NASCAR Weekly Teleconference Tuesday, Aug. 17, 2004 JEREMY MAYFIELD (No. 19 Dodge Dealers/UAW Dodge) Q: Now that you're back into the top 10 for the first time since the spring race in Bristol, can you talk about what it's taken the 19...
NASCAR Weekly Teleconference
Tuesday, Aug. 17, 2004
JEREMY MAYFIELD (No. 19 Dodge Dealers/UAW Dodge)
Q: Now that you're back into the top 10 for the first time since the spring race in Bristol, can you talk about what it's taken the 19 team to get back into it?
Mayfield: To start with, it looked like it was going to be OK., and then we had a few bad races, and then all of a sudden we kept staying focused on what we've had to do, and we've been racing every week just like there's no pressure, nothing to worry about, and just do the best we can as a race team and racking up all the points we can. This is really the solid part for us, this last half of the season. That's playing a role also. We've really got the momentum going, and we're communicating well, and everything's going great and that's what me and Kenny Francis, my crew chief, you know, things just keep getting better and better every week.
Q: As you are making the climb, you did not do it with victory after victory, it was just a little bit at a time that you've made your way to the top, when you got to like two races ago and realized you had a shot to get back in this thing, did it surprise you a little bit?
Mayfield: You know we've kind of had our eye on it all year. There were a couple times when we were like 16th and stuff like that, you almost start going, 'Man we're almost to the point where we're not going to be able to turn the corner on it you know?' And we just kept fighting and just working hard and the main thing we've done is just stay focused on our team and our deal. We haven't really worried about the points or where we were as much as what we can do to be better as a race team. And you know, we've just pulled together as a group, and it really hasn't surprised us I don't think as much as looking up now and thinking the big thing now is that now that we do have a shot at it, we do have a shot at the championship, that's a great feeling. Something we've got to focus on this week is not worrying about all that and just going back to racing again and hopefully we can do that.
Q: When you finally made it into the top 10, there is so much pressure going into this cutoff...compare it to last year. Is there more pressure?
Mayfield: I don't think so. We've had a tough last couple years, and really for me it's just about 2001, you know when the deal with Penske...we decided to part ways and I had a rough start to begin with, then all of a sudden, it was about this point last year, that we really started gelling and coming together as a race team and I don't think there could ever be as much pressure as I had the last vyear and a half or so. I shouldn't say that, last year's been great. But the year before that was pretty rough, so I'm looking at it as if anyone can handle it as a race team, we can. Ray is a very strong person as owner, and strong-minded as a person and can help our team with his experience and we'll continue what we're doing and stay strong and stay tough, and I don't think the pressure's going to get to us.
Q: Ray has been in the championship before. How instrumental has he been as you guys have made this climb keeping everybody level-headed taking it one race at a time?
Mayfield: That's been the big thing, taking it one race at a time, but also if we have a great car in Saturday's practice and feel like we've got a chance to win the race. He's the one that comes back and reminds us...just get it done, get in the top 10, you know if we're there at the end, get in the top five, and if you get in the position to win, then we can win. But, don't expect anything more out of yourselves than a top 10, top 15. Well, a top 15, we're not that good, a top 10 we are good and that's kind of what we've done, and that way you keep your goals realistic and if you feel like that day you're going to win that day, or Saturday after practice you feel like you've got a car to win and you don't, you know that can be devastating to a race team and Ray's been good enough, or I should say has given us good advice to keep us level-headed when we're aren't good, and he's just done a great job of that -- keeping us all on an even keel all the time.
Q: Can you just talk about working with your teammates? We've seen how working together has worked for the 24 and the 48, and when you look at the teams that really work together, you have to talk about your group as well. Can you just talk about what a difference that's made in your program?
Mayfield: It's made a huge difference, and that's something we've really got going on this year. Not that I've never had that, I mean Bill and I got along great and worked well as drivers, but it feels like now our race teams are more, I guess you could say teammates, than they've ever been and they help each other. They work with each other. You know they're constantly back and forth, and with Kasey and me it's just natural. We get along great and have a good time together and joke around, and it's fun helping each other, but the biggest thing is that the teams themselves have just gelled together and that's something that Ray has always stressed to me at our shop and on a weekly basis. I mean there's one team in here and two racecars and that's kind of the way we look at it. You know, Dodge looks at it the same way. They look at it as one big Dodge team, and that's what we try to do, and Ray's done a great job of doing that and I think we've got probably the best teammate situation out there as far as working together and really getting along good and wanting to help each other.
Q: From the first time you've heard about the points system to now, have you changed your views on it?
Mayfield: Well, you know, when NASCAR first came out with that, I thought it was pretty neat because you know, I'm sitting here going, we're 19th in points, and we don't know how it's going to work out. I mean who knows what's going to happen. I just kind of look at it that way. I was all for it, I mean, just because every once in a while it doesn't hurt to have a change anyway, you know, and now I love it. I love what they did. I think they've done a great job of restructuring. I think it's going to really add a lot more excitement in the last 10 races for sure, and I think it's going to take a guy like us, who's able to get back into the top 10, and be there in the end and give us a chance to win the championship, and I think it's great. I mean, it's all about consistency, yeah, but you've still got to be fast, you've still got to get in the top 10 and you've still got to earn what you earn in those last 10 races, but of course, I'm sitting here today telling you how great it is. If I'm 19th right now, I mean I'm probably not sure how it's going to work, but I love it. I mean, I'm sure Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson are guys that won't, but we all knew going in what it was going to be. I think that NASCAR's done a great job with that, and hopefully we'll be able to produce in the last 10 races and give the fans what they've been looking for.
Q: Specifically to the Michigan race. What have you guys been working ? on What are you guys going to do differently ?
Mayfield: Well last time, we pretty much know what kind of bit us there last time, the reason we didn't have a good finish there last time. But we're going to go out there and go into it just like we would each and every week, and Friday morning, roll off the truck and do what we always do, and not change the way we do things, and just go from there. A couple weeks ago, I was the one making comments, you know the guys in the top 10 have all the pressure and the guys out of the top 10 don't, but I'll tell you now, the pressure's not really on us. We've got nothing to lose, we're just going to keep racing like we've been, and we're going to go to Michigan and like you said, improve drastically from the first race. I mean, we're going to be a lot better, and should be in good shape there if nothing happens.
Q: Are you impressed at all by Kasey, and the way he's handled things this year. He's got a lawsuit on the outside, but has seemed to maintain his focus on getting into the top 10, and now he's only 24 points behind, has he really impressed you this year?
Mayfield: Oh yeah, certainly, and Kasey's done a great job with whatever he's got going on. ... He's run a lot of Busch races, and he's had a lot of stuff going on, and I mean, life has changed a lot in the past six months and I think more than he ever dreamed or thought it was going to, and he's handled it well. He's taken it one day at a time. He's doing everything right. I know he's done everything Ray has asked him to do, which is going to make him a better driver. He's always asking for advice, and heck, we're going to him, asking him for advice. I think he's done a great job with that, and he's really handled it well, and I don't see him cracking or breaking down either. I see him just getting better and better every week, and that's a good sign.
Q: Last week at the Glen, it appeared that when Robby Gordon was leading, he moved over and let Harvick by just long enough to get the five points for leading the lap. Are we going to see more teamwork like that in the next couple weeks on the track?
Mayfield: I think it's really good. That's the teammate situation, and it was pretty cool that Kasey and I were right there neck and neck on it, but you can probably see that if he was leading and I were running second, we'd do the same thing. Even though we're fighting for the same position, it's good for the whole team in general. For those two that is pretty cool because I doubt that their relationship is as solid as Kasey and mine's, but I could see that if this were going to help the race team out, I don't think there's anything wrong with it.
Q: That move helped Harvick moved beyond Bobby Labonte in the standings, do you think Bobby's enjoying it?
Mayfield: Well, I mean Harvick put himself in the position to do that. He was running 30th, and all of a sudden he was in position to get five points. He had to be up there to get those, and that's part of it. And Bobby, I'm sure would feel the same, and he'd let Tony go, or Tony'd let him go if they were in the same situation. Bobby just never got himself in position to do that, so I don't think Bobby Labonte's saying anything about that.
Q: You've seen all four of these upcoming tracks already. What kind of advantage might that provide?
Mayfield: Well, I think definitely that one of our strong points as a race team is this part of the season. I mean, especially the (racetracks) we've already gone to, we're just going to look at each track and say, 'What did we do there the last time? What can we do this time to be better?' It always helps to have that, but on the same token, everyone in the NEXTEL Cup Series has that. So we just have to be smart about it, and know that whatever happened in the first race, in the race coming up we can't make the same mistakes. I think that's probably the strong part of our team right now. Hopefully, knock on wood, we're not going to make the same mistakes over and over, so if we just keep getting better like that, then the upcoming tracks we've already been to should be even better for us.
Q: We've got a nice little mixture of tracks in the next four. Which of the four do you see as being your biggest challenge?
Mayfield: Probably Bristol. I mean Bristol's going to be a tough place, I mean just because you don't have total control there. You've got to race hard, but you've got to stay out of trouble, and it's hard to stay out of trouble at that place. And that's going to be our biggest hurdle, but we've already made it through the two biggest, and that was Indy and Watkins Glen. We thought those we're going to be our toughest places because I've never run good at Indy since I've been with Ray in the last couple years, and all of a sudden we come back and were running up in front all day, and crossed that one. And then of course, there's Watkins Glen, and that's a road course, so we thought we've made it through our toughest parts and now we've just got to get through Bristol and then we're out.
Continued in part 2