Daytona - GM drivers meet the press, part 1

BORIS SAID, NO. 36 CENTRIX CHEVROLET MONTE CARLO: (IS TEN RACES ENOUGH TO SHOW YOU ARE A GOOD CUP DRIVER?) "I hope so. It's all I have so I have to make the best of it. I think Centrex will be a full time sponsor in NEXTEL Cup in 2005 because...

BORIS SAID, NO. 36 CENTRIX CHEVROLET MONTE CARLO:

(IS TEN RACES ENOUGH TO SHOW YOU ARE A GOOD CUP DRIVER?)

"I hope so. It's all I have so I have to make the best of it. I think Centrex will be a full time sponsor in NEXTEL Cup in 2005 because I think it would be a perfect fit for the company. They're given me 10 races to prove I can do it and that's more than I've ever got. It's better than two races. I put more pressure on myself more than any sponsor could, so I'm looking forward to this."

(HOW DOES IT FEEL COMING INTO SPEEDWEEKS THIS YEAR?)

"We've worked hard and we've made it. Now the real hard work starts because we're racing against some 42 other animals. I'm excited. I've made it. I've set goals for myself that are realistic and I'm looking forward to it."

(WHAT ARE YOUR GOALS FOR THE 500?)

"My number one goal is to make the race, then to make the checkered flag. And, then, if I can be in the Top 20, it would be like a win for my first one."

(WHEN YOU GOT THROUGH LAST YEAR'S SHOOTOUT, DO YOU THINK IT HELPED YOUR IMAGE AS BEING MORE THAN JUST A ROAD RACER?)

"I think doing so well surprised a lot of people. I got more people telling me what a great job I did there than people telling me what a good job I did getting the pole at Sonoma. I was pretty proud of that. My biggest fear going into that race last year was to cause a big wreck and take out a bunch of regulars. I didn't want to that. I wanted to look like I belonged in the draft and gain some respect. The first 20 laps of the race I was scared to death and didn't think I belonged. I thought I was going to wreck. But somehow, in that race, it turned into fun. It's crazy out there. It's like playing chess in a minefield with people shooting at you. It's not a lot of driving but you have to concentrate and there's a lot of chaos going on."

DAVE BLANEY, NO. 07 JACK DANIELS CHEVROLET MONTE CARLO:

(ARE YOU ANXIOUS TO GET GOING THIS YEAR?)

"I didn't do a whole lot of racing last year. I ran some dirt races here and there and ran maybe a dozen Cup races. We'll be ready to go. I've been ready to go since December. I wasn't looking forward to the off-season at all."

(WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO YOU TO BE ABLE TO RACE IN THE CUP SERIES NOW WITH THIS OPPORTUNITY?)

"It means a ton. The teams I drove for were fine but a team like this has a winning reputation that has won races and championships. That's what a driver looks for, whether it is here or in sprint cars or whatever. You look for the best car and best team you can. I would have felt bad if I went through some NASCAR years without this chance. I wouldn't have felt like I had the best shot possible. But now we've got it and we've got to make the most of it."

(HOW WAS TESTING?)

"It's going pretty well. Down here (Daytona) it was as expected and it was hard to learn a whole lot. I thought we learned out at the Vegas and California test. I was pretty happy with our car at Vegas; California wasn't so good. Between the three teams we did a lot, so hopefully we can apply that when we get back."

(HAVE YOU BEEN ABLE TO TAKE ADVANTAGE OF LEARNING FROM YOUR TEAMMATES?)

"All I can. It's hard to do unless we're at the race track. You know, there's not much you can learn sitting there in the race shop. It kind of applies at the track, going through situations on the track or mechanically with the cars. The more we race, the more that will help me out."

JASON LEFFLER, NO. 11 FEDEX CHEVROLET MONTE CARLO

(EXPLAIN THE CHANGE IN THE RULES AND HOW THE DIFFERENCE HAS CHANGED THE FEEL OF THE CAR)

"I don't think it's that big of a deal. It's a change for everybody. We're a new team and it's a change for everyone on our team. Preseason testing is going very well. Everyone is working really well and between the teammates it's working great. Having Tony Stewart and Bobby Labonte around is great for me, especially this time of the season. Having FedEx on board is great because they are so excited about going racing."

(DID THE CAR FEEL LIKE YOU IMAGINED?)

"At Vegas and California the tires fall off so quickly, it's almost like being at Darlington or Rockingham. But it's fun to drive that way.

"Your car starts sliding around five laps into a run and you're constantly changing and looking for traction and grip. It's fun to race that way."

(HOW IMPORTANT IS IT TO HAVE TONY STEWART TO GUIDE YOU?)

"It's very important. It's an awesome situation for me. I have two championship-winning drivers as teammates and you can't go to a lot of organizations and say that. I get along with both Bobby and Tony very well. We've got a lot of veterans around the shop at Joe Gibbs Racing. It's really great."

"STEWART MADE A GREAT ADJUSTMENT WHEN HE MOVED OVER TO NASCAR. HAS HE BEEN ABLE TO HELP YOU WITH YOUR ADJUSTMENT?"

"One good point is that we have a similar background. Tony and I have been friends for a long time and he's helped my career up to this point. So not only does he know my background, but he knows my driving style and probably some of my weaknesses. So, he helps me with a lot of things. It's a comfortable situation to be in, to know that you have someone like that to go to ask questions."

(DID YOU THINK THAT YOUR CHANCE TO RACE IN THE CUP SERIES WAS OVER?)

"Sure. Last year I worried even running as well as we did in the Busch Series. You just never know. You don't want to take anything for granted and you have to be appreciative for the opportunities you get. I realized that when I had to go to the Truck Series and the Busch Series. To come back with Joe Gibbs Racing and FedEx, if you would have asked me that question last year, I probably would have said I don't know. I really would have said, 'not at this level. Not with Joe Gibbs and FedEx." I'm happier than I've been in a long time."

(HOW MUCH CONFIDENCE DO YOU HAVE THIS YEAR?)

"I have a lot of confidence. I've been to a few different teams, seeing how they operate. Every team operates differently, obviously. Gibbs is one of the top teams in the sport and the way they treat their people and the organization they have, resources they have and their commitment to winning is second to none. My confidence is up right now. I've got a great crew chief with Dave Rogers. We've got a bunch of veteran guys on our crew. We've got a great sponsor.

"So, there are no negatives to this deal at all. We're ready to get on the track and get rolling. I'm ready to prove to people that I can do this."

(IS THERE ANYTHING YOU FEEL IS WEAK ON YOUR TEAM OR THAT YOU'D LIKE TO IMPROVE UPON?)

"I don't know if there is anything weaker. The fact that we don't have any points and we've got to make the first five races on time is the part that concerns us a team. We've got to pray we don't run into any weather problems. We know we have the speed. But you know, we can't help it if we go to Atlanta and it rains out qualifying. Once we get past the first five races and get locked into that top 35, everyone will feel a lot better." KYLE BUSCH, NO. 5 KELLOGG'S CHEVROLET MONTE CARLO:

(IS THERE AN ADDED EXTRA PRESSURE ON YOU THIS FIRST SEASON?)

"Not really. There's probably a lot I put on myself but I'm looking forward to the results this year."

(HOW ARE YOU DIFFERENT FROM YOUR BROTHER?)

"I don't know. I'm sure there are ways but I couldn't tell you how different. We're somewhat different and there are a lot of things I've learned from him and I'm sure there are things he's learned from me."

(HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT THE START OF THS SEASON?)

"It's a big deal. We've got the 500 coming up and I look forward to coming out and being up front somewhere. I'm probably going to have to work a lot to get the other guys to work with me in the 150s to get some chemistry."

(HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT THE SIZE OF DAYTONA?)

"My mom and I were down here visiting family and my brother was with us and we did the infield tour. This place is amazing, you go to Turn 1 and Turn 2 and look down to the other side and you can hardly see it."

(HOW MANY TIMES HAVE YOU BEEN HERE?)

"I was here when I was eight years old, then for my brother's Truck Series race and then his Busch Series race and then last year for my ARCA race."

(DO YOU FEEL ANY PRESSURE BEING A BROTHER OF A CHAMPION?)

"I think it's a good thing. Being able to come here and have his help is great. Terry's been there, Jeff has and Jimmie's been there almost twice. I have a lot people who I can learn from."

(WHAT ARE YOU GOALS?

"I'm looking forward to getting the chance to win a race, win a pole and run up front. We're just trying to get the chemistry right now within our team."

(WOULD YOU LIKE TO MODEL YOUR SEASON AFTER YOUR BROTHER'S PAST SEASONS?)

"I'd love to able to do that. If I could get some top 5 and top 10 finishes I'd be ecstatic. Obviously you're always looking for your first win and we're looking to doing the best we can."

(IS THERE A SENSE OF COMFORT IN COMING INTO HENDRICK AS A ROOKIE?)

"There's definitely an easier opportunity for me to have the chance to run up front. Working with those guys is great. Being able to communicate on a regular basis will be important."

(YOU SEEM PRETTY COMFORTABLE HERE)

"This is a fun place. Last year we ran the ARCA race here and came out on top. It was fun to do that. Coming in as a young kid, it's a great atmosphere. It's really neat. Working with the guys I work with on the race track is a great experience."

(WHAT DOES IT FEEL LIKE TO DO YOUR FIRST DAYTONA 500?)

"It's fun. It's such a big deal and come out for your first Daytona 500. Putting yourself out there is one thing and then running up front is another. So you have to work on your drafting and the veterans can help me to do that."

(HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT RACING ON THE TRACK IN PARTICULAR?)

"There are pros and cons to it. There are times when you can't avoid things that go on the track. Stuff can happen 10 rows in front of you and you can't slow down or you can be past it and someone can get sideways behind you and hit you in the quarter panel. There are just so many different scenarios out there in racing. If you could predict the future it wouldn't be racing.

(WHAT ARE YOU WORKING ON TO DEVELOP A GOOD FIRST SEASON?)

"I'm trying to develop a chemistry with my crew chief so we can work on running up front on a consistent basis. We're trying to get Top 5s and Top 10s. If we get the opportunity to get in the top 10 and contend for the chase it would be great. But we're hoping we're in the top 15, top 20."

-gm racing-

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Bobby Labonte , Tony Stewart
Teams Joe Gibbs Racing