Charlotte II: Dodge - Jeremy Mayfield interview

JEREMY MAYFIELD (No. 19 Dodge Dealers/UAW Dodge Intrepid R/T) "I'm real excited about going to Charlotte. I know you hear that all the time. Everybody tries to sound positive whether they're running bad or not, but I'm really very excited about...

JEREMY MAYFIELD (No. 19 Dodge Dealers/UAW Dodge Intrepid R/T)

"I'm real excited about going to Charlotte. I know you hear that all the time. Everybody tries to sound positive whether they're running bad or not, but I'm really very excited about the last part of the year. We've got a great car we're taking to Charlotte and we feel real good about the way things have gone the last 10 or 12 races. We finished 20th this past week at Talladega, but the week before we were ninth and the week before that we were showing a lot of progress. We were competitive I guess you'd say. It makes it where you look forward to the next week to get things turned around.

"I think the important thing is to look for next year. We've already started building for next year. We've got to use this stretch here to get all the good runs we can in and hopefully a win and carry that momentum into next year. A lot of things can go against you, and that can really hurt your momentum going into next year. We're already focusing on that and we're already starting to build cars and getting our team ready for next year. This is definitely going to be a critical part of how the season starts.

"It (smaller fuel cell at Talladega) wasn't that good for us. Our fuel mileage probably wasn't where it needed to be. Maybe we could have pulled another gear or changed some stuff around knowing what we know now, but you've just got to look at it and go into it like whatever NASCAR decides to do with the rules, you just play the cards that are dealt to you at the time and hopefully it works out for you. Sometimes it doesn't. Some guys sitting here today like Earnhardt Jr. probably like the new deal. I think it's just a matter of what kind of mileage you got. I'm not sure if the fans liked the race or didn't like the race. I haven't talked to any of them, but we didn't wreck and that's a big thing for us.

"About the time you think somebody is going to run off with it (championship) they have trouble and here comes a guy from seventh or eighth. He bounces up there somewhere. It's been a wild year for everybody. It's been a different year from our standpoint just looking in at the points race. I know it's been real competitive and it's coming down to the wire. I hate it for Sterling. I know he had a good thing going, too. That points race goes all the way back to 30th. Those guys back there are really fighting hard for it. Something goes wrong with the points leader every week, and that makes it interesting. About the time you think Gordon has got his stuff together, he blows up. It should be interesting.

"We go from Talladega to Charlotte to Martinsville and then later Phoenix. You go into it every week When the race was over at Talladega, I was already thinking about Charlotte. For me the driver, I get focused way ahead of time. The guys in the shop get the cars ready a couple of weeks ahead of time. Our Charlotte car was done last week, and I'm sure the Martinsville car is already done for next week. We always try to stay ahead of the game in preparing our cars, but it takes a lot of work and a lot of preparation to get to that point. That's why our team seems to be getting better and better every week so we can get prepared like that. The good teams out there are always prepared a couple of weeks ahead of time. It makes it easy to get the cars prepared for different tracks.

"I go around the race track and actually try to decipher what the car is doing, where it's doing it at and come back and relay the message to the crew. I'm a big part of the decisions we're making, what springs or shocks or swaybars we're going to run. The good thing about it, we make our decisions based on a lot of engineering facts and the group type decision-making process. It really makes it easier on all of us because it's not just me making decisions or Ray or Dave or any of us. It's all of us together, and so far it's pretty good.

"I've got a great relationship with Bill. A lot of times after practice I'll stop by his truck and see how he's running, if they can do anything that can help us or we might be able to help them. The teammate situation is really working well with us. I know the only way you can say it's been working great is if we win every week, Bill's had a great year. We've had an up and down year. Our year is certainly getting close to where we need to be and I think you're starting to see that. The 9 and 19 are starting to run closer together every week, and we've still got a little way to go to get where the 9 car is and we're working hard on it. A lot of that is the 9 guys helping us. From the outside looking in, a lot of people can tell before we can. We feel like we've made huge gains that haven't shown up as being huge yet, but we really feel like we're getting our consistency down and our communication worked out. They're starting to understand what I'm talking about on the car and I'm starting to understand how Ray and them do things. It's made a world of difference. I wouldn't say I was intimidated, but it took me a while to figure out how Ray likes things and how he does things. I feel like I went into this deal very conservative on my approach. Everything was new to me. I feel like now I'm as comfortable as I've ever been around anybody, and Ray has made me feel that way. He can be tough at times, but I usually take that as constructive criticism. I think he respects that I do that. I've got a lot of respect for him, probably more than anyone out there just for what he's done and what he's taken on. I think we're going to go a long way together. It's been a lot of fun now that we've got to know each other and really started to communicating well.

"Really you never hear anything about that for Phoenix as far as safety is concerned. I love the race track at Phoenix. It' s smooth, and it's got great grip. For some reason, and I'm not sure why, but the safety concerns you have at Loudon are not at Phoenix. I'm not sure why, but you just don't hear about it as much. And you can race two-wide and you see a lot better racing at Phoenix.

"It's all about how you want to deal with it (popularity). You can walk around and people notice you and you can called that being mobbed or whatever. I think a lot of drivers take in negatively. I take it as positive. About everywhere you go, somebody recognizes you because we're involved in the largest growing sport in the world, and that stuff is going to happen. I don't really call it getting mobbed. It's part of the deal. If somebody notices you, be nice to 'em and sign their stuff and go on. I've learned that kind of the hard way. I feel like at one time I was letting it get to me. They're around you everywhere you go and you don't have time for yourself. If you realize what it's all about and what you're really here for, it makes a world of difference about how you handle it. The commercial helped me a lot. It wasn't too long ago that we were running up front every week. We're starring to get back there. Any time you can get your image on TV with a commercial, you're more popular with the fans. You get noticed, but it gets to where you don't even notice you're getting noticed, so that's what's pretty cool.

"I think he's done a great job, and I'd say everybody is a little surprised (with Jimmie Johnson). Jimmie has done a great job, and it kind of makes you wonder if the team is that strong. They're in the same shop with the 24 and the 24 is running good. Nothing against Jeff Gordon, but a lot of people thought it was just Jeff Gordon. I know Ray went in there and built the foundation for that race team. Once you've built your foundation it's pretty easy to keep it rolling as is. Jimmie has come in there and is running the same cars that Jeff ran last year and is doing the same thing. It tells you the drivers are important, but maybe they're not as important as we thought they were before. Maybe you've got to have that kind of equipment to run that good, Who knows? I remember times when we were running good, and running good this year. Sometimes you don't understand why you're running that good or that bad.. It's surprising but yet it's not surprising because he's with a great team.

"It's all about the race team. The driver is a small part of the team. People don't realize that. It's how well you communicate with your team and get them rallied around you. For example, you hear all the time that all we do is hold it wide open at Talladega. We don't lift of brake and you drive a smooth line. A lot of people can do that. Guys that run up front, Earnhardt Jr. is a great driver, but if you ask him and he's honest with you, he'll tell you've he's got a great team behind him that makes him win at Talladega because the driver is a very small part there. Really you've got to have all of it. You've got to have the equipment behind you, good motors. Let's say you're leading the race all day and you have one bad pit stop. That driver finishes 28th. His name's in the paper 28th, but it was for some other reason why he finished there. Really it's everything that's involved these days that makes a good driver. You've got to have good pit stops, a good handling car, good motors, good bodies before you can become a good driver. When everything is going right for both drivers, then it comes down to the driver. First of all you've got to get to that situation where you've got equal stuff all day long. That's why the teams are working so hard on you, trying to get a little advantage on another team. When you get that, it looks like you're a great driver. Bill Elliott didn't all of a sudden learn to driver last year driving a Dodge. Ray and that race team and the 9 car has brought Bill Elliott back to life. He could drive the whole time everybody wrote him off, but now he's right back to where he needs to be. He's won Indy and Pocono and it's all about the team and the chemistry you have with the team.

"We feel like we've had a good year this year on short tracks and we're definitely looking forward to going to Martinsville. You've just got to have good brakes and take care of your car all day. First thing you've got to do is stay on the lead lap, which means you've got to qualify well to get track position. You've got to stay up front all day long and save your equipment.

"I think about anywhere we go anymore, you've got to qualify up front and stay up front. Charlotte goes right into that category. You see guys putting on two tires, anything they can to get track position. It's definitely going to be a track-position type place. We're going to do the best we can to qualify up front and stay there all day. I don't see how you can not do that anywhere anymore.

"You might be able to gamble a little bit at the end, but I think if you're going to take fuel, because we have the bigger fuel cells, you might as well put the tires on. I think Talladega was an exception. I think you'll see different strategies like that.

"Charlotte has been real good to me. It's been one of my favorite places. I've been running first there and run out of gas and finished 10th. I've been second a couple of times and had some good runs there. I love the place. Charlotte has been a real good place for me. We won The Open, and we've been in The Winston the past five years there. It's definitely been a good track for me. We're trying to go all out every week. There's really no strategy differences. We're going to try to get all we can and take what's thrown at us and go home and head to Martinsville.

"I think Tony Stewart will win the championship. That's just my opinion and probably because those guys have been together a while. They've got plenty of experience and they're running god. I don't think the pressure would bother him like it's appeared to some other teams. I think he'll be the champion.

"I don't feel for Tony. You get yourself in those situations and life goes on. He's done a lot to hopefully not let it happen again, and he'll be fine. He's a racer and he races for a living. Sometimes you say or do the wrong things that get you in trouble a little bit, but he's done a good job of bouncing back and not letting it bother his focus."

-dodge motorsports-

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Bill Elliott , Jeff Gordon , Jeremy Mayfield , Tony Stewart , Jimmie Johnson