Dodge Motorsports Teleconference Tuesday, Sept. 6,2005 California Recap, Richmond Advance RAY EVERNHAM (President, CEO Evernham Motorsports) NOTE: Evernham's Dodge Chargers have won the past two races at Richmond with Jeremy Mayfield...
Dodge Motorsports Teleconference
Tuesday, Sept. 6,2005
California Recap, Richmond Advance
RAY EVERNHAM (President, CEO Evernham Motorsports)
NOTE: Evernham's Dodge Chargers have won the past two races at Richmond with Jeremy Mayfield behind the wheel of the No. 19 Dodge Dealers/UAW Dodge Charger last September and Kasey Kahne in the No. 9 Dodge Dealers/UAW Dodge Charger earlier this season. Mayfield is on the verge of qualifying for his second straight Chase, and Evernham has announced plans for a third team with driver Scott Riggs in 2006,.
OPENING COMMENTS "We probably didn't hit all the targets we were trying to hit. Certainly if we can get Jeremy in The Chase this week it's going to be a big plus for us. Like the other Dodge teams, we didn't hit the expectations we thought we were going to."
WHAT ARE EMOTIONS LIKE FOR A TEAM OWNER WITH ONE RACE LEFT TO QUALIFY FOR THE CHASE? "It's pretty stressful. I think last year we were even in a tighter spot. It was even tougher back then. Unfortunately your team is rated now on whether you make The Chase or not and everything you do all season long no matter how good or bad you were people are going to look back and see if you made that Chase. It's like winning a race. You could have a car and lead 450 miles of a 500-mile race but if you don't win the race everybody forgets how good your car was or how good your team was or your potential. It's certainly stressful, but I guess the good news is that now you've got 10 shots at it. You pretty much knew if you were going to be out of the championship at this point years ago. It's a different kind of a feeling, but it is very stressful the last two or three races of the season before The Chase. You almost feel like you're starting a fresh new season with 10 more coming up, but it's still very stressful."
DO YOU BREAK IT DOWN TO TWO SEASONS? "Absolutely. We do. I think it's the only way you can look at it now. For those who make The Chase it's definitely two different seasons. For guys that don't it's certainly still about points 11th on back and winning races, but guys that are in The Chase it's pretty much two different seasons."
WHAT NEEDS TO BE DONE FOR DODGE? "We've just missed it aerodynamically with the new body on this car. With the rules change between the spoiler cutting and the tire changes and us just missing that with the new Charger, it's just hurt us. I don't think it's something that's hidden. We've been pretty strong on the short tracks where there's no aerodynamics involved. The aerodynamics become involved, the more Dodges seem to suffer. You say Indy is a real aerodynamic track and it is, but Indy is also grooved and had a tremendous amount of mechanical grip so it kinda canceled it out."
DO YOU THINK YOU'LL SLEEP WELL FRIDAY NIGHT? "I haven't been sleeping worth a darn every night anyway, so Friday night, I don't know. Believe it or not I think we've got to go to Richmond and finish 42nd the way we figured it out. That would make us pretty locked in because I think Newman and McMurray and Kenseth would have to run first, second and third and one of them would have to lead the most laps. I think I'm going to sleep pretty good worrying about whether we're in The Chase or not, but worrying about whether we can get a handle on being good in it probably is what's got me not sleeping. I just want to make sure we've got a shot, and right now, the way our Dodges have been stacking up I just don't feel like we've got a shot at certain places."
HOW DO YOU GO INTO THE PLAYOFFS THINKING YOU DON'T HAVE A SHOT? "We've got to look at the tracks where we think we can be strong. We certainly have got to keep looking at how we can overcome any aero issues we have. You've got to do your best. You don't always have to have the fastest car. At Michigan we knew we were going to be behind a little bit aero-wise so we worked on fuel mileage. There's also some good short tracks coming up in The Chase as well as the restrictor plate. If we can't go out and beat those guys head-to-head in certain ways, then we've got to look at all the areas we can get an advantage that don't point straight at aerodynamics."
COMMENT ON THE STRESS INVOLVED WITH THE PIT CREWS "The guys that are in the upper echelon are flying around on private aircraft for sure and being well taken care of. They're professional sports athletes. With that comes responsibility. Now days pit crew guys are well looked after at the shop. They're not normally part of the regular work crew or road crew, so they've just got to make sure they stay healthy, practice and keep doing things that they're doing. As with any professional athlete, they've just got to focus on the job at hand and play to their strengths. The pit crew guys have to do the same things week in and week out, and that's somewhat of an advantage for them. Probably it's a little bit more stressful on crew chiefs and engineers, people who have got to come up with different chassis setups and things like that for different places, but the pit crew guys know what they've got to do. They know their job. They know that car is going to stop in the pit. They've got to change those tires, put gas in it and get it out and not make any mistakes. Just keeping focused on the job they do would be the biggest thing."
HOW DOES MAYFIELD'S PIT CREW COMPARE TO THE RAINBOW WARRIORS? "That was more than 10 years ago with the Rainbow Warriors and they were a great bunch of guys. This is a different world. Jeremy's crew has been building and building. We're really proud of them. Those were the guys who probably weren't the most gifted and talented people, but they've worked really hard and they function really efficiently as a team and group. They get better every week. They're not the fastest on pit road by far, but their deal is being consistent and not making mistakes. They're improving a little bit every week, so I'm pretty proud of those guys."
COMMENT ON JEFF GORDON'S SUCCESS IN THE CLUTCH "I can't ever remember him not responding in a clutch situation. He's what I call a big money player. Whenever there was a big challenge or big money on the line he would seem to step up. The biggest difference between an athlete like Michael Jordon or someone we always compare Jeff to is the fact that those guys can rely largely on their athletic ability. In our world, no matter how good your athletic ability or your driving ability, you still depend largely on whether you've got the car to get the job done. I think as a team those guys have got to step up and make sure they bring a car that's capable of doing what they need to do. He's probably in the same situation we were last year with Jeremy where we had to go there (Richmond) and lead the most laps and win the race and let the cards fall where they may. I think they're capable of doing that. They've done that before, but no matter how good he is, they've still got to make sure they've got the car that can get it done."
WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO MAKE THE CHASE FROM A TEAM STANDPOINT? "It definitely helps. I don't know how you put a financial number on it because that stuff is hard to track, but it's no different than the stock market. Every time you have an accomplishment like that to put on your resume your stock goes up. I would believe that some people that came on and partnered with us this year they look at OK, here's a team that's made The Chase and they got a tremendous amount of TV coverage last year. That certainly had to make a difference in their decision. Coming up with The Chase, not only has it gotten the fans interested, I think it helps there, but it also helps 10 races teams instead of one. You've got one, two, maybe three going for the championship at the end of the year, but now you've got 10 in The Chase. I don't think it's hurt the other race teams, but it's certainly helped spread that across 10 teams. You add that to your resume and your stock goes up. All the real estate on our car has a value, and when you make The Chase that real estate value goes up."
HOW DO YOU TRAIN FOR THE CHASE? "It's very important. We have two in-house pit crew coordinators. One works on practice, but the other is our strength and conditioning coach. He worked with a lot of the different sports people in the Charlotte area as far as nutrition and things like that. We actually had Kasey Kahne early in his Cup career with a nutritionist pretty much full time changing his diet, not to get him in shape, but Kasey actually had to put a little bit of weight on. Jeremy fortunately is just a naturally talented and naturally gifted athletic type guy. He's just tough. He's a farm type person. Pit crew wise and certainly with Aaron Crocker and Tommy Lane and some of our young drivers coming up that's very, very important. The nutrition and training for pit crew and driver, and not just those things, but the carbon monoxide systems and keeping the heat out of the cars, all the things we're looking at, smaller things are making a bigger difference in our world. Physical conditioning can help you stay focused and it definitely helps a driver. If you look at the pit crew side of things, we're using the same tools we have for the last 10 years, the same jack, the same guns, same fuel cans, yet pit crews are on average about two seconds faster than they were. That's all due to the human element."
IS THERE ANYTHING SPECIAL FOR JEREMY FOR THE CHASE? "Jeremy's got a pretty good plan. He's not a big partier or anything like that, and we know Jeremy likes to get plenty of sleep. He keeps himself in pretty good shape. He's got a little bit of a different diet and hydration plan in the three days leading up to a race. He actually has us give him power bars on pit stops so he keeps his energy levels up throughout the race."
DO YOU HAVE A FEEL ABOUT WHAT MAKING THE CHASE MEANS TO A SPONSOR? "I think it just depends on what their target numbers are, but most of the sponsors and partners you deal with are interested in what your Joyce Julius television numbers are, what your number of impressions are. When you make The Chase your number of impressions go way up and your television exposure goes way up. The real estate value of the space on your car goes up. I don't know how to put a number to it, but I don't know of any of our sponsors that aren't interested in more impressions, so I'd say that it's real important to follow them. We have some partners that we get paid a little extra bonus for making The Chase, so I know it's important to them. We're fortunate in our world at Evernham Motorsports that our sponsors are pretty understanding. They couldn't put any more pressure on us than we put on ourselves. Everybody knows how important it is and sometimes it's not productive. The guys at this level, certainly the guys that are close to making The Chase already know how important it is. I haven't heard those stories about putting pressure on. I'd hate to be sitting on the other side of this thing right now."
WHY DID YOU USE ALL OF THE 19 TEAM'S TESTS BEFORE THE CHASE? "We got kinda knocked out of the Chase early (last year). We had two things early, bang, bang, right in a row that got us. It was all about Slugger Labbe (crew chief) and Kenny Francis (team director) that was a changeover at the 19 this year, and they needed to learn to work together quickly. They decided it would be more important to get to The Chase and get to The Chase strong than saving all your tests and not be in it. I certainly understand what their strategy is. I understand the 97 car and some of the other guys have saved tests for The Chase. We thought the most important thing we had to do was getting in it first."
ANY CHANGES YOU'D LIKE TO SEE FOR THE FINAL 10 RACES? "We talked about that last year where if there were two different point systems where you were just racing the 10 guys in The Chase. If you go out and get knocked out right off the bat and finish 43rd and the other guys have a bad day and finish in the 20s, there's still a lot of cars separating you. If you want to come down to where all 10 guys have a shot, then it would be great to just be racing 10 guys."
HOW DID THE 19 TEAM PUT EVERYTHING TOGETHER LAST YEAR FOR A PERFECT RACE AT RICHMOND? "I don't know exactly how they were able to do it, but there have been certain things done like that where average people do superior things. It's sometimes more about focus, believing in yourself, getting everything out of your ability you can. I'm seeing movies a year behind everyone else because I don't get to seem them until I'm in a hotel, but the American hockey team movie was just a great movie where sometimes average people sometimes do above average things because they believe and commit and they're put in a position where they have to do it. If you could figure out a way to get people to do that every week you've have something because lots of things we do we're able to achieve more than we think we can sometimes. We just have to be put in a position to do it."
IS THERE A FREEDOM KNOWING YOU CAN GET IN THE CAR AND GO FOR IT? "I think there is, but you've still got that race. You don't just throw caution to the wind. You're still going to try to win that race. Even though we do race every week you're able mentally to separate every race, knowing each one can be a special victory. We try to go out and try to win every race. We're not going to go to Richmond to run 42nd or 43rd this week, but I'm not going to say we're not going to be careful until somebody else drops out. You're able to separate each race into a victory, so you're not going to go out and do something crazy."
WHERE AND WHEN DO YOU START CRUNCHING NUMBERS? "We were doing it during the race at California. We have a scoring system that tells us what we've got to do and as soon as we got out of the airplane Sunday night we came up with the final figures of what we feel like we need to do. It's certainly something that's not out of your mind. We knew last week what we needed to do this week. As soon as the race was over we had everyone's points and figured out what we needed to do at Richmond to make Jeremy a lock."
DID YOU CHANGE THE WAY YOU APPROACHED THE CHASE? "Not the way we approached it getting there. Certainly you've got to run hard every week. You've got to go out and do the best you can every week, and the 19's performance has been a little bit better at this point than they were last year and their points are showing it."
DO YOU DO ANYTHING DIFFERENT AT RICHMOND? "You do all you can do every week from the engine side. The only thing you can do this week that you haven't been doing all year long is worry a little bit extra, and that's just not productive. It wears out your stomach and gives you gray hair and all that other stuff. I know the guys can't prepare any harder for this race than they prepared for the Daytona 500 or California or any of the first races in the beginning of the year. They can't do anything different. They've got to focus on going out and doing what they normally do, and they've got to do it naturally and not try to change anything."
COMMENT ON CHANGE FOR DODGE NOSE "I know the teams can't request a change. It's got to come from Dodge. Right now I know that Dodge is in conversations with NASCAR about it, but I haven't heard anything back from it. I don't know that we've been able to present anything officially."
SHOULD NASCAR BE CONCERNED THAT FIVE OF 10 TEAMS IN CHASE ARE FROM ONE TEAM? "I don't know if NASCAR should be concerned, but I'm concerned. Really, there's a part of me that's concerned, and there's a part of me that takes my hat off to Jack Roush. It's pretty amazing what the man's done. You look at road racing, drag racing and now you look at NASCAR it's pretty amazing, so my hat's off to them for putting their program together. I don't think that NASCAR can be concerned because everybody else had the same opportunity Roush had. He's been able to capitalize on it.
"I'm not really a gambler, but I know if you go to Vegas and bet five numbers instead of one that your odds are better of winning. His (Roush's) odds are certainly better than anybody's right now. He's worked hard to put his program in place. Everybody has the same opportunities, so you can't fault him for being in that position."
COMMENT ON ERIN CROCKER IN BUSCH RACE "As far as Erin this week, we'll just have to wait and see what happens. I want her to go out there and get an understanding for a Busch car. Our goals that we've set for her this week would be to qualify on her own and finish on the lead lap. Other than that, it's really hard to put a lot of expectations on her. It's going to be much different for her. She's a very talented individual. She just needs to get some seat time, and this is the first step in getting her some seat time."
WHAT'S THE PROGRESS REPORT ON TOMMY LANE? "Tommy is a good kid. I've known his father for a long time. Tommy had relatively very little experience. He's been here the better part of a year now and he's got some experience at Hickory running his Late Model. He got put into the top Late Model class over there and he's progressed at the rate you'd hope a rookie progresses. He started out toward the tail end of the field and he's worked his way up to where he can consistently run in the top. We've hoping he can run in the top five. We're waiting to hear from him today because he ran a 200-lap race yesterday. I think he's progressing well. He's here. He works every day and he's doing a good job representing us. Again, here's a kid that we brought in with relatively little experience and we didn't want to put a lot of pressure on him. We just wanted to get him seat time, and I'm proud that he's been able to go from relatively little experience in anything except go-karts to where he can consistently run in the top 10 on a weekly basis over at Hickory. He is a Jersey boy like myself, and I can't say that didn't help him get the ride. I've know his dad for so long. His grandfather and father worked really hard in racing, and Tommy wants to be a racer. When our diversity program came up with NASCAR, Tommy had applied for it and he was my choice. Hopefully we're doing some good things with that. I don't know where NASCAR is with that program for next year, but hopefully we can continue to grow that and Tommy can keep shooting for his dream to be a full-time race driver."