Six Chargers in Top 10 in Final Practice Session Jeremy Mayfield led the way in the No. 19 Dodge Dealers/UAW Dodge Charger as six Dodge drivers posted top-10 speeds in Wednesday's final Cup practice session. Mayfield and Sterling Marlin were...
Six Chargers in Top 10 in Final Practice Session
Jeremy Mayfield led the way in the No. 19 Dodge Dealers/UAW Dodge Charger as six Dodge drivers posted top-10 speeds in Wednesday's final Cup practice session. Mayfield and Sterling Marlin were 1-2, followed by Rusty Wallace and Kasey Kahne, fourth and fifth fastest, respectively. Rookie Travis Kvapil was seventh and Casey Mears was 10th fastest.
STERLING MARLIN (No. 40 Coors Light Dodge Charger)
"We just got a good pull. The car drives good and we haven't had any tire trouble. I feel good about the car. It doesn't suck up quite as good as it used to, but I don't guess anyone else's does, either."
RUSTY WALLACE (No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge Charger)
"A lot of cars were running the same speed. I saw a lot of cars that were running great in the Bud Shootout struggling out there today. A lot of them were sliding around. I feel real good about my car right now. I'm not going to get cocky about the way it's feeling, but at the very end that's the best I've had it feeling. It stuck to the track. Everybody just wants to keep the rubber on the tires. I don't know how we're going to do that. We're being as kind as we can with camber settings and A-frame links and everything for the right front corner. I think the whole field is doing that right now, backing off their aggressiveness on the right front trying to make it lift. The Charger will run fast. I was about 15 car lengths back, caught a good draft and ran 'em down. I don't think we're at a disadvantage. We're going after it and put that baby up front and get some track position. Handling is going to go away and we're going to strike quick, get up front and try to hold on to it."
KASEY KAHNE (No. 9 Dodge Dealers/UAW Dodge Charger)
"We were tight in the first practice and real loose in the second one. At least we found both sides of it. Now we've got to find a medium and get a good car. We'll throw something at it and see what that does. We've got to keep working on our car and get on the good side of it. We're weren't too strong. I rubbed the wall in the first practice. We just got too tight, and I rubbed it pretty good. We catch up to the pack pretty good, but we weren't all that good in the middle of the pack. We've got a ways to go still."
JAMIE McMURRAY (No. 42 Texaco-Havoline Dodge Charger)
NOTE: McMurray posted the second fastest speed in the first practice session.
"The car was good when we first pulled out, but I think we were like everybody else. We got real tight. Where they put the tunnel in in turn one, it's created a little trouble. The car has a lot of grip and then it loses grip and it gave me a loose sensation getting in the corner and we're trying to work around all that right now. Being second fastest doesn't mean much. It's just a mental thing, but it makes you feel good. The Charger has been our best speedway car since I've been in Cup, so we're going in the right direction. Daytona is so much more about handling than Talladega, so we're trying to get our car where it will turn good."
RAY EVERNHAM (President, CEO Evernham Motorsports)
COMMENT ON KASEY KAHNE "We might be throwing the star thing at him a little fast. He's still got a ways to go. He's handling it good. It's fun to watch him improve every week. He's learning, and every time he goes on the racetrack he learns something else. He gets better and better. You still compare that stuff to last year and you see how much he's improved. Sometimes I don't think he even realizes it, so it's a lot of fun watching him grow. It's not a lot of fun finishing second, but he finished second to a lot of good racecars. I think at some of the places he knows what he could have done to get in position. In fairness to him, at some of those second-place finishes were either all the car had in it that day or some things happened that were really out of his control. I think the biggest thing he's learned is that you've got to take care of that car and be there for the distance."
ARE YOU CONCERNED ABOUT THE TIRES "I don't know what's going on now. We've had a couple of other problems here in this practice. The good thing about that is that we see a lot of things early in the week, not normally this severe, and we see them go away for the race. Hopefully that's what's going to happen this week."
COMMENT ON RULE CHANGES "Really it was pretty calm coming here other than the plate changes. They made a lot of rule changes, but they sent most of those out in September. The gear rule was a big change and the four and a half inch spoiler. Most of the rules were settled in September or October, which helps a great deal. It's always confusing, but hopefully it won't be as confusing. It was confusing just to come here and see the new garage. We're taking it one step at a time. The new qualifying procedure is different but certainly understandable. We'll see. The sport has got to grow. They did a good job growing it last year, so we're just going to follow them for awhile."
COMMENT ON NEW CHARGER "We did a lot of developing. We got to test here a little bit and we're still trying to find out what it wants. Everybody is a little bit tight. We were fighting a little bit of tightest, so at least the Charger is a little bit tight like all the other cars."
COMMENT ON SWITCHING CREW CHIEFS "I think there's benefits, but there's benefits and drawbacks to everything. I don't think we have to consider that yet, but it would be something I'm not opposed to if we don't see the progress we want to see. If you've got one team that as a lot of common knowledge you could spread that knowledge among teams. Personalities have a lot to do with it. Sometimes a guy can be a smart mechanic and an integral part of a team and just not have that chemistry. As the organization gets bigger, sometimes you don't have to go outside your organization to look for people. You could just move around people within your organization. That theory has certainly worked for Jack Roush and Richard Childress and people like that. It's certainly not something I'm opposed to. It's just that we feel like we've got a good combination where we're at."
HOW DO YOU HANDLE THE SEASON-LONG PRESSURE? "You know where you're at. You've just got to not read how great you are in the paper or how much you stink in the paper. You know, and you've got to be able to handle that pressure. If somebody is beating you every week you've got to figure out how to get better. People have expectations. The only good thing about this sport is they've got expectations for about three weeks. If they think you're going to be the greatest for three weeks and you're not, then they expect someone else to be. If they think you're going to stink for three weeks and you don't, then they expect somebody else to. If you're carrying the team to beat expectations for 36 weeks, then you are the team to beat."
WHAT IS THE TOUGHEST PART OF YOUR JOB NOW? "The toughest part is not doing something. The toughest part is not working on the racecar. Just trying to make sure the guys have their resources. That means doing a lot of sponsor things, trying to keep everybody working together, trying to keep everybody focused on the long term vision. Again, the hardest part is not being over there telling them to change this and that. You've got to create a good atmosphere for those people to work and everybody's not the same. You have to make sure they've got some security, that they feel like they're a part of the end result of that car. They've got to be doing what they want. Nobody gets to do 100 percent of what they want every day, but they've got to feel good about what they're doing. There can be realistic pressure, but there can't be unrealistic pressure on people. Which means you can't hold them responsible for what they can't control. You're not going to control everybody. People move around and you can't take it personal."
WHAT'S THE MOST SATISFYING PART OF YOUR JOB? "Watching guys becoming good engineers, guys growing into their own and getting credit for it. Listening to some of them at morning meetings and seeing that they picked up some of the same philosophies I talked about six or seven years ago. It's neat to see that rubbing off other people."
WHAT DOES JEREMY MAYFIELD NEED TO WORK ON TO HAVE A BETTER YEAR? "Consistency. We need to give him better pit stops because we hurt him in the pits last year. Consistency week to week in communication and setups. That's something we've got to work on together. I'm hoping Slugger (crew chief Labbe) can work on that with him (Mayfield) and allow Kenny (team manager Francis) to work on the mechanical parts of the car because that's where he's really good. Hopefully we won't miss the setup and communication like we did last year and we'll give him better pit stops."
WHAT'S THE KEY TO THE RACES TOMORROW? "Motors and aero are always important here, but you've still got to handle. Guys who were handling good the other night in the Budweiser Shootout were up front. Ryan Newman's car is real strong in the draft because it's handling well. The guys who figure out how to use those tires and not abuse them will be up front."
HAS SLUGGER LABBE HELPED WITH YOUR PLATE PROGRAM? "Eric Warren really leads our restrictor-plate development program, but Slugger has added to it. Slugger brought a different way of looking at things. I don't want to change our system, but Slugger has added some detail and brought a different way of setting up the cars. Sometimes it's good to get someone else's opinion. Slugger has done that. He's only bee here a short period of time. We're still not where we need to be with our plate program, but we're getting there."
COMMENT ON PETTY TEAM WITH EVERNHAM ENGINES "Petty has a good organization. I'd love to tell you it's all the Evernham engines, but it isn't. We've been impressed working with them. They've shown us a couple of things. Our guys are sharing stuff. It allows Kyle to work on the things he was working on and maybe just a little partnership with us lets Kyle know he's working on the right things and his place is not screwed up. It's actually a really good organization, and I think you're going to see good things out of them this year. We've brought them up with horsepower and now they can concentrate on other things."