NASCAR News

Interview with Jeff Green

 

June 9, 2004

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How do you feel about this weekend?
I feel good. Every time we go to a place, no matter where we’re going to, I leave the house feeling like I have a chance of sitting on the pole and winning the race. That would be a big turn for us. Our season hasn’t gone like that at all, but we’re getting our cars better and our engines better. We’ve been qualifying good the last couple of weeks although we haven’t been racing very good. We’re working really hard, especially all the guys at Petty Enterprises. It’s been fun to see all that stuff get better. The cars are getting better and the fab shop has worked really hard. They’re really behind me as a driver – as much as any team I’ve ever been with. That makes me excited and it makes me want to go back to the racetrack. I’m looking forward to it.

What does it take to get over the hurdle and start qualifying better and winning races?
I think one, we’ve got to work on our cars to get them handling better for the long runs. I think our big holdup now is our motor program. The guys are turning more RPMs on other teams than with the package that we have and the guys are working really hard to try to get our motors better where we can turn more RPMs. I think that’s what shows during the race is when the tires start falling off you start getting down lower in RPMs. Those guys who are running more gear than I am, it really shows on their car in the race. I think that’s our biggest hurdle we’ve got to get over and once we do that we’ll be able to race better.

How is NASCAR’s credibility on scoring and timing?
I think they have three or four options for scoring and timing – they’ve got hand scoring, they’ve got timing and scoring off the computer and they’ve got TV that can help them with that. I don’t know what went wrong the other day, but I do know that Ryan Newman hit the cones and knocked them away from where they are supposed to be. But there wasn’t anything on the racetrack and to throw a caution in the middle of a green flag stop? Why not let things cycle through a couple more laps to get everybody on pit road and off? It put a lot of people a lap down and the end result caused that wreck. To put people laps down -- people lose their mind because of it.

These days with computers and timing and scoring the way we’ve got them, I see there’s just no reason to run 20 laps under caution to figure out scoring. Something must have gone wrong that I don’t know about. They usually do a pretty good job and they are able to get right on it. But you’ve got 43 cars to take care of, so it’s not just one car they’re looking at. They’ve got a big chore there but surely the computers are helping them with that.

Do you feel like some of the races should be shortened?
Races that are long, like the 600, have been that long forever, and to change that wouldn’t be right, either. I definitely think some of them are too long – that we’re in the race cars too long -- but the fans pay really good money to come watch the races and if that makes them happy, then that’s the way it should be. I’d like to be in my race car 24/7 so if your day is going good you’re having lots of fun. That’s kind of a two-part answer there, but for the most part I don’t think you want to change or reduce what’s gotten us this far. You don’t want to make the 600 the 500, I don’t think that would be right.

Is there any way NASCAR can standardize when the cautions are thrown?
It is easy for us to sit back and call them blind and say they aren’t doing the right thing. They have a big chore in front of them when we start a race and to the finish of one. There are several eyes and several minds calling those shots, so it’s easy for us to criticize them. When the 12 car hit the pylons and knocked them around there wasn’t anything on the racetrack that I saw or maybe there was and I was blind to it. I think some of those cautions could be called differently, which would make it a lot easier on everybody. I think that if that had done that the other day, it would have been easier on them.

Unfortunately, things happen and red flags happen like they did the other day and that’s going to keep happening. Maybe that’s bringing fans back, but as a driver, when you’re out there for three or four hours to get nothing out of it, that’s pretty perturbing and you’re disgusted over that. I don’t know, but it’s their circus and their game and we’re going to play by their rules and try to do the best job with the rules they give us and hopefully we can come out victorious one of these days.

Is scoring to blame for more cautions and longer cautions thrown this season?
I think when they added the “not racing back to the yellow” rule, that just put a different dimension in it and they have to do a lot more looking and a lot more investigating where people were when the caution did fall. From that point on, I think that was at Dover in the fall, I think the cautions got longer because of the scoring. The caution is for a reason, and if they can’t come up with a reason, then they shouldn’t have thrown it. But things do happen and we’re all human. The flagman is human, the guy punching the switch for the lights is human, so stuff is going to be random and different with each call that they make. The best thing to do is do the best job we can with what we’ve got to play with and the resources they have to work with like the TV cameras and computers and stuff.

I hate cautions as a driver. I don’t think any driver likes cautions because it just bunches everybody up. It’s a good time to work on the race car, but for the most part, what happened the other day more than not is going happen time after time after time. It’s just going to bunch everybody up.

What does NASCAR need to learn from last week to prevent the problems from last week?
I think they need to look at the situation on the racetrack of whether a caution comes out in the middle of a green flag run or a green flag stop. That’s what made everything so confusing – at least in my eyes that’s what happened. It was the middle of a green flag stop and four or five cars had stopped and nobody knew that Ryan had spun out on pit road. I think they need to look at the situation on the racetrack as far as the other day. He knocked the cones away from the speed lines. They weren’t on the racetrack – we don’t race on the apron, we race on the racetrack. For that to bring the caution out like that, there shouldn’t have been any problem with running five or 10 more laps, or two or three more laps, whatever it took to get everybody off of pit road and get everybody back in sequence. I think that’s the biggest thing they have to look at. If he had knocked the cones in the middle of the racetrack and we could see them, you have to throw the caution. If it’s out of harm’s way, then let us do our job and not take somebody’s day and turn it upside down.

What is the impact of the new tires on the team and the racing in general?
We used to run up against the wall, down on the bottom and in the middle of the racetrack at a lot of these racetracks where we go. For some reason, it has taken that groove away from us. Our team, specifically, the tires wear out more, so from lap 1 to 75, however long the run is, the pace is going to slow down more because the tires wear out. In my situation, everybody has been running more gear and more gear because the pace slows down so much. We can’t run that much gear -- as much as other people -- because of our motor package. We’ve been really working hard to get that turned around so we can do that. It kind of hurts me in the long run in a race because of that.

Where did your and your brothers desire to be winners come from?
I know exactly where it came from. When it rained in Kentucky, we had gutters out in front of our house. As young kids, when it would rain we would get popsicle sticks, eat the popsicle off of them, then take a Sharpie and put numbers on them and race them down the gutters. From day one we were competitive with each other, especially growing up with three boys in one house. My Dad drag raced so we kind of helped him as we were growing up. I think all that stuff, when you have that bred into you and you see that day in and day out, you end up with a competitive nature. I think that’s where we got it from – my Dad.

What do you think about all the special paint schemes your team runs and the die-casts and the promotions that go with it?
I think it’s awesome. The 43 is on the side of the car year-round but we have different brands that we carry for General Mills – PopSecret, Berry Burst, things like that to promote their products. Cheerios is not the only product that General Mills makes. To promote that for our sponsor is the best of both worlds. The fans get to see the different brands out there under the General Mills name. We’re getting the best of both worlds advertising it, too. As die-cast have come along, they’ve gotten very nice and they’re so realistic it’s unreal. And to put it all together with different die-casts for the special paint schemes is just another way for fans to be connected and to support the sponsor.

The author can be contacted nascar@autoracing1.com

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