Tuesday, Oct. 5,2004. Dodge Motorsports Teleconference Talladega Recap, Kansas Advance BRENDAN GAUGHAN (No. 77 Kodak/Jasper Dodge) NOTE: Gaughan, a Raybestos Rookie of the Year contender, scored his career-best finish Sunday in the EA Sports...
Tuesday, Oct. 5,2004.
Dodge Motorsports Teleconference
Talladega Recap, Kansas Advance
BRENDAN GAUGHAN (No. 77 Kodak/Jasper Dodge)
NOTE: Gaughan, a Raybestos Rookie of the Year contender, scored his career-best finish Sunday in the EA Sports 500 at Talladega Superspeedway. Gaughan's fourth-place finish gave him rookie of the race honors for the second straight week.
"If you had told me at the beginning of the year that I'd like restrictor-plate races I would be like most drivers and laugh at you, but Buddy Baker has helped a lot and the biggest difference for the Penske organization is when the Jasper Motorsports team became a part of the Penske Racing Team they made a big concerted effort on their superspeedway program. In the past, Penske Racing hadn't really had a designated superspeedway deal and they do now. That's the first car built out of that superspeedway shop. That car was just awesome. It went from 34th to seventh in one 25-lap run. It drafted well. It would do whatever we asked it to do. It would have done everything right if the driver hadn't entered pit road at about 120 mph. We probably never would have had a danger of going down a lap. In the end, it was a great strategy. Shane Wilson (crew chief) brought us in on lap 146 to pack it full of fuel and see if we couldn't stretch fuel mileage. When the caution came out I lugged it around the track and it actually started to sputter coming to the green flag on the bank because the fuel got away from the pickup. I went down to the apron, got fuel back in it and somehow it made it to the end and we got a fourth-place finish. It was a great day for the Kodak team.
"Kansas is a track I've raced at quite a bit, and we've had a lot of good runs there in everything from ARCA, Winston West, Craftsman Truck. We've learned a lot of things there and have done well there. It's one of those places we mark down as a good track for us. Midwest track, mile and a half, the type of place I like, it's widened out to be a good two-groove racetrack. Give it another year or so and it'll probably be three grooves, but it's a good place to race. It's my style of racetrack, and after coming off a fourth-place finish at Talladega the Kodak team is excited. We've got a special paint scheme for that weekend. We're running the Wizard of Oz paint scheme.They're re-releasing the Wizard of Oz on DVD, so we are one of four or five cars carrying the paint scheme. We think we have the best one. We have the Scarecrow because everyone says I don't have a brain."
COMMENT ON ALL THE RUMORS
"I guess most sports reporters need to justify their jobs somehow, so they've got to write something. We want to be better than 30th in points. I don't think any team races for 30th. If they did I don't want to be on it. We've been working hard. The guys in the shop have been steady putting cars together and they are focused very much on this Kodak deal, and we're also very focused on getting into the new Penske shop at the end of the year. It looks like late December when we'll be moving into the shop. Everybody can write what they want. It's what they have to do to justify their jobs, but I'm here until the end of the year and not really worried about it. This is what I want to do for a living, and this is where I'm at. If I could end up like Rusty Wallace and have Kodak on my chest for 20 years and be talking about retiring and who's going to replace me, that wouldn't bother me. It also wouldn't bother me if I could never race again because I've made it here and I've been able to do it. I proved I think that given the right circumstances we're able to."
IS IT DISTRACTING?
"It's distracting when you get so many people asking so many dumb questions. What bothers me is that I don't think anybody ever checks their sources, which is evident by most reporters all the way up to Dan Rather, but (only a) handful of reporters has actually asked me if it's true or not. I don't think anybody has asked Mr. Penske or Mr. Bawel or anybody like that. Don Miller, all he's been saying is we're in the car until the end of the year. So why does everybody have to keep asking me? Because they have to find something to write about."
HOW SPECIAL WAS THE TALLADEGA FINISH?
"We looked back and the Penske Organizaiton had a couple of seconds along the way at restrictor-plate races. It's been a while since they have. It was awesome. They built a superspeedway specific shop right in the back and that's all the guys are doing -- speedway bodies and speedway chassis and getting that program up to snuff. To see us come up through the field the way the Kodak Dodge did come up through the field.... We didn't back our way into fourth completely. Yeah, we did by fuel mileage and a great called by Shane and Doug Bawel, but we had been up there three or four times. We knew the car was good enough. It made the guys in the shop put a smile on their face. It's just what the doctor ordered for a lot of these guys. They loved to see it."
COMMENT ON DALE EARNHARDT JR. PENALTY
"It's his own fault. We're in a day and age now where we're no longer.... We made a comment about when his father raced and was very pumped up. We've got to be able to be that way, but it's a corporate-sponsored world now. I represent Kodak What if I came out and said something like that? I think I would get a bigger fine from my sponsor than NASCAR. The best thing about it, NASCAR is being consistent. They applied the exact same penalty to myself last year, to Johnny Sauter earlier this year. They've been consistent with their calls on it, and I think everybody I think everybody knows we can't get away with that sort of thing. I have a five and a half year old niece and a six-month old nephew and a bunch in between. They're watching their uncle Brendan race every Sunday. After the race, we've got to be somewhat in check. I understand emotions run high. I'm as emotional as anybody, but even at California you can be upset and not use words that can get you or your sponsor a penalty."
COMMENT ON SINGLE-FILE PIT ENTRANCE RULE AT TALLADEGA
"This is what I really dislike somewhat about what the media does. There's a point where what we do is race. There's a point where you can't fix that. Even Mike Helton in the drivers' meeting made it very clear they would penalize any attempt to blatantly pass somebody going in or go in two-by two. At Talladega you come off the racetrack 200 mph and everybody trying to slow down. As long as we make the attempt to get in single file and get in place, it's racing. We're still racing. I can't be worried about a paper bag flying into the racetrack in front of me. I can't worry about everything. I can't make a rule for everything. I think NASCAR did what they were supposed to do. They warned us not to go trying to race into pit road and make a big deal out of it. If it happens, get yourself to pit road speed and get under control. I think if you watched that last caution, I think Michael Waltrip and somebody else went side by side through the commitment cones. What you didn't see another 20 feet down pit road they had single-filed out, got in line and everybody was fine. Everybody wants to write about the next rule change or bad thing that's going to happen. Why doesn't anybody write about what a great job they did getting on pit road, not crashing each other and making it to everybody's pit box?"
COMMENT ON HELP FROM BUDDY BAKER
"At a place like Talladega, I just wish he was there spotting for me that day. When it comes to Daytona and Talladega he spots the back straightaway for Ryan. That's how important of a deal he is to those guys. It's been great to have him this year. He's been a ton of help. At places like Talladega and Daytona, he's been to every test session, every practice session right there with me until the race comes. That's more racing than you realize. We may not like it all the way. We may not like being out of control and at the mercy of things, but there's still a fine art to it. He gave me a great quote this weekend. There's checkers and there's chess. This is definitely a chess match at a place like Talladega. When you settle down and think about it and the stuff you have to do.... I was leading the race with four to go. I think I was 11th with two to go and fourth coming to the checkered. I don't ever remember being back in 11th. All I remember was thinking about making my next move forward, where I wanted to be. We got there, so Baker is doing something right."
COMMENT ON VISITING URBAN YOUTH RACING SCHOOL IN PHILADELPHIA
"The road is being paved. The Urban Youth Racing School is something I support a ton. Really, I'm a big advocate of what Anthony Martin is doing over there. I really enjoy helping the kids out. You can't snap your fingers and make more women be involved in racing. You can't snap your fingers and make more African-Americans be involved in racing. This has to be a thing where you kinda move up through it, and you've got to find ways to make it happen. In football or basketball, if I walk outside and want to be like Mike, I can put a basketball and dribble it between my legs and do a layup and 3-2-1, he scores. How do you be like Jeff Gordon? You can't. We have to find a way to do it, and I think what they're doing with the Urban Racing League is phenomenal. He's taking the inner-city kids out of the streets and trying to give them some skills and history lessons about what racing is all about. I wrote in my article in NASCAR scene last week that I would not be surprised at all if you find the first successful black NASCAR NEXTEL Cup driver to come out of this program."
WHAT KIND OF REACTION DID YOU GET FROM THE TEAM AFTER TALLADEGA FINISH?
"It makes me smile, and I like to smile. It's awesome. You come back to the shop and all the guys on the 2 and 12 were pumped up for us. This team is becoming more of a one-team organization. We're starting to really gel. I think what we're really looking forward to is getting in that new shop. That's really going to be a big deal and make this organization run a lot better. Once we do that it's going to be great for us. Personally, it was one of those things where we could smile and go back home with our chests pumped out and our heads held high. At least we showed we know how to drive a racecar. The driver might not be a total worthless guy and it gave the sportswriters one more thing to write about. That way they can find some way to spin it."
DO YOU THINK CONFIDENCE IS OVERRATED?
"Confidence is never overrated. Whether it's momentum in basketball or confidence and momentum in racing, it's all the same. You rely on a lot of that stuff. The guys really have a lot of confidence now. They feel a lot better. They finally got off that thing where we went through seven races and didn't finish a race. We've got a couple of finishes and we're working our way back into running well. We got a top five and you look at the end of the season, for me as a driver, Kansas is a track I've been to a bunch and love. Charlotte is a track I've been to a bunch and love. Martinsville, OK, Buddy Baker says I'm going to like it. He was right about Talladega. Maybe he'll be right about Martinsville. Atlanta, Phoenix, we're talking about tracks I've been to a lot and really do well on the mile and a half tracks. The guys really have confidence, and never underestimate the level of confidence, what it can do for a team."
DO YOU THINK NETWORKS SHOULD HAVE A DELAY?
"I don't know the cost. I'm not in the TV business. I don't know if that costs a lot of money. I think that would help the situation. Dale Jr. was excited and said something he shouldn't have said. It would have taken the decision out of NASCAR's hands, which is nice. Then you wouldn't have the fans questioning this and that, the conspiracy theory and this and that. That wouldn't be bad. Would it be plausible? I've got no idea. I don't know how difficult that is."
HAVE YOU EVER BEEN AT THE CENTER OF A PERSISTENT RUMOR BEFORE AND HOW HAS IT AFFECTED YOUR OPINION OF THE MEDIA?
"It hasn't affected it at all. I came from Coach Thompson. I didn't think much of the sports media before I got here. That's from the John Thompson school of it. You've got to be careful what you say and careful what you do. In our sport we represent people and a company. I've got to represent Kodak, and I've got to be very careful what I do. I have to rely on the sports reporters in a way. They're the ones that cover our sport, and they're the ones that give Kodak what they need, and that's their name in the media. It's a delicate balance. Do I trust 95 percent of them? No. Will I ever? Probably not. This hasn't changed any opinions of that. All this has done is, hey, the only people that know are the ones that matter and that's inside the doors. I've said it all along. I'm not worried right now. We've been running hard. My favorite comment this year was 'the sponsor isn't happy with where they're running.' Really? You think? You think the sponsor would be happy running 30th in points? I don't think they'd like that, so sometimes you guys write the most obvious things and make it sound like it's a great secret of whatever. No, Kodak is not happy with us running 30th. I'm not happy with us running 30th. I represent Kodak. I love 'em, but I want to run a whole lot better than that. If they didn't expect better than that I wouldn't want to be with them, but they do. So where's the big mystery?"
WHAT DOES RUNNING UP FRONT DO FOR YOUR ENERGY?
"Even when we weren't running in the front I had pretty good energy I think. It really does more for the team with confidence and momentum. This is a sport like any other where those are big components. The guys in the shop are pretty excited. They all feel pretty good about it. We're putting together the primary car for Kansas City right now. They're out there with a little bit of pep in their step, so it's really not what it does to me. It's more what it does for the guys in the shop. That's the important stuff in this sport. That's what makes it go."
HAVE YOU COMPLETELY SWITCHED FROM JASPER TO PENSKE CHASSIS?
"We have not made a change all the way yet. This week at Kansas we'll be running a Penske-Jasper chassis No. 32. That's our primary car. It looks like I'll be driving an old Rusty Wallace car at Charlotte. That's an old Penske car which are always good bonuses for us. We might have a new one at Martinsville. The rest of the way we'll have one new Penske car at Homestead for sure. Other than that, it looks like we're going to have a couple of old Penske chassis we're going to run. When I say old, that doesn't mean anything. That just means they came from the 2 or the 12, and I'll take those any day. We still have a couple of races left now with a couple of the new Hopkins that we built here."
WHAT WERE YOU TOLD ABOUT SOMEONE ELSE TESTING YOUR CAR?
"I'm not saying the rumor mill wasn't stirred on by some actions. I think the outcome of last week's race and the outcome of those situations have spoken for themselves and everybody is ready to move forward and keep digging."