ERNIE IRVAN (No. 36 M&M's Pontiac Grand Prix): "I really don't believe that anyone or anything owes me. We have been in contention to win at least two of those Indy races and we were competative in many others as well. There is no doubt...
ERNIE IRVAN (No. 36 M&M's Pontiac Grand Prix): "I really don't believe that anyone or anything owes me. We have been in contention to win at least two of those Indy races and we were competative in many others as well. There is no doubt that I would love to win at Indy. The Brickyard would be an awesome start."
CAN YOU TALK ABOUT THE INDY RACE WHICH YOU LOST AFTER A LONG BATTLE WITH JEFF GORDON? "I can't guarantee that I was going to win the race. It was a tough feeling to know that I was in the right position to win it, at least finish second, but, it just so happened that we blew a tire out and there is not much we can do about that. It would have been different if I had run the curb over or crashed or something, because I could at least blame someone. What happened was we ran over some debris on the track and got a flat. It just wasn't meant to be and it was hard to take."
WAS IT EVEN MORE DISSAPOINTING TO CUT A TIRE BECAUSE IT WAS INDY? "Yes, it was very disappointing for the whole team. That year we were an awesome race team. Everywhere we went we where qualifying in the front and running with the leaders. That is something that we would like to get back to."
HOW IMPORTANT WOULD IT BE TO WIN THREE INDY POLES IN A ROW? "I can't say that we are going to put any extra effort into qualifying, because we put a lot of effort into qualifying every week. Last year when we were testing the M&M's Pontiac for Indy, all we did was test for qualifying runs. It was the same thing this year. All we did was qualifying runs to put us in the position to have a good lap in. If you can qualify first round, in the top 10, that starting position makes it a little easier for the next 400 miles."
HOW DO YOU DEAL WITH GETTING BACK INTO THE CAR AFTER A SERIOUS WRECK? "The best part about getting back into the car after that big wreck in the early 90's is that I didn't remember the accident. That makes it 100 times easier when you don't remember the crash. It really hasn't been bad."
DO YOU REPLAY THE LESS SERIOUS WRECKS IN YOUR MIND? "I really don't. If you actually thought about that stuff, you would have a lot of trouble getting into the race car each weekend. I really don't think about it. It is something that is out there and hopefully I can use my best efforts so it won't happen."
WHAT ARE YOUR FEELINGS WHEN YOU SEE OTHER GUYS WRECK AND GO THROUGH WHAT YOU DID? "Every wreck is a little different and everybody reacts differently. It is really hard to say that every injury is the same. The brain and the human body are so complex that I don't know if there is a crash or and injury that is exactly the same as another. Everything has an aspect that will prevent you from racing again and I feel that I am very fortunate every time I get back into the M&M's Pontiac."
OTHER THAN WINNING A WINSTON CUP CHAMPIONSHIP, IS WINNING AT INDY THE ONE THING YOU ARE LOOKING TO PUT ON YOUR RESUME? "There is no doubt that winning the Winston Cup championship is the ultimate accomplishment. Being able to win the Brickyard would be awesome. I have been fortunate enough to win the Daytona 500, but being able to win the Brickyard would be remarkable for me."
IS THERE MORE EMPHASIZE ON A RACE LIKE INDY BECAUSE OF YOUR HISTORY? "Obviously, I have been in contention to win that race a few times, and that makes you more hungry to win it. I guess if I had run 20th in the previous races, it would not be something that I expect myself to win. Obviously guys like Gordon and D.J, know what it is like to win this thing and they were in contention every year to win that race. I know that Indy is something that I want to put on my resume."
CAN YOU ASSESS WHERE YOU TEAM IS NOW COMPARED TO WHERE THEY WERE AT THIS POINT LAST SEASON? "I thing that we are in really good shape now. We started off like gangbusters and we felt we could compete in the top-10 every week. Then something happened and we had some real bad luck for a month and a half. Now we are back on that game plan again. We are not doing anything different, this is the same race team that I was with last year that was probably going to finish in the top-10 in points before I got hurt at Talladega. I think we have a lot of potential. Right now we're showing that we are a top-10 team. We can't use that as a limit on how good we can be; we've got to be better."
WHAT IS IT LIKE TO RUN A LAP AT INDY? "I think that Indy is an awesome race track and it is one of those tracks that you can really drive into the corner. If you ever run NASCAR 99, they really have a nice setup on what it is like to drive at Indy. There are two corners that are the same and then the other two corners are the same. Turns one and three are identical. You have to drive in as deep as you can, be able to get turned and stay on the bottom. You also must be able to accelerate off of turns one and three to be able to carry enough speed on the short shoots. Turn tow and four are very, very critical for being able to carry a lot of speed. That is where your big long straightaway is. It is a relatively simple race track."
TALK ABOUT THE HISTORY OF INDY AND HOW IT HAS TAKEN A LIFE OF ITS OWN. "I think that the Indy race has gotten very big. That is something we expected. I don't think it will surpass the Daytona 500, but, it is running a close second."
TALK ABOUT WHAT IT IS LIKE TO DRIVE INFRONT OF THE INDY CROWD. "We never feel it while driving. We do feel it when we get introduced and we see 300,000 to 400,000 people in the stands, but when we are driving we forget about the crowd and concentrate on the road."
CAN YOU TALK ABOUT THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THE RACE YOU LOST BATTLING GORDON AND THE RACE YOU LOST BATTLING JARRETT AT INDY? "The race I lost with Gordon, there wasn't much I could do. When you blow a tire there is nothing you can do. The race with D.J. was a great race. My teammate won the race so I can't be mad about it, but, I also looked at it as I had an opportunity to win the race and I just didn't do it."
TALK ABOUT THE CHEMISTRY AND FUTURE WITH YOUR CREW CHIEF. "I think the chemistry is very good. Obviously, Ryan is younger than me and maybe some of his spirit can rejuvenate my career. Ryan is an up and coming crew chief, but it is not like he put on his resume that he won the Daytona 500. Those are the things that we hope to put on our resumes together."
AFTER WINNING TWO CONSECUTIVE POLES, IS THERE A LINE ON INDY'S TRACK THAT YOU TRY TO FOLLOW? "The line doesn't change at all. That race track layout is so consistent. It is a great race track. Right now, I could go there a qualify 30th or sit on the pole. It just happens that sometimes I have had a perfect lap and that is what it takes to sit on the pole at Indy."
HOW HARD IS IT TO CHASE INDY, TO FIND THE RIGHT COMBINATION, TO GET THE INDY POLE? "The line doesn't change but the track conditions change all the time. The actual line to drive doesn't change, but the race track changes by the minute depending on how cool it is or how hot it is. Our chances to sit on the pole are less if it is hot out there. If it gets cool, I think that we have the right setup. Last year it rained and I went first, so that was something that helped. I don't know how I would have qualified because the weather never changed. Indy is so critical on getting a picture perfect lap, so, it is tough."
DO YOU FEEL GOOD ABOUT PONTIAC'S DIRECTION THIS YEAR? "For sure. The Pontiac is a great car. Right now if all the Pontiacs were struggling we would say it is tough to make a Pontiac run. But right now, Labonte and Stewart are running very good. We know that the Pontiac is a good body and we can't use the Pontiac as an excuse."