Ford 200 pole winner David Reutimann, driver of the No. 17 NTN Bearings Toyota "To be able to start first at Homestead-Miami Speedway is really big for me. I knew our first lap was going to be our best lap. One lap was really all we needed. To...
Ford 200 pole winner David Reutimann, driver of the No. 17 NTN Bearings Toyota
"To be able to start first at Homestead-Miami Speedway is really big for me. I knew our first lap was going to be our best lap. One lap was really all we needed. To come here and capture the pole is incredible.
"It would be great to win here for Toyota and NTN. NTN Bearings has 85 people that will be in hospitality and in the grandstands cheering us on. This is a big confidence boost for us. We needed something good like this to happen to us after the last couple of weeks.
"Raybestos Rookie of the Year was one of our main goals this year. It's exciting to have a healthy lead and know that our goal is attainable. I'm hoping to have a good race here at Homestead and try to secure the rookie title and a Top-15 spot in the points standings."
Third-place qualifier Carl Edwards, driver of the No. 99 Superchips Ford F-150
"The guys did great and we've just got a great truck and a great team. The way we've been running lately, we're a championship-caliber team, it's just we didn't run this way the whole season. The Cup car has really been helping my Superchips team a lot, as far as getting that experience. Hopefully we can stay up there and lead a couple of laps, so this will be fun. The neat thing about this place is the way the banking varies from the bottom to the top, I think you'll see a lot like what we see at Atlanta and everybody will go into the corner and fan out and run three wide."
NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series points leader and ninth-place qualifier Bobby Hamilton, driver of the No. 4 Square D Dodge
How is the team feeling right now?
"It's been pretty relaxed. I threatened to fire every one of them halfway through the year if they even focused on this thing. So, honestly (the pressure) has been pretty easy for my people because I really just made them have fun with this and not focus on it. You know, you have to sit back and look at what got all of us in all of this position, and that was winning races and running up front all of the time. And the minute you lose sight of doing your job, making weekends like that, that's the minute the points start going away. I told them last week, they had a bad stop the first week at Darlington, I came over the radio -- I never say anything -- and I said, 'Calm down. Have fun. Forget it. Brush it off. Let's go out and race. Let's see if we can win the race, you know?' Obviously we're into the last race and we have to be careful what we do, but for them it's just been a pleasure watching them bop around, have fun, throw water balloons at one another. The other day they were in a wrestling match up in the hauler while practice was going on and I said, 'Okay, I'll sit here and let them get through wrestling.' It's been pretty cool, seeing them, as the owner, staying in a laid back attitude mode."
Can you point out one or two things that stand out for your team this year...
"Just turnover -- I think Ted (Musgrave) mentioned that they had to move people around a lot this year. Ted's team has always been one of the championship teams every year. Just little things that go on, like how Dennis (Setzer) had to move a shop. Ted and them had to replace people, they had to get Gene (crew chief, Nead) back after four or five races. I didn't lose one person. I've got the same people that's been there on my team for four years now. The only thing I've changed in my whole organization was the truck driver off the No. 18, and I had just hired him at the first of the year. He was sort of a stranger to it. That's the big thing, is when you can build a foundation with a race team and there's no communication gaps. I think that's half the battle right there."
On your pledge to win the championship earlier this year...
"My pledge is simple. What am I going to do, go up there and say, 'Oh, it's all over with. I just lost 79 points, and I'm one point out of the lead?' That's silly. I'm a very positive person this year. I've engrained that in my people. So, right off the bat I don't think Dennis (Setzer) can outrun me in the last three races. Dennis thinks he can outrun me the last three races. That's just a matter of opinion. That's just the way it is. I'm a very, very serious person. I've got the cat by the you-know-whats because I own this thing, I can say what I want to, and I'm the driver, and I can do what I want to. I don't have to listen to Jack.
"This (would be) my first NASCAR championship. But, let me tell you something, this championship is being gone after by Dodge and my people. I don't care. I've won nine of them in my time. It's no different. It pays a little more money, and it's more stuff to dust. I'm not trying to be cocky. That's just the way it is. I love racing. I love when that window net goes on, and that switch comes on, that's when I get my rewards, period. I mean, that (championship trophy) is cool. I'd love to have my name on there. I'd love to see Bobby Jr., win a championship down the road. That's what I'm into it for. I'd like to see the Hamilton name in the NASCAR record book. But, I'm old. I'm worn. I'm tired. It's time for these guys (Carl Edwards, etc.). It's okay. I would love to win this thing, but let me tell you something. If I don't win this thing, this truck series is going to be taken care of by two other great champions. One of the three is going to be a great champion for this sport, and from an owner, that's what I'm concerned about. I don't think it could've been picked any better. I have nothing against Carl, but I didn't want to see Carl win it because he's leaving. This is a very good part of NASCAR where young drivers come in and learn and leave. But, I didn't want to see a champion come in and then go to Nextel Cup and us not have a champion to represent the sport. It lies right here, and all three of these guys will do a good job however it lands.
On having a tight points chase in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series all the time
"It happens a lot. We talk about all this stuff all the time, but one thing that keeps getting forgot about was last year. They had to park Travis (Kvapil) on the frontstretch. It took them 10 minutes to figure out who won the championship because of the penalization that Ted (Musgrave) got or whatever the deal was between the rest of the guys. How long has it been since that happened in NASCAR racing? Since the convertibles went across the start/finish line in 1955 at Daytona, or in 1958 or whatever it was? We haven't had anything like that. We have been pretty close at times."
Are there any team orders for tomorrow based upon the championship race?
"The only reason I entered a second truck is because like Dennis (Setzer) and them entered one. I don't think Dennis and them entered one because of this, because that's a sponsored truck and all. But, I'm like, 'That's a vehicle, so lets enter another one.' The No. 59 is a truck that has to race every week. The No. 8 is a truck that has to race every week, and so does the No. 18. So, even though they're under my umbrella, they have to race and do the best they can becuat the first of the year. He was ause they're in a points situation too. But, the No. 04 got entered because the No. 47 is entered. That's the extent of it."
Eighth-place qualifier Ted Musgrave, driver of the No. 1 Mopar Dodge and third-place in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series championship standings
On his qualifying run
"That was decent. We weren't really sure what to expect from the time difference and the temperature difference. I tried to hold it wide-open, and it actually got worse, sliding up being that way. So, I had to kind of re-adjust for turns three and four to stay on the bottom a little bit. The times just slowed down a little bit due to the temperatures.
"We're pretty happy with the Mopar Dodge so far. We're not on the pole, but this thing is driving really well, and it reacts really well. That's a key here, that you can do something to the truck and it reacts for it. I think we've just got to play it smart when it comes race time. We've got a couple of things in our idea bag that we're going to try here in practice and see if we can maneuver around trucks pretty well."
(FROM AFTERNOON PRESS CONFERENCE)
"Evidently, maybe if the halfway flag comes out I'll be eliminated. It's pretty bleak for us, but we've had one heck of a second half of a season. The first part of the season didn't turn out very well. We really got behind. I think we were down to 17th in points. It looked pretty bleak for doing anything -- even to try and get a top 10 was a struggle. So, to take the team and rally around it and change it all... The whole organization got changed. The crew chief got changed. All the trucks got changed. Actually, after about the fifth or sixth race of the season we basically had to rebuild a whole organization and start over. So, I'm pretty proud of what the guys have done for the last couple of months, coming out strong like this. It just shows that they are championship-caliber people, we've just got to put together a full year of that and go for it. Now that Dodge has won the manufacturers championship, my goal right now -- I don't think I can win the championship here with these two guys (Bobby Hamilton and Dennis Setzer) being able to do what they're doing -- but I will have a shot to maybe go out and lead laps and try to win the race for Mopar. We've (he and Carl Edwards) got our own little race going here.
"When I came into this back in 2001, I think Jack Sprague clinched it at California, the second from the end of the race. He clinched the championship. But from there on every year we've been involved in the championship, and it always came down to the last race. Last year it came down to the last two or three laps. So, you can't say we need to change things or it's not exciting. I just love it, because every week you can slip from one spot to another. Every time you come out here and race in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series, there's always something going on. If it isn't the great racing, it's this points battle that's going on. It always comes down right to the end. It keeps everyone in the stands. It keeps everyone wondering."
Have you ever been a part of a team that shifted gears like this midseason?
"Well, not this bad. I know everybody in racing, if the season is not starting out very well then a lot of things get changed. You have a driver change or crew chief change. Things like that happen. But, we had a lot of changing going on. It just took a lot of hours and a lot of time, and to do that in the middle of the season -- or even in a quarter of the way into the season -- that's pretty tough on a team. I think it happens from time to time with people, but you can becuat the first of the year. He was 't win a championship by doing that. So, we're preparing ourselves for next year."
Seventh-place qualifier Steve Park, driver of the No. 62 Orleans Racing Dodge Ram
"These guys did a good job, working hard on this Orleans Dodge, getting it to cut a good clean lap. We're pretty happy with that. We slowed down a little bit from this morning. But, we figured we would with the heat and the sun coming out and stuff. They've done a fantastic job here in Miami just getting this racetrack to be a racetrack that we can race at. We love being here with the trucks. We'll take that right now. I told my guys, 'If we're in the top 10, we'll be in good shape.' I just like the way the truck's driving. Dodge gave us a great truck to come here and race with, and the whole race team has worked really hard with Kevin Kroyer's engines to get us running pretty good. So, we're pretty excited about that.
13th-place qualifier Kasey Kahne, driver of the No. 2 Team ASE/Carquest Dodge Ram
"Well, we've got the same truck that we won with in Darlington last week, so it should be pretty good. It's a good Dodge, but we just missed in qualifying a little bit there. It just didn't really go fast. But, we worked a lot on the race setup this morning, and we'll work some more on it in the afternoon, and hopefully it will be really good for tomorrow.
"I'm excited to be at this track. We should run good here in all three classes this week, I think. The truck should be really good, and I'm looking forward to all of the racing. We'd like to get a win on the Cup side of things. That'd be the biggest thing we'd like to do now, is to get that win. Hopefully, we'll get a good finish out of this weekend, and get that win to wrap up the year. It's been a busy season, and I'm about ready to call it a year."