Dodge Motorsports Teleconference Tuesday, Aug. 23, 2005 Michigan Recap, Bristol Advance JEREMY MAYFIELD (No. 19 Dodge Dealers/UAW Dodge Charger) NOTE: Coming off a victory last Sunday at Michigan, Mayfield ranks sixth in the NASCAR...
Dodge Motorsports Teleconference
Tuesday, Aug. 23, 2005
Michigan Recap, Bristol Advance
JEREMY MAYFIELD (No. 19 Dodge Dealers/UAW Dodge Charger)
NOTE: Coming off a victory last Sunday at Michigan, Mayfield ranks sixth in the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Standings with three races remaining to qualify for The Chase. The 36-year-old Owensboro, Ky., native trails series leader Tony Stewart by 399 points, and he's 218 points of 11th place. Mayfield started eighth and finished 17th earlier this season at Bristol.
OPENING COMMENTS "To be back in victory lane and to get Dodge its second win of the year and to win the other day like we did was pretty cool. It took a whole team effort to do that. It took a lot of confidence in each other, the crew, the driver, the gasman, everybody involved. I thought it was pretty neat to do that. It took a whole team effort. We're going to go into Bristol like we always do, opened minded, knowing we've got to get all the points we can. We've got to put last week behind us and go there to win the race or be in position at the end if not to gain a lot of points. We're a lot better off in the points than we were last year, but we're not going to drop our guard down and go there not to win the race. We're going to go there to get all we can. You're certainly not going to take any crazy chances. I say that and then we did that last week, but you've still got to run hard. If you don't run hard you're not going to finish good anyway, so we've got to go with the same mindset we've had all year and that's get all you can and go from there. Everybody runs hard at Bristol, and you've got to stay out of trouble. Sometimes you've got to run up front to stay out of trouble which means you've got to run extremely hard and have a good car to do that. Bristol is hard enough as it is so if you go there trying to take it easy you'll get yourself in trouble. We'll just race the race track the same way we have. We've had several good runs there, so I feel like we should be in good shape. We could get to fifth, maybe even fourth or third if everything went wrong for them, but for sure we could get up in the top five and that would be a real comfortable feeling if we could get out of Bristol and be in the top five in points. I'd be real happy and maybe the last two races wouldn't be as much pressure, but we're certainly not going to let our guard down until it's over. We want to go there with the intent to be in fifth place when we leave there."
COMMENT ON EFFORT TRYING TO MAKE THE CHASE THIS SEASON " We've put a lot of effort into getting into the Chase. We've tested three or four times the last six weeks, including the Goodyear tire test. It's kinda got everybody, not really tired, but it's a wear on you. The grind we've been going through is extremely tough. I think the ones that can get through that and then can recoup and recover and go through the last 10 with the same amount of energy will be the ones who can win the championship. We hope we'll be able to do that, and we feel like our teams are maxed out. The 16 and 20 are pretty much at their peak performance level. The 48 and a lot of those guys, but we feel like we're getting better and better every week, so we should be able to go all out and give the same effort we did getting into The Chase."
WAS IT A LOSING BATTLE LAST YEAR AFTER YOU GOT INTO THE CHASE? "It was a losing battle when we went to Loudon. We kinda got the breath knocked out of us for awhile. We went back the second week and got a top five. The third week we went to Charlotte and Harvick blew a motor. We were running second and got into the wall. Every other week we were either on or off. We weren't off as a team. We were just off on finishes because of bad luck. We realized we went through the Chase with as much enthusiasm or energy as anybody but we just couldn't recover the two or three bad things that happened to us. I don't look at it as we exhausted ourselves getting into it as much as bad luck hit us. I think this year is going to be a different story. We know to expect. We know what it's all about. I think we'd got a lot more staying power."
WHAT HAS MADE IT SO COMPETITIVE TO FINISH IN THE TOP 10? "For one I think it's a situation where five years ago you didn't have as many teams running as competitive as they are today. Today there's like 30-35 good teams. What makes a good team is good people. You get people who go to different race teams and move around every year. All of a sudden you've got good people spread out all through the sport, good crew chiefs, good engineers who are really on top of their deal. That makes information and things you do on your race team more valuable to the people who are going to be there, their loyalty than the people that are going to move around. Everybody has good people and the drivers can't make up the difference between a bad-handling racecar and a good-handling racecar. You can't make up the difference anymore. So what happens is you've got to make your stuff really good. You've got to be prepared more than you've ever been because we only have two 45-minute practice sessions most of the time or we have two hours on Friday to impound on Saturday, so you've got a short amount of time to get your stuff driving good and handling good to be able to run good on Sunday. It's just narrowed that window down. You can't make up the difference if the car is not handling well because there will be 30 guys with cars that do handle well and they'll beat you. There used to be only five good pit crews, and now everybody's got a good pit crew. When Ray was with the 24, they had a dominant pit crew. They could come in 10th and go out first, come in 20th and go out fifth. You used to see stuff like that all the time. You don't' see that anymore. If you can just hold your on on pit road, you've got an awesome pit crew. That's what it's all about. It's been more of a team effort more than just a driver making the difference, and now it's starting to show that. Guys that come in the sport and haven't been there very long run just as well as a guy who's been there forever. It's all about the team you're around and the people you're around."
AS A DRIVER DO YOU FEEL UNDERESTIMATED? "I feel that way, but the good thing about it is that it's something that doesn't bother me. I can go with the flow with a lot of things. As far as on the racetrack, car for car, driver for driver, I feel like I'm as good as any driver out there driving a racecar and that's the way I should feel. Now, if we have a bad year like Jeff Gordon is having, sort of a bad year, I'd like to have a bad year like he's having. He's won several races, but he's not in The Chase and it's not because of Jeff Gordon. They've had bad luck. Same way with Dale Earnhardt Jr. When they have a bad year or bad luck you don't hear 'they can't drive or they're not focused.' The problem I've got with it is people want to throw off on just me or say I'm not focused or I don't drive like I used to drive. That's not right. That's what irritates me more than anything. We're gaining respect. I'm as much focused now as I've ever been, and I feel like I'm a better driver than I've ever been. Yet, nobody seems to realize that."
DO YOU FEEL LIKE YOU GET RESPECT FROM YOUR COLLEAGUES? "I feel real good about my colleagues. I think you could ask any driver out there if they respect the way I drive and myself on or off the racetrack, and I think they'd tell you they do. I feel like I've got as much respect as anybody out there on the racetrack and off the racetrack probably as far as the drivers are concerned. I've got no problems with anybody, and nobody seems to mess with me. I feel like I'm pretty good friends with all of them. I feel like they would tell you straight up that I'm not as bad sometimes as people say I am as far as the media go saying I'm not focused and all that stuff. I think it's cool when you look at the competitors' side of it and then the media's side of it. I'm not the one who's going to be out here talking on TV about my team like I used to. I know now what it's all about. It's about total team effort, so maybe that's why I'm not getting.....
YOU HAD TO WORK FOR EVERYTHING YOU'VE GOT. HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT THAT? "That's something I'm so proud of, and that's why I don't let it bother me that I'm not selling the most souvenirs out there or whatever. I didn't have the name, and I clawed my way up and then stalled out for awhile. I moved from Penske to Evernham, but now I'm going back up again. That's something nobody can ever take away from me, and you're right. I didn't have nothing coming up. I barely was able to run street stocks and then move into late models. I had to fight and go to junk yards and cut motors out of cars and build my own racecars and everything else. That's why I'm content with who I am and I've got peace with that. Whether I'm talked about or not talked about, and that's the way I feel about it. There's nothing more satisfying than knowing I can build a car from the ground up. No matter what it is, paint it, letter it, wire it, whatever it takes and then get in it and drive it. That's something I've got within myself that I'm very proud of and a lot of people don't even know that about me. Maybe they just think I just got in a racecar and started driving or whatever, but I've done a lot of stuff in my career that's self satisfying."
HOW WAS IT DRIVING FOR CALE YARBOROUGH? "I was at the shop every morning at 8 o'clock every morning and couldn't be late. I probably made less than just about every crew member there, but I wanted it. I didn't have anything else. I didn't have anything I could turn back on. I didn't have a rich family that I could just come out here and race and have fun. I had to race to survive in life and that's what I've done."
NOTE MANY YOUNG DRIVERS NOW COME UP LIKE YOU DID "That's something you're not seeing a lot anymore for whatever reason, but there's still some out there. You look at Rusty Wallace, Dale Earnhardt Sr. and Jr. too, he worked on his stuff. A lot of guys in the sport have done that, but you're not seeing many lately coming up that have done that. Maybe the sport is changing in that direction, and that's OK. Everybody can do their own thing and get there their own way. It's just cool how you're seeing a little bit of that transition going on. Used to you never would have seen that."
HAS THE PRESSURE DROPPED? "I don't know if it's been dropped. It's about the same really. I think we're handling it a little differently than we did last year. If you're not careful this thing can get to you, trying to get in the Top 10 for The Chase. Last year I think we did an outstanding job of that all the way to the end until we got in. This year I'm not going to say the pressure hasn't been there, but I think we've handled it a lot better than we did last year."
DID THE WIN AT MICHIGAN SOLIDIFY YOUR RELATIONSHIP WITH SLUGGER? "We've got stronger all year long, and our relationship's gotten stronger, our confidence in each other. Just the way I say things and the way he says things, the communication part of it. Just how loose the car is. All the things have come together the last six or eight weeks. I think Slugger's and Kenny Francis' relationship has gotten better. They were kinda finding out how it was going to work. I've got a new crew chief that I've got to communicate with and he's got a new team manager. We're all trying to make this thing work, and we're still running like we are. That's what I'm excited about. We're just now getting to the point where we can start racing."
HOW DO YOU PLAN FOR BRISTOL? "The good thing about Bristol is some bad stuff can happen but you're not at an aero track where if you mess the fender up you're going to be done for the rest of the day, or if you tear the side off of it you're for sure done with it. You can rip both sides off of it and rip the nose off it and you can still win the race at Bristol. That's the good thing about it. If you do have a bad day you can still maintain a decent finish out of it. On these other tracks you wouldn't be able to do that. It has its plusses and minuses on bad things happening, but you've just got to go into like we've been going. We go as hard as we can and try to get as many points as we can and try to win the race. We're not going to change anything. We're going with the same focus we've had all year and do the best we can for that day."
WHEN YOU DREAM OF BRISTOL WHAT DO YOU DREAM OF? "I dream of winning Bristol. I want to win there bad."
HOW MUCH MORE DO YOU VALUE YOUR SUCCESS NOW? "I think that still happens this day and time with young drivers that come in and run good early in their careers. I'm the same way. When I got with the 37 car which turned into the 12 car, you start running good and you don't appreciate it or I guess I should say, I didn't appreciate it like I do now. I appreciate my team, my car owner being a great friend of mine, I think it's a little about growing up and maturing. You realize what is important in life. I wasn't the one making all the difference in the past. It takes a total team effort. A lot of drivers don't understand that coming up, but they do when it goes the full circle. I certainly look back and look at things 180 than I do now. I appreciate everything I've got as far as the team and the car I drive, the sponsors I've got. I'm so blessed to have such a good team around me, and I wouldn't have been thinking this way five years ago."
DO YOU FEEL LIKE YOU'RE DIFFERENT AS A DRIVER? "I think Ray's helped me more than anybody with that part of it. He's allowed me to be surrounded by great people that work on my car. I'm focused on driving. I can remember in the past not having visualization as part of it before you qualify. Now I run my lap through my head before I even qualify. I'm thinking about different grooves on the racetrack before the race and during the race. Sunday night on the way home, I'm thinking about the next race. I was thinking about Bristol in victory lane Sunday. That's what I call maturing as a driver, understanding what's important and what I can do to make me a better racecar driver. That's what I think about now."
HAS THE CHASE TURNED RACING INTO POINTS RACING? "It's been different. Strategy is really becoming a part of our sport now. The team that makes the big plays is the team that wins races these days. That involves gambling and taking chances, but those are confident gambles and chances you're taking. It's not like you're just guessing, but it's brought the best out of every team out there. That's what's got the sport so competitive. Everybody is thinking about every little detail. You're not focused so much on just driving and going out to win the race as you are on when your car is not right how can we still win the race or how can we get as many points as we can at the end of the race."
DO YOU CHART YOUR PROGRESS? "If you go into the shop right now, for the last couple or three years, we map out everything. Where our finishes are. Where we're at in points. Where we need to be and where our goals are. There are so many graphs and numbers on it it's unreadable. Kasey and I don't approach the big picture like the team does. The way I do it, I just go every week and get all I can and give 110 percent. Hopefully that's good enough and I'll put that race behind me and go to the next week. I'm kind of take it one week at a time and when I leave there Sunday say I wish I done this or that different. I can't look too far ahead or I wouldn't be able to accomplish what I need to every week."
AT WHAT POINT IN THE RACE DO YOU CONSIDER FUEL MILEAGE? "We tested that stuff because we always run into that problem at Michigan. We ran our car out of gas three or four times out there on long runs at the test. I did things in the car as a driver to help us save fuel if we ever got in that situation. Those details paid off and helped us win the race. We were confident we could go all the way. I knew what I had to do in the car instead of getting put in that situation and then being told to save gas. If I'd never done it he wouldn't be confident that I could do it, but we had all the confidence in the world that we were going to make it. They knew it was close, but we did it in the test and we stuck with our plan and it paid off. You're going to see things happening at Bristol this week that's probably going to be a surprise, too. If there's a long green toward the end, you're probably going to see guys stay out and not put on tires. Guys will probably stay out a long time and stay up front all night. I know we've been thinking about it and got several pit strategies. Who knows? It might be another wild race like it was last week."