CHIP GANASSI (Owner Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates Dodges) "PIP, performance, innovation and partnership and we hold those as our core values like you said. That's a reminder of what we're all about as a team. We want to keep coming...
CHIP GANASSI (Owner Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates Dodges)
"PIP, performance, innovation and partnership and we hold those as our core values like you said. That's a reminder of what we're all about as a team. We want to keep coming back to that as a starting point. We're in the racing business and performance is what it's all about. Innovation is not a word you might use around the NEXTEL Cup Series, but there are some things we can do to bring some innovative ideas on and off the track. We're all about partnership. We have some great partners in Coors, Chevron/Texaco and Target. It takes partnership today in this business. We want to keep driving home those three core values in our company.
"Jamie was rookie of the year last year. He has a lot of energy with his team coming into 2004. We're looking for he and Donnie (crew chief Wingo) to make that step into the sophomore season. We had Casey in a lot of different cars last year, and we're looking for things to start coming together for him this year. We're looking for him to be in the top 20 this year. Sterling, let's face it, 2003 was not the kind of season we were looking for there. We need a little rebound there. We're looking for a little better performance out of the 40 car than last year.
"We like to think we set the bar a little high, so we do have high expectations. The guys at the shop have been working hard over the winter, and I'm looking forward to the new season.
"I don't know what was wrong with the (points) system we had, but having said that, I applaud NASCAR for trying to bring up some kind of playoff system. No other sanctioning body has ever done that. The good news is, if NASCAR feels that it's not working, I'm sure they're not afraid to go back on the decision. It wouldn't be the first time. I look forward to it I guess.
"This (NASCAR) is a little more challenging, maybe because I was in open wheel racing for so long. I enjoy 'em both. There is a lot more depth here. There are a lot more good teams, so it's a challenge I accept. I'm not going to turn my back on it.
"The more the merrier. This business is a tall order no matter if you're a manufacturer, car owner, driver. The fact that an outside manufacturer comes into this series with a rules package that has been refined and refined and refined... A lot of roads someone like Toyota goes down, whether testing, people have been there already and done that. The gains you make in this business are small and hard to find. I'm sure Toyota will be up to the challenge, but I don't think anything is going to happen overnight for them. They'll be formidable competitors in the future I'm sure.
"We've got three guys who get along and all are looking forward to the new season. They all have their own particular challenges they're going to be facing in 2004. It's a little bit of a calming effect going into the season with the same three guys you went into 2003 with. That's a big help, and I'm looking forward to it.
"It was a bigtime letdown (for 40 team in 2003). If you look at his season in an individual race-to-race basis, there was a lot of getting his car dinged and getting an inopportune flat tire from time to time. We had some things happen with the 40 car that we escaped in other years. Sterling is the type of person that forgets things fast, so we're looking forward to this year. We didn't have as much turnover. We lost five or six guys, but then you have 100 or so people, that's normal. I feel pretty good about our continuity with Glover and Andy. There's certainly speed in continuity.
"We specifically want to be better than last year. Each one of them have their own particular challenges. We want to get Sterling closer to the front. With Jamie, we want to make sure we don't have that sophomore jinx. Same way with Casey. We need to make the next step in his career. He needs to be a top 20 guys. That's a fact. We've done the training and it's time to put up.
"Everybody stands up and leads when they're called upon to do that. I haven't thought about anyone developing into a team leader. Don't throw Sterling out as the leader. He's got a lot of wisdom in there that he hasn't called upon.
"I expect some wins (from 42 team). I think he needs to go the next step, and Jamie's next step is winning two or three. Let's face it, that's the next step for him. Something short of that could be defined as not a good year. (Donnie Wingo) has impressed me, too. We were talking about starting a third team a year ago, and I think that 42 bunch with Donnie at the helm get the award for starting with no expectations and ending up where they did. Donnie is very cool on race day. He doesn't get rattled on race day or caught up in the moment. He sticks with his plan and stays calm under pressure. He's certainly a star in my eyes."
STERLING MARLIN (No. 40 Coors Light Dodge)
"The Busch (points) race came down within the last 10 laps and the truck race came down to the last lap to determine the champion. I thought we had a pretty good deal going. We had some tight points races on the Cup side, but I guess they wanted to spice it up a little bit. If they had done that in 2001, we would have won the championship, so whatever they want to do we'll do it.
"It (2003) was probably the most aggravating season I had in a long, long time. We led races and led the points championship in 2002. We had high expectations going into last year and things just didn't work out. We made some mistakes and got caught up in other people's mistakes and there wasn't anything we could do about it. All I know we'll just roll up our sleeves and work harder.
"You've got to be on your A game every weekend now. NASCAR has got everything pretty close. To me, they ought to give the guy leading after 26 races a bonus and the guy running 11th give him a bonus. It would be aggravating if you were leading and have two or three DNF's in the last 10 races and ended up losing the championship. I think it's going to be a deal, if you see you're going to end up in the top 10, you might so some more testing at different tracks or start building some new cars. It won't be a problem. You don't worry about the mule. You just load the wagon."
JAMIE McMURRAY (No. 42 Texaco Havoline Dodge)
"We made quite a few changes, not trying to keep up with the rest of the teams but trying to get ahead of them. We're very excited with what the guys at the shop have done over the winter and the changes we made within the team. I'm remodeling a house, and it's stressing me out, so I'm anxious to get started so I'm not home every weekend. I'm excited to get the season under way.
"If you get to go to the playoffs or whatever they want to call it, that's fine. If you're the first guy that's hung out, then no, it won't be a good thing. I think if you look at the last three or four races before they make the change they'll be pretty wild. I think we're going to Bristol or somewhere like that before that. I think guys will start looking at where they need to be to get in the playoff. I'm sure somebody will wreck someone, but I don't think they'll do that intentionally.
"I don't let it show (when I lose my cool). That's probably the worst thing that can happen in a racecar. You really need to focus and the worst thing you could do would be to start going off on somebody in there. There's really nothing you can do about it."
CASEY MEARS (No. 41 Target Dodge)
"I think last year was really valuable getting all that seat time. We noticed a big difference when I started running Busch races and ARCA races. We're working on trying to put together some Busch stuff this year as well.
"I want to be as consistent as I can this season and I think we can finish in the top 10 and top 15. We had a couple of tires blow last year when we were inside the top 10 and we had a motor blow running in the top 10. We got caught up in a couple of crashes. We had that potential last year. My third race was my best finish last year. I didn't know what I was doing. I've learned a lot and I know what I'm getting into this year. I think a top 10 or top 15 is realistic for us this year. I'll have to refine a lot of things, but I don't think the rule changes have made the eggs sunny side up instead of scrambled. I think we've just got to refine things. The softer tire and less spoiler will cater to us, I think. We ran well at the end of a tire run last year. We like a freer car, so I think the rule package will cater to us. We've made some subtle changes, but not near as much as last year.
"If I'm 11th and the top 10 advance, I'm real mad. If I'm 10th, I'm the happiest guy around. I think it'll create some positive situations for some people and some negative situations for others. Right now, everything is a happy medium. Everybody had the same shot until the end. Things change, but it's going to be frustrating wherever that cutoff is. How will the sponsor feel? Those top guys will have a cushion, but there will be big plusses and big minuses involved with this new points system."