Media Tour Notes and Quotes - Thursday, Jan. 22
The Red Bull Racing Team hosted a dinner for the media at the Embassy Suites and Concord Convention Center on day three of the NASCAR Sprint Media Tour hosted by Lowe’s Motor Speedway. Led by team General Manager Jay Frye, NASCAR Sprint Cup drivers Brian Vickers and Scott Speed discussed the team’s 2008 season and their goals for 2009.
Jay Frye, general manager (WHAT’S KEVIN [HAMLIN] DOING FOR YOU NOW?): “As you grow and the team becomes bigger you need depth. Obviously we needed depth last year when something happened to Kevin. He's working on different projects for us and it will be good to have someone with his skill set and ability at the shop that doesn't travel every week, just to keep an eye on what's going on at the shop.”
(IS IT STILL SMART FINANCIALLY TO HAVE A SEPARATE PIT CREW IN THE SENSE OF YOU DON’T HAVE THOSE GUYS WORKING AT THE SHOP? OR ARE YOU PUTTING THOSE GUYS TO WORK AT THE SHOP NOW?): “Yes. It's kind of a hybrid of what we originally did and basically what we were doing, which I didn't agree with at the time. There are great tire changers who want to work on cars and we were saying 'no, you can't work on cars. You've got to be a full time pit crew member.' Well, your career span length is a lot longer being somebody who works on a car versus somebody who works on a pit crew. So, in my opinion, we are shooting ourselves in the foot by not hiring people who wanted to work on the cars and pit the car. So, we've redone that whole thing and we have pit crew members now who work in the shop and work on the cars.”
(IF YOU HAD TO DO IT ALL OVER AGAIN, WOULD YOU BRING A.J. ALLMENDINGER UP DIFFERENTLY, LIKE THE WAY YOU BROUGHT SCOTT SPEED UP IN ARCA?): “I started in January of 2008, so I wasn't there the first year with A.J. Again, I think the way we did Scott's program was correct. I think the situation with A.J. in 2007 was a different situation. I don't know how it really started. But I think what we did with Scott was we took our time. We graduated him as he succeeded, and he's certainly ready to take this next step. So if we did it again we would do it the way we did with Scott.”
(DO YOU THINK IF A.J. HAD BEEN BROUGHT UP THE WAY SCOTT WAS HE WOULD STILL BE WITH THE TEAM?): “I don't know. It's hard to say. A.J. is a great kid. He's got a lot of ability. He did a really good job for the team. Obviously when it all shook out in the summer, he, at that point, had an opportunity to do something that we didn't have for him. Ultimately that doesn't appear like that worked out.”
(WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT THE WAY THE ARCA SEASON ENDED WITH SCOTT?): “I think he gained a lot of respect by what he did, with some people. I wasn't there by I was given reports and I talked to them after the race about what happened. He tried for a lot of laps to have the No. 99 car pass him and was pointing different directions for him to pass. The No. 99 car wouldn't pass him so it would appear that the No. 99 had one thing in mind. I don't know. I wasn't there. I haven't talked to the driver. It is what it is and Justin Allgaier won the championship.”
(WITHOUT TESTING, HOW DO YOU THINK THE TEAMS NOT IN THE UPPER ECHELON WILL CATCH UP?): “I certainly applaud NASCAR for what they’ve done with the testing. I think it’s going to surprise people that the product might be better. I think it might be more competitive if there isn’t testing. Obviously, if you have a machine like Hendrick Motorsports that has four cars and a test team, that now they’ve been slowed down in that program. It should help teams like ourselves that have two cars, but have a lot of the same resources, technology-wise and engineering-wise, to catch up.”
Ryan Pemberton, crew chief of the No. 83 Red Bull Toyota (ON THE IMPORTANCE OF WIND TUNNEL TESTS): “It lessens in some respect because NASCAR has put us in such a box. It’s not a bad box, they just limit a lot of the things we can do. Our values get smaller and smaller and the things we can change gets a diminishing return. The more you go [to the wind tunnel] you learn more, but the value and the things you pick up are smaller and smaller increments. Right now it’s about verifying and knowing where we’re at. It’s more important now than it ever was. Before we picked up hundreds of pounds of down force between going to Charlotte one race and you go back the fall race and you picked up hundreds of pounds of down force. Well now it’s not like that, you’re only changing slightly, but what you’ll know, we’ll know more about our ride height, we’ll know more about what the car is generating at certain attitudes and we’ll apply that much better than we used to. That’s the difference between two years ago and now.”
(WHAT MOST CONCERNS YOU THIS YEAR AND WHAT GIVES YOU THE MOST CONFIDENCE THIS YEAR?): “I don’t have really many concerns right now. What excites me is that the team is growing and there’s much more to be done. Over the last two years, where we’re at now there’s another big step to be made. The culture of this team and the foundation of the team is still being built. It’s not stagnant at all. When you get to the top it’s a little bit flatter curve and now that curve is really steep and that’s exciting. I suspect that we’ll come out strong and we should be even stronger the second half of the year than we were the first half of the year. I don’t expect that to be any different. The teams that have been around a long time, it would be harder for them to be a lot better the second half of the year than they were the first half of the year.”
(HOW GLAD ARE YOU TO BE HERE?): “It’s really great in a lot of ways. There’s a lot of great people here and I’ve worked with Jay Frye for many years and he’s a big part of why I’m here and the reasons he wanted me here. To be with Brian [Vickers], I believe in what he feels and what he sees, he thinks we’d be a good match for each other and that makes me feel good about going into this year. You have to believe in your leaders and that makes it easier to lead others to good things – I think we’re right there.”
(DO YOU HAVE TOOLS AT YOUR DISPOSAL THAT YOU DIDN’T HAVE BEFORE?): “I’ve definitely been associated with a team that has the possibility of resources. We always talk about unlimited resources, when you talk about people that have assets and resources that are above average if not right there with the best of them. I’ve never really been associated with any of that. It feels great when you have a guy like Brian who is fully capable of doing what we all want him to do, the resources to do it and leadership and a great sponsor. Red Bull Racing is a lot of fun to be around. I think with all those things mixed together we can have a really good year.”
(DO YOU AND BRIAN VICKERS HAVE A GOOD WORKING RELATIONSHIP?): “I’ve had the privilege to work with a lot of race car drivers, especially in the last few years, like over a dozen of them in a short amount of time. From Ernie Irvan, to [Jerry] Nadeau, [Dave] Blaney, Mark [Martin], Joe Nemechek – I’ve worked with a lot of them and you can tell the ones you’re going to click with, you can tell kind of quick. It might be as easy as sitting on this couch talking to you guys – you can tell the ones you’re in the same game. That part here is all new and I need to learn him like he’s my brother or sister, wife – whatever – I need to know him inside and out, but I don’t see that being a problem. He’s been great to work with so far. We went out to Vegas and I thought we had a pretty productive test right away. I definitely like what I see in him. He’s got unbelievable skills and I think that part should make my job a lot easier.”
Brian Vickers, No. 83 Red Bull Toyota (HOW DIFFERENT IS THE CULTURE OF THIS TEAM NOW THAN WHEN THE TEAM STARTED?): “It’s a lot different. For the most part -- if not all of it – it’s in the right direction. A lot of people have changed. I think the culture is still the same. It’s still Red Bull Racing. It’s still the Red Bull culture – full of energy, excitement and be yourself. Competition is everything. We don’t worry about anything else. It’s really only about winning. That culture still remains. When it comes to some of the people – a lot of the people have changed. The management has changed. Obviously, Jay Frye coming on board, new crew chiefs this year and a new engineer on the 83. A lot of the same people are still there – a lot of brilliant guys that have been on the team since day one. There are almost 200 employees. But, we’ve also brought some better talent in as well to help raise the bar.”
(DO YOU THINK THERE WERE ISSUES WHEN THE TEAM FIRST STARTED?): “I think when Red Bull originally was founded, we were way too far towards Formula One – where when we were working on something, it wasn’t going to be implemented until 2010 and this was in 2007. I don’t think that’s the right approach, although the things we were working on were brilliant. It was some ingenious stuff. At some point, you have to stop what you’re doing and go to the race track. It’s about finding that balance. Sometimes it’s going to take time. Sometimes it’s going to take a little bit of research and some time and some hard work on a lot of people’s part. That’s okay. It’s not a bad thing to verify good ideas. That’s not a bad thing. But, in the same token, we have to get in the habit of getting it done quickly, getting it on the race car, and going to win races.”
(HAS YOUR TEAM TESTED MUCH THIS OFF SEASON?): “We actually haven’t tested a lot. I know a lot of teams are testing a lot, and they’re going to different places and traveling a lot. We did a tire test and that went really well. It was good for us, but it was also good for Goodyear. I think they did a really good job with the tire at Las Vegas. As far as we’re concerned, we haven’t been to a lot of tests.”
(HOW IMPORTANT IS HAVING A GOOD TEAMMATE IN THIS SPORT?) “I think your teammate always affects you to a certain degree. In our sport, they can hurt you more than help you, but I think we have a great team over there. Jimmy [Elledge] has been at Red Bull for a while. Scott [Speed] has been in the Red Bull culture for a long time, so he gets it. He knows how the team is going to work and how it functions. He’s obviously a talented driver. He’s new to NASCAR. The communication between Scott and I is really good and I think the crew chiefs have known each other for a long time. They seem to communicate really well, which I’m excited about. I think that’s really important – that the crew chiefs are communicating, sharing ideas and thoughts, and helping the entire team grow and build together. Obviously, Scott is going to have to go through a learning curve, but that’s okay. I was there once, too.”
(HOW IS YOUR RELATIONSHIP WITH SCOTT SPEED?): “So far it’s been good. We haven’t spent a tremendous amount of time together, but the time we have spent together has been really positive. He communicates really well with the team and myself. He has really treated me like a teammate on the race track – and I think we’ve done the same for him. That goes a long way in our sport. I know in open-wheel, the mentality is that you race your teammate harder than anyone else. It’s very different in our sport. You try to help each other, because of the structure of our sport and the races, and how they’re won and how they’re lost, is very different. He has adapted well to that, I think. He’s different, to say the least, but that’s fine. I don’t have a problem with that as long as he is genuine. He’s very genuine in the fact that he’s very different, and I’m good with it. On a deeper level, I think he’s a good guy, and he communicates well, and I think he’s a good teammate.”
(DO YOU THINK YOUR TEAM HAS A SHOT AT THE CHAMPIONSHIP?): “I feel like we have a shot at it. Obviously, we have to prove ourselves to boldly say that. Based on the past three years I would have a hard time betting against the 48 (Jimmie Johnson) team. If they keep doing what they’ve been doing, and they keep that team together, they’re the best team in the garage right now. That’s our goal – to beat them. We want to be a better team than them, but we’ve got to prove that first.”
(WHAT HAS GENERAL MANAGER JAY FRYE BROUGHT TO THIS ORGANIZATION?): “Jay [Frye] obviously brought a lot of experience to the table. There is always going to be an underlying Red Bull culture here, but he brought the team more towards NASCAR. I think that’s a positive. We were trying to run plays that we could hardly comprehend, but we couldn’t block and tackle. Jay is a football player, and that’s what he always says. We need to learn how to block and tackle first, then we can worry about running all of these crazy plays. We kind of had the cart before the horse. So, once we get the basics down, which is the culture that he brought to the table, then we can start doing some other stuff, and I think that’s a good thing.”
Scott Speed, No. 82 Red Bull Toyota Camry (WHAT ARE YOUR EXPECTATIONS FOR 2009?): “We definitely learned some stuff toward the end of the year. Miami was a big success for us. I think that we improved on that. We’ve shown to ourselves how far we’ve come with this test in Atlanta. Atlanta is one of the tracks we struggled the most on. Jimmy [Elledge] and I, we’re communicating. He definitely has a better feel for what I want and what I need. We’re able to get it. That’s definitely encouraging going into the year.”
(AFTER SPENDING SO MUCH TIME IN EUROPE HOW DOES IT FEEL TO BE BACK IN THE UNITED STATES?): “Honestly, when I first came back I hated a lot of things about it. It’s just nice to be back in America where people are speaking English. The more I’m over here and the more I’m spending time over here, I am certainly enjoying it a lot. I definitely like this part of the world as well. The Charlotte area is a lot different than California where I grew up. I wouldn’t go back there to save my life. I hate that place.
“I’m very happy to be in this part of the world. It’s definitely one of the nicer areas. People here are very friendly. It’s well cultured. There are a lot of different races.
“Where I grew up isn’t too bad. It’s just very small. There is nothing to do there. You go bowling. And I’m really good at bowling and that’s not a good thing. It’s one of those things that you don’t want to be good at because it means you have too much time on your hands. The whole Los Angeles area is not for me.”
(DO YOU FEEL THAT WHAT HAPPENED IN THE ARCA CHAMPIONSHIP SAYS TO PEOPLE THAT YOU WON’T BE PUSHED AROUND?): “That’s all relative. It’s not that I’m not going to take any crap from anyone, that’s ridiculous. I think I’ve been very respectful in taking a lot of crap from people in my first Cup races. It’s my spot to. I’m a rookie by huge standards. I’m learning a lot. These guys all have a lot more experience. They’re a lot better than me. It would be stupid to go in there and not take some stuff because some guy cut me off or put me up high. It is my time. I need to learn. When I get good and I’m fighting for championships it’s going to be a different story.
“The whole ARCA thing was ridiculous what happened. I could not leave that race like that and have all my guys look at me like, ‘are you kidding? That’s what happened to us?’ It just wasn’t going to happen. No one would let that happen. [In] the ideal situation we would have been able to fix the car, kept running and somehow been able to win it. Unfortunately the car was so completely destroyed the only thing we had left to do was make sure he didn’t win.“
(WHY DID YOU GO BACK AND PUT STENHOUSE IN THE FENCE?): “We did that, like I said, because he wasn’t going to win. It was for the team. [It was for] everyone. Myself, Red Bull [and] everyone that’s put into this thing all year. You’re not going to lose a championship like that. At that point our championship was done. We couldn’t have won it anyway. So what do we have left to do? At least we made a cool story and we look [like] ‘Days of Thunder’ out of it.”
(IN A WAY YOU’VE BECOME A CULT HERO BECAUSE OF THAT): “I’ve been on both sides of that fence. I’ve had plenty of people tell me the opposite. I mean, ask Tony Stewart. Some people say it’s a good thing [and] some say it’s bad. It’s just how it was. It’s just the right thing to do for the people who are around me and the people who supported me. “
(WHAT DID STEWART SAY?): “He sat at Ricky Stenhouse’s table at the ARCA banquet so I’m assuming he thought it was crap. He hasn’t said anything to me, but that was enough.”
(YOU’RE A LITTLE FLASHIER THAN MOST STOCK CAR DRIVERS, DO YOU GET THE SENSE YOU’RE BECOMING A LITTLE MORE ACCEPTED?): “I don’t know if I ever filled into that whole system as well as most. I think that out of everyone I’ve met and everyone I’ve been around, I’ve gained, for the most part, people’s respect. And that is important to me. I really believe that there is a ton to learn. I’ll probably never be as good as a guy like Jimmie Johnson, but just having the opportunity to try this whole new form of racing. It’s one of those things where if I go in here and I’m not successful and I can’t make it, I’m still okay. I’ve accomplished enough in racing, but this is a huge opportunity to be able to try this. It’s really different and it’s completely foreign to anything I’ve ever done. It’s a really unique experience and so far everyone from the driver and guys from other teams have been really helpful and really supportive in trying to help me through that process. That has been very encouraging.”
(DO YOU FEEL YOU’VE PICKED THIS TYPE OF DRIVING UP QUICKER THAN YOU WOULD HAVE THOUGHT?): “No. We won a race in a truck at Dover. Were we the best truck driver out there? By no means. I’m way better than I was when I won that. We were in good equipment the whole time. We had really good results. We had really good equipment in the ARCA championship [and] we won some races. Great. It doesn’t really account for how much I’ve learned or how good I am. I’m certainly better now than I was at the end of last year. I’m improving every time by a fair step. Some things have come easier to learn and some things have been more difficult.”
Jimmy Elledge, crew chief of the No. 82 Red Bull Toyota (WHAT’S IT LIKE WORKING WITH SCOTT SPEED?): “It’s fun. The sport is so serious – and it is very serious. We take our jobs very serious, but you can actually get to a point to where you are so serious that you can make it miserable. It’s nice to be around Scott because we kind of have the same view points as far as, I like to be able to have fun but I also like to be able to be very serious and he’s able to do that on a very large scale to where more people thinks that he’s not as serious and a lot more fun, but he’s very disciplined in that area. So it actually helps a lot for the atmosphere. It makes things a lot more enjoyable to be around because he’s very personable and very funny.”
(DOES SCOTT SPEED HAVE THE ABILITY TO BE SUCCESSFUL IN THE SPRINT CUP SERIES?): “He’s got it. He’s probably one of the most talented drivers that I’ve ever worked with as far as he doesn’t give himself a lot of credit. He picks up on things really fast and he’s probably one of the most disciplined race car drivers I’ve ever seen in looking at data, looking how he drives cars and looking at his driver inputs. It’s pretty impressive for someone who has very limited time in stock cars. Even the element of it being a COT car because the COT car is definitely a lot harder to drive. To see him be that disciplined in this car is really impressive so far. I really think he has what it takes to compete at a very high level in this sport and win at it. It’s just going to be our job to get him comfortable in these cars and give him what he wants.”
(DO YOU THINK SCOTT SPEED’S ENTHUSIASM WILL HELP HIM ON THE RACE TRACK?): “Yeah, it’s definitely fun. Man, we have a grueling schedule and to have somebody who is not afraid to laugh and cut up and be crazy and do whatever and kind of breaks us down because I’m probably the world’s worst to be too serious to the point where I make myself miserable and I just keep sitting there going: ‘Man, we need to be better, we need to be better.’ Then someone that is a driver that way would probably end up driving me crazy, but he can lighten things up. But he’s very serious and he’s very passionate about what he does. That kind of follows the same things I believe in but I’m probably a little more quiet about it and he’s probably a little more vocal about it. It’s good motivation because he’s very smart and he’s very much into data from the forms of racing he’s been in. He understands a lot more stuff than a lot of drivers do so it’s fun that he’s interested in studying that stuff. He’s a sponge to that and to hear his feedback from those things really gets me thinking about the cars and that’s a good thing.”
Following the evening’s open interview session, the Red Bull Racing Team hosted a casino night for the members of the media. All proceeds from the event were donated to Speedway Children’s Charities.
The fourth and final day of the NASCAR Sprint Media Tour hosted by Lowe’s Motor Speedway began with breakfast presented by Aflac, primary sponsor of the No. 99 Ford driven by Carl Edwards.
Company executives welcomed the media and hinted of a big announcement the company has scheduled during Speed Weeks in Daytona next month.
Following the breakfast, Ford officials brought their drivers to the Concord Convention Center for an open interview session. Prior to the interviews, Brian Wolfe, Ford’s director of North American Motorsports, unveiled the new “FR9” engine that Ford will implement in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series in 2009.
Greg Scott, Ford Fusion marketing manager, also announced a new Web site, www.weraceyouwin.com. Each time a Ford driver wins a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series points race this season, a fan will win a trip to the season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway. During the weekend, one of those fans then will be selected as the winner of a 2010 Ford Fusion. Race fans can register by logging on anytime from Jan. 22 to Nov. 15.
The two Ford announcements were followed up by comments from Ford team owners Jack Roush, Len and Eddie Wood, Max Jones and Doug Yates.
Jack Roush, Roush Fenway Racing team owner (HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT ALIGNING WITH YATES AND THE WOOD BROTHERS?): “There is a lot of history of the Wood Brothers racing team. I looked up to Leonard and Glen as being buddies and guys that were making the contribution when I was just a kid in stock car racing. As I got involved Leonard was there for me and Glen was there for me. They provided help and assistance. We enjoy building engines for them and helping where we can today. So I’m very much interested in the survival of the Wood Brothers just for all the history and the personalities involved and for all the help they’ve given me over the years.
“As far as Yates is concerned, Robert and I were adversaries for the more than 20 years that I’ve been involved in the sport. We competed for turf where it relates to sponsors and personnel. A handful of years ago when we put the engine together, that was the first time we started to work together. Robert certainly brought in all his engine ideas and his history and I brought mine. He was as unselfish about that as I was. We share the engines and we share that business. That gives us a strong feeling.
“Before I put the engine program together, if someone has asked me how I feel about the survival of Yates Racing, I probably wouldn’t have said very much in a positive way about it. Except that it was good for the sport. But as it stands today, I’ve committed to keep Doug out there and to keep Max [Jones] out there and to keep that program viable. We build cars and we provide engineering services to help lighten the task of making them competitive.”
(HOW HAVE YOU SEEN CARL EDWARDS GROW AS A DRIVER?): “Carl has great enthusiasm. His father, Carl Sr., was a stock car racer at hometown tracks. He’s a competitive guy. He’s a proud guy, bright and ambitious. All those are dangerous traits if you’re another race car driver trying to compete against him for space on the racetrack.”
(WHAT IS IT GOING TO TAKE TO STOP THE NO. 48 THIS YEAR?): “If you look at what happened last year in the Chase, we had the wreck at Talladega and we had the ignition problems at Charlotte. Both of which were unpredictable, and therefore, unavoidable. If either one of those things had not occurred, [Carl Edwards] would have got more points in the final 10 races than the No. 48 car did. We don’t need to close the gap on technology or correct some oversight of judgment or make our cars faster in terms of the speed they have in them. All we have to do is miss the wreck and not have the bad luck of having infant mortality of the components around the engine and we’ll be just fine.”
Carl Edwards, No. 99 Aflac Ford (WHAT’S THE SECRET TO YOUR SUCCESS AT TEXAS MOTOR SPEEDWAY?): “It’s fun. It’s a great race track. Eddie [Gossage] and everyone there do a good job making it a fun event. It’s the only place I’ve gone to victory lane for qualifying. In a Nationwide car we got the pole and they did a whole ceremony. They make it a fun time.
“The race track is great too. It’s fast. Winning there is a big deal.”
(TALK ABOUT THE ENTERTAINMENT SIDE OF CARL EDWARDS): “The number one thing is to win. That makes it real easy to have a good time. This last year I had a lot of fun. [Texas] is cool. I think Eddie brings that out in everyone there. NASCAR, in general, does a good job of making a show out of everything. I guess if I’m part of the show that’s good.”
(WHOM DO YOU THINK WE BE THE FAVORITE TO WIN THE TITLE THIS YEAR?): “Jimmie [Johnson] is the odds-on favorite because he has been doing so well. I think Kyle [Busch] will be really fast. I have a feeling Greg Biffle is going to be real tough. The way he came on in the end of the season is pretty amazing. The guy that I think is off the radar right now, but will be real tough is Mark Martin. Mark is spectacular. You put Mark in the Chase, give him 10 races to go get it done [and] you’re going to have to beat Mark to win a championship.
“Mark is probably the guy that I look up to most in the garage, him [and] Jeff Burton, both those guys. I think they exemplify giving it a 100 percent all the time. So I try to do that. I can tell you that just this short off season has been good for me to get that fire going again.”
(WHAT WAS THE DIFFERENCE IN YOUR PERFORMANCE LAST YEAR AND HOW DO YOU WIN A CHAMPIONSHIP?): “I think the COT helped me a lot [and] because of Bob Osborne, how good he is. That gave us an opportunity to do really well because the competition was so close. I think as a driver I’m learning more and more all the time. I could apply the things I’ve learned the last few years and put them to good use last season. I think for 2009, the thing that I have to be better at –and what we all need to be better at – is what Jimmie Johnson does so well. Never being the reason you lose a position. No matter what, if they have a terrible car they always make the best of it. I think that’s the thing that won them this championship.”
Matt Kenseth, No. 17 DeWALT Ford (ON TESTING): “It’s the same for everybody because every team was there. It’s like how it was a few years ago when you could pick yourself some tracks. You could go to Dover and there would be three teams that were going to test. I think we’re all in the same boat. Whether we all get to test at the tracks or whether we all don’t get to test at the tracks. It’s the same for everybody.”
(AS A DRIVER DO YOU LIKE TESTING?): “There are certain tracks that are fun to go test at. You seem to get a lot out of it. Daytona testing? I don’t miss Daytona testing at all. It doesn’t get any more boring than that. You go run two laps at a time, wide open. It’s just driving.
“It’s fun to go to the track and try some new stuff every once in a while in the winter. It’s nice to get out of the house, get back on the track, and get back into the swing of things. I miss that a little bit this year.”
(ARE THERE TWO DIFFERENT STRATEGIES THAT YOU TAKE FOR THE REGULAR SEASON COMPARED TO THE CHASE?): “Not for me. We really approach everything the same every week. The first year of the Chase we tried to change our strategy and do our testing at the end of the year, which you can’t do anymore anyway. It didn’t seem to work out. I think you take it one race at a time. You put forward your best effort each and every race and that’s really all you can do. You do the best you can every week and see how it turns out.”
(WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON THE NEW BUD SHOOTOUT FORMAT?): “I think it’s bigger than a qualifying race. I’m glad I’m in it, so for me saying it’s too big doesn’t make a lot of sense. I think for next year they’ll probably do a different format. I think it should be a smaller field and more of a specialized group. You had to do something the year before or do something sometime to get in it, besides being the top six in your manufacturer. It takes a way a little bit of the uniqueness, but it will be a great race. The more cars you get in a plate race, the more exciting it is. I’m looking forward to running the race and getting to practice.”
Greg Biffle, No. 16 3M Ford (DO YOU THINK ROUSH HAS AN ADVANTAGE WITH THE SIZE OF ITS TEAM?): “I don’t think so, especially now with the no test policy. I don’t think it makes a big difference between having five or four. Possibly over a two-car team we have somewhat of an advantage because we have more drivers to pull from for information. To three and four car teams there is really no advantage.
(WITH NO TESTING HOW MUCH MORE IMPORTANT IS PRACTICE?): “It’ll be just as important or maybe a little bit more. That has always been a difficult thing. Do you try things out of the ordinary at a race weekend? That’s difficult to do. We didn’t have a great deal of testing last year. I don’t think it’s going to be a big impact, but certainly the emphasis on practice is there, like always.
(ARE YOU EXCITED FOR DAYTONA?): “I’m really excited. I can’t wait to get started again, especially with the limited amount of testing. We tested at Texas World Speedway and just got done doing at Atlanta tire test. So really, the seasons in the past we start out with two tests and we’ve already done two tests this year.”
David Ragan No. 6 UPS Ford (DALE JARRETT SAYS HE THINKS YOU ARE GOING TO BE A GREAT SPOKESMAN FOR UPS AND A LOCK FOR THE CHASE, WHAT IS YOUR REACTION?): “I think that’s pretty cool from Dale Jarrett. Dale was always one of my heroes growing up, and I still get excited when Dale or any of the veterans know who David Ragan is. I think that’s pretty special coming from someone like Dale Jarrett, but if we just perform on the race track like we did last year, we’re going to be a contender week in and week out. I wouldn’t be surprised to win any race that’s on the schedule this year besides Sonoma and Watkins Glen, any oval track race. We’ve had speed. It’s just all about not making many mistakes and being a smart racer. I say absolutely, I agree with Dale that we control our own destiny as far as making the Chase.”
(ARE YOU GOING TO MAKE ANY FUN UPS COMMERCIALS? ARE YOU GOING TO DRIVE THE TRUCK?): “Well, I can’t tell everyone if I’m going to drive the brown truck, or not. I have already done some UPS commercials. We’re going to have four or five this year that are going to come out throughout the season. I’ve had a lot of fun doing the commercials, learning a lot about the TV business and UPS has an exciting marketing campaign for 2009 that I’m sure everyone will enjoy.”
(YOU HAD A COUPLE YEARS TO DEVELOP WHILE THERE WAS TESTING ALLOWED ON NASCAR TRACKS, HOW MUCH OF AN ADVANTAGE IS THAT OVER THE GUYS THAT ARE COMING ALONG NOW?): “It was a big advantage for me to do some testing, but not as much as six or seven years ago when rookies had unlimited tests. I had five or six tests, but in 2001 or 2002 or 2003 I think the rookies that were coming in they may have had 10 or 12 or 14 tests. So we were at an advantage compared to the rookies that are coming in this season, but the testing policy hasn’t dampened our spirits any at Roush. We’ve got a great engineering staff that even though we’re not at the race track we’re still developing new things, and testing new things even though we’re not at the race track burning up fuel and tires.”
Jamie McMurray, No. 26 Crown Royal Ford (WITH THE LACK OF TESTING IS IT REASONABLE TO EXPECT THE FIELD TO BE ABOUT THE SAME AS LAST YEAR?): “I hope so.”
(WILL THE SAME GUYS THAT WERE FAST LAST YEAR BE FAST THIS YEAR?): “I think that even when you get to include testing that the guys that end the season strong automatically start strong. If you look at history you don’t ever see anybody that struggled at the end of the season, have two months off, do some testing and then come back strong. It takes time for that to make itself better. So the guys that end the year strong always seem to come out of the box in the first five to eight races and run like they did at the end of the year.”
(PEOPLE SAY THEY’VE DONE MORE IN THE SHOP, CAN THAT MAKE A HUGE DIFFERENCE?): “I think that’s what you’re going to say if you don’t go to the track and those guys are trying to be optimistic and give you guys something good to write about their team or their organization. I don’t think there’s anything that substitutes actually being on the track. We go to the small Rockingham track, and you can go test at places like that and as much as they try to make that place like Martinsville, it’s not Martinsville. It drives similar but it’s not the same thing. I think even being able to go there is a good place to go shake your brakes down and if you want to try a couple things, I don’t know that you can etch anything in stone, but if it works there than it’s going to work at Martinsville or anywhere else.”
Bill Elliott, No. 21 Motorcraft Ford (ON MARK MARTIN): “Mark is a unique individual. He’s a true racer. Like Benny Parsons always told me, there’s people that have a passion for the sport and Mark is one of those guys. Mark will make you work and I think Mark will get in there and I think he’s got something to prove to a lot of people.”
(WILL THE DOWNSIZING OF THE SCHEDULE HELP THE WOOD BROTHERS?): “Let me kind of put this in perspective, you can be better prepared, but to be able to keep up with everything, that’s going to be hard. With the development of the COT car and being a single car team that’s going to make it tough but it’s not impossible with the COT car. I think once we get started the season all of these questions will be answered, but right now you don’t know. You look back and you look at all the things that happened and all the things you struggled through, and David Hyder came in and kind of made a lot of difference. That’s what one person can do. You get that person, I don’t know that it’s necessary to run all the races, I think that sometimes it’s a negative to run all the races especially if you don’t have the money and can’t be prepared and can’t do a lot of things you need to do to make it right. From their standpoint to be able to survive this sport, do your 12 races, do it right, do the best you can then say once we get in the fall of 2009 we’ll be able to analyze it and say hey guys we need to run all the races or we need to go do something else.”
Travis Kvapil, No. 28 Yates Racing Ford (ON NOT BEING ABLE TO FALL BACK ON POINTS): “You mention the bad news, but I guess I was looking at the internet the other day, all the drivers who are great drivers that are on the outside looking in. They don’t have nothing right now. At least I have a chance to go out and compete and probably if you are going to take a team or a car to Daytona it’s probably a Yates Racing Ford if you want to sit on the pole. I feel like we’ve got a great chance at that. There’s our plan, that’s our goals. And through the first part of the season is just to continue our performance and get recognized and create a buzz and try to get some attention to our team. I felt like we did a pretty reasonable job last year and it’s discouraging that we are in the same situation and we’ve got to kind of start over from what we built off last year. I’ve got a great attitude, I’ve got a great drive and I’m just really excited to get to Daytona.”
Paul Menard, No. 98 Menard’s Ford (HOW IS THE NO TESTING POLICY GOING TO AFFECT YOUR NEW TEAM?): “With it being a transition like it is, obviously I’d like to do some testing to get the communication and everything down better with Larry Carter. But we did get to do one test last week and all signs are good. We communicated well and the car was fast. Building relationships with all the guys on the race team and looking forward to Daytona in a couple weeks. We tested at Rockingham for a day and Rockingham is its own animal, so it’s not a whole lot we can translate, it’s just Larry and I working together and getting to know everybody.”
Colin Braun, No. 6 Con-Way Freight Ford (ON HIS OUTLOOK FOR 2009?): “I’m very excited to have Con-Way Freight back on board as our sponsor. To be doing the same thing again in 2009 is fantastic especially in this economy. To have a year of experience under my belt, you can’t beat that.”
(WHAT DID YOU LEARN LAST YEAR THAT WILL HELP YOU THE MOST THIS YEAR?): “For me, the biggest thing is working with veteran drivers and realizing how important those guys are within the sport. I feel like I didn’t do a very good job working with those guys in the beginning of the year. I feel like the middle of the year I realized that and started working more towards it in the end of the year.”
Erik Darnell, No. 6 Northern Tool + Equipment Ford (WHAT ARE YOUR 2009 PLANS?): “May 1, is my first race [with] 15 races in the Northern Tool and Equipment Ford Fusion. [I’ll be] splitting the scheduling with David Ragan in the No. 6 car. He’ll have Discount Tire on it when he’s in it. As of now, no plans for any truck races. If sponsorship or something came up I’m sure we could run a few of them. From now until May, I don’t really know what’s going to go on. I’ll be going to the track with the guys, hanging out and learning how Mike Kelley and all those guys operate.”
Ricky Stenhouse Jr., No. 16 CitiFinancial Ford (ON THE 2009 SEASON): “We’re only running a few races. We’re running seven races as of now with CitiFinancial and 3M. I’m really looking forward to it. It’s going to be a big season for me just moving up from ARCA to Nationwide. It’s going to be a big transition, but I’m looking forward to it.”
(ANY PLANS TO TEST?): “It’s kind of tough with the no testing policy. We’ve been to Rockingham and things like that just trying to get seat time. Other than getting seat time, I’m just going to be going to the track and hanging out on the pit box and just learning as much as I can that way, from Matt [Kenseth] and Greg [Biffle] and I think that will be a big help.”
(HAVE YOU RECEIVED ANY ADVICE FROM THE CUP GUYS SO FAR?): “A lot. I can go to them whenever I need to. That’s been a big help with our ARCA program last year. Carl [Edwards] came to a couple of tests with us and they’re there to help me any time I need.”
At the conclusion of the event, National Motorsports Press Association President Dustin Long presented Carl Edwards with the NMPA’s Richard petty Driver of the Year Award.
For the next function, officials from the NHRA hosted lunch at the Concord Convention Center with Top Fuel driver Tony Schumacher, who claimed his fifth-consecutive Top Fuel world championship and tied an NHRA record with 15 wins in 2008.
Tony Schumacher (WHAT ARE YOU THIOUGHTS ON OUR ZMAX DRAGWAY?): “It’s amazing on Fridays to watch the stands stay full. The fans can come down in the pits. It’s awesome. For the fans that have been NASCAR loyal for so long to be able to come here and watch an NHRA event is great. The track itself is second to none.”
(ON COMING OFF ONE OF THE GREATEST SEASONS IN MOTORSPORTS HISTORY): “It was an incredible season. I’ll probably think about that for the rest of my life. Race after race, the big moments. Our team was exceptionally good at big moments when the weight of the world is on you. When it’s all or nothing. We don’t have laps to make it up. It’s right now. It’s four seconds of 300 mph massive power. When you’re staging a car and getting ready to race, knowing you’re going to win or lose in four seconds, it’s perfect.
“What made this season so special is that to be able to do it under pressure at that point in time and to come out on the winning side of it. The races weren’t won by a great deal. They were [won by] feet and inches. [We did] it week-in and week-out and set numerous records. [We] won our consecutive fifth championship and were part of the greatest team. That was won of the greatest teams that the NHRA has ever seen. No matter happens, no matter what we do in the future, we’ll always be able to look back at that as something special.”
(HOW MUCH NERVE IS RECQUIRED TO DO WHAT YOU DO?): “It’s years and years of watching it happen, being around it and trusting the people that did it before you. There is a risk in any motorsport. There is a risk in any sport. When you wake up in the morning, you know there is risk involved. You trust the people that before you decided that this doesn’t work and that does work. Here is what you do. You get a firesuit, put on a seven-point harness and put your HANS device on, which saved many a life by now including mine. You prepare.
“The safety safari that NHRA has in the absolute best in the world. They’re seconds from [getting to] a mishap. You know there are nerves, but when it’s time for the race to come on, to do your job, the fear of the car crashing isn’t even there. The fear of being beaten is there. It doesn’t matter what sport you play, that’s the fear that pushes you when you wake up in the morning. If you were afraid to get in a racecar, you just couldn’t do it. We look forward to the challenges of knowing that in four seconds you either suck it up or be left out of the table.“
After lunch, members of the media headed to NASCAR’s R&D Center where NASCAR officials unveiled the 2009 Drive for Diversity line up, provided an update on the NASCAR Hall of Fame, discussed the selection process for future inductees to the hall of fame and invited the organization’s senior management on stage for a question-and-answer session with the media.
Brian France, NASCAR chairman and CEO (THERE’S BEEN A LOT OF TALK ABOUT MANUFACTURERS SO WHAT IS YOUR TAKE? WHAT EFFECT WILL THE MANUFACTURER’S CURRENT SITUATION HAVE ON NASCAR?): “Well, for starters, we were pleasantly ?? we were very happy that they got the initial bridge funding as part of the rescue package, so that was a good thing.
“As I've said a couple different times over the off?season, you know, to focus on what it means to NASCAR, I believe kind of this is the point, because it's really what it means to this entire country, all the jobs it represents, and that's what has got our attention, to make sure we're as good a partner with all the manufacturers as we possibly can be to make them successful, get them through a difficult time, because if something were to happen, the bigger issue isn't NASCAR or its teams, although they're a big part of our past, historical and all that; it's rather what it would mean to – those millions of jobs we talk about, a lot of those are NASCAR fans, so we're zeroed in on helping them be as successful as they can and get through a difficult time.”
Mike Helton, NASCAR president (ON WHETHER NASCAR DRIVERS NEED TO BE MORE ACCESSIBLE): “I think they are accessible. As a matter of fact, I think our drivers are the most accessible athletes in all of sports, and maybe that comes from knowing ?? we know a lot about what they do as opposed to some of the people that may make a statement like that. But we see them in action. There are a lot of demands on their time and schedule and their asks.
“But I've got to tell you, I'm proud of our guys. I think they are supportive of their role in this sport. They're all conscientious about it. Certainly from time to time a fan or a media interview may not work out right, but when you look at our sport, and we've got 43?car field in the Sprint Cup garage, and 30 of those guys carry the burden of representing our sport maybe today, and you compare that to a football team has a 43?member roster, and so the other sports have so many more athletes to spread that responsibility out, maybe more so than ?? certainly more so than we do. But I strongly disagree when I hear that our drivers need to be more accessible, they need to be more supportive. They are. Just, they are.”
For more information about the announcements made at NASCAR’s R&D Center and a complete transcript of the event, log onto www.nascarmedia.com.