Dodge Motorsports Teleconference Tuesday, March 15, 2005 Las Vegas Recap, Atlanta advance CASEY MEARS (No. 41 Target Dodge Charger) NOTE: Mears celebrated his 27th birthday last Saturday and kept the party going Sunday at Las Vegas Motor ...
Dodge Motorsports Teleconference
Tuesday, March 15, 2005
Las Vegas Recap, Atlanta advance
CASEY MEARS (No. 41 Target Dodge Charger)
NOTE: Mears celebrated his 27th birthday last Saturday and kept the party going Sunday at Las Vegas Motor Speedway with a seventh-place finish in his Dodge Charger owned by Chip Ganassi with Felix Sabates. Mears has 75 career starts in NASCAR NEXTEL Cup racing with 10 top-10 finishes. He jumped 13 spots to 15th in the series standings after the first three events and is only 46 points out of the coveted top 10.
"We have a new Nicorette Fresh Mint Gum car coming out this weekend. It's the newest flavor gum they have. There's a lot of stuff going on with that, too. They're doing a promotion called the Winner's Circle Program. There's a transporter outside the racetrack that's going to help promote the brand and help educate folks on how to quit smoking and how the product works.
"We had a really good day (at Las Vegas). We got in a crash at Daytona and at California we had a little bit of paper on the grille, so luck hasn't been on our side. Fortunately at Vegas we had a really good car. Happy Hour was kind of disappointing and we were a little worried going into the race, but we made some changes that really helped the car out. We were fast right out of the gate and ran good all day long. We had trouble with pit stops a little bit and that got us back there a little ways, but the guys gathered it back up the second half of the race and we had good pit stops and got a top 10 finish. We really needed that after the last two races. It was a good gain in the points. We're definitely in position now to start making some good gains."
WHAT DO YOU REMEMBER MOST ABOUT GROWING UP IN THE MEARS RACING FAMILY?
"Obviously a lot of good times. My dad and my uncle both raced. I was fortunate to grow up in a racing family and get to be there first-hand for everything they did and all their successes and also some struggles they went through. I think growing up in a family like that it gives you first-hand experience of how the business works. One of the biggest things I remember is cheering my dad on in some of the Mickey Thompson off-road races and watching Rick win that last Indy 500 where he passed Michael on the outside. I learned a lot of things growing up in a racing family like that."
DISCUSS THE DRIVEABILITY OF THE CHARGER
"I think not so much for the new Dodge but for all the cars in general with the new spoiler package, the cars are just really, really free. Even though you work on the balance and for the most part you can get a car tight, even though the car is tight and not turning well the thing that I've noticed is the back end of the cars is still unstable. It's a little bit more difficult to get a balance and it's definitely on a finer edge than in the past. I think that kinda goes for everybody. For us, for some reason, we've adapted to it. We had a real good car at California. We just got down a lap early and couldn't get it back. The same thing at Vegas. It's definitely more on edge than in the past, but for some reason we've adapted to it well. I think we thought we lacked a little bit of front downforce in the past. The new nose brought a little bit more downforce. With the combination of the amount of rear spoiler they took off, it went a little bit too far to the front now. I think we've made some chassis adjustments that have worked out well. Jimmy Elledge has worked real hard at doing anything he can to secure the rear of the car. He's done some good things that have really helped me out. The new Dodge is definitely a good car. I'm real happy with what it's given us in the front. I've always wanted the car to turn better. Now we're at that point. That (trash on the grille) was a problem at California, but I noticed that several different cars had that problem. We had that problem last year with the old nose. That's something that just happens at California. Hopefully it doesn't bite us too much more this year. We're trying to think of ways to cure that at the moment, but all-in-all as far as performance goes it's been great."
COMMENT ON PIT CREW
"We made some changes for sure. We went with a different jackman. We have a whole new front package -- tire carrier and changer. We've been working real hard to get that part of it right. Unfortunately this weekend we had some problems. The first couple of pit stops were bad and we got in the back. We had to come back in for lugnuts. The guys rallied back and really gave me some good pit stops there at the end and kept me in contention for a good finish."
COMMENT ON TIRES
"I did a little bit of tire testing at Vegas. We got a left-side tire that's better, that helps the spoiler package. We were really, really loose on the first set of tires they brought out, but they improved them. The fall off is there. I think that's something that NASCAR wanted to see. They wanted to see the tire fall off pretty good throughout the run and try to create a little bit better racing. A guy might be good at the beginning of the run but when his tires fall off you've got guys coming back through the field. I think it's created some good competition. From the comments after the race from the fans at Vegas people were excited and real happy with the race. It created a little more excitement I think."
WHAT TYPE OF INFRACTION WOULD IT TAKE FOR NASCAR TO TAKE A VICTORY AWAY FROM A DRIVER?
"I don't know. That's kind of NASCAR's deal and it's hard to say. You take something that may not be that bad and they give you a pretty harsh punishment. Then sometimes you think things that would be really bad and it ends up being light. I think they mix that up. I think the reason they mix it up is they try to get in your head that you never know what to expect as far as a penalty goes. It might be really bad or it might be not as bad as you think. As long as you don't know, you're thinking the worse and it keeps you from doing those things. It's really hard to say. If I could predict that then I'd start writing the NASCAR rule book. There's a clause in the contract that says it's up to their discretion, so you just never know for sure."
HOW DO YOU PREPARE FOR RACES?
"The main thing is we have notes from last year. That's the biggest thing we refer back to. We've got a three-car team, so we've got three times the information. Not only do we refer to our notes, but we refer to Sterling's and Jamie's. We also take a look at the notes we had from races earlier that season because along with the rule changes we have to adapt. You look at where we were last year and then look at what we had to do to make the car feel better according to the new rules this year. We'll go into Atlanta and see we where we were last year and look at the things we changed at California and Vegas to adapt to the new rules package and apply that to Atlanta."
CAN YOU USE ARCA TO HELP PREPARE FOR CUP?
"I think more than setup wise, it's just getting a driver experience. I think they felt (ARCA) was good for me and Reed (Sorenson) to get some seat time. At the time I needed it bad. I hadn't driven a lot of stock cars. We were just trying to get seat time. Fortunately I had a good car and had an opportunity to win the race. Most of that is just driver development. The tire is totally different. The spoiler package is also totally different. You can take ideas, but you can't take the same setup and put it on the cars because it wouldn't react the same. At Pocono, we did do that. We took the setup we had in our (ARCA) car and put it in the Cup car and had a good base to start from. We had to make a lot of changes throughout the weekend to make it right, but it gave us a good idea of where to start. At Michigan, we had totally different setups in the car."
HOW DIFFERENT OF A DRIVER ARE YOU THIS YEAR?
"Night and day, not so much toward the end of the year last year. From the first year and the first part of last year, totally different. I feel so much more confident in our program and myself. All the way around things have gotten better and it just came with time and experience. Anything you start out doing, you get a couple of years down the road and look back and think you didn't know anything. As long as we continue to keep learning and keep growing on that path the way we've been doing, I don't see any end to it. I think we're going to be strong in the future. Right now we're a top 10 contender week in and week out as long as we have luck on our side."
WHAT IS YOUR STRONG SUIT NOW THAT YOU DIDN'T HAVE AT THE BEGINNING OF LAST YEAR?
"Probably patience. I thought I had patience at that point, but I've learned what that word means now and when to be aggressive and maybe when to let a guy by if he's catching me. Even three-quarters of the way through the race if a guy is running you down hard, let him by. It saves both you and him the trouble and saves you time on the track. At the end of these races you're going to have a caution or a last run to the green and that gives you an opportunity to come in and make a change and be aggressive from then on out. You've got to be aggressive. You don't want to give spots up, but at the same time you don't want to hold up yourself on the track and race the guy forever. Two or three guys behind you might catch you, so there's a time and place to be smart and aggressive or patient. It's just time in the car. Everybody gives tips and pointers. You just need seat time. It's trial and error. When is the right time for you? Everybody is different. It's just something you've got to learn for yourself."
COMMENT ON JIMMIE JOHNSON
"Off the track he's one of my best friends. He's a good guy with a good personality. He's done well in the sport. He came out of the gate strong. We've got along forever. We ran off-road together, and he's always been a good guy. On the track, the same way. He's professional. He does a great job. I've never had any problem with him on the track at all. I don't know too many people who have. Right now that whole team is one. He's been doing well outside the track as well. They've got the total package now, that's for sure. As far as my dealings with him, he's still the same Jimmie I've known forever. With success it gives you opportunities to do new things and explore. You travel a little bit more, stay in better hotels, have better vacations, but at the same time still grounded."
WHEN DID YOU DECIDE RACING IS WHAT YOU WERE GOING TO DO?
"I'd say probably from the time I was 12 years old. I know that sounds kinda early, but I started racing when I was three or four -- bicycles and go-karts and four-wheelers. It was all for fun. That's something my dad and uncle did for a living, but it was fun for me. By the time I got to 12 or 13, I started racing in the Mickey Thompson off-road series. I was on TV. People were asking for autographs. You started comprehending the fact you could do this for a living. I was making a little money at it. I was having fun and I thought if I could do it for a living I was going to pursue it and see if I could make it happen. Ever since I decided I wanted to go in that direction, my family has been behind me 110 percent. Fortunately I've gotten to this point now."
DID YOU FAMILY PUSH YOU INTO RACING?
"I'd say if anything they kind of distracted me from racing. My mom and my dad had a lot of highs and lows. I knew it wasn't easy. It's a fickle business and you've got to put the numbers on the board to keep your job, but you've got to do your job well or the next guy is going to take it. I wanted to pursue it and as soon as they knew I wanted to they got behind me and we made it happen."
DID YOU ALWAYS SEE YOURSELF IN AN INDY CAR?
"Yeah, I always so myself in an IndyCar. The first time I probably saw myself as a stock car driver was probably halfway or toward the end of my Busch season. I didn't expect to be in the Busch car. It kind of just happened, and I didn't know anything about it. I got in the car and it was pretty unexpected, but I couldn't be happier. I would love to run the Indy 500 some day, but I wouldn't change where I'm at."
COMMENT ON A LOW ROOF NOT BEING AN ADVANTAGE
"I think it just depends on your package. It depends on different aero packages on what wind tunnels you go to and maybe how you've built your car. It would depend on the quarterpanel heights."
COMMENT ON RYAN NEWMAN'S DRIVING STYLE
"I think that it's well known that Ryan is just hard to get around. Some people are like that toward the end of the race. Ryan tends to be that way all the time, but that's not a bad thing. It definitely can get frustrating if you're in the middle of the race and you think it would benefit both of you if he'd just let you by, but I think at the end of the race, in both of those situations when Jeff was catching him and I was catching him, he was racing for position. He was doing the best job to keep the guys behind him. He was doing all the right things. He was running where I needed to be. He was trying to keep me behind him. It was a compliment to him and at the same time you're frustrated trying to get by. It's racing. We're not playing a kids game out there. We're all running just about 200 mph on the edge doing the best job we can to win races. At the end of the race, there are going to be several times you're not going to be happy with the way another guy drives because we're all fighting for the same piece of real estate on the track and it's serious. We're not just out there playing around. You're going to have conflicts and you're going to have guys upset with other guys. You might have guys that are upset with the same guys more than once, but that's just the nature of our sport."