Todd Bodine and Joe Nemechek have been friends off the race track for a number of years and this season they will be teammates for Haas/Carter Motorsports. The two drivers spoke about returning to the track and their hopes for Daytona ...
Todd Bodine and Joe Nemechek have been friends off the race track for a number of years and this season they will be teammates for Haas/Carter Motorsports. The two drivers spoke about returning to the track and their hopes for Daytona Speedweeks.
TODD BODINE --66-- Blue Light Special/Kmart Taurus
HOW DOES IT FEEL TO BE BACK TESTING? "I'm really pleased. I've got one car we're real happy with. I haven't had a car that I've been this happy with since I came down here with the 75 car in 1994. I don't think it's a pole-sitting car, but, knock on wood, when we massage on it a little more I think it can be a top-10 qualifying car. Last year, we qualified something like 38th. We knew we didn't have a car that qualified, but then we went out and did what we had to do in the 125. I was fifth on the white-flag lap, but I got knocked out of the way and ended up not making the race, so you've got to have a good qualifying time because you never know what's gonna happen in the 125. We did everything we had to do in that race and somebody else took us out. You can't count on that to get you in, so you've got to have a good qualifying time and I think we've got a car to do it this year."
HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT TESTING WITH YOUR TEAMMATE THIS WEEK? WOULD IT BE MORE BENEFICIAL IF YOU WERE TESTING THIS WEEK AND JOE NEXT WEEK? "There are benefits in both ways of doing it. It's beneficial with both of us because if we find something that works, like we just did after this first practice session, Joe and Donnie can put it on their car and see if it works for them. The downside is that if you massage for three days and get a car that's really fast, when your teammate goes the following week they can work three more days with what you've done and learn more. It's almost like getting a six-day test, so there are pluses or minuses to doing it."
HOW DOES IT FEEL TO BE BACK IN THE RACE CAR? "I walked in today and somebody had their car running and when I smelled those fumes it was like a shot in the arm. I was ready to go right them."
DO YOU WISH THE BREAK WAS LONGER? "You always wish it was longer, but for a race car driver who loves racing a week off is enough. I tell you, as hard as the season is getting, I was ready for some time off. What people don't think about and realize is what the crews goes through. It's hard on these crews and their family life. We're trying to make it easier on our group and trying to do the things we can to get them at home so they can spend time with their families, but it's just so hard to do with the way the schedule is."
NOTHING AGAINST JIMMY SPENCER, BUT IS JOE A BETTER FIT AS A TEAMMATE FOR YOU? "I love Jimmy. He's a great guy and a lot of fun to be with, but as a teammate it couldn't have been a worse fit. He liked totally different things in his cars. We weren't the same size, so we couldn't get in each other's car. There were just so many things that didn't work and with Joe it's almost like the exact opposite. It seems like through our whole careers that whenever we were talking shop away from the track, it seemed that Joe has always liked the same things I've liked. He can get in my car. It's a little tight, but he can get in and drive it and I can get in his car and drive it. The one thing that I've always admired Joe for is his ability as a racer, not just a driver but as a racer. His understanding of the cars from a technical standpoint is incredible. He's really smart. His speedway record will tell you that. He knows speedways like the back of his hand and how to make the car run, so, hopefully, that will help our program."
IS THERE A LEARNING CURVE HE WILL HAVE TO GO THROUGH SWITCHING FROM CHEVROLET TO FORD? "I don't think so. When you get a car that's right aerodynamically, whether it be a Ford or a Chevy or a Dodge, it's balanced. You hear the word balance all the time and that means the car is equal from one end to the other and when you get a car balanced, it's balanced. They do react a little differently in the draft here at Daytona and Talladega, but we've talked about it and we'll talk about it some more. I don't think it's gonna be a big deal for him. The one thing that Joe is really looking forward to is having Robert Yates motors. Look what I did and I'm not a great qualifier. I think we had seven front row starts last year, so it's definitely nice to have and he's looking forward to that."
WHAT'S IT GOING TO TAKE TO GET YOU IN VICTORY LANE? "I don't think there's just one thing you can put your finger on and say, 'This is what's gonna get us in victory lane,' because if it was, we'd go to work fixing it. Last year we had great motors. I can't complain about them in the least bit. We've got really good race cars. They're built well and the bodies, aerodynamically, are really good. We struggled a little bit with pit stops, but we've got that fixed. Everytime we had a car that could put us in victory lane, we'd make a mistake. Whether it would be a pit call or a chassis call or whatever, we wouldn't get the most out of the car. That's what we've got to stop doing."
JOE NEMECHEK --26-- Big Kmart Taurus
HOW DOES IT FEEL TO START A SEASON IN SOMETHING NEW? "It's definitely new. I'm really excited about being over here. This is a good team. I know Jimmy Spencer ran very well with the Kmart car last year. This is my first time in a Ford, but the team has run so good that it's just a great opportunity to come and get into a ride like this. I know they've changed the rules around a little bit for speedway racing and it's gonna take a little time to get all of that stuff figured out and see where everything needs to end up, but we've just got to start working together and get a direction."
DO YOU ANTICIPATE ANY SORT OF EXTENDED LEARNING CURVE MOVING FROM A CHEVROLET TO A FORD? "I don't think so. I think it's gonna be very easy. Getting the communication going with the team is gonna be the most important, I think. We've done one test already at a short track just working on things and that turned out very good. Restrictor plate racing can be frustrating when you don't run well and we're just trying to get a baseline right now. We've got a couple more days to go after it and we'll just keep working hard."
WHAT ABOUT WORKING WITH TODD BODINE? "Todd and I are good friends and I think a lot of the stuff we communicate is gonna be the same. I think it's gonna make for a good two-car team because the communication factor is such a big deal. There are a lot of places I run good and a lot of places he runs good, so we can just share information that will help both of us."
DO YOU LIKE TESTING WITH TODD HERE THIS WEEK OR WOULD YOU BENEFIT MORE BY TESTING SEPARATELY? "With restrictor plate racing it's all about aerodynamics and working on the cars to get them to go through the air good. We're just getting started. We've only had a couple of hours on the race track, but having his team here is probably good because it seems like the 66 has run better at some of the speedway races than the 26, so it kind of gives us a gauge to go off."
Ricky Craven, driver of the No. 32 Tide Taurus, was 37th in the morning practice session and 39th in the afternoon. He spoke about returning to the track and the speeds that were posted today.
RICKY CRAVEN --32-- Tide Taurus
HOW DOES IT FEEL JUST TO GET BACK IN A RACE CAR AGAIN AFTER A FEW WEEKS OFF? "It's great. I think this is a great illustration of how well things went last year, especially the second half of last year. Although the off-season, so to speak was short, nobody here complained about it. Yesterday, the plane ride down here was the most enjoyable we've ever had in terms of optimism and attitude. I know that's important in this business and I think that's gonna help us early on."
DOES TODAY MEAN ANYTHING FROM A SPEED STANDPOINT? DOES THAT OPTIMISM DISAPPEAR AFTER SEEING WHERE YOU ARE ON THE SPEED CHART? "There's no question that you'd rather see yourself at the head of the class. We're going to get there, but I don't know how long that's gonna take. It might take a day or two, or maybe a little longer, but I know these guys can do it. Obviously, by looking at the speed chart there's an imbalance. I think the Fords are right around 18th and back, but it's bound to balance out."
DO YOU JUST GO ABOUT YOUR BUSINESS AND PUT YOUR FAITH IN NASCAR KNOWING THEY'RE GOING TO KEEP THE COMPETITION CLOSE? "Yeah, I believe they're fairly evaluating it and will fairly evaluate it because, ultimately, they're challenge is to find parity among all the manufacturers. In a perfect world, they would like to see a different manufacturer in each of the top five spots, but we just have to keep focussing on what we have to work with. We have two great cars. One is brand new and has a lot of potential and a car that was proven last year -- that ran well with the other package. I feel positive that things are gonna work in the right direction for us."
DO YOU LIKE TESTING WITH THE OTHER MANUFACTURERS HERE? "Yeah, I do because you don't have the issue of weather and conditions. It is what it is, so that's nice. It appears that the Chevrolets are fast, but before we get back in February we'll have a greater understanding of where we're at and what we need to do."