Continued from part 1 Q: Could you just talk a little bit about the Petty team, whether they're really contenders this year. They finished fifth and sixth in this race. They have your former crew chief over there helping them out. JEFF ...
Continued from part 1
Q: Could you just talk a little bit about the Petty team, whether they're really contenders this year. They finished fifth and sixth in this race. They have your former crew chief over there helping them out.
JEFF GORDON: I think it's great for them. I think they definitely have had some positive changes happen over the off‑season from Robbie to Bobby Labonte, Todd Parrott. Obviously, they're pulling from outside their organization some new people in, you know, old people. I think they've got, you know, some things building in the right direction for them.
I think that's fantastic. I think all of us are big Petty Enterprises fans, there's not anybody out there not pulling for those guys. I saw in the back of my mirror those guys dicing it up, Bobby and Kyle making some great runs. You got to be happy for them.
I'll always be a big Robbie Loomis fan. I've always been a friend and a fan of Bobby Labonte and Kyle Petty. I think we're all excited to see that happening.
Q: Can you talk about some of the reasons why you think you've run so strong on the restrictor plate courses the last couple years, what kind of confidence you take into those races because of the recent history?
JEFF GORDON: I know exactly why. It's because these two guys sitting next to me, Rick Hendrick who provides all the tools we need, the people, resources, all the money, engineering and everything that we put in to building strong race cars, strong engines, a great foundation for race teams to build on.
And then, you know, you have crew chiefs like Steve, and other guys that have been in our organization for many years that have built their way up through the organization and have gotten to the top, to the crew chief job, have learned from their experiences of being there, knowing how to utilize those tools, and the people that are around them, build great race cars and a great race team.
It's pretty obvious to me. I've said for the last 14 years that the best decision I ever made in my career was, you know, sitting down with Rick Hendrick and signing that contract to go drive the No. 24 car. It wasn't a difficult decision when you go over there and see that organization. They've got the best of the best. If you're lacking in any one area, we're going to go to work to try to figure it out and get better.
I do like the restrictor plate tracks. Ever since '93 when I came down here in the Cup car, we had success. When you build on it, probably the thing that's changed the least amount over the years, you know, we hear about big springs, big sway bars, shocks, all those things. In any one area, an area where experience is probably more important than anything, it's the restrictor plate tracks because there's not been a lot of those changes and things that have adapted into restrictor plate racing.
So it's allowed me just to learn every single race every year and just try to get better with the drafting and utilize the great cars that I have.
Q: Rick, speaking of former crew chiefs, Ray Evernham decided to have triplets this year by adding Scott Riggs to the program. They're going home. How surprised are you by that?
RICK HENDRICK: Well, I think any time you come down here and race, I've been in that situation before, where you don't have points, I think someone mentioned a few minutes ago, as an owner, do you like being able to lock into more positions with the top, you know, 35 or whatever.
Absolutely, it feels more comfortable to be here. Anything can happen when you come down here with a new team. Scott Riggs, you know, you know Ray has put as good equipment under him as he had in his shop. But things can happen. That's the danger of coming down here with no points and having to qualify on speed, then race your way in. It can happen to anybody.
Q: Steve, looking ahead at the intermediate tracks, in the cars have you found anything that you think will improve over last season and can you explain it in such a way that I'd be able to understand it?
STEVE LETARTE: Well, I think last year, you know, towards the final 10, we definitely showed improvements in Atlanta and Homestead. The biggest goal for our race team is we've changed some personnel. We have a new Monte‑Carlo SS and some other things that have changed. Our goals at Las Vegas and California upcoming intermediate events is to really work on the whole program and not just focus on the car.
In my opinion, the way to win a championship, the way to be successful, is you got to be really good in every area, not great in any specific one. That's kind of what we're going to work on.
As far as a specific thing in the car that we've found, I don't know if we found it yet. We found some more comfort with some aerodynamics that everybody has heard about. Some of the changes we made there. We're going to hopefully carry that into the new Chevrolet. As of now, I don't think there's one key success either way.
Q: Steve, Red Sox, Yankees fan, just curious?
STEVE LETARTE: Red Sox. Red Sox.
Q: Is being the crew chief of this 24 team a little like managing the Red Sox?
STEVE LETARTE: Well, I mean, I don't really know. I don't manage a baseball team, I wouldn't know.
The one beauty of managing a team or being a crew chief of a team is the depth of the organization. I'm sure it's the same way in baseball. The Yankees, the Red Sox, those organizations have been successful for years. Mr. Hendrick has built such an organization that I only go out and do just my part. There's so many people at the company that make it happen, the beginning of the year, all through the year.
As long as we keep going in that direction, which I know we are, put the right people in the right places, I don't think any one person can really tear down an organization or make a difference in an organization. I think it's a group effort. I hope that will show on Sunday.
Q: Steve, you are looking now towards a Daytona 500. You came into this race, you were already secured of a spot. What kind of conversations, pump‑ups did you have with the team? How good is your car going into the race this weekend?
STEVE LETARTE: Well, to start off, I think we have a good car. Like Jeff and Rick mentioned, our Speedway programs have been really, really strong for a long time at Hendrick. That eases a crew chief's mind coming down here. We know we have good motors and good bodies. We only really have to just work on the detail and we should be decent.
As far as pumping up the team, we reorganized a little personnel on the team. I'm excited with the changes we've made. I try not to pump 'em up, especially for Daytona, we're down here for a week and a half. We try to let their performance and let them work out the bugs. It's really an extended schedule. We try to just work out some of the finer details so when we get into the two‑ and three‑day schedule during the year, we'll be as efficient as possible.
Q: Jeff, Lance McGrew said you were helping them with the superspeedway program. With the 24 team, are you seeing any benefits? Pooling all the resources maybe a little more, is there anything you guys have benefited from?
JEFF GORDON: I think Steve could probably answer that better than I could. I know that we've got all four teams, drivers, teams on the whole, we've got both shops now in place, located next to one another. We've got 5, 25 in their shop, 24 and 48 right next to them. I know I've seen a difference in the way everybody has worked together. I think Steve being there on a day‑to‑day basis could probably answer that better than I could.
Q: Jeff, most of this week you've been in front. I'm wondering if on Sunday you get shuffled to the back, which of course could easily happen to you or everybody else, do you have a sense of how the car will pull forward?
JEFF GORDON: Well, that's why we practice. You know, obviously when we're out there for the race, you don't want to put yourself in that position just in case you get in trouble or you can't get your way back to the front. In practice, we try to put ourselves in that position and see what it does. One of the things I think all of us have been working on, most cars and drivers I've talked to, have heard about, they're all pushing in traffic.
I got shuffled back there about second or third one time. Every step of the way, every car that you get shuffled back, the way the air moves around the car, gets more drastic, and the changes happen more and more.
We don't want to get in that position in the race on Sunday, but we want to be prepared for it in case it does. You can't build a car or set up a car so that it's great in traffic and 15th or 20th and expect it to drive good when you get to the front. You want to build a car that's good in the first five, then work with it on pit stops or different things with the crew and the crew chief, you know, throughout the race.
We don't expect to be leading every single lap. There's only one that we really want to lead, but you got to be in position to do it. We're going to work over the next couple days on the little things that we learned today and the day before and through the Bud shootout and make it that much better for Sunday.
Q: Mr. Hendrick, did the morning feel or the day leading up to today's races feel different for you because, as you were saying a bit ago, it's just more comfortable knowing all of your cars are in the show? Was your outlook different today? Less nervous, et cetera?
RICK HENDRICK: Yeah, absolutely. When you know you're here and it's just a matter of the position you're in, Jeff and I talked to Kyle before the second race, and we were talking about the fact that we had two good cars. Jeff knew he was going to start on the front row, we'd like to bring him back and not have any problems. I've been in that situation we were talking about, that Ray was in today. It is a very uncomfortable feeling. I think it takes a lot of pressure off to come to Daytona. You got sponsors that want to see their cars in the race. If you're running all year, it's tough to see a car that's been there every single week get knocked out by a car that's showing up for just one race.
It is a lot easier, and I think it's a good program.
!@THE MODERATOR: Gentlemen, thank you so much. Good luck on Sunday.