SCOTT RIGGS (No. 10 Valvoline/Stanley Tools Dodge Charger) ARE YOU CONCERNED ABOUT DAYTONA 500 QUALIFYING? "Everyone is open-minded right now. Everyone is positive with each other. Two heads are better than one any day of the week. We feel ...
SCOTT RIGGS (No. 10 Valvoline/Stanley Tools Dodge Charger)
ARE YOU CONCERNED ABOUT DAYTONA 500 QUALIFYING? "Everyone is open-minded right now. Everyone is positive with each other. Two heads are better than one any day of the week. We feel pretty confident that we're going to post a good number. We feel like we can be in the top 10 qualifying. The good thing about it is I think we've got a car that can qualify in the top 10 and can draft well at the same time. That's very important. That's something we were able to have with the car last year here. I think we've been able to build a car that's equal to if not better than what we had here last year. I'd love to sit on the front row and be guaranteed and not have to worry about it. That's what all the guys work for, but if we don't, I'm confident that the car will be good enough to qualify in the top 10 and stay up there and get a good finish."
DO YOU FEEL ANY EXTRA PRESSURE? "It's not the kind of pressure that 'man, we've got to do something. I've got to overdrive the car to make up for it.' I've got all the things I need. All I have to do now is not try too hard and make too many mistakes. This is the kind of pressure you want. This is the kind of situation you want to be involved in and the kind of team you want to be involved with. In the grand scheme of things it's probably a lot less pressure because you have so many things to work with and more people than before, different people with different parts of the team that weren't there with the team I was with before. It's just a good situation."
WHAT ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE THE ROOKIES? "It's a good, strong rookie class. The biggest thing I'd tell 'em when they come down to Daytona is don't be surprised if nobody drafts with you. When you've got that yellow stripe on your bumper it just seems that people are wary. They're going to take advantage of you as much as they can, but those guys are with good teams. They've done well in the Busch Series and I think they have a good foundation to come into Cup."
DO YOU REMEMBER YOUR FIRST RACE AT DAYTONA? "I was in a truck in 2001 and it was a blast. It was so fun to go out there and be full bore around the racetrack. The truck had so much drag and so much horsepower we had a huge slingshot effect back then. I don't know if the trucks still have that these days."
ANY PREDICTIONS FOR THE SEASON? "I feel pretty confident that we'll be able to qualify in the top 10 for the 500 this week. I think if we just hit our marks and everyone does their job and make very few mistakes on the track and off the track and at the shop, I think we can easily be a top 15 car. I think if things go well for us and we learn quickly as a team what we need to do that we can easily become a top 10 team and have several top five finishes and I expect to have some wins this year."
WHAT'S YOUR STRATEGY FOR THE BUDWEISER SHOOTOUT? "The Shootout is going to be cool. Our Shootout car is the best car Evernham had last year. I think it's the car that Kasey used as a primary car. It's really a good car. It's our backup car for the 500. It's fast, but the two cars are built so much different, yet they run so close to the same speed. They drive so much alike that it's going to be fun in the Shootout to know we've got nothing to lose and can do what we want to do and have a good time. This is my first Shootout. I hope I make a mark, but I hope it's not a bad mark."
COMMENT ON YOUR PRESEASON TESTING: "Probably the best time we had was when we went to Kentucky the first of January. We learned a whole boatload of information. We made great changes to the car. People had ideas and we'd put 'em all in a hat and pull from those. I think everybody on the team got a lot of answers that day as to what direction we needed to go. You can learn just about anything at Kentucky. You can't learn anything for Bristol or any of the short tracks, superspeedways or road course races, but so many other tracks are good for Kentucky."
COMMENT ON THE CHARGER: "I'm happy with our team and the cars our team are building. People keep asking me to compare Chevrolet to Dodge and that's so hard to do because it's so much about the team. Evernham Motorsports is a big step for me, and I'm happy with the cars right now. I think people are going to see what's been boiling over at Evernham Motorsports this year. This will be a year to prove myself, too."
JEREMY MAYFIELD (No. 19 Dodge Dealers/UAW Dodge Charger)
COMMENT ON PRESEASON TESTING: "We had a great test here. It was probably the best test I've ever had here, and hopefully it'll stay that way through the weekend. We went to Vegas and had an awesome test. We weren't that fast, but we didn't do anything in qualifying trim. We feel good about it. We went to Kentucky and did well. We went just before we went to Vegas. We took three cars and they were all pretty good."
OUTLOOK FOR 2006: We didn't have the year we wanted at all in 2005, but we still finished ninth in the points. All we've heard is what a sucky job we did last year. If we're that bad a lot of other teams were worse. The good thing about it is we made The Chase the past two years and haven't had the year we wanted yet. If we get a little bit better what's going to happen and we are a little bit better right now. That's what I'm confident in now. If we made it last year, we shouldn't have a problem this year."
WHAT DID YOU DO TO GET A LITTLE BETTER? "We switched our guys around. I feel like the whole team, Evernham Motorsports, is a better race team. We're working better together now than we ever have as far as all three teams. That will make us better. We've all got great pit crews. Our cars are as good or better. That should be enough to put us over the top."
WHAT ARE YOUR EXPECTATIONS FOR SPEEDWEEKS? "I want to finish in the top 10. Realistically, the top 10 or 15 would be awesome, but I'd really like to finish in the top five or win the race or be there at the end to have a shot to win. If you're not careful you'll let it all hang out here and get in trouble, so there's a fine line there. You've got to come here and race hard, but you can't let points dictate how you race. If you're running in the top five at the end, you've got to protect what you've got."
WHAT ARE YOUR GOALS FOR THE SEASON? "We want to make The Chase. I do have something to prove there, and when we make it this year-- The last two years, everybody doesn't realize I've been handicapped in The Chase, whether it was Robby Gordon or Slugger leaving. A lot of stuff happened, but we learned what to do. In the last 10 races, you've got to run to win the race, not run for points. If you're points racing in the last 10 you won't win the championship. There's a way you race the first 26 and obviously we've figured that out. Then there's a way you race the last 10, and I think we'll figure that out."
COMMENT ON THE CHARGER: I'm not sure we're asking for anything. I think we need something, but they ran the '04 car at Homestead and I don't know if that was better enough to where you need to go complain. We came in last year with a new body style and an inch off the spoiler. I'm not sure it just didn't hurt us all in general."
KASEY KAHNE (No. 9 Dodge Dealers/UAW Dodge Charger)
WHAT ARE YOUR EXPECTATIONS FOR SPEEDWEEKS? "If we get out of here and just leave with some fender damage from the Bud Shootout and 150s and run the same car in the 150s that we run in the Daytona 500 and not have to pull out a backup like we did last year, and take two cars home that are clean, that'd be great for me. If we do that, that would mean I finished both races. If we finish races, we'll be close to the top 15, maybe better. That would be a great way to start the season."
WHAT'S YOUR STRATEGY FOR THE SHOOTOUT? "I think it's basically a test session to see where our cars are and see what we need to do to get ready for the 500. We need to get them driving right and handling well. It's going to be a lot different in the 500 because it should be a lot warmer out. I remember getting beat on last year pretty bad throughout the race. It's a fun, wild race. We'll try to finish as high as we can."
COMMENT ON PRESEASON TESTING: Everything went great. It was probably our best preseason testing. In 2004 we had some great tests, too, but this year's was as good or better. Now we just need to get some cars around us to make sure it's as good as we'd hoped. We had some great tests, but last year when cars were around us it didn't handle quite as well. If we can make it as good around as it is by itself, we'll have a lot of fun this year. We did some short runs and long runs at Vegas, and I think I was most happy with the long runs. Our times didn't fall off as bad as some of the other cars. We did a lot of 20-25 lap runs and made a lot of adjustments. We found the best balance for the car, and it was very good when we left."
WHAT ARE YOUR SEASON-LONG GOALS? "We want consistency. We want to make The Chase and bring the cars home in one piece and not having DNF's. We're going to be patient this year and not overdrive the car if it's not right. I've learned that's something you can't do if you want to make The Chase."
RAY EVERNHAM (Owner, CEO, Evernham Motorsports)
NOTE: Evernham Motorsports and Ingersoil Rand announced the expansion of their partnership to include sponsorship of an Evernham Motorsports road course development program for 2006 with road racing ace Boris Said. Said will drive the No. 9 Ingersoil Rand Dodge Charger in the NASCAR Busch Series race in Mexico on March 5, and he may compete in the Watkins Glen Cup race later in the season.
"Kasey can't have another year this year like he had last year or there won't be people interested in sponsoring my cars," Evernham said. "We need to make sure we're limiting that with everybody. There's only so much you can do, but as the sport grows, there's a lot of low hanging fruit there and everybody wants it. I've talked about that with him. He and Erin (Crocker) both, this is a pivotal year for them. They just need to say look, this is all I'm going to do. Period. I haven't been able to scale him (Kahne) back much at all. What we're trying to do is make it more organized and not add anything."
COMMENT ON ERIN CROCKER: "We felt we were going to run two years Busch and then take her (Erin Crocker) to Cup. I still see her in 2006 truck, 2007 Busch and 2008 Cup. That's still my plan. I think we can get there. I think she's talented enough. We've just got to keep growing. If she makes all the steps this year, if she does as good in the trucks as I think she's going to do and she looks better in the Busch car, by the end of the year you might see her make a Cup debut, but it all depends on the steps. She'll be doing a lot of testing with our Cup guys and we can base how far she's coming along. At Kentucky we had her doing a lot of side by side racing with Scott Riggs and she did an excellent job."
COMMENT ON CHARGER: "I'm not losing three weeks (waiting on a test). I'm working hard to get the Charger going. I'm not waiting for a new car to come out. I'm not waiting for anybody or anything. I'm working on my stuff to get it going fast. That's what I've got to race. That's what my Dodge dealers sell, 2006 Chargers, and that's what I'm going to work on. I'm not waiting on anybody. I can't wait. I've got to make what I've got to run faster. If they come up with something that's faster, then I'll run it. We leave here and go to California and Vegas. I've got to get what we're running now better."
BORIS SAID (Road Course Driver, Evernham Motorsports)
"It's a thrill for me to be involved with Ray Evernham," Said said. "I get to drive this cool car in Mexico and secondly I've been working on testing his cars for road racing and working with his drivers. I'll probably go down the line with all of them. In the past I've never thought of myself as a teacher because I barely got through school. I've been pretty good to relating to these NASCAR guys how I drive a road course and some of them, like Dale Jr., it's really helped. I'm glad to be part of his team. I hope maybe I can make the difference in Kasey making The Chase and not making The Chase. If he had done a little better on the two road courses last year he probably would have made it. That's my goal, to help him as much as I can and maybe win a couple of these Busch road races. That would be a big career booster for me."