JOHN ANDRETTI, NO. 34 MAKOTO IMPALA SS Finished 10th in Gatorade Duel ...
JOHN ANDRETTI, NO. 34 MAKOTO IMPALA SS Finished 10th in Gatorade Duel #2, and JOE NEMECHEK, NO. 78 FURNITURE ROW RACING IMPALA SS Finished 12th in Gatorade Duel #1 and secure starting spots in Daytona 500.
KERRY THARP: We have John Andretti, driver of the No. 34 Makoto Chevrolet. Congratulations. A couple quick comments. Go ahead, John.
JOHN ANDRETTI: I don't know what to say. I didn't expect to be here. I think the team has done a great job. I mean, in the race, there were some guys that really did treat me fair. One of them is sitting to my right (David Reutimann.) Tony helped me at the beginning. It looked like he was hanging on at the beginning.
No, he was just taking it easy (laughter). I was driving my guts out. He was taking it easy, keeping up.
But, anyway, it was a good race. The last lap for me was everything. I wasn't in the race till I came off turn four. I guess that's all that matters.
I'm really proud of this race team. Really happy to see and want to congratulate Dale Jarrett making the race. What an awesome thing to make the 50th running with him because he's such a great champion. Probably more excited about him making the race, probably not more, but equally excited about him making the race as me.
I don't know what to say. Kind of wore out just talking, not used to people coming up. I even have a little sign here with my name on it. So it's been a good day (smiling).
KERRY THARP: We'll take questions.
Q: John, you say your chances were so slim. You didn't think you'd be here. Did you have anybody spotting, telling you you need to get one more spot? Did you know as you went along you were in, or did you not know until the absolute end of the race?
JOHN ANDRETTI: No, I knew the whole time. I knew who I had to pass. I knew who was the transfer spot. You know, I could never get there. I could always get one away from the transfer spot. But on that last lap, I knew if I got around Mike. It was a little bit of confusion. I didn't really want to know whether Michael counted or not. I knew when I passed him that put me in the race.
I mean, I wish I would have put money on me in Vegas, on me making this race. We were definitely not somebody expected. I think the car handled well. We could do a lot of things with it. Whenever I'd move, you know, you always need help when you move. Sometimes I'd get going and do things.
But, you know, otherwise, I mean, it was a good race, I mean, I knew when I passed Michael that was it. I knew when I got alongside Dale that he was the guy, coming to the checkered flag. I can't say that I wouldn't have passed him, but I really didn't want to pass him at that point. I didn't think it was cool. We kind of finished side by side. For all you newspapers out there and stuff, and NASCAR.com, if you put Dale Jarrett I'll be in the same picture, so that's a good thing, too (smiling).
Q: John, did you realize it was Reutimann that you had to pass to get in?
JOHN ANDRETTI: I didn't know if it was David or Michael because I knew Dale Jarrett was up there. Michael, I didn't quite understand whether he was a transfer or how that worked.
When I got around David, I felt like I was in. That was off turn two. But I didn't pass Michael until coming off of turn four. Once I passed him, I knew for sure I was in. I just needed to get, I don't know, whatever distance that is to the checkered flag and we were in good shape.
The restart scared me a little bit because it got really bottled up. I don't know what happened up there in the middle part. But there were two cars between me and David. I almost ended up right on his rear bumper. We were just lucky to get through that part and get the last two laps in, I guess.
Q: John, you were talking about wishing you went to Vegas or got online or tried that deal. What do you think your odds were?
JOHN ANDRETTI: Oh, gosh. The field? I mean, I don't know. I don't know what it would be, but it wouldn't have been Tony's odds.
I think for us, again, I feel like when we got in the race, I felt pretty good about the race car, but I don't have maybe as much experience in these COTs. I didn't come down here and test. I only did two drafting practices yesterday in this car.
But I felt pretty good about it. I felt like we made changes to it. The car was sensitive to them. It drove well. It drove well the whole race. I felt like, you know, when I get in the corners, I could do what I needed to do. I could stay wide open at any given point. I never had to lift except to keep from running over somebody.
I had to keep myself from trying to go through the middle. There were a couple times it was pretty tempting to try to muscle your way in there. That's last lap stuff, not stuff you need to be doing at the beginning.
I just tried to be somewhat patient and try to hang on to the back. If we lost the draft, that was it for us. There were a couple times when it got close, because you get shuffled out, seems like you go backwards a lot faster. Like somebody throws an anchor on you.
It was a lot of fun. I don't know. I mean, we're in this race. For us, the big step has been made. But the other part is we still want to be respectable on Sunday to think, you know, visions of grandeur is not us. I think if we just have a good, solid run, top 15, it would be just unbelievable for us. Of course, you know, 'cause there's all those Gibbs and Hendrick cars in front of us that are going to be fast.
TONY STEWART: The epic battle.
JOHN ANDRETTI: The epic battle is going to be in front of us, so we'll be behind watching it. Hopefully the battle is fun to watch. I'm sure it will be. It was fun to watch on the Bud Shootout, I can tell you that.
KERRY THARP: Joe Nemechek has come in. He's made the Daytona 500 based on his qualifying time. He drives the No. 78 Furniture Row racing Chevrolet.
Congratulations. Your thoughts about racing on Sunday?
JOE NEMECHEK: Thank you. Just good to be in the Daytona 500, getting hooked up with Furniture Row, Chevrolet. These guys have been down here, a team being three years old, never making the 500. All of a sudden we have two cars in the 500, so it's a really, really special day.
KERRY THARP: Let's take questions for Joe.
Q: Can you explain what the success you had today means to your team, to get both cars in.
JOE NEMECHEK: It definitely means a lot. I mean, for a team -- you know, we put Kenny Wallace's car and that whole deal together right at the last minute. There's basically nobody left in the shop in Denver working on California stuff. Kind of spread the team really thin.
But I think we have our cars handling pretty good. At the beginning of the race, was able to lead some laps. Stayed up there. Towards the middle part of that run, you know, my car got extremely loose. Really didn't know why. You know, without having experience, without having another team member to fall back on to ask some of those questions, just had to learn how to deal with it.
We made some adjustments on that stop and then it was kind of being defensive, trying not to get in a wreck. It seemed like all the star cars there towards the end of that first race, they started beating on each other. Here I'm right behind them. We kind of backed up, tried to help Kenny, whatever we could do to try to help get him in.
Q: You're from Lakeland. Do you feel you had a home-field advantage? Like John Andretti, did you feel like a longshot on the track?
JOE NEMECHEK: Being locked in from qualifying, it's just a good feeling. It's tough. You know, you look at Boris Said, he's right there. He's the next guy to get a spot. It just didn't happen.
Very fortunate for qualifying. I think we've seen the Furniture Row team come a long, long ways from where they were last year. I mean, there's huge improvements within their team. For just being a single car team, it's pretty special.
But being from Lakeland, right down the road, it's good to have a good run in Daytona. If we can come out of the Daytona 500 with a top-15 finish, man, that's going to be a big deal getting started on the 2008 points.
Q: Brian Vickers was saying he felt like you took it easy on him that last lap. Any reason why you maybe didn't challenge him harder? That did get him in the 500. I don't know if you were aware of that.
JOE NEMECHEK: I am now. We were kind of on the defensive there, and then all those guys pitted. We tried to go there at the end, but there's no substitute for new tires. I think that was his advantage coming there on the last or next to the last lap. He caught me going into turn three. He caught me pretty quick. As soon as he stuck that fender to the right rear, it bogged me down and let him have enough momentum to just clear me.
Just fortunate the rest of the guys didn't get a good restart and they were farther back. I think we saw on that second race, too, what new tires do. You know, you come in, get new tires with the 'green, white, checkered', that was pretty impressive, how John Andretti got up through there.
It just shows that handling is going to be the key in the 500.
KERRY THARP: Joe, thanks a lot. Good luck on Sunday.
JOE NEMECHEK: Thank you.
-credit: gm racing