Part 2 of 2
ON THE ERRATIC FINISHES THIS SEASON
"I guess a small part of it is luck. I think you make a lot of your luck in preparation - the work and the effort you put forth when you show up at the racetrack and keeping that focus all weekend long. There are a lot of good race cars out there that you've got to race. Track position becomes so important. Some places, maybe we didn't do as good of a job at keeping track position like we did today. I think just part of it is that we've had some problems the last couple weeks, and we've had some good days. If you look back at the last three and a half years that is kind of how our seasons have gone. If we can ever figure how to make them just a little bit more level or keep them up to the high side a little bit more, I think we'll be in good shape. That is kind of what we're working on."
WHAT GOES THROUGH YOUR MIND DURING A RED-FLAG, LIKE THE 12.5 MINUTE RED-FLAG TODAY? "We knew we had a problem with the fuel system. We don't know where it is at, but on restarts, I'd lose my fuel pressure going down the front straightaway and I'd lose it going down the long back straightaway for the first lap. Then, it seems like it would get caught up somehow.
"But, sitting there on the red I thought we were a sitting duck, with a one or two laps restart, and knowing that we had pretty much tried to pull all of the tricks out of our bag on restarts to try to keep them guessing on where we were going to pick up the throttle. I was just sitting there trying to stay calm and stay cool. I was really warm in the car today. I sat there and left the cool box running to try to keep as much cool air to me without running the battery down. For the most part, I was just sitting there. I even told Zippy at one point, I said, 'I'm getting really hot and it's starting to bother me a little bit. Just talk to me about what's going on and get my mind off being hot and sitting in the car and not getting any air moving through there.' I was just sitting there and Zippy was telling me to concentrate on trying to think about what I was going to do on my restart and gave me some stuff to think about why we were sitting there. I was just hoping that I wasn't going to lose it because of a red flag. I'm seen them won and lost like that, so I was just hoping it wasn't going to be one of those days where we lost it because of it."
HOW DID THE RED-FLAG FEEL TO YOU?
"It felt like about a half an hour. We were just sitting there. We were watching the big screen. We happened to over in turn one where the fires were (in the safety barriers), so I was kind of relaying back to Tony what was going on, just to try to keep everybody in a light mood and hope that we'd get one, good, last restart. We surely had a car good enough to win and Tony was on his game all weekend, so you'd hate to have a red-flag situation like that where you could potentially lose something that you've worked hard for. But, we've been on both sides of the fence and today it worked out for us."
WAS THERE ANY CONCERN WITH A ROOKIE AND A COUPLE ROAD COURSE RACERS BEHIND YOU ON THE RESTART?
"The comforting thing was knowing that Ryan was back there. He may be a rookie, but he doesn't drive like a rookie. I raced against him in USAC in midgets and sprint cars and Silver Crown cars and he is anything but a rookie. He is just a rookie to the Winston Cup Series, so I had a lot of confidence in him as a racer. You knew that he wasn't going to do anything crazy on the restart. But, after seeing what Robby did on the first start - went down there and could have piled up a bunch of cars in the first corner, just taking the green flag and trying to go through on corner on a 90-lap race - you knew that he would do something if he was in second. It was just a matter of trying to get good restarts. I knew Ryan had a problem with him power steering, so he was really, extremely hard for us to get by and I knew that it might be hard for those guys to get by him also. I was just hoping that if we got by and could get good restarts each time that he would be able to hold them up long enough, even if they did get by, that we could get out and at least get out to where we could run our race and not worry about what they were doing behind us."
HOW WOULD YOU GRADE YOUR DRIVER'S PERFORMANCE TODAY?
"I'd give him an 'A+' for the weekend. We unloaded, our car was good, we adjusted on it a little bit for qualifying, he went out, he hit all hit marks, he got us a good qualifying spot and yesterday in practice he showed up ready to practice. It was a fun weekend for us. We were actually able to go back racing that is what we're here for. We're looking forward to the rest of the year."
HOW ABOUT A GRADE FOR YOURSELF?
"I don't give myself grades. I gave myself an 'F' last week, so anything above an 'F' this week, I'll take."
WHAT DID YOU MEAN REGARDING MR. MOOK BEING PART OF YOUR REBOUND?'
"He was part of an incident that is probably going to change my life, or at least get it back in the right direction. I guess that's what I meant by it.
"He has been a topic all week, just like we've been a topic all week. I'm looking forward to putting the incident behind me to where when I come back to the race weekends, [the media] will actually let me go back to work and do what I do best and let me worry about my personal life away from the racetrack, instead of wasting my time here when I should be talking about how good a day we had and how good a job the crew did, instead of talking about the personal life."
ON HAVING A GREAT DAY IN POINTS...IS THE CHAMPIONSHIP STILL IN REACH?
"If we are fourth, I'm extremely happy just from the standpoint that every time we've gotten to fifth this year something would happen the next week and we'd go back to seventh. I was like, 'Either get us to sixth or get us to fourth. I don't want to be seventh anymore. I don't want to be fifth anymore, so if we're in fourth, I'm tickled to death leaving here.
"Anything is possible. You look at the bad luck we've had this year and you look at the things that have happened to us and you look at where we're at. If anybody can rebound from all of this stuff that's happened, it's this team. If anything it should put some fear in these other teams that they've got to stay on their game because I think last week and everything we've done this week has given this team more focus than we've ever had before. We had more fun this weekend than we've had in a long time as a race team and look what happened today. The end result is that we won the race, so it makes me very optimistic that we can still win this championship. We'll probably have more determination now than ever to do it. If we win this thing, we're going to know that we did it having a good time the last half of the season and not being a stressed-out race team and a race team that is battling with each other. We're going to be happy and be one giant unit kicking everybody else's butt the rest of the year."
ON THE POSSIBILITY OF A CHAMPIONSHIP RUN
"Tony's right. Every time we move up in the points we get kicked right back down. It's been an up-and-down year. But, for us to move up to fourth - I think we're 104 points out of the lead - that is absolutely, positively in our hands to grab. We just need to do what we did here today. We need to stay focused, work hard and win some more races before the end of the year."
YOU RACE A LOT ON THE SIDE FOR FUN...DOES THAT COST YOU ANY FOCUS?
"It's no different than somebody that goes fishing for a day or goes golfing for a day. That is what I do to relax. The situation I got myself into this year is that I was doing so much of it that my body finally was just getting worn out. Physically, I was getting fatigued, but mentally it's always been refreshing. But, when times aren't good, though, it even makes it a strain sometimes to do things you love.
"Zippy and I sat down and talked about it and we're not opposed to me doing that stuff on the side - just need to make sure we're doing it for the right reasons and make sure that we're having fun doing it because if we're not having fun doing it, there is really not point doing it, considering all the dedication and time and effort it takes to do what we do. I don't people fully understand what it takes for drivers, crew chiefs, pit crews - the guys that never even get a chance to go to the racetrack - that's all they do is just work at the shop - it's a 24-7 day job anymore. We've had guys working 24-hour days. I'm not at the shop every day, but I'm busy and on the road, doing things, whether it's appearances or races. Zippy works seven days a week every week. He doesn't take a day off. He's got a son that is month away from being one year old and he doesn't get to spend much time with him. This series is getting more competitive and it's getting more time-consuming every year. I'm hoping that eventually something will happen to where it will at least give us an opportunity to get our regular lives back and somewhat have a regular life. But, it's like Zippy said. This is what we signed up for. We're not going to complain about it. If that means we've got to work seven days a week, we'll work seven days a week. That's what we decided we wanted to do. We'll do it day in and day out. He doesn't complain about it. The crew guys don't complain about it. Nobody complains about it. We just all do it. In the back of our minds, I think we all hope that we hit a point in time when things change a little bit to where it does give us a little bit of a break to actually see some of the other things in the world other than chain link fences and guard rails and concrete."
ANY DIFFERENCES THIS WEEK AT THE SHOP?
"No, it was another day at the office. We put everything behind us. Everybody just came focused. Everybody came with a goal in mind - to come here and qualify well, practice well and to win --- and that is what we accomplished. I know what we went through this week and to know that we can, as a group, focus like that when we need to, put those things behind when we need to, I think just makes us stronger and better in the future."
Winning team press conference, part I