Dodge Motorsports Teleconference Tuesday, June 21, 2005 Dodge/Save Mart 350 Advance SCOTT PRUETT (No. 39 Texaco/Havoline "Shine On" Dodge Charger) NOTE: Pruett, 45, is a Sacramento, Calif., native and defending Grand Am Rolex Series Champion....
Dodge Motorsports Teleconference
Tuesday, June 21, 2005
Dodge/Save Mart 350 Advance
SCOTT PRUETT (No. 39 Texaco/Havoline "Shine On" Dodge Charger)
NOTE: Pruett, 45, is a Sacramento, Calif., native and defending Grand Am Rolex Series Champion. He has 35 career starts in the NASCAR Cup Series, and he finished third in last year's NASCAR NEXTEL Cup race at Infineon Raceway in a Chip Ganassi Dodge behind Jeff Gordon and Ganassi teammate Jamie McMurray.
"I want to say thank you to Ganassi and that whole organization for not only giving me a great opportunity and a Dodge Charger that has great potential to run up front. That's always been one of my philosophies. If you can run up front then one of these days you can bring that sucker into victory circle. I've always had a lot of success at The Glen and a lot of success at Sears. Last year, I wouldn't say hindered a little bit but had to be careful of my teammate Jamie McMurray who finished second. I had orders to hang back behind him instead of mixing it up and maybe having the opportunity to go after Jeff Gordon. I considered Sears Point one of my home tracks. I've spent a lot of time racing there over the years. I think more than anything else I'm looking forward to this opportunity. Of all the things I've done in my career, the biggest thing left is to achieve a NASCAR victory. Hopefully we can put ourselves in position to do our best and bring our Havoline (Dodge) to victory circle."
WHAT DO YOU LIKE MOST ABOUT RACING IN NASCAR?
"The competition, the exposure, the excitement. When you get out there every weekend you're talking about 43 cars and of those 43 cars 15-20 of them have the potential to get to victory circle. As a team you have to be on top of your game, not only with your setups for qualifying but also for your race strategy and being able to adapt to the car's changing condition on the racetrack. It's a huge challenge. That and the growth and excitesment that surrounds NASCAR, and I'm focused on nothing less than trying to achieve my first win."
WHY WOULD ANY TIRE COMPANY WANT TO BE IN RACING?
"That's a good question. Being involved with Firestone and Bridgestone and their return to motorsports, they were out for 50 years in racing or at least in IndyCar racing at that highest level. They needed it for the exposure. The company had kinda lost some of its shine, people were thinking of the Firestone name and had a lot of problems over the years. As I look back on it and was involved in some of those meetings before they actually went testing and racing, it was always on exposure and getting their name back. If you look at companies like Goodyear and Michelin and Bridgestone/Firestone, that's always an interesting situation. They love the competition of being able to go out and say we beat, for instance when Goodyear and Hoosier was involved that was a pretty strong competition between those two companies in NASCAR in the mid or early 90s. Now that there's just one tire manufacturer in these series, that's always a fine line. If they're looking at it all they have to do is go produce a tire that's reasonably grippy but has almost zero opportunity for failure. The difference between NASCAR and what we saw happen in Formula One is there's two manufacturers -- Michelin and Bridgestone -- that are trying to beat each other so they're always pushing the edge, how soft can we go with the tire, how aggressive can we go with the construction, what kind of processes can we use that may not be 100 percent proven but we have to do it to beat our competition. That's one view of looking at it and why they're so aggressive with the tires in Formula One because two manufacturers are trying to beat each other. In all those other series that have one manufacturer all you need to do is produce a tire that's good and conservative and is going to last you all day long with zero opportunity for failure."
EXCEPT WHEN NASCAR TELLS YOU TO BUILD A SOFTER TIRE FOR COMPETITION REASONS?
"That's a fine line there that NASCAR and Goodyear have to work out. Any manufacturer cannot have tires fail. If you're the only manufacturer you cannot afford to have that black eye of having tire failures. When you're the only tire supplier it's a fine line to produce that tire, especially when you're in a situation where you may have a governing body trying to force your hand."
WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT WHAT HAPPENED AT INDY?
"I think that was just horrible. If you think about it, the biggest losers were the fans. I know some of my friends that save their money every year to go to Formula One. They're Formula One fan crazy. They go there and they felt totally ripped off. I think they should have canceled the race and rescheduled it or something, but with the attitude of Formula One they said, 'this is as good as it gets. We're here, we're going to be gone. Who cares about the fans?' I think that was absolutely wrong and it was a travesty to the fans."
DISCUSS THE DIFFICULTY OF COMPETING AS A HIRED GUN IN NASCAR
"There's a little bit of a misnomer, especially in the last four or five years, that hired guns can come in and show these NASCAR drivers how to do it. That's absolutely a fallacy. I think every, if not every then almost every, NASCAR driver has focused a lot of time, effort and energy on upping their road course game on getting more proficient. Tony Stewart is very, very tough on road courses. Jeff Gordon is very difficult, as well as many others. They're working with their teams on the racecar and pit stops week in and week out. They're like a well-oiled machine. Any hired road course guy, myself, Boris Said, try to come in and do a one off deal, it's pretty tough. You've got to get up to speed with your crew guys, you've got to know what you want out of your racecar. You're not doing it week in and week out, and that's a pretty difficult piece of it."
WHO WILL CREW YOUR CAR THIS WEEKEND?
"Leroy (Lee McCall) who used to work with Sterling Marlin, he'll be doing the car as well as Andy Graves, and I'll be using the test team group of guys. It's a great little group and hopefully we can do all the right things and run strong this weekend."
ARE YOU GOING TO THROW YOUR NAME INTO THE HAT FOR A NASCAR RIDE?
"I'd love to, but I'm also 45 years old. Within the last few years we're seeing the focus is the new, young kids that teams can bring along and have tied up for a lot of years. As much as I'd love to do it and would entertain any and all opportunities, I just don't think those opportunities are going to be available for Scott Pruett right now."
WHO ARE THE BEST FULL-TIME NASCAR ROAD COURSE RACERS?
"Jeff Gordon and Tony Stewart would be at the top of my list. Between those two and Robby Gordon, but doing his own team I don't see him being as tough week in and week out, especially coming to the road courses. When I'm looking at Sears Point, I'm looking at Jeff and Tony being the top two guys."
DO YOU FEEL WELCOMED WHEN YOU COME BACK TO NASCAR?
"I do, and I take into account that almost all of the guys I'm racing with are in it for the championship. They're looking at points week in and week out and trying to do whatever they can to put themselves in position for the championship. I don't go in there thinking I don't care about the rest of the drivers out there, I'm just going to run my race and if I run into two or three guys and take them out no big deal. I go into the race going I want to race these guys hard and I want to put myself in position to win this race, but by no means am I going to go out there and knock guys out of the way. I'm going to be smart and run my race the way I hopefully can and keep the car up front. I've seen in the past when road racers do come in, especially at Watkins Glen, that have taken some full time NASCAR drivers out of the race just because they got overenthusiastic and didn't care about the fact these guys are running for a championship. In the Grand Am Series, we look at the Rolex 24 Hours or Watkins Glen, we're going to have a number of NASCAR drivers participating with us. If they came in and said, 'I don't really care about the full-timers out here' and took me out, I'd be really upset about that and not really appreciative and certainly wouldn't have the respect for those drivers doing that."
RON FELLOWS, BORIS SAID AND YOU ARE RANKED AS TOP CONTENDERS AT INFINEON. DO YOU THINK YOU'RE ALL CAPABLE OF TOP FIVE FINISHES?
"Absolutely, no question about it. You have the challenge of coming and doing a one off race with the crew and team and trying to make it all happen in one weekend instead of having the opportunity to make it happen in 34 weekends. Odds makers are out there and people can make a lot of money if they go to Vegas and bet on the longshots, but I don't consider myself a longshot by any means. We'll do our talking on the racetrack and see what we can come up with this weekend."
ARE THE ODDS REALLY STACKED AGAINST A HIRED GUN WINNING ON A ROAD COURSE?
"Yes, the odds are stacked against you. There's no question you have a lot of challenges in front of you, but that doesn't mean that it can't happen. Hopefully we can go down in the history books and get that job done."
DO YOU SHARE ROAD COURSE SECRETS WITH YOUR TEAMMATES?
"Absolutely. I have no problem helping out any of my teammates or anybody else who comes to me. Ryan, I helped him out a little bit and he's not a teammate. They would help me if I went to an oval and raced on a track like Martinsville. You can share the secrets and help these guys along but you've got to get up there and race these guys hard. If you get the right opportunity and everything goes right then you can put yourself in position to win the race. I don't mind helping these guys. It's just an opportunity to do the right thing."
DISCUSS YOUR ROAD RACING STYLE. IS IT SMOOTH OR DO YOU MANHANDLE THE CAR?
"Both. If the car's not working right you've got to manhandle it. If it's working real good then you can be smooth. You just adapt to whatever the car is giving you, especially going back to Sears this year. With the weather it's going to be interesting to see what transpires. The temperature is going to determine exactly how we want to set up the car. It's always hot in years gone by. It's always in the 90s. It doesn't look like it's going to be like that this weekend, but we'll just have to wait and see."