WHAT ARE YOUR EXPECTATIONS FOR TONIGHT’S QUALIFYING SESSION? IF YOU CLAIM TONIGHT’S POLE IT WILL MARK YOUR 10TH AT CHARLOTTE MOTOR SPEEDWAY.
“Well we were 21st I think in practice so we’ve got a little bit of work ahead of us. It’s pretty tight. For me it is more of a gauge of figuring out how much grip there is on the race track and cranking that out for one lap. I felt like our U.S. Army Chevrolet had a pretty good balance. We need to work on just a little bit of speed. From my stand point just getting everything I can out of the race car is probably a bigger gain to have than what we can do on the race car. I look forward to the opportunity tonight.”
WITH ALL THE STUFF GOING ON WITH THE MILITARY SPONSORSHIP HAVE YOU CALLED ANY OF THOSE CONGRESS MEN OR SENATORS OR WHOEVER THOSE POLITICIANS ARE AND OFFER TO THEM TO COME SEE WHAT THIS IS ALL ABOUT?
“No, I’ll let (Dale Earnhardt) Junior do the political work. I’ll do the engineering work when it comes down to it. I have read some of the things that he has said and I’ve read some of the things that the senators have talked about. In the end there is a reason why the Army and National Guard and everybody else is doing what they are doing. We are raising awareness, we are raising education, we are helping them recruitment wise. From a financial stand point we can argue until we are blue in the eyes about the price of gasoline and everything else. From my stand point I’m proud to represent them. I’m proud to do what we are doing and have the relationship and to represent the soldiers. I think (Dale Earnhardt) Junior feels the same way. It’s special. It’s a special sponsorship for us. I think it is a nice outlet for the soldiers to be able to come and enjoy what we do. There is a bunch of them that are race fans too. Obviously, some senators aren’t but that is okay.”
WHEN YOU GO OUT ON THE TRACK TO LAY DOWN WHAT LOOKS LIKE IS GOING TO BE A ONE LAP RUN TONIGHT DO YOU USE THE RUN UP TO SPEED THROUGH TURNS ONE AND TWO TO MENTALLY GAUGE WHAT THAT GRIP LEVEL IS TO KNOW HOW HARD YOU CAN SAIL IT INTO TURN ONE WHEN YOU TAKE THE GREEN FLAG?
“Most of the experience in that is going to be what we did last weekend and how hard we pushed the cars. Obviously, watching what the track does and what the cars beforehand that go how much they pick up and trying to get and engage whether you are picking up two, three, four, five, six tenths, it all depends. The track today seemed to be a good bit slower than what it was last weekend in practice, but again that is partially a representation of the weather and the hotter conditions.”
YOU TESTED TIRES AT DOVER CAN YOU TALK ABOUT HOW THAT WENT AND WHAT YOU EXPECT THE RACING TO BE LIKE AT DOVER ANY DIFFERENT THAN WHAT WE HAVE SEEN BEFORE?
“It was a really good tire test as far as not seeing any failures at a track that is prone to pushing a tire to its limits. The biggest thing that we saw was a lack of fall off. That is something that we talk about when we go back to a place like Bristol where the cars, what you have is what you have and they don’t really change a whole lot. I hope that we see with the different conditions, it was 60-65 degrees when we were up there testing, it was not that hot. Hopefully, the cars will fall off a little bit more and we will have to rely on the driver pedaling the car and things like that which is always given us a better opportunity at great racing. We have seen that in the past at a place like Bristol which to me is just a smaller version of Dover.”
YOU RACED FOR A NUMBER OF YEARS FOR ROGER PENSKE WHEN IT CAME TO THIS TIME OF YEAR COULD YOU SENSE AN UP TAKE OF INTENSITY BECAUSE OF THE FOCUS ON THE INDY 500 AND THE 600?
“Roger was always so busy with the IndyCar side of things that when he came here it was to show up and watch the race. It wasn’t the month of May at Charlotte. I guess maybe a different mentality that we saw from a stock car side than what the IndyCar guys saw with his dedication toward the open wheel side. I know what it means to him because it means the same to me and Tony Stewart and Rick Hendrick and everybody else in this garage. This is a big race and we obviously know how big of a race the Indianapolis 500 is. That intensity is there no doubt that I don’t think it is any different or any different expectations than any other week.”
HAVE YOU EVER RUN A WINGED SPRINT CAR? IS THERE ANY THOUGHT OF TALKING TONY (STEWART) INTO GETTING ONE UP FOR YOU TOMORROW NIGHT?
“I have never run one on dirt; I have run one on pavement, just at a private test session one time. I know they are a lot of fun. I know he is having a blast running the winged sprint car in dirt. I would entertain it but I would do some extensive testing just as he has done before hand because I know it is a beast. Those cars are amazing what they do and the hand-eye coordination you have to have. These types of cars here are the stock cars, the Sprint Cup cars are tough, but the hand-eye coordination, the reaction time you have to with the winged sprint car is probably four times tougher.”
IN THE PAST, PEOPLE HAVE SAID CHARLOTTE MOTOR SPEEDWAY AND INDIANAPOLIS MOTOR SPEEDWAY WERE AMONG THE MORE TEMPERATURE SENSITIVE TRACKS. IN LIGHT OF THE REPAVING GOING ON AT OTHER TRACKS, ARE THE SKILLS THAT IT TAKES TO HANDLE A CHANGING TRACK BECOMING A LOST ART OR IS THERE A DIFFERENT ART IN TIRES THAT DON’T GIVE UP AND TRACKS THAT HAVE GRIP? DOES A DRIVER NEED THAT TO CHANGE OR ARE SOME OF THESE NEW GUYS NOT GETTING WHAT YOU’VE GOTTEN BECAUSE YOU’VE RACED AT THESE TYPES OF TRACKS?
“Seems like a triple-compound question (laughter). I really think that we would talk about the sensitivity of a race track if we had this schedule at other race tracks. If we had lights at Michigan, we would have the same comments of the track changing that much and figuring those things out and the balance change that is associated with that. Indianapolis is its own beast because it’s so flat and the speeds are up aerodynamically its super-sensitive. And what little bit of grip changes with the tire and the asphalt interaction at Indianapolis is a big part of the grip we can get because of the aerodynamic part. It’s kind of a goofy equation I guess you could say. Part of my point is if we raced different race tracks from different race tracks from 6 p.m. to whatever it is, p.m. at night, then it would be that much of a bigger issue. Driver-wise, I think it’s more up to the crew chief to be able to make compensation for what the track needs as the balance changes throughout the night and throughout the runs and throughout the runs of the night. But it is the driver. The driver, to me, is more responsible for giving the feedback of what the car is doing. And the crew chief should have the experience in predicting in what the track is going to do, depending on your track position.”
THAT SHOULD HAPPEN?
“It should happen, yeah. It’s still a collective effort, don’t get me wrong. But these cars are so sensitive now because of the way we’re suspending them that it’s very critical; and a little change can do a lot more than it ever used to.”
YOU HAVE A REPUTATION FOR BEING THE TOUGHEST GUY ON THE TRACK TO PASS. IS THAT A FAIR REPUTATION?
“I guess that’s a good award to win. Unfortunately I’ve been passed so somebody found out (laughs). And I’ve talked to several different drivers about this. I was never taught to give-and-take. I was always taught to race hard. And starting going back to Quarter Midgets and then especially in the Stock Cars, I was always taught to race hard. Buddy Baker never taught me that. And I don’t think that they did that back in the ‘80’s let’s say. Maybe drivers didn’t race quite like that and I think that was more of a Mark Martin late nineties and early 2000’s thing and I think when you’ve got a guy like Tony Stewart who had help from Mark Martin that taught him that; and I always had fast-enough race cars that I never had to give. I could always take. And that came back to haunt me I guess for a few years there because I was the one getting turned around because I wasn’t giving it up; and rightfully so, probably, because I didn’t know and didn’t get taught that. So, I’m trying to be better at the give-and-take thing and I’m still trying to win that award.”
ON SHORTENING THE POCONO RACE
“The shorter the race, the more intense it is. We all grew up, wherever we went to, whether it was a 25 or 30 or 35-lap race at a short track, that’s what you showed up with; that was the level of intensity for that short amount of time and there’s a lot to be said for that. The history of NASCAR hasn’t done that, but I think there is going to be some rewards in us having some shorter races and having some longer races. It all depends on the venue, in my opinion. At a place like Pocono with the long straightaways, it’s nice to be a little bit shorter. I think it’s a good change.”
ON GIVE-AND-TAKE, IF A YOUNG DRIVER CAME TO YOU, WHAT DO YOU TELL THEM ABOUT THAT?
“I really haven’t in all honesty. Joey (Logano) has probably been the only guy that’s come along that’s young that would need that lesson, in my eyes. You’ve got a guy like Trevor Bayne who’s got some experience, but he’s not really full time and never really had that running. I’ve had problems with other guys who are just as bull-headed as I am and I’m not afraid to say it. A guy like Paul Menard is just that. We race each other hard every time we got around each other. That’s just how we did it. And it was frustrating to both of us, but we made good out of it. We never crashed each other per se, so it was just the way we raced. So, we don’t do that quite so much anymore. We’ve both learned how to adjust to that a little bit and be faster in the end for both of us. But if you look at the roster of rookies, there’s really, the last three or four years, there hasn’t been any.”