JIM SMITH, Car Owner --7-- NationsRent Taurus -- WHAT IS YOUR PHILOSOPHY AS FAR AS A DRIVER GOES FOR THE REST OF THE YEAR? "Mike Wallace got an opportunity on Monday to drive the 12 car and, as everybody knows, we've been off and on all year. I...
JIM SMITH, Car Owner --7-- NationsRent Taurus -- WHAT IS YOUR PHILOSOPHY AS FAR AS A DRIVER GOES FOR THE REST OF THE YEAR? "Mike Wallace got an opportunity on Monday to drive the 12 car and, as everybody knows, we've been off and on all year. I decided that if that's what he wanted to do, he should do it. Kevin Lepage was available, so we decided to put him in our car. It's a one race deal for Kevin right now and that's as far down the road as we're going. We'll see how Sunday plays out."
SO IT'S A RACE-BY-RACE SITUATION. "The last two times I did that it turned out pretty good. I almost won a couple races."
DID THIS CATCH YOU BY SURPRISE? "I was sitting in my office when my chief financial officer came in my office and said, 'You're not gonna believe this, but Mike Wallace's attorney called and asked for his release.' I said, 'Get out of here.' She said, 'No, he did.' So I thought it over, but it was just like with the Robby Gordon stuff. You've got to call the sponsors and get approval and look at the contract. We're in the world of attorney now in Winston Cup racing. The day of the handshake is gone, but it took a couple of days to get it worked out, but we've given him his release and wish him nothing but the best."
HAVE YOU EVER EXPERIENCED SUCH A ROLLERCOASTER SEASON AS THIS ONE ON THE CUP SIDE? "I knew when I came into the Cup Series it was gonna be tough. One of the biggest problems we had last year is (Michael) Waltrip left unexpectedly and, of course, that left a sour taste with my sponsor. We ended up with Mike Wallace and he's a good race car driver, but in this league you've got to have better than a good race car driver. I wish we would have won Sears Point because that would have made this year a lot more cheerful, but we've had some good runs. Mike's had four or five top 10s and even though we've gone home four times, we've run good up front and I think we've got a total of six top 10s right now. We should have won with Robby so it's a rollercoaster, but you know what, it's racing. I'll go to Texas tomorrow night and win my 11th truck race, so that keeps me going."
Kevin Lepage will be driving the No. 7 NationsRent Taurus this weekend, replacing Mike Wallace, who moved over to the No. 12 Mobil 1 Taurus. Lepage, who was let go by Morgan-McClure on Monday, spoke about his new opportunity.
--7-- NationsRent Taurus
YOU'VE BEEN IN THIS POSITION ONCE ALREADY THIS YEAR. "Yeah, my hat's off to Jim Smith and the whole Ultra Motorsports/NationsRent team for giving me an opportunity to come to Charlotte. Everybody kept telling me to just be patient because good drivers don't sit on the sidelines long, and Jim called me late last night and said he needed somebody. He told me that I was his first choice, so it was just a case of making sure all the i's were dotted and t's were crossed. This place has been real good to me in the past and I'm just real excited about getting back into a Ford. Ford has been really good to me in the Busch Series the last couple of years and to come back into a Ford this year is great. Hopefully, we can be in it the rest of the year, but right now we're gonna take it race by race and see how it goes."
DO YOU FEEL HOW YOU DO THIS WEEKEND DETERMINES WHAT HAPPENS DOWN THE ROAD WITH THIS TEAM? "There are still a lot of uncertainties in this business and there are still a lot of car owners that are looking for drivers. Obviously, Jim Smith is looking for one for next year. Yeah, it's an opportunity for me. I came into the business was five races into the season without a job. I didn't want to go out the year without a job, so we've got a great opportunity ahead of us. Just in working with the guys for a few hours last night and this morning, it's a great race team. Jim said one of the biggest things he's lacking right now is chemistry and maybe I can bring some excitement for the last half-dozen races, if it goes that long. If not, I'm gonna do the best job I can here at Charlotte. They've prepared a good little race car and we've heard since I've been in Winston Cup about that Yates horsepower and these guys have that. I can't wait to find out tonight what kind of horsepower it really has."
WHAT HAPPENED AT THE 4 CAR? "Three out of the last four races we ran every lap, except for one. We had an opportunity for a great run at Richmond, but we had a tire go down and that cut our night short. When you can run three top-15 races in the last three out of four races, you think you've got your program going. We had some new cars built and brought them out and the performance was turning around.
"Scott and myself were doing a good job working on the car during the race, but on Monday I got a phone call saying I was out. I don't really know. I said to Larry, 'If you want me out of the car, I'll step out of the car and you can pursue whatever you need to do for the rest of the season. I want to stay in the car, but I'm not gonna stay where I'm not welcome. I know I'm not gonna be there next year, but I was giving you 100 percent.' We decided to come to terms and now he's doing something different and I'm doing something different."
Michael McSwain, crew chief of the No. 28 Texaco Havoline Taurus driven by Ricky Rudd, suffered a broken left wrist earlier today when he fell in the infield. He has his left arm wrapped in a cast and spoke about the incident this afternoon.
MICHAEL MCSWAIN, Crew Chief --28-- Texaco Havoline Taurus -- "I stepped in a hole in the infield and that twisted my ankle over. When I tried to catch myself, I broke my wrist. It's really no big deal. What are you gonna do? You can't cry about it."
DID YOU KNOW IT WAS BROKEN RIGHT AWAY? "I knew by the time I walked in here because it was numb and it was already swelling. I went to the infield care center and they did a great job working with University Hospital. I've got to tell you, this happened at 10:30 this morning and I was back in the garage at 12:30. They got me down there and saw what was going on and took me over (to the hospital) in an ambulance. They called ahead and took me right in. The hospital worked on it, fixed it up, and got me back out of there. I can't say enough about how well everyone treated me."
WILL THIS IMPEDE HOW YOU DO YOUR JOB THIS WEEKEND? "No, I just can't fuss too bad because I can't throw my arms around, that's about it. The toughest part for me is I talk with my hands. I guess this means I can only talk half as much."