February 5, 2004: Highlights of Driver Q&A Sessions with the Media at Daytona International Speedway. MICHAEL WALTRIP , NO. 15 NAPA CHEVROLET MONTE CARLO: WHAT DO YOU DO WITH YOUR RACE CAR WHEN YOU GET IT BACK FROM DAYTONA USA? "Teresa ...
February 5, 2004: Highlights of Driver Q&A Sessions with the Media at Daytona International Speedway.
MICHAEL WALTRIP , NO. 15 NAPA CHEVROLET MONTE CARLO:
WHAT DO YOU DO WITH YOUR RACE CAR WHEN YOU GET IT BACK FROM DAYTONA USA? "Teresa (Earnhardt) has kept the other one pretty close to the vest. It hasn't gone anywhere. I kind of suspect it'll go into display at DEI. We have some great plate cars today that have replaced that car. They're newer generation plate cars. They're better and they're faster. I doubt that car will race again. It will probably just become a trophy or a piece of memorabilia."
WOULD YOU LIKE TO SEE DAYTONA BE THE LAST RACE OF THE SEASON? "I don't know. I like Miami. As a whole, a competitor doesn't really care how they set them up or how they arrange them or what the points are or what the tires are like. When we strap our helmets on, we're going to forget all that stuff and go out and try to beat each other and try to be the fastest guy. I'm looking forward to getting on the track and getting with it. I'm tired of talking about it."
ON HAVING A LOT OF CONFIDENCE AT DAYTONA "Yeah, I do. I'm going to go to Rockingham and Las Vegas with a lot of confidence as well. We finished up 2003 with finishes over the last 13 races that averaged 28th or so. But our car performed. We were top five at Phoenix. We won Talladega. We had a great car at Rockingham and broke. We had a great car at Homestead but blew a tire. So the performance is there. This is a performance-based business. That's all it is."
WHAT DOES WINNING AT DAYTONA DO FOR YOUR CAREER? "It's done a lot for my career because I hadn't won anywhere else. We all saw what it meant to Darrell Waltrip when he won it back in '89. And what it meant to Dale Earnhardt when he finally knocked it down in '98. It's a huge event and I'm real thankful for the success I've had here."
WILL DAYTONA ALWAYS BE DAYTONA NO MATTER HOW THINGS CHANGE? "I'm not the person who would say it'll always be what it is or will it ever change. The Daytona 500 is what it is because of the tradition and history of this great event. People have been coming out in February since 1950 to watch this great race. It would be hard to ever change that."
WHAT'S THE CHALLENGE AT DAYTONA? "Oh, you've got to be perfect. You have to be as good as you can be every lap. You can't make any mistakes. Nothing can go wrong with the car. The pit crew has to do their job on pit road. The driver has got to be game-on from the time they say go. There's a lot of pressure you put on yourself to make sure you don't make any mistakes and you make all the right moves. One wrong drafting move late in the race can take you from the top two or three cars to 20th. You can't recover from that. You just have to be smart and not make any mistakes. The main thing it takes is a fast car. You can overcome a lot of shortcomings if your car is fast. But you can't overcome them all, so you can't make any mistakes."
MORE THAN THE OTHER DRIVERS, DO YOU GO TO DAYTONA EXPECTING TO WIN? "I like to be realistic and say there's probably a good chance we can win this race. It's hard to be over-confident when you were zero-to-462 at one point. So you try to keep your balance. You understand that things could go wrong and you might not win it. That was the case here in July. I felt like I was going to win that race but things happen that are out of our control. So you just balance it as best as you can."
WHAT IMPACT DO YOU THINK NEXTEL CAN MAKE IN THIS SPORT? "Look at the Super Bowl. Dale Jr. and I were in a commercial in the middle of the Super Bowl. That's something that a series sponsor hasn't been able to do in the past. Obviously it's good for our sport and brings more attention to what we're doing. I think there were 180 million people watching the Super Bowl and there Dale Jr. and I were, goofing off in the middle of it. NEXTEL is going to be a great partner to NASCAR racing."
OUT OF THE HANDFUL OF DRIVERS THAT COULD WIN THE CHAMPIONSHIP, WHICH ONE WOULD YOU PICK TO DO IT? "I would pick me. I'm going to run the season like I'm the favorite and like we're going to do the job. It made me mad with the way we performed at the end of 2003. Nobody out-performed us, physically, at the end of the season. We just had everything go wrong. We just have to start 2004 like we did in 2003 and make sure that doesn't happen."
ON THE 125 QUALIFYING RACES "It's different when there are half the amount of cars. When there is twice amount of cars, it means twice the action. The bigger the draft, the more responsive your cars are to the draft. It'll be the first true test of what it's going to be like as far as the draft goes. You use the 125's to make sure your car is handling right."
DO YOU ENJOY DOING COMMERCIALS? "I like that. I've been fortunate enough to do enough of them that the production company do things. I won't make a commercial now if I'm not comfortable with it or if I don't think it's funny or that it makes any sense. We've been working with people that let us have a little creative control over them."
WHAT DO YOU SEE YOURSELF DOING WHEN YOU'RE NO LONGER DRIVING FULL TIME? "I have 100 acres at home and I really like goofing off there. I really do. It means a lot to me. I think I'd want to do TV. Darrell (Waltrip) has a pretty good deal. He owns a Truck team and runs three or four races. He does TV for half the year and today's his 57th birthday. I don't know anybody who is so fortunate to have all that. So that wouldn't be bad. I'd do what Darrell's doing right now.
"If I did anything right when I was a kid, it was that I paid attention. I saw what my brother did. I saw where he came up short. I saw where he excelled. I figured out how to do all that and the whole time I was watching him win race after race after race. I figured out that this job is all about how that car runs."
WHAT DO YOU DO TO PREPARE FOR THE SEASON? "I work out a lot. I'm a runner. I've run in three marathons over the past three or four years. I lift and do all that just to be ready to drive a car. I did marathons because I figured if I could do one in four hours and 10 minutes, it wouldn't matter how hot it was at Darlington in September or what it was like at Bristol on a Saturday night. If I'm tough enough to do that, I might not outrun them but I can sure outlast them."