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Notes and Quotes: Monday, Jan. 22

Manufacture Notes:
Ginn Racing
Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates

More than 200 print and electronic media members from 22 states and as far away as Germany are registered to participate in the Jan. 22-25 NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Media Tour hosted by Charlotte Motor Speedway.

The largest off-season media event in NASCAR NEXTEL Cup racing, the 24th edition of this annual season preview begins Monday afternoon, Jan. 22, and continues through Thursday afternoon, Jan. 25.

With support from sponsors Nextel and NASCAR, the Media Tour gives registered participants the opportunity to tour race shops, meet with drivers, crew chiefs and team owners, and discuss the latest developments and news with motorsports industry leaders.

"The NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Media Tour allows journalists from around the world to take fans inside the sport as drivers and teams prepare for the new season," said H.A. "Humpy" Wheeler, president and general manager of Charlotte Motor Speedway. "The tour is as important to the Fourth Estate as pre-season testing is to the race teams."

Journalists from New York, Chicago, Detroit, Atlanta, Dallas, Kansas City, Los Angeles, Milwaukee, Miami, Nashville, Toronto and Montreal are among those registered to participate, representing such media outlets as USA Today, The New York Times, TV Guide and The Associated Press.

Hendrick Motorsports, Ginn Racing, Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates, Robert Yates Racing, Richard Childress Racing, Petty Enterprises, Dale Earnhardt Inc., Roush Racing, Joe Gibbs Racing, Penske Racing, Haas CNC Racing, Evernham Motorsports and Wood Brothers/JTG Racing are among the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup teams scheduled to host Media Tour events.

Toyota will bring its NEXTEL Cup drivers and team owners together for a gala dinner and the Media Tour will also make its annual visit to the NASCAR Research and Development Center where officials are expected to make several announcements. A groundbreaking ceremony for the NASCAR Hall of Fame in Charlotte is also part of the schedule.

The NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Media Tour will be headquartered at the new Embassy Suites Hotel and Concord Convention Center on Speedway Blvd. near Charlotte Motor Speedway.

The first function of the 2007 NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series Media Tour Hosted by Charlotte Motor Speedway on Monday was a lunch and press conference hosted by Ginn Racing. Among those on hand were the team's three veteran NEXTEL Cup drivers, Mark Martin, Sterling Marlin and Joe Nemechek.

Each driver talked about how excited they were heading into the 2007 season as the team has undergone several changes, including the addition of Bobby Ginn who now owns a majority of team that was formerly known as MB2 Motorsports.

Bobby Ginn Team Owner Ginn Racing:

"I want to thank all the media for coming out today. This is of course my first media day. There is a lot going on here. Some of you I know and some of you I haven't been able to meet since getting involved in the racing world and NASCAR. It was something that I had thought of for many, many years and it was perfect timing as I ran into a great situation. I do believe that fate has a great way of working things out, as I met a guy named Jay Frye and I don't know which one of us was a better salesman, but he did a great job introducing me with the opportunity to come into a team that stayed together and worked together over the years. They had two great veteran drivers and a great crew chief in Ryan Pemberton.

"What we've tried to do is come in and be good partners with Jay and the team. We've tried to work hard to make improvements where necessary such as bringing in Gary DeHart and with some of the other changes we've made. We had to get started quickly and our business plan is pretty much laid out for the next five years. We didn't go into this with a short term attitude, we went into this with a plan and we knew it would take a long time to develop the shop and develop the way we work together in the shop.

"One of the things that we've decided to do is to announce most of the new sponsors between now and Daytona, to allow them the opportunity to have the podium.

"This has all been a tremendous learning curve and a great opportunity. It's moved very fast for us over here. Having a background in real estate, the first thing I did was look and see if we had the facilities. You can't have a great shop if you don't have the facilities for that, and Jay had done a great job of putting together a great facility right before I came along and since then in the few months that we've been together, we have expansion underway to expand the facilities by another 30 percent. We've have begun to employ more people and build on our teams. We've been a two-car team and our plan is to be a four-car team in '08. We will have a three-car team in '07 and we knew we had to be on the expansion program not only in terms of facilities, but in people.

"One of the things that I believe -- in my own business, in life and in the race team, is that at the end of the day you can have all of the best sheet metal and all of the best motors, but if you don’t have great people you are never going to get there. That is what I saw here - the opportunity with Jay. I’m excited about it all and I know that he is too.

"With the expansion, we’ve had to expand by 60 people in a very short amount of time. We’ve about caught up to where we need to be and to what we have to have in place for our four- car team next year. There is just a lot of growth going on right now at Ginn Racing and it’s all good.

"The last thing we had to turn our attention to is drivers. As I said the one thing I believe in is people and I believe in the drivers program. If you look at our drivers - that’s our future and it’s something that we have invested in early in our career in racing. We wanted to identify young drivers and bringing Mark Martin to our team -- convincing him to make that kind of change after 19 years-- he would help the other drivers and would help the young guys in taking them through the ranks, while not pushing them too fast or holding them back. Nobody is more excited about that than Mark Martin, who will be our tutor of drivers in the future.

"We are also excited about Ricky Carmichael, who is the winningest racer in motocross history. He is just an individual that I got to know and fell in love with. - his work ethic and his incredible family. His support and fan base are strong, but his desire to win is on top of it all; just his attitude to win. We are kind of both in the same position. I’m 58 years old and changing careers and he’s 27 years old and changing careers, so we have that in common. We got together and like our other developmental drivers, we think he is the future.

"One of the other things we needed to do this year at Ginn Racing was to bring in a third driver and what an opportunity to bring in one that not only had the experience and was a winning driver, with the ability to continue to win, but someone like Mark Martin, who is just what everyone wants to stand for. He has not only the ability to go out and win races, but also the desire to help come in here and build the developmental program. He is just a tremendous asset to Ginn Racing.

"Also, our two drivers that were here when I got here and both of whom I’ve gotten to be good friends with. Joe (Nemechek) and his family and Sterling (Marlin) and his family have become a part of our family and this year we are going to put the best equipment we can underneath them and the best pit crews around them and just support them and we are expecting this year to be a great year."

How do you sell to the race fans that this team is going to be one of the top teams in the sport in three to five years?

"We’ll it’s not just one thing. You have to have the facilities and the engineering. You have to have good drivers and what I’m not asking people to believe is that we are going to go out and win the series next year. But, we are committed to a five-year plan to really grow into a team than can and will compete at that level. The amount that we have in place already is very important and the way we promote our teams. Having good sponsors and having them be successful is something that is key to building a good strong team that can compete down the road."

Bobby Ginn (Majority owner of Ginn Racing): "This is my first day in front of the media tour so I’m excited about what we’ve got going on. Becoming involved in racing was something I always wanted to do and now I’ve got the chance. I’ve tried to come in and be a good partner with Jay Frye. We didn’t come in with a short-term attitude because we’re in this for the long haul. We’re going to do things right. It’s been a tremendous learning curve but I’m excited about the possibility. We want to have four cars in 2008 with three cars this year. We can have all the right people and equipment, but it’s all about getting everybody working together. We’re excited about having Mark Martin come on board to help us with our young driver development drivers. The goal as the new owner is simple -- to work as hard as we can to build on the successes of the team and make a commitment to providing our race teams with the resources necessary to get them into victory lane."

In addition to the team’s NEXTEL Cup drivers, Ginn Racing development drivers Ricky Carmichael, Jesus Hernandez and Kraig Kinser were also on hand. Regan Smith, who will co-drive with Martin in the No. 01 Army Chevrolet, was in Daytona testing a Busch car.

Sterling Marlin (Driver of the No. 14 Ginn Racing Chevrolet): "I’m excited about all the changes that Bobby Ginn has made since he came on board last year. He’s very serious about where he wants to take his race teams in the future. We had a little bit of an off-season last year but I’m looking forward to it."

Mark Martin (Co-driver of the No. 01 US Army Chevrolet): "This is definitely a little bit of a change for me because I’ve switched teams and moved from Ford to Chevrolet. I’m excited about running a partial season this year and working with Regan Smith who I will co-drive with. I can’t wait to help all these young drivers develop their careers. It’s going to be nice to get a little bit of a break this year. Bobby Ginn is a very smart man and he’s shown that through his various business endeavors, so I don’t think his racing business is going to be any different. It should be an interesting year."

The early afternoon stop on Monday’s Media Tour was a visit to the NASCAR Research and Development Center in Concord, N.C., where top officials talked about everything from a revision in the NEXTEL Cup Series championship standings to the new Car of Tomorrow that will be phased into competition beginning with this year’s spring race at Bristol Motor Speedway. NASCAR officials also spoke about where they stand in their fourth year of the Drive for Diversity program and introduced several drivers hoping for a future in NASCAR.

"The Car of Tomorrow will alter the competitive landscape of NASCAR in a very positive way," explained NASCAR President Mike Helton. "We believe the drivers will be safer than ever and believe it will help control costs over the long haul. This was a safety initiative that has had a lot of time and effort put into it. We at NASCAR are very proud of what we’ve accomplished."

The Car of Tomorrow will compete in 16 selected races in 2007. There will be 120 measurements taken on the chassis with nine location points to ensure the car’s safety. The centralized chassis dyno will be available at the Research and Development Center as well as at each track for all four manufacturers at NASCAR’s top level.

"The Car of Tomorrow is a safer race car," said Brett Bodine, NASCAR’s director of cost and research. “The car will be stronger and that in turn will help keep the drivers safe. The drivers have been moved closer to the center of the vehicle. This will enhance competition out on the race track. These changes will usher in a new era for NASCAR and the drivers."

NASCAR Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Brian France announced format changes to the Chase for the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup.

“What we wanted to do was make things better," France said. “We believe the first changes to the format were successful. We also wanted to see if there was something more we could do to make it even better. We want to emphasize winning even more. We’re going to add five points for a race winner. We looked at what these changes might do as we try to balance winning and consistency. The race winner will get five more points for a win than last year, plus they can gain five additional points for both leading a lap as well as leading the most laps, meaning they can earn 195 points for winning. Today’s adjustments make winning even more important all season long."

Another part of the format change will be that there will be 12 drivers - instead of 10 - participating in the final 10-race chase for the title. There will no longer be a 400-point cut-off. Once the 12 drivers have been determined, those competitors will start the Chase with 5,000 points. Bonus points will be then added according to the number of victories a driver has recorded during the season to set the order heading into the 27th race.

“This provides a driver like Tony Stewart who missed the Chase last year to get hot at the end of the season and still have a chance," France said. “I think it will simplify things. This makes every lap mean a lot more at every race."

The final Monday afternoon function was held at the Concord, N.C., facility of Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates where the two team owners announced their driver plans for the 2007 season. They will field three full-time NEXTEL Cup Series cars for Juan Pablo Montoya, Reed Sorenson and David Stremme. The operation will also run two Busch Series teams for not only their NEXTEL Cup drivers, but also development drivers Bryan Clauson, Kevin Hamlin and Scott Lagasse Jr.

Chip Ganassi (Co-owner Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates): “At the end of the season you reflect back on where you’ve been but also look ahead to the future. “I’ve been in racing for 25 years and I wouldn’t change that for the world. Our NASCAR operation has two out of five sponsors that have been involved in racing the longest period of time. I’m excited about 2007 and some of the companies we’ve been able to bring on board. I’m looking forward to more wins and being more consistent. All the teams are excited about where we’re at. I think Juan Montoya is going to bring a lot of veteran leadership and working with our development drivers.

“It seems like it was yesterday when I met Felix for the first time and I wouldn’t be where I’m at without his help and guidance. I’m also tired of being a newer team and that being an excuse we can fall back on. I’m not a patient man and I think we’re about there as far as our building blocks are concerned. This is Felix’s 20th year in NASCAR and I hope I’m still around (after) that long. I am very fortunate to have met Felix Sabates."

Felix Sabates (Co-owner Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates): “Twenty years is a long time to be involved in anything. I’m excited about this year."

Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates

CHIP GANASSI (Owner Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates)

OPENING COMMENTS “At the beginning of every season you end up reflecting back on your previous years. In looking back, I’ve had the good fortune of being involved with racing for 25 years, and I wouldn’t change that for the world. Today I’d like to bring to the forefront some of the partnerships I’ve been able to forge. It’s certainly a source of pride we have within our team. We’ve been partners with Target for 18 years. During our operation in NASCAR two of our sponsors are among the top five that have been in NASCAR the longest. This marks Coors 22nd year in the sport and Texaco is celebrating its 20th anniversary in the sport. In an industry that prides itself on partnerships, I’m proud of what this team has been able to accomplish along that vein.

“As I look forward to 2007, there are a lot of things I’m pretty excited about. First of all we have some new brands we’re bringing into the sport. We’re bringing Wrigley and Memorex into the sport, and that will be great for NASCAR. What I’m really looking forward to are some wins and running up front on a more consistent basis. Everybody talks about JPM (Juan Pablo Montoya), but don’t forget about these other guys sitting up here (David Stremme and Reed Sorenson). These guys are just coming into their own, and if you talk to guys around the shop they say 'what a difference a year makes for some of our young guns.’ Certainly I think Reed and David are going to be able to help Juan with some of the nuisances in NASCAR and some of the familiarity of the tracks. I think Juan is going to bring some of that veteran experience that this team surely misses.

“We’re also going to look for opportunities for our development drivers. Kevin Hamlin, Scott Lagasse (Jr.) and 17-year-old Bryan Clauson are here today, actually Hamlin is down at Daytona testing, but we’re gong to continue to look for opportunities for our young drivers and bring those drivers along and develop them.

“It seems like yesterday I got together with Felix, but I guess it’s been about seven years and quite frankly I’m tired of being in the building block process. I’m ready to arrive I guess. They say everybody out there has the statistics about how long it takes to build a winning organization. We’re down to about our last year or so on that in the statistic department. I think it’s safe to say most people wouldn’t characterize me as patient and I’m not, but I do recognize it’s a building block process in this business and like I said, I think we’re about there as far as building blocks. I certainly can’t wait for the season to start.

Last but not least, I mentioned earlier about how proud we are here of the partnerships we’ve been able to forge over the years. With that I’d like my esteemed partner here, Felix Sabates, to stand up. This is Felix’s 20th year in NASCAR, and I think that’s a great milestone and one I hope to get to some day. I can tell you that’s the partnership I’m most proud of in this building, my partnership with Felix Sabates. I wouldn’t be here without him. It’s that simple. There’s a lot of people I could have bumped into at NASCAR, and I feel pretty fortunate I bumped into this guy."

COMMENT ON TOYOTA COMING INTO NEXTEL CUP B “I think it’s good Toyota is coming in. I has some experience with them in Indy car racing over the years, and they’ll come in and they’ll do it right. They’ll do it in a big way, and the fact of the matter is the sport obviously needs some new interest and new excitement, and I think Toyota is going to provide that."

COMMENT ON FACTORY SUPPORT “I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again. In terms of this team winning races, our factory relationship is not in the top 10 in terms of things we have to address to win. I’m very happy with our factory relationship. I look to continue it for a long time.”

HOW HAS MONTOYA BEEN WORKING WITH THE OTHER DRIVERS? “I don’t know if it’s from working with him before or if he’s an easy guy to get along with, but he’s slid right in. He shows a lot of leadership, and that’s the important thing. He’s as playful as anybody, but when it comes time to put the facts where they need to be and put the pedal to the metal and get the job done, he’s right there. He doesn’t get caught up in petty little things.”

COMMENT ON MONTOYA’S DAYTONA TEST “He did a good job. He was quick. He drafted well. Then we went down there with a not-so-good Busch motor and he got spanked.”

COMMENT ON COT “I’m OK with it. It’s going to cost us a hell of a lot. It’s a million and a half per year per team for about three years for us. What I look for is a lkeevel playing field. You give me the same rule book as the guy next door and the guy up the street and I’ll race him. That’s all I’m worried about. I don’t care what the rules are as long as they’re the same for everybody.”

WHAT ARE YOU LOOKING FOR FROM MONTOYA THIS SEASON? “I just want to make sure he gets a lot of experience and we don’t do anything stupid at first. Let’s just get him settled into the season and concentrate on moving him slowly up to the front. I think it was big (Cup debut last year at Homestead). It just wasn’t that start but it was those seven races and all the testing we were able to do and all the cars we were able to get him in. The ABC program worked out well, and we were fortunate to get him released early from McLaren. It couldn’t have worked out better.”

DO YOU WANT TO SEE HIM MORE AGGRESSIVE? “I don’t know that I want to see him more aggressive. Because we weren’t points racing last year we could do some different things. You race differently in this sport if you’re points racing versus if you’re not points racing. He wasn’t points racing last year so we were able to take some chances that otherwise we might not have thought about.”

COMMENT ON MONTOYA’S STATUS IN NASCAR? “I don’t think there’s any question he’s a superstar, certainly in auto racing. I don’t know about NASCAR yet, but it’s great to have a guy like that around.”

COMMENT ON NEW CHASE FORMAT “We all just found out about this within the last day. Some car owners got it late last night, so I haven’t really thought about it that much. Because it puts more emphasis on winning, you’re going to see some people make some different calls in the pits. I think it’s going to make the racing better. It’s certainly going to make the racing at the front better.”

12 VERSUS 10. IS THAT A PLUS? “It’s certainly a plus for me. We would have been in it a couple of times.”

FELIX SABATES (Co owner Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates)

OPENING COMMENTS “I look around the room and a lot of people are here today that weren’t even out of high school when I started in NASCAR. Some of you other guys are getting old like me. There are a lot of gray hairs around here. Twenty years is a long time to be in anything, and this is the seventh year for Chip and I. I can tell you if it wasn’t for him I probably would have been in NASCAR for 13 years because they probably would have kicked me out. I’m excited about this year. I told Chip I’m going to be like Bud Moore. When I can’t get my legs over the pit wall I’m leaving. Reed and David have demonstrated they have the ability to run up front and Juan at least when I get ticked off I can talk to somebody. We can talk in Spanish. We can say things in front of you and you won’t know what we’re saying.”

REED SORENSON (No. 41 Target Dodge Charger)

“We learned a lot of things last year that are definitely going to help us out this year, whether it was me making a stupid mistake on the track or something happening with just bad luck. I feel like I’m going to be a better driver this year and the team as a whole is going to be better. We’re looking forward to being competitive every weekend and being consistent.”

DO YOU LEAN ON ANY OTHER DRIVER FOR ADVICE? “I think in Nextel Cup it’s hard to lean on a lot people. You have a lot of friends for sure, but it’s hard to ask a guy for advice because a lot of the stuff is personal and everybody’s car is different. When you get to this level it’s pretty much one of those deals where you’ve got to pretty much learn it on your own. You’ve got your two teammates you can work with and learn stuff.”

WHAT WAS THE MOST IMPORTANT THING YOU LEARNED LAST SEASON? “I think over the winter it was just evaluating where we wanted to be by the time 2007 rolled up. A lot of times we were disappointed how we ran and a few times we ran exceptionally well. If we can run good at a certain track one time we should be able to go to similar places and run good as well. We kept the same mechanics on the team, and that was good because we felt they were a pretty strong group. I think Jimmy Elledge and me are a little bit smarter going into 2007 than they were going into 2006.”

COMMENT ON TESTING AT VEGAS NEXT WEEK “For us we’ve got a lot to learn because of the new Dodge nose. Actually I went out to Vegas for a Target photo shoot and had a rental car out there just to check out the track. I saw where Biffle hit and caught on fire and everything and that was pretty extravagant. It’s going to be a fast track. I’m looking forward to checking out the new Dodge nose and seeing what we’ve got for the mile and a half tracks this year.”

COMPARE TESTING AT DAYTONA TO VEGAS “One of them is boring and one of them is not. Daytona for a driver is really not as much fun as any other place you go. Vegas, I heard they were hitting 205 (mph) on corner entry, and of course that will be fun. It’s a lot more fun to drive at tracks like that.”

DO YOU HAVE A FAVORITE TRACK? “I like Darlington. I haven’t won a race there, but that’s a fun place to drive. A lot of times you think you’re not going to hit the wall and you end up hitting it. You go through turns one and two and it’s totally different from three and four. In one corner you’re riding against the wall all the way through the corner. The next corner by the time you get 20 laps on your tires has no grip at all.”

COMPARE ENTERING YOUR SOPHOMORE SEASON TO LAST YEAR AT THIS TIME “It’s a lot different. I feel like the 41 team is more prepared going into ’07 than we were in ’06. Being a rookie last year we were kind of going from track to track and doing one race at a time. We’re just more ready for this year, and we’ve got notes to look at from last year. We’ve got our goals set and we feel like we can reach 'em.”

WHAT ARE YOUR GOALS? “To win. I think last year was the first year in my career that I haven’t won a race. We’ve got to win. That’s what Target wants us to do. That’s what we want to do and that’s our job, so we’re going to try to do everything we can to do it. Last year we thought our mile and a half tracks would have been the best place to win, but then we went to New Hampshire and ran good all day and went to Dover and ran good all day. As long as I’m driving good and we get the car right we can win anywhere. Right now we feel like we’re a team that can run between 10th and 15th in points. If we run 15th all year and it comes down to four or five races before The Chase, we’ve got a shot. Obviously we’ll have a better shot with 12 being in instead of 10.”

DAVID STREMME (No. 40 Coors Light Dodge Charger)

“The exciting part for me is last year toward the end of the year we showed a lot of improvement. No one would ever expect the season to start off like it did, but I was real proud of Steven Lane (crew chief) coming in and turning everything around. That was something I thought was real important. For awhile we were outside the top 35 in points, but we got back in and we got a lot better. When you have some time off and get a chance to regroup, when we went back to Daytona I saw a huge difference in my team on how they were working together and the camaraderie and how everything was jelling. I’m awful excited about it. They’re the ones that believe in me and I believe in them. Again, I think as long as we start the season where we ended it last year and continue on we’re going to go out and contend for wins. I’m excited to have Coors and Lone Star back. Coors has been in the sport a long time, so I’m excited about a lot of different things. I get to run some Busch races with Brian Pattie and his guys and having Tums on the car in Chicago.

“We started out really bad (in 2006) and 10-12 races into the season we had to change a lot of things. The crew chief and cars were a lot of that. It’s hard to do it into the season, but we really did a lot and already testing at Daytona the cars have been really strong and I think it gives credit to the team and what they’ve been able to do over the winter time working together and being able to put something together to go to Daytona.

“When you’re not running good it makes you think about your job and everything, but Chip and Felix reassured me they felt like I was the person for this position and at the end of the year we showed more of that. We look at starting this season out the way we finished 2006, to be in the top 20, top 15 every week and to go and try to contend for wins after that. I believe the organization has come a long way compared to last year. We had a lot of management changes, there was so much going on. I think the company has a whole has its feet on the ground more.”

IS THE CHASE A GOAL FOR YOU THIS SEASON? “You never know. Look at Jeremy Mayfield’s team last year. They were in The Chase two years before and then they’re outside the top 35. You have a group of teams that it depends on how your year is going. If we go out and everything is clicking right away and you have some luck on your side it’s possible. I don’t think it’s outside our goals. I think it’s very within the reach. We’re in the entertainment business, and I think (12) will make it more interesting for the fans. I know from outside watching it last year obviously it came down to three or four guys, but when I’m in the car I don’t pay much attention to it. I think it’s good for the sport.”

COMMENT ON THE CAR OF TOMORROW (COT) “We’ve been doing a lot of testing. A lot of people ask where I’ve gone on vacation and I tell them in the car. I just look at our team trying to collect as much data so we can be on top when we come out. It’s like everybody has a fresh start, and we’re trying to capitalize on that. Some people are negative toward it, but I’ll race anything. You see guys like Tony Stewart and they’ll go race midgets, sprint cars, late models, whatever. I’m excited about it.”

WHAT ARE YOUR GOALS FOR THE SEASON? “We haven’t really come up with any goals other than to just be competitive each and every week. When we go to Vegas and do our test, that’ll tell us more about where we are as a team. I wanted to stay in the car more over the winter, testing every two weeks or so. I went to run a late model race in my own car just so I could stay in the seat and keep on my toes, but I feel all the guys are back. It’s just a matter of jelling and getting everything in line.”

HOW TO YOU FEEL AFTER THE DAYTONA TEST? “I’m optimistic. I think everyone has done a great job. The big thing that’s helping is the new Dodge nose. I think it’ll help everywhere. I was fortunate to be able to test it at Homestead last year and there was a substantial amount of difference. Even though Kasey Kahne had a good season last year, I think the other Dodge teams will be able to be real competitive.”

JUAN PABLO MONTOYA (No. 42 Texaco/Havoline Dodge Charger)

“I think last season was a really good experience. We did good, but I want to do better. I think the team is ready to win. I’m just happy to be a part of it. The different in open wheel and stock car is the weight of the car. The weight of the car is what makes the race so exciting. With the small cars they’re going to slide a little more. They’re going to be less forgiving. It allows much better racing. When you drive in open wheel, the car is pretty much on rails.”

COMMENT ON HOW NASCAR IS VIEWED IN COLOMBIA “Initially when everybody heard about it, people didn’t follow it that much. It was the same way when I went to Formula One. A lot of people in Colombia didn’t follow Formula One. After they watched the whole race they go, 'this is exciting. You’re passing people.’ Brad Parrott gave me a tape of Miami and said you passed 70 cars in the race. I think in my whole five and a half years in Formula One I didn’t pass 70 cars.”

COMMENT ON POINTS SYSTEM “In a way it makes it real exciting. If you lead a lap you score five extra points. It’s hard because you need to be up there every race. Points are so close. The way The Chase is you need to be winning races just to make the field.”

WHAT ARE YOU EXPECTING TO ACCOMPLISH IN 2007? “There will be some places we suck, but when we suck we’ve got to make the most out of it. I think the COT will be better for us because I’m not used to the cars and I don’t know what they’re supposed to feel like. When you take grip away and you’ve been used to the grip for a long time, you think what the heck is wrong with this? From my ignorance, it could actually help me. The engineers and people who work on these cars are really smart people. You hear people say there’s no technology, oh, you’d be shocked.”

DO YOU THINK A LOT OF LATIN AMERICANS WILL BECOME NASCAR FANS? “I think you’re going to see a lot people that are not turn, but they’re going to start watching it. If they come and see a live race, they’ll be in love with it.”

HAS ANYTHING SURPRISED YOU ABOUT NASCAR SO FAR? “The fans have been amazing and the racing is just unreal. I never could understand how you could affect the car in front of you if you were behind and never touching. That just blew my mind.”

IS NASCAR MORE A DRIVERS’ SERIES THAN FORMULA ONE? “The thing here is the car changes so much from new tires to old tires, from high fuel to low fuel. The driver has a big influence, but it’s how the driver relates to the crew chief. I think that’s the key to success here. I’m all ears. Up to a certain point I’m probably the dumbest guy here driving the cars. I have no experience with stock cars. I have a lot of experience how to set up a race car, but as Chip told me years ago, NASCAR is about all the don’ts, not the dos. It’s the things you shouldn’t do to be able to succeed. The don’ts are the ones I’m trying to learn.”

COMMENT ON YOUR CREW CHIEF, DONNIE WINGO “Donnie is a really good guy. He’s a really smart guy. We seem to get along well. From day one we’ve been getting along well. He’s a guy that wants to win badly, and I hope I can help him win. I’m not going to win by myself here. I’m going to need help from guys that build the cars and build the motors and work on the pit stops. I need all of them to succeed, and that’s they key. We need to all work together. When I fail, everybody else fails. When they fail, we all fail. We’ve all got to work together to win.”

WHAT WAS MORALE LIKE WHEN YOU FIRST GOT HERE? “The morale was good. From day one they were working hard. This place was 100 times bigger and better than I expected. You look at the cars and hear what people say and you don’t expect to see a place like this.” Error processing SSI file