California Mike Skinner pole position interview

MIKE SKINNER (No. 31 Lowe's Chevrolet Monte Carlo) "Track position is very, very important, but if a guy back there in 35th place gets his car hooked up and you have a long green-flag run, and he's running three-tenths of a lap faster than you...

MIKE SKINNER (No. 31 Lowe's Chevrolet Monte Carlo)
"Track position is very, very important, but if a guy back there in 35th place gets his car hooked up and you have a long green-flag run, and he's running three-tenths of a lap faster than you are, before long he's going to have track position because he's faster than everybody else. The main thing is to get the car handling real well and the rest of it kind of takes care of itself. You don't see that as much on big speedways as you do short tracks, but it's still just as important here. If you've got to lift off that gas when you get behind a car coming off a corner, you can't pass that car. You can't keep momentum up. You've got to be able to make a run at 'em, make your move and go on. If you're pushing, you ain't going to make it. Goodyear has brought us a pretty good tire here. The whole new concept with this tire, it's what we call a turning tire, they could have even went more with it here because we've still got some push here. Goodyear is really stepping up on making the cars handle better, making them safer. We can't have right front tires blowing out. Year before last it kept me from running this race because I'd had an accident with a blown tire.

"If omens mean anything, that means our chances are better, but I think the biggest thing we've got to work on, now that we've got the car qualified, we can focus on making the car drive good. We've had a hard time with this particular car pushing in race trim. This is the car we had at Atlanta. It was awesome at Atlanta. It pushed all day at Atlanta, but it was a little less than some of the others. We can work on getting this car to drive good, and I think that's going to better our chances more than a good qualifying spot. I think the guy in 42nd place, if he gets his car hooked up, he's going to be the guy to beat.

"We've got a lot of fans here and quite a following from California. I was born close to this place. It's not really my hometown, but I was born here. We do have a lot of fans in California. We had a great shot at the pole the first race they had here. We were way faster than second place on the last practice sheet, and I overdrove the car down there and we ended up the slowest car here the first round and then we were pretty good the second round. I thought about that when I went out to qualify and said if you overdrive the car you'll see the same movie you saw the last time you had a shot at the pole. We just tried to focus on hitting our marks. It wasn't the perfect lap. The car was a little bit tight exiting the corner coming to the flag and both corners on the lap. I really didn't have a lot of confidence in that lap standing up. If it had been down in the .50s, I'd say, if they can beat that they can have it. I was a little surprised that held up, but we'll sure take it.

"It's time for us to have a 10th (different winner).

"Goodyear just keeps making better tires and we keep making better horsepower. This is the best qualifying engine we've ever had at RCR, for the 31 anyway. I don't know about the other car. The cars are better. The bodies are better. The guys are getting the shocks better. The whole package, the technology and the type of help these race teams have got on them now, everybody just works hard on beating the other guy and that's why it's so competitive. It's tough. I never thought I'd have been this far in my Winston Cup career without winning a points race. This is a very, very humbling sport in Winston Cup. It's very tough here. It's just an honor to be able to be competitive."

"I love to race. I'm a racer. I'd race more races if I thought my schedule could stand it. The 31 car is what pays the bills and that's my main focus. Lowe's Home Improvement Warehouse is who I represent most. I'm just trying to help win.

"We got the Bud Shootout deal out of the way. We don't have to worry about that. We're in the Bud Shootout. We don't have to worry about running a qualifying race to get in that race. If we can just get this Winston thing worked on, we'd be OK.

"The lap was good, but it wasn't a perfect lap. The car pushed a little bit coming to the green. I had to roll out of the throttle just a little bit. Exiting two, the car was just a little high on the race track I thought, and then exiting four, I thought the car was too high on the race track. If I had

got good and straight off those corners and that thing had run that fast, I would have said it was going to be awesome. I just don't think anybody had that good of a lap, obviously.

"In a perfect world, that's what you hope for if you're NASCAR. I think it's really, really stepped up the sport. I'd sure like to be the 10th (different winner of the season) on Sunday. That 28 and 88 sure got a lot of horsepower. I think there's a few secrets.

"It's pretty tough. We sat in the lounge on the truck, and we were afraid to move our feet. You just sit there and wait and wait and wait. I know two of the poles I've got in my Winston Cup career have been when I went out really early. It's tough. If you're one of the last cars out, it's pretty easy. I know that when I first started driving Winston Cup for Richard, we took the Realtree car to Phoenix and we were on the pole all afternoon. Bill Elliott had not even been in the top 20. The last car that went that we thought could beat us was Bobby Labonte. He went and didn't beat us. We started getting down off the truck, and darn if Bill didn't knock us off. We didn't move today until the last car went.

"I think if you watched the race at Talladega it'd be hard to say there's anybody in this series that's not good. To see 42 or 43 guys lined up three or four wide and run 190 mph side by side that many laps, I thought the worst guy out here is pretty good. Probably nine more guys out there are capable of winning.

"I feel like I made a bad decision with six laps to go (at Talladega). Jeremy (Mayfield) went high to pass Mark and I went with Jeremy. Jeff Gordon chose to stay on the low side, and Jeff's and my car both were better on the low side. I should have stayed on the low side. I thought Jeremy was going too quick. When he jumped out there, I said, 'man, you've got to go with him or you're going to get shuffled back again.' I pulled out there just long enough for Jeff to get his nose under me, and it didn't take long to realize that I went in the wrong line. I tucked in back behind Jeff and that's all I could do. I think if this team had a couple of top fives and some good runs this year, I'd have probably jumped up on the right rear corner of Jeff's car in one and two and tried to pull the air off of him and draft by him. I think Kenny would have went with me. We all knew the Intimidator was back there and if we got out of line, he was going to be in the middle of all of us. I thought at that point in the game we needed a top five finish. We're going to win races. We don't need to panic. We just need to take the second-place finishes and start trying to get back in some good points races."

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About this article
Series Monster Energy NASCAR Cup
Drivers Jeff Gordon , Bobby Labonte , Mike Skinner