GIVE US A QUICK OVERVIEW OF YOUR COMEBACK TO DAYTONA AFTER THE BREAK?
Yeah, I was just looking forward to getting here, getting testing, seeing
what our cars are like, seeing what all the hard work in the shop the guys
are doing ,and how that is going to pay off, taking time off in the off
season to enjoy myself and now look forward to getting back into the car
and doing what we like to do.
DO YOU FEEL LIKE EVERYTHING IS GOING IN YOUR FAVOR?
of all, when you say we comprised the best of the best from the 15 that's
not really the case. There were a couple of guys that went to Martin's
team that I would have loved to have kept. There was, like I said last
year, the group I had last year as a whole were really talented, across
the board and it was very hard to settle with just getting a couple, and
it's hard too.
One thing you learn in racing is that people come and go, crew chiefs and
guys you get used to working with, guys you get a good rapport with,
friends, and relatives. This work changes so fast from one year to the
next, so Martin got a couple of the good guys. Both teams are pretty much
full of experience and knowledge and both will be formidable to compete
next year. I think we will work really well together.
We already have the relationship because of Tony Jr. and Bono, having been
across the alley from each other, working together, building the Busch
team. That relationship is already there and will work pretty well
It feels good working with Tony Jr. It feels good to go into the shop and
talk to him about the cars, and know when he is talking about his cars, he
is talking about my cars too. It feels good and I'm looking forward to
getting some races under our belts, getting into victory lane as fast as
we can, and start knocking off some wins.
HOW ARE THE MOTORS THIS YEAR? DO YOU HAVE AN EARLY READING ON HOW YOUR
Yeah we sure do. We had two cars here today, obviously. One of them is a
lot better on acceleration. I'm real pleased with what I felt under the
hood of that car. Itís only a 10th faster, but I don't know. It has a
little more acceleration under the gears, 2nd and 3rd gear is real
important on the qualifying run, your acceleration and being able to run
up and get a good run. It accelerates down a straight way a little bit
The car that is a 10th slower, feels a little like our '04 stuff and '05
stuff and I think they have worked real hard on it all season and found a
few things. They need to take some things like that, that is what I'm
feeling on other cars, and I'm pretty pleased about that.
AFTER THE SEASON YOUíVE JUST HAD, DO YOU HAVE TO COMMIT TO ANY MORE
TESTING DAYS? MORE BUSCH RACES, OR IS THAT TIME YOU SPEND PRETTY MAXED OUT
Well, I don't really understand your question, but I think that I would
like to run more Busch races. Normally we run like 4-5 a year. I would
like to run 10 if I could. I think it is really fun to run the Busch
races. But at the same time, it was a great idea when you planned it 6
months ago. But when it comes time to do it, you kind of think 'Man, I
already got a lot of things going on this weekend'. Especially, like
Richmond races, when youíre practicing both cars all day long and you
qualify and you race and you qualify. By Friday, you're slammed if your
going to run both shows. So I don't really think it sounds like a whole
lot of fun to me and not really a blast, but I do know for sure.
Running more Busch races is better for your performance and your knowledge
and preparation towards your Cup car on Sunday and also with tires
changing every year, every race, for that matter. You got to be out there
as much as you can. So that would be cool to do more of that. I've talked
to Budweiser and they understand that view point, and we are working
towards doing that, maybe putting together more races.
Testing? I don't want to do more of that than I have to. When we come back
here for the Busch test, we will be here for three days and I will
probably stick around for three days because I got my other car out there,
the Navy car, and that will be a reason to stick around.
Three days is a long time to be out here testing, it gives those guys time
to get it figured out. I think two days is plenty if you're running under
the rule book. Testing is important. I like this new format as far as
limiting the testing to certain tracks.
I mean, you can go to Michigan and basically get a good baseline set up
for Vegas and California, but you can't take that from my experience
because I don't run good at those places. But, you can really take a
Dover setup and go to Darlington and run good with it, and vise versa. So
itís good they limit the tests, even though it's gotten harder for the
But honestly, we have it easily out of the bunch. The guys that are
working on the cars or back in the shop are trying to get things ready.
The schedule from going to the east coast to the west coast back to west
coast for testing, then Speedweeks, then going back racing out there, and
having a weekend off then going back racing out there again, it's not real
easy for most of these teams.
I think it's good that they cut the testing back and I guess we can to go
Kentucky and run and run and run.
DID MISSING OUT ON THE CHASE TELL YOU ANYTHING ABOUT YOUR DESIRE TO
WIN? DID YOU LEARN ANYTHING ABOUT YOUR HUNGER?
It's not comfortable territory for me to describe myself too often, but I
learned a lot personally that there were certain events, specifically the
first Bristol race, a couple of the races in there, that I got more out of
the car and myself that I knew I had or was capable of .
I have good confidence in myself, but I don't know if I have realized my
potential- personally. I don't know if I've realized exactly how capable
of driving a race car I am. With that said, I still feel like I got pretty
much most of the field covered, but I still think there is a lot more to
it and a lot more to learn. There's a lot more to know exactly what I'm
feeling and how to get that to go around the race track as fast as I can.
Me and Tony Jr. were talking about this the other day, from (I might be
wrong) but as far as I remember or can recall, there wasn't a lot of
change in the sport (aside from the regular tire coming in). In 1981 they
went to the smaller bodies, different spoilers and the rear decks were
different, but there wasn't a lot of change. Pretty much every year I have
raced we have had a different spoiler, a different tire, we have had
something changed on the car and now they are bringing in this Car of
It's hard to try and get any footing and you feel like you can't build off
of last year because youíre starting over every time as a driver because
it feels different every time you get in a car because of the different
things we have each year. Not a whole lot of changes this past off season.
That hopefully goes well for everybody and not just myself, but I think
that if we just chill out for a while and run with what we got, the cars
are pretty cool the way they are now.
They drive pretty well. The racing is pretty good for the most part. I
feel like when it comes down to it, I've learned a lot over the last year.
I learned more than I could sit here and talk about, because I don't have
that much time, but just dealing with the people and dealing with Tony Jr.
That's fixed, hopefully (laughter). I feel like we both treat each other
with a lot more respect. I think that will clear up a lot of issues we had
in the past.
Working with Steve Hmiel was a huge learning experience for me because he
gave me a lot of 'atta boy' and 'you did good,' 'good jobs' when I did not
hear that in the past and it sort of re-inspired me as a driver. I'm not
as quick to question myself or as curious as to my ability. I feel like we
work real good together and have a lot of respect for Steve. I already had
respect for him before we worked together. I was fortunate to be able to
work close with him because of his experience and knowledge in the sport.
I'm a big, old school buff and it was cool to go and talk to him about
that stuff and spent time with him and try to understand what the sport
was like. I had a good time last year and I know we didn't finish like we
wanted to but there was probably 80-90% of it I wouldn't trade.
BASED ON WHAT YOUíRE SAYING ON SOME OF THE THINGS YOUíVE LEARNED FROM
LAST YEAR, WHERE DO YOU FEEL LIKE YOU NEED TO IMPROVE THE MOST? IN THE
CAR, OR OUT OF THE CAR, TO HELP MAKE THIS A STRONGER TEAM AND A BETTER
You can always improve as a driver. I make mistakes all the time in the
car. You try to minimize a mistake and the ones where you taken too much
risk and it bites you. I have a huge commitment and I think my
determination and drive is solid. I think what I have to look forward to
this next season I won't have a problem getting up in the morning and
getting in the race car. I never did in the past. It was just hard
Some tracks you didn't like and I would have skipped New Hampshire there
for a couple of years if Daddy would have let me. We figured it out and
got it to where I like to go around that place. I know that personally
I've got a lot to learn and I've always got some areas to grow and
improve. The sport changes so you never can tell what curve ball you are
going to have to figure out over the next season.
We have a new body, nose and tail piece and hopefully that won't give us
and change-ups to have to adjust too. Just trying to be a better racecar
driver and be better at communicating and try to communicate on my crew
chiefs level is one of the things that I continue to work on. You can get
real good at it, but you can always be better.
With the limited time we'll have with testing and practices, even though
we're cutting back with the impound stuff, you have to be quick to be able
to get what you want and debate with your crew and your crew chief. He has
to be able to understand it and decipher it quickly enough to get it back
on the racetrack. Those are the things I would like to work on.
YOU MENTIONED NEW HAMPSHIRE AND NOT BEING THRILLED ABOUT IT AND YOU
LIKE IT A LITTLE BETTER NOW. WHAT DID YOU NOT LIKE AND WHAT DID YOU HAVE
TO FIGURE OUT?
When we first went there, we struggled to get the car to turn. Being
competitive at a flat track like that is very difficult to pass and if
you're not one of the better cars you're basically in everybody's way. It
can get pretty rough out there, on that racetrack in particularly, where
we eventually figure out how to get our car to turn in the middle of
corner and be able to knock off some good lap times.
Whether it was something Tony Jr. did or just a stroke of luck, our long
run setups were real good to where we were able to eventually get up there
and battle for the lead after 30 or 40 laps where a lot of guys would fall
off and our car would continue to work. We started getting some good
finishes there and that track is an important racetrack as far as the
Chase and points concerned. It's very important to be able to run there.
It's very close to one of the last races in the 26 races to the Chase.
It's a fun racetrack when you can get around there pretty good. We've
evolved there over the past several years.
HAS YOUR TEAM TALKED ABOUT THE IMPORTANCE OF GETTING OUT OF THE BOX
FAST BECAUSE YOU HAVE TO GET IT TOGETHER BY THE ATLANTA RACE?
You can have a bad Daytona 500. That doesn't put a huge damper on your
opportunity to be in the Chase. A string of 15th or worse for about four
or five weeks will definitely put you in a hole. The only thing about it
is there is so much change in the sport that a lot of the guys will
struggle and you won't be facing a steep incline and you'll find yourself
back in the Chase or back in the opportunity to be in the Chase.
Luckily, some of the tracks that we run well at are spread over the first
10 races and if we do struggle again at Vegas or California, we still feel
about 10 races in we should be battling or beating on that door to get in
the top-10. I'm fortunate that we run well like we do at Atlanta and
places like that to be able to cover our tail until we get Vegas and
California figured out.
DID YOU SPEND MOST OF THE OFF-SEASON JUST SHUTTING IT DOWN OR WERE YOU
THINKING WHAT YOU NEEDED TO DO GET BACK?
I spent most of the off season giving this Bud team a good idea of what my
take on our future is, about the upcoming season and how I feel about it.
Also starting up the Busch team, it has taken a lot of attention and
As soon as I go over and spend a couple of hours just touching base with
everybody and answer questions that they have, I go over to the Cup shop
to see what they're doing. By 4:30-5:00pm I'm back at the house just
sitting on the couch. I spent most of the off-season at home and I even
had my sister and mother and everybody come over to my house for Christmas
instead of me going over there so that was fun. On New Year's, I sat at
home just trying to relax as much as I can. You don't get a lot of time
and I'm looking really forward to working really hard this year and
putting a lot into it so I took every minute I could this off-season.
LOOKING BACK ON YOUR REUNION WITH TONY EURY JR, DO YOU THINK THINGS
SHOULD HAVE BEEN SHAKEN UP PERSONNEL-WISE IN THE FIRST PLACE?
Yeah, it's real easy to sit here now and
think, man what a mistake and what were you thinking? It's bigger than
anything that you guys know about. It's bigger than the sport and my
success as a driver. It was about me and my cousin not getting along. That
was more important to me. It wasn't about trying to be more successful or
winning more races or being a champion. I didn't want to get to the point
to where I couldn't stand my cousin anymore. That would be hard core.
I'm proud of him and I feel honored that we grew up together and that he's
been able to accomplish what he's accomplished and he's going to be one of
the best crew chiefs in the business. He'll be on that list 50 years from
now. I just didn't want us to have a falling out and I felt like we were
getting real bitter toward each other.
The company wasn't gaining anything by the situation as it imploded, so we
needed to make a change. We didn't have any success. We could have maybe
done it differently to have better success on the race track, but I'm glad
to be where I am now. If me and Jr. wouldn't have stepped back from each
other -- regardless of whether we thought it was right or not at the time
-- it put us in a great position now. Fortunately, at the same time, while
either one of us got our situation straightened out, the company as a
whole stood beside us.
We've got everybody pretty much on board and we're focused and looking
forward to next season. That was one thing I was worried about was the
company losing sight of what was going on and losing hope on the fact that
we could turn it around. I think we'll be strong and be able to complement
each other now. We've worked hard and improved. Our motors have improved.
We've worked really hard in the engine shop. We've studied these new noses
and tails over the last six months really hard and tested a lot of that
stuff. This is where we start to climb back up the hill. Hopefully in two
or three years we can be proud of ourselves and what we've been able to
DID YOU AND TONY JR. EVER SIT DOWN AT ANY POINT AND HAVE A SIT-DOWN
TALK TO PUT ALL THIS BEHIND YOU?
When we didn't talk at Homestead in '04 at the end of the season during
that practice at that last race, it was bigger than racing. It was not
about practice anymore. I got to change. I've got to get away from this.
It'll do him some good. I was just scared to do it. I was scared to be the
one to make the change or the decision to do it because a lot of people
wouldn't understand it and a lot of people didn't understand it.
But about three-quarters of the way through the '05 season, we got
together on one occasion. I asked him point-blank if he wanted to work
with me ever again in the future. Not just '06, but anytime? And he said,
'Yep.' And I asked him when he wanted to do that. I said we could do it
next year if he wanted to. And he said, 'Yep, it sounds good to me.' He
said some things that he normally wouldn't say and one of them was that he
really had a lot of -- I don't want to over-quote him here -- but that he
really had a lot of confidence in my abilities. That's something he never
even said before.
When I was coming up in the Late Models, he had a Late Model too and we
were real competitive. If he stayed after it, he could have been as good
or better than me as a driver -- coming from a driving family and whatnot.
He'd have had the same opportunities."
And he can build a hell of a race car, so there we wouldn't have had a
problem with his equipment. We basically confessed our intentions as far
as I wanted to work with him and he wanted to work with me, we wanted to
do it as soon as we possibly could. We felt a lot better about each
other's appreciation and respect for each other and how we thought a lot
of each other's abilities more so than we had in the past. That was sort
of the defining moment if there was one.
I think we were at Richmond. I don't know, maybe that's wrong. Maybe it
was Dover. I can't remember. We were inside the bus, so I don't remember
what track it was.
THERE'S BEEN A LOT OF DEBATE ABOUT YOUR CONFIDENCE LEVEL. HOW'S YOUR
CONFIDENCE LEVEL? WHAT DID YOU LEARN FROM LAST YEAR, INSIDE?
A lot of times it's just real easy to settle
or just take what you get. There were a few races when we refused to do
that and ended up getting a pretty dang good finish with it. Those were
some times when my confidence improved a lot and made me feel a lot better
about myself. Tony Jr. can build a great race car and about anybody in
this garage can drive it to the front. I never really had myself tested
before, and last year I was tested pretty good on a couple occasions and I
was able to do what I needed to do. It was a good feeling.
Not only was I aware of it, the people that I was working with were aware
of it and they would tell me that, so that was a good feeling.
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