Gatorade Duels at Daytona Post-Race News Conference February 11, 2010 An interview with: SCOTT SPEED MIKE BLISS MICHAEL WALTRIP KERRY THARP: We'll roll into our post race press conference. Transferring into Sunday's Daytona 500, we have Mike...
Gatorade Duels at Daytona Post-Race News Conference
February 11, 2010
An interview with:
KERRY THARP: We'll roll into our post race press conference. Transferring into Sunday's Daytona 500, we have Mike Bliss. He drives the No. 36 Wave Energy Drink Chevrolet.
Mike, congratulations. Take us through those final few laps, how you managed to make the transfer.
MIKE BLISS: Well, that being our backup car, never had any laps on it. I kind of actually forgot. The car felt like the other one at the start.
I had no idea what I was going to do in this race at the start. I watched the first race. The first race looked pretty calm. I thought, if it singles out like that, that would be all right. I don't think we ever got single-filed. That race was fun. It's fun 'cause I'm sitting here.
Our car was real loose in. The top was a fast line, I thought, for where we were. I got real loose about four to go and backed 'em all up. I look in the mirror, they're half a lap behind me. I knew we were all right. Went to the bottom, protected the bottom.
I can't say enough about Tommy, getting our backup car ready. It wasn't real close, but it was close enough, I guess.
KERRY THARP: We'll take questions for Mike Bliss.
Q: When you're in the car, how do you really know where you're at?
MIKE BLISS: Nobody said nothing and I didn't ask. I just knew the 90 was there. It was Casey Mears. That's how I saw him around. No one said anything. I just figured I would run as hard as I could and just whatever happens from there.
But I really didn't want to know anything else. I just wanted to -- I kind of knew who was around me. I really didn't want a lot of radio chatter.
Q: Could you give us your best prediction on how Sunday's race is going to go based on what you saw and felt and experienced out there in terms of how easy or difficult it is to pass?
MIKE BLISS: I enjoy the way it is right now. I like sliding around. If we're all just wide open, side-by-side for, you know, 500 miles, that's fun for the fans, but -- it's fun, too. But it's kind of getting into handling racetrack, who has the best handling racecar, not just all real fast.
I mean, brass balls makes a lot, too. So it just means, came down to who have the biggest huevos, whatever. However you say it in French.
It's going to be a good race. The second race was tough. I mean, there. was no letting up Nobody really got in line .
Q: Can you talk about your frame of mind after Wednesday, what happened then, getting in today.
MIKE BLISS: I was really, really upset. I still don't know why I wrecked off four because our car wasn't, like, bad. We were on stickers. I still don't know what happened. It was really disappointing. I watched Tommy and those guys work on that car from November till when they loaded it up. They worked hard on it. And this was a car that ran last year, and it just got decaled up and thrown in the trailer.
I was disappointed seeing those guys' face. Tommy is a racer and an owner. He understands racing. But he promised me that this car would be just like the other one. It was. It handled exactly like the other one.
KERRY THARP: Mike, thank you very much. Congratulations on getting into Sunday's Daytona 500.
Next up also transferring into the Daytona 500 is Scott Speed, driver of the No. 82 Red Bull Toyota.
Scott, tell us how you managed to get in there.
SCOTT SPEED: Fortunate for us we were able to qualify on speed. The race for us was more like the race was for everyone else who didn't have to get into the race. But nonetheless, we were able to get in the race. An added bonus, another fellow Toyota driver, Mr. Waltrip, can run. I think he's the guy that needs to be in that show.
Q: Three former Formula One drivers in the field now for Sunday. Talk about that.
SCOTT SPEED: Yeah, well, it's clear that the sport in general is growing. We're getting interest from sort of different forms of motorsports other than just the normal sort of rankings, normal ladder steps you would take to get into NASCAR, which is cool.
It obviously shows the health of the sport. I think the more people that come into it, the more diversity we get, the more competitive it's going to get. I think it's good for everyone.
Q: Can you talk about how this run gives you a boost for Sunday? Does it give you any extra confidence going into the race?
SCOTT SPEED: Well, honestly, actually I think we expected to run a little bit better than we did. We didn't quite hit what we thought we were going to for the setup. So we're going to have to go back and figure out how to get a little bit more front grip into our car so we're not as tight. If we can get a balance similar to what we had last year here and what we had earlier this week, I think we're going to be competitive.
You know, after a year under my belt of driving, certainly coming back to this place, I have so much more confidence and so much of a better feel for the car, what's going on around mere, for sure it's making a big difference already.
So hopefully we can make some good decisions before Sunday and we'll be able to run competitive.
Q: We just talked to Michael Waltrip. He said he needed to seek you out and give you a big hug. Wanted to make sure you're okay with that.
SCOTT SPEED: Absolutely. Michael, he's a big teddy bear, that guy. Anyways, we're friends I'm glad I was able to get him in that race. I think the big man back there deserves to be in it.
Q: Because of your qualifying speed, you knew you were in good shape. With the whole Michael thing looming, were you ever conscious out there, I got to get by this guy, it will help Michael, did that ever enter your mind?
SCOTT SPEED: Uhm, I don't know. I mean, not in particular, honestly. But I knew that if we were gonna make it in the show, they would put him in. That's a plus. The whole time we're thinking about how to make the car better, continue going forward through the field.
So I think in any case, it's an added bonus that another Toyota driver is in the race.
Q: Can you talk about coming back to Daytona for the 500, what kind of things are you more confident in this year as a driver?
SCOTT SPEED: I don't know. I guess the easiest way to explain it, instead of concentrating and focusing on what I'm doing physically in the car, I can concentrate a lot more of my attention on what's going on around me. That affects your car, how your car feels out there. I think just being comfortable, having done it, a lot of things start becoming automatic. When that happens, you're able to pay attention to other things that are also important.
It's all part of the learning experience.
KERRY THARP: Scott, congratulations, good luck on Sunday.
SCOTT SPEED: Thank you.
MICHAEL WALTRIP: Scott, we're racecar drivers, and he did his job. I'm so grateful and thankful that it worked out.
You know, obviously the teams that won the race were locked in, too. You know, people show up to race. Just because you're locked in doesn't mean you roll over or there wouldn't be a race. So I knew Scott would race. I knew he wasn't gonna think about quitting or giving up.
I'm just thankful that he had a car there at the end he could do the job with.
KERRY THARP: We'll take questions now for Michael Waltrip, driver of the No. 51 NAPA Auto Parts Toyota.
Q: You have Max Papis in one of your cars, McDowell in one of your cars, you're in. Talk about what that means.
MICHAEL WALTRIP: Well, you know, six cars that we built in Cornelius at MWR that are in the 500. Prism racing with Phil Parsons, they're a customer of ours, as is Germain. Then our four cars there with Brad and Tad. You know, our customers that buy parts and pieces and cars for us made the race. So we got happy customers, and that's good for any business.
You know, it's real important to be able to diversify and figure out how to bring money into the company in order to help pay the bills. We have great partnerships with the Germains, Max in the Geico car, and Phil and Randy Humphrey with Prism buy stuff from us, as well.
I'm mostly proud of all that because there's a bunch of men and women, fabricators, engineers, that figured out how to make cars competitive for this place. So when those guys send us a check for the cars they bought, you know, it's gonna feel pretty good to them to know that we were able to provide them with stuff to have the success they did down here.
Q: Michael, I know this weekend was probably emotional anyway for you without all of that. This place has been a place of great highs and lows for you. Then to have this happen at the very end, if you could describe the emotion of what this was like.
MICHAEL WALTRIP: Well, I guess I've come to expect it a little bit. I know for some reason, for me, this place, it defines my career. It certainly is my first memories of NASCAR racing, was coming here as a kid.
I figured when I woke up this morning I'd be crying before the day was over. I just didn't know if it would be because I was happy or because I was sad. And then I damn sure didn't know it would be both within an hour of each other.
To be able to smile now, you know, it really feels rewarding because, you know, we took a part-time car, Bobby Kennedy, my buddy, who has helped me out so, so long, put a crew together and gave me a car on Saturday that we qualified fast enough to make the 500 with.
Q: This wasn't only about getting in the race for you. You feel like you have a competitive chance Sunday. Talk about that.
MICHAEL WALTRIP: I was real disappointed today because my car didn't handle right. It didn't handle like it did yesterday. You have a pretty good gauge on if your car's like it was or not. That's the splitter. Yesterday, I was just scrubbing the splitter in a perfect way. Today it felt like it was a foot off the ground, and we didn't change anything. For some reason, the car just didn't go back to the ground like it was supposed to, and it wouldn't drive right. I think it eventually messed up my tires.
So we'll regroup and figure out what David had, what Marcos had, what Martin had, put that setup into our cars. All three of those cars were really competitive. We seemed to be a notch off. We can't do what Penske or Hendrick cars or even Kasey's car did. So that's a little bit concerning. I know we've got a lot of smart people that will work on that and try to figure out how to get us some speed before Sunday.
Q: Will this be your last Daytona 500? What do you really think of Scott's toenails?
MICHAEL WALTRIP: Scott is special, for sure. You could tell that by his hat he had on. He and I are friends. We've golfed and goofed off together before. You know, people don't think I'm that bright at times, and I couldn't care less. People think he's weird and he don't care, too. That's how we formed our relationship. Two people that are comfortable with who they are and don't really care a whole bunch about what other people think about that.
And, you know, I've never got my toenails done, but if that's what makes him happy, I'm going to support him. I did get a pedicure the other day, so maybe I'm heading that direction.
As far as the last 500, I need to just become a car owner because this was hard today. I got to prove to myself on Sunday in the 500 or at Talladega where I know I'm going to run that I can, indeed, make the moves to win these races. I didn't do anything today to impress myself, and that's disappointing.
Q: With all the changes NASCAR has made this year and all it's been through over the last couple years, how important is it for the 500 to be a good show?
MICHAEL WALTRIP: Well, you see, here is the deal. I overheard some people talking the other day - I won't tell you what type of people they were - but they said that they didn't really see the racing in the Shootout was that good. I sat up there today, and I know I had an interest in what was happening for myself, but I know how hard it is to do what Brian Vickers and Kurt Busch and Kasey Kahne. They're running 185 miles an hour sideways, two-wide, threatening to be three-wide, bumping, passing. I've never seen anything more exciting in my whole life than that 125 right there.
Now, take the transfer out of it. The race for the win, those guys mixing it up, that's hard. If you don't like that, then you need to become a fan of a different sport because that right there is as good as it gets.
I just think we have unrealistic expectations at times about what we can do with a car, you know. I challenge you to look back over the history of NASCAR, the sport that grew from a southeastern regional sport to the juggernaut that it was throughout the O's, and show me when a race was better than that. That was awesome.
Q: Danica has dominated attention all week. Do you think the two races we saw today has taken the focus and put it back on the racing?
MICHAEL WALTRIP: I kind of like the Danica stuff. That was fun. What is she doing now, you think? It's been like an hour since anybody said anything about her (smiling).
But, you know, just think about how important her being is to our sport that we love, and we make our living off of. Speed had a 70%, 50%, depending on who you ask, had a big jump in the ratings. That's good for NASCAR, good for our sport. She did a great job in that ARCA race. That's good for our sport. Those guys today couldn't have cared less whether she was in Daytona or on the moon. They just went and raced their cars.
To me, it's just amazing the control and how hard it is. I think if you could appreciate how hard it is, you would be like me and say, Wow.
You could see Brian Vickers sideways takes the lead, guys all over the place. It was just a lot to it. And I'm happy to be a part of it. I want to be a bigger part of it. That's my goal for Sunday.
Q: You're very comfortable in front of a television camera. Usually you're calling the shots. How tough was it to have the camera watch you watch what was going on in the second race?
MICHAEL WALTRIP: Well, my motivation for going there was twofold. I thought I could wear my uniform and get away with it, which nobody yelled at me, so I did that part, and it has NAPA on it.
Secondarily I knew there would be a lot of TVs to watch the race on. They said, You want to come watch the race with us in the hotel? So I said, Yeah, I'll do that, for those reasons.
When I got there, you know, they said they would ask me stuff. I just told them I didn't have anything to say. I didn't even think about 'em being there when I was about to flip out at the end. I just wanted it to be over and I wanted it to be a positive finish. It was crazy. There were four cars there. Two of 'em were good guys and two of 'em were bad guys. To try to remain calm and watch that was as hard as anything I've ever done. To watch it work out right, it was better than hitting the lottery. I mean, it's almost like hitting the lottery because there's money involved, but it's better than hitting the lottery because of all the other reasons in the world.
I have one last thing to say and I'll leave. I think I won about $3 million or so winning two Daytona 500s. I don't have any of that anymore, but I know where those two trophies are. When the driver says, The money don't matter, it really does, but it always goes away and you don't have it anymore, but you don't ever give away your trophies.y