The Nextel Wake-Up Call featured Brian Vickers, driver of the No. 25 GMAC Chevrolet Monte Carlo. Vickers was the highest qualifying Raybestos Rookie of the Year candidate for the Coca-Cola 600 and will start 5th in Sunday's race. He sat on the...
The Nextel Wake-Up Call featured Brian Vickers, driver of the No. 25 GMAC Chevrolet Monte Carlo. Vickers was the highest qualifying Raybestos Rookie of the Year candidate for the Coca-Cola 600 and will start 5th in Sunday's race. He sat on the pole in Richmond two weeks ago and posted his first top 10 finish of the season (8th). He is currently 23rd in the point standings.
"Yeah, this is definitely a wake-up call for me. You know, we race car drivers like to sleep in until 12 o'clock or so.
AS THE DEFENDING BUSCH SERIES CHAMPION, HOW HAS RACING IN THE NEXTEL CUP SERIES CHANGED YOUR DAILY EXISTENCE?
"It's changed everything. A lot of things were the same in the Busch Series, but there is just so much more of it at the NEXTEL Cup Series level. The schedule is more intense and the competition is more intense. The responsibilities from the sponsors, the press, and the media are more intense. You've just got to be able to handle all of that and still make time for your family and friends and be able to stay focused in the car."
IS IT HARD FOR ANY ROOKIE TO ADJUST YOUR WHOLE MENTALITY TO THE TIME RESTRAINTS THAT ARE PUT ON YOU?
"It's definitely tough. That's what the rookie season is for is to learn and grow. I've got great teammates to help me with all that and give me some good advice."
HAVE YOU ASKED JEFF GORDON OR JIMMIE JOHNSON OR TERRY LABONTE QUESTIONS ABOUT RACE TRACKS AND SO FORTH?
"Oh yeah. Jeff and I have talked quite a bit - and Jimmie as well - about so many things. Any time I go to a new race track I talk to those guys. The only ones left are Indianapolis and the road courses. I haven't tested or raced there. I talk to those guys a lot about that stuff. Even every race track that we go back to that I have been to, I'll ask what the track is going to do from Saturday to Sunday.
"It actually changes from Saturday to Sunday. It changes with more laps and rubber on the race track. They also help me a lot with what happens off the race track and how to handle and cope with everything and the responsibilities at this level, and how to manage your personal time and make your family happy and all that stuff."
YOUR TEAM IS SHOWING STEADY PROGRESSION. WHAT SORT OF THINGS ARE GOING ON WITH YOUR AND YOUR TEAM NOW THAT MAYBE WASN'T HAPPENING AT THE BEGINNING OF THE SEASON?
"I think it's everybody. I've learned a lot obviously. The team has learned a lot. More importantly, we've learned how to work together. It's not that we weren't working together at the beginning of the season. There weren't any kind of disputes going on there or anything. But it took me a while to really build that chemistry with that team in the Busch Series last year. I personally like to build it solidly and patiently. I like to build it for the long run to go win championships instead of pushing it too quickly and maybe run good at the beginning and then fall off at the end.
"Just like last year, it's taken us a little while to really get going and for Peter (Sospenzo, crew chief) and the team to really learn and understand what I need and to trust me in knowing what I need. It's the same for me. I need to know what they need from me and what they need to hear from me. We just keep continuing to build that chemistry. As time goes by, it's only going to get better. And it has gotten better. We got our first pole and our first Top 10 (Richmond, May 15), and we've been running fairly consistently lately. We're all happy about that and now we're just going to try to move to the next step. We're going to try to get our first Top 5 and continue to do that. And then as time goes by, it'll just keep getting better."
NEXT WEEK YOU'LL BE AT DOVER, WHERE YOU'VE WON BEFORE IN THE BUSCH SERIES AND THAT MUST BE OF SOME COMFORT TO YOU
"Yeah, absolutely. I've always enjoyed racing at Dover. I've had a lot of fun there. It's a mix between some of my other favorite race tracks like Bristol, except just a little bit faster. The racing is good. It can turn into a multi-groove race track - especially in the Cup race. And it's really fast. That's what I like about it. And, we've won there."
WHEN YOU'RE IN THE CUP CAR, HOW DOES IT COMPARE TO THE BUSCH CAR? WHAT ADJUSTMENTS DO YOU HAVE TO MAKE?
"There aren't really big differences in the cars. There's a longer wheelbase, which makes it a little bit slower reacting. There's a little bit more horsepower so you don't have to be concerned so much about keep your momentum up. You can use that to your advantage. The biggest thing, I guess, is that the competition is stronger obviously. For me, it's new team. So I'm trying to learn the team and guys as much as the cars."
HAVE YOU RUN 600-MILES BEFORE AND IF NOT, HOW WILL THAT COMPARE TO OTHER RACES FOR YOU?
"It's definitely going to be different. It's going to be a pretty long race. It's the longest race the NEXTEL Cup Series has. I've never run 600 miles in a row. But last year, at the fall race here in Charlotte, we had the Cup race and the Busch race on the same day because the Busch race got rained out. I don't know what that came out to be - 900 miles or something like that in one day. But it was only 500 at one time."
HAS ANYTHING IN YOUR NEXTEL CUP SEASON SO FAR BEEN EASIER THAN YOU ANTICIPATED IT WOULD BE?
"I don't know. I didn't anticipate any of it to be extremely difficult. It's still racing. You get a green flag and you're looking for the checkered. The competition is stronger. A lot of people over-exaggerate the car situation. They talk about how different a Cup car is to a Busch car but I don't really see a lot of that. I didn't see a lot of that last year when I was going back and forth between the two series. It's still a race car."
ARE YOU MORE EASILY RECOGNIZED WHEN YOU GO PLACES NOW?
"Yeah, that's for sure. You can win the Busch Series championship and get recognized some. And then you can just run in the Cup Series and not even win a race or anything, but all of a sudden people recognize you out and about in everyday life ten-fold."
HOW WILL YOU HANDLE THE FATIGUE FACTOR FOR THE EXTRA 100-MILES IN SUNDAY'S RACE?
"I've been doing a lot of training lately - some very intense stuff - to try to help with that and to try to be in the best possible shape I can. You know, 500 miles is a long way. An extra 100, why not? So, we'll see. I may change my mind after the race. But I think it's an extra good bit. It's more than we ever do. If I can get out of the car at 500 miles and say I wished we had another half a race to go, I think at 600 I'll be all right."
YOU'RE YOUNG. YOU SHOULD BE ABLE TO HANDLE 600 MILES
"Yeah, that's what all the old guys tell me anyway."
WITH THE SINGLE-ENGINE RULE, WILL YOU LIMIT THE AMOUNT OF PRACTICE TIME YOU PUT ON THE MOTOR?
"Physically, it's an extra bit for all the drivers but I think it's harder on the cars than the drivers - especially on the engines. These cars are built to go 500 miles, not 501 miles. That's what we do every week. Not 600. They're built to use every bit of that car up in that amount of time. And then once a year, we run 600 miles. From my experience as a fan watching the race, you'll see a great deal of attrition through the race and people dropping out from failures like that. As far as what rpm we run them at and different things like that this weekend, we've pulled that back some to try and help increase the life of the engine. The amount of laps we put on them, we've pulled that back some. Normally in Happy Hour, we go out there and try to run as many laps as possible. We're probably not going to do that this week. From there, we're just going to cross our fingers."
HAVE YOU SEEN THE NASCAR 360 EPISODE ABOUT YOU? IF SO, WHAT DO YOU THINK OF IT AND CAN YOU COMMENT ON THE FILMING?
"Yeah, they've already sent me several copies of it. I saw the first episode. Our episode will air right before Daytona, I believe. They want to do that because it was filmed at Daytona. I think it's pretty cool. The FX guys did a great job with it. They made it easy on the drivers. They were there, but once you got used to them they were pretty considerate about everything. That was a good thing. It was smart on their behalf because if they made it hard on the drivers then we were going to make it hard on them. But they really got in there and got the close up deal. They got the 24/7 thing. They got our reactions on just about everything.
"Some, we probably didn't want them to get. But the show turned out pretty good. But I'll tell you what, when I saw that first episode, I was rolling. That's probably one of the funniest documentaries or reality shows I've ever seen. I thought all the drivers did a good job. More importantly, I think FX did an excellent job with it. It's actually like a real deal. It's funny and it's exciting. The way they put it together looks really good."
WHEN YOU LOOK BACK OVER 10 YEARS OF THE COCA-COLA 600, IT SEEMS LIKE THE YOUNGER DRIVERS HAVE FAIRED WELL. IS THIS A YOUNG DRIVERS RACE?
"I'm sure that's a possibility, but it can't be the experience. It's worth so much. But at the same time, it's a long race. For every year you gain experience, you lose that youthful energy. You lose some of that. That's just part of life. You can't do anything about it. But as drivers get older, they trade off that energy for experience. At some races, the experience is worth more than the energy, and at some the energy is worth more than the experience. Maybe this is one of them. I hope so, for my benefit because I don't have a whole lot of experience but I've got a lot of energy."