Mark Martin, driver of the No. 6 AAA Ford Fusion, and Matt Kenseth, driver of the No. 17 DeWalt Ford Fusion, and Dale Jarrett, driver of the No. 88 UPS Ford Fusion are all in the top 10 of the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series point standings after...
Mark Martin, driver of the No. 6 AAA Ford Fusion, and Matt Kenseth, driver of the No. 17 DeWalt Ford Fusion, and Dale Jarrett, driver of the No. 88 UPS Ford Fusion are all in the top 10 of the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series point standings after four races. All three drivers held Q&A sessions during Friday's rain delay.
DALE JARRETT -- No. 88 UPS Ford Fusion
ARE YOU ENCOURAGED WITH YOUR TEAM'S PROGRESS? "Yeah, it's been encouraging. We feel like we've made some gains because we know that the competition has stepped up. It's incredible what's out there right now and I know you hear this from everybody, especially the guys that are trying to make their way into that top 10 about how tough it is, but you get around looking at time sheets from practice and things and you realize just how difficult it is. There are literally 22-25 teams every week that you say, 'Those are good cars.' And you're gonna have to be on your game to outrun those, so we know that even though for probably three of the races discounting Daytona that we've run in that same area -- maybe 12th to 18th or 19th. We managed to finish a little better than that last week, so that's encouraging. I think the thing I've pointed out, and Elliott has too at our team meetings the last couple of weeks, is that if there's anything to take from that is that Tony and his team were the champions last year and they struggled up until June really. They were working on what was gonna make them good the latter half of the season and I think that's what we're saying. We realize that we could take the big gambles at some of these race tracks and really try to go where we think people are that are beating us, but in taking that chance if you don't have all the pieces there, you take that chance of finishing 35th versus what we're doing right now. We feel like we can finish somewhere between that 12th to 20th, so we'll just use 15th and know that we can go do that. From 15th to 35th is basically 60 points and we're not capable of saying if we take that chance and we lose, OK, next week at Martinsville we'll go make that up because we know we can go there and win. So we can't take that big a chance right now. We're having to make some small steps, but we're pretty happy. I think we've completed all the laps and we've managed to hang around there. At times last week I had a really good car, we were just a little bit inconsistent. Now do we say that was the tires or was that our setup that was too close there that we still need to do some adjusting on that. We know that we have to do that."
CAN YOU TALK ABOUT HOW THIS AREA HAS GROWN OVER THE YEARS? "We were talking about this. A couple of weeks ago I had the opportunity to get out to my local golf course that I grew up playing golf at and played with one of these guys that built the first race car that I ever drove. Jimmy Newsome is his name and he and the other guy, Andy Petree, the three of us came over here to watch a late model sportsman race on a Sunday afternoon. This had to be in the late seventies and all it was was the concrete grandstands, which are no more here, but that's what was on the frontstretch and we came over. We stopped and got a bucket of chicken and our beverage of choice for that day being the 20 year olds that we were, and it was an exciting race track to watch a race on at that time. It's hard to tell people that come here, everybody that you talk to no matter where you go -- from the east coast to the west coast -- they talk about wanting to come to Bristol to watch a race and that's why I own six tickets of my very own. You can't get tickets here and everybody wants them, but a number of years ago Wayne Estes called and said, 'Look, I know you're always looking for tickets here. I've got six that have come open. Do you want them?' And I grabbed them up. We own those and we have a lot more requests than that, but this is just a phenomenal place. You can't explain what it used to be here, but you don't even have to do that because it's such a great place to race on and for people to watch. I don't know, when I retire in a few years what races I'll go watch, but this will probably be one of them. It's the most exciting show anywhere. The area has always embraced us. The people here are fantastic and everybody, obviously at the race track is like that, but the community around here has been great and we all love coming here. It's fun. As a driver, it's a hard 500 laps around here, but at the end of the day you look back and say most of the time that you had a lot of fun."
IS THIS A GOOD EXAMPLE OF NASCAR'S GROWTH? "Yes, I think it's a good example of what's happened over the years and how NASCAR, our sport, even though there are still people out there -- and it's OK that they don't understand what we do or why we do it -- that still say, 'What's the big deal about going around in circles for 500 laps,' but I think if they look at the area and see there's a lot of things that NASCAR racing has helped this community achieve that they wouldn't have been able to do without this sport. So I think that makes us feel good that we've been able to do that. Yeah, this is a perfect example of exactly what has happened with our sport. I think you can probably look back at the years and just see how this place has continued to grow as our sport has continued to grow."
HOW DO YOU KEEP YOUR COOL ON A SHORT TRACK? "Obviously, sometimes you can't. I'm a good person to speak on that. I've been in both situations. It can be as much fun as anything, but as frustrating as anything too. A lot of times you want to try to get yourself in a position to where you can keep your cool, where you can just ride a little bit of it and pass some cars or not get passed by too many, but there are always gonna be things going on here. You work really hard in talking to yourself and reminding yourself that things are gonna happen here. Most of the time I'd have to say that things that just happen here are more of things that have happened over a span of a number of weeks or the way things have been going, so you're a little frustrated to start with if things like that happen. You have to put that aside. We've had a good season already, so I think most people come in here -- or I do -- with a little better attitude. I realize I may be able to run here all day and everything be OK, or you may get in something early and you're just gonna have to let that go and make the most of it. It's easy to sit here and talk about, but difficult to do when you're in the seat I promise you."
WHAT KIND OF IMPACT HAS THE NEW TESTING POLICY HAD ON TRACKS. "It's definitely having an impact. Can I say that it's good or bad? I don't know that you can say that yet. I know that it's certainly making team meetings more of a priority as we sit and discuss what we are looking at doing. If you're a team in our position, I know we sit ninth in the points, but I look at ourselves as maybe that 14th or 15th-place team as far as running on the race track. How do we improve and get better at that? We've proven to ourselves a number of times -- and sometimes we don't listen to ourselves very well -- that Kentucky is not the place that we can go with our race team that we feel like we can learn what we need to and start moving forward. That's where our engineering staff is coming into play and they're a lot more important than ever before as we run things by them. Is it possible to go to Bristol and do some things that we've been doing at some of these other tracks? Can it hurt the competition? You sit back and think that maybe it could, but is it the testing that allowed other teams to get pretty far ahead of this because of the strength in number that they have? When you look at it, I think that everybody would have to agree that you look at Roush and Hendrick and the Gibbs cars -- and not taking anything away from J.J. and Denny, but they've piggy-backed on to what Tony and his guys found last year from their testing and that's what you should do if you're in a good organization, but you've got 12 cars right there that kind of put themselves in front of everybody. That's not slighting anyone else, but those are the ones that you have to go outrun. Is it making it more difficult or did they get that far ahead of us with that extra testing that they were doing. It may play that if they're not able to go test anymore than what the rest of us are, then they might not jump ahead because they're all there pretty much at the same time. I think we'll have to see a little bit more as we get through Richmond, but as we sat down and looked at our deal, I felt like we were gonna really have to be selective in what we were doing as I go back to my earlier statement about taking small steps. If you look at what we have coming up testing that we're allowed to test -- Richmond. Pretty much for Richmond anything that you learn there, I'm not sure how much of it you'll carry over to anywhere else. Maybe another short track, but after that I'm not sure exactly where we run on a short track for a while. Then we go to Charlotte, which is gonna be a beast of its own -- a freshly-paved raced track, high speed, smooth. We don't have a whole lot of those as far as the smooth part and high speed, so maybe you'll take a little something from there, but probably not a lot. Then our next is Indianapolis, which is just an Indianapolis test. There's not a whole lot you're gonna get there, and then our last one is not until Homestead, so it's gonna make it difficult. I think it remains to be seen. Does that keep everybody closer because nobody is getting these teams that have five and four teams, are they not getting as much from it as if they could test like we were last year."
WHAT WOULD A REPAVING JOB HERE AT BRISTOL BE LIKE AND WHAT WILL THE TEST AT CHARLOTTE BE LIKE? "Are they talking about pavement or concrete here? I'd love to see pavement go in here. I'm not sure that we're gonna get asphalt to where at this race track we can get back to the two grooves that we used to have -- even three -- you used to be able to run right against the wall and have a lot of fun here. That was fun racing. I'd love to see something. I don't know if it's possible with the radial tire and this kind of banking. I'm not criticizing anybody, it's just that it would be a fun thing to see if we could make that happen again. Maybe we can with concrete and the adjustment with the tires. Charlotte? I don't know. Those guys going tire testing there, that's gonna be pretty big. It's gonna be interesting to see exactly what Goodyear comes away with there. There are a lot of different options that they would have. I know they want to make something that doesn't create tire problems for us or that we create tire problems with what they give us, or also don't want to see them get so hard with the tire that you really have a hard time competing and running against each other. The big thing with any new place that we go to like that with new asphalt is it just becoming one groove, so when we go test it's almost like they need to put cones up.
"They made us do that at Homestead, I think, when we first went down there after they did the banking. They wouldn't let us run right on the bottom, so we really need for that to happen at the beginning if they could just give us some tires to go run because if you don't, you're scared to death to get out of that car width that you have and everybody is gonna be right on the bottom and we're just gonna follow until somebody makes a mistake or you help them make a mistake. But it's gonna be so extremely fast. The last thing we want to see or even talk about is restrictor plates somewhere else. I've said a number of times that I think in lieu of making better competition, we could slow the cars down a little bit and that would help us with side by side racing, but I don't want to see that effort with restrictor plates. Those guys that are gonna be tire testing are definitely gonna earn what they get there."
WOULD YOU CONSIDER A PART-TIME DEAL LIKE BILL ELLIOTT AND LOOK AT A TOYOTA DEAL TO HELP DEVELOP THE CAR OR WHEN THE TIME COMES WILL YOU JUST SAY I'M OUT OF HERE. "Yeah, I think I'm looking at more of just when I'm done. Right now I've pretty much made up my mind that I'm gonna run through 2008. Hopefully it's gonna be where I'm at. That hasn't been totally decided yet, but we're working on that and there have been other conversations so I have to explore all of the options. But when that's up, my gig is pretty much done. I'm gonna be to where I need to move on and let somebody else get in. As far as staying with a team, whoever that team may be at that time when I'm finished -- helping them to bring on somebody as my replacement, helping in that respect, working with some sponsors, yeah, I want to stay around the sport and that's been some conversation and that may be more appealing to me even than if I get any type of TV work or something like that. I like working with some of the young guys. You don't have to go tell them how to drive. They obviously know how to do that or they wouldn't be there, but give them a little insight there. There's a lot more to this sport now, especially with these young guys, because they're getting opportunities and things at such a young age that there's a lot more involved. It's not talking about the NBA school that the rookies have to go to and learn how to walk and act and do everything else, but a little bit of guidance wouldn't hurt. Yeah, I think I would like that role if I get that opportunity. Now who that is with, I don't know. We'll see."
HAS NASCAR EXPLAINED WHY RICHMOND IS ONE OF THE TEST SITES? "Richmond is not a bad deal. Obviously what you take there it's gonna apply to that second Richmond race and that's obviously a huge race, and you might could sneak something in to here or maybe a Phoenix or something like that from Richmond, so there are a couple of opportunities there that you might learn something. The Charlotte deal, we're there for two weeks and this is nothing against Charlotte, and I realize it makes for an easy test because we're all based there, but I think you have plenty of time with the all-star race that you're on the race track quite a bit. You can use that as a test, and then you have time the next week with a little bit more time on the race track, so I think that we could look at taking that and whether we rotate it on a yearly basis from Chicago to Kansas City -- something like that -- to give those opportunities there and not just having it at the same place. I know we're in the first time here, but we spend 10, 11 days at Charlotte. We ought to be able to get in enough testing there, so I would think that Chicago or Kansas might be a better opportunity for us."
DO YOUNG DRIVERS RESPECT THE VETERANS AND THE SPORT? "I'm OK with the young guys and their attitudes because it's a whole different world. When I came along it was totally different than when my dad was racing and those guys in that era. Since I've been in here it's changed again. There's nothing wrong with their attitude. They come in at a young age. They get a great opportunity. They've been told they're really good and they obviously are and they have to come in here with a little bit of a swagger and there's nothing wrong with that. As far as respecting the people that have been here, that's not a requirement that they come in and do that. I think that there are things, if they'd sit back a little bit and looked, there would be some things that they could pick up on a little bit earlier, that maybe some of the veterans do or don't do that may help them, but we don't want everybody alike in here. We need the personalities. That's what you guys want and that's what the fans want. They want to see different people react differently to different situations. They want to see some keep their mouth shut and they want to see others talk and listen to others talk. That's what we need. This is entertainment as much as it is sport too, so we need all of that. To say that they need to have respect or anything like that, you don't need to tell them that. They'll find that part of it out as they move along and I think they're OK. Most of them are fun to be around and listen to. I get a chuckle in listening to how they kind of analyze things and go about their business sometimes, so I think it's fun. I realize that they're gonna be pushing me out of the seat here one day, but that's all right. They're not gonna push me out before I'm ready to go, so that's OK. Again, our world has changed and they're just going right along with it. I think they're doing a really good job and they're helping this sport to grow the way that they are."
CAN YOU TALK ABOUT THE ART OF RACING AT BRISTOL? "The thing with Bristol is it's a small piece of real estate to begin with and over the years because partly of concrete surface, partly radial tires, partly the setups of the cars, that's become a smaller piece of real estate and we all want that same piece. As I said before, a lot of these young guys probably never knew this place was asphalt but it was and it was a blast to drive because you could drive on the bottom, in the middle and you could run up there where Harry Gant used to race against the wall and it was a lot of fun. Now there's a small piece of real estate down on the bottom that everybody wants and trying to maintain that piece for yourself or keep someone from taking it is difficult. You can get a little impatient whichever side you're on. If you're the guy in front, you get a little bit tired of the guy beating on you from behind trying to take that away, especially in the early and middle parts of the race when it's 500 laps. If you're that guy behind it's like, 'Why don't you just give me that and we'd both be a lot better off,' but you know here it's easy to lose. If you give up one spot, a lot of times you're liable to give up 10 spots and then that's difficult to make up because you know the leader is in open ground there and he's making his way. It's a hard balance. It's a fun place to race, but can get frustrating at times and trying to keep those emotions in check are the hardest thing that you'll do out here. It's even harder than trying to find the balance of your car. It's trying to keep all of that in check. I've been frustrated here when I had really good cars and you get even more frustrated when you don't have a good car, but keeping that in check -- you have to realize that if you can go out there, race hard, and keep your nose clean that you have a good chance of finishing in the top 10 at this race track. That's a good finish. If you get yourself in the top 10, then anything can happen from that point, but you have to keep those emotions in check."
CAN YOU MAKE LIFE MORE DIFFICULT FOR PEOPLE AT THIS PLACE? (Laughing) "Yeah, you can make life a little more difficult for somebody here than other places simply because you can have a car that is literally three or four tenths slower than someone else, but if you have the ability to keep that thing right around the bottom and you can get off of the corner good enough, and that's what a lot of people work on. This is about getting your car off and dragging down the straightaway, and if you can do that and keep them behind you, you can make life miserable for them. Paybacks can come in a lot of different ways and you can certainly, if you've had a little history with, you can keep them back there and pretty much frustrate them for a long time if you want to do that."
WHY IS 2008 THE MAGIC NUMBER AND WHAT IS THE LIKELIHOOD YOU'LL STAY WITH YOUR TEAM? "I'd say that things are pretty good that I'll be where I'm at through that time. I sat and looked and just tried to see kind of, I don't want to overstay my welcome here in this, but some of it has to do with family issues. My son, Zach, will be getting ready -- if I drive through that '08 season -- he'll be kind of finishing up in grade school and getting ready to go into high school and I'd like to watch that. Both of my girls will be in college by then, so that's kind of what I've looked at and that has a little something to do with it. Again, the other part of it is you're not wanting to be here longer than what I should be. I think that trying to extend it any longer than that would be taking a chance as far as my competitive spirit and my body holding up and really wanting to do it as much as you have to want to do this because of the length of the schedule and the season. I love to do it and I know in my heart as I sat down and evaluated all of this that I can do this for two more years after this and still have a lot of fun at it and I can still be competitive at it. If I try to go beyond that, I may be trying to convince myself of something that I don't really want to do anymore than that. The other side of it, some of the other offers that have come my way have been kind of a two-year deal, so that's when I really got started at looking at that. Did I want to go that long? And that's when I said, 'Yeah, I do,' and that's kind of what I set. Wherever I end up and, again, I think the high probability is that I'll be right where I'm at, that that's kind of the ending time for everybody."
ANY IDEA WHEN IT WILL BE FINAL? "I would say hopefully by Charlotte time -- the end of May -- that we'll pretty much know what's going on."