Tuesday, Nov. 2,2004.Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Â Dodge Motorsports Conference ...
Tuesday, Nov. 2,2004.
Dodge Motorsports Conference Call
Atlanta Recap, Phoenix Advance
CASEY MEARS (No. 41 Target DODGE)
NOTE: Mears, a 26-year-old driver from Bakersfield, Calif., in his second season behind the wheel for car owner Chip Ganassi, will make his 70th career Cup start on Sunday at Phoenix. Mears scored a career-best finish of fourth this season at Watkins Glen. He also has nine top-10 finishes in 2004 and ranks 22nd in the series standings. He has two poles and only two DNF's this season.
"Atlanta was a little disappointing to me. We went there to test and had a really good test. The car was real fast. Unfortunately when we tested it was a little bit overcast. When we came back for the race it was quite a bit warmer. Like almost everybody that day we fought a real loose racecar. We had a really hard time getting the balance right. We rode around all day and stayed consistent and there at the end when the track started to cool down we gained quite a few spots and ended up 13th. For as much as we struggled through the majority of the race to come home 13th was pretty good. Things are starting to pick up in our area. The pit stops are getting a little bit better. In the past when we had a 20th-place car pretty much like we did Sunday, we'd come home 20th or 25th. I think this team is really starting to make a lot of gains and a lot of strides where we can take a 20th-place car and finish 13th with it. I'm pretty proud of that. Obviously we'd like to run better.
"As far as Phoenix goes, I'm looking forward to it. It's fairly close to my hometown. I've been to Phoenix a lot testing Indy Lights, and I've run an IRL race there before. I look forward to going back and seeing a lot of friends and family. We qualified well there last year (eighth) and then we had engine problems. We're running the Busch and Cup races there this weekend, and it should be good for us."
COMMENT ON RUNNING THE PINK CAR IN OCTOBER
"At first, it was kinda funny. A lot of the crew guys were making fun of the pink car, but once I learned a little bit more about it and got more involved, we had so many fans come up and say, 'my mom had breast cancer' or 'I'm a survivor.' It really hit home and we realized what we were supporting and it was really cool. At the end of the day it was kind of fun to have a pink car. It stood out on the track and caused a lot of attention. Fortunately we seemed to run really well with it. We didn't bring home the finishes we wanted with it, but we were real fast and had a lot of fun with it."
COMMENT ON YOUR PROGRAM IN GENERAL
"I think we've obviously stepped it up this year. The program is a lot better. We were sitting there about 16th in points and looking fairly strong to jump up in the 12th-13th range. We got in a little slump. We didn't really have bad-running racecars. We just got caught up in stuff. At Dover we had a great car and blew out some tires. At (Kansas), we had an awesome car and blew out a right front. We've had some things like that happen to us that really set us back and got us back in points. I don't think that really shows where we are as a team. We've had some really fast racecars. The thing we've to do is start bringing those homes. Those mistakes maybe weren't our fault, but those are the things we've got to start working on and prevent them from happening. I feel really good about it. I feel like the whole Chip Ganassi organization is stepping it up this season and stepping it up even more going into next season. Jimmy Elledge and I are getting along better than ever and learning each other. He's learning what I want out of the racecar and I'm learning what I want out of these types of cars. It's easy to get frustrated when we don't have the results we're looking for. Now we can look back on it and see the strides we've made have been huge, and we've got to keep doing that going into next season."
WHAT WILL YOU FOCUS ON IN THE OFF SEASON?
"I think the biggest thing is that Dodge is going to have a new nose, which is I think is going to be great. It's kind of cool looking and totally different. They're also cutting the rear spoiler off the car a little more. Those are going to be the challenges that we're going to have to overcome. Goodyear is going to have a new tire next year to try to adapt to the rear spoiler change. Those are the things we'll most likely be focusing on, trying to get a jumpstart on that new package. Then also, just refining what we already have. Fortunately we're in position to do that. A lot of teams are switching drivers, switching teams. We're going to be together for a third year, and fortunately I think most of the crew members are going to be coming back. We lost a lot of people last year, so I think we're just going to sit down and refine what we have. Other than attacking this new package, I think we're going to refine what we have and see if we can't be one of those consistent top 10 teams."
HAS WORKING WITH CHARITIES AFFECTED YOU?
"It's opened my eyes. I'm a young guy who's has grown up just focused on racing and racing only. Until this point, the last few years I've got involved with the Ganassi organization and Target. Going to the Target House and St. Jude's and seeing what Target has done for some of these families and what Chip does to support them as well... The thing with the breast cancer car in October was amazing. I think it's opened my eyes not only as a driver but as a person, realizing what effect we can have and how we can help. It's awesome. I've learned a lot the last couple of years as far as that goes, and I'm real proud to be a part of an organization that supports such great causes. Going to the Target House was unbelievable. People told me about it and said what a great deal it was, but until you go there and see the smiles it puts on kids' faces and their families that are suffering through these illness with them, there's nothing like it. I'm proud to be a part of a team and an organization that supports that. We might have to break it (pink car) out again. We didn't run real good at Atlanta, but we did come home with a 13th-place finish. That's something I know Target wants to get involved in next season, so we'll have our shot at the pink car again I'm sure."
DO YOU THINK PEOPLE UNDERSTAND THE LUCKY DOG RULE BETTER?
"This year a lot of rules changed, and the Lucky Dog is probably one of the biggest they've changed all year. You've only got to be off half a tenth and you can get a lap down early in these races. I think the Lucky Dog allows you to be patient. If you get a lap down, work on your car and be able to come back and race at the end. I know Ricky Rudd brought it up at Martinsville. In the past when guys are one, two, three laps down, when guys go to line up on the inside, in the past, it was like, 'well, if you're three laps down I'll let you get a lap back as a common courtesy.' Well, the Lucky Dog has opened up some new ways of thinking about that. If you're three laps down you could wind up in front of those guys and earn a lap back and it puts you back in the ballpark to get a Lucky Dog and get back on the lead lap. It's opened a can of worms in some areas. I think that's opened up different strategies. It's created some frustration at times, too, when it comes to restarts and things like that. To know if you're struggling right out of the gate and the Lucky Dog is available, it changes your approach. You may not overextend yourself and get the car in trouble trying to hang on to that lead lap when you can probably get it back with the Lucky Dog."
HOW MUCH HAVE YOU LEARNED FROM YOUR GANASSI TEAMMATES?
"I've learned a ton from 'em. Sterling is a wealth of knowledge and experience. He's a guy that is the foundation of the Chip Ganassi organization. A lot of where we're at now came from the information that Sterling has given. Jamie and I are starting to work well together this year. Last year, I was in such a learning state. We didn't have as much to contribute. Now that we've got more to contribute, the professional relationship between Jamie and I has gotten a lot better. I think we both respect each other and what we can do. I think as an organization the three of us can sit down at meetings and learn something from each other. I think that's a plus."
COMMENT ON TV APPEARANCES
"It's fun. Obviously we've got a busy schedule, but we went out and did the Family Feud and it was a blast. These guys work so hard week in and week out. They come home late on Sundays and get up to go to work early on Mondays. It was cool to go to California and take some of the guys out there and have some fun. As far as the reality shows, the 360 show and Days of our Lives, things I never was really interested in doing but after doing 'em had a great time. It's crazy how this sport is getting so huge it's in such high demand in those areas."
WHAT'S BEEN THE HIGHTLIGHT OF YOUR SEASON SO FAR?
"Without a doubt sitting on the pole at Indianapolis (for Brickyard 400 has been the highlight). That's a special place for my family. It's been around for so long. That was so cool. My first pole at Pocono was huge, but to come back and do it again at Indianapolis was definitely the highlight of my season."
IS YOUR TEAM READY TO WIN OR IS SOMETHING MISSING?
"I'm a firm believer that if you can run inside the top five you can win races. We've proven at times that we can do that. We're right on the verge of it. We're missing a little something, we are. It's not necessarily we're missing the tools. It's not that we're missing the crew chief or driver. I think we have the package to win races. I know we have the package to win races, but I think we're just lacking that little bit of time. Seat time for me, the little bit of gelling time between the team and I. We've just got to be in position more consistently and more often so when the time presents itself we can take advantage of it."
COMMENT ON DOING MTV CRIB
"It's a show MTV does at different performers houses, sports people, NASCAR. I think Dale Jr. did it. Jamie McMurray did it. They take a tour of your house and show where you're living, your vehicles, your cars. It's kind of a cool TV show. I've watched it a lot. It's fun to watch. I'm always curious of what people have and what they like to do. I had fun with it. It was a little bit tough last week when we filled it with everything that happened with the Hendrick organization. Ricky Hendrick was a close friend of mine. It was kind of a tough week. I think it went pretty well, but it wasn't in the best of spirits. I hope it came out well."
DO YOU THINK ANY CHANGES SHOULD BE MADE TO LUCKY DOG RULE?
"I think it's fine the way it is. They keep changing things and it's just going to cause more and more turmoil. If you can keep the rules solid, people get used to them and the complaining stops and you start realizing where you're at and start realizing how to take advantage of those. I think you learn more the longer they stick around. I think everybody is pretty used to it right now. I don't think necessarily it's a bad thing. I think we should stick with it the way it is. Everybody knows the way it is now. The more consistent you stay with things, the easier it is to understand."