Robert Pressley and Ryan Pemberton, driver and crew chief for the No. 77 Jasper Engines Taurus, are 24th in the NASCAR Winston Cup point standings going into tomorrow's Pennsylvania 500. They held a Q&A session in the Pocono Infield Media Center...
Robert Pressley and Ryan Pemberton, driver and crew chief for the No. 77 Jasper Engines Taurus, are 24th in the NASCAR Winston Cup point standings going into tomorrow's Pennsylvania 500. They held a Q&A session in the Pocono Infield Media Center to discuss their season to date.
ROBERT PRESSLEY --77-- Jasper Engines Taurus -- HOW HAS YOUR SEASON GONE SO FAR? "I think it's gone pretty good. There were a couple of races where we didn't qualify and had to take provisionals, we had good race cars during practice and just developed trouble. I think one time we broke a starter on the line, one time we broke a valve spring when we were making our qualifying run, but we have had some good runs and then a bad one. We've gone in spurts like that, but after last year we're 360 degrees better. I think it's a big improvement, but, then again, it's not as consistent as we want."
DO YOU LIKE THE TWO-CAR CONCEPT? "I think it would be good having a two-car team if you had a true two-car team, somebody that would give you the information that you wanted. There are probably some two-car teams that aren't sharing everything. If you don't share it all, I think it would hurt but I wish we could get another team."
MICHIGAN WAS A GOOD RUN. WHAT DID THAT DO FOR YOUR CONFIDENCE? "That was the first weekend we got on the plane to go home and felt like the fans and media felt like we had done something. But if you look back, I think we had better race cars at a couple other race tracks. At Dover I thought we had a great race car, Bristol earlier this year we had a good race car, California we had a good race car. That (Michigan) was the first day everything went together. Ryan made a call there -- we started 25th that day or something and moved up in the top 10 after the first round of pit stops and stayed in the top six or seven all day. That was the first day everything fell into place."
WHAT'S THE TOUGHEST PART OF POCONO? "I guess turn one and two are really the toughest ones. They're not really tough corners, it's just that they're three different corners, so you have to set up different in one and two and you have to have a different race car in three and four. What we did yesterday was Ryan did segment times everywhere and we were off a little bit everywhere. We weren't good anywhere and this is going back to what Ryan talked about earlier. This is the first race we've been to this year that we've already been somewhere together and we were actually struggling yesterday. After qualifying Ryan said we were getting off somewhere, we were 42nd or 43rd quickest, and he started going through his notes. Now we've got stuff for the rest of the year to work off of and make improvements, so we should be making them every week."
WHAT DO YOU THINK IS THE NEXT STEP FOR THIS TEAM? "I'm looking at the first half versus the second half of the year and then next year having a year under out belt. I'm just excited with what Ryan has brought in here. He's made the race cars consistent every week. We've got probably 12 race cars in the shop now and whenever I get in a car I can't tell whether it's the car we raced at Bristol, Martinsville or Indy testing last week. So that's what's making my job easier is getting in the car and every one of them being exactly alike. There are minor changes, but last year I was getting in race cars and switches would be different, the gauges would be different, the seat would be different."
WHAT WERE YOUR GOALS AFTER RYAN JOINED THE TEAM? "I believe we had some goals like wanting to be in the top 30 in the points. Anything we were gonna do this year was gonna be a big improvement. This was gonna be the year of whatever. It was gonna be the year that was gonna show if we could do or I could what I needed to do in Winston Cup racing. Ryan came on and I think we got in the top 25 in points by the fourth race or something and we weren't even happy then. That was a goal we had a couple of years ago. Now I'm wanting to get in the top 20. I think all along Ryan's the one that doesn't really set goals, just go out and give what you've got and whatever comes out of it you're set. I think he's expecting top 15s and if we're racing on Sunday we're usually in the top 15. It might be a goal or it might just be what we need to expect out of this team."
RYAN PEMBERTON, Crew Chief --77-- Jasper Engines Taurus -- HOW ABOUT YOUR SEASON? "I have to echo what Robert said. There have been a lot of races where we didn't get out of it what we thought we needed to as far as qualifying and in the race, but I think, all in all, our performance we know where we run good and where we haven't run quite as good as we need to. We know that we're a lot stronger than what probably the stats show and I think we feel pretty good about it. I think when we come to a place like this, we struggled yesterday quite a bit, but we made some changes and I think that picked us up to 20th or something. We made changes to pull us out of that little trouble we were in yesterday and I think that shows the strength of this whole team to be able to do that and that's what excites me about the rest of this year."
NO SINGLE CAR TEAM HAS WON SINCE RICKY RUDD IN '98. HOW DO YOU LOOK AT THAT AS A SINGLE CAR TEAM? "Since '98? I'm depressed now. I just came in here to have some breakfast and you guys tell me something like that (laughing). First of all, there aren't many single-car teams out there, so if you go by the numbers you're down right there. I think, as far as true single-car teams such as ourselves, the 4 car, the 94 but they have constraints on engines, multi-engine deals. Who else? Schrader, that's kind of a single-car team but they do have the strength of a Hendrick engine program. Right now I think us and probably the 4 car are the only true single-car teams out there and, yeah, the numbers are against us. I think we would like to be able to join forces or start another team ourselves, but it's not that easy to do. I don't know if you want to start another race team and add one to the field and make it even tougher or to join forces with somebody. That way you're not expanding the field every week, so it is a concern. Right now there isn't much we can do about it, we just need to run good and do the best we can with what we have right now. The better we run, the more opportunities we'll have to either join forces with another team or start another team."
WHAT WILL IT TAKE TO GET OVER THAT HUMP? "A little bit everywhere. The multi-car teams, like we talked about earlier, have those advantages and maybe some shortcuts when they come to the race track. It might be gear selection where having a two-car team helps in that area. It's a little bit in every aspect of the car -- from the setup to building the cars and being efficient there, more wind tunnel time. It's everywhere. As far as the team goes, when we get out there on the race track and go through tech on Sunday, we've done our job, we're fine. We can do what we need to do and win the race. I think the pit crew is there, the team is there, I think those parts are in place, but getting to that point is where we lack a little bit."
WHAT DO YOU LIKE ABOUT POCONO AND DISLIKE? "I think it's a great race track with long straightaways. It's real fast, you've gotta have a lot of downforce and a lot of horsepower. You've gotta get through the corners and I think when you run good you've gotta have all your stuff together. The last time we were here I think we finished 11th and we had a good race car and ran up front most of the day. If you come away from here with a good finish you know you've had a good race car."
WHAT ARE ROBERT'S STRENGTHS AS A DRIVER? "Robert's strengths would be he's got experience, but he's not set in old ways. He doesn't mind going to the outer limits of the chassis setup and things where you have to be these days. When you go to places like here and Indy you're doing things that are crazy to make the car run fast, things that you wouldn't have even thought of four or five years ago -- soft springs that pin the car down and doing odd things like that to the race car that sometimes mechanically isn't exactly right but it's an aero advantage or vice versa. He doesn't really mind doing any of that stuff and doesn't have any pre-set notion of what the car is gonna do. He goes out there and gives you good honest feedback on what the car is doing and that's helps us."
WHAT DO YOU DO TO BRING PERFORMANCE UP FOR NEXT YEAR AND ARE YOU SIGNED FOR NEXT YEAR? "I'm signed for next year and as far as going to the next level, I think we just haven't cleaned up our whole act yet. We've had a lot of little problems and until we take care of those problems -- the little ones that keep biting us and putting us out of races -- that's our first step right there. We're a good car, we were running sixth at New Hampshire and came out of there with a DNF and we can't have those anymore. We've had plenty of those already, we've filled our quota for the year and we're only halfway, so when we clean up that part of our race team, that will put us to the next level. There's still another level after that, but that's gonna put us right at 15th and that's what I'm looking for."
HOW MUCH EASIER BEING IN THE TOP 25 YOU KNOW YOU'RE IN THE RACE? "You look at things a little different. Once upon a time missing a race, that keeps me up late every night. I mean, that was three or four years ago and that haunts me every day. We have a little breathing room now, we're definitely not out of the woods, but there's a little breathing room. You feel a little better, you have a little more confidence. What it does for us now is the times where you might be marginal about thinking about qualifying, you go race in race trim and I think that's helping us and that's part of the deal that's gonna help us later on this year. At the first part of the year when we were 42nd or 43rd, we really didn't have a leg to stand on, so right now that's gonna help us later on in the year to be 24th in points. I think we're pretty solid in that area with a good chance to improve. Having a little breathing room, sometimes, might hurt us. We might not focus quite as much on qualifying and I don't know if I catch myself doing that now -- really concentrating and trying as hard as what we need to try for qualifying like we did earlier in this year. We were qualifying quite well earlier this year, a lot of 12th-place qualifying times, so we feel good about that."
Jeremy Mayfield, driver of the No. 12 Mobil 1 Taurus, has won twice at Pocono Raceway and qualified fourth for tomorrow's Pennsylvania 500. He spoke about his success at this track and hopes for Sunday.
JEREMY MAYFIELD --12-- Mobil 1 Taurus -- WHEN YOU ROLL IN HERE IS THERE A COMFORT LEVEL? "Yeah, there are several places that a driver has that when they roll into the race track they can win there any time they go there and that's what Pocono is for me. We come here and we're confident. We've got a great race setup and now it seems like we've got a better qualifying setup than we've ever had, so when we come here we're ready to win a race and run up front all day."
YOU START FOURTH, DOES STARTING UP FRONT MAKE A DIFFERENCE HERE? "I don't really think it's a factor as far as can you win a race from any place. I think you can, but it's certainly better on me, the team, the car, everything, when you start up front no matter where you go. We've started in the back before and made it to the front, but it's certainly a lot easier when you start up there."
THERE'S ALWAYS TALK OF COMPROMISE HERE. HOW DO YOU AND PETER APPROACH THESE CORNERS? "A lot of times you try to get through one as best you can and get the car however it's gonna handle there, then you've gotta be fast at the tunnel turn and fast off three. That seemed to help us more than anything. We kind of compromised turn one down there, just get through there the best we can and make all of our time up everywhere else."
WHAT MAKES YOU SO GOOD HERE? "I don't know. This place has always been good to me. I ran an ARCA car here a long time ago, like '92 or '93, and ran good there, so it's just a place I've adapted to real quick. You look back and see everywhere you raced in your short track days when you were coming up and a lot of the places I raced were rough and hard on tires and you learn how to get through those places. I think that's what Pocono is all about, you've gotta adapt to every corner every lap and it works for us."
SAY TOMORROW YOU'RE LEADING ON THE WHITE FLAG LAP, ARE YOU EXPECTING ANYTHING DIFFERENT BEHIND YOU? "No, not at all. I mean, that's the way it is, but if you've got a good enough car where you can lead and, like you said, on the last lap and he gets past you or whatever, somebody else had a better car. That's just the way it is and I don't expect anything any different. If I'm running second and somebody else is leading on the white flag lap they shouldn't, that's just hard-nosed racing. Nobody is gonna do anything intentionally to hurt anybody or wreck anybody, but we're all here to win."
DO YOU ENJOY THIS TRACK MORE THAN A TRACK WHERE ALL THE CORNERS ARE THE SAME? "I think so. I mean, Pocono has always been good to me and it's a place I enjoy running. We run good here so that makes a difference too, but it seems like we've got a good setup and a good feel for this place and anytime you've got that you run good pretty much anytime you go in."
Dale Jarrett, driver of the No. 88 Quality Care Service/Ford Credit Taurus, qualified 11th for tomorrow's race. He goes into the event in third place in the NASCAR Winston Cup standings, trailing leader Bobby Labonte by 68 points.
DALE JARRETT --88-- Quality Care Service/Ford Credit Taurus -- YOU'VE BEEN CONSISTENT HERE LATELY, ARE YOU GETTING WHERE YOU WANT TO BE? "I think we're gaining on that, yes. We're giving ourselves more opportunities to win races and you can't win unless you're consistently in the top five and then you take advantage of that, so we're getting to that point now and that's what we have to do for these last 16 races."
ANY SAFETY CHANGES THIS WEEK WITH THE CAR? "We pay attention all the time to our cars and what we're doing and, basically, I guess I'd have to say no other than I think everybody on the team realizes the importance of checking their work and knowing exactly what is going on and I feel very comfortable with that. At this point in time we have not, we've explored a few things, but we're not ready to make any changes with what we have at this point in time."
WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT SOFTER WALLS? SOME DRIVERS SAID IT MIGHT MAKE A MESS LIKE STYROFOAM? "Certainly it's gonna create a mess, but that doesn't seem like much of a problem in light of what it could save. So what if we take an extra couple of laps. Our cautions usually last for a while anyway, so what if we take a little extra time to do that. I even heard somebody say it could alter the outcome of a race at the end if somebody just brushed it and it got in the way and we had to have a caution. So what. So what. There are all kinds of things that change the course of these races all the time, so if it could be safer for someone and it could save a life or save an injury, so what if it takes a couple of more laps to clean it up. Every solution is gonna have a problem that probably goes along with it, so there's nothing that we can just say, 'OK, this is gonna be a fix and its not gonna create a problem to the side of that,' so we're just gonna have to explore and look at what is the very best. I personally think putting something in front of these concrete walls would certainly help at some of these race tracks and it's something we need to do."
WHAT ABOUT THE IMPORTANCE OF MRO? "I think with what's been in place with Max Helton and everyone at MRO has put in place over the last 12 or 13 years has certainly helped all of us be able to deal with these situations better, understand what is going on better and knowing that they're always there is better for us -- to answer our questions and help us deal with these type of situations. Not only these, but things that go on every day when things seem to be going relatively smooth in our world. They just do a tremendous job. They give our children and opportunity to grow up in a Christian atmosphere at a race track, which I'm sure many people would never thought happen, so they're just a Godsend to all the competitors here and it's probably brought all of the competitors closer in a way. I know a lot of the fans would never want to think that us as competitors are very close, but it does bring us closer at least in a spiritual way. We're certainly still gonna go out and battle just as hard on the race track, but I think it has made everyone's life in here much better."
WHAT ABOUT YOUR SEASON SO FAR? "Basically there are probably two things. We had an engine failure at Atlanta, which we had none of last year, and I got in an accident at Texas. Other than that, we've been a lot the same as what we were last year. We don't have as many victories, but not many people have as many victories as they had last year, so it's been tougher to win. We struggled at the beginning of the year with the new Goodyear tire, but we've learned a lot about that in recent weeks and I think our program is in very good shape. We lost some people and that takes time to bring new people in and incorporate them into what you're doing, so it just takes time. Knowing that we can compete better and run better than what we did in the first 18 races, I feel good that we're only sixty-some points out of the lead."
HOW MANY DNF's CAN YOU AFFORD AND STILL HOPE TO WIN THE TITLE? "We've had one this year and I guess we had one last year, but, honestly, the way the competition is now and knowing who we're racing -- Dale Earnhardt and Bobby Labonte and a host of other -- but especially those two, we know they're gonna have very few problems, if any, in these last 16 races. We can't have anymore DNFs and expect to win the championship to be quite honest. We have to be able to finish these races and, unless they have some problems, we can't have any slip-ups at all either. The majority of our finishes are going to have to be top-fives and top-10s."
DO YOU THINK WHOEVER WINS THE TITLE WILL WIN A LOT MORE RACES OR WILL IT BE CONSISTENCY? "I think it's gonna be more about consistency over these last 16 races. I think that all three of us will win again, but I honestly don't see any of the three of us getting to five victories, to be quite honest. We're racing for a championship here and there are chances that others can take at times that the risk versus the gain would be too great for us, so, again, I think we'll all win and probably a couple more races for each of us, but it's tough to do because of the competition. But it's gonna be more about the guy that can be consistent, not have any bad finishes, and be in the top five the most."
DO YOU DRIVE DIFFERENTLY TRAILING IN THE POINTS OR WHEN YOU'RE LEADING? "It's not as much that you drive different, it's that you look at things a little differently. Things that you never thought about that could go on at a race track or during a race, you seem to notice those things more. There seems to be a lot more things out there that can grab you than what there are whenever you're second, third, fourth or fifth in the points. So, I think you're not anymore caution, you just pay attention to what's going on around you more. If you see a battle in front of you that guys are being a little aggressive, especially in the first half of the race, I think you give those guys a little more room than maybe what you would in ordinary circumstances if you weren't leading the points."
YOU STRUGGLED WITH THE TIRE EARLY. HOW DID YOU OVERCOME THAT? "I knew it was just a matter of time before we figured it out. Our problem is we take note after note about everything that we do, I mean every little run that we make we have notes about it. When you've had success for the four years that we've had success, it's hard to venture too far from that until you just finally have to say, 'OK, we've tried everything that these notes tell us and what we've been doing in the past just isn't working,' so it just took us a little longer to react to that. I was very confident that we would get out of it. I was hoping it would be sooner than later, but when you get to that position and that point, what it takes is even more communication than what we normally have. It takes Todd and I sitting down and discussing what's going on and looking at how we can fix this problem in a quicker manner. Like anything else you do when you're in a slump you just have to work harder."
CAN YOU TALK ABOUT THIS RACE AND IS IT TOO EARLY TO SAY IT'S A KEY RACE? "Every race is gonna be key starting now especially, but this is a really important race for us. This is a good race track for us. Obviously, Bobby has done well and Dale runs well here, so if we all have our normal day not a lot is gonna change in the points, but any little thing that you have happen here that puts you back, it can create a wide gap as far as the points go because a lot of cars finish on the lead lap. A lot more people are competitive here, it's harder to make passes, so if you get in the back for some reason with a bad pit stop or tire problem, an untimely pit stop, that separates you from those guys, it's harder now to catch up because of the competition and because so many cars are out there. We normally have well over 20 cars that finish on the lead lap here, so if you have a problem late it can certainly make a big difference in the points race. So, to me, this is a very key race for that reason."