Daytona 500: Ganassi, Mears - Dodge interview

CASEY MEARS (No. 42 Texaco/Havoline Dodge Charger) COMMENT ON BUMP DRAFTING "I started here three years ago and my first year there really wasn't much bump drafting. I think Dale Jr. was the only guy doing it. Honestly it was kind of boring to...

CASEY MEARS (No. 42 Texaco/Havoline Dodge Charger)

COMMENT ON BUMP DRAFTING "I started here three years ago and my first year there really wasn't much bump drafting. I think Dale Jr. was the only guy doing it. Honestly it was kind of boring to me because all you were doing was riding in a line. If your line moved you went. Don't get me wrong. You have something to do with it. You have some control on what goes on, but with bump drafting you can create your destiny a little bit more in these races. You can help your line move, and that's what makes this racing fun. Ever since we started doing that, I've enjoyed this type of racing. Before that, it was just kind of boring.

"The whole way to solve it, and I think they did it already, I don't think there's anything else to change. Mike Helton warned us in the drivers' meeting that if we did it in certain areas we are going to get penalized. I thought the 150s were some of the cleanest 150s we've seen in quite awhile, yet there was still bump drafting and the cars were strong enough to withstand it. I've heard a lot of different things. I don't know exactly what they're going to do. If they soften the noses and stuff like that, that's one idea. I don't think that's a good thing. If the guy in front of you brake checks you a little bit and you cave in your then your race is over. The way the cars are now there could be a big crash and you could actually maybe hit somebody and continue to race. In my opinion, that's one of the worst things they could do. First of all it's not going to be fun because you can't bump draft. Secondly some guy could take you out if they wanted to just by brake checking you and thirdly if you get in a crash you're more likely to knock out a radiator which could take you out of the race for good. I don't know if that's the direction they're going to go, but I've heard that a little bit. I think it's fun the way it is right now. I don't think you can do anything else to really fix it. It's fun racing. I like getting bump drafted, and I like bump drafting people. As long as everybody is responsible and they do it in the right places, it makes racing more fun.

"I think guys that don't know how to do it are guys that are hitting in the wrong places. The wrong place here is in the corners. If you're bump drafting in the straightaways I think it's a great thing and it's fun. I like getting a shot from somebody that shoots me forward, and I like bumping other guys. You've got to be careful with how hard you hit, and it definitely takes a technique, but I think in half a race you can pick up on it pretty fast. Everybody has got a pretty good idea of how it is. I guess it's a big issue right now, but I think certain things have made it a bigger issue than it needs to be. We'll see how it all turns out. I think it's fun. Either way I'll be racing. I get paid to do this. I love to do it. If we are slamming each other I'll enjoy it. If we're not slamming each other I'll enjoy it, but I'd enjoy it more if we could bump draft a little bit."

WHAT KIND OF SHAPE ARE YOU IN FOR THE 500? "I think we're really good. The balance on our car is really good. In the first part of the 150 we were really tight. We made some changes through the race and our car got a lot better. We were able to make a late charge toward the front, which I was really happy with. We didn't have a banged up car. We've got a good car to start the 500 with. We made some improvements yesterday in practice. Because the 150s ran later the track was different, so it was important to get out yesterday and get in the heat of the day and figure out how your car is going to handle and respond. I think we've got a really good balanced car. We're just down on speed a little bit, but if we can get mixed up in the pack and get a few guys to work with us, there's no reason we can't get to the front."

WAS PRACTICE ROUGH YESTERDAY? "I didn't think so. Right now it kind of makes me laugh that some of you guys are making an issue of it being rough. These races have always kind of been that way. Before there was bump drafting there was two or three big crashes a race. Now that there's bump drafting there's two or three big crashes a race. It's not that different than it used to be. To be honest I think a lot of the crashes aren't caused by guys hitting from behind. It's the guys blocking out front that doesn't want to get passed. Regardless of what you do to try to change that, there's going to be big crashes. It's just sort of inherent in these races. Guys might be a little bit rougher here and there or I think a lot of it is a lot of the guys are learning the game more now. Back when Dale Earnhardt Sr. was here there were probably only three or four guys good at working the draft. Some of those secrets those guys knew have been passed on and right out of the gate rookies are getting information on how to work the draft. I know I've shared everything I've learned with Reed and David. Those guys pick up things fast. Everybody is learning the game now. To be fast at these tracks, you've got to run right up against these guys to work the draft and work the air around you. It's creating closer racing. Teams are better. The speeds that we're running and the quality of drivers we have and everybody trying to work that, it's creating maybe a few more issues. I don't think it's guys being more aggressive. It's just more guys learning that game now."

DO YOU FEEL SAFER IN THE CARS NOW? "I think it's all fun right now. I know what I'm getting into in this sport. I know what I signed up for. I'm happy to be here. It's a dangerous sport. Anything can happen at any time and you want guys to use their heads. At the same time, it's racing and you know things are going to happen. Nothing upsets me too much when it comes to being aggressive. Guys are out there trying to win races. I'm trying to do the same thing. NASCAR did a great job in the meeting. They stood up and said you're going to get penalized if you're overly aggressive. We had two great 150 races. They were clean. There really weren't any issues. To me, problem solved. Anything else they do above and beyond what they did in the meeting to me is overcompensating for something that really isn't that big of a problem. They can always improve on safety. They need to never stop research, but I hope they don't take that aspect away."

WHO'S GOING TO WIN THE DAYTONA 500? IS THERE A FAVORITE? "I guess you could pick a guy that's won it in the past. I wouldn't put my money on anybody. There's too many variables when it comes to these races. You've got to be in the right place at the right time and you've got to have a strong car to finish off. It's wide open. At the end of the day I hope it's myself. From year to year things change. >From year to year you find cars you work well with. I've had drivers that I don't even particularly care for but my cars works well with them so I'll work with them in this race. I'm going to get out there in the 500 and whoever my car works best with is the guy I'm going to try to position myself with at the end."

COMMENT ON THE DODGE CHARGER "I feel pretty good about it. There are some things we can do to improve it. I think the way we ran toward the end of last season we can get the job done. We've just got to put the pieces of the puzzle in the right place. As exciting as Daytona is, this two or three weeks gets kind of drawn out. You get excited to start the season and then it never really starts. I'm looking forward to Daytona. Hopefully we can win this race and then get to California and Vegas where we can really see what we've got on the downforce tracks. You've got to work with what you've developed. We've worked really hard developing the Charger. We feel like right now that's our best option."

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CHIP GANASSI (Owner Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates)

COMMENT ON BUMP DRAFTING "I thought Jeff Gordon said it best. He said nobody has a problem with bump drafting, it's slam drafting."

WHAT'S YOUR OPINION ON THE CHAD KNAUS SITUATION? "I think NASCAR needs to police it more. I'm sure Chad's a nice guy, and I've got a lot of respect for Mr. Hendrick and his organization, but you know what? They ought to throw cheaters out. If I have to get to the front by being outside the rules, I'm not interested. That's always the excuse. They say there's no rule written for that. Well, there were not a

lot of rules written in the Ten Commandments either, but I think everybody sort of understood the gist of them and what they meant. Every time I turn around that 48 car gets caught cheating. Whatever it (penalty) is, it better be pretty severe. We had a car taken away from us at Bristol. They took the car away for an infraction that was less than that. They took the car, threw out my crew chief and that was our first infraction ever. How many infractions has that 48 car had? Our sponsors are not Joe's Hot Dog Stand. We have major corporations working with us. They don't want to see us cheating. Certainly they want us to race and do well, but somebody has to be the traffic cop at the intersection and say wait a minute. That's not right."

DO YOU THINK SOME SPONSORS OVERLOOK CHEATING MORE THAN OTHERS? "Apparently. If you're taking pieces of the car and pieces within the rule book and do something with those, that's fine. To take those pieces and add to them to make them do something else is a huge step outside the box. If they give you a blade height and you change the spring to make the blade go to that height, that's one thing because you're taking the pieces of the car and moving them may be outside the rules. To actually build a piece with the specific intent of cheating is out of bounds. They took my car for a lot less of an infraction, for something that was not built for.... It was just out of measurement. I didn't build any pieces to make it illegal. When you start building pieces to make your car illegal that shows to me a severe intent to circumvent the rules."

DOES NASCAR LET SOME OWNERS GET BY WITH MORE THAN OTHERS? "I don't know. I hope not."

HAVE YOU EVER LEFT THE TRACK THINKING YOU GOT BEAT WITH SOMETHING YOU DIDN'T HAVE? "I've left the racetrack knowing I've been beat by something NASCAR didn't police. Yes, I left the track knowing if I'd had something that so and so had, we would have done better and NASCAR didn't pick it up. I'm not one to go run down and say look at that. Cheaters never win and winners never cheat. Again, it goes back to what I said. If you're within the box with all the pieces, that's one thing. If you're building pieces, that's another."

WHAT'S THE BIGGEST DIFFERENCE WITH YOUR TEAMS THIS YEAR? "Tony Glover said it best. He said all three drivers are drinking from the company water fountain. I can't take credit for that. That's Tony Glover."

HOW DO YOU SEE YOUR THREE DRIVERS STACKING UP FOR THE DAYTONA 500? "I'm happy. I think there's a lot of speed in the track. I've said this before. When you have teammates, there's a different atmosphere. I'm not throwing any of the drivers we've had under the bus. They're good guys and they did what they had to do. It's a different atmosphere when you're in the race meeting now. Everybody is working together."

IS CASEY MEARS STILL RIDING ON CLOUD NINE AFTER WINNING THE 24 HOURS? "That was a lot of fun. It was great to visit victory lane at Daytona. That was a fun weekend. To have the Target car in victory lane was huge. I can't explain to you how great it was to get your season off on the right foot. That was a way of doing it in a small way, but it went a long way in terms of getting everybody in the right frame of mind. That's the nice thing about having the Indianapolis operation and the Charlotte operation. They feed off each other. They revel in each other's success and they're damaged by each other's failures."

DO YOU THINK CASEY CAN PULL OFF THE DAYTONA DOUBLE? "I told him if he wins the Daytona 500 we'd have to get him a car for Indy."

DO YOU SEE A DAYTONA 500 FAVORITE? "I think it's going to be tough to beat the Big Three teams -- Hendrick, Roush and Gibbs. I think it's going to be tough to beat those guys. I'm hoping as it warms up it plays into our hands. That seems to be a bit of an equalizer."

COMMENT ON THE CHARGER "We went through the Intrepid exercise and we didn't see anything there that would solve challenges our team has. I can't speak for Ray or Penske or the Pettys, but in our analysis, and we're not the end all, get all, but we can't see where that's going to solve the challenges we're facing as a team right now. We led 60 laps at Homestead (in the Charger). I think if we weren't lapping the 20 car we might have been OK. First, the Dodge teams need to agree on what the challenge is. Let's face it. We thought we had a shot to win Miami and Charlotte and we blew a couple of those. We (Dodge teams) don't agree on what the challenge is."

-dodge motorsports-

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About this article
Series Monster Energy NASCAR Cup
Drivers Dale Earnhardt , Jeff Gordon , Chip Ganassi , Mike Helton , Felix Sabates
Teams Chip Ganassi Racing