MICHAEL WALTRIP , NO. 15 NAPA CHEVROLET - Qualified 2nd "Everybody made a big deal out of Dale Jr. in lay person's eyes hanging me out at Talladega. I didn't see it that way. I pushed him to the lead. We ran out of steam. He is very smart and...
MICHAEL WALTRIP , NO. 15 NAPA CHEVROLET - Qualified 2nd
"Everybody made a big deal out of Dale Jr. in lay person's eyes hanging me out at Talladega. I didn't see it that way. I pushed him to the lead. We ran out of steam. He is very smart and very in tune to what's going on. We were out of steam. Instead of both of us falling back, he did what I would have done. He got over and got in line. Unfortunately that messed me up. At that point it's five to go. It's not time to worry about Mike. It was time to cover Dale Jr.'s butt. He did that. I would have been back up there again if Brian Vickers hadn't had that wreck with four to go and they had the caution. We're good. We understand what it takes to be successful. We'll work hard at doing that Saturday night."
ON HIS RECENT GOOD RUNS
"We ended 2003 and we were as good as anybody on pit road. We were fifth at Phoenix. We had the race at Loudon won. We ran top five at Homestead and broke, blew a tire and hit the wall. We started 2004 thinking we'd be championship contenders. A couple of wrecks messed that up. Mainly what messed it up was performance. We weren't able to run right. Instead of pointing fingers at one another, we decided we had to do something with the cars. We had to change them. We test them every day at the wind tunnel for aerodynamics sleekness and downforce. What we had was huge. It was great but it wasn't working for me. Slugger, being the genius he is. He's a car guy. He's a genius when it comes to cars. He knows every corner and twist to a race car. He knew how to change them from the way they were to the way they are now. Richmond was the first race for a new body, a new aerodynamically balanced body. It was the first race for a new engine combination that Richie Gilman and those guys put together. We run it ever since them. With the exception with the wreck at Pocono, we haven't been out of the top ten. We had a great car at Pocono too until that happened.
"It's real rewarding to see a team doing about face and not just ask the question, how'd that happen and people say 'I don't know.' We know what we did and why it happened."
DESCRIBE WHAT IT TAKES TO RUN WITH DALE JR. AT TALLADEGA
"We don't ever talk about it. We just know how to do it and we have fast cars. Don't ever underestimate the importance of the fast car part. I would venture to say that because of our equipment it makes us look a lot smarter than we are. We understand how to draft. I've been a good drafter since I began. I've always done good at these races. I will tell you that I think I can draft better than anybody out there. I think that I know how to put my car in places and set my car up that let's me take advantage of such a great race car. We just always wind up at the same places. That's because we're both good at what we do. We get our cars up there where we belong."
HOW DO GAINS IN LAST SEASON FACTOR INTO GAINS THIS SEASON
"What it means is after six races of 2004 we were 38th in points and in dire straights. Over the last six races, we've been a top five car in the points. You average those together with the ones in the middle and we're 18th in points. We have our work cut out for us. It might be a bit of a stretch to think we'll make the top ten. With runs like we've had at Charlotte and Sears Points, we're certainly geared to that and believing it can become a reality. If we make the top ten, we'd have to be considered a team to be reckoned with in those final ten races. I think that sometimes that you have to be smart to play stupid and I play stupid a lot. I told you all this points deal would be good and it is. It's everything we needed in this sport. Think about the NFL without the Super Bowl. Think about Major League Baseball without the World Series. It doesn't make no sense. My point is, you got to have a playoff. I know NASCAR doesn't like to call it that. It is what it is. You got to have that. It's just adding so much to the sport. It's giving y'all so much to take to the fans. I noticed they mad a couple of bad calls at Wimbledon, I thought NASCAR was the only ones that screwed things up. With all the things that are bad, there's a whole lot of good stuff about it."
DO YOU HAVE A SHOT TO COME BACK?
"I think we have a shot. I've crunched all the numbers and quite frankly it's a stretch but not impossible. If one of those races that went so wrong early in the year didn't, but unfortunately it did. That's what inspires people that are competitors to dig down. When you can make it work with the numbers, you don't give up."
DO YOU SEE HENDRICK AS THE CLOSEST COMPETITOR TO DEI?
"He (Jeff Gordon) won Talladega and he's on the pole here, so yes. Each week somebody is going to be good. We could come here and Gnassi could have a hit on it. With the whole Roush Yates deal you never know where it's going to come from. It's a battle. You have to find out who is good that weekend."
IF YOU DON'T MAKE THE CHASE WOULD IT BE A LOST SEASON?
"That would become a big deal. We need to win a couple of races and finish 11th, that will give us a tremendous amount of momentum for 2005. What drives me nuts is someone that is 17th in points complaining they're not in the running for the championship. They did have a shot in getting in the top ten if you run it out for the rest of the year. It's offering folks within grasp of the top ten with the chance to win a championship. That's never happened before. This year you're still in and as a competitor that's exciting to me that you can dig yourself into a hole and still get out."
ON A ONE-RACE PLAY OFF
"I think that is ridiculous. Is the Super Bowl one game? The only people that have it made are guys like Junior and Jimmie Johnson. They can plan right now over the next 10 races, they can test and prepare for the Chase for the Championship basically without worrying about being in it. They're in it. They've done the job to be in it. Everybody else's position is unsure and many positions are precarious. I think that's interesting that Junior and Jimmie can say 'we can fall back and forth from first to second, but you can write our names in ink that we're in for the Chase for the Championship.' One thing I would have done different is that I would have invited 12 teams in to race for the top ten in points and made the top ten a big deal. If you finished 11th or 12th you had a chance but you couldn't pull it off and you're just like in the history of the world.
"You didn't finish in the top ten and you're not going to be on the stage in New York. I think that would have been a cool twist. Make 12 people eligible for the championship, but only award 10 of them with the top ten points. For what you said, you have to be consistent over a quarter of the season in order to become champion in the Chase for the Championship. You have to be consistent over the entire season to even have a chance at the championship. That's a lot difference than giving everyone one chance at Homestead. I think that's a fair way to answer that question."
IS THIS A PATTERN MORE LIKE AN NCAA CHAMPIONSHIP?
"Isn't that fair? The people that did the job from the beginning - your Kentucky's and Duke's and your Austin P's and Carolina Wilmingtons are fighting to trying to grasp a chance that they can get in. That's why I think my comment about inviting 12 in to the Chase for the Championship and only awarding 10 works. If you're part of the top 10 at the end of the year, then you're not worried about finishing 11th. You're focused on winning a championship. There's really no consequences if you have problems since you're locked into 10. That was my only suggestion that they do different. That didn't go over too well. They didn't respond to that."
ON SEVEN CHEVROLETS BEING IN THE TOP TEN
"A Ford is third. Chevrolet has won nine races this year and no one else has won more than four. When the rules were made to when everything was the same, it's just my opinion that Chevy has the best teams and that Chevy gives the best technical support and helps up the best. I'm partial. I grew up with a family that drove Chevys and always wanted to race Chevys. You can't argue with that. Chevrolet has won the most races. It seems like week in and week out Chevrolets are the cars to beat."