RAY EVERNHAM (President, CEO Evernham Motorsports) NOTE: Evernham announced Saturday that Stanley Tools will be an associate sponsor on the Nos. 9 and 19 Dodge Dealers/UAW Dodges in 2005 and the primary sponsor on the No. 91 Dodge driven by...
RAY EVERNHAM (President, CEO Evernham Motorsports)
NOTE: Evernham announced Saturday that Stanley Tools will be an associate sponsor on the Nos. 9 and 19 Dodge Dealers/UAW Dodges in 2005 and the primary sponsor on the No. 91 Dodge driven by Bill Elliott for four NASCAR NEXTEL Cup races in 2005.
"Bill will run at California, Texas, Indy and Charlotte. Right now we've got six for sure for Bill and we're going to be making an announcement in November for the other two. We're shooting for 10-12 and we're getting close. My plan is to grow the 91 into a fulltime team, probably one step at a time. I think 12-15 races would be maximum (in 2005).
"I think we're on track in some areas and probably not performing as well as we should in some others. Overall, I think we're on track. I don't want to keep using the excuse that we're a fourth-year team, but we were able to put a car in The Chase. I think both our cars have been a threat to win. We've been a competitive team. We haven't been a dominant team, but we've certainly been competitive. We're on track to be a championship challenger.
"We've got to look at things realistically. I'd hoped to win it (championship) this year, but honestly we're 250 back and realistically we've got to focus on getting in the top five. The only way we can win it now is if everybody else has trouble, and that's not the way we want to win something. We've got to run the best we can. We're realistically focusing on getting the 9 and 19 to victory lane and we've still got a realistic shot of Jeremy getting in the top five. Hopefully, we'll get two shots at it next year.
"Bill will be the driver of the 91 for every race we have so far (in 2005). Bill only wants to do 12 at the most. I could probably talk him into doing 15 if we could get some sponsorship. It'll basically be Bill. That's our hope (to have the 91 as a fulltime team in '06). We haven't worked it all out yet. A large part of it depends on the sponsorship. I think you're starting to see teams being able to take on two or three different sponsors and splitting the cost for running the whole season. Hopefully we can get those things worked out. If the 91 goes fulltime with another driver, I'll probably run Bill part time in another car. It's just a matter of how long Bill wants to run.
"I don't know that it's been any different in The Chase. They (9 and 19) have worked good together all year. I think they're doing a great job of helping one another. Both those drivers have grown to be good friends. The crew chiefs, engineers and everybody is working together real well, but it's no different now for The Chase. I think the 9 had a little letdown when they didn't make it, but they were awfully close. Now they've got to get back on track. I can't say anything's changed from what we had put together at the beginning of the year.
"Bill does a lot of testing for us. It keeps Bill sharp, and it keeps our R&D team testing. It keeps a lot of information flowing. Bill adds a lot more to our program that people think.
"It's hard for us to run right out and jump on driver development, but we do have a program going for next year. We'll make some announcements about our hungry driver program and our Busch program. We'll be working with trying to bring some of those guys up through Unilever and Dodge. We don't really have anything specifically tailored to young teenagers. I'll be doing some stuff with the NASCAR diversity late model program. We're working to put a regular recruiting program together. When you hire a 15-year-old kid know you've got to have a plan for him to come up, and we just don't have those things yet.
"This is becoming more and more like Formula One. Every year I say that. This sport is getting bigger and bigger and you've got to have a crop of drivers in the wings. You'd used to see drivers come in this sport and hang around for 25 years and go through five or six years and not have to produce. I don't think you're going to see that anymore. I think you're going to see a lot of these young drivers come in and jump in these cars and go pretty fast.
"The Chase took everybody's attention and you haven't really been hearing that much about Silly Season. Things are starting to shake down with crew members and things like that, but you really haven't seen a lot of drivers moving around. I think because it seemed like Silly Season was coming earlier and earlier, I think everybody got their deals done in April. It seems like we were hearing more things in April and May than we're hearing now, and I think that's going to be the trend of things to come."
JEREMY MAYFIELD (No. 19 Dodge Dealers/UAW Dodge)
"I think we all handle the pressure pretty good as far as the drivers are concerned. We're in pressure situations all the time. The least pressure we have is when we're in those racecars. That's when everything is great for us. I don't think the pressure has been any more or any less in The Chase. Richmond wasn't a pressure deal. Richmond came from the year. We wanted that as a team. That was something we had to do.
"You've got to find a balance of how you handle things, the people, the media, the fans. I feel like in the last couple of years I've been able to deal with that better than I ever have. Some guys do and some guys don't. Sometimes you get in a situation where it just overwhelms you. The day to day grind you go through in this sport is tough, but I want do race until I'm 45. That's my goal or even more. I love what I do. I really enjoy it now, now more than I ever did. When you're with a great organization and a great team like we've got, it's certainly enjoyable to be a part of that. Rusty and Mark and these guys have been here a long time, and it can get mentally tough -- physically and mentally.
"Five or 10 years ago, the pressure wasn't there, and if it was I didn't know how to handle it. I had to go through some trying times in my career to come back and realize what is important and how it all works and how to handle things. It's so easy to run and hide all the time and not talk to the media, not be around, not doing what you need to do as a driver, not take care of the fans. All of a sudden you find yourself, when you think driving is the only thing you've got to do around here, you're wrong. You've got five or six things to do -- take care of sponsors, media, fans -- driving is about the fifth thing on the list. A lot of the young guys realize they're good drivers, but they'll find themselves getting humbled one of these days. That's what I did, and I'll never make that mistake again.
"If I was NASCAR, which I certainly don't want to be, but I think they should look at keeping the top 10 in their own points system. If a guy like Robby Gordon takes you out, that would keep the top 10 a lot closer than they're going to be now.
"We're looking straight ahead. We're going to be in the top five in points, top three, maybe even win this thing. These guys are going to have trouble. We've made up too much ground for as bad as we started. It's possible for Kurt Busch to have a bad race, Jeff Gordon, anything can happen. Until it's over, I'm not going to say it's over. If they have two bad ones we could be leading the thing. I'm 250 points out of the lead. I was 280 last week. It's really tight from 10th to fourth. One bad night, and we're back to fourth. We're going to be the second upset of the season. We upset 'em when we won at Richmond, and if we win the championship that would really be an upset. You'll never hear me say it's over until we're out of this thing."
KASEY KAHNE (No. 9 Dodge Dealers/UAW Dodge)
"Getting a sponsor like Stanley is just a credit to what Ray is doing and what the teams are doing. The better we run, the better opportunities we have to get these. I think it'll be awesome if the 91 car develops into a fulltime team. It's good the way it's started and it has the potential to grow.
"We need to win a race this season, and we need to get another pole and keep working hard. We have a lot to shoot for still this year. We haven't got a pole in awhile. We'll keep working on that, but the biggest thing is to win a race.
"Ray has made us one huge race team, and everybody is a big part of what happens on Sunday. To have Bill and Jeremy as teammates and learn from those guys has been awesome for me. To have a great crew and team is great, too.
"It would mean a lot to me (to win season-long pole award). Qualifying is one of the most fun times of the week for me. I really enjoy qualifying, trying to go as fast as you can around the track on sticker tires. It's fun being right on the edge.
"We've got Martinsville coming up next week, and you never know about Martinsville. I think we'll have a shot to run decent there. I think we could have run 15th last time if we hadn't blown our tire at the end. Jeremy tested there and that surface is definitely different. They learned a lot, and we'll be able to take that and hopefully start out decent.
We'll try to stay focused and see how it goes. We could really use a good run at Martinsville."