEL WHEN FANS ARE NOT SUPPORTIVE OF YOU BEING POISED TO WIN ANOTHER CHAMPIONSHIP?
“It makes me smile. I really don’t care. I’m doing my job. I’ve worked my entire life to get to this point in my career. I wasn’t around to see the (Richard) Petty era, but I know or I can only assume that a lot of people were tired of seeing the King win. I know that a lot of people were tired of seeing (Dale) Earnhardt win. I lived it firsthand in watching Jeff Gordon go through that very same thing after his fourth championship. It’s not that I’m in this unique situation. We go back through and pull the clips from previous champions and guys that have been on runs before and it’s the same stuff. It’s absolutely the same stuff. I’m not doing anything different than Gordon, Petty, Earnhardt — in fact I’m awfully damn proud to be in that lump of guys that had to go from cheers to boos and when they get back to cheering you again is when you stop winning. I don’t want the cheers, I’ll keep the boo’s. That’s fine.”
WHAT HAPPENED BETWEEN YOURSELF AND BRAD KESELOWSKI AT ROAD ATLANTA AND DID THAT CHANGE YOUR PERCEPTION OF HIM?
“When I saw his reply, it took me a second or two to take it in. I thought, ‘Wait a second, Road Atlanta? He crashed.’ Then the few minutes following his crash ran through my mind and I think Chad (Knaus, crew chief) and I were in a Tahoe and ran down there. We were some of the first people on the scene to help him get out of the car. Helping him find his bearings. Checked up with him when he was in the hospital. It was a heck of a crash. I don’t think, I was just concerned for him. Maybe that was something different than what he had experienced with other racers. That’s me. I’m concerned for people and especially seeing a big impact like that firsthand. It got my attention. The next day and a half of testing, every time I went into turn one I could see his marks where he went off the road and hit down there. I was like, ‘Man that was ugly.’ I’m glad that meant something to him. It wasn’t my intentions. He knows where I am with my morals and that I do care about others. I don’t think the situations are identical by any means, but the fact that he is the only driver that came to victory lane to shake my hand after the race in Texas, I just thought that took a lot of class. It’s tough in this moment, we’re both racing and trying to achieve our dreams of being a champion in this sport and for him to put
a smile on his face and come to victory lane to shake my hand I thought was a big move on his behalf.”
DALE EARNHARDT JR., NO. 88 DIET MOUNTAIN DEW/AMP ENERGY/NATIONAL GUARD CHEVROLET met with media and discussed who he thinks will win this year’s Chase, the tight Nationwide Series battle, the outlook for JR Motorsports in 2013 and other topics. Full Transcript:
IT SEEMS LIKE YOU AND BRAD (KESELOWSKI) CAME TOGETHER AT THE PERFECT TIME YOU AS AN OWNER AND HIM AS A DRIVER. IN YOUR OPINION WHO DO YOU THINK BENEFITED MORE IN THAT RELATIONSHIP BRAD AS THE DRIVER OR YOUR COMPANY JR MOTORSPORTS?
“Probably definitely Brad, which is fine, it seemed to give him the platform he needed to really showcase his potential and get people, owners like Roger Penske to consider him for Cup level. That is what our company is all about. That is what we enjoy to see happen so it was a success for us, but definitely think it was best for Brad.”
HOW DID IT HELP YOUR COMPANY?
“We pleased a lot of sponsors with the way Brad ran and the success we had with Brad. It gave our company credibility amongst the competitors and just really raised the moral and got everybody in the shop really fired up with Brad’s ability. When they went to the race track they were excited about their opportunities and changed the culture in the shop quite a bit.”
WHY DID YOU CHOOSE HIM?
“I liked his family’s history, good hard working racing people. He had worked on all his stuff growing up so he knew how valuable the equipment was, knew how to take care of the equipment and he was quick. He could do things; he was in some of the start and park race cars and qualifying well and racing well. He was great at looking around on the race track for different grooves, different speed and finding speed in the car. Just did a lot of good things.”
DO YOU HAVE ANY IDEAS ABOUT THE 2013 CAR? JEFF BURTON SAID HE THINKS IT’S GOING TO MAKE A BIG DIFFERENCE IN PASSING AND MAKE THE 1.5-MILE RACES MORE LIKE SHORT TRACKS
“Yeah, I haven’t tested the car. So I’m not sure what Burton has in mind or what he thinks will help. But hopefully that reveals itself when we start working on the car and I start getting to drive the car.”
WHO DO YOU THINK WILL WIN THE CHASE FOR THE NASCAR SPRINT CUP?
“Well, it’s between Brad (Keselowski) and Jimmie (Johnson) and I think Jimmie is going to win it. Jimmie is going to be hard to beat. Jimmie is in great equipment. Jimmie has a great race team around him; smart people, and one of the best crew chiefs in the business, and Jimmie is one of the best drivers in the business. It’s going to be hard to beat those guys.”
ON JIMMIE JOHNSON GOING FOR A SIXTH TITLE AND BEING ONE OF THE BEST IN THE SPORT:
“I think he’s been in the conversations. Winning five in a row puts him in the conversation as being one of the guys that’s the best the sport has ever seen. And any success he has beyond that just further strengthens this argument and I think it’s fair to put him in that group and compare him to Richard (Petty) and Cale Yarborough and guys like that; my father, even.”
WHAT IS THE SENSE OF PRIDE WITH BRAD (KESELOWSKI), YOU’VE TALKED MANY TIMES ABOUT JR MOTORSPORTS BEING AN OPPORTUNITY FOR YOUNG DRIVERS?
“I’m competing against him so I’ve got to look at him really as a competitor, but we have a good friendship and a good amount of respect for each other. That really carries over on to the race track. I enjoy racing with him. He’s a real tough competitor; he races really, really hard. He’s so far removed from his years in the Nationwide Series already in this just short period of time. He’s already carved such a ditch in the Cup Series. Those seem just like memories racing as an owner and him as my driver. It just seems like so long ago already.”
YOU’RE A TWO-TIME NATIONWIDE CHAMPION, WHAT DOES IT TAKE TO BE A CHAMPION?
“In the Nationwide Series?”
IN ANY SERIES.
“I can only say what it takes to be a champion in the Nationwide Series because I haven’t won a championship in the Cup Series yet. You’ve got to have a great team around you. You’ve got to have fast race cars and you’ve got to be smart with them. That’s really the basics of it.”
WITH THAT SERIES BEING TIED RIGHT NOW, LAST YEAR COMING HERE THERE WAS ONLY EIGHT POINTS DIFFERENCE, IS THAT A GOOD ARGUMENT THAT YOU REALLY DON’T NEED A CHASE IN CUP?
“I’m not sure. I think the Chase for the championship really wasn’t to change how the points looked or change how the points are tallied up. I think it was just to drive attention to the fan base and get the fans excited that there was some sort of playoff system in effect. I think the fans get excited about everybody reverting back to the no points and leveling the playing field with 10 (races) to go. I think that it excites them to have a group of guys competing throughout the last 10 races and having it simplified in that aspect. With the old system we’ve seen good championships and with the new system we’ve seen good championships. I don’t believe it really matters how you stack it up. It just comes down to the performance of the drivers. It’s a coincidental situation with the Nationwide Series that those two guys are tied. I wouldn’t read much into it.”
LAST WEEK TONY STEWART SAID THAT BRAD (KESELOWSKI) HAD A DEATH WISH AT THE END OF THE RACE WITH THE WAY HE WAS PUSHING IT TO THE LIMIT. IS THAT JUST BRAD’S NATURE?
“I was really impressed from what I saw from both drivers at the end of that race. I think you saw both of them dig down and produce results that you don’t see on an everyday basis. Some of the most incredible racing that I’ve seen in a long time between two guys in a situation like that. I was fortunate enough to be close enough to see it and it was quite something to see.”
WHAT MAKES JIMMIE (JOHNSON) SO GOOD?
“You could come up with a bunch of different reasons and not really be correct. You think about his history on dirt and in the truck, how that must have helped him understand incredible car control. He spent years and years on dirt and that’s the best way to go to school on car control. He has incredible car control. He understands exactly where the grip level is, where the slip angles are, and how to get right up against them and carry it through the whole corner. He’ll tell you also that he has a great team around him. He’s been with this team from the start. They’ve built a great group and been able to maintain that. They complement Jimmie just as well as he complements them.”
WHERE DO YOU THINK BRAD (KESELOWSKI) WOULD BE TODAY IF TED MUSGRAVE HADN’T GOTTEN SUSPENDED FOR THAT ONE RACE WHERE BRAD GOT IN THE TRUCK AND SHOWED WHAT HE COULD DO?
“I think he would probably have made it still but it might have just taken a little bit longer. It might have taken a while to get that opportunity. That was definitely the key moment. He was driving that No. 23 car in the Nationwide Series, and he qualified 10th at Bristol. Then I saw him race at Atlanta and move around on the race track to find speed in the car, was racing against guys that had better equipment than him. You just see people have glimpses of potential and then he got that opportunity there and made the most of it. He would have won that race had he not been spun out. I felt like when I was calling him that I was probably not the only one at that moment. Whether I was or not I don’t know, but I felt like he brought a lot of awareness to himself and his opportunities and potential to a lot of people, not just myself.”
WHERE ARE YOU AT WITH NEXT YEAR AT JR MOTORSPORTS? WHAT DO YOU LOOK FOR BEYOND REGAN SMITH RUNNING A FULL SEASON?
“I’d like to have two full-time cars with Regan and Cole (Whitt) driving. We’re working really hard to fill sponsorship on the second car. We’ve got a lo
t of great potential partners that we’ve been speaking to. Cole has done a great job especially since we’ve made the changes we’ve made over there. Cole has really been able to improve. The speed in the car has improved each week. He’s been able to realize what kind of opportunities and things we can do together if we can get everything right. I think we’re really close. Regan is going to come in and give us a veteran in leadership from a driver standpoint. I’d really love to have both those guys. We’ve got Regan ready to go in a full deal. We’re just trying to piece together enough partnerships and people that are excited about our opportunities in the future with Cole for next year and we’ll move forward. I’m going to run a handful of races.”
HOW MUCH DOES IT HELP TO HAVE REGAN AROUND THE TRACK HANGING OUT WITH THE TEAM NOW AND GOING OVER TO JR MOTORSPORTS?
“He brings a better presence. He understands what the job is, what he needs to do. He’s really confident. So, I think that’s good for the team to see. It gets the team excited.”
IS THIS THE KIND OF SEASON WHERE YOU’RE GOING TO BE KIND OF HAPPY THAT IT’S OVER?
“No. I wish we were going to race on. I’d just race on through to February and start back over again if it were up to me. I really enjoy being at the track and driving cars. It’s been a good year, but this should be par for the course. It’s been a good year, but we want to be a lot better than this. I’m not ready to stop trying to be better.”
CAN YOU DESCRIBE WHAT IT IS LIKE TO BE IN THE ZONE? YOU AND STEVE (LETARTE, CREW CHIEF) STARTED OUT SO STRONG AND WON MICHIGAN.
“There’s confidence between me and him that we’re going to show up and do well, and confidence is real important. We work really well together. When he’s on top of his game and I’m on top of my game we’re a really competitive team.”
HOW ARE YOU LOOKING AT PHOENIX HERE THIS WEEKEND?
“I really don’t know. I haven’t run well since they repaved it. We’ve got a completely different setup than we ran here earlier this year. So right now I’m just anxious to get in the car and see what we can do.”
DO YOU THINK JIMMIE (JOHNSON) IS GOING TO WIN THE CHAMPIONSHIP? IS THERE MAYBE ONE STRENGTH THAT THE NO. 2 TEAM HAS THAT MAYBE THE NO. 48 DOESN’T?
“Not knowing any better. Maybe that’s one. Not really knowing any better and being open-minded to anything. They’re pretty risky too. He’ll stay out on two tires, no tires; try to run himself out of gas, and all kinds of crazy stuff. They are willing to really gamble. That makes them kind of dangerous in that aspect.”
WHAT’S THE BIGGEST CHALLENGE HERE UNDER THIS CONFIGURATION?
“I really haven’t been able to find good grip in the front of the car that creates speed. The front of the car is real harsh in the corners and just takes the grip out of the front tires. You blow through the front tires real easy.”
BRAD (KESELOWSKI) SAID THE OTHER DAY THAT YOU HAD HIM SIGN A CLAUSE IN HIS CONTRACT WHEN HE WORKED FOR YOU THAT SAID HE COULDN’T WRITE A BOOK ABOUT YOUR EXPERIENCES I GUESS, ANY EXPERIENCES YOU DON’T WANT HIM WRITING ABOUT?
“I don’t have anything that I would rather him not write about. I think he was telling a lie to be honest with you. We’ve had some fun times together, and he grew up a lot when he was around us. I’ll tell you that.”
“I don’t know. He hadn’t been exposed to a whole lot when we got a hold of him. All he had ever done was race cars and we took him to town and got him some clothes, dressed him up and showed him what was going on. I don’t know. It wasn’t too much. It wasn’t too crazy. He’s pretty outgoing now. I don’t know if you guys really remember just how shy and introverted he was when he first started racing for us, and he’s quite the comedian these days. He’s really outspoken, so he’s changed quite a bit.”
SO YOU’RE TAKING CREDIT FOR HIS DRESS STYLE AT THE MYERS BROTHER’S LUNCHEON LAST YEAR?
“No. He wasn’t working for me then.”
YOU TALK ABOUT YOU WANT TO KEEP RACING, HOW MANY YEARS DID YOU END THE YEAR THAT WAY? WHERE YOU WANTED TO KEEP GOING?
“Only a few. Not many. Probably about 30 percent of the years I’ve ran. I’m excited about next year. I’m excited about opportunities with the new car and working on the new car. I’m ready to go testing. I’m just not ready to sit down.”
TONY STEWART, NO. 14 MOBIL 1/OFFICE DEPOT CHEVROLET, met with members of the media at Phoenix International Raceway and discussed future plans for SHR, racing at Phoenix, Chase contenders and other topics. Full transcript:
DO YOU HAVE A RESPONSE TO THE STORY THAT KEVIN HARVICK WILL JOIN STEWART-HAAS RACING IN 2014? “Well, it’s actually Dale, Jr. (SMILES BROADLY). And Marty Smith (ESPN Television personality and website reporter) is actually going to be in the fourth car. Yes, that’s where we are at. (SMILES BROADLY) I will tell you this, when we have something to tell you guys, we’ll tell you. I’ve always said that. You guys can throw darts, but when we have something to tell you that’s different than what we’ve got going on, we’ll obviously tell you.”
HOW IS YOUR CAR? “Getting there. Working on it. It’s getting closer, but we still have a little ways to go in race trim. I think in qualifying trim, we are making gains on it. We probably need to make a couple more runs to get it really nice.”
WHAT IS IT LIKE AS A DRIVER WHEN YOU HAVE A STRETCH OF TIME WHERE YOU ALMOST CAN DO NO WRONG; WHEN YOU ARE IN THE ZONE? HOW DOES THAT FEEL? “It’s awesome. It is what every driver wants no matter what form of racing you’re in. When you’re on top of your game, and you have got things going right, it’s just the confidence you’ve got when you come in the pit gate at the beginning of the weekend. It’s nice because it literally is a really balance. That’s normally when you are probably in-tune with your car the best of any time throughout the year is when you are in those modes. You would trade unborn children for that feeling a lot of times.”
WHO WOULD YOU PICK OF THE TOP-TWO GUYS (JIMMIE JOHNSON AND BRAD KESELOWSKI) FOR THE CHAMPIONSHIP? “I’m still worried about getting myself as far up in the championship as I can. I’m not worried about those two guys. They’ve got their own deal going on, just like we had our deal going on last year. I think we proved last year, it is hard to pick. It’s way too close to try to pick anybody. I mean, you still have a 300 lap race here; a 500-mile race next weekend (at Homestead-Miami Speedway), and there are 41 other guys on the race track that can make or break their weekend. And they can do it to themselves; or their pit crews. There are so many things that can happen. It’s not like trying to pick a winning team in a football, basketball or baseball game. It’s not that easy.”
DO YOU LOOK BACK AT LAST SEASON AND COMPARE IT TO THIS SEASON AND MARVEL AT WHAT THESE TWO ARE DOING? “I haven’t even looked back at it. I don’t know how much I can talk about last year. I think I talked about it…I’m not sitting here watching those two guys. I’m trying to drive my race car, and worry about what our race weekend is doing. I’m not focused on what they are doing, and I’m not watching what they are doing. I know where they are at in the point standings. We haven’t quit. We are still trying to get every point we can, and still trying to figure out where we can finish. We can finish fifth through 10th right now, so that’s what our focus is. It’s not focusing on what those two guys are doing.”
DO YOU THINK THIS TRACK IS GOING TO BE MORE RACEY THAN IT HAS BEEN? “I think so. I think it is getting a little bit wider. Again, the track and facility here did a good job of dragging the tires around like they did last year and I think that helped a bunch.
We did the (Goodyear) tire test a couple of weeks, and it was an ice skating rink for that. It definitely helps get the weekend started off and right. Having more cars on it helps too. Definitely dragging that tire machine around it helped it a bunch.”
WHAT IS THE BIGGEST CHALLENGE ON THE TRACK HERE? “The biggest thing, at least from what I’ve seen, guys are fighting loose on entry, then they fight being tight in the center of the corner. You want to tighten your car up to get it into the corner, but then you are too tight in the center. It seems like everybody’s exit is ok after it’s got some rubber down. It’s just a matter of trying to balance the entry and the center of the corner.”
WHAT DOES IT TAKE TO BE A NASCAR CHAMPION? “Getting more points than everybody else.”
WHAT DID YOU MEAN LAST WEEK THAT KESELOWSKI HAD A DEATH WISH? “I talked about it last week. I’m not going to talk about it again this week. I’ve got other stuff to worry about, I’m not going to talk about something I said about somebody last week. That’s done and over with.”
JEFF GORDON, NO. 24 DUPONT CHEVROLET, met with members of the media at Phoenix International Raceway and discussed the groove at Phoenix International Raceway, the possibility of the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series racing on dirt, what it takes to be a champion and other topics. Full Transcript:
HOW HAS THE TRACK AGED IN THE ONE YEAR? IS IT MUCH DIFFERENT THAN IT WAS A YEAR AGO?
“It’s a little bit different. It’s nice to see a nice wide groove. There is a lot of rubber laid down which compared to the first race we had here that was pretty rare we didn’t see that until maybe half way through the race. So to show up and practice and see a nice wide groove they have had a lot of cars on the track to really get it cleaned off. I think it is a big improvement. Really anxious to see how qualifying goes today. Sometimes we get some false sense of security in practice, tires are heated up through the brakes and everything else and you go out there and the car has got good grip. When everything is cool and you take off to go make that qualifying run and it sticks then I will be happy. I have a feeling we are probably going to be sliding around a little bit for the first half, three-quarters of the lap. So getting ahold of the track qualifying is going to be tough, but I’m optimistic about multiple grooves in the race right now.”
THE RACE TRACK IN FORT ERIE, CANADA HAS RECEIVED FINAL APPROVAL FROM THE MUNICIPAL BOARD IT LOOKS LIKE IT’S A GO AHEAD IS THERE ANYTHING YOU CAN SAY ABOUT THAT DEAL?
“Well there is still a lot of things, it’s a long process. I’ve been saying this for a while it’s been a great experience for me to be a part of it from the beginning design stages with Paxton Waters who worked with Rusty (Wallace) on Iowa. I think we have a great track design and it takes a long time to get all the approvals. That is a great step for us. Now the next step is to put all the funding in place, which has been in the works for a long time and start to make it a reality and see race cars out there one day. Of course you hope that you can get the NASCAR series there, but you can’t guarantee that nobody can and so I think it’s a great market. I think there is tremendous support of fans and companies there. I think it can be a win for everybody if we can get it done.”
WHAT IS ONE PERSONALITY TRAIT OF MR. HENDRICK THAT CREATES THE LEVEL OF SUCCESS FOR HIS ORGANIZATION?
“He is just such a quality person. You spend enough time with him and you realize everything he does he does it right, he does it first class, he treats people with tremendous respect. He is very competitive so he doesn’t like to lose which is great in business as well as in racing. He is just so well balanced, his family, friends, working. He works hard, yet he enjoys life as well. Just that balance of everything he puts together is impressive to see and makes people look up to him and want to make him proud and want to be like him.”
WHY WILL JIMMIE JOHNSON WIN THE CHASE? ALSO, CAN YOU GIVE US ONE REASON WHY BRAD KESELOWSKI WILL WIN THE CHASE?
“Oh my goodness, well when somebody has won five straight championships like the No. 48 has that is no fluke. Even though they didn’t win it last year, they are just a really strong team. They have been through so much and they just know how to grind and battle and win at the right time and put the pressure on you at the right time with two straight poles and two straight wins. So certainly the pressure is on the No. 2. I think the No. 2 has done an excellent job, Brad has been a great driver and that team has really stepped up and hung in there and kept it interesting. But, you’ve got to think they are a little bit beat down from what that No. 48 team has been able to do to them throughout the Chase, especially the last couple of weeks. But, hey every race changes things up so you really can’t predict, you don’t know what is going to happen. I love that the other day I was watching all the elections and things. I was tweeting about this and I just got such a kick out of it and the fans response to the things I was saying made me really think about things. I was saying ‘hey wait a minute CNN just came on with breaking news about 30 percent of the votes are in, but yet (Mitt) Romney wins this state or (Barack) Obama wins this state.’ It’s a projection poll. I don’t get this how can they say they won it and then everybody kept saying to me now you know what it’s like when you are watching a race and they are saying ‘oh’ this guys is leading the points right now and we are only 50 laps into the race. So, these races have got to be run, they have got to be run out to the checkered flag and then we will be talking about it all again after this weekend and see what happens when the checkered flag flies in Homestead. It’s great to see those two guys battling for the championship and for a race win like they were last weekend.”
WHAT DOES IT TAKE TO BECOME A CHAMPION?
“It’s been so long I’ve forgotten (laughs). It’s a lot different than what it takes today versus what it used to take because of the Chase format. I’m probably not the best guy to talk to, but usually the same thing holds true. You have to work hard, you have to be a great team and you’ve got to be willing to risk just about anything to put yourself out there to make the difference up whether it be a win, one position or just to keep yourself in the game.”
YOU’VE BEEN IN A SITUATION WHERE YOU STRUNG TOGETHER A BUNCH OF WINS AND NOTHING IS GOING WRONG ON THE TEAM YOU ARE IN THE ZONE. WHAT IS IT LIKE TO BE IN THAT ZONE?
“It’s awesome. You feel like you just can’t do any wrong. It makes you just have so much confidence in yourself, in your team, them and you. You just go to the race track thinking ‘okay what little things do we have to do to win this race.’ You’re not thinking about wow we are a half a second off we are missing something. You do not doubt anything. You are just on this incredible boost of confidence and going into it thinking ‘yeah we can win this race’. Why can’t we? That is a great thing to have.”
DO YOU FIND THAT TO BE MORE STRESSFUL OR MORE RELAXING?
“No, it’s never less stressful. It doesn’t matter how good things are going for you. There is still the competition is still fierce. Anything can go wrong at any time. You don’t want to be the one to make the mistake to cost you what ultimately could and should be your year. To me the stress level is equally as high even when things are going great for you.”
WHAT WAS YOUR CON
VERSATION LIKE WITH KASEY (KAHNE) AFTER LAST WEEK’S RACE?
“I went to him immediately. I got out of my car and his car pulled up right next to me. I went over to him and I just apologized to him for getting into him. I think he recognized the situation we were racing hard. At the time I wasn’t sure if the No. 16 got into me or not so he asked me if he did. I said ‘I think he did, but I’m not really sure.’ After looking at the video he did. I did everything I could to make the pass as well as not get into Kasey (Kahne). When you are racing hard in the closing laps sometimes it happens. I hate it for him; I hate it for us as well. We were having a great run and a great day. It’s just one of those things that sometimes you have to go through as teammates and I felt like we had a good conversation about it.”
WHAT HAS KASEY (KAHNE) BROUGHT TO HENDRICK MOTORSPORTS?
“Well I feel like it’s kind of a team package with he and Kenny (Francis, crew chief). When you take two guys that have confidence in one another and work well together they can come in and just build the team, build the cars around them that they need to go out and be competitive. That is the whole thing is when cars are out there, when we have four cars out there that are all competitive that are fine tuning on their cars for qualifying, for the race we are giving much better information to our group. You are able to take more valuable information which turns into results from that group. So I feel like we have four teams obviously by making all four into the Chase, we have four teams that really have a lot to add and are very competitive week in and week out.”
DO YOU THINK WITH THE UNKNOWNS OF THIS TRACK AND THE DIFFICULTIES IT PROVIDES DO YOU THINK THIS TRACK COULD DECIDE THE TITLE?
“I mean I feel like every track we go to can decide the title. If something big happens, one big swing happens this is a tricky track. I mean it’s hard to get ahold of because of the new surface. There are multiple grooves so we are going to see some side-by-side racing, I think we are going to see some cautions and it’s going to be intense. Track position is very important here. That increases the intensity and anytime you increase the intensity and the aggressiveness you increase the chances of some game changer for the championship and for the race.”
YOU WERE AT THE TEST IN AT CHARLOTTE THIS WEEK?
DID YOU TAKE PART IN ANY OF THE STUFF THEY DID WHERE THEY REDUCED HORSEPOWER?
“I did not.”
DO YOU HAVE ANY IMPRESSIONS ON HOW THAT WENT? IS THAT A GOOD DIRECTION DO YOU THINK?
“I think that they have a long check list of things that they want to go through and test and try. That was one of them. We were doing tire testing primarily with our car. I haven’t talked to any of the guys that drove the cars. I will be surprised if it was good. I personally don’t think that is the direction that we need to be going in to make our racing better. It never slows the cars down through the corners. I would like to see us get the cars slowed down through the corner that is going to make better racing. I applaud them they are trying a lot of unique things and different things some inside the box, some way outside the box. I think that the testing that they are doing is very valuable.”
HAVE YOU TRIED LIKE THE HIGH DOWNFORCE STUFF THAT THEY ARE STARTING TO GO TO?
“Well when they pulled power away I know one of the times they added downforce at the same time probably a little bit more like a Nationwide package. But our stuff I would say that the stuff that we had was probably similar to the downforce we currently have with the cars.”
ARE YOU ENCOURAGED OVERALL?
“I thought the car drove really good. I thought the test went well. The cars are really… you look around the garage area I’m excited about we are going to be driving some very cool cars next year. I think that my car drove really well. I think there are still a lot of things left to do before February of next year, but I was very encouraged.”
EARLIER THIS MORNING ROBIN PEMBERTON WAS SAYING THAT ONE OF THE ISSUES IS TRYING TO FIGURE OUT WHAT THE FANS WANT AND IT’S KIND OF A MOVING TARGET. WHAT DO YOU THINK THEY NEEDS TO DO WHAT DO YOU THINK THE FANS WANT TO SEE IS IT JUST PASSING ON 1.5-MILE TRACKS?
“Yeah, I think that we need to have four quarters and half-time and mandatory cautions for TV timeouts. I mean Texas to me; everybody is like ‘wow that Texas race was awesome.’ Well it was awesome because we had cautions and some weeks we have cautions and other weeks we don’t have cautions. The weeks we don’t have cautions everybody is like ‘wow that was a boring race’. We don’t necessarily need to go back to the mid ‘90’s to make great racing because even back then we had races I remember a race where there was not one caution in the race. I guarantee you that type of racing we had back then the fans really wouldn’t like today. It’s just far more demanding of what makes an entertaining race, but we all know cautions fix all of that. To me let’s get the cars driving well. There is a different package for every track because you have some repaves and you have some hard tires that Goodyear has to build for the repaves like this one. It’s going to take time to build that multi groove race track. So cautions are what is going to make it exciting, but yet you go to Texas, Atlanta and Chicago and you have this track that is worn out, you have multiple grooves, the cars are sliding all over the place is what I think is great racing. Even Bristol, I like the racing at Bristol, but unless we have cautions to stack us all up and bump and bang a little bit more I don’t think that anybody is really going to be satisfied with the racing.”
YOU ARE NOT IN FAVOR OF BRUTON SMITH’S LET’S HAVE SIX MANDATORY CAUTIONS EVERY RACE?
“I’m leaning more towards it I will be honest with you. If that’s what, just don’t do it when I’m on pit road with a tire issue (laughs). Let me get un-lapped, trust me one thing is going to lead to another. Right now we have lucky dogs and wave around’s and all that stuff. If we start throwing more mandatory cautions we might have to change some of those rules.”
THEY ARE TALKING ABOUT THE TRUCKS RACING ON DIRT AT ELDORA. WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT NASCAR ON DIRT?
“Wow! Really? Well you know I have always found it amazing to see the ARCA (Automobile Racing Club of America) cars at DuQuoin. I think that is very cool that series does that. I don’t think it’s an easy task for them to do. You have to change the cars around a lot the set-up’s and heating and cooling systems and all that, brakes. So, but I’m all for it. I think it would be cool to see. I would love to see that.”
HOW MUCH OF AN ADJUSTMENT WOULD IT BE FOR EVERYBODY?
“Oh my gosh, huge adjustment. There are a lot of guys out there that aren’t used to driving on dirt. The trucks aren’t really built to run on dirt, so I don’t know how much they would have to change the trucks. It would be entertaining that is for sure. I would like to see it. I think there will be some guys that will really excel at
KAHNE IS TOP TEAM CHEVY QUALIFIER
FIVE CHEVROLETS IN TOP 10 STARTING SPOTS
AVONDALE, AZ – (November 9, 2012) – Kasey Kahne led the way for Team Chevy in qualifying his No. 5 Farmer’s Insurance Chevrolet in the fourth place starting spot for Sunday’s Advocare 500 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at Phoenix International Raceway, Round 35 of 36 on the 2012 season tour.
Five Chevy drivers
will start the 312-mile race in the top 10: Kurt Busch will start sixth in his No. 78 Furniture Row Chevrolet, Paul Menard, No. 27 Rheem/Menard’s Chevy will roll-off seventh, Regan Smith, No. 51 Phoenix Construction Chevy will start eighth, while Tony Stewart, No. 14 Mobil 1/Office Depot Chevrolet starts ninth.
Other Chevrolets in Sunday’s 43-car line-up include Jeff Gordon, No. 24 DuPont Chevrolet who qualified 11th, Ryan Newman, No. 39 Quicken Loans/U.S. Army Chevy will start 12th, Kevin Harvick, No. 29 Budweiser Chevy qualified 19th, Dale Earnhardt Jr., No. 88 Diet Mountain Dew/AMP Energy/National Guard Chevrolet qualified 23rd, Jimmie Johnson, No. 48 Lowe’s/Kobalt Tools Chevy qualified 24th, and Danica Patrick earned a 37th place starting position in her No. 10 GoDaddy Racing Chevrolet.
Kyle Busch (Toyota) won the pole position, Martin Truex Jr. (Toyota) qualified second, and Denny Hamlin (Toyota) qualified third to round out the top five starting spots.
Sunday’s Advocare 500 takes the green flag on Sunday, Nov. 11th at 1:00 p.m. MST (3:00 p.m. EST) and will be aired live on ESPN.
KASEY KAHNE, NO. 5 FARMER’S INSURANCE CHEVROLET – QUALIFIED 4TH: ON HIS LAP: “The car felt good; I just missed my braking points a little bit and had an issue with my brakes. But other than that, the car felt really good. So, I thought we should have been better; first right now, for sure. I don’t know about beating the No. 18 (Kyle Busch).
HOW IS THE CAR FOR SUNDAY? “Well, we’ll practice tomorrow, but the car seemed pretty good during practice today. I liked what I had in the car. But yeah, I like this track and tomorrow we’ll figure it out.”
WILL THE COOLER TEMPERATURES HAVE ANY BEARING ON ANYTHING FOR RACE DAY? “I don’t think so. I think it will be pretty similar.”
KURT BUSCH, NO. 78 FURNITURE ROW/FARM AMERICAN CHEVROLET, QUALIFIED 6TH: ON HIS QUALIFYING: “It was an interesting couple of laps. I missed it really big on the first lap. Loose; on that edgy side of things. The second lap didn’t feel much better, so that means to me there is still a lot of speed in the track. But overall the five laps we’ve done this year in qualifying with the No. 78 Furniture Row Chevy, they’ve all been on that ragged edge of loose, so we are developing some common denominators, and that is what this year has been all about.”
HOW DO YOU FEEL LIKE THE TEAM IS PROGRESSING AS A UNIT? “There is A-Z here, we’ve just got to put one letter behind the next one and make sure we get out vowels in there. We have had the right tools, it’s just in this game of Sprint Cup, you have to be on it every moment.”
IS THE TRACK RACIER THAN A YEAR AGO? “It is a little bit more forgiving. It’s not as razor blade edge-ish. It was real tough. If you slipped a little bit, you slipped a lot. Now you can kind of maneuver it a little.”
PAUL MENARD, NO. 27 RHEEM/MENARD’S CHEVROLET – QUALIFIED 7th: ON HIS QUALIFYING
“The track is totally different obviously now, with the repave; but it’s come in a lot. Obviously it’s been a hot summer here and the track’s got different characteristics than when we were here in the spring. I feel good about our Rheem/Menard’s Chevy. We unloaded very slippery and the track kind of came to us a little bit. If we can start in the top 10, that will go a long ways on Sunday. But not a whole lot translates from last spring’s race until now. Like I said, it’s been a hot summer and the track has changed quite a bit.”
REGAN SMITH, NO. 51 PHOENIX CONSTRUCTION CHEVROLET, QUALIFIED 8TH:ON HIS LAP: “I thought it was a good lap. Obviously there’s always things you want to do different after the fact, but I feel like we made good changes from practice with the Phoenix Construction Chevrolet. These guys have been working their tails off, not only this week, but all year. We’ll go race from there. It was a good run for the No. 51 Phoenix Construction Chevrolet. These guys have been working hard. I think they finally got their first day in like six months off this week. I wanted to come out and try to have a good qualifying lap and a good race on Sunday. This team is looking for some sponsorship for next year and we would love to have a good run and help them get that.”
TONY STEWART, NO. 14 MOBIL 1/OFFICE DEPOT CHEVROLET, QUALIFIED 9TH: ON HIS QUALIFYING: “It was alright. It wasn’t anything spectacular, but it is holding on. I don’t know if the track is going the other way, or something, but we were a little free. Freer than we were in practice, but we picked up two tenths, so I’m proud of the pickup. But, I thought our second lap would actually be better, but it kind of gave up some grip that lap.”
JEFF GORDON, NO. 24 DUPONT CHEVROLET, QUALIFIED 11TH: ON HIS QUALIFYING: “We’ve had some issues here the last couple of times getting real loose going to qualify, and we didn’t want that to happen, so we probably over-tightened it. The track had good grip, and we were just a little bit too tight. But a decent lap. When we first ran here last year, the track was treacherous on cold tires. Right now, some guys struggled early in qualifying, but when I went out, it had good grip. It’s definitely improving. The groove is wider, the grip level is better. Hopefully this time next year, we’ll have a tire that is maybe not so hard, and we’ll be able to have something that drives a little bit better on cold tires. Even maybe wears out a little bit more on the long runs.”
RYAN NEWMAN, NO. 39 QUICKEN LOANS/U.S. ARMY CHEVROLET, QUALIFIED 12TH: ON HIS QUALIFYING: “That was the first time I’ve ever done that actually. (stop and turn around to re-run his lap). I felt like I needed to. It was a decent rebound lap. Our car was really loose there, as much heat as I could get in the tires, I was going to be better at that point. Did a little extracurricular activity and got a decent lap for the Quicken Loans Chevrolet, but obviously not as quick as we were in practice. The track got a little bit quicker, but I think a part of the tire likes the heat to get the rubber on the race track. So, it was a matter of getting the race track cleaned off more than anything.”
JIMMIE JOHNSON, NO. 48 LOWE’S/KOBALT TOOLS CHEVROLET, QUALIFIED 24TH: ON HIS QUALIFYING: “Wasn’t so good, but we’ve been fighting a little bit in qualifying trim. But, we’ve got a great baseline race setup to go off of. For me it was really turn one (the sun glare). The glare was pretty bad getting into the turn then getting the power down was tough for me up off of (turn) two. (Turns) three and four were pretty good I felt like on both of my laps, but I struggled oddly enough down there this time.”
JEFF BURTON, NO. 31 CATERPILLAR CHEVROLET, QUALIFIED 33RD: ON HIS QUALIFYING: “Going out early here is a huge disadvantage with a new race track. Having a driver wreck in the first practice is a huge disadvantage too. We didn’t get any practice. The car was exceptionally tight, but again, I think going out this early is a huge disadvantage. You aren’t going to have the grip the guys are going to have later on. I screwed up in practice and dug us in a hole, and we will have to dig out of it on Sunday.”
DANICA PATRICK, NO. 1O GODADDY RACING CHEVROLET, QUALIFIED 37TH: ON HER QUALIFYING: “It was pretty edgy especially coming to the green it stuck way out and I couldn’t turn the wheel so I ended up pretty wide and I wasn’t sure if I was going to have enough grip to stay out of the wall or not coming to the green. We definitely had a really tight car in practice and our qualifying runs were actually tighter than our race runs. I know Tony (Gibson, crew chief) was trying to free it up so we could have a good lap. We are just feeling each other out and how far we need to go with these changes. I think the temperature change I feel
like has affected me. It’s much cooler out a lot of the track is more shaded. Maybe it was a little bit freer than at least I even anticipated it was going to be. I think that we are working really well together and hopefully we can make good changes tomorrow so we get the GoDaddy car further up.”