Daytona Media Day - Yeley




LAST SEASON YOU LEARNED A LOT ABOUT WRECKING. HOW WILL THAT APPLY THIS YEAR? "Well, by obviously not wrecking because I got that out of my system last year. I'm just glad that 2006 is over with. It was by far the hardest season I've ever had in my racing career. There was a lot of good things that still came out of it but the end result was that we finished 30th in points; we had a lot of wrecks. It seemed like we couldn't get the breaks we needed in order to get the track position in order to be successful. To me the biggest key is showing up at the race track with the car that is going to be close to what I want as far as the way it's going to drive. I think qualifying is going to be a lot more critical this year than it was last year. Something we learned into the year last year is that track position makes a difference in everything. If you stay up front you can work on your car; keep the balance a little bit closer so you have something good to drive in the end."

DO YOU THINK THAT PEOPLE ARE MORE ACCEPTING NOW OF PEOPLE FROM DIFFERENT RACING VENUES? "I think it probably is. NASCAR has changed so much in the last five years because you don't have as many of the good old Southern boys as you used to. Jeff Gordon or Jimmie Johnson or myself come from the west coast and so many different racing series. It's a matter of the best drivers want to come to NASCAR to show their talents and its more accepted that an IndyCar guy can come here and give it a shot. So I'm thankful for that and I know a lot of the other drivers are too. We just want to prove ourselves on the race track."

HOW MUCH PRESSURE IS ON YOU TO WIN THIS YEAR? "I know that I have all the equipment and things I need to be successful on the race track and last year I think the team caught a lot of pressure that we need to make changes. I think it just comes down to chemistry. Obviously Denny and Mike Ford work together right out of the box. I know me and Steve Addington worked very good with each other; I know that that wasn't so much the problem, we just weren't 100%. The Nextel Cup series is so difficult that you can't show up with 80% and stand a chance from the get-go. We've made some changes internally and I feel this is more my team now then maybe the guys that were running the Bobby Labonte era. So it's a change and I think it's the right change."

HOW WAS YOUR BUSCH TEST? "The Busch test went well. It had a little bit different thing going to the race track, not showing up driving a Joe Gibbs Racing car. Making the switch to Phoenix Racing in the Busch Series is a little bit different but it's the only other opportunity I had to run for another championship and I guess I had too much time on the side to spend if I wasn't doing some kind of racing."

DO YOU THINK MONTOYA CAN WIN THIS YEAR? "I think he's got as much opportunity as the rest of us have to win. Obviously his stock-car experience has been very limited but at the same time the guys at Ganassi have done everything they can to give him good race cars and put him in the Busch Series. Obviously he's got a ton of talent; he's won the Indianapolis 500 and he's won races in Formula One. At some point I'm sure he'll win a NASCAR race. To say he'll do it this year would probably be pretty difficult but stranger things have happened."

THIS YEAR HAS A LOT OF CHANGES COMING. WHAT WILL THE BIGGEST CHALLENGE BE? "The Car of Tomorrow will be the biggest challenge for everybody. With the way the cars are structured, with some of the pieces and packages the cars have I know just talking with crew chiefs it's going to be a bigger headache than any of the restrictor-plate racing has ever been. The guys show up a day early to go through templates for the Daytona and Talladega cars and I think because the rules are so tight on the Car of Tomorrow it's just going to be a huge headache for the guys. Hopefully the racing is going to be better; I see that it probably won't just driving the car a little bit but time will tell. I think there's just going to be a lot more caution laps while they pick up spoilers and splitter bars and whatever else."

DO YOU FEEL LIKE YOUR TEAM HAS WHAT IT TAKES TO BE SUCCESFUL? "I think we're going to be really good. Joe Gibbs Racing has one of the stronger engineering departments of any of the teams. That is going to be the most crucial part. I know teams like Roush are the ones that have struggled on the engineering side; Joe Gibbs Racing, Hendrick, some of those teams are very heavily padded in that area. From the way the car is driven. I know the car I drove was one of the faster cars. I know that when Denny drove he was the fastest car so we're definitely looking forward to the Car of Tomorrow races but from the competitive side it's not so much about driving them."

WILL THE NEW CAR GIVE YOU GUYS AN EDGE? "It's an edge for us as a team; as a driver having limited experience with stock cars it's going to help me a bunch. I'm not racing against Mark Martins or Jeff Burtons, guys that have been serious for 15 years that have gone to all these race tracks and done the same thing week in and week out. We're all starting from scratch. I think it's also something that helps Toyota a little bit too, because they're not 25 or 30 years behind on technology. They start with a new piece like everyone else?"

DO YOU SEE HENRICK DOMINATING RACES WITH THE CURRENT CAR AND THEN OTHER TEAMS DOMINATING COT RACES? "I think there's a chance. No matter how you look at it the Toyota teams are going to be really strong because of their engineering background. As a company they talk more about their engineering side than they do about anything else. So they're going to come out with their guns blazing because they're coming into the series and it's going to be their best opportunity to win a race. Not being with some of the more established teams is going to be more difficult for them but everyone at Joe Gibbs Racing and Chevrolet is going to do our best that we stay out front."

CAN YOU COMPARE CHALLENGES OF DRIVING SPRINT CARS TO CUP? "Not really. Driving sprint cars and midgets is easier because you can take a car that's not handling and change your groove on a race track and possibly win the race. It's really difficult to do that in stock car. It's all about really working with the crew chief and with every pit stop, making your car better. You don't have those opportunities at a race with only 30 laps; you have to drive the wheels off the best you can. That's been something that's been a little more difficult for me is telling Steve Addington how far to go on changes, maybe sometimes going too far. Just to make sure at the end of the race we're where we need to be. It seems like any time you get behind it takes too long to catch back up. If you lose that track position it's so critical to get it back. Sometimes you have to take chances to get it back and sometimes you don't get the calls or the cautions you need to get it so it's just trying to make the right changes at the right times."

IF NASCAR MOVED THE BUDWEISER SHOOTOUT TO THE BEACH COURSE, WHO WOULD WE SEE DO WELL? "Obviously anyone that's been on dirt. Tony Stewart would be one of the key guys to beat. Kenny Schrader, I don't know how long it's been since Jeff Gordon's been on dirt but he used to be pretty good when he used to do it. It's pretty hard to tell. There's probably a lot of guys that could be good on dirt but have never tried it or done it. I know that when Tony Stewart has his 'Prelude to a Dream' at Eldora; a lot of NASCAR guys jump on a plane and head there to try their shot at a Late Model. I know that I was pretty surprised by the way Kurt Busch drove a Late Model on dirt. You'd be pretty surprised who might go out there and be competitive."

-credit: gm racing

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Jeff Burton , Jeff Gordon , Bobby Labonte , Tony Stewart , Kurt Busch , Jimmie Johnson , Mark Martin
Teams Joe Gibbs Racing , Phoenix Racing