Sirius Satellite Radio 400 Michigan International Speedway. CASEY ATWOOD (No. 7 Sirius Satellite Radio Dodge Intrepid R/T) NOTE: Fresh off a season-best 11th place finish last Sunday at Pocono, Atwood and company head to Michigan...
Sirius Satellite Radio 400
Michigan International Speedway.
CASEY ATWOOD (No. 7 Sirius Satellite Radio Dodge Intrepid R/T)
NOTE: Fresh off a season-best 11th place finish last Sunday at Pocono, Atwood and company head to Michigan International Speedway for the Sirius Satellite Radio 400 NASCAR Winston Cup race. Atwood moved up four spots in the standings and now ranks 29th after 14 of 36 events in 2002. Atwood, Tony Furr and Ray Evernham discuss Atwood's season and the upcoming Sirius Satellite Radio 400 at MIS.
"We're putting a lot of effort into this race. We went up to Michigan and tested. We got rained out one day and that disappointed us a little bit. We only got one day of testing. Two days would have helped us out more, but it's going to be big. We've already got Sirius signs up everywhere, and they're putting a lot into this. It would really mean a lot if we could win up there.
"We visited the Sirius headquarters in New York a few days ago and it was a lot different than I expected. I'd never seen it before. They've got some cool DJ booths and a lot of computers. It was really neat to see how they do everything. I didn't know what to expect when I went in, but everybody was really nice and it was really neat.
"I'm mostly into country music. I'm a little into R&B and rock. I'm from Nashville, so I like a lot of country. I've never been to the Grand Ole Opry. I've been to a few concerts at home. I've been to Brooks & Dunn and Garth Brooks and a couple of others. I like going to concerts.
"We took our Charlotte car to test at Michigan and our California car to test at Michigan. We had one in race trim and one in qualifying trim. We were going to try to get a new car for the race, but I'm not sure if it will be ready in time or not. If not, the cars we tested ran pretty good, so we're excited about it.
"Aero push is bad anywhere, but Michigan is a big, wide track and you can run on it just about anywhere. An aero push is real bad on a track that's got one groove and you can't get out of the other guy's way. At Michigan, you can run up against the wall or you can run right on the bottom. I think we'll be OK.
"I've never really liked Michigan that much until the last time we went. Bill (Elliott) qualified second and I think I was fifth or sixth. We ran in the top five all day, and we had a late caution and we got back to 10th, and then it rained us out. Sterling got Dodge's first win up there in that race, and we should have been in the top five all day. Bill was in the top five. I had a strong car, and that gave me a new outlook on Michigan. I'm excited to go back this time.
"At the beginning of the season we were struggling so bad I couldn't learn much. I learned a lot after the Michigan race last year. We almost won a couple late in the season. I got some more experience, and I'm definitely a better Winston Cup driver than I was, but I've still got to get a little better.
"Tony Furr has meant a lot. He's brought a lot of leadership to this team and a lot of experience. He knows what to do to these cars to make 'em run, and he's shown that the past three races. We've had a top 10 car each week, but we haven't had top 10 finishes because we've had little problems that we've got to get sorted out. The cars have been driving awesome. I really like the way he sets them up, and I'm looking forward to being with him the rest of the year.
"Tony keeps me pumped up on the radio during the race. You get a little too comfortable and you need somebody to talk to you and keep you pumped up and tell you you're going to catch that guy in front of you. He pumps me up quite a bit on the radio. It would help anybody. The races are so long, and you've just got to get relaxed sometimes. You need somebody to keep you on the edge of your seat.
"I'm ready to win. I'm ready to win anytime. The last race I won was a Busch race at Dover in 1999. It's been too long, but I've been through a lot of changes. I had an opportunity to win twice at the end of last season and that's built my confidence up a lot. It's coming. I see it coming once we get some new cars built and Tony gets everything where he wants it. It's nowhere near where he wants it to be yet, and when he gets it there, we'll be in contention. When you put yourself in contention to win, it'll come.
"Last year I got the opportunity to come with Ray, and I knew it was going to be a struggle in the beginning. That was fine with me. I wanted to be involved with Ray Evernham and his race team. I knew it wasn't going to be strong in the beginning, but I knew it was going to be strong in the future. That's still the way it's going to be. Some of the rookies came in and they got in a successful organization right off the bat, and they came in winning. That's fine. I'm happy for 'em. Once we get everything where we need it to be, we'll be there, too. I know we can do it. I just know we've got to get this organization built up to where he needs to be. Even Ray will tell you we've got some work to do, but I know it's going to be there and he knows it's going to be there. You've just got to be patient with it and wait it out.
"The Busch Series has picked its competition level up a lot since I was there, but there's so many Winston Cup teams out here that can win, and there's just so much talent. There's so many good organizations. It's very hard to be a consistent winner. There's very few consistent winners. The competition level has picked up so much in recent years. You can have the best car out there and still not win. You can have the fastest car out there by half a second and something could go wrong in the pits, something could go wrong coming into the pits, something could break and you won't win with the best car. A lot of times you see that the best car doesn't win. We had the best car at Phoenix last year and a tire went down on us. You've just got to have everything go your way to win.
"Michigan is normally a fuel race and it goes without too many cautions. It normally comes down to fuel. I haven't been in the top five and have it come down to fuel mileage, but some teams get great fuel mileage and they've been known to try that. I don't know if our team is one of those yet. Hopefully it won't come down to that. Hopefully we can get enough cautions where we can go to the end and not have to worry about fuel.
"I feel like we've got everything we need to win. That's up to Tony. I've got the leader I want for this team. He can figure out the rest of the people he wants. As long as I've got him and he knows what he needs we'll be fine. I always talk to Ray, and he feels like we've got the right person in here. He's going to do whatever it takes to get Tony what he needs. As long as we've got that, it's only a matter of time."
TONY FURR (No. 7 Sirius Satellite Radio Dodge Intrepid R/T)
"Ray and I worked pretty close together over at Hendrick. When Hendrick let me go, Ray was the only person who called me. He called about 30 minutes after I got home and asked if I would come and talk to him. I waited a couple of days and then I went. He offered me a deal. He said he didn't have a whole lot, but he offered me what he had right now. I told to let me do it so I could just stay in the loop right now. That's sort of where I'm at.
"I don't know if you can be away from it more than a week or two. Obviously, the longer you're away from it the worse it is. You could be away maybe two months. We just needed to get everything going in one direction. They've got good people there at the shop. Casey is a very good driver. It looks like Sirius is going to step it up and help Ray, and Dodge is going to come in and help a little more and Ray is putting more in behind it too. I just told him what I thought he needed. Nothing against anybody that was there, but I don't know they had the direction they needed to start with. I'm just reporting back to Ray on stuff I see and things I think need to happen.
"It's pretty hard to go in so many different directions, especially with this team 20 miles from his two teams. It was hard to keep an eye on it. Ray knows how I race, and I race the same way he does. He knew if I was down there it would be just like him down there. We just stayed focused on racing. If you're not focused on racing, you're not going to be able to work with us. Golf is not an option.
"They're getting cars the way they need to be so they can race competitively. We've still got a lot of work to do, but it's the middle of the season and we've got a lot of racing left with just a little bit of off time. It's going to be an uphill struggle for a little bit, but I think we're going to be able to make it.
"I'm hoping maybe six months down the road, Ray and I and Jim Smith can sit down and make some kind of decision and run with this deal. I'm very happy to work with Casey and tickled to death to work with Jim and Ray. Of all the people I've worked with, and Casey being 21 years old, he gives me more feedback, period, than anyone I've ever worked with. I know that's hard to believe, but he's really focused and that's what it takes to be successful in this business. He wants to do good, and I think it's there. I think if I'd had him over at the 25 car we would have been way ahead of the game.
"Casey knows he doesn't have everything these other rookies have got right now, but we're working in that direction to get that stuff and it's coming slowly but surely. In the situation we have right now, we'd have to dot every I and cross every T in order to win, and it's pretty much that way for everybody. Some of the bigger organizations have got the technology and manpower. They can get by with a little bit less, but it's hard to get by right now and leave anything on the table.
"This is the first time I've ever worked with Dodge and they've come a long way from 0 to here. I think they've got a lot of potential. Sterling is looking good, and don't rule out Bill Elliott. He's made a surge. I know we're way down in the points, but we're hoping to get back in the top 15 in the points. I think since I came over Ray sat everybody down and told them what he wanted. I think the three teams are working closer now than they ever have. I'm 46, and I'll be doing it as long as it's fun. I'm a competitor and right now I like to race. If I wasn't racing, I'd probably race my son, Tony Jr. He's 21, and he's not racing right now. He works for Ernie Elliott engines. It's refreshing. Casey has been refreshing for my career because the last couple of years I've been beat down pretty hard. I've had the equipment to win with, I just haven't had the communication level where it needs to be. There was a big communication gap where I was. That makes a ton of difference. Casey is focused on winning. He's not focused on any outside activities. I'm focused on racing, so if you're not focused on racing, we're probably not going to get along."
RAY EVERNHAM (Car owner Evernham Motorsports Dodge Intrepid R/Ts and Ultra/Evernham Motorsports)
"We're really working hard to get this Sirius team where it needs to be. Jim Smith and I are committed to doing whatever it takes. We've brought in Tony Furr as a consultant to the team, and he sees a lot of potential here. I needed to bring an experienced leader to that team, and his experience is already paying off. He's already providing new structure for the team, he's helping them improve the ways they are doing things and he's wringing more performance out of the team. We have the same equipment for the No. 7 Sirius Satellite Radio Dodge as we do for the No. 9 and the No. 19. We're building the engines in the same shop. So we have a really solid foundation to work from.
"I still believe we did the right thing when we added the team for this season. It's a multi-car world now. The teams you see winning consistently are the ones that have three or four teams and lots of information and resources to share. We have to play at that same level. We're building the Dodge program for the future. Bringing Jeremy Mayfield to the No. 19 Dodge Dealers Dodge was a smart long-term move. So was giving Casey some room so he can get some experience and develop his skills. He's a great young driver with a lot of potential. But that potential can take time and nurturing to develop, and that's what we're doing with the No. 7 Sirius team.
"You're going to see a lot of improvement in this team over the next four or five races. We've run in the top 10 the last two races and proved that our performance is headed in the right direction. When you switch car makes, driver, crew chief and everything else from one season to the next, there are going to be some wrinkles. I think we're getting those wrinkles ironed out. I'd bet the starched red Dodge shirt off my back that we're going to be in the top five before June is over."