Atlanta: Mayfield, Evernham interview 2002-03-09

JEREMY MAYFIELD (No. 19 Dodge Dealers Dodge Intrepid R/T) "It's still like we're searching a little bit, but it keeps getting better every week. It seems like we're narrowing our changes down to get better. I'm certainly excited about it. I hope...

JEREMY MAYFIELD (No. 19 Dodge Dealers Dodge Intrepid R/T)

"It's still like we're searching a little bit, but it keeps getting better every week. It seems like we're narrowing our changes down to get better. I'm certainly excited about it. I hope the boss over here is, too. We didn't qualify as well as we'd like to yesterday, but we feel like we'll have a great race car. We tested well here, and Bill made us look real good here, so we'll definitely run hard on Sunday.

"We do share everything. All three teams have the same stuff. I think then it's up to the crew chief and driver to come up with their own package. We all have that option. Obviously, Bill and them had a better option yesterday than we did. I can tell you the cars are built at the same shop, they're the same cars and it's up to the drivers and crew chiefs to get the package they want. Yesterday we weren't the fastest thing out there in practice, but we feel like we made gains. It doesn't matter where you start.

"I don't really feel like it's going to be much longer. I thought we came together pretty quick. When we first tested together it seemed like we were pretty far apart from what I liked or how to get what I liked. That comes from communication between the driver and crew chief and retired crew chief. Now it seems like we show up at the race track and we're only a couple of changes off. Last week was a good example of that. We just kept improving, improving, improving the whole weekend. We'll do the same thing this weekend. I'm very confident we'll have a good race car on Sunday. I think Ray has sped that process up between Sammy and I. Being in the middle of it has helped guide us in the right direction.

"I think the (Dodge) teams have had a year now to get to know each other. I just hope I can contribute somewhere down the line and help Dodge get better and be a part of those results. I don't really think that me and Jimmy Spencer (Dodge newcomers) have been a part of it right now. We certainly feel like we will in the future. I think the biggest thing is the team has been together. Bill has had a year to learn his cars, and I think Jimmy is a little bit like I am. We're both kind of learning the ropes here on how Dodge reacts to stuff. We're certainly hoping we can push 'em in the future. I think the biggest thing he and I are trying to adjust to is the things that work on a Ford, some of those little things don't work on a Dodge. Things you're accustomed to doing to fix a problem, you have to go to different areas now it seems like, just because of the balance. Maybe that's more different race teams than the manufacturer."

RAY EVERNHAM (Car owner Evernham Motorsports Dodge Intrepid R/Ts)

"We're still hunting for consistency with our program. Right now, the team that has been together longest has certainly been Bill and he gives us our consistency. Yesterday he gave us a pretty big surprise, too. We're working on making our cars and motors and teams and pit stops better. We're getting there. We're stronger as a team at this point than we were last year for sure. We're working on trying to find out what Jeremy wants and needs to feel in a race car, and it just takes time to do that. I couldn't really be more pleased with my motor guys and the way the two teams are working together. They work together tremendously sharing information last week and then again this week. For a new motor program, those guys have been through a lot of rule changes. They have helped develop the Dodge motor, start an engine shop and this is our fourth pole as a race team, so I'm really proud of our engine program, and I'm really proud of Mike Ford and Sammy Johns and the way everyone is working together.

"You don't want to abuse that motor as bad. The biggest difference (with one-engine rule) is really they changed the weight rule with the engine -- crank, rods and pistons -- stuff like that so you don't really have that acceleration and you're not really running those lightweight parts. The other thing, with a flat type of camshaft, all the startups and heat cycles on these motors have got everybody concerned. You really don't want to make as many runs or start that car up or overheat it as much as you used to in qualifying trim. Everybody is being real careful today. At Daytona, it was 500 miles, but it was still a restrictor plate track and you don't turn the rpm you do here. Looking at a one-engine rule, basically 9,000 rpm's for 500 miles here tomorrow, people will be nervous, me included.

"No matter what they do, there's still going to be some development in rollers. I think nobody is prepared to switch, especially the camshaft manufacturers. Eventually, I think it would be a good thing, but it's something we'd have to ease into. Right now, I don't think anybody is prepared for that switch. You'd probably see as many problems initially switching to roller cams as you're going to see here now.

"If you look, I believe the Pontiacs have got the tallest spoiler. I believe they've got the longest nose. I believe Chevrolet has still got their two and a half inches, and they've got Jeff Gordon. If I was those guys, I'd be keeping quiet working on my pit strategy. I'll trade 'em three rule changes for Jeff Gordon.

"They have done a tremendous job (developing Dodge engine). Sometimes we all get so competitive and we expect so much out of people. If you look at when they hired me in September 1999, that engine was on a computer screen. They've done a tremendous amount of development. Not only is it winning races and winning poles, but Sterling finished third in points (last season) and he's currently leading the points. That says those people that developed that engine have done a great job. Ted Flak and his group, Dodge made a commitment to engineering. When they jumped in this program they knew they were tackling a big job. They stepped up to the plate. There's a lot of things Dodge has done as a company that has impressed me and that engine is one of them.

"You always hope those things are going to happen, but in reality, you just do the best you can. Again, we expected to have a lot more problems. Being realistic, you're a racer and you're always skeptical and you think, 'OK, I'm going to take a brand new car and I'm going to be expecting a lot more problems than we've had.' That just goes to show the development of the pieces they gave us, the raw materials that they gave us to work with are really good.

"It's difficult to officiate any sport, whether it's football or baseball, when you've got an umpire that makes the call. With some of the other sports, they go back to the video replay. I think we need to have some consistency. Whatever we do, just make it consistent. That's from the rules to the calls. Inside of three laps, we can't have a red flag. I'm OK with that. If you say 10 laps to five laps, we're going to try it. If you say a track that's two miles and under, but something that's in black and white so you know what kind of strategy to plan. If they sat down and looked at where it would be possible and how many laps, there is enough information to do that. I think they could save themselves a lot of grief. I think they do a good job. I hate to see them get blasted, that they're fixing races or they're doing this or doing that. That's impossible. They don't do that, but sometimes I think if they'd put a little bit more planning into their race strategy the way we do, they might have an answer for that stuff on a quicker basis.

"I don't know that I'm in favor of a green-white-checkered. I'm kind of a traditionalist when it comes to Winston Cup. This is what the sport was built on and you know the rules going in. The rules are what they are and you can deal with them. But when the rules change.... I'm not in favor of a green-white-checkered. I'm in favor of here's what it is and if a caution comes out with two to go and you win the race so be it.

"I'm concerned because I think in some issues there is a credibility issue and I don't think NASCAR deserves that. They took a lot of flack last year on the safety issues, and they take some flack this year over their inconsistencies. I really don't think they get enough credit sometime on what they've built the sport up into. We have to be careful with the credibility issues right now with a lot of people in the hunt for sponsorships. We can't keep losing people like Travis Carter and Andy Petree. We've got to do what we've got to do to make sure the sport is credible so that sponsors will come in. Dollar for dollar, you can't beat the sponsorship on a NASCAR Winston Cup race car. We need to probably get that message out so people like Travis aren't sitting at home.

"With anything, if we were an expansion ball club, you'd expect to get better. Our goal is to get better every week, and I think our teams have been together longer. We've learned more about the cars and motors. Dodge as a company has learned more. Their goal is to win a manufacturers championship (Dodge leads Ford 24-21 in manufacturers standings entering Sunday's race) and they're pushing everybody toward that goal. We've just got to keep marching. If we weren't getting better every week, we might be looking for jobs.

"People get upset when you're taking provisionals and not running good. The bottom line is it takes time to do those things and to build programs. You look at a kid like Ryan Newman and Penske is doing the right thing with him and he's matched him with a crew chief that fits his personality. It can't be about just one guy. It's really got to be almost, driver-crew chief-engineer. Even though the mechanics of the sport seem to be the easiest thing, they're more affected by the psychology and how everybody is getting along and that trust factor.

"You're looking at three tenths of a second over a mile and a half track at 190 mph. How long is that? How do you measure that? It's 100 feet at 200 mph. You can 44 cars or whatever that qualified yesterday and stack 'em up at the start-finish line and if you put 'em the distance they were, you'd be really surprised. The 19 car probably missed qualifying by eight or 10 inches. That's how close it was.

"With Casey Atwood, the benefits are the future. There are no benefits right now. I believe in him. He's my pork bellies. We're investing a lot of money in his future. What are the benefits right now? The benefits aren't right now. I always tell 'em that kid's my retirement fund. He's got a lot of talent. We've got to take care of him. He's got to go around and figure out he doesn't know everything and Winston Cup is hard work. We've got to keep putting him in cars so he can make laps and understand. I'm lucky somebody else has already spent the money on Bill and Jeremy. We can take some advantage of them. Casey Atwood is as talented as anyone out there. He just needs time. In this day and age, there are very few people out there you've got to jump start. The people you've got to jump start ain't making it to this level any more. They don't have rides. You've got to get the guy in the right situation. A lot of people had given up on Bill, but I'm going to tell you, I've been around the sport for a long time and I was impressed with that lap he cut yesterday. I was impressed with that. You don't expect a 47 or 46-year-old guy to go and cut something like that. He ran that car around here wide open. That's the confidence that's been built up between him and Mike Ford."

-dodge-

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Jeff Gordon , Ryan Newman , Casey Atwood , Andy Petree