Kurt Busch, No. 41 Haas Automation
Dale Earnhardt, Jr., No. 88 National Guard Ss
Jeff Gordon, No. 24 Drive To End Hunger
Kevin Harvick, No. 4 Budweiser
Kasey Kahne, No. 5 Farmers Insurance
Tony Stewart, No. 14 Bass Pro Shops/Mobil 1
Reed Sorenson, No. 7 Golden Corral
Michael Annett, No. 7 Pilot Flying J
Justin Allgaier, No. 51Brandt
KURT BUSCH, NO. 41 HAAS AUTOMATION CHEVROLET SS met with media and discussed his trip to Barrett-Jackson, race car drivers salaries compared to other athletes, crew chief, Daniel Knost, and more. FULL TRANSCRIPT:
WHAT’S YOUR BEST ADVICE FOR THE UP AND COMING YOUNG DRIVERS?
“Yeah, there are a lot of rookies that are going to be out there. And as a rookie, I remember just trying to do everything too fast and it’s a matter of digesting what’s around you and knowing your surroundings. You can wreck really easy as a rookie and you get out there slip-sliding around and when you wipe out somebody else, it affects a great deal of people that were involved. I guess the biggest thing is to just respect the responsibility.”
WHERE DID YOU GET YOUR WORK ETHIC?
“My dad instilled it in me; a blue-collared guy that was an auto mechanic and then a tools salesman. And when I first started racing, it was a car that we just bought as a chassis. And he said if you build it, you can race it. So, then we had to get the rear-end, the control arms, the motor, the wiring.
“And so he taught me everything about the car, which gave me a better understanding of the amount of work and time that it takes to build something and then to respect it when you have it. And so, you’ve got to get up early and you’ve got to stay late if you’re going to be successful.”
DO YOU REMEMBER YOUR FIRST WHEELS AS A KID?
“Oh, my dad gave me a plastic truck to gnaw on and chew on before I even had teeth. So it was always about cars with him. Mom, she loved baseball, and so I played baseball a lot as a kid, but cars, all the time. There was always a car in the garage.”
DO YOU HAVE AN UPDATE ON THE INDY 500?
“No update. No news to change or report different. But it’s still on the radar and I can feel it. It’s like I can almost grasp it, but I don’t have both hands on it yet.”
DO YOU HAVE A TIME TABLE AS TO WHEN YOU’D LIKE TO HAVE IT DONE?
“I would love to have it done already. But there is no timetable. The month of May is still a long ways away and there’s still good time to prepare and to find people to do it, even if the team has to field a second or a third or even a fifth car.”
WHAT DID YOU BUY AT BARRETT-JACKSON?
“I got a Shelby Cobra, 1965.”
IS IT ALL BLACK?
WHY THAT PARTICULAR CAR? DID YOU PAY $150,000?
“One hundred. I stole it; yeah, I got it for a hundred (thousand). This trip to Barrett-Jackson, the focus was with the Armed Forces Foundation and Cessna supporting the foundation with two vehicles, an airplane, a C-19, and a military truck. And there is a great deal of responsibility when you come in as a seller. And then your advertising and the dinners and the entertainment; and then there is a different responsibility as a buyer, as well, with doing your research.
“And so to talk about the Cobra that I bought, it was the best situation for my father to come out there as his first Barrett-Jackson trip, and one of my long-time employees, which is my best friend from racing when I was a kid, he helped volunteer on my dad’s race cars and he was out there. He’s a car guy. He’s a car nut. So to have him and my dad and myself going around looking at cars, researching them, and then predicting what ones would get sold for. And we found this Cobra. We had our eye on it because it had matching numbers. It’s a ’65 Shelby Cobra. Traditional paint is blue with white striping. I’ve got a Ford GT that was given to me by Edsel Ford when I won the championship. And I made that Ford GT blue and white. So this GT just had this look, this cool look about it being all black, gloss black. My dad loves black cars. I’ve been getting into a lot of black cars lately, and it was something we bought as a family and friend.
“It just had that vibe. It had that feel. And we added-up all the receipts we could add up and we would have spent $125,000 if we were going to build that car ourselves. And that’s not including labor. So we had $125,000 as the line in the sand as to what we were going to pay for that car, and it stalled-out at 95. I threw down a hundred, they dropped the hammer and said sold, and we were like oh my gosh, we have a car. And we think we stole. You can’t say ‘steal’ and it was a great deal.
“The seller shook our hand. And the seller was Goudin Ford from Las Vegas, Nevada. Where I’m from, it was the biggest dealership in Vegas and it was the guy’s personal Cobra that he put a lot of heart and soul into. And he’s like; you’ve got a great car. I’ve got all these matching receipts to go with it. Congratulations. So it’s neat when the seller shakes your hand, and you know you got a good deal on a car. So, I told my dad when it lands back in North Carolina, he’s the first one to take it out for a drive. It was a good fun family story. Sorry I took too long.”
WHAT ARE YOU EXPECTING TO SEE IN TONY STEWART WHEN HE GETS BACK IN THE CAR AFTER HIS LEG INJURY?
“I know he’s been waiting for this day for months. The rehabilitation, the physical therapy, the questions, the answers, the anticipation; I can’t wait for him to sit in that seat. I’m going to go shake his hand and say welcome back. And you’ll watch him drive out there and he’ll be happy again. He’s going to be the same old Tony, like we never missed him from before.”
HOW WOULD YOU COMPARE THE SALARIES OF RACE CAR DRIVERS TO THOSE OF OTHER PROFESSIONAL ATHLETES?
“Great question. To be as accurate as I can be without inserting my own foot in my own mouth, we are all independent contractors in the world of NASCAR, in the world of motorsports. And so as an independent contractor, there are two solid ways to make money and that is off of performance and purse money as well as your marketing ability and to sell sponsors or to attract sponsors; whereas, in other sports they have unions. The unions protect the contracts of those players and even if you get hurt, you still get paid if you’re in baseball, basketball, and football and maybe even hockey. It’s in the same category where the unions help their athletes.
“We don’t have that. And so it’s a different atmosphere. We have to work a lot harder for our dollar. But at the same time, there’s that freedom of being an independent contractor and not necessarily having to answer to anybody in particular other than the sponsor or your team owner. So, there is good, bad, and different. I enjoy the world of NASCAR. It’s a world that you have to pinch yourself sometimes because you are getting paid to race a car 200 mph. Is it a dangerous sport? It’s as dangerous as football is, in putting a helmet on and knowing that there are side affects that come along with playing a contact sport.
“Could the money be greater in the fact that we don’t receive, as drivers, a dollar of any of the ticket sales? I’ve never really received a dollar from all of the ticket sales I’ve seen. I’ve signed thousands of tickets from Bristol over the years of the times that I’ve won there, and it says $85 bucks on it, usually. Right? That’s a cheap seat. And are the drivers receiving any of that? Well, it’s probably through the purse money, but there’s a lot of money that exchanges hands. I guess at the end of the day, drivers, team owners, crew members, the Southeastern region is a better place because of the world of NASCAR. And we have a lot to be thankful for.”
WOULD IT BE EXCITING TO BE INVOLVED IN FORMULA 1?
“Oh, absolutely. Haas is a unique, eclectic individual, and when he says he’s going to do something, he means it. I’m a beneficiary of that with him signing me on for this fourth team at Stewart-Haas. The money in Formula 1 though, is astronomical. When you talk about $30 million to run a Cup team, it’s $300 million over there. So, you just throw on another zero. There’s a lot that goes into it. A guy like him, though, the way Gene Haas thinks is hey, I don’t need to get into motor building. I’m just going to rent motors from Hendrick Motorsports because that’s going to take $50 million or so to do and to develop. So, what does he think in his mind? Well, nobody’s got a wind tunnel. Everybody needs a wind tunnel. So he goes and builds a $40 million wind tunnel. What I’m getting at is the guy can drop the dime and go play with the big dogs and he’s got the coin to spend in Formula 1 if he wants to go and do it.”
WHAT HAVE YOU LEARNED SINCE YOU MADE THE ANNOUNCEMENT LAST AUGUST TO KNOW AS FAR AS WHAT THE NUCLEUS IS GOING TO BE SURROUNDING YOU ONCE YOU GET ON THE TRACK TOMORROW? TALK A LITTLE BIT ABOUT WHAT YOU HAVE LEARNED ABOUT DANIEL (KNOST, CREW CHIEF).
“Well it’s been an evolution since July when I first talked to Gene Haas about his vision to start this fourth team. Then to go through the Chase working with the No. 78 guys and being on the outside of what was going on for development, but then once the off-season came then I could give it my full attention. By that time we had Daniel Knost in place as the crew chief. We had different crew members lining up, they had pit crew guys training and it’s been a nice evolution to watch the No. 41 car mature into the spot that it’s in today. The spot that it’s in today is a championship caliber team that has some inexperienced guys in certain situations, but it has very experienced guys in other positions on the team. So it’s an exciting time to have a shot at winning the Daytona 500 because Gene Haas expects Haas Automation and his brand to be competitive right away. His big thing is he just wants to win. He wants that hardware from Victory Lane and at the same time we have a regular season to develop as a team to be ready for the Chase when it starts.”
HAVE YOU TESTED A LOT WITH DANIEL (KNOST) IN THE OFF-SEASON? ARE YOU STARTING TO LEARN HIM?
“Last night was perfect. We went to dinner. I took the lead engineer, the crew chief and our assistant engineer, the three guys that sit in the hauler. Between us four we are the ones arriving at the set-up and the responsibility of this No. 41 cars success. There are crew members everywhere that add to this, but us four are the ones pulling the trigger on what set-ups and Daniel’s level of comfort and his level of confidence I think is the biggest word that I have seen develop every week during the off season. He is perfect. He’s ready and it’s a nice feeling to have him ready to go and have a fresh crew chiefs outlook. With the point’s structure this year, with the qualifying procedures this year, with the new no ride height rule and how a car has got to get through technical inspection, you almost want a brand new guy that has the least amount of experience to go off of trends, because this year there are no trends right now.”
IS THE PERCENTAGE LEVEL GONE UP SINCE YOU SAID A COUPLE OF WEEKS AGO YOU WERE 70 PERCENT SURE YOU WOULD RUN INDY?
“It’s still that percentage, which is a good sign. If I was a weather man I would say bring an umbrella (laughs). But there is nothing new to report or change.”
THERE WON’T BE A MANUFACTURER ISSUE IF YOU DO RUN FOR A HONDA TEAM?
“You know we are talking with Chevrolet programs. There is a Honda team in the mix and that is a hurdle that we have to overcome. We have to do it the right way. I respect Chevrolet’s involvement in the NASCAR world and that is 99 percent of the focus this year. So that one percent we hope is not a problem.”
YOU MENTIONED THE RIDE HEIGHT HOW DOES THAT CHANGE WHAT YOU DO OR WHAT YOUR STYLE MIGHT BE? HOW IS THAT GOING TO IMPACT YOU SPECIFICALLY?
“The easiest way to explain the new ride height rule is that we can lower the cars as far as we want to go. We can raise it as high as we want to go. To me the cars are going to create an identity for themselves similar to a sports car where you see like the BMW’s or you see the Audi’s, the sedans that race on road courses they have very stiff suspension. I see our cars heading that direction because you want to control the ride height at the lowest level possible. I’m hearing teams are ordering very stiff springs from the different spring manufacturers which backs up that theory. We are going to be lowering our cars and riding stiff springs. What will that do in traffic? That is going to be the side effect on how stiff do you go versus the grip level in the tires.”
HOW MORE DIFFICULT DOES THAT MAKE YOUR JOB?
“It makes it very difficult. You have trends for specific tracks, but at the same time we don’t know what our final set-up is going to be and with Phoenix only a couple of weeks away we still have that question mark over our head on how we need to set the car up heading into that race.”
YOU HAVE SO MUCH TIME INVESTED WITH ANDRETTI AUTOSPORT SO IF YOU ARE NOT ABLE TO DO IT WITH THEM HOW MUCH DOES THAT KIND OF BRING YOU BACK A LITTLE BIT?
“Well it’s a matter of loyalty. I have tried to pride myself in being as loyal as I can be to a program or an individual throughout my career. When they give you, Andretti Autosport, a chance to drive an IndyCar and do your rookie test that is who you want to invest into if you are going to do a race. So that is where I would lean if I was going to make a decision. If I had two equal opportunities or maybe Andretti was a little less I would say the Andretti group, having his guidance and his expertise and his knowledge, you can’t find a better name in the world of IndyCar other than a guy like Penske or something like that.”
WHEN HE (MICHAEL ANDRETTI) SWITCHED TO HONDA DID THAT KIND OF IN YOUR MIND MAKE YOU WONDER IF YOU WOULD BE ABLE TO DO THIS?
“Yeah I heard about that last fall when they raced Fontana. I was like ‘oof’ how is that going to impact the future. That is where you have to hire good lawyers, but at the end of the day you have to do the right thing. The right thing for me as a NASCAR Cup champion is to focus on the Cup car.”
THIS WILL BE THE 10TH SEASON FOR YOUR BROTHER IN THE NASCAR SPRINT CUP SERIES. HOW HAVE YOU SEEN HIM EVOLVE AND CHANGE? WHAT DO YOU SEE THAT IS SIMILAR FROM THE KYLE FROM 10 YEARS AGO?
“He has done a tremendous job to battle the greats in our sport and to do it at an elite level like he has year after year to race as much as he does. He races Nationwide, Truck, Cup; he has got over 100 wins in the three series combined. He has an amazing work ethic and he has a very high success rate. What we have to do is find that last percentage point it seems like. It seems like he is 99 percent there and I think he gained a percentage point last year by completing the Chase, by going through it all the way.”
THAT WAS KIND OF A BIG THING FOR HIM THAT HE DIDN’T GIVE UP…
“Yeah, as soon as you were eliminated in a sense he felt like he gave up. Well, no you can’t do that Kyle you’ve got to continue to push all the way through and if others have problems then you capitalize on that. Even if they don’t have problems you still have to do it for yourself.”
HOW DID HE GET TO THOSE RESULTS? HOW DID HE NOT GIVE UP? WHAT WERE THINGS HE WAS DOING THAT MAYBE HE HADN’T DONE IN THE PAST?
“I think he hit the reset button after Kansas and said ‘this is still about consistency and running well’ which you have to post results better than seventh in the Chase every week if you are going to win this thing. There are certain things you do to get in the Chase and there are certain things you have to do in the Chase. I think he found that after he had that trouble in Kansas.”
WAS THAT A SIMPLE LESSON OR IS THAT HARDER THAN WHAT PEOPLE MIGHT THINK TO LEARN?
“Every driver is a little different. I mean I’m his brother, I would probably know him best and it’s when you are defeated after you put 30 plus weekends throughout the year together and to have your shot at the championship now thinner than what it was before it's as if you are not giving that full effort. So you always hope that your Chase starts off strong and that you are able to not have to play catch up and the moment that he was playing catch up he gave up. I think now that even if he is down a little bit he is not going to give up now.”
I HAVE BEEN TALKING TO A LOT OF DRIVERS ASKING IF THEY CONSIDERED GOING TO COLLEGE AFTER FINISHING HIGH SCHOOL. I BELIEVE YOU STARTED COLLEGE BUT FAILED TO FINISH THAT SEEMS TO BE THE CASE OF MANY OF THE DRIVERS. I WAS WONDERING WHAT HAPPENED? DID YOU JUST DECIDE THAT YOU WANTED TO FOCUS ON RACING FULL TIME?
“The best story I have is when I was leaving my dorm on a Friday after classes my Resident Assistant is standing there with his arms folded a few times going ‘where are you going’? I said ‘well I’m headed to Phoenix this weekend’ because I went to school in Tucson or I said ‘hey I’m going to L.A. because the South West Tour is racing at Orange Show Speedway. He goes ‘when are you going to give up on this racing thing and worry about your school work?’ He is a junior in college and he is trying to be a guidance and a mentor counselor and literally the books were on the back seat of my car as I was heading down the freeway chasing down my dream of racing cars. It’s hard to balance both. You have to stay involved in motorsports. You are always looking for that opportunity to break through. What ends up being sacrificed is the study time.”
DO YOU EVER THINK YOU MIGHT GO BACK?
“Probably not, there are so many things that you learn in life afterwards that they school of hard knocks happens out on the road and in life. I’m not the one for the books in a sense. I mean I got good grades in High School, but I felt like I learned more in life when I was outside of school.”
DALE EARNHARDT, JR., NO. 88 NATIONAL GUARD SS, met with members of the media at 2014 NASCAR Daytona 2014 Media Day and discussed: the return of the No. 3 car to NASCAR Sprint Cup Series competition; changes to rules package for 2014; Richard Petty and Danica Patrick; thoughts on new points system and other topics. FULL TRANSCRIPT:
CAN YOU BELIEVE IT HAS BEEN 10 YEARS SINCE YOU WON THE DAYTONA 500: “It doesn’t seem like it’s been that long, but time goes by pretty fast. It seems like these last several years have really flew by. Especially when you enjoy yourself. They seemed to grind out when you’re not running too well, but last couple of year have flew by pretty fast.”
DOES THE SIGNIFICANCE OF THAT MOMENT STILL RING TO YOU AS MUCH AS IT DID THEN? OR DOES TIME DILUTE IT? “Well, I think that you never forget exactly what that day is like. We come here every year and you get sort of, it all floods back to you as soon as you come back for Speedweeks each season. It’s very fresh, and you’re constantly reminded I think by just what goes on during Speedweeks how important that victory is and how much you would like to get it again. It’s definitely fresh.”
DO YOU STILL KEEP UP WITH A LOT OF THE GUYS ON THAT TEAM? A LOT OF THEM ARE AT TONY’S SHOP NOW, AREN’T THEY? “Yeah, some of them are. A lot of them are family members. Yeah, I definitely have stayed in contact with a lot of those guys. That’s been pretty easy. Everybody stays pretty close to home”
WOULD YOU WRECK THE 3 FOR THE WIN? “Wreck the 3? That’s a hell of a question. I’ve haven’t wrecked anybody to win a race in a long time. But we haven’t won any races either. I definitely wouldn’t want to wreck anybody to win a race, but when it comes down to it, you want to win no matter what and you’re not worried about who’s in the other car. You got to do whatever it takes to win aside from just putting a guy in the fence. That wouldn’t be a difficult situation for me at all. I wouldn’t think twice about
DO YOU THINK THE WAY NASCAR IS PROMOTING DO WHATEVER IT TAKES TO WIN THESE RACES WILL PERHAPS CHANGE YOUR DRIVING STYLE ? “I think it’s going to change a little bit about everybody’s driving style when it comes down to trying to get wins. When you think about, you could think about a lot of different races last year. I’ll use an example – a random example would be (Matt) Kenseth and Kasey Kahne at Bristol last year. That was a situation where Kasey may have done something different under the current rules package we’re going to have this season. I think you definitely may would have seen a different outcome to that race, maybe a little more aggression in that situation.”
TALK A LITTLE BIT ABOUT HOW YOU FEEL ABOUT HAVING THE NO. 3 CAR OUT THERE. TALK ABOUT HOW YOUR VIEW MAY OR MAY DIFFER FROM WHAT YOUR DAD’S FANS FEEL. “I don’t know how everybody else feels. I haven’t been studying up on that. I feel good with it. I think it’s great for Austin (Dillon) and Richard (Childress) – grandson and grandfather being able to come together and doing something like that with a number that’s been in their family for so many years. It has a lot of history inside their family. I’m happy for Austin. I’ve known him a long time. I’ve known Richard forever. I’m happy for them. Once we get out on the racetrack, Austin’s a competitor. He’s a guy you’re gonna want to race and have to race to win races. You won’t even think about the 3 on the side. That will sort of become normal. I’m glad that it’s back. It was going to come back. You always wonder how and when and what the situation will be like. It’s a good situation that I can be comfortable with, and I’m happy for that because it could have just as easily been a difficult situation that I wouldn’t have been comfortable with.”
THE NUMBER HASN’T BEEN RACED SINCE 2001. BUT YOU STILL SEE IT IN THE INFIELD ON FLAGS AND T-SHIRTS. DOES IT FEEL LIKE THE NUMBER HASN’T BEEN AROUND? “I don’t know. It hasn’t been around. It hasn’t been on the race track. I haven’t seen it out there. I don’t really know what you mean by that. It’s a symbol for my father and that stylized number and that flag is a symbol to him. When somebody raises that flag up over their motorhome or wherever they may fly it, it’s a way for them to show their support and their fandom for my father. That may change a little bit because Austin has the same number. That could get watered down just a bit. You might not see it in the infield quite as often. People know what it means to them and that’s all that’s important. I don’t really tend to spend a lot of time thinking about it. I’m quite comfortable with how it’s going down. I’m glad it’s back. It was going to come back eventually. I think everybody knew that.”
WHAT DID YOU LEARN LAST YEAR – ONE BIG LESSON – THAT WILL HELP YOU THIS SEASON? “I don’t really know if we had one that really stands out. We ran so well in the Chase. I’m excited about getting back out there. We’ve got some new rules and things like that. We had new rules at the beginning of last season, too, and we seemed to adjust to those pretty well. I’m just looking forward to getting out there and seeing how we can do and how our performance is going to be right off the bat. It’s going to be a fun year, I think. I think we’re going to enjoy ourselves. We did last year. We seem to get better every year and hopefully that trajectory is still be the same going into this season – we’re going to improve on what we did last year and that will be fun. It will be an entertaining season for me.”
WILL THE CHANGE IN POINTS SYSTEM IS GOING TO BRING BACK MORE INTEREST EACH WEEK PER RACE? “I think certainly it will bring interest to those deciding races where the elimination factor comes into play. The first race of the Chase will be well watched and people will tune in. As we get to those elimination races, there will be a lot of influence and viewership there due to the elimination factor. I think it’s gonna be tuned up a notch. Every time we change something, it brings people’s eyes onto the sport. They want to see how it’s going to change and how things are going to work out. I think it makes people curious. They’ll definitely be checking it out the first of the season. Hopefully, they’ll like what they see.”
WERE YOU SURPRISED TO LEARN THAT YOU WOULD HAVE WON THE CHAMPIONSHIP UNDER THIS SYSTEM LAST SEASON? “No, I wasn’t that surprised. We had a good season and a good Chase, a real good Chase. It was the bonus points that hurt us the most. Not winning any races in the regular season and not carrying any bonus points into the Chase. The blown motor at Chicago was a big deal. If we had some bonus points, and some sort of top 15 at Chicago, it might have been a totally different year for us. .”
WHAT DID YOU THINK ABOUT RICHARD PETTY’S COMMENTS ON DANICA? DID IT SURPRISE YOU? “I thought it was a little rough on Danica (Patrick). You can’t call out The King, because he’s The King. He’s such a patriarch and icon in the sport He has tons of wisdom and insight and a guy that everyone respects. He’s done a lot for this sport, and still does today. But at the same time, when I think about Danica, I just understand she handles, she deals with more criticism than anybody else has ever faced in this sport and that’s unfortunate. She goes by a different set of rules because of her gender, and that’s unfortunate. It seems like she always having to answer to something like that, and that’s a pain in her butt. And frankly, it’s just got to get old. ”
SHE RACED FOR YOU SO I MEAN, YOU WITNESSED SOME OF IT? “It doesn’t bother her. She doesn’t show that it, she doesn’t show it if it bothers her if it does. I’m sure maybe, under the surface, get a little perturbed about it. She’s really strong-willed when it comes to those type of things. I think she has dealt with it from day one. When you hear something like that, you’re kind of taken aback a little bit. Why would someone be so critical? She’s probably dealt with it forever. It’s nothing new for her, maybe she just let’s it roll off her back. Regardless of how she handles it, I think he was being a little rough there. ”
HE TOOK A SHOT AT YOU IN THE SAME INTERVIEW. “Me and him work together on that Goody’s deal. I hope he didn’t take too many shots at me because it don’t look too good when it comes to our working relationship. He’s an honest man and he’s got his opinions, and he’s not going to hold back. ”
IN THE MEDIA TOUR, HE SAID THAT SOME OF THE 88’S FANS WOULD GO TO THE 3. DID YOU EVEN KNOW THAT HE SAID THAT? “I don’t know if that’s a slight hack on me. I think fans of mine who were fans of may fathers will definitely want to see the 3 run well, and they will want to pull for Austin. There’s going to be a lot of emotions there, and that’s a good thing that the fans would do that. I’m not over here counting my fans like poker chips. If they want to pull for the 3, by all means, pull for the 3. They can pull for whoever they wish to pull for just as long as we’ve go a lot of them watching and a lot of them tuning in. My main focus is that the sport’s healthy and I think Austin in the 3 and what they are doing is healthy is good for the sport’s health. And I think what Danica does is good for the health of the sport. If my fans want to pull for me and the 3, or just the 3, whatever they want to do, I’m good with that. There’s a lot of emotions coming back with that 3 for them. I can’t imagine being an Earnhardt fan what that’s got to be like.”
THAT’S SOME STACK OF POKER CHIPS BY THE WAY. “I just don’t, it’s a person’s right and their choice what they want to do and who they want to pull for. I don’t take it for granted that I’m going to have all the fans and the biggest fan base every year. Young guys like Austin are going to come in and they’re going to turn the sport upside down, and one day, there’s going to be a guy who has more fans than anybody else and his name is not going to be Dale Jr. ”
THE DISCUSSION ABOUT THE 3 DEFINITELY HAS BROUGHT MORE CONVERSATION ABOUT YOUR FATHER. WHAT DOES THAT MEAN FOR YOU? “It’s good I think when people are discussing about my father because he had a great impact on the sport. I get a good feeling about that when his name gets brought up. Under the circumstances, we are talking about it a lot with the number coming back. That’s a positive thing for me because I’m proud of what he did. I’m proud of what he was able to accomplish with the number, and I’m proud to talk about it. Again, I’m happy in the way that it’s coming back. I’m happy how it’s being packaged because it could easily have been a difficult situation. Maybe the number goes to a different owner or a guy that drives it I don’t like or someone that I don’t think respects the heritage or whatever. It could have been totally different, but it’s not. It’s going to be a great situation. We sort of get to celebrate not only the number coming back, we get to celebrate the history of the number and that obviously involves my father.”
MARTHA (EARNHARDT) SEEMS TO HAVE A LITTLE BIT OF A HARD TIME WITH IT. “I haven’t seen it. I haven’t heard. We haven’t talked about that. I’m sure that’s got to stir up a lot of emotions for a lot of different people. Some will be stronger than others, and that’s just up to the individual.”
WHAT DO YOU SAY TO PEOPLE WHO ARE HESITANT ABOUT THE NUMBER COMING BACK? “It’s coming back. Whether you are hesitant about it or not, a young kid is coming in here trying to pave his way and create a name for himself. He wants that number means a lot to him regardless of my father’s involvement in it, and my father’s connection to it. That number means a lot to Austin because of his grandfather’s history to the number. It’s a number that Austin used forever. I’m sure when Austin was playing t-ball with a 3 on his back, he wasn’t thinking about ‘Man, I wonder how hard it’s going to be when I go to Cup, and I want to use this number.’ He was just having fun. That was his number. When he played JV or varsity, he wanted to bring his number. That was his number. That wasn’t Dale’s number. That was his t-ball number. That was his JV number, his senior number. It means something different to him in a sense and I think you’ve got to appreciate that. You’ve got to appreciate this guy trying to pave his own way. He has every right to do that however he wants and this is the way he chose to do it.”
DOESN’T PART OF YOU JUST WANT TO RESPECT THAT AND MOVE ON TO RACING WITH YOUR OWN TEAM? “We will. We’re here for media day, and we can talk about anything you all want to talk about today. We’ll get to racing soon enough. I’m excited to be here, and to be back on the race track tomorrow and have some fun. I think we’ve got some great cars that we’ve built. We feel like we’ve brought a great car for the 500. It’s gonna be competitive. We’ve come close to winning it the last four years. And we think we’re going to give it another shot.”
HOW RELIEVED WILL YOU BE IF YOU WIN THAT RACE AND CAN JUST KIND OF TEST BETWEEN NOW AND THE START OF THE CHASE? “Yeah, that would be awesome to put a win behind you early and not have to worry about the stress of making the chase and doing the math on the new format. Winning a race early would give you the opportunity to go for another win and go for multiple wins and try to build up those bonus points that I think are ever so important to win any championship.”
DO ANY OF THOSE CLOSE CALLS BOTHER YOU MORE THAN ANY OTHERS? “From last year?” FROM THE LAST FOUR YEARS. “You know, I really felt like when we ran second in most of those races. You know, Dover, I came so close to be able to get by Jimmie (Johnson). I don’t know whether I would have been able to hold him off. He was flying at the end of that race. Dover is a race that I thought about a little bit longer than most. But Homestead, we had such a fast car. I beat myself, I mean I just beat myself up so bad over that, wondering why I didn’t win because that car should have won that race. You know, it’s hard to get by guys at the end whenever we are all trying to use the high line and that’s really the only way you can pass. We did make a couple of adjustments to the car that changed the balance a little bit. I had such a good car throughout the majority of that race, and felt like if I’m going to win one, this is almost meant to be because Jimmie’s going to win the championship and I can knock out the last win of the season and get hyped up for next year. It just seemed like it was storybook for me to win that race and felt like it was all lining up, and I didn’t take advantage of it.”
HOW ABOUT YOUR LAST FOUR DAYTONA 500S? “You know, they’ve all been close, too. But I’m not – I never in none of those races did I have a situation where I went ‘I let it slip by slip by. I messed up right there.’ Most of the time, we run our guts out and come to the finish line and we just never had a chance to make a move on the guy leading the race. When you make that move or have a chance and you don’t do the right thing and you lose that’s difficult to swallow. Haven’t been in that situation even though we’ve run second, we still haven’t had that opportunity to pass the leader or make a move on the leader.”
WITH THE RULES THE WAY THEY ARE, IT WILL HAVE TO BE BALLS OUT AT HOMESTEAD BECAUSE WHOEVER CROSSES THE FINISH LINE FIRST WILL WIN THE CHAMPIONSHIP. “I’m going to tell you right now, I don’t know if we can run any harder than we were last time we were there. I was running my guts out – I know Matt was too. I know the 11 was. That was fun. We had a lot of fun that day. I remember going into turn two passing the 11 and 2 on the outside when they were getting together. We were all running our guts out. That was exciting for me. That race was exciting for me. I don’t know what it was like as far as a fan or a viewer but I felt like that was a good end result for our sport. If we can come down to Homestead with a four-car battle and have that type of stuff going on that would be great.”
HAVEN’T SEEN VERY MANY FOUR CAR BATTLES AT HOMESTEAD. WILL A FOUR CAR BATTLE FORCE THE OTHERS NOT IN IT TO DRIVE EASIER? “I don’t know. I think you treat people how they treat you. If I’m racing, and I’m coming up on a buddy of mine and I’m one of the four cars and he’s not, I’m going to be like ‘Hey, come on, cut me a break here.’ But they don’t have to, and sometimes they don’t, and sometimes they do. Yeah, I think that’s kind of always been the case in the Chase when you have the drivers who are in and the drivers who are out. When you’re out, you definitely tend to not give the guys too much of a hard time that are in the Chase when it’s not necessary. You just try to go out there and win races though. ”
WITH THE NEW CHASE FORMAT, WOULD YOU WANT TO TEST HOMESTEAD MULTIPLE TIMES? “I don’t think so. That would be unconventional, and maybe that’s where we are headed – saving all your tests for Homestead. But you definitely probably, it depends on how your season goes the first 20 races obviously. If you barely squeak into that Chase, we’ve got four teammates amongst us, I don’t know that we could convince all four that we have to have one objective. All of them have different agenda. They’ve got to get better where ever they think they need to get better. We’ve got to spread the wealth a little bit and be understanding of the other teams needs when it comes to testing.”
JEFF GORDON, NO. 24 DRIVE TO END HUNGER CHEVROLET SS, met with members of the media at the 2014 NASCAR Daytona Media Day and discussed: expectations for the 2014 season; having Ray Evernham back at Hendrick Motorsports; the return of the No. 3 to NASCAR Sprint Cup Series competition; Tony Stewart’s return to the track and other topics. FULL TRANSCRIPT:
Q. OBVIOUSLY THERE'S A LOT OF CHANGES THIS SEASON: CHASE, QUALIFYING, PENALTIES. WHEN YOU ADD IT ALL UP INTO ONE BIG PICTURE, DO YOU THINK THAT WILL BE A LOT FOR FANS OR PARTICIPANTS TO SWALLOW?
JEFF GORDON: Maybe. I think it's different when there's a lot of changes and some of them seem unnecessary. I like the direction and changes that have been made.
You brought up the penalties. I think that's a structure that's needed to take place for a while now. So I think if you have something that makes sense, why wait just because you've made other changes? So go ahead and incorporate that into there. We'll adjust, we'll deal with it. It's going to take some time to work through it for NASCAR as well as for the competitors.
Same thing with qualifying. I feel like we needed to do that a few years ago. When F1 started doing it, I was instantly a huge fan and said, Man, I wish we had this. I love that they're incorporating that.
Then there's a few little tweaks that probably are going to need to happen with that as well. I was real happy to see them being open-minded and them recognizing some things that needed to be done and they did that.
The points, you know, I like it as well. I mean, I think the thing that stood out to me in the conversations that I had with NASCAR that really resonated was when the driver gets out of the car and said, Well, you know, third place today, it was a good points day. That just doesn't sit well with anybody, not even us. I mean, we don't want to say that. We don't want to say anything other than, We won. If we didn't win, that was not a good day. It's win or nothing. That's the attitude you want to have.
It's not necessarily the reality, but getting us closer to that I think is important. I think this takes us that next step towards that, how important it is to win and the intensity level that's going to be created from qualifying for all of us, crew chiefs, drivers, teams, as well as, you know, the importance of winning to get in and how important it's going to be to compete at a high level and winning throughout the Chase.
Q. COLLECTIVELY EVEN IF PEOPLE DISAGREED WITH ONE OR MORE OF THEM, WOULD YOU NOT AGREE THAT TOGETHER THEY ARE GOING TO DRAW MORE EYES?
JEFF GORDON: I believe that for all those that are complaining about it and saying they don't like it or will never watch another race, they'll be tuned in, okay? It's the ones that aren't saying anything that you're trying to grasp.
I have a lot of friends like in New York that are casual fans, and they're talking to me about it. I think they've already made an impact and I think there's a lot of interest around the things that they've announced. I think that interest is only going to get greater once we go through a couple of those qualifying sessions and go through one year of this points system.
Q. WHAT DO YOU THINK RAY EVERNHAM IS GOING TO BRING TO HENDRICK?
JEFF GORDON: Hopefully more championships.
I mean, I love Ray. Ray and I have obviously had a great working relationship, but we've also maintained a friendship over the years.
Ray is experienced in a lot of things: as a crew chief, as a car owner, as a businessman, TV producer. It can enhance what we do at Hendrick. I think it's important to have someone that has been in that position as a crew chief, maybe doesn't understand the engineering to the level today that some of our engineers go through, but he's a quick study, he gets it.
I think that anything that Ray can do to help bridge that gap of communication between crew chiefs, engineers, the engine shop, the chassis shop, the team aspect from pit crews, all these things, he just has a great way of looking at things, analyzing them and giving good opinions to make it stronger.
JEFF GORDON: Do I think he's missed competition? Absolutely, I think he has. There's no doubt in my mind he has. I think he also knows being a crew chief today is a lot different than what it used to be.
I mean, if he was 30 years old and coming in, he would still make an excellent crew chief because he understands how to, you know, put a great team together and what it takes to go fast. That doesn't mean that you always have to know everything about shocks to the level that they have to know or aerodynamics. You collectively bring that all together.
So there's no doubt in my mind he would be an excellent crew chief. But I think what happened is if you step away from the sport for a period of time and try to come back, it wouldn't work.
I say that as a friend of Ray because we talk and joke about it. On Twitter they're constantly saying, I want Ray to be your crew chief, everything will be better. Not necessarily in all aspects.
But just having him involved, having him be a part of the organization again is exciting.
JEFF GORDON: Yeah, it's not even a thought. It's not on the radar in any way, shape or form. Yeah, you can just put that to rest.
Q. OF ALL THE ELIMINATION ROUNDS THAT ARE GOING TO HAPPEN WITH THE CHASE, THE GUY WHO ENDS UP WINNING IT, HOW SATISFYING WILL THAT BE? EVERY COUPLE RACES YOU HAVE ANOTHER ELIMINATION.
JEFF GORDON: You do. But, I mean, if you're leading the points, you're going to move on, right? You don't necessarily have to win a race, but you still have to compete at a high level.
I still think the best team is going to win this championship, just like they have back before they made the points change to the Chase and since they made the points change to the Chase. In the future, whatever points system is in place, I still think the best team is going to win.
The best teams know how to put themselves in position to have things go their way. I'm a big believer in if you're that talented, you're that good, you communicate that well, you have the resources, you're going to find a way, no matter what the system is, to rise to the top.
JEFF GORDON: In which race? Any race? I think where it's possibly going to change, you got to understand the mentality of a racecar driver is win. You don't have to dangle a carrot out in front of us. With double-file restarts, closing laps, let's say a guy is leading by two or three seconds when the caution comes out, you have this new life in you that, I can win this race. By the way, that win can lock me into the Chase pretty much.
There's guys that are going to have just that thought on their mind, and that's going to make you take a few more risks and push just a little bit harder because a win now has become more important than it was before.
So I don't think you necessarily want to just say, I'm going to wreck it, it's either a win or bring it back on the wrecker. I might not have that approach, but some guys might. You got to weigh that out.
The risk versus reward is what it's always been about. And the reward for being consistent was very high in previous points systems. The reward for taking more risk is now greater, so guys are going to take more risk.
Q. WE'LL SEE A LOT MORE GUYS RUN OUT OF FUEL?
JEFF GORDON: You'll see more people running out of fuel. You'll see I think a little bit more bumping and banging on restarts and closing laps. The cars are still really stuck to the racetrack. That aspect is a little bit unknown.
But definitely, you know, this heightens things up a bit.
Q. THIS WILL BE THE 10TH SEASON FOR KYLE BUSCH IN CUP.
JEFF GORDON: Man, he's getting old. Is he considered a veteran now (laughter)? No longer the kid. Okay, good.
Q. I WONDER HOW YOU'VE SEEN HIM EVOLVE OVER THOSE 10 YEARS (INDISCERNIBLE).
JEFF GORDON: He's got a good memory, a better memory than I do. I just remember poking my head in the window and just saying, Man, that's not really necessary right now. I appreciate what you're trying to do, but we don't need to be three-wide out there in practice. There's no good that's going to come from it.
Also I think back to when I was young and coming into this sport, we got some great young talent coming up right now, rookies. That's what I love about the young guys: their enthusiasm, their rawness. They're just like young kids: you never know what is going to come out of their mouth or what they're going to do.
It's the same thing when they get in a racecar at that level. They don't know exactly what to expect. They don't have all this experience that's sort of setting their mindset already for them. They're just fresh, pushing the envelope, doing things unique and different.
I mean, that was Kyle being Kyle. If you asked Kyle, Would you still go do that today, I would guarantee he would say, No, I don't see the benefits of it.
Q. WHAT IS KYLE BEING KYLE NOW?
JEFF GORDON: I think Kyle has learned. He's still an aggressive driver, so it's just how to make the most of that aggressiveness at the right time. It's balancing the aggressiveness with patience.
I've always said that's what makes a great racecar driver, is somebody that has the ability to be super aggressive. Now, of course, Kyle, you can guarantee if he's behind you on a restart, he's going to go and dust the wall and make it three- or four-wide. You just know that's going to happen. He's done it very successfully, so why wouldn't he do it? He still has that in him. But it's not every single restart and every single lap.
The best story I have is Alan Gustafson, when he was his crew chief, the frustration I could see on his face in debriefs or drivers meetings because they only got to practice half of the practice because the other half they were fixing the damage on the right side because Kyle constantly hit the wall, just brushing it. Darlington, boom. Richmond, boom. That shows you how far on the edge that Kyle was pushing it.
Now he does it once in a while but not every weekend.
Q. HOW DOES THAT FARE FOR QUALIFYING AND THE NEW CHASE FORMAT FOR THE YOUNG GUYS?
JEFF GORDON: Well, I'm a big fan of Formula One. I watch it, especially qualifying. I watch it very closely. One of the challenges that they have is trying not to block. They don't always do it intentionally. It's unintentional most of the time. Sometimes it's, I'll slowly get out of the way. There's some judgment calls there. They only have 22 cars out there and we have 43.
There's going to be weekends like Martinsville where if the conditions are right, the sun is coming, there's a cloud, everybody is going to want to be out there on the track and you're not going to get a clean lap.
I think for somebody who's young, it's going to be respecting the competitors and knowing how to best make your lap happen and then not get in the way of somebody else's lap. That's going to be true for the veterans as well. I think we're experienced at doing those qualifying runs in practice where we don't pull up on the track in front of somebody.
It's not sometimes the drivers, it's the spotters as well that are playing a big role in that.
Q. WHAT ARE YOUR FEELINGS ABOUT SEEING THE NO. 3 CAR OUT THERE AND HOW DO YOU THINK IT WILL BE PERCEIVED BY FANS?
JEFF GORDON: It's Richard Childress Racing. That number was his. I know everybody thinks of it as Dale Earnhardt, Sr., and it's true, but Richard Childress played such a big role in that.
To me it just came down to when Richard was comfortable with bringing it back, what was the right time and the right driver. I think obviously Dale, Jr. could have pulled that off. But I think that Richard's done a great job being very respectful of it. I know how much he cared about Dale. That's extremely important to him.
Knowing that it's his grandson, how he's been really making a name for himself, I think that's cool, it's exciting.
Q. DO YOU THINK THAT WILL HELP WITH ACCEPTANCE FROM THE FANS?
JEFF GORDON: Absolutely. And that it's Richard Childress Racing and a family member.
Q. WHAT KIND OF CHALLENGES, PHYSICAL AND MENTAL, DO YOU THINK TONY STEWART IS GOING TO HAVE COMING BACK?
JEFF GORDON: I think the biggest thing is just how long he's been out of the car, how quick things changed from an engineering standpoint.
But, you know, I've not talked to Tony as far as what kind of physical shape that he's in. Heck, he might be in better shape than he's ever been because of the physical therapy. I don't know. I haven't asked him what it's like to push on the gas pedal, if there's still pain involved. I haven't talked to him about those things.
There's certainly going to be some challenges. But he's Tony Stewart. I'm not overly concerned with the challenges that he's going to have from being able to either withstand some pain or get up to speed and be a fierce competitor.
JEFF GORDON: Yeah, I mean, Tony is a factor. He's always a factor. I think a lot of us were surprised that Mark had the challenges that he had with the car and adapting to those setups. Every weekend you can't ever count out Tony Stewart as being somebody you're going to have to deal with.
JEFF GORDON: Probably more serious. I mean, if I win the championship this year, I've put in, you know, 20 plus great years. I do this now because I love it, because I like being competitive, and because I want another championship. I want to get a Sprint Cup championship.
I go home, you know, and I look at my trophy room. I see four trophies, championship trophies. But they say Winston Cup on them. You can name me a four-time Sprint Cup champion for technical reasons all you want, but to me I'm still not. I want that before my career's over.
If that happened, that would be all the reasons I need to say, This is it, I'm done. Go out on a high note, start playing baseball.
KEVIN HARVICK, NO. 4 BUDWEISER CHEVROLET SS, met with members of the media at the 2014 NASCAR Daytona Media Day and discussed: the change in Sprint Cup for 2014; his teammates at Stewart Haas Racing; joining the Cal Ripken Sr. Foundation and more. FULL TRANSCRIPT:
KEELAN A FAN OF THE SNOW?
KEVIN HARVICK: “He likes the snow. He just doesn’t like it all over his stuff. He’s a little OCD.”
OBVIOUSLY, WHEN YOU LOOK AT THIS SEASON, A LOT OF CHANGES – CHAMPIONSHIP, QUALIFYING, PENALITES. AS A PARTICIPANT AND A RACE FAN, IS THAT A LOT TO GRASP IN ONE SEASON?
KEVIN HARVICK: “I love it. I love the fact that there’s a lot to think about and a lot of change. I’m sure that people who have worked with me would always tell you that when something wasn’t working, we would change it pretty rapidly when we owned our company. There’s been a lot of similarities is the reason I relate it to that, whether it be from the changing of the sport to the changing of teams is something that I’ve really enjoyed. Learning all the new names and faces, how everything works, and how the cars run. Then you add into that all the changes in NASCAR. The main goal right now is just getting to victory lane. That’s really the first goal because I believe the earlier you get to victory lane the more chances you can take, and if things are going well, you can win more races and help protect yourself in the first round of the championship chase. So, just gotta push and try to make it happen.”
EVEN IF THERE’S A LOT OF CHANGE DOESN’T NECESSARILY MEAN IT’S A BAD THING?
KEVIN HARVICK: “I love change. As I’ve learned over the off-season, change is very enthusiastic for not only myself but for all the people around me. I think everybody at SHR would tell you that the enthusiasm is contagious at the shop just because it just bleeds over from one person to the next. It’s been a lot of fun. Hopefully, the results will show everything that we think we should be able to achieve.”
WITH ALL THE CHANGES, WHAT’S THE ONE THAT EXCITES YOU THE MOST?
KEVIN HARVICK: “I love the qualifying knockout. It’s kind of the same situation with the championship knockout. I’ve liked that from the beginning. It took me a little bit to grasp the one race for everything. But I think it was explained very well and the fact that if you’re going to have a problem in that race, you’re going to have a problem in that race no matter what format it is. It’s going to be fun.”
HAVE YOU LEARNED ANYTHING ABOUT YOUR NEW TEAMMATES THAT SURPRISED YOU?
KEVIN HARVICK: “Not really. I had the opportunity to work with Kurt (Busch) all of last year. For me, I’ve been around Tony (Stewart) quite a bit in the Nationwide cars and personally. I think as we’ve gone through the whole process, the biggest thing I’ve learned is about the company in general. Whatever you need, whoever you need… go get it and let’s figure out how to make this all happen. That part to me has been fun. Everything on our car is brand new – from the hauler to every race car, every nut and bolt in the drawer. They’ve put an unbelievable effort into it. The other thing is that surprised me – I knew Tony was a pretty intense guy but we went to a Jimmy John’s event and we’re coming home Monday. He got on that plane and he was like a crazed lunatic. You could see that look in his eye. He looked at me and said, ‘I’m ready to… race!’ Just that look in his eye. I knew he was a pretty intense person but I was like, ‘Yeah, that’s cool.’”
DO YOU THINK THAT INTENSITY IS GOING TO BE MAGNIFIED TENFOLD GIVEN WHAT HE’S BEEN THROUGH?
KEVIN HARVICK: I know how excited I am getting in a race car. I couldn’t imagine sitting on the sidelines for months and not being able to get back in the car and put all those crazy thoughts out of your head – if you’d be able to race again, what’s it feel like, is it going to hurt? Just putting all those things to rest for him is going to be great. If anything is sore or hurts, you’ll never hear about it because he’s be so excited to get back in a race car that he can’t hardly stand it.”
HOW CLOSE DID YOU KEEP IN TOUCH WITH HIM THROUGHOUT HIS REHAB?
“I would see him periodically, but obviously there was a lot going on. Rehab hasn’t gone on that long. He went through a lot of healing more than anything. But we would keep up as much as we could. When he started coming back to the race track, he was easier to keep up with at that point.”
DOES WHAT RICHARD PETTY SAID ABOUT DANICA PATRICK MATTER AT ALL TO YOU BECAUSE SHE IS A TEAMMATE?
KEVIN HARVICK: “The hard part is that everyone has an opinion on everything that is going on. You try to just listen and observe and try to handle your situation as best you can. Obviously it’s hard to rattle her. She’s so used to people saying this and it doesn’t bother her. And that’s not a front. It really doesn’t phase her and you really don’t have to stick up for anything that someone says or does. She is not phased but anything I’ve seen. She just doesn’t care and moves on and lets it roll off. I think she’s dealt with so much for so long that she’s just immune to it.”
WHERE DO YOU THINK SHE’S CAPABLE OF WINNING A RACE?
KEVIN HARVICK: “I think this year is going to be really good for her and her learning curve just for the fact that we went and tested together at Nashville. Just a couple of conversations can help. She can drive the car. Most all of us have done this for… I’ve been in a stock car since I was 16 so that’s 22 years. You aren’t going to make that experience up. She’s realistic about what she needs to do and accomplish. Just getting those little conversations over before you get to the track can overcome a lot of hurdles.”
WITH ALL THE CHANGES THAT HAVE TAKEN PLACE – GUYS GOING TO NEW TEAMS, GETTING INTO NEW CARS AND HAVING TO ADJUST TO NEW NUMBERS – IS IT GOING TO TAKE SOME GETTING USED TO FOR THE DRIVERS TO FIGURE OUT AND SORT THAT OUT. WHEN YOU SEE THE 31, IT’S NOT GOING TO BE JEFF BURTON…:
KEVIN HARVICK: “As long as he’s behind me, it’s all good! As you come to Daytona every year, there are always changes – whether it be car numbers, drivers moving teams, crew chiefs. It’s refreshing. It’s kind of like any other sport. You see people move around and it’s exciting. It’s no different that seeing Peyton Manning going from the Colts to the Broncos. There is a lot of enthusiasm around that. I know I’m excited and I know our fans are excited. We’ve looked at everything – website, Twitter, social media. It’s a time to update and refresh. It’s fun to learn all the new stuff that is going on.”
WILL IT TAKE SOME ADJUSTMENT FOR FANS TO KNOW THAT THE 29 ISN’T KEVIN HARVICK ANY MORE?
KEVIN HARVICK: “The good news for me is that the 29 isn’t in existence any more! They all know what number it’s going to be right now.”
HOW ABOUT THE NO. 3 CAR?
“I really don’t have a tie to it and it doesn’t affect anything I do. So I’m good with focusing on my job.”
WOULD YOU BE ANY MORE OR LESS AGGRESSIVE AROUND HIM (THE NO. 3) THAN ANY OTHER DRIVER?
KEVIN HARVICK: “I’d wreck my mom if I had to. One hundred percent! If we’re going to win the Daytona 500, it’s going around.”
THAT WOULD BE PRETTY DRAMATIC BUT WOULD THERE BE AN UPROAR IF SOMEBODY DOES WRECK HIM. AT LEAST FROM A FAN’S PERSPECTIVE THEY WILL THINK OF THE 3 BEFORE THEY THINK OF AUSTIN (DILLON). FROM A RACER’S PERSPECTIVE, IT’S STILL AUSTIN:
KEVIN HARVICK: “You just race him like you would anyone else. It’s really no different than any other car. You want to win the race and - outside of your teammates - you have to do what you have to do. You worry about the rest of it later.”
YOU HAVEN’T RACED IN TRAFFIC HERE IN MONTHS. DOES IT TAKE A LITTLE WHILE TO GET BACK INTO THAT GROOVE?
KEVIN HARVICK: “The good news is this year is that I’ve been in the car a fair amount as we’ve gone through the offseason. We’ve probably been in the car eight or 10 days throughout the last couple of months. You just take your time. There’s no reason to take too many chances as you move into Speedweeks. I’ve laid in bed sick and watched my car get wrecked and seen wrecks and been involved in wrecks. A lot of them have happened in that first practice.”
BUT IT’S NOT A MATTER OF TRUST?
KEVIN HARVICK: “It’s just everyone is a little excited.”
HOW’S YOUR MARTIAL ARTS DOING?
KEVIN HARVICK: “It’s a little slow at this point. We’ve been so busy and it just takes time. I’m stuck at my red belt.”
ARE YOU GOING TO GO FOR A BLACK BELT?
KEVIN HARVICK: “Oh yeah. I’m too far into it to give up. I’m probably at this point probably eight to 12 months away. It depends on how much time I can spend.”
HAS IT HELPED YOU BEHIND THE WHEEL?
KEVIN HARVICK: “I know it’s helped my flexibility, which was the main goal. And if you have a bad Sunday, you get to take some aggression out Monday during sparring. But I think it has. I wish I would have started when I was a kid just to do something different. It’s great for the kids in their discipline and the way things work. It’s been a lot of fun and it’s something outside the box that I wouldn’t have done five years ago.”
YOU SAID YOU DON’T HAVE ANY FEELINGS ABOUT THE 3 CAR BECAUSE OF CIRCUMSTANCES. THROUGH THE YEARS YOU’VE SEEN 3 BANNERS AND T-SHIRTS. DOES IT FEEL LIKE THE 3 CAR HAS BEEN AWAY FROM THE SPORT?
KEVIN HARVICK: “That’s a good question. I don’t know if I’m the right guy to answer that, though.”
HOW DID THE CAL RIPKEN FOUNDATION BOARD DEAL COME ABOUT?
KEVIN HARVICK: “We’re excited to be members of the Cal Ripken Sr. Board. We’ve got some mutual friends in Mark Butler who owns Ollie’s Bargin Outlet and have just noticed they do a great job in what they do. We have the same common interest in trying to make kids’ lives better. Ollie’s is very involved in it and we will become more heavily involved as we move through the years. The first project will be in Greensboro, N.C., to build a new field. That’s one of the great things they do. They come in and build these $1 million-plus fields, a Boys & Girls Club or whatever the facility is that the kids can enjoy for years. It’s a great foundation and I’m looking forward to partnering with them and having a lot of great events.”
KASEY KAHNE, NO. 5 FARMERS INSURANCE CHEVROLET SS met with media and discussed new changes to the Chase format, Ray Evernham’s role, the Super Bowl, and more. FULL TRANSCRIPT:
WITH MORE ON THE LINE, TECHNICALLY FOR WINS, WOULD YOU BE WILLING TO WRECK THE NO. 3 CAR FOR A WIN? EVEN THOUGH IT’S AUSTIN DILLON IN THE NO. 3, WHAT WOULD IT BE LIKE, DRAMA-WISE, FOR THE FIRST CAR TO WRECK HIM?
“Oh, there would probably be some drama, maybe, I don’t know. I don’t usually wreck guys. I don’t know how to wreck someone. That’s my problem.”
DO YOU THINK YOU’LL BE ANY MORE PHYSICAL OUT THERE?
“I think what it’s going to be is you’re not going to have to worry as much about if I make a mistake, if something happens with me and this other guy, it really hurts our chances of making the Chase or being good in points.
“There are so many other ways to make the Chase and get in there. So, I think it helps some of that. You’re not always just so worried about points and things. So, yeah, they’ll be times when you’ll think about that and know and be able to do something that you may not have done last year, more aggressively.”
WHAT DOES RAY EVERNHAM BRING TO AREAS THAT YOU HAVEN’T HAD BEFORE?
“When I raced for Ray, he always worked really well with his employees and with his guys about improving. He was always working on improving any way that you can. How can you improve? How can engineering, how can the driver, how can the pit crews, the guys building the car and the bodies; there are so many aspects and things to look at. And if he’s always on you about improving, we got better that way.
“So, I think he’ll come in and kind of look over some of the ways that we do things and how the No. 5 and the No. 24 work together and things like that, and just try to help us with a little bit here, and a little bit there. Overall, I think it will be a good thing. It’s tough to say how much it will improve us, but overall it’s definitely going to be a benefit because Ray is good with people and he’s done that type of thing to kind of motivate.”
DO YOU HAVE A CLEAR IDEA OF WHAT ROLE HE WILL HAVE?
“I don’t really have a clear idea. I have an idea that he’s going to try to help us all improve and try to help us get a little bit better in different areas and in just things that he sees. He’ll work with the crew chiefs closely and some of the engineers. I just think it will be pretty neat to have him.”
AS A KID, WHAT WERE THE FIRST WHEELS YOU HAD?
“Well, it was probably a wagon, like a little bigfoot that you’d sit on and try to push yourself along with your feet. I remember that. That was probably one of my first. And then, probably a bicycle would have been early-on also.”
DO YOU KNOW WHERE YOU GOT YOUR WORK ETHIC?
“I got that from my dad. He taught me at a young age that you have to work hard for things and if you want something, you have to work hard to get it and stay after it. I just kind of always had the same outlook on working and getting up in the morning and doing things like that. So he applied it when I was pretty young and I’ve always kept it because he was up and gone at five in the morning, every morning. So if he ever came home and I was still in bed that was bad. There were just different scenarios and things that went on, so I just learned from a pretty young age that you’ve got to get up and get things done and go for what you want.”
HOW DO YOU THINK THIS NEW CHASE FORMAT PLAYS INTO YOUR HANDS?
“I think it can. I think it can help anyone. It can help somebody who is very consistent, it can help someone who wins some races and has some back luck. For us, it would have helped us a little last year. But at the end of the day, we would have finished the same in points, I think; close to it because our Chase was what it was. So, we would have been locked-into the Chase way earlier and maybe that would have changed the way our season went or how we raced or how I raced, some of that stuff.
“So maybe that changes it up. Everything is different at that point. It’s hard to look at the Chase and say this is how it would have ended up with this system because it would have been way different and everybody would have driven different. Things would have happened at different times, so it’s hard to say that. But I think it could definitely help me. Over the years there have been some times when I’ve been a little inconsistent or had bad luck for a period of time and things like that. So this way, this system helps me a little bit get into the Chase. Once you’re in the Chase, you need to perform. That’s just all there is too it.”
WHAT DO YOU EXPECT OUT OF TONY STEWART THIS YEAR?
“I expect Tony to probably run a lot of laps tomorrow. Tomorrow is Friday, right? Yeah, so I’d say he’ll just run a lot of laps. Probably by himself and probably just feeling out his leg and his car and how well he can feel the throttle when he’s pulling back and forth and things like that. Daytona is not a track that he’s probably real worried about because you can run wide open.
“You can soften-up the throttle springs and it will be fairly easy for him to do that. But I think he can learn a lot about the next couple of tracks after this and how his leg will respond to that. So, he’ll just probably mess with that tomorrow. Other than that, I think he’ll be pretty darn good this whole season.”
DO YOU THINK HE’LL BE IN THE CHASE?
“Yes. I don’t see why he wouldn’t.”
WITH THE NEW SYSTEM, I THINK DALE EARNHARDT JR WOULD HAVE ENDED-UP WINNING LAST YEAR. WHAT DO YOU EXPECT FROM HIM THIS YEAR?
“I expect him to be really consistent again this year. He’s been doing that for a while now. He’s right there every race, kind of like the top six it seems like. He’s always up in the top six. And I feel like he’ll be that same consistent guy. He puts a lot into it over the last couple of years, being his teammate; he puts a lot into it and understands what’s going on. None of that is going to change.”
DO YOU SEE A POINT WHERE HE TURNED THE CORNER A LITTLE?
“Ever since I’ve been at Hendrick, he’s been on top of it. I feel like he’s really been there. Prior to that, I knew Dale, but I didn’t spend a lot of time with him on why are you struggling or this or that; you used to be so fast. And since I’ve been at Hendrick and spent more time with him, he’s been super-focused and really aware of what’s going on and it’s showing on the race track. So, that’s the call that I’ve seen.”
ARE YOU WORRIED ABOUT THE IMPACT OF LOSING KEITH RODDEN?
“It changes things a little bit for myself and our team. Not having him will be much difference once we get racing, but at the same time I felt like he was ready and prepared to take on the role that he has now. So, It’s really good for him to get to move on and be a crew chief and see how that goes for him. He’s very smart and he’ll work well with Jamie (McMurray), so I think that’ll be great for him.
“For us, I think it’s really good to get our guys, the engineers that we have, in working with (crew chief) Kenny (Francis) because that’s going to be overall a better situation now because everybody kind of knows their roles and really run with it. So, I’ve had a great time testing with the guys throughout the winter and I’m really looking forward to what we have now.”
“I was a little surprised when he came to Hendrick with me and Kenny because I thought at that time he could have moved up and really searched hard for a deal. It probably wasn’t the best time for him with open jobs at that time, so that didn’t work. But I was ready at any time for him to take off and get a crew chief role.”
“I think it’s pretty neat. I think the tough part is depending on which car you run, which type of car it is, because everybody is so used to different cars and getting in if it’s similar to what one of the other champions races, then obviously he’s going to be pretty good an adapt much quicker. So, there’s just a lot that goes into that and the feel of the car and the brakes and shifting and all that type of stuff because it’s so much different in all different types of series.”
IF YOU HAD TO PICK FOUR DIFFERENT TYPES OF RACES OR VENUES, WHAT WOULD MAKE A GOOD MIXTURE OF RACES?
“Oh, probably something to do on dirt; I don’t know. I’d say maybe a World of Outlaw driver, a NASCAR driver, IndyCar driver and Supercross guy or something like that; just switch it all up. To me that would be a pretty neat group of guys.”
WOULD YOU LIKE TO PARTICIPATE?
“Yeah, I mean if it’s a race of champions, I’d have to be a champion to participate. But I would definitely enjoy that. I enjoy racing as much as I can, any type of car, so that would be pretty fun if that opportunity was there.”
WHAT WAS YOUR SUPER BOWL EXPERIENCE? DID YOU WATCH IT AT HOME?
“Yeah, I just stayed at home and had some people over. I just couldn’t believe the first quarter and how confused the Broncos were compared to the Seahawks. You could tell right then it was going to be a blow-out at that point. So, I didn’t get too excited until like the third quarter when Percy returned it and then I was like, man, this is looking really good now because football can change so quick, especially when Peyton Manning is your quarterback. But it was exciting. We had a blast. My family is all Seahawks; and then most of my friends that were over were Denver Broncos. So I didn’t want to have to listen to them the whole game, so the way it worked out from basically the first ten seconds, they were quiet the rest of the game and we got to be loud and enjoy it.”
I DON’T KNOW WHAT IT’S LIKE TO WIN A RACE, BUT WERE YOU AS FIRED-UP?
“I think it’s a lot different, but I can say that I’m actually still really excited about the Seahawks. And looking into next year already, that’s kind of similar what you do in a race. You win a race and instantly you’re looking at the next one and how we can do well there. Just this week I’ve talked two or three times to people about what they’re doing for next year and how they’re going to be just as good. It’s pretty exciting. They have something there that can go for a long period of time and keep winning.”
WHAT SPORT DO YOU THINK YOU COULD WIN A GOLD MEDAL IN AND WHY?
“I think the short track skating looks pretty awesome. It would be pretty neat to do that. And maybe even the bobsledding or something like that. It’s pretty cool.”
IS THERE ONE RACE IN YOUR CAREER THAT STANDS OUT AS ONE THAT GOT AWAY FROM YOU?
“Yeah, I think Darlington last year is the most recent race that got away. And there are a lot of races that get away throughout a season. We were really good in that race. We ran about third throughout a lot of the race; second, third, fourth; and then we got it right and drove past a couple of guys and drove past Kyle for the lead and then the next corner was when he kind of pushed up and we touched and I spun into the wall. And then Matt Kenseth ends up winning after all that. But we were by far the best car at the end of that race but just didn’t get the win because of circumstances.”
TONY STEWART, NO. 14 BASS PRO SHOPS/MOBIL 1 CHEVROLET SS, met with members of the media at the 2014 NASCAR Daytona Media Day and discussed: returning to competition; expectations for first race back in the car; expectations for four-car team; 2014 rookie class and other topics. FULL TRANSCRIPT:
Q. HOW MUCH WEIGHT HAVE YOU DROPPED?
TONY STEWART: I have been on scale. I stayed at about 182 for the last two and a half months.
Q. IS TODAY LIKE CHRISTMAS EVE FOR YOU?
TONY STEWART: Yeah, to a certain degree it is. You know, normally I'm thinking in days and weeks. Now I'm thinking in hours. I'm excited about it. It's been a long time since August 5th. Normally we're talking about the off-season. It just seems like it flies by. It's been the slowest off-season I've ever had. I'm ready to get doing something again.
Q. ANY APPREHENSIONS?
TONY STEWART: No. The great thing is everybody at our shop, especially the guy that does the interior on our car; him and Chad have worked really close together. We've tried to think of absolutely anything that could be a problem.
The good thing is in the meantime with all of that our therapy has been going really well and in the last few weeks we've made huge gains.
I don't know how we could be more prepared honestly than what we are right now. The perfect scenario, everything would be healed 100% and we wouldn't be talking about it. Bone is still about 65% healed right now. But as far as muscles and everything, the strength is coming much quicker than I thought it was going to be.
Like I say, we spent a lot of time with pedal angles and everything to make it absolutely as comfortable as we can make it. I don't know what else we can do to prepare than what we've done.
Q. THE FIRST LAP AROUND THE TRACK, I IMAGINE THE SMILE WILL BE PRETTY BIG?
TONY STEWART: We'll be in a pack right away. Not going to have time to think about it. I'll probably be grinning after we do it.
We got work to do because normally Shootout practice, everybody gets the majority of their work done that first run. The fact that guys don't bring backup cars for the Shootout, they won't practice a lot.
We'll get right back to business right away and we'll think about it after the session is over.
Q. HOW DOES IT FEEL WHEN ASKING ALL THE OTHER DRIVERS WHAT THEY'RE EXPECTING OUT OF YOU THIS SEASON, THEY SAY A WIN AND THE CHASE?
TONY STEWART: I mean, we all know each other personality-wise. We all know our drive and determination amongst each other. I remember a lot of these guys have called, checking in, asking how we're doing. They've been a support system as well. They know how we're doing, how we feel. It's a pretty tight-knit group of guys.
Q. THE PERIOD OF INACTIVITY, WAS THAT THE MOST EXCRUCIATING PART?
TONY STEWART: No, I don't think so. Not the time. The time wasn't. The pain was the worst part of it, for sure. You know, that's a level of pain I've never had before. You'd think having the ability to lay in bed, you get comfortable. I've never spent so much time laying in bed feeling uncomfortable in my life.
I'm actually more comfortable sitting in a car than I am laying in bed at the end of the day. Sitting in the racecar the last couple weeks getting everything done, it feels even more comfortable than the street car.
If we can figure out how to take the seat and pedals out of the car, lay it back 40 degrees, I could sleep like a baby for the first time in a long time.
We're comfortable in the car. Even being in a street car, that's been the norm for the last four months. It's more comfortable sitting in a car than it is sitting in a chair or sitting in bed.
Q. REGARDING BACKUP DRIVER
TONY STEWART: You're my one driver. On the record, Bob is my backup driver, so... Step it up, Bud.
We're not going to need a backup driver. We don't need a backup driver.
Q. IS THAT BECAUSE YOU FEEL SO GOOD OR YOU'RE DETERMINED?
TONY STEWART: Both, both. I feel good enough that I'm confident we're not going to have to worry about anything. Like I said, we've planned for anything that we think might or could go wrong. When I say 'go wrong', it's not anything that's going to take us out of the racecar, it's just a matter of making everything as comfortable as possible.
Q. IS THERE ANYTHING IN THE CAR SPECIFICALLY BECAUSE OF YOUR INJURY THAT IS A PROBLEM?
TONY STEWART: Talking about the group of guys that are your peers that check on you. Kevin Harvick didn't even ask me, he just went and ordered -- he runs those knee knockers on the steering column. He's like, You're running this. He didn't leave it as an option. I showed up, it was on my car. You're running this. Shows what kind of teammates I have and what friends I have.
Getting in and out of the car wasn't as big a drama as what I thought. That's what my initial concern was when he told me he was putting it in there.
But we've been to the shop, worked on getting in and out. It's pretty fluid now.
Q. WHAT'S A KNEE KNOCKER?
TONY STEWART: Amazing how two girls want to know what a knee knocker is at the same time (laughter).
It's a pad that hangs off the steering column, basically keeps your knees from going back and forth. A pad, leg brace is on the outside. This is like a leg brace on the inside. Keeps your knees from hitting the steering column.
Q. AT WHAT POINT DO THE DOCTORS EXPECT YOU TO FEEL 100%?
TONY STEWART: Probably about another year, he said, when the bones will be healed 100%. We're about 65% right now. So there are so many gaps in the bone. A hairline fracture didn't have far to grow the rest of the way, but when you have pieces that are missing, it's got to regenerate that bone.
With the titanium rod in there, we have the strength we need. The actual physical healing, it's going to take a little longer.
Q. ARE YOU LIKE A WEATHER VANE GUYS?
TONY STEWART: You're not kidding. When that weather came through last night, I knew it an hour before it got here. It's a barometer. I've had troubles with migraines before. I have a primary and backup system that is going to tell you what the weather is going to do. I could have predicted within an hour when it was going to snow in Charlotte.
That's one thing that is frustrating. We came down, the weather is nice, it felt good. All of a sudden it got cold, the rain came. All of a sudden I got sore. This morning it's not as sore as it was last night but not as good as when we got down here. It constantly goes up and down and it's going to do that for a long time.
TONY STEWART: It's titanium. We really shouldn't bring it up to them. Titanium rods are not approved by NASCAR.
Yeah, it's approved.
Q. HOW MUCH OF AN INSPIRATION HAS AJ BEEN TO YOU?
TONY STEWART: He called me and he said, Kid, you got to quit trying to be like me. We both came out of surgery within a week of each other. I had my third surgery for the infection. He called joking around saying, Hey, you got to quit trying to be like me with all these surgeries.
He's still AJ, he's still my buddy.
Q. REGARDING SCHEDULE
TONY STEWART: No. I mean, it's just being smart about when I'm going to get in other cars. Obviously the Cup car is the priority right now. Until tomorrow we have no idea what it's going to be like, what it's going to feel like. We'll play it by ear. As soon as it feels good enough to go do the other stuff I want to do, I'm going to go do it.
We've made a lot of changes on the Sprint car to try to make sure that never happens again. That's all you can ask.
Q. A LOT OF DRIVERS HAVE BODY TYPES THAT ARE SMALLER THAN PAST YEARS. DO YOU SEE A BODY TYPE AS AN ADVANTAGE AT ALL?
TONY STEWART: No. NASCAR has the weight rule. If you're really light weight, you have to add weight to the car. It's not really an advantage.
I think the seats have come such a long way, they're form fitting, that there's really not an advantage on the safety side necessarily. The bigger you are, the bigger your bones are.
I don't really think there's an advantage.
Q. WHAT DO YOU THINK OF THE SMALLER BODY TYPES WE'RE SEEING NOW IN NASCAR?
TONY STEWART: They're just small.
Q. IS IT A FITNESS THING?
TONY STEWART: Don't ask me. I'm the wrong guy to ask about fitness, Bud. I don't know (laughter).
I'm sure there's some scientific explanation, but you're probably a little more excited about knowing the answer to it at this time than I am.
It is a fact now. When you figure it out, will you let me know? Kind of curious.
Q. YOU SAID YOU DON'T KNOW WHAT IT'S GOING TO FEEL LIKE IN THE CAR. IS THERE ANY CONCERN THAT THE INJURY WILL ALTER THINGS?
TONY STEWART: No. I mean, when you hear the quote 'it's a seat-of-the-pants feel', you feel it in your core is where you're feeling everything. Everything that is processed through your brain is between your core for the most part as far as feeling what's going on. Your hands and arm are feeling pressure in the steering wheel. But as far as from your legs down, you're not really feeling that sensation. It's more of what your brain is telling your legs to do. Feeling the weight in the steering wheel is a different deal.
If we had to have an area to have an injury, my right leg was probably the one to have that kind of an injury in.
Q. SELF-DOUBT IS PART OF HUMAN NATURE. DID THAT GREMLIN EVER TAP YOU ON THE SHOULDER?
TONY STEWART: No. Honestly no. The reason for that is right off the bat the surgeon, the therapists, they've all said, You're going to have 100% recovery. With that, from day one, it took that doubt out.
Instead of having the doubt, it's a matter of when is it going to be 100%, how long is the pain going to stay, am I always going to have pain, questions like that, more than doubt of being able to do what we love to do.
Q. REGARDING RICHARD PETTY
TONY STEWART: I'm not even going to waste my time talking about that topic. Danica probably addressed it and that's all that needs to be talked about on it.
Q. IS IT YOUR GOAL TO GET ALL FOUR CARS IN THE CHASE?
TONY STEWART: I'd love to. That is what the goal is every year. Especially with this format, it could happen. Danica is good on the restrictor plate tracks. She's going to get stronger on the rest of the tracks we go to.
Definitely got that opportunity to do that. For sure I feel like we got three cars for sure that are 100% capable right now of doing it. You know, Danica is still in the learning process. She'll tell you that, too. For the small amount of time that she's been in a stockcar, I think she's learned a lot. Having Mark is going to be that much more of a help and asset to her.
She can put together a day. It's just a matter of getting that right day put together.
Q. THE UNLIMITED, FOR YOU, IS THAT GETTING YOUR FEET WET AGAIN OR ARE YOU LOOKING AT SATURDAY NIGHT LIKE YOU HAVE A POTENTIAL TO WIN THE RACE?
TONY STEWART: I still feel like we have potential. We will still go out and try to win it. If it's something in the seat or something else that's going to be a problem, it will probably show up Saturday night. 75-lap race, which is 25 laps short of the 500.
The good thing is that gives us a week to get things sorted out. If there's something we need to change that we don't learn in practice with a problem, I mean, this is probably the best-case scenario of what you have as far as a schedule for the week, the process that we can go through to get ready for Sunday.
I think Saturday night we'll have a lot better answers than what we have right now obviously. But I really think because of all the running we'll get a chance to do, we have plenty of opportunity and make adjustments if we need to.
TONY STEWART: I knew pretty early once we got that scooter. Once I saw how much attention I got at Richmond, We can do something productive with this. We didn't know how long we were going to have to use it. The good thing is we've been a big part of the Darrell Gwynn's foundation, a believer of what he does. We knew right off the bat that once it got the attention it got at Richmond, when we were done with it, we were going to donate it to Darrell. Instead of just giving it away to anybody, hopefully this thing can raise some money. These wheelchairs he gives away are worth $22,000. If this can raise $50,000 or $75,000, that's two or three chairs that we can give to somebody who needs it. We can take something that I have $5,000 invested in and hopefully put it to really good use.
TONY STEWART: Always does. I mean, it's that way every year. You always have guys that are moving around. We got a lot of new rookies that you're going to have to try to remember what cars they're in, drivers that are switching organizations. There's a lot of movement this year.
That's a good thing about the spotters. You make the spotters have the memory, they'll tell you who you're around. Every year when we come down here for the 500 week, whether it's a qualifying race or practice, you're always like, Who is in that thing again? You might see a rookie stripe on a car that you're not used to seeing a rookie stripe on, saying, Who is this again?
That's the good thing about each practice session: by the time the 500 rolls around, you pretty much remember who is who by then.
TONY STEWART: See a rookie stripe on the 3 car, too. We haven't seen for a long time.
Q. HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT THAT?
TONY STEWART: I think it's fine. Here is the thing. We don't own these numbers. These are numbers that we've picked that are available from NASCAR. The good thing is that the guy that owned that car, that made it so historic, is still the guy that owns that number.
When we're all long gone, there's going to be somebody else that's going to drive a 14 car, there's already somebody that's been in a 20 car than me.
We don't own those numbers, but I think it's going to be good for a lot of people to see it back. The ones that aren't excited about seeing it back are not excited for the wrong reasons.
So, you know, I realize it's more than just a number. It was a lifestyle, an iconic number. But that same guy that had that iconic number started in a No. 2 car.
It's just part of change and it's part of moving on. At the same time I think it's a good opportunity to honor the guy that did make that number so famous.
REED SORENSON, NO. 7 GOLDEN CORRAL CHEVROLET SS, met with members of the media at the 2014 NASCAR Daytona Media Day and discussed: Tommy Baldwin Racing; new qualifying format and the rookie battle. FULL TRANSCRIPT:
HOW HAS YOUR OFFSEASON BEEN?
“Offseason has been good, got married. So that was probably the most exciting thing I could have done in the offseason. I did my normal hunting trips and all that stuff, but getting married and going on the honeymoon and enjoying that was the highlight.”
HOW IS THE TEAM CHANGE IN GOING TO TOMMY BALDWIN RACING?
“Its been good and it all came about pretty late. Just getting down here to Daytona has been really exciting and its going to be good for us to get the season going and get to Phoenix and Las Vegas and get the ball rolling. I am excited to be a part of the team and looking forward to working with Todd Parrot, Michael and Bono. So I am ready to go.”
ARE YOU RUNNING THE FULL SCHEDULE?
“Yep, running the full schedule and this will be the first time that I have run the full Sprint Cup schedule in three or four years now. So I am real excited to do that and compete each and every week.”
WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT THE NEW QUALIFYING FORMAT?
“I think the qualifying will be the same in some places we go where the first lap on new tires is going to be your fastest lap. But at some of the short tracks that we go to, maybe you can go out a second time and make your lap better and make it into that next group. But like I said, I think at some places it won’t change a whole lot and at others it will.”
HOW DO YOU THINK A LOT OF THE NEW FACES AT NEW PLACES AND MOVING AROUND IS GOING TO AFFECT THE RACING THIS YEAR?
“Well, I think this year the racing is going to be pretty good. You have a great rookie class coming in and you have the powerhouses that are going to be the teams to beat, but you have some drivers moving around to new teams. I don’t know, but it just feels like there is a lot of energy between the race teams with the new rules, Chase format and it seems like there is a lot of excitement for the new teams and new drivers. I just feel like there is a lot of positive energy going through everybody and I think the racing is going to be good.”
MICHAEL ANNETT, NO. 7 PILOT FLYING J CHEVROLET SS, met with media at the 2014 NASCAR Daytona Media Day and discussed the potential for a race of champions and where such a race might take place. FULL TRANSCRIPT:
ARE YOU FAMILIAR WITH IROC? DO YOU LIKE THE CONCEPT OF STAGING A RACE FOR CHAMPIONSHIPS ASIDE FROM THE SERIES THEY TYPICALLY RACE IN:
MICHAEL ANNETT: “Yeah definitely. I love the thought of putting guys from each form of motorsport and putting them in cars that are pretty much identical. Pit stops don’t matter. You don’t have that element. Put everyone out there. Obviously the oval racers may have a little bit of an advantage but put them on a road course and you can level it out pretty quick. Those were some of my favorite races to watch.”
IF ONE WERE TO START, WHAT WOULD BE A GOOD MIXTURE OF TRACKS:
MICHAEL ANNETT: “Daytona is always going to be fun to watch. It’s iconic in the NASCAR industry to go to Daytona. They could run the road course and oval race in the same day. Running the mile-and-a-half tracks, I think we would have too big an advantage to someone who runs IndyCar where they are pretty much wide open all the way around. I’d love to watch a Daytona oval race, put them back on pit road and run the road course.”
IS IT SOMETHING DOWN THE ROAD IF IT EXISTED THAT YOU WOULD LOOK FORWARD TO PARTICIPATING IN:
MICHAEL ANNETT: “I’d love to. IROC was the Race of Champions. I’d just like to be invited to start the race and race the best in auto racing. If you’re invited, obviously you’ve done something to make a mark in our sport.”
JUSTIN ALLGAIER, NO. 51BRANDT CHEVROLET SS, met with media at the 2014 NASCAR Daytona Media Day and discussed: the 2014 rookie class; the stresses of racing; the outlook for HScott Motorsports; the new rules changes and more. FULL TRANSCRIPT:
JUSTIN ALLGAIER: “It’s been awesome to have my career progress to where it is now. It’s been amazing. It’s been a lot of fun. We’ve had a good run at it. Hopefully we can keep progressing and going in the right direction.”
WHERE DID YOU PICK UP YOUR WORK ETHIC:
JUSTIN ALLGAIER: “I get a lot of my work ethic from my parents. My dad has been a hero of mine and someone I’ve looked up to for as long as I can remember. He’s the main reason why I’m able to be up here and do what I’m doing today. Over the years, you learn and you gain things but you also lose things. That’s what really ultimately puts you in the position you in.”
DO YOU REMEMBER YOUR FIRST SET OF WHEELS?
JUSTIN ALLGAIER: “Absolutely. I had a little electric IndyCar that my dad bought. I used to race it around the yard and down a hill in the back of our house. You never forget things like that. I was probably 3-4 when we got that. That’s what really got me wanting to get in a race car.”
FANS CAN GET IN A RACE CAR, SO YOU CAN EXPLAIN SOME OF THE PHYSICAL THINGS YOU GO THROUGH?
JUSTIN ALLGAIER: “The best way I can explain it is in the middle of summer, turn up the heater in your car and run it wide open. I don’t recommend taking corners fast in a passenger vehicles but getting down into some of the corners in these cars… the sensation of not only speed but pressure - the way the car pushes against you and the way your body twists and contorts. I always tell everybody that if they ever have the opportunity to ride along or drive a Driving Experience car, it’s totally worth it. There are no words that can describe what it feels like inside a race car.”
WHAT DO YOU THINK IS POSSIBLE WITH THIS TEAM FROM WHAT YOU’VE SEEN SO FAR:
JUSTIN ALLGAIER: “I think the sky is the limit for this team. Harry Scott and everyone at HScott Motorsports has done a great job. Last year was kind of a building year. Harry taking over the team right before the Chase, me getting to make my debut and everything. The changes they have made over the offseason and the people they have brought in, I think we are heading in the right direction and we have a lot of room for growth. I feel like we can build a team that is capable of going out and not only running well but winning races.”
YOU PICKED A TOUGH YEAR TO FIGHT FOR ROOKIE OF THE YEAR. HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT THAT?
JUSTIN ALLGAIER: “I’m glad to see that we can have eight rookies go for that title. Whoever wins it, you’re going to feel that much better about it whenever it’s over. And if you don’t win, knowing that we’ve got some of the best and most talented race car drivers in the world who are coming up, that is super encouraging and I love the direction that shows about our sport and where it is headed.”
DO YOU KNOW MUCH ABOUT STEVE (ADDINGTON, COMPETITION DIRECTOR AND CREW CHIEF), AND HAVE YOU TALKED MUCH DURING THE LAST FEW YEARS?
JUSTIN ALLGAIER: “I got very lucky when Jimmy Elledge was my crew chief, Steve and Jimmy were good friends. I actually got to hang out with Steve quite a bit off the race track as two normal people. So to have him know as a crew chief, to know his work ethic and see how he operates has been awesome. He’s extremely knowledgeable and one of those guys that I’m glad to have as part of the team. I think we will work really well together and I’m excited about the experience and leadership he brings.”
HOW DO YOU WORK TO BALANCE BETWEEN WORRYING ABOUT OVERDRIVING AND SHOWING YOU CAN DO IT?
JUSTIN ALLGAIER: “The biggest thing for me is managing expectations. I know that in the first five races, we’re probably not going to win a race unless something major happens. But at the same time if I’m not out there and not finishing races, every lap that I’m not on the track is one lap less of experience that I can gain. For me, it’s more important to get in the full distance and run as many laps as I can versus putting myself in that bad position of trying too hard to pick up a position or two. I’m not saying that I don’t want to win races and not saying that I’m not going to go for the win if the opportunity presents itself. But definitely I’m trying to manage where I’m at and getting the most experience possible.”
HAVE YOU EVER FOLLOWED ANY OTHER TYPE OF RACING:
JUSTIN ALLGAIER: “Absolutely. I’m a huge Formula One fan. I watch IndyCar. I watch the TUDOR Series – the new GRAND-AM. I definitely enjoy all forms of motorsports. Whatever it is, I have a great respect for other races and I like seeing what they do and how they do it. Lately it’s been more motocross and supercross. I love the atmosphere of that, and they do a great job with the fans.”
ANY DRIVERS – F1 OR OTHERWISE – WHO MIGHT BE ABLE TO GET STRIAGHT INTO THE CUP SERIES AND DO OK?
JUSTIN ALLGAIER: “I think it’s been proven that to come in and do this is a huge challenge. But there are so many talented drivers in this country and around the world. It wouldn’t surprise that if a guy from another discipline came over and - if they took the time and put in the effort - could be successful. But I don’t think it’s a sport you can just jump in and be successful at it.”
ARE THERE ANY CUP DRIVERS YOU CAN THINK OF THROUGHOUT TIME OR NOW THAT COULD MAKE THE SWITCH TO F1?
JUSTIN ALLGAIER: “I think there are plenty of guys that could do it. Again, it would take time or discipline. Guys like Jimmie Johnson, Kyle Busch… these guys that are talented and great here would do fine over there. It’s just a matter of how you grew up and what your wants and passions are. If you don’t have the passion for it and it’s not where you want to be, it will never work. It would have to be something who would want to do it.”
IT WILL BE A TOUGH ROOKIE OF THE YEAR BATTLE:
JUSTIN ALLGAIER: “Definitely there are favorites for the Rookie of the Year battle. Obviously whether it’s Austin (Dillon) or Kyle (Larson) or whoever it is, I think that helps me in a lot of ways. We have eight guys going for Rookie of the Year and they’ve pinned it on two. That gives us that they didn’t pin it on maybe not as much pressure or not as much hype. We can go out and work on a day-to-day basis. If we do well and win it, then it’s like David and Goliath. I think it puts some drive and hunger into me to be successful and beat those guys.”
WHAT WOULD A SUCCESSFUL DAYTONA 500 MEAN TO YOU?
JUSTIN ALLGAIER: “Daytona no matter how you look at it… you get out of the box strong and you get that first race going, it’s huge. It seems like the first five races determine the rest of your season. So you have to get out of the box strong and get those first five in. Daytona is the marque of all those so you have to get it kicked off well.”
HOW WOULD YOU SUM UP THE COMRADERIE OR LACK OF COMRADERIE BETWEEN THE EIGHT ROOKIES THAT ARE VYING FOR ROOKIE OF THE YEAR?
JUSTIN ALLGAIER: “What’s cool is that of the rookies that are running this year, we’ve all raced together for a number of years. We’ve grown up together and raced together. I think that’s good. We all know each other and how each other races. We have a good understanding of each other. That will help for sure when we get into this battle and we start racing each other.”
YOU’VE BEEN ACCUSTOMED TO POINTS RACING ON A WEEK-TO-WEEK BASIS IN NATIONWIDE. DOES YOUR APPROACH CHANGE IN SPRINT CUP WITH THE NEW CHAMPIONSHIP PROCEDURE?
JUSTIN ALLGAIER: “I’ve always enjoyed the races where you say we’re going to stay out. We’re going to try to win on fuel mileage or something else. I’ve always enjoyed those. For me, that’s not going to change. If Steve is willing to try something, I’ll go with it. I know that being an independent team, it will be hard to beat the major organizations that are out there. We are going to have to try anything we can. At the same time, the other part is that we need to stay competitive and stay consistent. If we can stay consistent over the first 15 races, that puts us in a position where we can say maybe we can try something kind of crazy.”
I THINK BACK TO THE SOUTHERN 500 A FEW YEARS AGO WHERE REGAN SMITH AND FURNITURE ROW STAYED OUT LATE AND WON THE RACE. IS THAT SOMETHING THAT YOU ARE WILLING TO TRY? AT WHAT LEVEL DO YOU TO HAVE TO BE TO TRY IT?
JUSTIN ALLGAIER: “I think it’s any level. We’ve seen fuel mileage races and strategy races that go or don’t go the way you thought they would. If we feel like we’re fast enough and competitive enough to try it, then why not? If you’re two laps down, it doesn’t make that much difference. But if you’re up there and battling, you might as well at least try it once. If it doesn’t work out, that’s kind of the tough part of our sport. But you have to go for it. The wins in this new format are so important. If you can sneak your way into a win and put yourself into the Chase – especially for an independent team, - that would be huge. So it’s definitely worth trying.”
JUSTIN ALLGAIER: “Whoever wins the Daytona 500 is going to be in the Chase, guaranteed. That puts a lot of questions to it. Daytona has predominantly been a race that is unknown. You never know who is going to win it. That would be a true Cinderella story. It would be pretty awesome to get a win, get in the Chase and know you’re locked in. Then you could ride the rest of the way and try to work on things to get to the end of the season.”
WHOEVER WINS THE ROOKIE OF THE YEAR IS DEFINITELY GOING TO HAVE TO EARN IT:
JUSTIN ALLGAIER: “That’s the best part for me. It’s such an odd points structure for Rookie of the Year and the way they calculate it, honestly with eight guys this year it could really throw some curves to everybody. One or two bad finishes can change the outcome of this battle. I’m excited. It will be a great rookie class. I’m pumped for the seven other guys and myself that are going to be a part of it. That’s the best part. We don’t know where everyone is going to stack up. Let’s get out there, get the races in and see where we go from there.”
JUSTIN ALLGAIER: “Last year I was teammates with Kyle Larson so I get along with him great. I’ve raced with the majority of these guys for a long time now. It’s nice to have a group of guys we know really well. We can all push each other and try to get the best finish possible.”