An Interview With:
THE MODERATOR: We're going to roll right into our series champion press conference. Joining us on the stage right now is Jimmie Johnson, driver of the No. 48 Lowe's Chevrolet. He's going to be joined by his chew chief, Chad Knaus, and team car owner, Rick Hendrick.
|Jimmie Johnson collects his third straight Sprint Cup trophy|
|Rusty Jarrett/Getty Images for NASCAR|
For the third straight season, the 48 team wins the NASCAR Sprint Cup series championship, equaling only Cale Yarborough as the only drivers to win three straight titles in the NASCAR Sprint Cup series.
Jimmie, how does it feel to be the 2008 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Champion? And, also, how does it feel to become one of only two drivers in the history of the sport to win three straight championships? Congratulations.
JIMMIE JOHNSON: Thank you. It's just unbelievable. I haven't had a chance really to let it sink in yet. And I intentionally dodged as much press stuff before for the last really the entire Chase as I possibly could. Just to stay focused on what I needed to do.
It's worked out well, but at the same time it's kept me from really understanding what could take place. I look forward to resurfacing again tomorrow and watching TV, and reading some of the articles and stuff.
So I just don't have words to express how proud I am of this race team. How thankful I am of this opportunity to drive for Hendrick Motorsports, the sport of Lowe's, and to do this together with them since the start in 2002. To be with Chad through the start of this deal through 2002. And driving this race car is a great honor.
I'm just at a loss for words on the whole experience. It's been awfully amazing.
THE MODERATOR: Chad Knaus, you make history tonight. You become the first crew chief in the sport to win three consecutive championships. How does that feel? And your thoughts about that accomplishment?
CHAD KNAUS: Well, it hasn't really sunk in yet, obviously. We've been very fortunate. This has been an incredible ride we've been on since 2002. You know, you say that, but it's a lot different than what it used to be. The crew chief used to have to get out there and build the shocks and set up the race cars and do all that stuff himself.
I'm very fortunate that Mr. Hendrick allows me to employ the people that we need to and have teammates like what we've got that we're able to delegate to very smart people, and they kind of feed me the information, and we adjust as we need.
So it's really not me the one that's it, it's all the guys. It's all the people we've got at HMS, we've got at the shop, the guys we've got to travel weekly with the 48 team. I don't know what it feels like yet. It will take a little bit for sure.
But once we get behind closed doors and get all the cameras and microphones out of our faces, we'll be able to sit back, relax and reflect on the season and enjoy it and realize what it's all about.
THE MODERATOR: Mr. Rick Hendrick, your eighth NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Champion, championship for Hendrick Motorsports. Second only to Petty Enterprises' nine. Just your thoughts in general, Rick, about what this No. 48 team has been able to accomplish?
RICK HENDRICK: These guys have just been phenomenal. I'm amazed at how they refuse to get down when things don't really go right, and they really click. And to see Jimmie tie Cale's record, which has been there for, I don't know, what, 30 years or so, then for Chad to do it and no crew has ever done it, I'm really proud of the guys.
It's not without a lot of sacrifice and effort and unbelievable talent that these two have and the whole group that's around them. I'm really proud. I never thought I'd win one of these things. To be able to celebrate tonight with three in a row for those guys and eighth for the company is really special.
THE MODERATOR: Questions, please.
Q. You guys built up a big lead early and had to hold on against a team that finished fourth or better in eight of the ten Chase races. Was there a little bit of déjà vu to what you guys went through in 2004 being behind early and putting the big rush on the end, watching the 99 guys do the same thing?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: You know, from my perspective from '04 is so different, with the plane crash, and we picked up a lot of points in the later stages of the Chase, and then lost by such a small margin. I guess I don't see a lot from then from what Carl went through. But I can see what the 99 team has done, and the speed that those guys have, and the maturity that Carl has shown and Bob and the relationship and how it's grown, these guys are the real deal. They are spot on.
A couple of races got them behind, but, you know, we didn't sit back and ride at any point. We raced the entire season. I feel like we did all that we could. We got every point that we could. We're I don't know where I'm going with this, to be honest with you. I'm babbling.
But those guys, they're quick. They're going to be here for a long time. We're going to have to race those guys for a long time.
CHAD KNAUS: The thing I wanted to say real quick about that, as racers, there's only one thing you want to do and that is race. That's what those guys are. When we come to the racetrack every week, we know we've got to race those guys, and that added a lot of satisfaction to be able to win this championship, because they felt the same pressure that we did the whole Chase.
That we had to go out there and win races and lead laps and lead the most laps. If either of us didn't do that, the other one was going to hand it to the whole team.
For me, personally, I like racing guys like that, to have the guts for race strategy calls. And that's much respect, a lot that goes to that.
Q. I know Jimmie is probably too modest to answer this, so I'll ask Rick and Chad. But with what Jimmie's accomplished in such a short period of time, could there be a strong case made that he's the best driver ever?
RICK HENDRICK: I don't know how you can doubt the talent that he's got and the competitiveness of the sport and the things that he does in the car and the coolness, the communications. The way he describes the chassis and works with Chad. I don't think he's gotten the respect he deserves.
I think this is kind of serving notice that what he's really done to win three of these in a row. If you go back and look at '04, since he stepped into the series, what he's accomplished in his record speaks for itself.
I'm just glad I don't have to race against him.
CHAD KNAUS: I've been fortunate to work with really great race car drivers. I worked with Jeff Gordon in the 24 car. I've seen what Jeff can do with a race car and I've got a lot of respect for what Jeff can do.
To be able to work with Jimmie, he's definitely brought it to a new level. But I'm also a lot more intertwined than I was back then, with what's going on. In my eyes he's the best that there's been. That may be a little whatever you want to say. People are going to say Richard Petty is, Dale Earnhardt and all those guys. But with the competition level the way it is today with what you've got to do working, racing day in and day out, no time to take time off, in my mind, he is the best.
Q. Listening to you guys pretty much all day, the word I would use is there was almost a serenity about the way you guys approached this race. Maybe that was the big lead. Maybe that was having been here before. But there was very little. You told me as soon as the first lap you knew you had a car that was in the ballpark. You talked very much about the first championship about how just nervous you were, how last year was different. This is like a third different integration of your team and your championship. Was it just a calmness about you all day? Is that how you felt about it?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: Yeah, I really did. Experience helped me with this. The points lead certainly helped, and knowing after yesterday's practice and how good of a car we had helped as well.
You know, when it fell into the experience role, it helped me sleep last night. It helped me focus on the right things to do and not stress about things I couldn't control. I wouldn't have been able to overcome those fears if I hadn't been through it before.
So all three of those things really, really did help and made a difference. That's the most comfortable I've been in the car in here at Homestead racing for a championship, and the most competitive I think we've been. A lot of it has to do with the comfort that came from experience and the points lead and all that stuff.
Phoenix, Chad was telling me last week, the first pit stop or two, he could still hear in my voice. He knows me so well, he knew I was still wound up and worried because we had a tough Saturday and came off a tough weekend at Texas. So this week it's been good.
Qualifying wasn't fun. The one bad lap we ran all weekend happened to be in qualifying, and we got into practice yesterday, and we knew we were going to be good. What would keep us from winning this would be things out of our control.
And experience helped us not worry about that stuff.
Q. I guess my question's for Chad and Jimmie. Last year you had barely crossed the finish line and Chad's notes flew away, and he scrambled to get them. He didn't want to get them into anybody's hands because he was already thinking about this third championship. I don't think anyone doubted that he was probably going to go to work on Tuesday and start getting ready. Now that you've got three, do you start are you already thinking record breaking fourth? How much time do you take to enjoy this one? Because Chad probably wants to go to work tonight.
CHAD KNAUS: Yeah, we want four, why not? That's why we're here. We think with the team that we've got, the resources that we've got with Hendrick Motorsports and Team Chevrolet behind us, we can definitely go and bid for four championships in a row. Why wouldn't we? Give me a reason why not to. I think that's the mentality we've got to have.
We're very fortunate to have a group of people at Hendrick Motorsports that all they want to do is win races. It's difficult for people to understand we don't have a lot of 9:00 to 5:00er's. We don't have people like that. We have people that try to win races and try to win championships. That's what we want to do.
To get four championships in a row you have to get three. And we're fortunate to get three. If we buckle down and do what we need to do, we'll be in contention for our fourth championship next year. If that means I have to get up at eight o'clock tomorrow morning and go to work to do it, I'll do it.
JIMMIE JOHNSON: I think from a driver's standpoint I could go race again next week and start the season and go for four. From their standpoint, these guys need a break. I think every team out there has worked to the bone, and I can speak on our team's behalf. They have tested and have worked so much that they need some time off to recharge.
It's on our minds. It's not that we're chasing a number, it's just what we're capable of this year we got it done. There are times we look back and say there are tracks and weekends we didn't get all we could. That's more of what's left behind in us. We know we can do better. It's that search for trying to be the best we can more than it is a number and that kind of thing.
Q. Darrell Waltrip said the other day for both of you, and if Rick could give his overview of what he thinks. Darrell Waltrip said that if they keep harmony, they could just about go on forever, there is no reason they couldn't win four or five. And Darrell compared it to sort of like a rock band situation where if one guy decides to go out on his own and be a star, that that's the only way things like this are broken up. Could y'all talk about your bond and your harmony? And, Rick, could you talk about just how permanent you think that could be for them?
CHAD KNAUS: Yeah, Rick, how permanent could it be, buddy (laughing)?
RICK HENDRICK: Pretty hard to do with Chad.
CHAD KNAUS: Oh, geez.
RICK HENDRICK: I'm just kidding. We had to hit him one time. No, I think I know how bad I know how bad both of these guys want it. I know what they go through when I watch them in comparison to other drivers and crew chiefs. I've never seen anyone in my 25 years that are willing to sacrifice any more or as much as they have just because they want it so bad.
Usually sometimes when guys get it one time or twice, they maybe back off a little bit. They've gotten there. This just makes these guys even hungrier. So the chemistry between them and the respect they have, I think, I don't see them I hope there's nothing in the future that would separate them.
I think I agree with Darrell. As long as they have this burning desire, with their talent, that they'll be a force every single year.
Q. You mentioned earlier about constantly striving to be the best you can be, and I know you don't think you're perfect. But how close are you to being the best you can be after this season?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: There's still always room for improvement. I don't think any driver can say they had the perfect season or the perfect race. I guess when you do think that you've accomplished that it's time to do something else. Maybe the hunger's gone at that point.
But there are so many things that go on on the track. So many adjustments we have with the car, so many corrections, based on comments with my emotions, how we drive the car. With Chad and the guys and what they develop and start working on. It's just always a moving target. New tires, new cars, new tracks, no testing. It just never ends.
So I don't think you ever quit learning how to do a better job as a driver or as a crew member in today's world of racing. You just can't stop.
The day that desires fades and you aren't willing to put in the time and work for that, I think that's when it goes away. That's what I'm so excited about when I look in my guys' eyes. They're ready to go racing. They want to do it again. That is something special.
That's something you can't put together. We've been fortunate to have the right guys, the right leadership, and the right support to bring the best out of all of us, and we're on a roll.
Q. After the race, Darby was congratulating you and you reminded him this was the first time you've made it through a championship season without being suspended. Does that add any significance to it for you? And does it say anything to you, Rick, and, Jimmie, about him?
CHAD KNAUS: Yeah, I realized after that we hadn't gotten through Tech yet. I was like maybe that was a little quick. Yeah, Larry McReynolds stopped me yesterday and he said I was going to ask you if you were really worn out. And I said I'm tired, yeah. And I said why? He said, you worked six weeks longer this year than you have any other year.
I don't know, hell. You get suspended. It happens. I don't like it. It's part of the sport, unfortunately. But, yes, I have gotten in trouble from time to time, but it doesn't stop me. I think that's something that I'm very fortunate to have these guys and Lowe's as support that they know that everything I do isn't blatantly wrong. There's always an out. If I get out with that out, then I'm good. If I don't, then I get in trouble.
But you've got this rule book and there's a lot of pages, and there's a lot of black in between those white lines. And if you can find something in between those lines, you need to take advantage of it, otherwise you're not going to win races.
Q. There are some uneasy moments. Chad asking you what is your weakest spot right now, you said your nerves. There are some points where people were racing you hard and you sounded pretty upset. Can you just talk about that and how you kept your cool, if you were nervous? Also, did you sleep well last night? What was last night like? Can you talk about what your morning was like as well?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: Yeah, I did sleep well last night. There are guys out there that continue to drive like idiots week after week and are in the way and cause wrecks and cause problems every single week. You think in the course of what's going on tonight that people would show some respect, and they don't. I guess it's my fault for expecting them to show respect.
And sure enough as the night went on, the guys that I'm having trouble with, the right sides are knocked off the car and they're laps down. So I guess it's my fault for expecting something more out of some of these guys.
I was mad at different points. I cannot believe how stupid some of these guys can be out there. It just shocks me. Then I got around some cars that have an affiliation to the other side, to the Roush side. And I'm like, oh, now it makes sense. It took me to recognize that and realize that it's not that they were doing anything wrong, but they're going to race as hard as they can to try to just race. Try to force me into making a mistake.
So at points when you're in the car and buckled in, the emotions get the best of you. I certainly was animated a few times tonight. But outside of that, the stress coming into the race was minimal because we came off such a high in Phoenix. Then such a good race, I'm sorry, the high in Phoenix, and the practice session that we had yesterday was really strong. So all of that rolled into a good time today.
Q. You guys always show up to on win every weekend. Before you guys qualified, did it change your game plan any at all? And did you run the race differently than you had any other race this year?
CHAD KNAUS: Yeah, I'd say a little bit. We wanted to win this race. We really did. I think we had a car capable of doing it. If we could have been up front and on the same tire cycle as the guys that were up front, I think we could have run with them all day long. I don't think it would have been an issue.
Unfortunately, you have to be a little cautious or apprehensive working your way up through traffic. We got up into 9th at one point.
A caution came out, we opted not to pit at that point. A bunch of other guys pitted and another caution came ten laps later. With everybody else pitting and those guys staying out, we came back, I think it was like 15th. That's when he got mad and there were all these people and it was just chaos, you know.
We came back in at that point and took on new tires and drove being up there well, up to 12th or so on green and getting after those guys.
I was a little disappointed that we didn't get the opportunity to race with those guys, I really was. Because if we could have gotten up front, I think we could very well have raced with these guys if not contended for the win. And that hurt a little bit, because it seems that there's always something holding us back the last few years here that we can't let it all loose.
So I didn't make the two tire call early on like I could have to get track position. I just didn't think it was the right time at that point. We did it later on, and it worked out okay for us. We were able to get up there in and run in the Top 5.
So we did run the race a little bit different just because of that. But we ran the race that we needed to run, and the race we needed to run was to win the Championship.
Q. Considering the box that you guys are in this sport and how small it is and the fact that NASCAR goes out of its way to legislate parody, almost, can you put it into perspective how difficult it is to dominate a sport, to win three in a row at this time in this sport?
CHAD KNAUS: It's tough. It's really, really tough what we've got going on. The industry is as close as it's ever been with people running similar cars, same cars. It's going to be even worse next year where the majority of the components on the race car has to be approved by NASCAR.
It's not like you can show up with something and run it and nobody else has seen it yet. That's kind of a racer thing. You always try to make the coolest little widget and take it to the racetrack and beat everybody with it.
Unfortunately, that stuff's going away. Those days are gone for the reasons they deem necessary, whether it be cost effectiveness or closer competition or whatever it may be. But for us to be able to lean on our drivers like Jimmie, and Jeff and Dale and Kasey, and next year Mark and Brad will be involved in there some, that's going to help us out tremendously.
The people that we've got you can have the best race car out there, but if you don't have the right people assembling it, the best team and the best drivers, it's not going to work anyway. So we can focus on better pit crews, better mechanical stuff, and better maintenance regimes and do that kind of stuff, and we'll continue to run well.
Q. Congratulations, the first two years you won the Championship, a lot of fans said it's because of the chase format. You were the best of the best in the final ten. Will this Championship and winning three in a row finally put that to rest?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: I didn't know there was an issue with our first two wins. I guess there's always opinions and people trying to draw parody or parallels to different things. But all 43 guys had a shot at each championship from '06, '07, '08.
We'll have to see overtime if what we've done is easy or not with the Chase format. Only time will show. But from our side and talking to other drivers and teams and the respect that we've seen, it's been no fluke.
You know, it pops into my mind when I won in '06. Tony came to me and said to me, You should have won at least one if not two more by now. In '04 and '05 we had a shot at it and had some problems here. I don't think it's a fluke. I think it's good stuff.
Q. You won four in a row in the '90s. Is it harder now, much harder in today's era of parody? Can you either make a fair comparison to what Jimmie has done relative to Cale's three-peat?
RICK HENDRICK: I think in NASCAR, Chad mentioned it, I think it kind of narrowed the box. And they have so many well funded teams out there, so many guys that are capable of winning. As Chad says, they've taken every bit of it, they're trying to take all the creativity away.
I was hoping we'd go somewhere this year and get a little more downforce on this car and make the racing a little bit better. But now we've got new rules coming and with no testing. If they change any rules this winter, then we'll be everybody will show up the same way.
But, you know, it's just definitely harder now. I'm not taking anything away from the four in a row, because Jeff, 3 out of 4 years, and Terry won one. Everybody working together, it was really good back then.
But we had a lot more flexibility. The teams could flex more of their talent to try to get an edge on the competition today. It's just so much harder and so many more, you know, quality guys driving. Again, not taking anything away from those years, but this is a tougher deal.
Q. Over the years you've been compared to the Yankees. I was wondering how Hendrick Motorsports had been compared to the Yankees. I was wondering how comfortable are you with that? How do you feel when your name comes up in search engines along with George Steinbrenner?
RICK HENDRICK: I'm not a Yankee fan (smiling). It's like a lot of other things. I'm flattered that the Yankees are compared I guess that's winning and a team that's always supposed to be there.
I think the difference in our organization than the Yankees is we've grown our guys. And Chad's a guy that worked on the 24. He told Ray one day that I want your job. And he had to leave for a bit and come back. Jimmie just like Jeff came in kind of unknown soldier and he really proved his worth. He and Chad together, and Jeff and Ray together.
I'm flattered that any time we're compared to any football team, baseball team, anyone that's won multiple championships. I do think when you win one and win two, it breeds a lot of competition inside the company, and everybody wants to win. But I think having everybody on the same page really helps. It motivates us.
I know that Jimmie winning is going to motivate the other three. But it's also motivated Carl Edwards because I shook his hand tonight, and he said, "It's going to be different next year" or something like that. So nothing motivates you anymore going to New York and sitting in the audience.
But, hopefully, we can do this a lot of times, you know, more times. Love to see us get over 10 and win over 200 races. Hopefully we can get that done. But I still don't like the Yankees that much (smiling).
Q. What means more to you guys? Does it mean more to win the Championship or write your name in the record books?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: I guess it's similar. Rick mentioned it. I think it feels kind of the same, the same thing. I don't know. I can say from my standpoint I have wanted to be the champion, and what a champion's about. Always have raced and watched other guys be that guy and have been close, and won a few along the way. But that's what I've grown up and aspired to be. I didn't aspire to be in the record books.
I think I'll appreciate that much more as my career slows down or I retire. But right now it's really about the act of winning a championship. Right now we've been fortunate to win three. So over the off season I'm going to be drooling about a fourth. It's not really where I fall into the books, it's more about what I want to be as a champion.
Q. You were very vocal about the driving out there tonight. There have been times in NASCAR history where the sanctioning body has listened and made changes when its champions have been so outspoken. Particularly those with seven championships. Are you hoping to gain a bigger voice in the sport and maybe get some of the accompanying clout that might go with being one of only eight guys to win three championships?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: It's not a role I'm eager to take on, to be honest with you. I do know that in the right setting if I talked to Mike or talked to Brian Darby, as you win championships and more than anything that you're around the sport long enough and people know that you're coming to them about a non bias or from a non bias position, that your voice will be heard.
I look more at that than I do of championship rankings and having more clout from that point. Frankly, I say a lot of stuff on the radio that I probably shouldn't. And in the scheme of things, I think my stuff's pretty mild compared to a lot of the guys that are out there.
I get animated from time to time. Lot of times I don't push the button and I'm thankful for that. But a lot of times I do push it and want to share my feelings.
Q. Because of the historic significance of this evening, are there mementos or things that you're going to keep and store away? Personal items or are there certain particular memories from this journey or even from tonight that will stand out?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: I haven't thought about that yet. I don't know. But typically, yes. Like we hang on to different things. He's keeping the car, he said (laughing). I haven't put any thought to that.
Q. What did you keep from other championships?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: Suits, helmets, gloves, shoes, things like that that I've had. Great photos. The experience in New York. You know, a lot of my as I think back to proud moments that I've had as a champion, a lot of those moments were the pre season testing when I'd seen a lot of the crew members and drivers that I didn't see when the season was over.
Typically it's a low key event, and everybody's testing, hanging out. The respect that you feel and shaking hands with guys that some you know, some you don't. But just that respect there was really probably in my head more than anything. But any memento that Rick doesn't claim, I'll try to claim.
Q. Rick says you're always looking ahead. So I'm going to ask you a forward looking question. Last year you guys skipped the Atlanta test to concentrate on the Chase. You came out and you were behind in Las Vegas and you said I believe it was to the first Texas race before you felt you were up to speed on the mile and a halves. With testing now taken out of the equation, on track testing out of the equation, what will you guys do differently strategically or tactically to make sure that doesn't happen?
CHAD KNAUS: Well, obviously, we've got to wait to see how it all shakes out. There is nothing down in print yet. We've got to see exactly what the restrictions are 100 percent. See what that is. Once we see that, we can identify it, see what we can and cannot do.
Obviously, our simulation programs are going to have to get a lot more efficient. Our wind tunnel testing will have to get a lot more efficient. Our seven post facility will probably have to be not that it doesn't run all the time now. But it's probably going to have to have some modifications to correlate more to what we see at the actual racetrack.
It's going to be tough. We all understand why this has been done. We really do. I hope that the economy takes a turn, and we can get back to testing at some point next year, because I really feel like it's going to hurt the smaller teams.
You know, there is nothing that helps a small team when I worked at Melling, we only had 20 something guys. So I know what it's like to have a small team to compete against the Hendrick Motorsports guys, and the Roush guys. The only way you can get better is to be on the racetrack.
You know, just because you don't have the other resources to use. So I'm hoping the economy takes a turn, and we can get these guys back on the racetrack where they need to be.
Q. After the first five races this year, you guys were 13th in points. Lot of people were asking what's wrong with Hendrick Motorsports. At that point how confident were you that you could be sitting here tonight? What steps did you guys take individually and as a team to rebound from that and be where you are right now?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: I don't think we felt like we wouldn't have a shot at the Championship. But we knew we needed to get things together. It just took a team effort of testing, of R & D from the engine shop, from chassis, body, all the departments. Just everybody had to buckle down and find out where the speed was. Just keep it simple. We had to really find out where to work and what to work on.
It takes a while. When you're off base, it takes a while to one, recognize when you're off base, two, find out what the problem is, and three, start working in new areas to find speed. It just took us a little time. We got things turned around and got into a comfortable position to transfer into the Chase.
As the season went on, we just kept getting stronger and stronger and understanding the car better and better. From my standpoint of driving it to setting it up. The power and the engine, all the things we needed, it was just a group effort.
Q. Jimmie, you're talking about wanting to win another championship and that drive already. It's just the night of winning your third back to back championship. How do you bring yourself down and ramp yourself back up? You can't possibly go into the off season that hungry already. How do you mentally do that?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: I think for a driver it's definitely easier than for the crew chief and the crew guys. I get to get away from Monday to Wednesday. I have some responsibilities. But I don't have to get back into the pressure cooker until Friday morning. Whereas these guys are the most important. At the track extremely important. But a lot of the stuff is Monday through Thursday.
From a driver's standpoint, you know, yeah, I'd like some time off. But if Daytona was here tomorrow, I'd be ready. These guys, the teams need a break. We've worked very, very hard all year long.
I'll take some needed time off as well, but, you know, when things are going well, you just want to keep going. Maybe if we didn't finish like we did, we'd want some time off. But we're on a high. I would be eager to go, but these guys need some time.
THE MODERATOR: We are clear. Congratulations to the No. 48 team.
JIMMIE JOHNSON: Thank you, everybody.
An Interview With:
THE MODERATOR: If I could have your attention please. We're going to roll into our championship team for the 2008 Miami Ford 400 at Miami Homestead Speedway, the Ford driven by Carl Edwards, crew chief Bob Osborne, and owned by Jack Roush. Congratulations to the 99.
Carl Edwards finishes second in the 2008 NASCAR Sprint Cup series standings. This is his ninth victory. Third best. His third victory in the Chase. And here at Homestead, Miami, Jack Roush's teams have won five straight races at this racetrack. Six overall.
Carl, you've concluded an outstanding season. You're up here last night, obviously. Your thoughts about today's race, and as you look back, maybe a few thoughts about the 2008 NASCAR Sprint Cup season for you?
CARL EDWARDS: Well, I'm sure glad we won today's race, because it will make it a little bit easier to deal with the off season and coming so close to the championship.
You know, we ran really well this season. Something I wanted to make sure my guys understood is they did their jobs. They did a great job. It was, you know there's two races where we lost points. One was my mistake, and one was a complete, you know, coincidence or freak accident or whatever with the ignition system.
So my guys performed well enough to win a championship this season. And considering how well Jimmie performed, I don't think that's a small feat.
So tonight was a lot of fun. I'm glad that we won the race, so that we can go into the off season knowing that we won more races than anyone else in this series. I think that's a big accomplishment. Especially, considering how well Jimmie and Kyle both ran all season. So that feels good. And knowing how well we ran it gives me a lot of confidence for next season.
So a good weekend. Second in both series is not first, but it's definitely not something to be ashamed of. I'm proud of what we did this year.
THE MODERATOR: Bob Osborne, crew chief this year. This team really came together. Your thoughts about how this 99 team came together?
BOB OSBORNE: Well, I was very happy to see, actually, how well they came together. We started out with a lot of new guys at the beginning of the season, so it took a little while.
You know, the last thing that always comes together, sometimes is that pit crew. The boys put their best effort forward, and took it upon themselves to get good enough to be able to compete on Pit Road with the topnotch teams. I believe they did that quite well in the second half of the season, and it shows.
A lot of that has to do with everyone getting to know each other and understanding everyone's traits and things like that, so you're comfortable around them at all times. Not just in working situations, but, you know, that personal relationship matters a lot too. Unfortunately, in our business because we spend so much time together.
THE MODERATOR: Jack Roush, you've won five straight races at this racetrack. Completely dominated it. Six overall. Just had a great season with that 99 team. Your thoughts?
JACK ROUSH: Well, it's good to win in front of the home crowd. This is Ford championship weekend. I was out in one of the pavilions today and had the best time that I think I've ever had at an appearance at one of these events. And all the people come down. They're anxious to celebrate not only NASCAR, but particularly here the history, of Ford Motor Company.
It's a great credit to the engineering support they've given us. This has become less of an art and more of a science in terms of the way these cars are run. For somebody like Bob for Carl to rely on Bob, and Bob to rely on the information he's getting from Ford and for me to have the confidence to carry back to my partner to invest in all of that is really something.
But this team really came together. I didn't see what the finishing order was of all of our cars. But Robbie Reiser and the guys back at the shop have done a great job this year organizing the build programs, and organizing the test program, and organizing the pit crews and everything to realize their potential.
We're a promote from within company more than any other NASCAR organization I'm aware of. We hire more junior folks and give them their first shot, and then advance them as they're able to take more responsibility, and that's one of the reasons sometimes that our pit crews are a little slower to develop as we'd like them to. It's the fact that we've got an average of people with a little less experience as they're looking for a foothold and trying to get involved in the sport.
But Ford did a great job. I was wrong again tonight. I apologize to Bob. I went down there and I was sure he was going to get what he deserved in Texas, he was going to run Carl out of gas. But he didn't do that. And then Carl, I don't know if we were Bob and I were hearing things we imagined or not. But I distinctly heard him say, okay, after he slowed down he was coming to Pit Road. And I thought that it wasn't running. And sure enough, he drove by Pit Road and made one more lap and managed to stay in front of the 29, and there it was. He was able to close the deal.
But it was amazing that Doug Yates and the guys have been able to find the fuel economy in the engines. Ford Fusion is one of the mileage leaders for the Ford Motor Company with its four cylinder engine in the full size car class. To be able to get that kind of fuel mileage and have people be able to talk about that is wonderful. I'm real proud of it.
THE MODERATOR: Questions.
Q. You're going to hear when you get home a lot about the Hendrick dynasty. Have you closed the gap, guys, for next year?
CARL EDWARDS: I think that, you know, I mean, we won more races than Jimmie, and we ran with him, you know, when he won. I personally feel like we've closed a big gap this season. I felt like we ran very well at the road courses at Martinsville, at some of the tracks that we haven't sometimes been able to keep up with them. So, yeah, hopefully.
You know, I know they'll enjoy this championship, but I'm sure they knew we were here, you know what I'm saying? That's good.
JACK ROUSH: One of the things that's most satisfying to me is the fact that with the guys, with all their preparation and the way they interacted before with the crew chiefs and car chiefs, if you look at the way our entire group of cars runs, it's better than most of the multi team organizations in the garage.
To be able to have Jamie show the promise he's had, and David Ragan to do what he's done, and led a bunch of laps. He didn't manage to win this year, he won last year. But I surely thought he would have a shot at it there except for the fuel mileage on Carl's car being better, Matt might have won tonight.
That's what Carl thought was going to happen as he talked to me about it. He thought Matt was going to be able to go and he was going to be able to go. But he wasn't going to be able to catch him. Then he ran out of gas, and he thought Matt ran out of gas, and he thought Carl might run out of gas, too.
But we've had a really great exchange of information between the guys. You know, I think the crew chiefs all approve of one another, and the drivers all approve of one another. They like one another. They're friends. To be part of that is just a great joy for me.
Q. 23 laps in, he's already asking where the 48 car was. How do you just, you know, say okay, Carl, we've got a long way to go here? Just hang tight?
BOB OSBORNE: Basically, that's it. That's about what I told him. I just said he's in such and such spot, don't worry about that. Focus on what we had to do at the time. And I'll keep you updated as things change for us.
That's basically where we left it. He never asked again. He might have asked one more time under caution or something, but for the most part, didn't really ask, and I just update him when I had the chance to focus on where the 48 was.
CARL EDWARDS: Yeah, I was going down the front straight way, and you're driving down the road and you see when a bird barely misses your car. This bird almost came in the window net. I thought to myself, if that bird would have come through the gap in the window net and hit me in the chest, I don't know what I would have done.
So that surprised me. Got my attention (laughing). Yeah, it wasn't a duck. It wasn't a duck. Yeah, we don't eat duck. We treat ducks nice around here (smiling).
Q. Two victories. You've got two victories this weekend. Will you celebrate after this? Or is this go home and puke?
BOB OSBORNE: I'm going to do all the celebrating, I can tell you that.
CARL EDWARDS: He'll probably celebrate for me. We're going to fly home. It will just it's nice knowing that we had such a big gap to close coming in here; the only way that I knew we could be satisfied is if we did what we did tonight and we could feel like we gave it our best effort.
So I don't know if it's cause for celebration as much as just, you know, feeling good about what we did.
Q. You sort of touched on this about 100 percent. Knowing that you guys gave all you gave, you won three of the last four races, after your problem, there are teams in this Chase this year, there have been teams that started in the Chase throughout the history of the Chase that have had a problem and folded up like cheap lawn furniture. You guys had two bad weeks and won three of the last four races. That's the kind of thing you're talking about, the 100 percent, bouncing back from that?
CARL EDWARDS: Yeah, it's one of the toughest things to do is just keep your head up, do the best you can, and take what you can get. That's why I'm so excited about the years to come. I feel like this team can really they can do it, you know. Regardless of the odds or whatever. It would have been real easy for all the guys to get lax and not pay attention to the detail they do at the shop and for Bob to not take the gambles or spend the times that he spends on the race cars.
So, yeah, it's cool to be with a group of guys like that.
These two guys sitting next to me, they're as tough and determined as anyone. It's cool to be part of it.
Q. Jack, as an owner, you know how tough it is to win a title. Rick has won 8 of the last 14. How impressive is that to you? What does it take to be at that level for that long?
JACK ROUSH: I won one out of the first 18. I remember that. That was my record. And I had been particularly, I had been to Daytona for about eight times with my road race cars before I went to Daytona with a stock car. Every time I had been there I had always won. In fact, the road racing we'd done, we won for 14 years, we won 48 percent of the races we entered, and virtually all of the championships that were in front of us.
So it really came as a real dose of a shot of cold water, a dose of reality to figure out how hard it is to do this. Rick has built a strong organization. He's got a great balance between his marketing and his engineering, his identification of and development of able drivers like Jimmie and Jeff Gordon.
You know, he's certainly set a high bar there for us. I don't know if anybody with as with the nature of this new car, I don't know that any owner will win as many races in the near term as he's won in the recent past.
I just focus on next year. I know as I look at next year, we started off the year with a testing deficit with the Car of Tomorrow. We got that fixed toward the end of the year. We finished the year on a real high note, having won here, and felt like we had a chance to make a run for it next year.
I don't have a major concern toward next year in terms of either trying to fix a technical problem or trying to fix a team problem. Teams are functioning well, technical side is great. I just hope we can maintain our pace and our position on all of those things. Maybe next year somebody else will have the two ignition boxes that fail.
Carl talked about his ignition box problem. We had two ignition boxes that had never been in a race car before, that you expect to be as reliable as shotgun shells that you put in your gun in hunting season, and both ignition boxes failed at the same time on the same lap on the racetrack. You don't get any unluckier than that. When that's going against you, you can't recover in a ten race steal.
We had a wreck at Talladega, but to have a second thing happen that you couldn't have stopped or couldn't have predicted, I just hope we can do as well as we can picking our parts next year. We hope Doug and the guys will do a good job with the engine, that they'll be as good as they were this year.
We're just going to try to keep it going.
Q. I don't know whether you're an optimist or pessimist, but as you look ahead to the winner, obviously you're going to come into next season as one of the favorites along with Jimmie and a couple of other guys, are you going to think more over the winter about the things that didn't go right this year or the things that did go right?
CARL EDWARDS: Definitely the things that did go right. The thing about this sport is you make decisions in the heat of the battle, and this is the decision you've made. You've got to move on and learn from them. I'm really proud of what we've done this season.
Yeah, we were close, but, you know, it is what it is. Next season we get to start fresh and apply the things we've learned and keep doing what we've been doing. I'd say in that respect, I'm definitely an optimist.
Q. Following up on that, we seem to be obsessed with rivalries and pushing people into rivalries in this sport. But clearly starting next season, a lot will be framed of you trying to deny Jimmie a fourth championship of the way you guys ran with him trying to win the fourth championship. As the season starts next year, you will be one of the two focuses. Do you relish that role as being one of the guys?
CARL EDWARDS: Yeah, I hope I am. I hope Jimmie will make some (indiscernible) next season, I'll be glad to be the guy that denies him that chance. I don't know if it really matters what's written or what's said. I learned this season that so many things got built up, and everybody thought things were going one way and now they go another way. It just evaded everyone, exactly what was going to happen. Hopefully we can live up to the expectation that not only we have, but our fans and sponsors have.
Q. You say it kind of matter of factually, finishing second to both of these championships. But some people could argue that was a major feat. As hard, perhaps, as winning one or the other to second in the competition. And if you could speak a little more about that. It's a huge accomplishment.
CARL EDWARDS: Thanks, I appreciate that. It feels good. But, you know, it is neat to be able to race both of them. It's very enjoyable. I really appreciate Jack giving me the opportunity to do it. And the guys that he's put with me. I know that Drew right now, Drew Blickensderfer, he already told me, looked at me square in the eye and said, man, we are going to be better next year.
We are going to go out to win every single race.
So I know he's got the killer mindset right now. I'm sure Bob feels the exact same way, and I do, too.
So, yeah, it's a good year. Second in both is an accomplishment. It's great. But, we hope we can do a little better next season.
JACK ROUSH: The thing that's there about the two championships, they're not at the same place. And all the trips that Carl's made back and forth across the country, and of course David Ragan, Clint Bowyer and a number of others did the same thing. But those trips, that's a young man's game to be able to travel all night and get in the race car that you haven't been in some cases and drive it to great effect and trust what people have done when you weren't there.
It's amazing. As a young man, I don't think I could have done what they're doing, and I suspect that most couldn't.
CARL EDWARDS: You're being too nice. You'd do it with us right now.
JACK ROUSH: I'd do a lot of things right now that I couldn't have done when I was younger, and when I was younger, I couldn't do what you do.
Q. Jack, you touched on how hard it is to win a championship now with the parts and luck and the Chase format and what have you. I know you weren't racing here in the '70s, but can you offer some thoughts on how much harder it is now than when Cale did it?
JACK ROUSH: When I started in 1988, it was 90 percent art, this whole business was, and it was 5 percent science, and somewhere in between was the crew chief's luck. But now the guys, Bob and all the crew chiefs, have got to come to the racetrack with a really good plan. There is not enough test time to run all the things through the car that could be relevant, and the drivers have got to believe in that.
I know I was talking to Rusty Wallace over the weekend. We were together at a little engagement. And he was saying, you know, how much he liked picking the spring. That would be the wrong thing. The driver cannot pick the spring for his car. He's got to tell the crew, and let the crew tell the engineer, and let the engineer talk to the computer about what the car's doing, and what effect it would have. Then they have to believe in that and go forward with it.
I know if we looked at the progress of all of our teams this year, they've not all been at the best of their they haven't done to the best of their ability a lot of time. A lot of that had to do with the fact that they didn't believe in the information that the engineers were telling them about what was going to be right and wrong.
But it's a real tough thing. Particularly with Matt and with Greg, and with Jeff Gordon and all the senior guys that have been used to having art be the bigger factor to determining what they'd run. Now they have to step back and let somebody else tell me what's good for me and believe in it enough to go to drive it off turn 1 with great speed.
Q. Next season, obviously, you're not going to have cars on track doing testing. Does that play into your organization's strengths? Does that worry you? How do you feel that affects the competitive balance with respect to your team specifically?
JACK ROUSH: My big interest is trying to let all the anxiety that goes into our broader economy, and not really impact the business of entertaining folks and NASCAR stock car racing here. I'm a proponent of the racetracks reducing the ticket prices if they have to fill up the stands, so that the sponsors and everybody that supports the thing can get their value for having the maximum number of people impressed or exposed to what we do.
To have the challenge that they have the automobile manufacturers and seeing to it not one of the manufacturers drop out and the teams they're associated with are not forced to be as competitive as they were. So I'm in support of not having for the broader reasons, not having the testing program, not having the testing program that we've discussed and was almost agreed upon if everybody will agree, if all the teams will agree, we won't go to the skid pads. We won't go to Pikes Peak, we won't go to the other places we could go outside of NASCAR's supervision. I don't want to do that either.
I want to make the racing as affordable as we can be for the sponsors and as interesting as it can be for the fans. The fact is, nobody that's there in the top 35 needs to have the number of tests that we had last year, and we can go on a diet not having it next year.
Q. I think the big story here is the fuel mileage again. And Jack said that you're the guy who can take it deeper in the corner and roll through the middle and not use as much gas. Can you talk about that? You have a hybrid under the hood or something maybe doing that? Or are you just one of those guys when you drive your regular car you have that egg between your foot and the gas pedal?
CARL EDWARDS: First, I think it's the hybrid did pace the field, and the hybrid did win with the Ford Fusion fuel mileage. I thought that was needed. I used to have this little junk car that I drove around and would take a lot of trips to Charlotte, and I could make it on one stop if I was really, really good with the pedal. So I used to drive this car for 12 hours and you could go the first six and the second six without stopping. And it would be about 10 or 20 miles short if you drove it like you wanted. So I did a lot of those trips. I don't know if that makes the difference. I think it's just how I drive.
I can tell you one thing, Bob was telling me to go slower than I was going, and I just knew Matt was going to make it. So I was really nervous Matt was going to make it and he was going to be in front of me. So I was going faster than I should have.
When Matt ran out with three or four to go, I thought, man, I have screwed this up big time. This is bad. It made me nervous, and I'm glad we made it though. I don't know what that's about, Bob, exactly. But glad we get good fuel mileage.
Q. Can you talk about winning the last race for Office Depot?
CARL EDWARDS: Office Depot came on board when really they didn't have me and what I was going to do and what we were going to do with the 99 team. There was no guarantee we were going to go out and run as well as we did. They came on board.
It was great to be a representative for them. They do a lot in the communities. They've given away I believe over a million backpacks while I've been on board with them. They've included me in that and I've been able to hand those backpacks to the organization and the kids.
We went down to Hattiesburg, Mississippi. Some people have been devastated by a hurricane down there. We gave a school I don't remember exactly how much it was I think it was $100,000 worth of stuff. Overall, I've been proud to be with Office Depot. Reasons for that I've been proud.
It's a little bittersweet to win the final race with them that we're in. But I think this is a great way to end it. I'm excited they're staying in the sport. I think Tony will do a good job for them. It's neat. It will be neat to race against that Office Depot car next year. That will be good.
Q. On Monday there will be a lot of various team members losing members of teams. There's a lot of sadness in the garage, losses happening. Of you, Jack, they've said in tough financial times you're one of the best. But when you look over the garage, the question is: Do you think these guys will come back and the pay scale will go down, and they'll come back and be paid less? Has it got too expensive? What are your thoughts looking ahead?
JACK ROUSH: The real risk is race teams folding. As long as we've got, you know, 48 or 50 entries for the Cup series for 43 spots, there's lots of jobs out there.
In our case, we haven't had a lot of extra people. We've got a model for how we run our teams and build our cars and it is fairly frugal. We don't have a reduction plan for any of our programs that have got the same activity level as we did last year. But there has been some economies of the Car of Tomorrow.
If you looked at where we were a year ago, we were running two different kinds of cars. So that required a staffing increase for most of the teams that enabled or justified a reduction on that account. Most of our reduction was in the area of car building, and that's already behind us as far as Roush Fenway is concerned.
At this point we've only got two Truck teams planned with sponsorship with 2009. We've had an adjustment there. There may be a little more to that. Some of the road crew next week.
But by and large, I'm happy to say that 99 or 95 percent of our staff is in place and is not subject to dislocation. But the bigger concern I've got is that we keep the racing affordable, the race teams affordable for the sponsors, and we're able to keep these other race teams in business. That's where the jeopardy is for job loss.
THE MODERATOR: Appreciate it. The 99 had a super season. Thank you very much.
CARL EDWARDS: And thank all you guys. I know it's been a long year for everybody. I'm wearing my beads, too. I don't know if you guys noticed that. I have to give them back.
But thank you guys for delivering the sport to all these people out here and sticking with this schedule with us. I appreciate it, guys. See you in New York.
An Interview With:
THE MODERATOR: Joined is our third place finisher in today's race. He finished the 2008 season certainly on a strong serge. That's the driver of the No. 26 Crown Royal Ford, that's Jamie McMurray.
Jamie, congratulations. You had a heck of a run here the last few races, particularly the last two weekends. Your thoughts?
JAMIE McMURRAY: We had another really good car tonight. And the way the pit sequences worked out where some guys would put, some would put two on, and we kept having those short cautions. We got shuffled back to like 14th or 15th. When it gets late in the race, it becomes a lot harder to pass than it does the first few runs, because everybody gets their car better.
So Larry just made a wonderful decision to go ahead and pit at the end, and just try to save gas. You know, to get the best finish we could. So I ran the last, I don't know, whatever it was, 55 laps. I ran about ten of them hard, then I just kind of pedaled it the remainder of the race to make sure we could make it to the end.
Q. What's the difference between the Chase and before? Are you guys testing stuff? And certainly with the success that you've had in the last short period of time, is there any mixed emotions about changing crew chiefs at this point?
JAMIE McMURRAY: There's not really anything different. If you looked back and paid attention to our team, for the last three months, we've had just really fast cars and didn't have much to show for it. And for the last two months, we've had things just kind of go our way. Obviously, the last month has just been incredible.
I don't know that even when I was with Ganassi and, you know, could contend to make the Chase, I didn't run as well as I am right now. It's by far the best I've run in my career. It just seems that every week you have a chance to win. So it's a lot of fun to get to run that well.
You know, the same thing, when the season started everybody was asking me what is wrong? And I'm not doing anything different now. I think I'm able to communicate with the crew chief and the engineer better to make better adjustments. And when the race starts cars are just faster.
I tell you, if we could have qualified for the five or six races that rained out, we could have qualified well and raced better in those races. But when you have to start back in the 20s it takes forever to get to the front, and you just have to race differently.
Q. When you have gotten here in the last couple of weeks, I guess it was Texas and here at Texas you seemed to be the guy with the gas strategy. Here you came back in and topped off, I'm assuming you figured you were going to go the distance and that may carry you to the end. You tried it both ways and still couldn't win. Does it show how frustrating and difficult it is? I keep looking at what Carl did in the Chase, and Jimmie still beat him. It's a typical thing to do what they've done here. All this winning and all these championships that Jimmie has done, this isn't easy to do, is it?
JAMIE McMURRAY: No, and when we got shuffled back to 12th and 14th, wherever it was, it made the decision all that easier to go ahead and pit. Larry said we were two laps short on fuel, and I was like, man, I'll save you two laps of fuel. I really believe I can do that. So it makes it easier when you're farther back.
I really thought the 29 was going to be the car to beat. I saw the 18 and the 6 run out, when we took the white, I was like I don't care if I run right now, when you think you're racing for a win, it's worth it to take that chase to maybe run out. But what Carl was able to do to have not only one of the fastest cars on the track, but to get the fuel mileage he does, that's something a lot of drivers will look into is how they can try to get better mileage.
Obviously, I drive for the same team. We have the same carburetors, the same guys tuning them. It's not like he has a bigger gas tank or a leaner engine. But he always gets better fuel mileage than anybody. The rest of us tend to get similar fuel mileage, but not as good as Carl's. So we have to look at that and try to make it better as a whole.
THE MODERATOR: Jamie, you really finished strong. Good way to finish the season, congratulations.
An Interview With:
KERRY THARP: Okay, we're going to roll right into our post race press conference for the Ford 400 here at Homestead Miami Speedway.
We're pleased to be joined at the podium by our runner up in today's race, that's Kevin Harvick, he drives the No. 29, Shell/Pennzoil CEF Chevrolet. Kevin also finished fourth in the series standings this year. That equals his best career performance in Sprint Cup racing. Also finished fourth in 2006.
Kevin, congratulations on that. Also joining Kevin is driver of the No. 01 Chevrolet for DEI, that's our 2008 NASCAR Sprint Cup series, Raybestos Rookie of the Year, Regan Smith. Regan becomes the first rookie in the history of the program, that's 52 years, we're talking about, to not have a DNF. He is the first rookie from DEI. And he either shared or outright led in 26 of the 36 races this year. Regan, congratulations on that honor.
We'll start now with Kevin as race runner up. Capped off a tremendous year for you. Your thoughts about maybe not only just this race, but your season on the whole?
KEVIN HARVICK: I think the first part of the year was really good for us. The last part of the year, we just kind of a portion that we didn't run that well. But buckled down and got our cars better at Chicago, and made a lot of headway, so I know we didn't win this year, but it's by far the best ten races at the end of the year we've had.
I think we're like an eight and a half or nine average finish, and still came up, I don't know, whatever the math is there, 200 some points short. That just tells you how good of a year that the 48 had. You know, I feel good about where we were the last 10 weeks.
THE MODERATOR: Regan, congratulations on this award. Your thoughts about getting Rookie of the Year.
REGAN SMITH: Really excited about getting Rookie of the Year. It's a big deal. First driver from DEI to be able to get it.
Not knowing what I'm doing next year, if I'm going to be part of the Ganassi DEI thing or not. At least I've got that to take to them. Let Theresa put it in the trophy room. She gave me a great opportunity this year. Happy for Principal Financial, Chevrolet, and all my guys. Looking forward to what next year brings for me.
THE MODERATOR: Questions now for either Kevin or Regan, if you have a question, raise your hand.
Q. Congratulations. How big a deal is it for you personally to move up and finish fourth in points at the end of the year?
KEVIN HARVICK: That was our goal coming in here to try to get fourth in the points and win a race and we got half of that accomplished. And the car was good from the time when it loaded, and I really didn't think we were even racing the 99. I was just going as fast as I needed to go to keep the 26 behind me. I watched the 6 run out of gas, and I knew the 26 pitted with us.
So, I don't know. Maybe I should have gone faster, I don't know. But it's been, like I said, it's been a very consistent year. I told Delane before the Chase started, if we're going to have a chance to win the Championship, we're going to have to have a 22 in the Top 10 column.
That's the type of race team that we are. We're not the go out and dominate, we're just kind of wear them down by consistency type of team, and that's just always been the nature of RCR. And, you know, Talladega was probably our best, probably our best performance race in the Chase. I know we performed okay in a lot of them. But to come away from there with a 20 place finish and not capitalize and finish 13th in Atlanta after running in the top 5 All day, those two races put us a little further behind.
But you know, you can look back at a lot of things and do them different.
Q. Regan, how difficult is it to have this accomplishment, but have your future be to uncertain?
REGAN SMITH: This time of year, if you don't have it figured out what you're doing, it's always difficult. But it's something that at the end of the day, you know, you can put that on the shelf at the house and have that accomplishment. I'm very confident in my abilities as a race car driver. This year has been a tough year. It's a tough year for all the rookies. No excuses for that. It was a difficult year for the new car, that's all there was to it. I'm pretty confident I'll be driving a cup car for somebody next year. I just don't know which one. If not, I'll look forward to another two series and work hard to get back to this level.
Q. Kevin, when you look at going into next year, the success of the three teams, RCR performing in the Chase, compared to other years, are there things you think need to be done better? Do you see a lot of off season preparation? How do you feel about going from this year to next year?
KEVIN HARVICK: I feel like we always start pretty strong. I mean, there have been years that we hadn't started strong. But I don't feel there is one particular thing we have to make better. I feel our pit crew is ready to win a championship. They perform well week in and week out.
You know, we just have to we just have to figure out how to lead more laps and just make everything a little bit better. I think that's I know that sounds dumb, but it's just a lot of little things that add up to be one big thing.
Like I said, the last ten weeks we had this year, if you look backed at last year's stats, I don't know how we were anywhere even involved in the Chase, and this year we were just very consistent. That's the first step to being really good.
Q. As you look back at the year, you know, you had what you thought was a victory at Talladega. Have you been able to get over that? How tough is that to still kind of look back and think to yourself, not only could you be Rookie of the Year, but you could be a rookie race winner?
KEVIN HARVICK: I don't know if you can ever get over that. It was a good opportunity to win the race. The series is so tough. I found that out firsthand this year, you don't know when those opportunities are going to come again. You have to take the bright spot that's came out of that day. Definitely got a lot of exposure. None of the rookies had had a competitive race up until that point. Our car was competitive the whole race. You know, you try to take the positives out of that, and I can lay down at night and feel confident saying that I felt like my guys perform well enough at Talladega to help me win a race, and they can do the same.
That's all you can do. It definitely would have helped to make the year a little bit better, but I guess the consolation, we also got the Raybestos Rookie of the Year thing, and that's a big deal. I'm proud to get that.
Q. Where were you did Kyle Busch run out of gas in the last lap, too? The white flag, we thought he was the guy that was chasing them down.
KEVIN HARVICK: Yeah, they both ran out of gas coming to the white. Coming off turn 2.
KEVIN HARVICK: 18 and 6, yeah.
Q. We couldn't see it.
KEVIN HARVICK: Yeah.
Q. Were you a little bit surprised that the driver of the stature of Sam Hornish would come in with Penske, but not really give you much of a fight for that rookie title? You seemed to kind of being in control of that thing most of the year.
REGAN SMITH: We were in control of it most of the year. You know, at the end there, Sam really started turning it on towards the end of the season, the way the points thing shook down. I know a lot of the other rookies weren't in cars and the way the points shook down, it was kind of awkward this year.
But Sam's a talented race car driver. There's been a lot of places he was extremely quick this year. Mile and a half's he's been quicker than us at a lot of them. We've been quicker than him at some of them. But he'll work it out next year, definitely, and
Penske's a good organization, and they're going to put good stuff behind him, for sure.
THE MODERATOR: Kevin and Regan, congratulations. Put on a good season for us. We appreciate it. Regan, congratulations on the Rookie of the Year.