Continued from part 1 WHY DO YOU THINK SPONSORS ARE EMBRACED MORE IN NASCAR THAN MAYBE SOME OTHER SPORTS? "Let me tell you, I'm not very bright, but let me tell you my analogy on that. There was football before the Fiesta Bowl, and the fans...
Continued from part 1
WHY DO YOU THINK SPONSORS ARE EMBRACED MORE IN NASCAR THAN MAYBE SOME OTHER SPORTS?
"Let me tell you, I'm not very bright, but let me tell you my analogy on that. There was football before the Fiesta Bowl, and the fans don't feel that a sponsor for the bowl is really necessary - the old school. The new guys don't care. The new fans, heck, they grew up and that's the way it is - who cares - to them. This is my opinion now, but to the old-school people, they feel resentful toward that. In racing it's different. It can't happen without sponsors and it wasn't anything like it is today when we had much smaller sponsors, so the race fan understands that it is absolutely critical to have those sponsors for the races as well as for the teams because we can't make it on television revenue. We can't even come close to race on the revenues from television or on the revenues from ticket sales and television. You couldn't even come close, so it's a real different venture to compare the two."
DO YOU HAVE ANY IDEA WHAT WAS SHREDDING EVERYBODY'S TIRES LAST WEEKEND?
"This is not new. We had the same problem at Indy, you'll recall. In fact, I was running fourth and they had a green-white-checkered and my left-front blew out on the last lap and I went from fourth to 27th, and there were a lot of left-fronts that blew out at Indy. This is the only race track that is similar - in a lot of ways - to Indy and we were totally confused about the Indy thing, but I'm not even a bit surprised about Pocono's race after seeing what happened with Indy. You're talking about a combination of huge right-rear springs, big camber settings on the left front and low air pressures, and no way to identify what it is. We still don't know. Is it really camber? Is it really air pressure? Or is it really the right-rear spring? Or is it all of them together? And if it's all of them together, how much do the guys that blew out have to back off in order for them not to blow left-fronts out? It's more difficult than right-front tires. When you blow a right-front tire out, it's air pressure or camber. That's all you figure, so you put some air in it and you take some camber out. Well, it's not as clear-cut on the left front because you don't really know what are the three things it really is and what are the three things will really help it. So it's a little bit harder to determine and it's also harder for the teams to fix their problem."
HOW IS MATT'S RACING GOING AND HOW INVOLVED DO YOU PLAN TO BE?
"I don't plan to be deeply involved in his racing next year. I will help him, but it's not the focus of my life. The focus of my life is to be a great dad and to support him in whatever way he wants. If the focus of his life was to race and he came to me needing my help, then I'd turn the world upside down for him. But we're just having fun. He's 13 years old and something that I think is incredibly important is for him to be a kid - for him to be 13 years old. And next year he's 14 and I want him to be 14. I want him to have the opportunity to have a childhood and to be a teenager without having to make a lifelong commitment at 13 years old and never have an opportunity to enjoy being a young man. So I will help him do whatever it is no matter what that might be."
WHAT HAVE YOU HEARD ABOUT THE 6 CAR NEXT YEAR?
"To be real honest with you, there have been more discussions on that than I've been included in, so I don't really know. I can't really answer your question. I don't really know where they're at right now because they've been working on it and I've been real busy and haven't had a chance to be involved in that."
THERE'S NOTHING TO CONVINCE YOU TO BE THAT GUY?
"No. I won't do it. I'm sorry. I know I've disappointed some people, especially Jack Roush, but I've made my decision and I made that commitment when I was 15 - that I was speaking to you about before and I don't regret it. I've had a great career and more success than I could have ever dreamed of, but before it's too late I'm gonna start having fun."
WHAT ARE YOUR IMPRESSIONS ON CARL EDWARDS, KYLE BUSCH AND BRIAN VICKERS?
"They're all really, really tremendous race-car drivers - very fine young men. Just spectacular. It's guys like that that are putting me out of business. They're fantastic. I would like to say to everybody that Joey Logano turned 15 three weeks ago and in his second Hooters Pro Cup race he qualified sixth and won the race. So, like I say, I think Joey Logano is gonna be pushing those guys toward a going-out-of-business plan in 10 years."
I WONDERED ABOUT JOEY IN THAT 6 CAR.
"I would put him in that car in a heartbeat, I'm telling you. He's ready. He's good enough to do it."
WHAT ARE YOU GOING TO DO IF YOU WIN THE TITLE? WILL YOU DEFEND IT?
"No. I would really, really enjoy - not that I'm a guy that likes to commit practical jokes or anything like that - but I would really enjoy messing everybody up - NASCAR and Nextel up by winning their championship and not coming back. That would be the coolest thing."
AS FAR AS THE TRUCK SERIES GOES, WHICH TRACK WOULD YOU LOOK FORWARD TO RACING THAT THE CUP SERIES DOES NOT RACE ON?
"You know what, I haven't thought about that. That's a good point. Milwaukee would certainly be one of them. In ASA, that was our Daytona Speedway going to Milwaukee. That's probably the one that comes most to mind when I think of that. I think it's just gonna be a ball and I really look forward to it - the whole Truck Series. I'm really excited about it and really excited about 2006."
ANY TALK ABOUT DOING A TRUCK RACE THIS YEAR?
"Not that I'm making an official announcement, but it is our plan to run Homestead, which would be Truck, Busch and Cup all at Homestead - wrapping up that weekend. So that is our plan right now to run the Truck at Homestead."
WHAT DID THAT WIN AT POCONO MEAN FOR ROUSH RACING?
"Gosh, with all the success that Roush Racing has had, that's one that hasn't worked out. Jeff Burton was a spectacular driver at Pocono with Roush Racing and Ted Musgrave as well. It just never has worked out, but now they have just added one more success to the record."
IS THE THRILL STILL THE SAME WHEN YOU'RE THIS HIGH IN THE STANDINGS?
"I'm so cautious and guard myself from broken heartedness that I still look at it like I'm not gonna make it. That's the way I preserve myself. I'm very concerned about making it because of the competition. I know that we're just one or two more wrecks and a blown motor away from missing the cut, and those things I can't control. If I could control all of those things, then we'd be in and we'd make it no problem."
DOES YOUR CLOSE CALLS IN THE STANDING BEFORE MAKE YOU THINK ABOUT THAT MORE?
"No. Coming close is a good thing, not a bad thing."
ARE YOU DEFINITELY DOING THE TRUCK SERIES NEXT YEAR?
"I haven't officially announced that, but that is what I want to do and that is what I plan on doing. I haven't announced it, so therefore if I didn't somebody couldn't say, 'You said you were going to and you didn't.' I can't do that yet. I will make an announcement officially when we sign a sponsor and a partner for the thing, but it is my intention to race the truck for Jack Roush on a full schedule."
DAN WHELDON SAID THE IRL HAS MOMENTUM AND THE QUALITY OF RACING HAS IMPROVED. HE MORE OR LESS SAID FOR NASCAR TO LOOK OUT. DO YOU SEE ANYTHING BEING A THREAT TO NASCAR AS FAR AS FANS OR SPONSORSHIP?
"Well, I think the comment that Dan made there was just a reaction to being bombarded and pressured after winning the Indy 500, and probably not being there, I couldn't say for sure but I would assume that it came after being wore down. Obviously, the IRL has momentum, especially with Danica Patrick and all the exposure that that's brought to them. That breathes some new life into Indy car racing that just wasn't there before. They have great racing on those particular race tracks, like Texas and all, so they certainly are on the upswing. I don't think they're gonna put NASCAR out of business."
HOW DO YOU SEE THE EVOLUTION CHANGING FOR DRIVERS AS FAR AS HOW LONG THEY DRIVE?
"I don't think a lot of veterans are going to want to run the full Cup schedule at 50 years old in the far future, number one. And I think it would take a spectacular veteran to pull it off in the far future because of the pressure that will be put on to perform against youth."
DO YOU THINK BEING TOO REFLECTIVE OR SENTIMENTAL ABOUT THIS BEING YOUR LAST YEAR WOULD CAUSE YOU TO LOSE FOCUS?
"Gosh, I don't know. For some weird reason all of that just hasn't existed in my world yet. I'm a guy that always looks at the target and all that just really doesn't have much to do with the real target. At the same time, I am very proud of the success I've had. I am building a museum at my new Ford dealership in Arkansas - in my hometown - to display all of that and to sort of share that with the race fan. I don't want to keep going because this is the time for me, but at times I wish I was 15 years younger and at this point in my life, but who doesn't? So the reality of it is that it is time. The reality isn't that I can't do it anymore, it's that I choose this time so I can get out with my dignity and pride, rather than hang on by a thread as long as I possibly can."
SO HAS IT NOT REALLY BEEN THAT HARD TO TREAT THIS YEAR LIKE ANY OTHER SEASON?
"I think the reason that I'm able to come to terms with this so much is because it's by my choice. It's not like, 'Well, I'm having to drop down the scale of competitive cars in order to keep going.' This is my choice. I haven't been forced into this position and, evidently, that must make it easier for me."
WHAT WAS IT LIKE TO DO THE FX 360 SHOW? HAVE YOU WATCHED IT?
"I've watched the rough cuts of it. I haven't watched the programs, but I know what's on because I saw the rough cut because we do get editing rights. It was not as intrusive as I expected. I made really great friends with the crew. I was slightly uncomfortable at times, but very little, and that had to do with my maybe getting embarrassed - that I went somewhere and that TV camera is following me. Let's say going to the dentist, for example. It was embarrassing. I get embarrassed about, if I would have been standing there I would have said, 'Well, he thinks he's big. Look at him, he's got those cameras following him everywhere.' You know what I mean? So, for the most part, it was much less intrusive than I expected and made great friends with the crew."
I WAS SURPRISED WHEN YOU DID IT.
"It was a part of the salute. That's part of it. I absolutely turned it down last year and, if I'd have signed a new contract, I certainly would have turned it down this year, but it was important to me. I felt like it was an opportunity for me to show my fans and for them to get to know me a little bit better yet. So that's why we did it and I'm real happy with the show. I think it turned out well."