NASCAR Teleconference March 24, 2009 An interview with: BRIAN VICKERS THE MODERATOR: Brian is currently 14th in the NASCAR Cup Series points standings and in five races this season, he has three Top-10 finishes and a pole earlier this year at...
March 24, 2009
An interview with:
THE MODERATOR: Brian is currently 14th in the NASCAR Cup Series points standings and in five races this season, he has three Top-10 finishes and a pole earlier this year at Auto Club Speedway.
Looking ahead to this weekend, talk about your outlook going into Martinsville Speedway.
BRIAN VICKERS: Well, you know, obviously it's been a don't year for us so far. We've had some really good races and we've had some that we wish we could re do.
But all in all, we've had three Top-10s and a Top-5 and we are looking forward to going to Martinsville. We are 14th in points. For a brand new team, just three years in, I don't think we have a lot to complain about, but obviously we always want to do better.
The short tracks have not historically been our best tracks but we have worked really hard the whole year to improve on the short tracks and I think we have come a long ways. The last time we were at Martinsville the last year, we had a great race, we finished I think 11th but we ran Top-5, Top 3, led some, good portion of the day.
Towards the end of the race, we had to conserve some fuel and lost some spots because of that, but all in all I thought that was a good race for us.
Q: Can you talk about qualifying at Martinsville? We have just come from another short track and it's all-or-nothing at these short tracks as far as qualifying. Can you take us through it at Martinsville?
BRIAN VICKERS: Yeah, the short tracks are difficult to qualify on already, plus with the competitiveness of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, it's changed a little bit here. But with the NEXTEL Cup series, the competition is so strong. You're talking about you're fighting for a hundredths of a second; a tenth can separate 15, 20 spots at times. And when you're on a half-mile track like Martinsville or Bristol the margin for error is very small, and if you make a mistake, it's very difficult to recover from that.
Mile-and-a-half, two-mile race track, you can miss an injury or accident somewhere else and make it up somewhere else and still have a decent lap. These tracks, there's no way to make that time up.
Q: Can you talk about the difference between racing at Bristol and racing at Martinsville?
BRIAN VICKERS: Where do I start? The only thing that's similar about the two facilities is that they are both obviously a half-mile, but beyond that, there's nothing similar. Maybe they have concrete in the turns, but I don't know if I would even go there. One is obviously very high banking, and another one is very flat.
But I think they both offer a great race, a great variety to the schedule. I like both tracks. But the way you approach both of them, the way you drive them and the way you set the cars up for them, there's actually no similarities at all. Although we do say there's two short tracks back-to-back or two half-miles, they are really not. They are absolutely completely different. You know, I enjoy both of them.
Q: I know you're pretty heavy into technology, I saw your recent magazine article in MacLife Magazine that you're a Mac user and iPhone user, I wanted to get your thoughts on the growing nation of Twitter Nation. It seems to be growing by leaps and bounds, NASCAR itself is on there, sponsors and teams; have you dabbled in that at all?
BRIAN VICKERS: Yeah, I have. I enjoy technology as a whole. The MacLife interview, it referred mainly to how I've grown fond of my love for Apple products, for Mac, for their computers in particular.
Yeah, I've just always gravitated towards technology, I don't know. Why I was always on the computer at a very young age. I enjoy those kind of things, I enjoy the latest and greatest gadgets. I can't wait to get my hands on the new Palm Pre from Sprint when it comes out. I've heard and read a lot of great things about it.
As far as Tweeter is concerned, Twitter, whatever it is, obviously there's so many things out there these days. You are never going to put your hands around all of them. That's one of the few that I haven't really gotten into that much.
I do some stuff with -- or a lot of stuff actually when it comes to the Web site and fan club and when it comes to MySpace page and Facebook page to try to connect with fans and friends alike.
When it comes to GPS tracking, location, some of that social tracking and networks stuff, I haven't gotten into it. And it's not really -- I don't think it's an interesting or intriguing concept or technology to be completely honest with you. I just don't want people to know where I'm at that bad.
Q: On the racing side of things, how much has your new somewhat you teammate, Scott Speed, been leaning on you for advice?
BRIAN VICKERS: Scott definitely leaned on me some for advice. You know, he's an experienced and talented race car driver, but he's very new to the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. He has a lot to learn about the cars, the tracks, the way we race, and everything. And he had some questions, but yeah, it's not like we spend every moment together.
He doesn't come to me a lot, but he comes to me some and asks me questions, you know, and there's nothing wrong with that. I asked a lot of questions when I got here as well much I was very fortunate, I had some great teachers with Jeff and Terry Labonte.
Q: Is there a best way to adjust to changes on teams in personnel and equipment? And do you think that race car drivers bring that ability?
BRIAN VICKERS: It's a great question, and when it comes to adjusting to a new team or new personnel on the team, new crew chief, for instance, obviously some people are better than others. Some people have better people skills. That's just life. That goes with anything, any profession for that matter.
You know, never an easy process, but it doesn't necessarily have to be a painful process. I love a lot of the people at Hendrick and enjoyed working with them. They were like friends and family; still are, to this day.
Getting to know a new group of people and creating new relationships, I enjoy. I thoroughly enjoy meeting new people and learning about them and their culture and whether it's traveling around the world or moving to a new race team.
And being a part of that process, especially with Red Bull, in particular, is very special because I was there from the beginning and I was a part, from not day one but maybe day two. I was there definitely from the very beginning and to be not only part of a new culture and group of people, but to be able to shape and mold that, as well. I enjoy it. Some people don't like that process. Some people aren't good at it and some people are but I've always thoroughly enjoyed it.
Q: Do you feel your skills or your ability at that has been an asset to your career?
BRIAN VICKERS: I think so. I think it's definitely been an asset to my life and to my career alike. You know, where the skill came from would most likely point to my parents. Some of it would point to my life experiences and my people that I keep around me.
But I think the fact that I enjoy that process and I enjoy meeting new people and building relationships helps; any time you enjoy something, you are going to be better at it.
But the fact that people skills is an asset, you know, that I have, one that I'm always trying to improve, and I think you can improve on anything. I'm not saying I'm the best at it, but I'm trying to always be the best I can be has definitely helped my career in a huge way, in my personal life.
Q: How important is good team chemistry to the success of a NASCAR team?
BRIAN VICKERS: It's critical. I think chemistry is important in any relationship, especially any team sport relationship. You know, whether it's friendship, marriages, NASCAR team or Formula 1 team; but I would have to put a NASCAR team at the very top of that, just because we don't have the tell he me try and technology that, say, a Formula 1 team does; so when you refer to chemistry, you're really referring to everything about what makes the car go fast. They don't have a computer on top of the pit box in there telling them that, you know, the car is tight or loose or it's doing this or it's doing that.
It really comes down to communication, and that communication is crucial to the performance of the team, and you know, communication is chemistry.
Q: And what are some of the ways that poor chemistry can manifest itself?
BRIAN VICKERS: I don't know, anywhere from a disagreement to an argument to a lack of communication, passive aggressiveness, fist fight. You could go down the list. Either way, no matter the severity of it, when you have a lack of chemistry and communication, it will show up on the racetrack. And it will show up quickly. It takes a long time to build that relationship, but it only takes a few moments to erode it.
Q: Another question about qualifying. When you head out to qualifying, you've been doing it for so long, and you're still relatively young. What goes through your head? Are you pretty much robotic when you go out to qualify, or do you still get the feeling that obviously you have a short time to make it happen; is it an up on the edge jitters?
BRIAN VICKERS: I've always enjoyed qualifying. I think it's not my favorite part of the sport of racing, but it is the top of the list. Just being able to just suck it up and just drive the crap out of the car for just one, two laps, just push it to the edge, maximize the downforce, everything you've got, the horsepower, the grip, and just go after it.
I wouldn't want to do it every lap, which is basically like you would see in an open-wheel race, which is essentially qualify every lap, when you don't race that much. I enjoy racing, racing people and competitors way too much for that.
But when it comes to qualifying, I think everybody gets that sensation that it's hard to know that you've got to lay on the line, much less you have to lay it on the line and only one lap to do it in and you have to do it right; to not have the butterflies and sensation that you get excited or wrapped up about it.
It's obviously not like it was the very first time I had to qualify, just like sky diving doesn't have the same sensation now that it does the very first time I jumped out of an airplane, but it's still there. That sensation is still there, and I do enjoy that.
Q: We have had a chance to do some mile-and-a-half racing, and Atlanta with the course -- inaudible.
BRIAN VICKERS: Well, you know, everybody -- so funny. I was talking to someone the other day about is this. Everybody says, well, Texas is just like another mile-and-a-half just like Atlanta, Charlotte; honestly it is nothing the same. None of them are.
I can't think of two racetracks we go to that are the same. Comparing Atlanta and Texas in my mind is like comparing Bristol and Martinsville. They have different bankings and they have different corner entries, corner speeds, straightaways, grip levels probably being the most obvious, the pavement. They are close to the same size. But that's it.
Texas is unique in its own right. I love going there. I think it's a great racetrack, great facility. It's fast. And over time, it's gotten older and lost some grip, and has evolved into a track with a lot more character and more bumps and different things, which I think is a good thing. I don't have a problem with that. I like that.
But Texas has always been a very fun, fast racetrack, and I enjoy going fast.
Q: Towards the end of April, going back to Talladega, probably a special track to you for obvious reasons; wonder how Talladega is starting to come in and what it's like and have you been able to tell anything with the new pavement now that's maybe worn a little bit.
BRIAN VICKERS: Talladega is one of my favorite tracks. I've always enjoyed the Super Speedway racing. Obviously my first NEXTEL Cup win was there -- or now Sprint Cup win; once you get used to something, it's hard to change.
It was a special day for me and a special track, and always will be.
As far as the track itself, it is the most impressive re surfacing job I've ever experienced. That track when they repaved it, was just absolutely smooth; as the saying goes, as smooth as a baby's butt. They did a great job, and it's held up really well. It's still -- there's not many bumps that have come up over the course of time.
Obviously it's lost grip, but you don't really notice it in our cars. That track is not the kind of track -- you will notice the lack of grip when you notice the starting difference between the old track and the new track, but it's such a track the way the banking is and two and a half miles and Super Speedway and all of the things that go with those facilities, you're not going to notice a slight drop in grip year-to-year as you would, say, as Texas.
Q: What about Rick and that organization has allowed it to achieve that level of success?
BRIAN VICKERS: It really comes down to people. You know, putting the right people in the right place. It goes back to Rick Hendrick himself. I think he's done a tremendous job being a leader of that company, and owner. He's made some great decisions over the years. I'm sure he hasn't made all of the right ones and I'm sure he'll be more than happy to tell you that, but he's made enough of the right ones.
He's won many championships and many, many races. He's really good with people. We were talking about people skills earlier and chemistry and communication; he's just really good with people. He connects with them well. Good people like to be around him and he likes to surround himself with good people. Over the course of 25 years, he's built a lot of depth in that team that can't be replaced overnight. That's the kind of depth and people and loyalty and chemistry that's built into an organization over a long period of time that's produced a tremendous amount of wins and championships and results.
You know, it's not perfect. Nowhere is. Nowhere is perfect. If you think you're going to go somewhere else and do something else and it's going to be perfect, you're wrong. It may not be perfect for you and you may be able to make things better, or you may go somewhere else and be happier, but nowhere is perfect. But in the course of 25 years, I would have to say that Hendrick Motorsports has come about as close as any trying to achieve that.
And at the end of the day, you know, like I said, it goes to people, but in particular, probably Rick Hendrick.
Q: And with A.J. where he is in points and Scott where he is and a lot of people are wondering why didn't they keep A.J. over him; where did you stand when all that was going on?
BRIAN VICKERS: I stood in the 83 car. I had nothing to do with it.
Honestly I avoided the situation. Not because I was -- I gave my opinion on specific events, but I don't run that team nor do I want to run that team. If I wanted to be a car owner, I would go try to be a car owner. It's not my role nor my responsibility to decide what driver is or is not in that car.
Obviously they ask my opinion and you know, on the situation, on the team, on the drivers and everything, what they can do to fix it, and I gave it my opinion. But it doesn't necessarily reference whether it should be A.J. or Scott.
You know, for the most part, I didn't really know either one of them that well. I was just getting to know A.J. and I didn't know Scott at all. For me to comment on something that I didn't know or understand, would be irresponsible, and that's a mistake I try not to make very often.
And even Scott now, it's hard for me to judge him or his talent or who he is, because I'm just getting to know him. For me to say that it was the right decision, the wrong decision now, just because of the five races and one higher in the points than the other, I think would probably be irresponsible as well.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you very much for participating today and Brian thank you for your participation.