Tuesday, June 12, 2001. Highlights of Winston Teleconference with Sterling Marlin and car owner Chip Ganassi. STERLING MARLIN (No. 40 Coors Light Dodge Intrepid R/T) NOTE: Marlin finished third last Sunday in the Kmart 400 at Michigan...
Tuesday, June 12, 2001. Highlights of Winston Teleconference with Sterling Marlin and car owner Chip Ganassi.
STERLING MARLIN (No. 40 Coors Light Dodge Intrepid R/T)
NOTE: Marlin finished third last Sunday in the Kmart 400 at Michigan and moved to third in the series standings, 127 points behind leader Jeff Gordon and 101 points behind runner-up Dale Jarrett. Marlin has four top fives and eight top 10s in 14 starts this season. The 43-year-old Columbia, Tenn., driver will make his 518th career Winston Cup start on Father's Day Sunday at Pocono. In 31 career starts at the 2.5-mile triangle, Marlin has three top fives and 11 top 10s. He won the pole and finished fourth there in 1999, matching his career-best finish at the triangular track.
"I guess we ran in the top three just about all day (at Michigan), and I guess it looked like Ricky (Rudd) and Jeff (Gordon) had to come back in and tighten their lugnuts up. We got a good lead and it looked like we were headed for victory and the caution came out. It kind of hurt us. After all the testing we'd done in December and January, I felt like Chip (Ganassi) and Felix (co-owner Sabates) had really put together a good race team. Dodge had us some good equipment to work with. I just thought if we didn't have any trouble and we could finish the races that we would be in the top five in the points. It's pretty much gone to plan. It's (Pocono) is a speedway more or less. You've got to turn right on road courses at some point in time, but you don't in Pocono unless you're in trouble. I really enjoy Pocono. I always run good there since the first time I ran and it's kind of a change of pace, different for us. It's kind of a triangular-shaped track, but I enjoy racing there."
WILL YOU HAVE TO MENTALLY PREPARE TO GO BACK TO DAYTONA? @"I really haven't even thought about it until you said something, but I know when we get there it'll definitely be on our minds. We'll be thinking about it, but we'll have to race and go on."
IS THERE A BIG DIFFERENCE IN RACING IN THE DAYTONA 500 AND PEPSI 400? @"It's usually pretty cool weather when we race the Daytona 500, and July 4 is pretty hot, but the night time cools it off fairly good. The chassis setups we've run in the past have stayed about the same. We really haven't changed much. I liked the old daytime races when it was good and hot. The track really got slick and the best handling cars always came to the top. I like the daytime races."
DISCUSS CHIP GANASSI AND FELIX SABATES AS OWNERS @"All Chip has ever done is raced. Felix was a real successful business man and got in racing. It was really hard for Felix to grasp what was going on. It cost him a lot of money. Chip came in and we hired different people to do different things. Andy Graves and Tony Glover are team managers, and they've really got everything organized. I guess basically what I'm trying to say is Chip has known racing and that's all he's ever done. He knows what it kind of takes to get everything going in the right direction. He brings a lot of good work ethic. When you go in the shop now there's a lot of work going on, a lot of organization, planning ahead a lot. I guess they get that from Indy car stuff, but they've hired a lot of different people and Dodge came on board, so it's really basically a new race team."
HOW DO YOU HANDLE JEFF GORDON'S HOT STREAK? @"We just wait and watch. I think as far as us, we've had the best Dodge team. I think me and Jeff on Sunday the last half of the race were pretty well matched, our cars. It's a big if, but I think if the caution hadn't come out we would have won. Our cars are really tight up off the corners at some places. If we can get a little more downforce in the front it would help us, but we'll just take what we've got and work hard and try to make it work. As it stands the Dodge motors are probably 40 to 50 pounds heavier than a Ford. That might put us at a little disadvantage at some short tracks, but as far as downforce goes, it's in NASCAR's hands. We'll just see in the windtunnel. Maybe if they can change something they'll change it, but we'll just work with what we've got. If they change something down the road we'll take it.
"Dale Jr. ran pretty good Sunday. I think he had some trouble, but the big deal is whoever gets the chassis hooked up. I think Jeff and them have really got a good handle on the chassis right now since they got rid of the bump rubbers. It seems like they've run better since the rule change, but Jeff's car always seem to drive good. That's what you want to get in Winston Cup racing."
WHAT'S YOUR OPINION OF ONE-ROUND QUALIFYING? @"I think it's gone great. We never went back last year, I think maybe one time. It gives you more time to get your car set up for the race. We're basically getting an hour and a half for Happy Hour. The way they did it at Michigan, we got 45 minutes practice skipped about an hour and then came back and ran another 45 minutes. That gives you time to change things that you need to change. I like the way they did it."
HOW DO YOU HANDLE GARAGE RUMORS? @"It hasn't affected me. I'm with Chip this year, and we've signed a deal for two more years, so I'm set with him. I'm tickled to death with what Chip and Felix have done for the race team. I'm just really glad to be with them. Coors is right there with us, so if all them other guys want to swap and go around, I don't care. It's not going to affect us none. We're just going to do our deal and try to win some races."
ARE YOU FEELING PRESSURE TO GET FIRST WIN FOR DODGE? @"Dodge is not putting pressure on us. We're just doing our thing. It kind of left an empty feeling knowing we were so close at Michigan. We've been close all year. We really had a good car at Michigan. It was a new car and we just want to get the win for Dodge and everybody, for all the guys on the crew who have worked so hard all year and Chip, being his first win. We'll just have to put it behind us and go to Pocono and try to get us a win up there."
DID YOU MAKE ANY ADJUSTMENTS BEFORE MICHIGAN RACE? @"We had a new car and we were kind of having a little trouble with it Friday. When Saturday morning rolled around we were a little bit tight. We kept adjusting on it and made a spring change on Sunday morning. It was the right way. We really didn't chase the track much. I think we put in one round of bite all day and took it back out. The chassis was pretty hooked up Sunday."
WHAT IS SO DIFFERENT ABOUT THE TEAM THIS YEAR? @"It's just a whole, complete, to me a different race team. Chip came in and hired a bunch of good people. We're hanging our own bodies, and when we want to change something we can change it on 30 minutes notice and not have to wait a week to go change something. All the guys doing the motors have done a great job. I've got some good horsepower. We're just well prepared and well organized. That's basically it in a nutshell. I think we'll be OK (at Pocono). The motor we had Sunday ran great. It's the best one we've had all year, and our guys are redoing it to carry to Pocono. The deal about Pocono is you turn so many rpm's, but we do it everywhere now. Pocono is also a handling track. Your car has got to drive well there, too, so you need horsepower and handling."
WHAT OTHER TRACKS ARE SIMILAR TO POCONO FOR SETUPS? @"Maybe Las Vegas would be pretty close. We're running soft springs, I think everybody is now, and big swaybars. They've done away with the bump rubbers, what we had last year. Everyone raced with them last year. You really can't get below a 600-pound spring without the length having to be so tall on it, so it's been a little different for some guys. Some guys who didn't run 'em might have a little advantage."
HAS THE DODGE INTREPID R/T PERFORMED BETTER AT ANY CERTAIN TRACK? @"No. I think we've been pretty close all year. I think on the short tracks with extra weight in the motor might hurt us just a little bit, but from Atlanta to California to Michigan, I think our car has been pretty competitive. It hasn't really hurt us anywhere."
CHIP GANASSI (Team owner Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates for Dodge Intrepid R/T Drivers Sterling Marlin and rookie Jason Leffler)
"I think everybody in racing, whether you're a driver, mechanic, crew chief, engineer, bus drivers, whoever, everybody has their own toolbox. Some guys have big toolboxes, and some guys have little toolboxes. I'm being very broad in my analogy, but I think it's an owner's job to give everybody the tools they need in their toolbox to do their job. Whether it's something as easy as wrenches or some kind of analytical piece of equipment. It could be something as simple as a cell phone to stay in communication. It's just giving the people the tools they need to do their job. I like to ask people what they need to do their job? What could make their jobs easier? Is it a tool or is it a computer, beeper, cell phone? Do you need two hours off a week or something. The fact that I drove a while back, I try to present a team that I would like to have driven for. I don't have a boat company or a big truck leasing company to fall back on. Racing is my business.
"We're certainly pleasantly surprised. I think if you had said in June or July last year that we were going to be third in the points come this June, I would have we all would have had a party. The good news is we're third in the points. The bad news is we're all a bunch of racers and we're not happy with that, either. In racing, if you're 10th, you want to be ninth. If you're fifth, you want to be fourth, and if you're third, you want to be second. We're all happy with that, but we're certainly not content with it."
HAVE YOU FOUND PARALLELS WITH DODGE THAT YOU FOUND WITH HONDA OR TOYOTA? @"I've been fortunate to be on the front end with a couple of different car companies coming into racing. What happens is these companies have such an open mind that they bring some thinking that maybe the other people aren't thinking about for too long. When you're with a factory, they come in with fresh thought. That's exactly what Dodge is doing. They have a very open mind and they want to give their teams what the teams need, much like what we try to do with our employees. Dodge is doing the same thing. They're always asking what they can do for us and what we need to do better. There is a sharing of information among the teams. We have a conference call about once a month and everybody is on there going over what they need.
"Ray (Evernham) has his own team, and he certainly has his hands full running his own team, like we all do. Ray is very helpful at any moment. He's been very helpful to me, I can tell you that. He's open to anything, like we all are. We're all trying to win a race out there. Ray is right there. We're all so busy with our head down and our feet moving. It'd be nice if we had some more time to sit down and talk about things, but it's very difficult in this business."
DO YOU FEEL OBLIGATION TO HELP WESTERN PENNSYLVANIANS MAKE IT IN RACING? @"I don't know that I feel any obligation. I don't feel any more or less obligation than anybody did when I was coming up in racing. It's always nice to have a helping hand of somebody who has been there, done that. When you're in racing, especially in this area, it's a bit of an island. Pittsburgh isn't exactly the racing capital of the world. You're on a bit of an island. It's nice to have somebody to talk to. It was for me when I was trying to come up through the ranks of racing. Our teams have helped a lot of people over the years, not just from western Pennsylvania."
ARE YOU SATISFIED WITH NASCAR'S SAFETY FEATURES? @"I think I have to be very careful to discuss what I know and don't know about NASCAR, whether it's about safety or the rules or the regulations. I've only been in probably 20 NASCAR races in my life, and I think that's relatively few as it relates to the big picture. I think it's easy for anybody to walk in from the outside new and say, 'this is wrong or that's wrong.' Anybody can do that in anybody's office. People can come in from the outside to NASCAR and say, 'why don't you do this, and why don't you do that?' I could walk into your office and do the same thing, or you could come into my office and tell me how bad I'm doing things or how inefficient. I think it's easier for people to point fingers. I'm not somebody to be pointing fingers. I'd rather get involved in solutions to challenges and right now, I don't know enough about the problems or the challenges to be coming up with any solutions yet. I have a lot to learn about this formula of racing. For me to be spouting off about how they should be doing one thing or another, I think is pretty short sighted.
"Have I tested the waters to see if I have a voice about safety? I probably haven't tested the water there because I don't have enough information yet. I've found whether it's Mike or Gary or Bill France, I've found them to be as open as they can be with me. I don't have any problem getting them on the phone or anything or finding them at the race and talking to them about something. I think they have a good interaction with their teams. I see other owners going in there talking. I really don't feel like I have any more or less of a voice than I do in CART. Owning some stock in the company doesn't give you the voice to run the company. I don't feel like I have any more or less of a voice in either one of them.
"Show me somebody who's in there on a daily basis and the daily grind of the business. Show me somebody who's in there 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 365 days a year and then tell me how to do it."
TALK ABOUT DODGE'S ONE-TEAM CONCEPT @"I think certainly safety issues are shared, engine pieces that Dodge has provided are shared. I don't think anybody expects us to be out there sharing race setups or things like that, but sort of in a broad spectrum, I think that I'm very happy with how everyone is working together. From what I hear, it's certainly more than has been done in the past with other manufacturers."
TALK ABOUT RACING DOMINATION @"People like Hendrick understands it right now and Jeff. Joe Gibbs understands it. Childress understands it. Anybody that's won championships can tell you it's a very delicate balance. There are two key words there -- balance and delicate. A lot of teams can go out and win races, 10, 11 or 15 teams can go out and win races on any given weekend, but to win championships... Especially in today's world, the world is not getting any less complex. You have to have people that are, a group of what I would call unselfish people that will give for the team. The team has to be their thing. The team has to be No. 1. It's a very delicate balance of people. That's the only difference between our team and the Pettys or Ray or Childress or Hendrick. All these teams today, the only differences are the people. You have to have a group of people who want to work together and they want to do their job, and more importantly they let other people do their job.
"You have to have a group of unselfish people. You have to have a group of people that are going to put the team ahead of their own personal goals. It's very, very difficult to find that. When you have 80, 90, 100 people, to some extent everybody has a somewhat different agenda. You have to make sure everybody has the same goal in mind, and not only has the same goal in mind, but they can see the goal post. It's important for people, I hate to keep using these sports metaphors, but people have to understand where they're going to be able to see the goal posts, to see the light at the end of the tunnel.
"You never know if it's just somebody getting hot for a few weeks, but you would certainly think that someone like Hendrick team, if I was to guess with the experience that team has, I'm not sure I want to know the answer to that. The answer is I'm just hoping it's a hot spurt. Being a team owner, I hope it's just a hot spurt. Being somebody that understands the sport over the long term, I would bet it's not. Being another team owner and I'm out there week in and week out banging around with them, I hope it's just a hot streak. Knowing a little bit about the business and knowing a little bit about a team like Hendrick, I would guess it's not. If I was a betting man, I'd bet they're just getting up to speed."
IS IT GETTING MORE IMPORTANT EACH WEEKEND TO GET DODGE'S FIRST WIN? @"All you can do in this business is put yourself in position to win week in and week out. That's all we can do. Let's face it. Anybody that has won races can tell you, and I'm sure Jeff can tell you this, it's a good thing those guys have the benefit of a couple of yellows there (at Michigan) with 15 laps to go that put them in a position to win or at least in a position to contend for it. Had that thing gone green the last 15 laps, I don't know that the headlines would be Gordon and Rudd duking it out. It was a great race, and I'm not taking anything away from those guys. That's the way this business is. I know both of those guys and they did a great job. They won the race and we came third. That was that, but it very easily could have gone the other way. All you can do is put yourself in position to win. When you're in a position to win, that's all you can hope for.
"When you're racing 36 or 38 weekends a year, it's not a sprint. It's an enduro. You don't get too high when things go good, and you don't get too low when they go bad. You're back at it the next week. There's nothing like having another race to put last week's problems behind you, or there's nothing like another race to slap some reality into you when you're on too big of a high. Every racer who's worth his salt knows he can go to the next race and the whole season can turn around. Believe me, it can turn bad just as easy as it can turn good, just as quickly and you won't know why. You're always aware that that can happen either way very quickly in this business."