Dodge This! Media Teleconference Tuesday, Nov. 4, 2003 Casey Mears (No. 41 Target Dodge Intrepid) -- "This is going to be a big weekend for us, and I'm really excited for it. We've got the Target House 200 on Saturday, and we'll also have ...
Dodge This! Media Teleconference
Tuesday, Nov. 4, 2003
Casey Mears (No. 41 Target Dodge Intrepid) --
"This is going to be a big weekend for us, and I'm really excited for it. We've got the Target House 200 on Saturday, and we'll also have a special paint scheme on the Busch car and the Cup car with the Target House 200 logos on it. That's going to be a big deal. We went down and visited the Target House program probably about a month ago. You always hear a lot of good things about what goes on over there and how nice that place is, but until you go down there and experience it for yourself and meet a lot of the kids and families that really enjoy that facility firsthand, it makes all the difference in the world. It's just a neat deal, and I'm happy to be a part of supporting that program."
"We were going to go test (at Rockingham) last week, but it got rained out. I felt like earlier in the year we actually had a pretty good race for the amount of experience that I had. I mean, that was the second race of the season, so we ran pretty well considering that. I'm really looking forward to going back. I think we've got a pretty decent setup to play off of from last time. You know, we'll just have to see how it goes. Things change from the spring to the fall. That track is definitely consistent in the fact that it just wears out tires like crazy, and I think you've got to approach that track pretty much the same every time you go to it."
"At first it looks like a typical racetrack until you get on it, and then the tires wear off so fast. I remember my first time being there, and your best lap that you're ever going to get is your first lap out of the box on a new set of tires. It plays a lot towards experience. Your first time there as a rookie, working your way up to speed is tough just because the tires do wear off so fast. You've got guys that have been around it a million times, and that first lap out of the gate they get the most out of it and get a balance right away and kind of get started to go towards qualifying. Whereas a rookie, when you come in there for the first time, you're spending the first half of practice just trying to get used to the place. By the end of practice you may get one good qualifying run in on your next set of tires, and then you've got to line up and try to qualify. I think, as far as being a rookie, it's definitely one of the tougher tracks to get used to just because the tires wear out so fast. But fortunately, I got a good chance the first time I was over there to go test for two days and get warmed up for that. I've always felt like, for some reason, we've done pretty well there. Even in the Busch car last year we had been pretty good at Rockingham. At least the first race we did. I'm looking forward to going back to it. I really like it. The surface is really abrasive, but it makes for good racing because it opens up the racing surface from the top to the bottom. At the beginning of the run, you'll start running at the bottom and then at the end you'll end up at the top. It's just a fun place to drive, and I really enjoy it."
"Ganassi Racing makes a big deal about all of us working together. We have each transporter set up a little bit separate. One transporter focuses on shocks, another is for engineering, and the other one is the drivers' trailer. They really focus on us always working together. The drivers have the same trailer to change in and talk before the race. We always have meetings in the engineering trailer - all three of us together with our crew chiefs. It's just a very open book. We can learn a lot from each other, and it's worked out really well so far. Just getting different ideas from each other, having that open book and knowing that we all support each other and just want to help makes a big difference."
On running softer tires next year...
"I don't think it's going to make it too much different. Everybody's going to be on the same page. Everybody's going to have the same tires and similar amounts of downforce. To me, I haven't really thought about it or worried about it too much. In fact, we think maybe it might help us a little bit, just because we tend to like a freer racecar. Pulling a little spoiler off the back will make these things looser, and when the tires get old it makes the cars a little bit harder to hold onto. We think that might play in our favor. It's hard to say what it's going to do to everybody. But, I don't feel that it's going to be a bad rule change. I'm kind of looking forward to it."
Plans for off-season..
"It has been a tough season for us. I jumped into Winston Cup racing a little bit early, so it's been a lot of work this year. It's really been frustrating at times, and exciting at times. It's a long year. So, definitely when the season's over I'm going to be looking forward to hanging out with some friends and getting some relax time in. I'll get away from it for a little bit, and then get ready to focus on it for next season. Right now I have no immediate plans, but at some point we'll go someplace really warm where there's a beach and someplace cold where there's some snow. Right now that's the plan."
"We'll start preparing for 2004 as soon as the last lap of this season stops. You never stop working. Right now we're working on cars and doing things for next year already. We're testing these things -- that never stops. We're already working on next season, and I'm already thinking about next season. I'd say that started a couple months ago. When the season does shut down, though, you've got to tell yourself to shut down too for a little bit and take a good two or three weeks off. You've got to have some fun and relax outside of racing, and get back to reality a little bit. Then you've got to buckle down and get ready for the next year."
"When you first start the season things probably feel like they're moving way too fast around you. Things are happening before you even grab a hold of them and see them. Definitely, I feel like I'm catching up with the sport a little bit more as the season winds down. We've been running good here and there, and we've had some bad runs. But, I'm feeling a lot more comfortable in the seat. I feel like I've learned a lot. That's only going to get better in time. I'm really looking forward to next season, just to start fresh. We dug ourselves in a hole early on in the season here, not getting the finishes that we needed. To overcome that towards the end of the year points-wise, it's really hard to dig out of that hole. I'm really looking forward to just getting a clean sheet of paper for next year and starting from scratch."
On the points system...
"To be honest, I haven't even thought about it too much. I think the points system is fine. It does reward guys that are consistent, but that's what points are all about, I think. Matt has done a great job this year. If he continues to finish off like he has this season he is more than deserving of that championship. He has worked hard for it. I don't think the points are anywhere out of line or are bad. To be honest, that's been one of the farthest things from my mind at this point. I've just been racing from weekend to weekend. I'm just trying to improve myself and just run well race-to-race. The points haven't even really been in my vocabulary much this year."
"The fact that I just came over to stock car racing not too long ago, I came into this year with such an open mind, just expecting anything really. Nothing really stands out in my mind where I think, 'Man, that one thing right here has just been huge.' Or, 'I can't believe this happened.' There's nothing that's been really big like that. I just came in here knowing this was going to be a totally different deal. In some ways I knew what to expect, but in a lot of ways I had no idea what to expect. Having that in my mind going in, nothing really jumps out where I've said, 'Man, that really, really surprises me.' There's just been several things throughout the year - maybe a thousand little things - that I've learned like how the car responds to change, how the tracks respond to change, what tires wear at different tracks. There's just been so many different things. Jimmy (crew chief, Elledge) has been really good this year, explaining a lot of things to me and helping me learn. I've had my teammates to lean on this year to learn a lot of things. Then there have been a lot of experiences out on the racetrack that have been little things that have helped. I've just had thousands of little things, nothing earth shattering or huge, that I've had to consume and learn. That's probably made the biggest difference in my learning curve this year. It's not been one big thing, but tons of little things that I've learned over the year."
"I think, on all aspects of Jimmy and I working together, that everything has gotten better. As far as me giving him information about the car, that's gotten better. Him understanding what I need out of the car has gotten better. Us just learning about each other and having this year under our belt has made our relationship so much better. At the beginning of the year if he would have said something that was a little more critical of what I was doing, I would maybe get offended. Now, we know each other so well that we really respect what each other says. Whether it's good news or bad news you take it in, and you learn from it. I think that's been big for us this year. We've got a really good relationship that we've formed this year. I think, like I said, on all fronts our communication is better. I've been learning a lot about the cars too. It makes our practices a lot more valuable than what they were at the beginning of the season. At the beginning of the year at a lot of these places it was just me getting laps and running around these places. Whereas, here towards the end of the year, I think we're making a lot more progress. Those 45-minute or hour long sessions are a lot more valuable for Sunday."