CASEY MEARS, DRIVER OF THE NO. 25 NATIONAL GUARD/GMAC IMPALA SS AND CREW CHIEF, DARIAN GRUBB TALKED WITH THE MEDIA ABOUT THEIR START TO THE SEASON, THE NEW IMPALA SS RACE CAR AND THE TEAM IN GENERAL YOUR TEAM IS NOT OFF TO THE START THAT YOU...
CASEY MEARS, DRIVER OF THE NO. 25 NATIONAL GUARD/GMAC IMPALA SS AND CREW CHIEF, DARIAN GRUBB TALKED WITH THE MEDIA ABOUT THEIR START TO THE SEASON, THE NEW IMPALA SS RACE CAR AND THE TEAM IN GENERAL
YOUR TEAM IS NOT OFF TO THE START THAT YOU HAVE HOPED
GRUBB: "No, we're definitely not off to the start we had hoped. With Hendrick Motorsports and all the resources we have there we were expecting to start a lot better with the National Guard/GMAC team. The attitude's there, we know we have got the equipment and stuff to do that so we're really trying to build it. A lot of it's more where we have a new driver, new crew chief; everything's all new so we're trying to get everything together and make Casey comfortable in our cars. I think it was a big change for him changing manufacturers and stuff and the downforce adjustments and things like that that you've got to get used to. So now we're building cars. the cars we've got here - we've got the Impala SS so everybody's more on an even playing field and I think it shows and Casey's ability is able to show. We're happy to get out there and qualify up towards the front. We're going to be a lot better this weekend I think."
DO YOU THINK YOU GUYS ARE BEHIND BECAUSE OF YOUR LAST-MINUTE APPOINTMENT AS CREW CHIEF?
GRUBB: "I'm not going to say we're really behind, I say it was just more of we didn't understand what Casey was looking for in a race car. With a new driver coming in, there's a lot of changes. Styles that they are used to, the brakes, the aerodynamics, the spring packages, everything else that they are used to driving. It takes a while to develop that comfort level with the current cars. There's always a second-guessing, that question in the back of their mind what is wrong. And then we can look at all of our teammates and we'd be right in the mix with what they had for setups and stuff. We couldn't figure out why we couldn't get the speed and then we'd get to the middle of the race, even though we're two laps down we're running lap times with those guys; we're running towards the middle of the pack. So we knew the capability was there, we just have to stop getting in those situations where we're laps down and just be more consistent?
IF YOU WOULD HAVE HAD THE OFF-SEASON WITH HIM, WOULD THERE HAVE BEEN A DIFFERENCE?
GRUBB: "I say it may have helped a little bit, just me and him personally, but our communication level has been really good so far. We've had all the support from all the other drivers and teams at Hendrick Motorsports that I don't think we're missing anything. I don't think it would have changed anything because we still had those same four cars that we were going to take to those first four races and we hadn't had enough time to change that. I don't think it would have changed anyway because that's the staple we have to bring to the race track."
ARE YOU NERVOUS ABOUT THE TOP 35 DEAL? YOU'RE 32ND IN OWNER POINTS.
GRUBB: "Of course. That's what it's all about. It definitely puts more pressure on us to stay in the top 35 because you'll have to come in and qualify for your positions after that. But also, I see light at the end of the tunnel. We're making the cars better, Casey's getting more comfortable. We're making changes; we're doing tests. We've tested almost every week so far just trying to get better. We're making a lot of changes at the shop. Everybody at Hendrick Motorsports and the National Guard/GMAC team is working really hard just to make those changes to get better."
IS CASEY FEELING ANY PRESSURE? IS THE SLOW START BOTHERING HIM?
GRUBB: "The slow start is definitely frustrating everyone on the team because we know what we have there and we know what we're capable of. We're really looking forward to actually getting out there and finishing. With Vegas we think we've made good ground and had a pretty good race car but we got taken out seven laps into it. So we didn't get a chance to prove that. But the guys worked really hard, got the car back out on the race track and we finished the race. That's what it's all about, just getting as many points as we can and that nine points we gained in the race just making it back out on that race track is going to prove to be very valuable when it comes to the end?"
HAVE YOU EVER HAD TO MAKE A RACE ON SPEED?
GRUBB: "Absolutely. It's definitely is a stressful event. It's something you really don't look forward to doing but when you go in you still know what you have to do to proceed - you've got to be in the race on Sunday."
CASEY MEARS JOINS THE SESSION: We're definitely not happy with where we're at in points and the results that we've had so far but I think that looking at where the team was when we first got a hold of it and Darian's seen some areas where we've really improved the cars based on preparing them for the No. 24 and No. 48 and body-wise and things like that. By now we didn't start the way we wanted to but I've think we've seen all the room we've had for improvement and I think we should be pretty good pretty soon. We've got a new car coming for Texas and I think that should work out well for us."
CAN YOU JUST GO TO THE NO. 24 AND NO. 28 TEAMS FOR SETUPS, ETC.? "Absolutely. We can do that; we've got a lot of options. The main thing is just getting our cars like theirs so we can compare notes. I think that when the No. 48 started their team they based everything off the No. 24 just so they knew they had a strong base and could relate to what they were doing. Then they kind of went down their own route from there and right now we're taking cars that are not bad cars, just different than what they are and it's hard to compare notes. I think that come Texas the new Impala SS will be a good starting spot for us because all that stuff's the same so we can compare notes here at Bristol and Martinsville. Then going to Texas we're going to have a car that's very, very similar to the No. 48 so we'll be able to compare notes and do a lot better. I think that we're going down that road of getting things similar just so that we can establish a base and once we do that we'll be able to move on from there."
WHY ARE YOUR CARS DIFFERENT FROM THE NO. 24 OR NO. 48 CARS? "I don't know exactly. Right now it's very open at Hendrick Motorsports. They give the chiefs a lot of leniency on the direction they want to go. It's not that it was the wrong direction or bad direction but definitely not the right direction for me. The way the cars were previously built just aren't agreeing with the things that I like. Comparing the cars that we ran at the beginning of the season compared with what the No. 48 and No. 24 are running now, there's some pretty big discrepancies aero-wise. Based off last weekend and going into next weekend. Going to Texas we're going to be the first car that we've had built that's really similar more in line with what the No. 48 has going on."
CAN YOU USE ONE OF THEIR CARS? "It's something that we talked about and we definitely thought about doing that but with the new car coming in it's been more difficult because instead of building a bunch of intermediate cars like they typically would they built a few. So there's not as many cars for us to choose from. If it would have been last year we probably would have had the opportunity to take one of their cars and make that a little bit easier. But they only have a couple cars that they've built this year just based of having to build several."
HAVE YOU TESTED ANY OF THEIR CARS? "I haven't. The only time I ever jumped in someone else's car was when Kyle (Busch) and I were doing the Busch test at Vegas - I jumped in his car for a little bit. But that's a totally different animal than what we're doing on the Cup side. We've talked about doing a lot of different things. The cool thing is that there's a lot of effort behind it right now. Rick (Hendrick) is really making it a priority to get our team up to speed."
IS IT ON YOUR MIND THAT IF SOMETHING BAD HAPPENS TOMORROW YOU'LL BE FORCED TO QUALIFY NEXT WEEKEND ON SPEED? "Yeah. It's definitely in your thoughts. I think the best thing you can do is just not think about it. You've got to go out and just run your best race because the problem is if you go out there and - like in qualifying, if I went out there and tried to overdo it and hit the fence, our situation would have been worse. In the race, if we try to be conservative you can get caught up in something that's not your fault just because you're being conservative. You just have to go out and run a race like normal and hopefully we come out of here decent. Obviously we'd like to win but if we can get out of here with just a solid finish we can just pad ourselves on the points deal."
DO YOU REMEMBER WHEN THE LAST TIME WAS YOU HAVE TO QUALIFY ON SPEED? "It was my first five races with Ganassi. We had to qualify for every race."
DID YOU THINK SUCCESS WOULD BE AUTOMATIC COMING TO HENDRICK? "Everybody had high hopes and we still do but I don't think anybody expected us to get off on this rough of a start. At the same time, comparing notes and looking where we're at we see that there's a long way to go to get this team up to speed. It's small things but it takes time to get there. Just because we have to build cars and do all that to get to the point where we need to be..."
DO YOU THINK IT'S BECAUSE THAT CAR HAS ALWAYS HAD A PROBLEM? "I don't think it relates to any of that. That's been an ongoing theme that this No. 25 car has never really ran good. It's been through so many different changes and so many people's hands that I don't think that it's the case. I just think it's a matter of getting a good program together. I think that Darian coming aboard has been a big help. He has always focused more on the No. 48 and as a head team engineer he learned a little bit about what everyone was doing. Now when he came in he's able to go back to where his roots kind of came from, working with the No. 48 in the beginning. Right now they're the team out of the whole company that seems to be running the most consistently fast. We're going to start basing things I think more off of them and looking at what they are doing and hopefully get some sort of baseline so that we can find our direction from there."
DO YOU THINK THAT THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN YOU AND JUAN MONTOYA IS THAT HE GOT INTO A CAR THAT WAS READY TO GO AND YOURS NEEDED SOME WORK? "Coming into this deal I realized from talking with Brian Vickers and the team what we were getting into. We knew there was some work; we just didn't know what it was going to take to get there. Knowing that all the tools are there and having the help of a team that won the championship last year, the capabilities of getting to that point are there. Now just being here we're uncovering a lot of little things that we need to improve on to get to that point and it definitely needs a lot of work in a lot of little areas. And we're getting there, slowly but surely knocking down those walls and getting where we need to be. The No. 42 car was definitely more established as far as the crew has been together forever now and they have a base. Juan has been doing an excellent job too. Really stepping in from the type of cars he's been driving into stock cars for the first time, to run as well as he did in Atlanta. He's been qualifying well and he's been doing an awesome job on top of that."
WOULD IT HAVE HELPED YOU IF YOU HAD DARIAN EARLIER ON? "I think anytime you make a late change. We're still in that learning process of learning each other and trying to grow. The earlier he would have been there the sooner we could have got caught up on things. At the same time, if we would have got to run a little bit last year we would have been better off for this year. Until we were actually able to run one of those cars I don't think we would have been making those changes that we're making now. It's one of those things that it's frustrating because we got off to a rough start and we're not where we need to be in points at all and it's surprising that we're here but at the same time there's a huge room for improvement and we see where it is. If we were sitting here saying 'we don't know what's going on and we're confused that would be frustrating but we know there's a lot of improvement and we know where it's at."
DO YOU FEEL A LOT OF DIFFERENCE IN THE NEW CAR? "Here it's very minimal. This is the place where it's going to be the most minimal. It's a very mechanically based track. It's very minimal on aero. The new car is much different aero-wise than it is mechanically. Where you are going to see the bigger disparities is at Atlanta and Charlotte and Texas. I think the feel is similar here. It's a little bit different mechanically - it's inherently a tighter race car so it's harder to get the car to turn. Time-wise it's not that far off and racing is not going to be a while lot different than it has been before."
IN THE LAST PRACTICE, WHAT QUESTIONS DO YOU WANT TO HAVE ANSWERED FOR TOMORROW? "We're kind of going at this as routine. Right now we're a little bit tight and we're trying to focus on getting the car to turn the center as best we can. It seems like you have to give up a little bit on entry, making the car looser than you want it to be just so you can turn to center but it's typical Bristol. We're just working on balance and there's that big of an issue with it."
YOU WERE SAYING YOU KNEW WHAT YOU NEEDED TO WORK ON. CAN YOU ELABORATE? "I think it's just a little bit of continuity within the team. Definitely differences in the cars as far as aerodynamically and we're working on getting more parity there between the No. 24, No. 48 and No. 5. All that stuff is starting to come along and get better. It sounds like it's really big things but it's not. When you're talking tenths of a second and you're way off it's small things that make a big difference. I think it's just Darian getting his arms around the whole thing and polishing up all those details is where we're going to see the big differences."
-credit: gm racing