Friday practice quotes Talladega Superspeedway Michael Waltrip -- ...
Friday practice quotes
Michael Waltrip -- #15 NAPA Auto Parts Chevrolet
DEI HAS HAD SUCCESS AT RESTRICTOR PLATE TRACKS. TELL US ABOUT YOUR CHANCES HERE THIS WEEKEND Well, it's a different animal. Generally we've qualified up front and raced right up front. At Daytona we started from the back and were able to get to the front. Practice tells us today that we're going to start in the back again. It makes it interesting and different. I would rather be going to Phoenix thinking I was going to win the race than going to Talladega thinking I was going to win the race. You control your own destiny at a place like Phoenix, Martinsville. You are in charge. Here you at the mercy of others and whether your car will go or not. And we've been real fortunate to have cars that go and we've been fortunate to get them to the front. It's just my opinion-and I know my opinion differs greatly through the garage-but it's my opinion that these races are harder to win than any other races on the circuit. So much can happen, and other people can have more effect than anywhere. Regardless to popular belief, this is hard racing right here.
YOU'VE GOT TO LIKE YOUR CHANCES HERE Well, I love my team, no matter where we are, whether we're at Talladega or wherever we are. I love my team. I know I have the best chance to win and I'll have the best team on pit road that will make the call that will give me the chance to win, just like last week at Phoenix. Very happy about where I'm sitting these days, that's for sure.
OTHER THAN YOUR TEAMMATES, WHO IS YOUR BIGGEST THREAT HERE? Well, everybody has talked about the DEI dominance at this plate tracks but I think the records will show the Hendrick cars are more dominant recently. So, Jeff Gordon is one of the fastest cars here. He'll be tough. You never know. It will come at the end. I bet you DEI and Hendrick will be up there. Whether we'll be joined by others, time will tell.
WHAT MAKES A GOOD RESTRICTOR PLATE RACER? A good car helps, a lot. Then knowledge of taking of taking that car and doing things with it and putting it places that keeps it toward the front. My cars are usually pretty good here. And since the beginning of time I think I have a knowledge of how to draft and where to put my car. That's probably as important as anything.
YOUR SEASON THUSFAR Well, we totally broke engine parts the first two races and that set us way back. It made everyone focus on the fact that we were 30-something in the points. But at the same time I was pretty confident about what we're doing. I was pretty confident about what my team was saying and how we were running and what was going on. I never really thought that we wouldn't race right toward the front. We got to Atlanta, we were able to be very competitive, and Texas. Now I think we'll be right from here on out. We've really learned each other well in a short period of time. I'm real optimistic.
OWNERS NOW ARE QUICK TO JUDGE THEIR DRIVERS. HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT THAT? I don't know. I've been able to hang in there. There were times when probably I wouldn't have been able to survive had I come along today. You know, the sport is just different. It's not good or bad, it's just different. People want success and they want you to perform today and they don't want to put any time into you to get your stuff together. In my case, when you say marginal success I think I had a whole lot of marginal equipment as well. When you're in a ride like I am at DEI, you have to perform or they'll run you off. Or they have to understand within an organization why you're not performing and determine whether it's you, or it, or other factors. It's just the way it goes. There's no other way to explain other than it's the way it is.
WHAT CONFIDENCE THAT THIS TEAM AND CREW GIVE YOU Yeah, defniinely. If you think about my career, I've never really been with people that were on top of their game, right there winning race when I got in the car. When I got in my #15 car at DEI, that was a new team and a new bunch of guys. When I drove for the Woods, they hadn't won in a while. We were very competitive and ran well, but they hadn't been to victory lane in a while. #7, #30, nobody really did anything in that car. Now, if you can imagine, I got in this #15 car and these guys just won six races last year. They just raced for a championship. That gives me so much confidence, so much faith in them that they know how to win races and do the job. I just need to become a part of their program and part of their routine. That was my goal.
HOW DO YOU NOT LET THAT PRESSURE GET TO YOU? I just believe in myself. I believe that if that team could win six races with a different driver, I can win six races in it. I went to Phoenix, I went to Texas, thinking I can win. At Phoenix we look like we could have won and at Texas we look like we could have won. I'm doing all I can do. I think the results are beginning to show. I'm not the most confident person in the world when it comes to racing these cars. I think when you race as long as I have, and haven't any more success than I've had, I'm real quick to judge myself. If we hadn't run well and got going like we have the last couple of races, I would probably be pretty distraught. But we have run well. My team, Tony Jr. and all the boys that work on my car tell me that we're good. We're right. After practice they said: you're as good as anyone here. You're going to be fine. Their faith in me. And then looking back knowing they said, we'll take Michael, we'll win with him. That was a real vote of confidence. You know, it's easy to say, but they walked the walk. They've been with me every step of the way and believed in what we've been able to accomplish together. So, that was as big of a factor in our success than anything.
YOU SAID EARLIER THAT IF YOU'RE NOT SHOWING SIGNS OF BEING IN THE TOP 10, YOU THOUGHT YOU WOULDN'T BE AT DEI IN 2006. HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT THAT? I think we showed signs of being a winning driver last Saturday night. You know, I got with a team that just won Phoenix and I raced Kurt to the very end, the defending champion. Thought we could win, thought we could beat him. We did the same thing at Texas and had a car that could race to the top spot. I'm confident with what I'm doing and I'm happy with where I'm at. Tony Jr. and the guys that work on the car---that's where I want to be. Hopefully that's where I will be. If I wasn't running well I wouldn't care if I stayed there or not. But I've found the right guys for me and I hope that I'm able to stay at DEI with Tony Jr. and all the guys that work on the #15 car.
HOW DO YOU BALANCE WITH WHAT THEY'VE DONE WITH THE CAR AND WHAT YOU WANT OUT OF IT? It reminds me of the coolest thing that happened on my team with the Aaron's Dream Machine when we started having success. He would set the car up the way he wanted it to be, then I would come to the track and drive it and tell them what I feel. He would adjust somewhere from where he started to what I felt. At Texas and wherever we've been, that's how we've done things with Tony Jr. They bring the car Dale Jr. liked it. They understand I'm probably not going to like it just like he liked it and then they put going toward what I feel and I tell them what I feel. I'm not telling them what to change. I'm telling them what I feel and they address it. It's just 100% the fact that when I tell them something, they listen and they believe me. And I said it at Phoenix, Jimmy Fenning would set Kurt's car up backwards if he thought that's what Kurt wanted. And Tony Jr. knows what he's got, listens to what I'm feeling and adjust the car toward that. That's the way it works. They bring a car that's close and if I like the way a bigger right rear spring feels, or a softer left front spring, then they let me feel that. And if I go out and run that, they say "checkmark" and "he knows what he's talking about." Fortunately I've gotten a few checkmarks lately because we've been running pretty good.
Jason Leffler -- #11 FedEx Express Chevrolet
HOW WAS PRACTICE FOR YOU TODAY AT TALLADEGA? It went really well. We ended up 10th and the FedEx Express Monte Carlo was fast. It's the same car we had down in Daytona and we qualified 7th down there. The guys back at the fab shop and engine shop have worked hard and it's showing on the race track.
WHAT'S THE BEST PIECE OF ADVICE SOMEONE GAVE YOU ABOUT THIS RACE TRACK? Stay out of trouble, but that's easier said than done. It doesn't matter what spot you're in, a big wreck happens, you never know where you're going to be. It can happen whether you're in the front, middle or back. It's just part of racing here at Talladega. I love it. It's fun running 3 wide for 500 miles. The fans get into it here-they're crazy. It's a pretty unique place for sure.
HOW DOES THE DRIVING DIFFER FROM DAYTONA? Yeah, Daytona as the years go on turns more and more into a handling race track like anywhere else would. Here it's just wide open and you just drive around. It's fun. A big motor place, the body's important obviously, but I think you pick up more with your engine here.
Boris Said -- #36 Centrix Financial Chevrolet
HOW HAS YOUR PRACTICE BEEN? Great. Here is all about the car. You know, I've got the best equipment out there I think. I've got the right pieces: Hendrick motors and everything MB Sutton has done. They give me cars as good as anyone out there. So for qualifying, it's nice to have that kind of comfort level that you've got a good car.
FROM YOUR PERSPECTIVE, HOW IS THIS PLACE DIFFERENT FROM DAYTONA? Yeah, it's a big track and it's actually easier to drive around than Daytona. At Daytona you actually have to drive a little bit. Here, it feels like it's 99% car. Like in the old days when they sent a chimp up to fly a rocket around the world, I feel like the chimp. I'm sitting in a really good car that was prepared by really good people with a good engine.
WHERE DO YOU FEEL COMFORTABLE ON THE TRACK? I don't know yet because I've only practiced qualifying, running on the line on the bottom. I hope tomorrow doesn't get rained down when we get to practice, because that's what I'm really looking forward to.
Jeff Gordon -- #24 DuPont Chevrolet
TELL US ABOUT PRACTICE This is a little bit of an older car and we were a little bit nervous about what we had and you know our car is sitting in Daytona USA and we weren't going to be able to bring that out. I'm real proud of the guys back at the shop-they massaged on this car, it's the car we won with last year. I felt like they stepped it up a notch, and the whole program, really. So, we're running good today. I don't know where we'll be for qualifying, but should be toward the front.
ARE YOU BEGINNING TO FEEL THAT THREE OUT OF THE LAST FOUR PLATE RACES IS MORE THAN JUST A NUMBER FOR YOU? THAT IT'S MEANINGFUL? Well, I feel like our cars and our team are where they need to be to be competitive. We're going to take advantage of being competitive wherever we can and make the best of it. Right now our restrictor plate program is one of the best things we've got going for us. It doesn't guarantee anything. It's not a handling race track. It's a lot tougher to get to the front and stay there at this place. But I'm real happy.
WHAT'S YOUR BIGGEST THREAT? To me, when you come to Talladega, you can't really rule anybody out. Because I think that if I'm going to focus on anybody, it's going to be guys that have experience running up front, have good fast cars but have that experience of having a win and knowing how to win at a restrictor plate track. I think that's why the DEI guys are always at the top, Dale Jr. and Michael work well together and they're fast. They know how to work the draft and use their mirrors. Those will probably be the top guys on the list.
MICHAEL WALTRIP ACTUALLY SAYS YOU'RE THE TOP THREAT. HE SAYS TO WATCH OUT FOR THE HENDRICK CARS BECAUSE YOU'RE BACK Well, I think we are. I think our engine program is strong as it's ever been. I think that our cars are as good as they've ever been. Jimmie and I work real well together. If we can get Brian Vickers and Kyle Busch up there and make a foursome out of it, it will make us even stronger. I just feel like when you go to a restrictor plate track, once you get into a race, once you work the draft, you're not going to have a lot of friends out there, but as long as you don't have any enemies, I think it will help you get up there and stay there. HOW ABOUT THE #97 CAR? Yeah, Kurt's a talented driver and I think, again, if he can work together with.and Tony Stewart, too.those are guys that seem to find there way to the front, with or without help. And those are guys you have to put at the top of your list, too. Those are guys that are going to run well.
THIS RACE LED TO THE GREEN/WHITE/CHECKER Yeah, I think it's great. I don't like the fact that it's a green/white/checker finish, but I think on the restrictor plate races it can get a little bit too crazy. But I like the rule in general everywhere we go. I think that not racing back to the caution is definitely a plus. The thing with last year's races, let's say the thing with the green/white/checker came out, we still would have had the same controversy and the same issues. We would have had to find the winner on camera in the middle of three and four. The green/white/checker doesn't help fix that, it just helps soften that a little bit.
WHAT WAS IT LIKE TO BE IN THE MIDDLE OF THAT LAST YEAR? Well, the fans around here are very avid and emotional and there are a lot of big Earnhardt and Earnhardt, Jr. fans around here. Any little tiny bit of controversy around here that's going to include him, you're going to see that same thing no matter whether it's me or anyone else who's racing him.
YOU SAID BEFORE THAT DEI'S RESTRICTOR PLATE DOMINANCE INSPIRED YOUR TEAM. NOW YOUR TEAM SEEMS TO BE AT THE FRONT. WHAT MOTIVATES YOU NOW? Well, there restrictor plate program is very strong. They're fast. They don't always qualify good, or they don't show it in practice. But they're always going to rise to the occasion during the race. So, I still look to them as major threats. But I think that we've certainly opened some eyes up to us being major threats as well. It's not going to help me doing favors out there finding someone to draft with or draft with me, so that's where we've got to turn to our teammates.