Joe Nemechek , No. 01 U.S. Army Chevrolet Monte Carlo ON WINNING THE POLE "This is a very important pole. We've been so close this year. The U.S. Army team has run good. I think we were second at Fontana this year. We got beat right at the end.
Joe Nemechek , No. 01 U.S. Army Chevrolet Monte Carlo
ON WINNING THE POLE
"This is a very important pole. We've been so close this year. The U.S. Army team has run good. I think we were second at Fontana this year. We got beat right at the end. And at Pocono this year, I thought we had the best car but got knocked off the pole right there at the end. They're just so hard to get. The competition level is so tough. Ricky Rudd had an awesome lap today. I thought we could run faster than that. I thought we would run faster than we did. But everybody's got to go through that room over there and get equalized out. But we were fast in practice and everything went right.
"Qualifying is more about the team getting bragging rights on how fast these cars go here. I've had a number of poles here in the Busch cars and some other things - I've been fined a few times - but the team takes pride in making these cars go fast. I'm proud and honored to be driving this car."
TO WHAT DO YOU ATTRIBUTE YOUR QUALFIYING SUCCESS?
"You've got to have the right equipment. It takes the whole package to make it work. If the motor doesn't run right, you're not going to be on the pole. If it doesn't drive right, or if the brakes don't work or if anything is off, you're not going to be on the pole. You have to be good all the time. Ryan (Pemberton, crew chief) and the whole team have worked hard to make my cars drive consistently. That's been one of the keys - not only at the plate races. This is the same car we've run in the three previous races. We've qualified right there toward the front at every one. We've been knocking on the door."
IF YOU'RE NOT IN THE TOP 10, IS WINNING A POLE THE WAY TO GET MEDIA ATTENTION?
"That's definitely how you do it. We've got to take care of all the sponsors in this sport. They're all spending a lot of money to be here. But for me, today at Talladega in qualifying, we're on the top of the pile. It's cool for the whole Army team. For me, driving the Army car is an honor.
"I meet so many soldiers that are going overseas and they ain't coming back - they're going all over the world, not just to Iraq or Afghanistan. It's a privilege for me to give these guys something to pull for. They're up in the middle of the night. It's in the middle of the night there now, or early in the morning, and those guys are watching it. I'll have a bunch of emails when I get back. It's cool just doing something that people appreciate."
IS IT GOOD TO BE CALLED FRONT ROW JOE AGAIN?
"Definitely. We've been so close this year. But now to get a pole puts us in the Bud Shootout and that's a good thing. I know I missed it last year. We'll have race cars just like this for that race, so we'll have a shot at winning it."
EVEN THOUGH YOU'RE STARTING UP FRONT, SOME PREFER TO HANG IN THE BACK AND WAIT FOR THE DUST TO SETTLE. WHICH DO YOU PREFER?
"Anytime I can be up front leading laps, I'm going to try to be there. We were talking about trying to get your sponsors exposure, there's no better way than running up front. The tough thing about running in the back is that you may avoid a wreck, but still, the odds are if you're in the back you'll likely get caught up in it. I feel you need to drive as hard as you can all the time. I give this team 100 percent effort every time I'm on the track. I do the best I can every lap. But starting up front, I'm the first guy they'll try to hang out. So at some point, I'll be in the back and I'll figure out how to get back to the front. You never run in the middle on purpose. Something that we've seen this year - and I wasn't around at the finish for the first Talladega race so I don't know how it all unfolded toward the end - but at Daytona it seemed like the field got strung out during both races. They got in groups. Handling isn't as much of a factor here at Talladega as it is at Daytona. It's more aerodynamics. I think the pack will be closed up a little bit more, but that front group will take off. And I just hope to be a part of it."
ARE YOU RUNNING HENDRICK MOTORS?
"Yes. We're on a rental program with them. They have their in-house cars, but we get the same quality and power that everyone else gets. There is an art to building engines. Randy Dorton is a good friend of mine. I see how much money they spend and the efforts they put in to make all their motors the same. I'm proud to get them a pole today too."
ON SUNDAY, WILL THE RACING FOR THE TOP 10 DRIVERS BE MORE CAUTIOUS AND WILL THE REST OF THE DRIVERS LET IT HANG OUT MORE?
"Yes, I totally agree with that. The guys who are in the top 10 have the most to lose. People have been asking if I'm going to race them differently here. No, I'm going to bump-draft them just as hard as I bump-draft anybody else. I'm 24th in points and I have nothing to lose. Anybody who is outside of the top 10 has nothing to lose. You're going to see the guys outside the top 10 probably - I can't say driving more aggressively because there is only so much you can do here - but you have to be smart about what you can do. I'm not going to drive those guys any differently than I would drive people who are back in points. You find someone you can run with and you hang with them as long as you can and you go on. That's at every race track. Usually the best cars end up in the front. If you have a little bit of luck with you, you can be in the front and win these races. But the guys who are in the top 10 have earned it. They've run consistently. Everybody knew the rules going in. That's a pretty awesome deal getting into it. I wish I was in it and had more to lose, but right now I'm in the driver's seat and I have everything to gain. So I'll be driving hard."
"Where we are in points, does not reflect this race team. This team is awesome. The U.S. Army Chevy is an awesome race car. These guys put a lot of effort in - as much as anybody else. We've run good this year. We've missed a couple of races. We've been off. But the majority of the races we've run good. We've had transmission trouble and we have had some motor issues - just parts and pieces - nobody's fault - but when you add those up, pretty soon you have eight or 10 races that you didn't run good in but that you were easily a top five car. But as a team, we look at that and we want it worse. We want performance and we want to run good. I'm representing probably the biggest sponsor there is. I know I'm representing the biggest sponsor there is in this garage. There are an awful lot of people who work for the Army. Right now, this is a big moment to get a pole for the U.S. Army, but to win a race would be incredible."
NOW THAT THE CHASE HAS TAKEN OVER, WILL YOUR DRIVING STYLE CHANGE FROM WEEK TO WEEK?
"The way we have approached things since the top 10 have been set, no. We're still approaching things the same way that we approached them at the beginning of the year. We do a couple of things a little different because we've learned a lot of things throughout the year that have made the team better. What Goodyear has done with the tires threw everybody for a loop at the beginning of the year. Once we got a handle on that, our team has been performing great. Since they set the top 10, we're just trying to approach each week fresh and we're there to win. We want to sit on the pole and win.
"Just like every other team, you keep trying to get an advantage. NASCAR keeps making that box of rules smaller and smaller - the gray areas - and it's harder to get an advantage. You've just got to do your homework."
DO YOU THINK THE CURRENT LEVEL OF EXPOSURE -- GIVEN THE TOP 10 VERSUS DRIVERS IN 11TH - 43RD - IS FAIR FOR YOUR SPONSOR?
"The network needs to take care of all the people out there. The Chase for the Championship is a new step for NASCAR and what Brian France has done with that is pretty awesome. Instead of having two guys fighting for the championship, now you have 10. That's pretty incredible. Guys who normally don't have an opportunity to win a championship, now have a legitimate shot at it. It is good for the sport. If you're in the top 10 or out of the top 10, and your sponsor is going to change because of that depending on how they fund your team, well then maybe you only run 26 races a year if you don't make it. That's not good for the sport. The coverage needs to be right. Every sponsor here is spending a lot of money to be on these cars. You've got to have a big group to keep all the fans in the stands."