Las Vegas: Stremme - Dodge pre-event interview

DAVID STREMME (No. 40 Coors Light Dodge Charger) OPENING COMMENTS ABOUT RACING AT LVMS "They've changed the fuel cell and tire. It's going to be a little different strategy with the fuel cell, but I don't think the tire will make a huge ...

DAVID STREMME (No. 40 Coors Light Dodge Charger)

OPENING COMMENTS ABOUT RACING AT LVMS "They've changed the fuel cell and tire. It's going to be a little different strategy with the fuel cell, but I don't think the tire will make a huge difference. I was out there for the Busch test and got to run on it a little bit. It's going to slow you down a little, but the big thing is we're real happy with how our Dodge Charger worked in California, and we're going to take the same car to Las Vegas. We tested there and had a real good test. We're looking at having solid finishes here in the first part of the season because of how huge the owner point system is."

YOU'RE RANKED 10TH IN THE SERIES STANDINGS. CAN YOU HANG ON OR IMPROVE THAT RANKING? "I think we can improve. We felt like we had solid cars the past two races and should have ended up finishing better than we did, but other circumstances prevailed. Like at California we ran within the top 10 all day but we were a lap down because we made a pit stop earlier in the day and got caught with the yellow. It was kinda weird because we were in position to be the Lucky Dog quite a bit and we went through two cycles of green-flag pit stops. We just came up a little short. We look at our performance at the end of the day and last year we didn't run any better than 30th there. To go back and finish 19th on a bad day and knowing we had a lot better car than where we finished we're pretty happy. That shows improvement for our team and hopefully we can keep it going."

COMMENT ON THE COT AFTER THE BRISTOL TEST "I enjoy racing, and I'll race anything. I think it could look a little bit better, but I think in time as changes go on that will happen. I personally like the wing in the back. We've done a lot of testing with our COT cars at Michigan last year in a big pack and I was impressed with how the wing helped through the air. More than anything we did a lot of short track testing over the winter and when we unloaded at Bristol we thought we were fairly competitive yet we still think we've got room to improve on stuff. We're working hard on that, but I was actually really surprised how all the teams -- one guy wrecked and one guy scraped the wall -- but for the most part it was pretty uneventful. I thought the cars drove fairly similar to our other cars. I thought there would have been a lot bigger difference, but the end result is I'm a racer and I'll race anything. I know some people aren't very happy with the change. Some are. I look at most of the people who aren't happy with the changes is because they're having success with the current car. If your team is strong and there's communication and everybody is on the same page you'll have success. I think most of the teams that are running well now will continue to run well."

WHAT ARE YOUR IMPRESSIONS OF THE CHANGES AT LAS VEGAS AND ARE YOU CONCERNED THE SPEEDS ARE TOO HIGH? "I posted two third-place finishes in the Busch Series on the old Vegas track and I enjoyed it very much. I wasn't really up for the change, but we went out there and tested and it was better. It's kinda rough. It's not like Talladega or when they redid Homestead and it was really smooth. I kinda like that. There are some bumps in it and that gives it character, but what amazes me is a second lane has already worked in. I think you'll see the track widen out even more than what we anticipate for a newly-paved racetrack. The end result, in a couple of years it'll be really good because you'll be able to run up against the wall and you'll be able to run the bottom. Look at Homestead and how it's seasoned and how it's gotten better, but the speed I was really comfortable. Some of the other guys weren't very comfortable. Obviously NASCAR is going to do what we need to be safe. I think the end result it's going to be a good race and the end result is going to be just like it's been in the past. It's going to be two cars down to the wire."

WHAT ARE SOME HURDLES YOU HAVE TO OVERCOME AT THE NEXTEL CUP LEVEL? "I don't know if we have enough time to cover all of that, but one of the things like last year I came in as a rookie. I had been with the organization, but it was a new crew chief and a lot of new guys were around it. There was a lot going on between confidence in myself had gotten down and you've got to be really strong there. Believe in other people you're working with. We made some changes and Steven Lane came along and that really helped out. Our organization went through a lot of changes trying to get better, so you have all this on your mind and you're trying to stay focused and confident in what you're doing. I look back in the success I've had in the past and how hard I've worked to get to this level, and it's helped out. You also have your sponsor commitments, testing. Since the middle of January I've probably been home a total of two weeks. I'm here today trying to get some stuff done and then I leave tomorrow for Vegas and I'll be gone until Sunday. Your travel keeps you busy and it's hard for a personal life, too."

WHAT'S SURPRISED YOU MOST ON THE CUP LEVEL? "There are a lot of things I enjoy. As far as getting to travel around, I don't even look at it like a job. It's something I love to do, but probably one of the biggest things that's surprised me is how people see us on TV and they want to put you in a different category or make you out to be a different person. We're all the same. Race fans get to watch what we do for a living and we put on a show and we're entertainers. Bottom line is everybody has worked hard to get to this level and it's a lot of fun, but we're no different than anybody else."

WHAT'S BEEN THE TEAM REACTION TO THE MEXICO CITY BUSCH RACE? "I actually watched the first part of the race. I talked to Juan the night before and wished him luck. I don't have Scott's number or I would have done the same thing. I turned the TV on right before the incident and my take on it is both guys were running hard and they both take fault at it. The main thing is one of the cars won and Scott came back and got a top-five finish. Both the Busch teams needed that after getting off to a horrible start to begin the season. It shows how strong the organization is. Chip and Felix preach to all of our drivers to work with each other and not to run into each other. I don't think any of it was intentional at all. They both were racing hard and things happen. The main thing is you can't have two teams against each other. I was in the shop yesterday and both teams work across from one another and they were going around like nothing happened. They're working hard to go to Vegas. They had a pretty good test there, and they're looking to improve. That's what's on their minds now, but I think it just says a lot of where our organization is coming from and where it's going with how both cars were really competitive. They were strong all weekend."

HAVE YOU EVER BEEN IN A SITUATION WHERE YOUR TEAMMATES HAD MECHANICAL PROBLEMS IN A RACE AND YOU WERE JUST WAITING FOR IT TO HAPPEN TO YOU? "Obviously it's coming across your mind. We were in that situation in Daytona. Reed blew up in the 150s and then both our Busch motors blew up. To tell you the truth, I was really nervous. What it came down to they were just trying different things in there. From my understanding the 8 and 1 car had something different (at California) than the 15 had. The 15 ran the whole race, but it's like that in anything. Last year our short track program at Chip's and Felix's place was not very good at the beginning of the year. We were all struggling. We worked on some cars and everybody ran better. When you look at an organization of multi-car teams, you can't have one team outrunning the rest of them. Obviously they're all going to try to run well together and gain more success that way. Any time something happens to one of your teammates and then it happens to another one, it's going to go through your head. 'Is it going to happen to me?' You just go out and keep working and you can't let that bother you. There are so many other things going on."

WHAT DO YOU THINK OTHER DRIVERS ARE THINKING NOW AFTER SEEING WHAT MONTOYA DID SUNDAY? "I don't think it was anything intentional. The thing I saw on Sunday is he (Montoya) is bad to the bone on road course racing. I think Scott Pruett is a really good driver, too, but I see Juan doing some stuff that I thought was really impressive. To come from 19th and overcome the problems they had and move to second and obviously he had a faster car, it says a lot. I know both of those cars were close to the same. They probably had different setups, but as far as how they're built... That's what I look at. Am I worried about if he's going to rough me up? No. Juan and I talk every week. I try to help him out as much as I can and he's helping me out, too. When I go to the road courses this year I'm going to really be leaning on him because he's obviously strong at that. We all get along really good. That's something Chip and Felix really put on us. We're one team here and we really work together. I don't feel that anybody was at fault. I think both of them were running hard, and there was nothing intentional."

WHERE DOES THAT FALL UNDER THE UNWRITTEN RULES? "In our sport you're going to have contact and everybody wants to win. Juan was going for his first win, and Pruett was going for his first win. You're going to have hard racing. The two of them had pretty much dominated the race all day. I think that when we look at it and today we have a team meeting that we always have on Tuesdays. It'll be interesting. We'll probably go in and they'll emphasis that we need to be cautious around our teammates, but other organizations have had this, too. We just go on and look forward to Vegas. I don't feel that Reed is going to rough me up or I'm going to rough him up or Juan is going to do that. We all hang out. We get along really well. Scott is a good guy. He's actually going to help me test at VIR next week. We're all in it to win, and that's what we've got to do, but like I said there's nothing giving the signal that he's a rough driver or Scott was complaining. They both wanted to win. There was no one to blame. They were both just running hard."

COMMENT ON NOT COMPETING ON ROAD COURSES LAST YEAR "Obviously we're off to a lot better start this year, but I don't think it hurt us that much. We've got the COT this year and it's going to be totally different. We actually took one of our old cars and made it into a two-seater where Pruett and Juan can help myself and Reed. I got to compete at Watkins Glen in the Busch race two years ago, and I'm going to run the 41 this year in the Winter Fresh car on the Busch Watkins Glen weekend and there's a possibility we're trying to put a Busch west deal together to give me more track time. I think the more seat time I have, going to VIR and Road America with Juan and Pruett and having two really good road course guys in our corner will be valuable. We're doing a test next week with Pruett and Juan is going to help me out, too. We're working hard on getting me up to speed. I'm not a horrible road racer at all. Obviously they're a lot better at it and we needed to put them in the car (last season) and I totally understood that. We're off to a better start this year, and we're going to go to Sonoma and do the best we can. I'm going to lean on Scott and Juan for both of those races. I'm not nervous at all. I'm not worried about it."

COMMENT ON THREE DODGES IN TOP FIVE IN MEXICO BUSCH RACE "The new nose the Dodge Charger has on it has helped our balance and helped our program out. The majority of the Dodge cars are running better this year."

COMMENT ON HOW TOUGH IT IS TO QUALIFY IF YOU'RE OUT OF THE TOP 35 "Knowing the feeling of being out of the top 35, we were in that situation for two or three months, it is not a situation I want to be in again. I think it made me a better racer, better qualifier. When I look at the beginning of the season and where we're sitting in points, we can't have any bad races. It is still really tight. Anybody outside the top 30 or 35 they can't have any more DNFs or bad races. If they have one more bad race it'll put 'em out for awhile. Like my teammate Reed Sorenson, he ended up getting caught in a mess out there at California, nothing of his doing, and he had a bad race and it dropped him to I think 30th in points. He was 13th before that. That shows how tight it is. It was the same way this past week in the Busch race. Juan was pretty far down in the 30s and now he's in the teens somewhere. Really big jumps go on in these first three to five races so you've got to be on top of your game. Our team has said we want to have top 20s, top 15s. Then we'll go from there. You've got to start out solid and gain as many points as you can and not have DNFs. Last year our performance was really poor. We didn't have DNFs. We just couldn't get our cars the way we wanted them. This year I feel we're a lot stronger and we just need to capitalize on not having bad races."

WOULD IT SURPRISE YOU TO SEE SOME TOP TEAMS MISS RACES? "To tell you the truth it wouldn't surprise me at all. I think that when you look at some of the teams like Ginn Racing, they're running better. We feel we're running a lot better. I think the guys like Dale Jr., they'll be strong and get back inside the top 35 and get going better. If you're a newer team or a team that hasn't had past success you're going to be worried. Our team just needs to start out strong. Everybody wants to win races, but the big thing is being inside that top 35 or top 15 or 20 and then you'll be OK. Then you can run hard and make aggressive calls midway through the year to get better position or try to win races. If you run inside the top 20 you have a chance at winning the race. It's just that strong. All the teams have really good equipment. Some really good organizations have been going home. It really just shows how strong our sport is right now even though they say TV ratings are down and all this other stuff. Corporate America is not thinking that. There are still fully funded teams that are going home."

-credit: dodge motorsports

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About this article
Series NASCAR Sprint Cup
Drivers Scott Pruett