There will be four Ford teams competing in Saturday night's Budweiser Shootout. David Gilliland, Boris Said, Ken Schrader and Greg Biffle all spoke about the start to the 2007 season during yesterday's NASCAR media day. *** DAVID GILLILAND --...
There will be four Ford teams competing in Saturday night's Budweiser Shootout. David Gilliland, Boris Said, Ken Schrader and Greg Biffle all spoke about the start to the 2007 season during yesterday's NASCAR media day.
DAVID GILLILAND -- No. 38 M&M's Ford Fusion
YOUR THOUGHTS ON BEING IN THE BUD SHOOTOUT. "It's very exciting. First of all, just pulling in here last night to actually come here and race at a place I've watched on TV my whole life and dreamed of racing, so we're very excited. Todd Parrott and I and the whole team are really excited about using the Bud Shootout to get some good racing experience for the 500 being that I've never raced here, so I think it's a big advantage to have the shootout to race in, let alone we feel like we have car good enough to win the shootout also. Hopefully, if everything goes right -- first and foremost -- we're gonna use it for experience and if everything goes right, just go ahead and go for the win."
TESTING AT HOMESTEAD WAS BIG FOR YOU. HOW MUCH WILL TESTS AT DAYTONA AND VEGAS HELP GET YOU OFF TO A GOOD START? "I feel like Homestead really turned our program around. I learned a lot as far as feel-wise what I needed in the race car. Then we came here and tested and had a very good test and then we had a great test at Vegas as well and that's all just carried over from Homestead. We improved on it over the off-season and now going to Vegas we had an awesome test, I think we were third-fast, so I feel really good about our speedway and intermediate program and we're working very hard on the car of tomorrow."
DO YOU FEEL RYR IS BETTER PREPARED FOR THE PLATE RACES OR OPEN RACES? "I feel like we're equally prepared this year. I feel like last year when I went there they were better prepared for the restrictor-plate races, but with Todd Parrott and Butch Hylton working really closely together on the chassis side, I think towards the end of the year showed the direction our intermediate program was going, and I think that the Vegas test showed another sign of where it's still going. I'm very excited about it."
ARE YOU EXCITED ABOUT YOUR POLE CHANCES? "Yeah, I'm real excited. Todd Parrott has had a lot of success at Daytona and Talladega -- a whole lot at Daytona -- and he's really excited. He has a lot of confidence in the car and that gives me a lot of confidence coming here. He had a lot of confidence going to Talladega and we had some good results come out of there, so I have 100 percent trust in him and he's pretty confident, so we're excited and looking forward to qualifying here."
WHAT ARE YOU EXPECTING FROM THE SHOOTOUT? "I'm expecting to learn a lot and gain some racing experience here at Daytona. We got to test and we got to draft, but the most cars we ever drafted with was like eight cars, so I'm looking to learn as much as I can and gain as much experience as I can and put that towards the 500."
HOW MUCH HAS YOUR LIFE CHANGED SINCE GETTING THE CUP DEAL? "It's changed in every way you could imagine, but it's definitely gotten a lot busier. I just don't get to spend as much time at home with my family as I'd like, but it's busy. I've got a part-time Busch deal I'm doing now too, as well as a full-time Cup ride, so I'm learning a lot and that's what I need to do. I feel like that's the position I need to put myself in is to be able to learn as much as I can in as short a period as I can to be able to stay in the Nextel Cup Series. That's my first and foremost goal."
HAVE YOU BOUGHT A PLANE OR MOTORHOME? "No, I bought a motorhome, but it's not as fancy as the rest of them. I was just talking to my motorhome driver last night about how you could need more, but I'm just saving a little bit. Like I said, first and foremost is I want to make sure I can stay here."
WHERE WERE YOU A YEAR AGO WHILE WE WERE ALL HERE AT MEDIA DAY? "I was working 15-18 hours a day in our Busch shop in Statesville (NC) trying to build race cars to run a 15-race Busch schedule. We did a good job on those cars and were able to win at Kentucky and it's just snowballed from there. Originally with our Busch deal -- the 84 car last year -- our original plans were to come to Daytona and when we couldn't I was heartbroken. Billy Wilburn was my crew chief and he said, 'This is a place that when you come here, you want to be 100 percent prepared,' and we wouldn't have been. But now with Todd Parrott on our Cup side, I feel that we're every bit 100 percent prepared, so I'm excited and we'll see what we can bring out of here."
HOW MANY GUYS FROM THAT GROUP HAVE MOVED ON? "Pretty much everybody that was there. Billy acquired a great group of people. I brought some people out here from California with me that I thought were the best out there and they've all gone on to get great jobs. It's sad for the team because it's not here, but as far as all the people that were involved with it, they've all gone on and got really good jobs and we're all still very, very good friends."
DOES RACING AT THIS LEVEL MEET YOUR EXPECTATIONS? "Yeah, it does. It's a lot busier. The biggest thing that caught me off guard was the off-season. I figured we'd have a little bit of an off-season, but I was busier during the off-season than I am in the racing season. As I talk to more and more drivers, they say they're all like that. I don't think I went more than two weeks without being in a race car the whole off-season. It was more like usually every week we were in a car, testing the car of tomorrow and Busch tests and Cup tests. It was very busy, but I feel really prepared to get the season started right now."
HOW DO YOU LIKE THE COT? "I like it. We've been making some great strides and big improvements on our car of tomorrow program. I'm looking forward to that Bristol test and really see where we're at."
DOES TIME PASS JUST AS FAST NOW AS WHEN YOU WERE WORKING ON THE CARS? "Yeah, it does. It's just a different type of work. I'm used to building my own cars. That's what I've always done. I've always set up my own cars and worked in the shop and now I can't do that, but you're every bit as busy -- it's just a different busy and doing different kinds of things. I'm just getting used to it. I'm very thankful that I had those last 14 races last year. I think it's really helped me open my eyes to that type of stuff with being busy and how to manage your time and everything else. I'm looking forward to using that to get us off to a great start this year."
DID THE VETERANS WORK WITH YOU DURING THE TEST? "I thought everybody worked with me really well. I worked with Casey Mears -- with Hendrick -- his car was really good. I worked with Ricky a lot and his car was really fast, so I worked with a lot of cars. That's what it's all about. It's just getting in there and building their confidence. Talladega, I think that was the first and foremost goal coming out of there was just to build everybody's confidence around us to where they would work with us. We went 500 miles without causing a problem, without getting into any trouble and we finished respectably. That was our main goal and that's gonna be our main goal through the shootout and the 150s because the 500 is the big picture for us."
RICKY HAS BEEN IMPRESSED WITH YOU. HOW DOES HAVING HIM AS A TEAMMATE HELP YOU? "It's a very positive addition for Robert Yates Racing and myself. I've leaned on him and got more out of him in the month or so that he's been there than I've ever got out of anybody else ever helping me. I'm just very surprised at how open he is to helping me. As a rookie, I can't tell you how much it means like when you go to a test somewhere and you get out of the car and you can go straight to someone like Ricky and ask him a question and have it answered right then and there. You're not going throughout the day still wondering and then you go to sleep and you wake up and you're still wondering. That's kind of how I was last year and this year with having Ricky he's just a phone call away if he's not at the test, and he's been a tremendous help for me. I'm really honored to have to opportunity to work with him this year."
WHAT DOES THE DAYTONA 500 MEAN TO YOU? "It's something we look forward to and definitely watched every year. It's something you dream about doing. Pulling in here last night and seeing the lights on the wall down on one and two and thinking we're actually gonna be here and not only get to race it, but get to race it with a team that has had a huge amount of success here, I wouldn't want to come here driving any other car as far as the opportunity to have a fast car."
WHAT WOULD IT MEAN TO WIN? "It would definitely mean the world to me. Just being here is very exciting, but I feel like our chances as a team -- I think Robert Yates Racing is headed in the right direction and I think it wouldn't be out of the question to have a great possibility of winning that race at all."
HOW IS YOUR CONFIDENCE LEVEL NOW VERSUS WHEN YOU STARTED LAST YEAR? "My confidence level is much, much better. When I went there, first off you're going in and running at the Cup level, which I only dreamt about doing and then with Robert Yates Racing, they weren't exactly where they wanted to be as a team and they were in a rebuilding process, but that was attractive to me as a driver coming because when you go to a team like that, which is in a rebuilding stage, they're gonna build it around you. I had some opportunities to go to some other teams and they're not gonna change anything for David Gilliland coming in, so that was the attractive thing for me. I think we've changed. We've built new cars. They've built cars around what I think I need and Todd Parrott needs and towards the end of the year I really felt our team took a big step and the two tests that we've had so far shows that our team is going in the right direction. Now with Ricky Rudd as a teammate, we're working very, very closely. Todd and Butch Hylton, the crew chiefs, are working super-closely and it's working how a team should work now."
KEN SCHRADER -- No. 21 Little Debbie's Ford Fusion
HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT THIS YEAR RUNNING A LIMITED SCHEDULE? "I'll probably run more races than I've ever run because I've got 10 weekends more that I can run my dirt car and stuff. I wouldn't say the best (year of his life). I haven't had any bad years. They've all been pretty much fun. I thought a limited schedule would tear me apart, but it's not bothering me too much."
IS IT NICE TO KNOW YOU'RE ALWAYS GOING TO BE IN THE BUD SHOOTOUT? "Yeah, it is. It's neat to use a test, but unlike old times, we don't use the same car. Very seldom is it even our backup car. It's usually a car that comes down for that and then goes back, so it's not a terrific advantage. Now if you've got two cars that really react the same in testing and you get that extra hour and 45 minutes drafting practice, then there's some of that stuff you can transfer over to your 500 car. And if your car runs good in the shootout, just keep that baby close and if you have trouble in the twins, you know you've got that thing for the 500."
DOES IT HELP JUST TO WORK THE BUGS OUT AS A TEAM? "Yeah, they've been practicing and practicing, but that's not like 100,000 people watching. Just getting those first couple of pit stops out of the way is a little bit of an advantage."
DO YOU HAVE SOME SORT OF ENERGY GENE NOBODY ELSE HAS? "No, I messed myself up this week because I slept for four nights in a row and that's messing me up. It's making me more tired. I don't know. When you're doing what you enjoy doing, you can keep doing it a long time."
WHAT KIND OF ADJUSTMENTS WILL JON WOOD HAVE TO MAKE WHEN HE STARTS RUNNING CUP? "The distance of the races. When he's usually ready to call it quits and take a shower, he's halfway there now, and how focused everybody stays and how intense it stays through the whole day. It's just the level of intensity. These guys get paid more and they take it a lot more serious."
ANYTHING YOU CAN DO TO HELP HIM WITH THAT? "You just have to experience it."
HOW CLOSE ARE THE WOOD BROTHERS TO GETTING BACK TO VICTORY LANE? "I think they've got a plan laid out to put them back there and I think the first couple steps have been completed. One was when they stood up there in Virginia and said, 'You know what, we've got to get to Charlotte.' And the second one being when they were in Charlotte and they said, 'This is fine. We're in Charlotte, but we're a single-car team. We've got to step up.' Then when they joined forces with Jody and Tad Gescheckter, and now they're running the full Cup deal with the 21 car, the two Busch cars, the two Trucks. We have a limited schedule set up with the 47 car this year in Cup -- just laying out the plan to grow the operation where it has all the resources to get itself back because without those resources, it would be real hard for a one-car team just to go fast enough to get it back in Victory Lane. With them understanding the business like they do, it was either step up or just say it was a good ride and do something else, and they decided to step up, so I think that was a huge commitment. It's not gonna happen overnight, but they have started the steps to put it there."
DOES THIS YEAR SEEM MUCH DIFFERENT WITH ALL THE RULE CHANGES? "I don't see where it's any different than it ever has been. It's simple, the guy that does the best is gonna be champion. You run a whole bunch of top 10s, you're gonna be it the top 10. The points was a tweak -- a good tweak. I think everybody likes it, but it was a tweak. A couple of years ago when they did the chase, that was a huge change but I think it was good for us and I didn't like it when they announced it -- just because all the other sports have playoffs. This one, I think, was a better playoff because it took your 10-game average. You can win every game all year in some sports and go to the first playoff game and lose and you're out, so it's a 10-game average, which is how our championship has always been determined. The car of tomorrow, when you sit in the grandstand and those are the only 43 cars out there, you're not gonna know the difference until you look at the rear spoiler. Toyota coming in, it's just like when Dodge came in a couple years ago. Dodge is owned by Mercedes and that doesn't seem to be as big of a problem as Toyota, but Toyota came in and built a car and engine to NASCAR's specifications, so more power to them. I think it will be good for us."
-credit: ford racing