GM Racing Notes & Quotes -- NASCAR Winston Cup Teleconference Transcripts; July 15, 2003 NOTE: Defending NASCAR Winston Cup champion Tony Stewart, Tide Pontiac driver Ricky Craven and PPI Motorsports team owner Cal Wells were the featured guests...
GM Racing Notes & Quotes -- NASCAR Winston Cup Teleconference Transcripts; July 15, 2003
NOTE: Defending NASCAR Winston Cup champion Tony Stewart, Tide Pontiac driver Ricky Craven and PPI Motorsports team owner Cal Wells were the featured guests on Tuesday's Winston teleconference.
RICKY CRAVEN , NO. 32 TIDE PONTIAC GRAND PRIX:
NOTE: Craven won the closest NASCAR Winston Cup event in the modern era earlier this season at Darlington, and two of his six Bud Poles have come at New Hampshire. He is a native of Newburgh, Maine. In his last race at New Hampshire, he finished sixth.
IS THERE ANY EXTRA EXCITEMENT AND INCENTIVE RACING AT NHIS?
"There always is. A typical weekend, Friday Saturday and Sunday leading up to event, in this case it's usually three or four days before qualifying and three or four days after. I don't get home as often as I'd like, so these are the two events a year that I single out and take advantage of and really look up to."
THIS TIME OF YEAR, THE WEATHER GETS HOT AND THE TRACK GETS SLIPPERY. DO YOU LIKE THE BACK END OF THE CAR TO HANG A LITTLE?
"I absolutely do. I like the car to slide around and have a little disparity between the beginning and the end of the run, actually a lot of change. That's probably why Darlington and Rockingham have been a couple of the tracks that I've enjoyed the most. During July and August where that will be our biggest challenge, not just to the driver, but to the crew members to help us tune the cars."
THE SOFT WALLS WILL BE IN PLACE FOR THIS EVENT. ARE YOU LOOKING FORWARD TO TESTING THEM?
"I'm not looking forward to testing the soft wall, but I am excited about them doing it. I say that tongue-in-cheek. I commend NASCAR and both of the speedways for reacting as quickly as they did following what would be a thorough study to make sure that they are in fact safer and serve the purpose. I think it's more peace of mind. If it weren't brought up, I don't think anyone would notice, but in the back of your mind and knowing that it's there, it's a comfort. Hopefully, nobody will test them this weekend, but the fact that we are moving forward is positive."
WHAT IS IT ABOUT YOU THAT DRAWS NEW ENGLANDERS TO YOU, OTHER THAN THE FACT THAT YOU ARE FROM NEW ENGLAND?
"It has existed since I began racing in 1982, and I have the advantage of being one of only a few drivers from New England. The fact that I still have a presence in New England, in particular in Maine and New Hampshire with my family, my summer home and a business on the coast of Maine, it's important to me to bring my family closer to New England and remind everyone that I am a New England boy. That's of a certain value to me and I think people appreciate that. Beyond that, it's the fact that I am their representation in Winston Cup."
WHAT IS A NEW ENGLAND BOY?
"To me, New England is Fenway Park, it's the coast of Maine, Moose Head Lake, the outdoors, kayaking, canoeing, hiking. Everything from seafood to logging. I just really, really enjoy and appreciate the values that I grew up with and I want to pass those along to my two children. Because of that we spend more time there than people realize. We probably spend a couple of months a year in Maine."
LOOKING BACK TO YOUR MOST RECENT VICTORY, HOW DID YOUR EMOTIONS DIFFER FROM THE FIRST VICTORY?
"The first one was a bit of a relief. It took me longer than I would have liked, and I had a lot of time to prepare for what it might be like to win a race. That actually got a bit old, because those numbers started working against me. The win at Darlington was special because it legitimized the first one and brought more confidence to the Tide team and me, personally."
ARE THERE ANY AREAS OF SAFETY THAT NASCAR IS NOT ADDRESSING OR HASN'T IDENTIFIED THAT YOU AS A DRIVER COULD ADDRESS?
"We address things as they affect us. That's one of the things I appreciate the most about Cal Wells. He has been the ringleader for the Tide Pontiac and he has always had safety at the forefront and brought to my attention several things that have helped us. The seat is the obvious one, but it goes far beyond that. We are constantly changing or evaluating. We changed helmets recently to give ourselves what we felt was more safety or the idea of making ourselves a little more offensive and less vulnerable. NASCAR is just constantly working and they've built an incredible facility that all of the owners and drivers have access to, and I've visited it. I'm very impressed with the fact that it continues to move forward and evolve, even though we're racing every seven days. It's encouraging."
DRIVERS HAVE SO MANY DIFFERENT TYPES OF TRACKS TO GO TO, HOW DO YOU GET YOURSELF IN THE MINDSET TO CHANGE WITH THE TRACK?
"I think it's the value of experience. When you've had a few years in the business, you establish a reference for each of those tracks that you can go back to and it should work in your favor. There are exceptions to that. Ryan Newman, Jimmie Johnson and a few others are the exceptions. They exceeded everybody's expectations where they went and ran so fast so quickly. That's what makes this sport so unique and enjoyable. You have to be versatile and experience is valuable. Sometimes that gets lost."
AFTER BOBBY LABONTE'S FRIGHTENING CRASH AT CHICAGOLAND, WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS?
"It seems like that is happening too often. Dale Jarrett had a crash like that at Pocono. When you have a rear impact, if you're going to have an impact as a driver, that's the one of choice because the rear of the car collapses a bit easier than any other part of the car. From an impact standpoint, that works in your favor. But it creates another problem in that the fuel cell is part of that. During that impact, obviously it's creating a problem. So there will have to be some attention given to strengthening the back of the car or if the fuel cell can move forward or up or something. It is something that deserves some attention."
HOW ABOUT THE DRIVER'S SIDE STAYING UP AGAINST THE WALL?
"Yes, but I also think for every example like that you have to consider the repercussions. There's some consideration given to an escape through the roof. As drivers, we have to be protected from all angles and whatever we do on the roof, if we in fact do something, it needs to allow us to escape but it also needs to continue to protect us."
HAS FIRE BEEN A CONCERN FOR YOU AND WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON RACING BACK TO THE FLAG?
"I haven't given a lot of consideration to any of that. It certainly gets your attention when it happens. Anytime it happens, it affects you personally, because every one of these drivers are friends. You always have an interest in their safety. But I don't give any consideration to that. Racing cars is a business and I have complete trust in NASCAR and the evolution of safety. I do have an opinion on racing back to the caution. I don't think it should exist. NASCAR is considering alternatives, but there is no solution in my opinion other than not doing it. There's no way you can depend on 43 drivers to all agree to agree. It sort of goes against the concept of competing. The gentlemen's agreement is something I very much believe in and am in support of, but if there was a driver among us who doesn't agree with it, then it's going to affect the other 42. The only solution is not racing back to the yellow."
GIVEN THE EVER-CHANGING SURFACE AT NHIS, WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ABOUT COMING BACK HERE? YOU'RE ALSO COMING BACK WITH A HARDER TIRE.
"There are other race tracks that have changed more dramatically than what NHIS has. NHIS has changed a lot, but they've improved the surface a lot. The surface we tested on last week had more grip than anything I've experienced in several years. My reference is, having a reference gives you a head start. This is part of the reason that drivers or athletes in their mid-40s are still successful. These cars aren't that easy to drive, and there may be people who can make them go fast for a lap or five laps or even 10 laps, but can they make them go fast for 500 miles? Some of the best at that are Rusty Wallace, Dale Jarrett, Terry Labonte, Mark Martin and on and on. They're still very good. I think the track is going to lend itself to great racing this weekend and I'm excited about being back there."