MIKE SKINNER, NO. 4 KODAK PONTIAC GRAND PRIX - Qualified 3rd: IS THE EXTRA HUNDRED MILES AT THIS RACE TOUGHER ON YOU THAN SOME OF THE OTHER RACES? "I don't think 600 miles at Charlotte is one bit tougher than 500 laps at Bristol. You ...
MIKE SKINNER, NO. 4 KODAK PONTIAC GRAND PRIX - Qualified 3rd:
IS THE EXTRA HUNDRED MILES AT THIS RACE TOUGHER ON YOU THAN SOME OF THE OTHER RACES?
"I don't think 600 miles at Charlotte is one bit tougher than 500 laps at Bristol. You know, Martinsville Bristol, Dover, Rockingham, Dover, those places, are extremely tough. What this place is taxing on is your equipment. I think you really have to condition yourself to make it through any of these races, and you might be worn out at the end, and it really takes a lot out of your car. You've got to be real careful early in the race because obviously if you knock the fenders in early in the race, it's a long day at this place."
ISN'T THE CHASSIS JUST AS IMPORTANT IN A 600-MILE RACE AS THE ENGINE?
"I think that's the communication between the crew chief and the feedback that we're giving the crew chief. If the crew chief and everybody in the pits does there job, and the tire specialist makes the proper adjustments for the way the car's changing, what our job as drivers, from my standpoint anyway, is to give them the proper feedback. There job is to make the right decisions. I might have to help with that decision some, but I still think it's there job on how to fix the car and how to make us more competitive. I will say this, I don't look at this tire to be as sensitive as what some say."
"Our car was real good off the truck. I think we were 11th in practice. I honestly didn't think - unless we really made some great adjustments to our Pontiac - that we could start in the top three or four. I thought maybe in the top 10 or 12 if I hit my marks and everything went right. We changed the gear right before qualifying and it was a pretty bold chance since we're sitting 39th in points with a car that we knew we could get into the race with. But, you've got to be a little risky once in a while. This was the only race I ever missed when I was with RCR. But we mashed the gas hard and the car was a little bit loose. I think we gave up a lot in (turns) 1 and 2. We ran through 3 and 4 real well. Our car ran real well up the straightaway. They changed the engine combination this week and the engine was real good and the gear change obviously was positive. Our Pontiac ran good."
ARE YOU SURPRISED TO QUALIFY THIS WELL AND WILL THIS MARK A TURNAROUND FOR THE TEAM?
"No, I'm not surprised. Our turnaround would show up on Sunday, not Friday. I used to be known for qualifying pretty good. Since I've been with this race team, I've really struggled with that. We qualify fairly good at two or three races a year and then we've struggled a lot. It's just (about) communication and getting the right set-up under the car. Either I'm saying the wrong things or they're hearing the wrong things and we're really working on that. Larry (McClure, team owner) and I had a long meeting on that yesterday about where we grade ourselves with our communication. I thought it was a 'D'. So we had another meeting today with Chris and Tim and everybody and we started picking that apart to see what we can do to make that better. We exercised that the best we could. Our car wasn't terrible last week. It's not like we just came in here and turned everything around overnight because it was pretty decent last week. I made a pretty bold move in a 10-lap shootout and bent the right fender an inch and a half. That killed our chances to win the Open.
"This communication is the biggest thing and what's under the hood has a lot to do with everything. They made gains on the engine today. Knock on wood. If you look at last year's stats and this year's stats as far as blowing up, it's a lot. We've crashed seven times. We've been a victim six of those. One of them was my fault. That probably has a lot to do with where we are in points. We've had some bad luck. We've had a pretty good car a few times. I love the Pontiac. I love the body. Our engines are much better. As far as a turnaround goes, we'll see what happens on Sunday. We've got to start getting some top 10 and top 15 finishes. When we can start doing that consistently then we can say yes, we're starting to turn things around."