NEXTEL Wake-Up Call with Joe Nemechek Talladega Superspeedway Note: Currently 24th in points with two top-10 finishes in 2005. Nemechek has three pole positions at Talladega, with a best finish of third (October, 2000). HOW DO YOU FEEL FOR...
NEXTEL Wake-Up Call with Joe Nemechek
Note: Currently 24th in points with two top-10 finishes in 2005. Nemechek has three pole positions at Talladega, with a best finish of third (October, 2000).
HOW DO YOU FEEL FOR QUALIFYING TODAY?
I think we're going to do pretty good. Talking with Ryan, this is a car that we brought out as a backup car in Daytona. My favorite speedway car, the one we ran so well with, got killed in the 150s in the big wreck. We brought this one out and we just struggled with it a little bit in the 500 in Daytona. So, they headed back to the wind tunnel and worked on it a little bit more. Ryan says it's going to be fast. We should have a very good shot at qualifying well today.
HAS YOUR SON SHOWN INTEREST IN BEING A RACE CAR DRIVER?
I would say yes. It doesn't matter what we do, we do it as fast as we can do it. It was pretty funny-this past weekend we were out at Chad Little's home or his mountain that he owns in North Carolina. He's got a clay quarter midget track out there. His son's got a quarter midget, John Hunter's got all kinds of go karts and quarter midgets. So we had those out there. It's just incredible watching him, because he can go around there wide open. It's just incredible. Anything he does. We go to Lowe's Motor Speedway and the infield of the road course there, the WKA has practice sessions all the time. He can get around there good. He learns real quick on how to enter the corner and how to exit. You just coach him a little bit, but overall he likes it. He's really into motorcycles right now. He's liking to jump things, so he's kind of doing the same things I did growing up. I've got to find him a crew chief, though. My dad or find one of these retired crew chiefs around here to take him to the quarter midget tracks in North Carolina. It's hard being gone on the weekends, and I know Bobby Labonte has got his new quarter midget track there. I guess there going to try to run that thing on Wednesdays, so all the racers' kids can at least go out and start racing with their families. So, some things are happening.
HOW HAS GOOD LUCK AND BAD LUCK PLAYED INTO YOUR CAREER?
It seems like some drivers have more bad luck than others. In my case, just like this year, I still think that this year can be my best year in Cup racing. And we started the year off decent at Daytona, went to California and led most laps. I thought between myself and Greg Biffle, we had the best cars there. Lost an engine. For three races in a row there, we had easily top-10 finishing cars and we finished 39th or way back. And that just kills you. The team has done everything they said they wanted to do. All we wanted to do is be consistent, get a top 10. If we can do that every weekend, we're going to be a threat for the championship. You just look back at what coulda, shoulda, woulda, heck, we'd be easy top 10 in the points. And that didn't happen. Being a bad luck magnet? Yeah, sometimes I feel like yes, all this stuff does come at me. But this year, we've had good luck but we've had back luck with parts and pieces. The team has done their job as far as building good, quality race cars and I've been able to keep them in the front. We just haven't finished.
RYAN HAS BLOSSOMED INTO QUITE A CREW CHIEF
Ryan's an awesome person, number one. He's young, he's energetic. He is very upbeat, and that does keep the team pumped up. Just watching him makes me laugh and you've got to put a smile on your face. It's just like being around Boris Said or Michael Shumacher-not Michael, Tony-and it's just incredible. He has a way with people and that's why we've been able to draw such good people at MB2.
LUCK: DO YOU FEEL SOMETIMES YOU HAVE A GREAT CAR BUT WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT TO AVOID WHAT MIGHT GO WRONG
I don't approach things that way. I'm there to get the most out of my equipment that you can. You can't, I guess the best word I can use is, "overuse" your equipment. You're not going to finish. There are a lot of guys that don't take care of their equipment and can't finish. But I've always been a pretty smart driver, trying to stay out of the accidents, trying not to abuse the engine, the transmission, the rear end gear. Abusing all that stuff to making sure you can finish, but putting yourself in the right situation on the race track is very important, too. Sometimes things happen, but you just can't say, hey, my car's good and I'm just going to go out and stay out of trouble today. I mean, you have to do all the time. It's just not whenever you have a good car. You have to do that all the time.
DO YOU FEEL YOUR AGE GIVES YOU EXPERIENCE?
Well, yes I am the oldest driver on the complex. I don't know how old Boris is. I guess I better figure that out first. (Boris is 42). Well, he's the old guy then! I just have a lot of experience doing this. Boris went to Texas to test and I was there with by Busch car and I'm trying to tell him what he needs to do and what's important about this race track and how he can get around here fast. Well, I've been doing this. I've been at Texas ever since they opened the place. Having those years of experience is what makes me the kind of race car driver I am. I feel it makes me smarter. And I think that's one of the key things that Ryan likes about myself being a driver. Being smarter, not getting in trouble. But knowing what I want in my race car. I know what I want the thing to drive like. And I know we do some crazy things with aerodynamics and I know we make the cars drive bad now, but I still know what kind of feel I need in that car in order to put that car in a position to win the race. And it just comes with experience. You ask the young guys what they need and they don't know. It's just a matter of trying to help. When Scott came on, trying to give him a head start. His last year, he had a few good races but most of them were very tough races for him. But he learned very quickly. And it's just not.each team is different. I can help the driver somewhat. But the relationship that I have with Ryan and the guys on my team is very, very important. That chemistry is very important. You hear people talk about it all the time. I think that's one thing that's helped Scott a little bit this year; they revamped his team a little bit. But he has more confidence in his crew chief and his crew, and he's running better. Our cars are very similar, we run similar setups. He's kind of moved what he's been doing closer to what I've been doing, and he's running better. It's just like with Boris. Boris has run some Truck races at some of these tracks. But Trucks are much different from Cup cars. Way, way different. He's always asking for advice: what do I need to do here? What do I need to do there? When we go to the road course, though, I say: How do I do this? A lot of the stuff on the road courses, I can't do that. I didn't grow up doing that. I'm not saying I'm too old to learn the new way to do it, but I can run just as fast as him doing it my way, growing up and doing all the road racing.
TELL US ABOUT YOUR ROLE WITH NEMCO MOTORSPORTS
Well, Nemco Motorsports has been around a long time. We started in the Busch Series in 1990, full time or part time since then. We've run some Cup races. We'll run some more Cup races with Chris Cook this year, at the road races. In the Cup cars. Over time, I think that whenever I do stop driving-I don't see that happening for a long time, I feel like I'm on the top of my game right now and I've got many years left-but whenever that does happen, trying to own a race team. Or if I don't own my own race team, working for someone else trying to make sure their race team is the best it can. I've got a lot of knowledge up here. Hopefully that will translate some day.
WHY DO YOU FEEL THERE HAVE BEEN SO MANY CAUTIONS THIS YEAR AND DO YOU FEEL THAT'S A BAD OMEN GOING INTO THIS WEEKEND?
The other thing about that last part, you never know what my son is going to do in the future. He's seven now, so if I race for 10 more years, he'll be ready to race.
Cautions? We're at a whole different race track than we've been at with Martinsville, Phoenix. This place is a lot different. There is.I'm sure there will be some cautions. I don't think there's going to be some record setting cautions. Talladega is too fast. You've got to be pretty smart with what you're doing out there. Although the bump drafting has definitely gotten out of hand. It's funny because you hear all these teams in both garages, everybody is having to put front and rear clips on their cars. So what does that tell you? That means we're knocking the tar out of each other out there. That leads to the potential of their being a big wreck, multiple big wrecks. Usually when it happens, we're running so close that it's big. I don't think we had the big one at Daytona. A couple small ones, medium. But we haven't had the big one. I think all the drivers know as far as hitting each other, need to know they hit each other straight and do it on the straightaways, not the corner. If people use their heads, as in the past, the race should not have a lot of cautions in it.
ARE PEOPLE GETTING SMARTER HOW THEY RACE ON SUPERSPEEDWAYS
Well, I had a good thought about that but I better not say it. We have. There are some drivers that aren't here any more, too, that have contributed to some of those wrecks in the past. Everybody's definitely gotten smarter about how they drive the track. They've got to have more respect for competitors and how they drive the race track. We drive here so fast, it's not fun. You get turned around or you hit the wall head on, it hurts. I think quite a few of the guys have experienced that. Some of the younger guys haven't experienced that yet. I think the younger drivers are driving for teams that have been through that. Everybody's just trying to stay calm.
EVERYBODY TALKS ABOUT CALM RACING, BUT THE CARS ARE ALL MARKED UP
I think when Mike Helton stands up there in front of the drivers' meeting, and he says: "everybody out there better use their heads today", that drives home. For me, I think, man, I better use a little common sense today and hopefully it does that for everybody. And if it doesn't, he needs to have them in the big white truck or whatever they call it over there. Or they need to be sitting at home for a couple of weeks. And, you know, they have said their penalties are going to get worse. That doesn't mean that if you're out there not using your head, you can sit at home, too. Hopefully guys are using their head more and more. It's just coming from experience. How many caution free races have they had here? They've had three? Two or three? Three. I know I was in one of them. Bill Elliott won two of them, so that's three? Mark Martin won the other, so that's three. The potential's here to have a caution-free race. Some of the best races we had is where we had all the wickers and we ran in one group of 40 cars all day long. Until the last one lap to go or two laps to go and we piled them up. Couple races like that. Here at Talladega, worse than Daytona, the handling part of it, because the handling part of it isn't as critical, we run in bigger packs. The mental stress that's involved in that, knowing that all 15 guys that are all around you in close proximity, knowing what their cars are doing, is tough. The good drivers know where all the cars are at all the time. Anybody that you can see in your mirrors, you have to know where they are at. That separates the good drivers from the not-so-good. Picking the right lines. There's just so many things that go into it.
DO YOU REMEMBER WHEN JANET GUTHRIE RAN THE INDY 500 AND WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON WOMEN IN NASCAR?
What year did that happen in? (1977) 77 I was still in high school. I do remember that happening but I can't go that far back. I've met too many people and had too many things going through my brain. Or I've hit too many walls. But I do remember something about her winning and it's like: cool. A woman won that race when it's always been dominated by men. Do I think a woman could run and win in NASCAR? I think they can if they get with the right team. And, we have some women that have come in and have not had success but they haven't been with the caliber of teams they need to be with. Evernham is taking an interest now in Erin Crocker and she's going to run well. Ray knows what it takes to make the cars run right. Having the proper equipment and setup properly is the name of the game. You've seen how many times the Cup guys how many we struggle when we get to a race track in a race car. Now you throw somebody in there with limited experience, what are you going to do? The new drivers that are having problems. But if you don't have the equipment setup properly, or the right equipment, you're not going to run good. Getting with the right team and having the right guys coach you is going to be the important part of making anyone successful.
I think physically they should be able to do it. A lot of these drivers go out and drink beer every night. Someone that stays in shape should be able to do it.
AS A TEAM OWNER, HOW DO YOU FEEL NASCAR HANDLED THE FINCH SITUATION IN THE BUSCH SERIES?
Let me see: are there any NASCAR guys in here? I'll give you the right answer, then. My opinion of it, everyone's entitled to their opinion, right? Isn't that right over there? They agree with me. I don't know. There's gray areas in the rule books and there's not. There are things that you can try to take advantage of, and there's things that are wrong. Trying to get away with a big carburetor, even after saying a NASCAR guys sealed it on there, is wrong. I put myself in that same situation, if that would have been on my car and they found it, they would have suspended me for four weeks. I think they did the right thing. As far as taking his points, it was legitimately wrong. To keep the integrity of the sport, from the competitor side of it, NASCAR had to do something to say that everyone is going to be treated fair out on this race track. And that's all-no matter what series your racing in-that's all everybody wants. Everybody to be equal to have an equal shot at winning. As far as going through the appeal and then raising the.fining James $25,000 grand? I told him that was going to happen before he even went. You look at it and it's all common sense. They took the points and the money away from the race, but whenever anybody is caught with an illegal part, they usually fine them and take points. He's lucky they didn't take 25 points away from him too. That's what they do. They look back at past history with what guys have been caught with and what's been given out.
I applaud Finch for getting his dollars and cents right. He's on top of that. Finch is a cool guy, too. I've known him for ever. He's a racer and he's a good guy.
THIS RACE IS THE IMPETUS FOR THE GREEN/WHITE/CHECKER. WHAT IS YOUR THOUGHT ON IT
I think that everybody thinks that the green/white/checker rule overall is a good thing. Here at Talladega and at Daytona, it's not a good thing. You go through the garage and they'll say not a good thing. How many wrecks have we seen with one to go or two to go? We had big pileups. I know I've been in one of them. Been on my side in one of them. Have we had a green/white/checker yet at a speedway? We haven't. Did we have on this year? I don't remember. Fortunately everyone made it through it. I don't know how many cars were running there at the end. It just depends on the situation. It's one lap to go and you're either take advantage or lose big. There's more reward than the risk you take of totally out your race car for one lap, so everyone takes advantage of it. I think it's good everywhere but these big race tracks.
RISE IN PIT ROAD INCIDENTS. WHAT IS THE SOLUTION? FREEZE THE CARS FOR THE YELLOWS?
You have to ask me that during the race. If we're having bad pit stops that day, I'll say yeah. The only tough part of that is you're taking away from the "team sport." Pit stops are such a big deal. I mean, all these teams practice every day. There is a lot of work that goes into pit stops. Just like here, with the small fuel cells. If we put small fuel cells into them, you're asking for more incidents on pit road. Fact, right? You're going to be on pit road twice as much. You're asking for trouble. Some of the other race tracks, I don't know why they happen. It's a matter of paying attention. When you're sitting in that car and they jack that left side up, you're looking in your mirror. You try to see who's coming. Because you know it's not going to take but three or four seconds, so where is that car going to be in three or four seconds. A lot of it you just have to pay attention, common sense. The crew chief on the box has got to be watching. I think we had one at Atlanta at the end of last year. Elliott Sadler was coming in, I was coming out. I was going out before he came in and he ended up tearing up the transmission in his car. You've just got to know where you're at all the time. I don't have a solution for that. Freezing the field when.saying okay, the caution comes out, go do whatever service you need to do and come back out. I don't think that's right either.