Preseason Thunder Testing at Las Vegas Las Vegas Motor Speedway January 30, 2006 Driver Interviews With: MARTIN TRUEX, JR., No. 1 Bass Pro Shops Chevrolet Monte Carlo SS DALE EARNHARDT, JR., No. 8 Budweiser Chevrolet Monte Carlo SS DAWN...
Preseason Thunder Testing at Las Vegas
Las Vegas Motor Speedway
January 30, 2006
Driver Interviews With:
MARTIN TRUEX, JR., No. 1 Bass Pro Shops Chevrolet Monte Carlo SS
DALE EARNHARDT, JR., No. 8 Budweiser Chevrolet Monte Carlo SS
DAWN GARDIN: We are joined here by Martin Truex, Jr., NASCAR Busch Series champion, talk a little about how your day is going so far.
MARTIN TRUEX, JR.: Well, so far it's been good. We've got two brand new cars here, both a little bit different and we're just going through our normal test procedures, trying some things. We've got one car that's a little better, that I like a little better than the other one, so that's a good thing. We've been trying to concentrate on that and we will more this afternoon.
Just trying to get acclimated, get back in the swing of things. It's been a while since we've been to a downforce track like this. Talks a couple runs to get used to it -- knock the rust off of me and we're getting back into the swing of things now. So this afternoon should be good for us. Look forward to it.
Q. What's been the hardest adjustment jumping from the Busch Series into the NEXTEL Cup Series?
MARTIN TRUEX, JR.: Well, nothing has really been that hard yet. It's about to get a lot harder, though. Just seeing how competitive the cars that are here today are, how fast they are running, is an eye-opener for me. We've just got to work real hard and make our cars as good as we can and I'm not really sure what the toughest things are going to be this year. But hopefully I'm prepared for them when they show up and we'll have a good year.
Q. How long does it take a driver that grew up on a short track to get comfortable on a superspeedway?
MARTIN TRUEX, JR.: It depends I think on the equipment and the people you've got around and the amount of confidence you've got in them and stuff. It didn't take me long at all. The first time I went, I was comfortable but I had great cars and a great team around me. They made it easy for me. So I think that makes a big difference.
Q. What's your relationship like with Dale Earnhardt, Jr. and how are things going with DEI as you step up this year?
MARTIN TRUEX, JR.: Things are looking good. Me and junior are good friends, just like we've been the past year, year and a half, two years or so. He's been a great friend and somebody I go to for advice, and I really look up to him as a person and as a race car driver. So it's good to have that relationship, but things are looking good, Richie Gilmore and everybody are putting a lot of effort into this season to giving us the best chance to run up front and run good and have a good season. We just need to use all our people and experience to the best of our advantages and work together and just trying to get the company back where it needs to be.
Q. What did you and Richie and Dale, Jr. talk about over the winter to get your program back up to speed on the downforce track?
MARTIN TRUEX, JR.: Just pretty much everything. You know, they are working real hard on the engines, they are working hard in every department, the engine department, chassis, fab shop, everybody is working hard and we're just going to try it work together real well, use everybody we have. We've got a lot of great people, and we just need to use everybody to our advantage, Junior and Tony Junior and all those guys are going to be a big help for us this year for our team being new, and hopefully we can learn some things and bring some new things to the table that maybe they wouldn't have learned without us or we wouldn't have tried.
The guys are working hard. All the effort is there, the support is there and we just need to make the best of it as two teams.
Q. When you look at what you're going to face this year, is there any one thing that you're concentrating on in preseason testing?
MARTIN TRUEX, JR.: No, not really. I mean, being here today has really been good so far. Just coming back to a downforce back.the Daytona test is real easy on us as drivers.
So coming in here and getting the rust knocked off and tring to get back in the swing of things, is probably the toughest part. But I feel like we're in the right direction now. And this afternoon and tomorrow it will be a lot better, a lot better for learning stuff. But there's not really any one thing we're concentrating on and we're just trying to get ourselves prepared the best we can and make sure we'll be good when we come back here.
DAWN GARDIN: We're joined by Dale Earnhardt,Jr. Talk about how your day is going so far.
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: Just getting kind of reacquainted with the racetrack. It's going pretty good I think. We've got one car that I'm pretty comfortable with. I think we can make something out of it. The other car we struggled with a little bit, but it's not necessarily the type of chassis or type of car that we would typically run.
So we were just going to give it a try, try to learn some things with it. But this other car we tested with a couple days ago in Texas has been pretty strong and I'm pretty happy with how it feels. We need to get some more speed out of it, and we'll work on that over the next day and a half.
Q. The cars this year have a new nose and a new tail. What does that mean to the driver? Is it a different car for him today than it was at the last race last year?
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: Not necessarily. We tested this car a little bit last year before the end of the season and I felt like the new nose is a little bit better. It offers a little bit more in the way of downforce and a little bit more in the way of grip to the front tires versus the car we ran last year.
But we're just talking tenths of a percent, not a whole lot, which I think is -- if they can improve, that's good, but you don't want to get so much of a change, you really have to go chasing after what kind of set up you need for the first 25 percent of the season.
So I think that, you know, we'll be able to get kind of acquainted with this car and this nose and stuff rather quickly. We've seen a lot of teams like Dodge and people change noses over the last five or six years and have struggled with it, the balance of the car throughout the season. So I feel like we'll be kind of fortunate in that regard. It's good to get a new nose, a new tail. Chevrolet has worked real hard to lobby for advances in the downforce and aero package of our cars. Just makes you glad you're driving a Chevy.
Q. We hear the term "working together," what is working together mean and does it help?
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: Absolutely it does. It can happen on and off the racetrack. The cars are so competitive and so close these days that if you have to run your car harder than you would like even for just one or two laps, you'll feel the difference and you feel what you've done to the tires and what you've done to how ease the tires -- or car loses a little bit of grip. So not only with Martin, but with other people that you're friends with or whatever, you kind of expect -- you expect a lot of give and take in that aspect. When we get around each other on the racetrack, if it's the first 400 miles of a 500-mile race, we probably won't put a lot of pressure on each other or race each other real hard, unless the leader is bearing down on us or something like that and we really have to get after it.
Off the racetrack, I talk to Martin about -- I talk to Martin and try to see if he's having some of the same issues I might be having and maybe what they might have done over the weekend. If I can't get my car to turn, he's fixed his somehow or some way, I might try it talk to Tony Junior and see if that idea that they had might suit him, something that he might want to do.
So I think that as far as setups, I think Bono is pretty aware of what we have in our car. We're pretty aware of what Martin has in his car. So that's all on open book. We just have to say -- it's up to the engineers and a lot of other people that the lines of communication between the two teams during the race weekend, which one car improve, the other is aware of that information.
Q. What's the biggest challenge Martin Truex will face by going from Busch to Cup full-time?
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: I think the toughest challenge for Martin this season will just be the schedule. And he's pretty aware of this. He's been around racing all his life, and as he's made his way through each rank, he's probably felt the difference in the pace of not only the season, but the race weekend itself. A lot of the responsibilities away from the race car for a driver increase, and so those are the things that he's -- that he's aware of and he'll -- the only thing I can give him advice all day long; but you have to sort of pace yourself, try not to really get too burned out as the season goes on.
That was probably -- that's what makes my rookie season harder than even last year's season to deal with because we ran -- I ran myself ragged the first three quarters of the season. I had nothing left there the last seven or eight races. So just got to be relaxed; relaxed, and not really -- take as much time as you can to yourself to relax and stay rested as the season starts. So as you get to the midpoint of the season where you're running 20 races in a row and whatnot, with no weekends off, you've got enough steam to do it.
Q. What do you think about the changes they are going to make here at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway in terms of what they are going to do for the fans and changing the banking and what that's going to do for the race.
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: Well, I have my own theory about banking, progressive banking and how to create a track that will have multiple grooves. Basically what my theory is, if you're going to make a track that has multiple grooves, the top of the -- the top of the corner has to be the same altitude as a straightaway, and you have to basically dig out the bottom of the corner. It has to be lower in altitude than the straightaway itself.
You know, I think that you'll have that opportunity here with the front straightaway. The back straightaway is a little flat, and if you're just going to pile a bunch of dirt up in the corner, nobody is going to drive up a hill to go into the top groove. You'll just go right to the bottom. But if you look at a lot of the tracks like Dover and other places where there's multiple grooves, the bottom of the corner is the lower altitude than the straightaway itself. So it makes sense that you might try different ways around the corner.
I think that I like driving on racetracks with more banking so I'm excited about the changes. I can't wait until they are finished and we can get out here and give it a try. I think if it's anything like you've seen in the past with places like Homestead, you'll have a lot of success with it?
Q. For you on the mile-and-a-half tracks, can you come out of this test and know that you guys need to improve?
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: I think that -- I mean, yeah, definitely, however you run here in a test is a good kind of a good way of being able to tell what kind of car or team you're going to be when you come back. I'd like to be faster, we're sort of right in the middle of the charts right now and I think that we can -- we definitely approve. We definitely need a couple of tenths, but I feel confident in Tony Junior and the guys that between our communication and everything, we'll get the cars dialed in.
I was really happy with how we ran at a lot of tracks last year. The car that I had at Chicago, you know, if we had not have gambled on two tires to win the race, we would have still -- we were still racing right outside of the Top-5 and had been moving up all day. The car was very competitive all day.
At Homestead, we were really one of the faster cars after 30 laps. But for the first 10 or 15, we were one of the worst cars. So that's like an air pressure issue, there's a lot of -- Goodyear has several different types of tires that they run at each track, and each tire, each configuration, sidewalk configuration compound has its little tricks and you have to figure those out for whichever track and whichever tire to be able to get that speed right off the bat. You'll see guys like Martin and them guys go out and run in the 31-second bracket, you know, the first couple laps of a run here today. As they fall off typically like everyone else, they have found a good 4/10ths to half a second over the field and to start the run. So for ten or so laps, they are gaining that much time on you, it's really hard to come back and be able to run them back down.
So we just have to figure out a few things to gain that kind of speed. We tested at Texas, like I said, a couple of days ago and we were really, really fast. I know that the weather and the track conditions were as good as they could possibly be, as good as you could ask for. So we understand that that would improve our speeds a little bit. But as far as the times, we're really happy with that.
As you go to these tracks with probably half the banking, we definitely struggled over the last two or three years. We made some gains last year, and I was working with Steve Hmiel when I felt good about how I ran at those tracks. We never really ran too many of them the last ten races when I was working with Tony (Eury) Junior. But he's got his stuff together, so I feel confident that we'll come out of here after two days with a good idea of how we need to be when we come back.
Q. NASCAR is different from other sports in that their marquis race is run at the beginning of the year. How do you feel about where Daytona falls right up front and are there ever times when you wish it were somewhere different in the schedule?
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: Not really. Personally I haven't been around the sport as a lot of the guys. But I've been around it long enough to understand the history of the sport and that's how the sport was built and it's always been that way. It feels just as natural to me as everything else I do.
So it doesn't feel odd at times or anything like that to me at all. I have no quarrel with Homestead at all, but you know, that's an interesting choice for the last race of the season in my opinion. But still a good -- it's always a good finale. I like the Daytona 500 being at the beginning of the season with speed weeks and all of the hype and the build up, it's sort of a great ignition to the start of the year for the sport, for a lot of the new teams that come in with new drivers, new sponsors. It really creates a lot of hype. It really helps with promotion and sponsor dollars and stuff like that. So I think it works out really good for everybody.
Q. The last ten races or so last season, your team seem to gain some momentum. Is there such a thing as carry over and how important is it for you guys to be better, how much emphasis rather is it to be better than you were last year?
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: Well, you always emphasize on improving and that's very important. That's very important to be able to put up better numbers than you have in the past. I felt like it was a good opportunity to get to work with Tony Junior those last ten races. He had learned a lot of stuff in the setups and his setups were a little different than what I had normally been racing on. And he was, you know, curious as to how I was going to like the things that he was doing with his car. So that seems to be working out pretty good and we really are getting along really good. A lot of good communication between me and him.
These next -- this test right here is very important, very key for our team, not only just for this race, but for a lot of tracks obviously with the testing situation the way it is, having the limited amount of tests. We'll need to learn as much as we possibly can, not only for this race, but for other tracks that are similar.
So I think where there is such thing as momentum as far as the technology side of it and what you're learning and everybody's work ethic. If you end the season on a real sour note and morale is low, you're in the going to carry a whole lot of momentum throughout the off-season.
So I was glad to be in the position I was last year at the end of the year. We really were ready to race even more. We did not want Homestead to be the last race of the season. We knew that we wanted to go to a couple more races and work together some more and try to learn some more. So I felt like that sense of urgency was good and that it carried over throughout the off-season, a lot of work, a lot of good craftsmanship and diligent work on the cars was done. Everybody was really motivated and took a lot of initiative to do their job, and I feel like equipment-wise, I couldn't ask for anything better.
When I look at my cars, the motors have improved, the engine department has found some speed and still working on even more, so that's good. I just -- I like working with people who are never satisfied and that always continue to try to improve. Even if they look across the board and see that their product is the best, I still want them to keep trying to improve on it. I feel like that's where we're at right now, which is really good.
Q. With all of the improvements on the track, is it time to maybe start seriously thinking about a second stop here in Las Vegas, and would you like to see that at all?
DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: If I ran better in this place (laughter) obviously I'd love to come back.
We had, you know, it's not really being nostalgic, but we had a good run here a couple of years ago and I think we run third. I felt like when I came here as a rookie, we led for the first 25 laps, the race was shortened by rain, but we finished tenth. I was pretty happy. And then to go come in and run in '01, to run third and I felt like I run good here in the Busch car. I don't know where we went off track over the last three or four years here, but we've really, really struggled both our cars have struggled every time we've raced here.
So we've got to figure out how to get this track more comfortable to the drivers. I feel like Tony Junior and the guys struggled trying to improve the cars because of how the drivers struggled with the tracks. So I've got to really buckle down and try to do whatever I can to make that easier for Tony Junior so that he can learn whatever he needs to learn and understand what the car is telling him and what I'm telling him.
So we're going to work really hard over the next couple of days. I would like to come over here and run in the top-10 this time around, if not better. But if we can improve and get in the top-10, you know, I feel pretty excited about that. But we've got California to race at before, so we'll be able to gain a little bit of knowledge out of there. There's a little bit of similarities in the two tracks.
So just want to -- I think it's a great, obviously a great city and a great place for any sporting venue or a great place for NASCAR to be as often as it can be. But that's -- as a driver, sure, I'd like to come back. But that's kind of up to the people with all of the money in their pockets.
DAWN GARDIN: Thank you and thanks for coming in.