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Gatorade Duel 1 post-race transcript

Thursday, February 12, 2009


An interview with:


  We'll roll into the post race champion of the Gatorade Duel, Jeff Gordon.  To his right is his crew chief Steve Letarte.

Jeff, it's got to feel good to get back into Victory Lane.

JEFF GORDON:  It feels fantastic.  We talked before the race.  Doesn't matter if it's a qualifying race, the Daytona 500, you know, any confidence builder and momentum that we can get is a positive.

You know, I'm just really excited about this race team this year.  Not only do we have a new paint scheme, I think Steve Letarte here did a fantastic job over the off season just fine tuning the cars, the team, personnel, engineering.  I think we got some neat things in store for ourselves, not just here at Daytona, but moving forward, as well.

It was a great race out there today.  The car was driving well.  It was a lot of fun dicing it up with Martin at the beginning, and then with Tony and Jimmie, McMurray, a bunch of them.  I can't even remember all the things that went on there.  It was a great race.

I hope the fans enjoyed it, because it was fun from where I was sitting, not just because I went to Victory Lane.

KERRY THARP:  Steve, your thoughts about the calls you made today?

STEVE LETARTE:  I think Jeff said it the best.  You know, the 150, it definitely gained some prestige.  Everybody wants to try to win it.  You could see with the passes in the last four or five laps that they weren't just riding around for a finish.

It was a good race.  I think Goodyear brought a great tire for racing.  I think it has a little more grip than last year.  Allows for good racing.  Also allows for some good pit strategy.  Everybody came and put on four tires.  Everybody that came and took four tires, that was the right call to really give the car some extra grip.  He drove a fabulous race.

We got some pushes when we needed to, and finally got a couple guys to go with us.  Couldn't get them Saturday night, but had a couple to go with us today.  Hopefully we can get a couple to go with us on Sunday.

Q.  Jeff, following up on your comments with how good the racing has been, why has it been better, and what kind of race do you think you'll see Sunday?

JEFF GORDON:  I think you got to give Goodyear a little bit of credit for doing a little bit different design with the tire that makes the tire wear and makes guys    gives guys confidence, because it has good grip at the beginning of the run.  It makes everybody really get after it, especially if there's 10 to go.

The drivers are playing a role because the cars are slipping and sliding around, which brings the crew chief and the engineers on the team really into play as well because you have to have a good handling racecar and good pit strategy, which Steve did a great call today with those four tires.

But, you know, I just think this car was designed and built for Daytona and Talladega.  It's really built well.  Sometimes we don't really care for it a lot at some of the other tracks, but it makes up for it, in my opinion, at Daytona.

Actually, it handles good.  It's just that it's punching such a big hole that it really makes it interesting when you're behind other cars.  But it makes it a heck of a lot of fun, a lot of passing, just what you're seeing, two and three wide, cars sideways, kind of bouncing off one another a little bit.

I don't think the show can get any better for the fans than what we've seen so far, but it probably will on Sunday.

Q.  Your first race ever was obviously the last for the King.  In 1993, your first full season, you started here with a win.  Now the 25 year anniversary, a good way to kick off the 25 year anniversary for Hendrick.

JEFF GORDON:  Certainly is fantastic.  I'm so proud to have been a part of Hendrick for as long as I have.  Going on 17 years now, I guess.  You know, it's such a special place to work and be a part of.  Rick is like a second  I guess it would be a third father for me.  My stepdad and my biological father (laughter).  But he's just been phenomenal to me and so many other people.  He just creates great opportunity.

I was telling him in Victory Lane, he spoils us.  He gives us such great equipment.  He makes our jobs when we're out there doing that a whole lot easier.  I'm excited to get the 25th anniversary started off right for those guys and be able to celebrate in Victory Lane for all of Hendrick Motorsports.

Q.  Jeff, to see Joey do as well as he did, your comments on that?  You were kind of Joey Logano before Joey Logano.

JEFF GORDON:  I've never been Joey Logano.  I've never had that much hype.

Q.  Could we see a more wide open Daytona 500 than normal this year?

JEFF GORDON:  I was proud of him.  We saw some things in practice.  He got a little loose at one time.  I was around him a couple times.  He was definitely on a steep learning curve.  These cars drive quite a bit different than the Nationwide cars do, or the trucks for that matter.

You know, I think he did a great job today.  I really thought he did a great job because he gave me a big push there at the end that probably helped us win this race.  I didn't really get to see a lot of what was going on for him throughout the race, but I would say he's probably pretty happy with it.

That's the thing about being young like that:  you're a sponge.  I see it in my little girl at such a young age.  I see it in young racecar drivers.  You're a sponge.  You're taking it all in.  You can learn so much more early in your career at a young age like that.

Sometimes we say, Are we moving them too fast?  If you have the talent like Joey has, and I joked about the hype, I hate in some ways he's got that much pressure on him 'cause he's just got a tremendous opportunity and talent, being at Gibbs, having the talent that he has.  You know, he's just got a steep learning curve, especially without testing.

I think today was a great race for him.  I'm sure he'd say the same.

Q.  Jeff, can you talk about whether Tony's success has surprised you so far?

JEFF GORDON:  I think Tony's one of the best that there is here at Daytona.  I know what our engine package    how good our engine package is.  But I think what impresses me is how well organized they are.  A lot of times you see a lot of shake ups and changes and things like that.  You'll see little things that will bite those guys.

To me, they've really come out looking solid and strong every time they've been on the track.  The equipment is performing as well as looking good.  They look like they've done a great job over the off season.

But it's no surprise to me on the same hand to see Tony up front there, because I think he's one of the best drafters out there.

Q.  You've won these qualifying races before.  Do they mean more to you coming off a season like you just had?

JEFF GORDON:  Heck, yeah.  Any win's exciting and meaningful to us right now.

I think what makes this special is, one, these races aren't easy to win.  You know, it takes a good racecar, a great race team, you know, to pull it off, and a little bit of luck, some good moves.  That fortunately worked out for us.

But, you know, right now I think that because of the pressure that we felt from being winless last year, you know, it's important for us to gain some momentum and confidence that we're doing the right things for Steve and the calls he's making and for me and the moves I'm making, you know, just to be together, in sync as a team.

I think that's what today does.  It just puts a smile on everybody's face.  Everybody is patting one another on the back and really excited about Sunday's race.  However you can get that is important, and today I think is a way we were able to achieve that.  We got to keep it going, though.

Q.  Jeff, you told us last year at Atlanta that you would sacrifice a winless year to have the opportunity to win four or five or six races this season.  I know you haven't gone to the downforce tracks yet.  How confident are you that that can happen from what you've seen in your team?

JEFF GORDON:  I've seen some great things.  Spending time with Steve, talking to him in the off season, going to the shop.  Just changing paint schemes is something that can light that fire a little bit.  I say that with the flames (laughter).

But, you know, I think, you know, I see the moves that Steve's made at Hendrick Motorsports.  He should say it more so than me.  Just the support that he gets.  You know, he's feeling that pressure 'cause he knows what's going on in the media, the fans.  He knows, you know, whether we're winning or whether we're not winning.  I don't need to speak for him.

We're doing everything we can to work together as a team.  I believe a hundred percent in this guy, in the moves that he's making.  I think 2007 proved it.  We got behind last year.  We can't get that back.  But what we can do is learn from it, grow from it, and use that to motivate us.

This reminds me of 2000.  In 2000, even though we won three races, I felt like it was one of our worst seasons.  We came out of that and won the championship the next year because it motivated us.  It showed us what we're capable of, how hard we got to dig down.

Also, we were able to work on the direction of things.  We saw improvements towards the end of last year.  Maybe not what the 48 saw, but we saw improvements in how good our car was and how it was getting better towards the end of the season those final 10 races.

Tell 'em what you've done.  I can shut up.

STEVE LETARTE:  No, I mean, I think the biggest lesson I learned last year, it's very hard to evaluate a program when you have a successful program like we had in '07, where last year it was easier to come in and change anything and everything when you really have no success to lean on.

No different than we did in '05.  We missed the Chase.  It was very easy to change anything.  Nothing was sacred.  There was nothing sacred.  I think maybe me, including other people, but I'll take the brunt of it, maybe I got back on my heels and made some things a little too sacred that didn't need to be.

We've since changed all those.  Anything can change to make the car go fast.  We'll change any of the above to make it go fast.

JEFF GORDON:  I will add to that, too.  Last year I don't feel like I was on my best game.  The opportunities that we had to win races, where maybe in the past we pulled those wins off, you know, it was on my shoulders.  They gave me the car, the track position and everything else.  There becomes a point where the driver's got to pull it off.

Last July here I feel like is a perfect example.  I feel like I let the team down.  We could have won that race that day.  And those opportunities, you got to take advantage of 'em.  They don't come around all the time.  We know we got to pick it up on the downforce tracks.  I know he's been working hard with the engineers to make that happen.

But we got a great racecar and a great race team right here in Daytona.  We've got to capitalize on that and seize that moment.  You know, I don't want to let these guys down.  I feel like my back has been a little bit of an issue.  I've been working out, trying to make that stronger.  I've been stretching, doing a lot of things so that I have no excuses.

You know, I think we're all the type of team that none of us want to have excuses.  We all want to go out there and make sure we're all doing our part.

Q.  Jeff, you credited Goodyear for making a good tire for this track.  There was talk last year when there was trouble with Goodyear tires that part of it was bump stop running, running the cars real low.  Have you made any particular adjustments?  Goodyear is making their adjustments.  Has your team made adjustments with this new car to adjust to that?

JEFF GORDON:  Steve should probably answer that.  The bump stops contributed to it.  But there's a lot    there's a center of gravity with this car, a right side weight.  Goodyear knew going into last season this car was going to abuse the right side tires.  I think what Goodyear learned was they could start to go to work on the left side tire a little bit more to maybe bring the grip and the consistency back.

We were wearing right sides out pretty good here today.  That's what we saw last year  other than Indy  we weren't wearing tires out enough at times.  We needed to actually wear them, to dissipate the heat, and also to keep the racecar a little more consistent, keep the racing consistent, bring it back in to crew chiefs making calls and drivers and crew chiefs working together on the handling of the car.

So far I think they're heading in the right direction.  I think Steve should really answer that.

STEVE LETARTE:  I mean, without a doubt I think there's more than one side to that story.  I think Goodyear has definitely improved the tire.  But people forget.  We had 15 or 20 years with the old car.  To come and try to come to Daytona two or three times with the new car and expect us to hit it the first time, I think Goodyear definitely had to take a conservative approach to make up for the teams' lack of knowledge with the new car.

I think now they have more confidence, the teams have a year under their belt, they're bringing tires that have a little more grip.  You have to be closer on your setup.  If you're way off on your setup, you will tear a tire up because the tire is meant to race.  It's not meant to go out there and ill handle.

I'm excited to see the products they bring each and every week.  Hopefully they are like they are here.

Q.  Jeff, did you work with Tony at all today?  Consequently, how do you view their organization?  Are they almost like de facto teammates?

JEFF GORDON:  You know, there's definitely the technical support and engine support that we give to them.  Part of that package is some information sharing.  I think that we pretty much proved out there on the racetrack today that we both want to win.

There was a time when I made a move on Truex and Tony went with me.  That definitely helped me out.  So I would say, yeah, we were working together.  There was one time when I was second, he was third, and we were both being real patient behind Martin and just kind of riding it out to wait to see what the cars did and if and when we needed to make a move.

We weren't like on the radios.  We didn't talk prior to the race or anything like that.  But, you know, we're talking just throughout the week about car setups, what's going on.  The crew chiefs are talking.  So in that sense, you know, there's some information sharing and communication going on there.

But I know there's nobody that wants to pass me or beat me more than Tony.  Same for me to him  or whoever else is the guy to beat out there.  When teammates go out the window, you got to have some friends out there to give you that push.

So you don't want to make enemies, but when it comes down to the finish, you know, you really don't have many friends, or teammates.  You got to go for it.

KERRY THARP:  Guys, congratulations.  Good luck on Sunday.

An interview with:

KERRY THARP:  We're going to go ahead and roll into our post race Gatorade Duel at Daytona press conference.  We're joined by our top finishing Raybestos rookie of the year candidate.  He finished fourth in today's duel.

Joey, congratulations on an outstanding finish out there today.  Your thoughts about today's race and your thoughts about running in your first Daytona 500 on Sunday.

  Yeah, I think we accomplished everything we needed to do with The Home Depot Toyota.  Our main goal was to go out there and finish the race.  That was more than we got in the Shootout.  Just kind of keep going, gain some respect from these guys like I've been saying all week.

I feel like we accomplished that.  We can work on our car a little bit more and get ready for the 500.

KERRY THARP:  We'll take questions now for Joey.

Q.  How much of a relief is it to get a race under your belt in the 20?

  Yeah, I think it's a really big deal.  Just working with those guys, getting used to, from what I say, to adjustments, you know, just working like that.  It takes a little bit, but I feel like we're getting there.

Q.  Joey, could you comment on how the education process continues.  Did you have another problem on pit road?  How was the experience on the racetrack?

  Yeah, I had another problem on pit road (laughter).

I think these speedway brakes lock up quicker than you would think.  You're slowing down, you think you're good, and then you go to really stop and they just lock up.

I feel like I've got that kind of calmed down now at least.  I thought it was going to be a little better than that ARCA car, but I guess not.

Besides that, I learned a lot.  Just, you know, the handling of the car, what to do to keep your run going, drafting.  Just learned a lot about all that stuff.

Q.  Joey, talk about the handling in the draft.  When you got to the front, did you feel more comfortable running up there with the guys who had that experience?  When you helped push Jeff to the front, any thoughts about passing him at that point?

  Well, I was going to plan on getting there, then planning on what I was going to do from there.

The handling of the car is so much better in the front than it is in the back.  Once you get in the back, especially on old tires, it's a handful and a half.  As you get closer to the front it gets better.  It's just a matter of getting there, which is not the easy part.

Once we got up there, only a few to go, I made a last ditch effort there at the end going into three, hoping someone would go with me.  Figured I'm that close, might as well go for a win.  Overall, I think it was a good day.

KERRY THARP:  We're also joined by Scott Riggs.  Scott raced his way into the Daytona 500 today, finishing eighth.  Outstanding effort, Scott.  How do you feel about getting into the 500?

  Man, we're elated.  Very happy with all the guys.  This is grass roots right now for us.  I mean, you go to the shop, it's a lot of guys are just volunteers, passionate about racing.  They're addicted to the racing bug that we all are addicted to.  They put their heart and soul into it from faith in Tommy, the whole organization.

To be able to scrap something together from a month and a half ago to nothing, to be able to put something together, come here, run good, be pretty strong in the pack, get ourselves in the race, it speaks volumes for us.

Q.  Scott, you're obviously in a difficult spot.  It appeared it's a perilous thing finding people to draft with you.  You're here with a team and a car that's not familiar to other cars.  You've had a good record.  How frustrating is it for you when you know you can't afford any mistakes and you have to try to find somebody out there who will run with you and work together with you?

I mean, it is definitely hard.  You get frustrated at times when you have a run, you try to make something happen, somebody doesn't go with you to make it work, or just peel off and leave you hanging.

I know from the other side of the shoe, too, it's hard being out there.  It's one thing for everyone to come down to Daytona and try to figure out, Okay, this guy's in this car, this guy changed this car, and try to figure out who is in what car these days and what sponsor is on the car.

I know it's even more difficult to have a car and a car number and car colors that no one else recognizes.  So it takes a little while for everybody to get used to it, figure out who's behind the wheel, who you can trust, who you can't.  You have to know your competitors.

We had a fast enough racecar.  Some people saw it.  Hats off.  There was a handful of guys out there that I had a chance to practice with yesterday.  Those were the same guys that got behind me and gave me some good shoves today.

KERRY THARP:  We're also joined by our second place finisher in today's duel, Tony Stewart.  Back to back strong finishes with that new race team.  You have to feel good about that.

  Yeah, real happy.  Kind of picked up where we left off the other night.  This car is a little better than our Shootout car was.  It drove great today.

Just really proud of Darian Grubb and the Old Spice Office Depot team.  They've done a great job.  Still amazes me how much they got done in such a short amount of time to come down here.

Q.  Scott, you said it was about six weeks ago this team was formed.  I'm assuming you're getting paid, you're not volunteering to drive.  If you wouldn't call this miraculous, you getting in the 500, what would you call it?

  Well, I mean, Tommy pays me attention.  He pays me some attention, for sure (smiling).  Came down to a point that I had to make a decision.  Am I going to sit at home and stay on the phone and call people and hope that something opens up to give me an opportunity to get in the car?  Or am I going to go down to Daytona and start the season off with somebody, like Tommy, who in my situation has more experience than anyone I've ever worked with as a crew chief?

What really made the decision for me is when I talked to Tommy and heard the passion in his voice, heard it just talking to him several times on the phone, how dedicated he was, how positive he was.  We're going to do this.  Stick with me; we'll do it.

I think that's the turning point for me that I said I'm going to go fight this good fight and make sure that this team is going to give me this opportunity.  We're going to try to make the best of it.

I hope things can go further and we can continue to race.  Tommy is committed to go to every single race and try to qualify for every single race.  The more the sponsorship comes, the more opportunities we have to get our races paid for, the more races we're going to try to race.

So far we've got the first three paid for and sponsored.  Real proud of everyone that's out there hunting for us, as well.  Also real proud of Red Bank Outfitters coming on for this weekend's race and next week's race in California.

Q.  Scott and Tony, you came out on the topside of this qualifying situation here.  Could you each comment a little bit about this qualifying format.  Do you think it's fair?  Do you think people understand it?

  I'll let Tony answer that.

TONY STEWART:  I don't understand it fully.  I mean, the part I do understand is that the guys that are trying to race their way in are split up evenly.  That part I think is really good.  It's not fair to have nine guys on one side and one guy on the other side that's trying to make the race and have to race in.

I'm not sure that I fully understand exactly how we ended up where we did, how we started in our starting spot.  But that's the great thing about NASCAR:  there's smarter people than us that figure that out for us.  They give us a lineup and tell us where to go.

Q.  Joey, you don't have a lot of experience here yet.  How do you feel other drivers are approaching you out on the racetrack?  Do people want to work with you, stay away from you?  Do you think you've earned any trust yet?

  Yeah, I think I have a little bit.  I think it's just going to take time, too, at the same time.  I think this run helped that a lot.  Getting up there at the end helped a lot.

But, yeah, that stuff just takes time.  I understand if someone wouldn't, there's an excuse why not to.  But at the same time, I feel like I'm getting treated fairly.  I'm not getting dumped out there or anything like that.  Pretty fair.

Q.  Tony, you expressed happiness with the car yesterday, how it handled.  Did it meet or exceed your expectations in traffic out there today?

  It was better today even.  You know, even at the beginning of the run when we were back about seventh or eighth spot, it wasn't hard yesterday to get back that far and have a car that wasn't very happy.

So I was pretty pleased with it today.  I mean, obviously the further forward you get, the better it's going to drive.  Still, to be able to work our way up there the way it did, to drive the way it did, I was real pleased.

I think we made gains over yesterday.  We made a couple real small changes for today, and the car really liked it.

Q.  Tony, you're an intense guy.  You seem subdued after this race.  Is your dominant emotion that you're happy that you were second or frustrated you were that close?

I was real happy.  I guess I'm worried about Ryan right now more than me.  Obviously them getting ready for the second qualifier, I was really happy with the way it turned out.

Jeff and I had a great battle there at the end.  It wasn't one of those deals where, you know, everybody's trying to run each other all over the racetrack at the end, which makes it a little more enjoyable.  But I think that's part of knowing we're in a qualifying race where we got to bring these cars back on Sunday, and you just have to take care of them is part of it.

We got a lot of respect for each other, too.  That's what made it fun.  If a guy got an honest run, he was going to get that spot.  We ran right with him all day.  We ran second and third for the majority of the day, and then ran first and second the rest of the day.

I wasn't at all disappointed.  I mean, you still want to win, obviously.  That was our goal.  But more so it's knowing that we need to bring this car back on Sunday.  Guys like Matt Kenseth that got involved in wrecks today, that's the stuff that hurts you going into the rest of the week, makes a lot of extra work for the guys.

I am really happy.  I guess I'm still in shock about the fact that this week has gone as well as it has.  With the exception of losing the motor on Ryan's car yesterday, it's been awesome.  But all the Hendrick guys, especially from the engine shop, yesterday when we had that problem, they were right on top of it.  By this morning we found out exactly what's cause of that failure was.

It's just unbelievable to have the support from Chevy, Hendrick Motorsports, have the week we have had.

Q.  Tony, do you think the racing has been better this week at Daytona?  And if so why?

  Obviously every year the qualifying races, the middle of the race, it gets kind of single file, strung out a little bit, and there's multiple battles throughout the field.  At the end of the race there nobody knew who was going to end up where.  Guys were all over the place as far as shuffling back and forth, lead changes like we had.

It's nice to be able to do that, not be in a big melee.  I thought the races have been good this week.  I thought the Shootout Saturday, it was definitely exciting.  It was exciting to watch.  It's been exciting to watch the replays.  It was exciting to be in it.

I don't see Saturday night being any different.  I think another year of time with these cars  everybody is getting more comfortable with them  I think everybody is figuring out how to get them driving a little better.  That gives us a little more flexibility as drivers to move around the racetrack.  It helps us put on a better race.

Q.  Joey, two rookies in there.  Dale Earnhardt, toward the end of his qualifier as a rookie, kind of felt like, I know what I'm doing.  He took off with A.J. Foyt and finished fourth.  A few years later Jeff Gordon tucks in right behind Earnhardt and stays there.  You made that last ditch effort.  Was there a point where you said, I got a handle on this stuff, I can go with these guys?

  I don't know about all that.  As I was going to the front    well, I guess a little bit (laughter).

I think, you know, let's just do something with it instead of letting it die out.  I just went for it.  I was hoping for the best.  Hoping some cars would go with me.  I don't think I had a big enough run to get to the front.  Trying to do something, trying to learn more.

I don't regret that move, because I did learn a little bit about that stuff.  After I get done with the Nationwide race, I'll be even more comfortable out there.

Q.  Scott, you said yesterday you did not want them to tell you how you stood against the other guys.  Did you stick with that plan?  Were you aware the whole time how you stacked up?

  Pretty much.  I mean, the one car that I saw the entire day that I wish I could have got by was the guy beside me right here, the 14.  I kept seeing him up there running well.  The only time I took a notion to count the guys and see who's in front of us, where we need to be, how we need to position ourself, was the last restart, 'cause so many guys had taken two tires or no tires.

I knew that was going to really be a mess when the restart got into turn one.  First lap was going to be something.  Sure enough, I saw Jeff starting to get the momentum run and start to weave through all the guys up front with the different tires we had.

That was the only time I really took note of who it was, what car numbers were in front of us.  I was really worried about trying to get by the 09.  I looked up there the very last time and I saw Tony, Jeff, Jimmie, the 09.  I knew were pretty much Hendrick related.

I thought that was going to be trouble for me.  I guess the new tires definitely paid off for us.  I think it sort of failed for him when he started to fall back.  I try not to pay attention to it, as little as I can.  You try to make your way to the front as far as you can.

Where the cards fall, that's where they fall.  The only time I looked in my mirror to see what I needed to do was the last couple laps with the 87 behind us, just to make sure he didn't sneak in there somehow on me.

Q.  Tony, if you were to be completely honest with us...

  That will never happen, not in this lifetime (smiling).  But let's just pretend.

Q.  Would you say that you are genuinely pleasantly surprised by the way everything has gone this week?  To a certain extent, you didn't know how things were going to work out of the box.  Would you say even you are a little surprised they've gone as smoothly?

I guess I came into it with an open mind, not knowing what it was going to be.  I didn't come here saying, We're going to struggle, or, We've got a shot to win every race every time.  It was more taking a step back and saying, Let's just see what happens.

But I have been pleasantly surprised.  I've been obviously very ecstatic that we've run the way we have.  Ryan's car obviously was good in qualifying.  We qualified well.  We've had two good races now this week.  It's been an awesome, awesome week for the organization.

So, you know, it's like I keep going back.  I know I sound like a broken record.  You are probably sick of it.  I'm just so happy.  When you're at the shop every day, you see the progress being made, it's different than    normally I've been in Indiana for a whole month, forget about it.  I guess when you're there every day, you see what's going on firsthand, you see the effort.

It makes me think back to Christmas Eve.  We had to kick guys out of the shop at 1:00 in the afternoon to spend time with their families.  They wanted to stay and work on racecars.  When you show up and have a week like this, it makes you very pleased you've had those results.  It's not just for myself, it's for everybody in the organization, because I know how hard everybody has worked.

Q.  Tony, did you feel a little bit of a sense of pride seeing that 20 car up there toward the front?

  Yeah.  I just couldn't figure out what took him so long (smiling).  I knew he'd get there.  I mean, obviously Joey has a lot of talent.  He's with a great race team.  I know that firsthand.
It's going to be a good combination of Joey being with those guys.  The great thing is, Joey didn't get a lot of time in the Shootout the other night.  To come here today on a day when this race normally is a little more difficult because of the weather, you know, to have a run like he had today, I'm proud to see that those guys aren't having problems, and proud that Joey's really made some big gains in a short amount of time.
You can tell he's getting more comfortable.  You can see it when you're out there with him.  Every lap he gets more comfortable than the one before.

Q.  Scott, does this seem to be a continuation of what you did last year in the 66 in terms of really having to push hard to keep the car in the race?  How satisfying is it to do well when you're not expected to?

  It's very satisfying for us.  I mean, considering how fast we've come together, all the things that we've put together in one little shop, the guys there working that are volunteers, working on the cars to get them to the racetrack.

I don't think anyone has any high expectations of us.  We want to under promise and over deliver.  I think with Tommy's ability, how much experience he's had in the past, it was tough last year for me.  This year will probably even be tougher.

It's more rewarding on a day like today when you come out showing your strength and showing what you can do with the people that work so hard, you know, behind the scenes with Tommy.

Q.  Joey, the last lap, you're coming off the second turn.  I was thinking that you were going to give Tony a bump draft by Jeff into three.  You were waiting for him to make a move and he never made a move so you made a move.  What were you thinking the last lap about Tony?

  Yeah, I think if I was to hit him I had a big old run with Jeff.  If I was to line up and hit Tony, I think I would have sent him out of the track.  I had to keep going with the run I had and follow Jeff through there.

But, you know, I think at the same time, you know, it just depends on the scenario where you're at.  You know what I mean?  I feel like I had to do what I had to do at that point.

KERRY THARP:  Joey, thank you very much.  Congratulations.  We'll continue with questions for Tony or Scott.

Q.  Tony, I know you were briefly asked about Joey and the 20 car.  Was that surreal to look in your rearview mirror and see your old paint scheme coming up behind you?

  It's a different paint scheme.  You still see the same logo on there.  I guess    I don't know.  I guess being at the shop all winter, seeing red racecars and black racecars everywhere, I got pretty used to it in a short amount of time.

On Sunday after qualifying, I went over and walked up in the 20 trailer, plopped down like I always have, sat there and talked to Zippy and Adam for 35, 40 minutes.  Sat up there like we always did.  Talked about the same stuff we always talked about.  That side of it I'm really proud of, that we still are able to do that, that we still have those relationships.

But it wasn't.  It really wasn't as weird as you would think it would be.  It's still another racecar on the track that you got to race with.  It's exactly like what Scott said.  Everybody's out there in cars that look different this year.  It was just another adjustment.

Q.  Tony, the TV camera showed A.J. up on your pit box with the headphones.  Can you tell us, was he set up to be able to talk to you?

  Oh, God, no.  No, no, no (laughter).

We actually had a special radio sitting there just for him.  It had the button on it and everything, but it didn't do anything when you pushed the button.  I'm not joking.

Q.  A pretend radio?

  Yeah.  Can you imagine having to sit there and drive with him yelling at you all day long?  I've kind of done that in Silver Crown cars a little bit.  I've learned my lesson.  I know better than to give him a radio he can yell into.

The best part about it was when we were coming to the media center.  He stopped me.  He said he gave me an A minus for the day.  I said, Coming from you, that's as good as an A plus from everybody else.  He's your toughest critic, but at the same time he's one of our biggest fans, too.

It just means a lot that he cares enough about what we're doing to want to spend the rest of the week with us here and be a part of it.

Q.  Scott, what are your expectations for Sunday?  How did today's performance impact those expectations?

  Well, I mean, we sort of take every day one day at a time.  Coming down here this week, the first thing we wanted to do was try to qualify in on time.  We didn't do that.  The next thing we wanted was to make sure our car drove well and was fast enough to be able to race our way in.
Today that's all we concentrated on:  making sure we can race our way in.  Once we did that today, now we're into tomorrow, thinking about what we need to do adjustment wise, what things we can do to try to make our car a little better, handle a little bit better, especially when it's in a bigger pack on Sunday.

I don't know if our expectations have changed.  I think that we come to the track every single week now, and we're going to come to the track and try to show speed, show our strength, try to qualify well, be as strong as we can in every practice and every race we're in.

I don't know if it's changed.  I know that I'll probably sleep a lot better tonight just knowing I'm in the show.  There's a little bit of anxiety the last couple of days thinking about what our car is going to be like, how it's going to drive, who's going to work with you, who's not.

It was definitely rewarding today to have, I'm not going to say a rag tag team, but to have guys that are there because of their love for the sport and the faith in Tommy and each other, to come here and to be able to do, show our strength.  I hope we've earned some respect from other guys out there that saw how good our car drove, how good we ran.

Hope we can get a little more help Sunday when it comes time to really get paid.

Q.  Tony, you've talked about how pleased you are with where you're at.  Could you have gotten to this point without the aid of Hendrick and his group?  Talk about the bond you have with those guys.

  No, there's no way we could have got this far, for sure.  Scott can tell you that from being at Haas last year.  It's a support system.  You really rely heavily on that organization 'cause they're doing your chassis for you, they're doing our engines for us.

Obviously those are two of the biggest components and key components of producing a racecar.  So definitely couldn't have got to this point without them.

Mr. Hendrick is such a great guy.  He's been the biggest supporter of us doing this, making this change.  There's times he's called me at 11:30 at night saying, Hey, is there anything I can do?  How is it going?  How are you doing?  He knows it's been a stressful off season.  He's kind of been the calming hand on my shoulder saying, Hey, it's going to be all right; you're doing a good job.

Q.  Tony, you've had two races with Darian on the pit box, a new spotter.  How is that going communication wise?

  Bob Jeffrey is our spotter.  I worked with him before in the past.  I've always been comfortable with him.  Working with Darian has been a small adjustment.  I was talking to Mr. Hendrick earlier today.  I said it's really amazed me at how calm he is.  He's so even keeled.

I almost want to start messing with him just to see if I can get him off center a little bit.  I haven't seen him get mad yet.  You barely can get him to laugh sometimes.  He smiles a lot, but he doesn't laugh a lot.

He's just very monotone about everything.  You can hear his confidence on the radio.  From a driver's standpoint, if the guy that is calling the race for you, making the calls for you is confident, it adds to your confidence and boosts your confidence.

You know, it's been really good.  It's obviously been a big adjustment going from Zippy to Darian.  But, you know, it's not been an unpleasant change by any means, to me.

I miss Zippy, but at the same time, I feel like I've stepped into a role with a guy that it doesn't seem like the first week we've worked together at a race.  It seems like we've worked together a lot longer.

Q.  Scott, you're a chip on your shoulder kind of guy.  Tommy Baldwin is a chip on his shoulder kind of guy.  You both have that "me against the world" sort of mantra against you.  When the team was announced a month ago, there were probably a lot of eye rolls.  What are they trying this for?  How motivating is that for you, him, everybody that's working there, Hell, they don't think we can do it?

That's the entire reason it feels so good to be able to be successful today, race our way into the Daytona 500.

Tommy is definitely a high-strung individual.  I think I can be very high strung at the same time.  So far we've worked together and talked things out so easy.  I'm sure we'll have some bumps in the road.  But so far it's been great.

You know, it's not the ideal situation.  I don't think Tommy or myself looked at last year and said, Hey, let's go race next year on a shoestring budget with no major sponsors and see if we can race all the races.  That's not what we want.

I think we both have the kind of mentality that we are backed into the corner and we are here to try to prove ourselves and fight our way out.

Right now it's been fun fighting that good fight with Tommy, somebody like Tommy, who is so strong, so confident, always positive about what we need to do, always thinking forward about what we need to do next time to be better, things we need to think about during the race.  He's got a long history of being a crew chief.  He has a pretty deep notebook about things he's learned in the last few years.  Hopefully we can continue to work on those things, prove ourselves together.

KERRY THARP:  Guys, congratulations to both of you.  A great performance out there today.  We wish you all the luck on Sunday.

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