JEREMY MAYFIELD (No. 19 Dodge Dealers/UAW Dodge Intrepid) "It was a great way to start the season, especially after coming off an up and down season last year. I'm very excited about this start. The Daytona 500 was very important, and we're...
JEREMY MAYFIELD (No. 19 Dodge Dealers/UAW Dodge Intrepid)
"It was a great way to start the season, especially after coming off an up and down season last year. I'm very excited about this start. The Daytona 500 was very important, and we're going into this year already in the top10. It might have been worse if we hadn't finished in the top 10. We might not have this momentum going into Rockingham.
"We started off in December with a couple of tests, Talladega and Lakeland, Fla. I was already very excited about going into the Daytona 500. Then we went to January and tested at Daytona and it kept getting better and better. We went down for Speedweeks and we feel like we've been together forever. It's always a good sign when you're thinking alike and speaking the same language. The most important thing these days in Winston Cup racing is communication. We've hit it off well, and we're getting along great.
"We took gas only on the last pit stop. We loosened our car up before the race even started. We thought the track was going to be a little tighter than what it was. The first run I was loose, but nobody panicked. We worked on it during a couple of stops and got it better. Then the first rain delay came and after that we felt like the car was driving great. We put ourselves in position to gamble and take fuel only and no tires. You've got to have a good car in order to be able to do that. Kenny (Francis) had confidence in his call and put us in position to finish in the top 10.
"That goes back to the chemistry we already have going on. He had to have a lot of confidence in me and the car, and I had to have a lot of confidence in him for him to be able to make that call. I felt totally confident the whole race about what we were doing. We didn't panic. That was the main thing. We fell back to 25th or 27th for awhile because we were so loose, but I had a lot of confidence that when I came in on the first pit stop they'd be able to tighten it up and they did.
"I've got to thank all the Dodge Dealers out there for giving me an opportunity to do that (make commercials). I'm pretty fortunate to be able to be in that position, and I had a lot of fun doing it. Dodge got a lot of exposure from it. I think any time you can do something like that it's a good deal. To be successful in Winston Cup racing you've got to learn to do those things. I get nervous. It's pretty embarrassing sometimes to do those things, but you've just got to block it out and focus and realize its part of your job. Over time I've gotten more comfortable at it. I still don't feel like I do a very good job with it, but a lot of people say I look comfortable doing it.
"We have a really neat situation. Kenny (Francis) is the only one I talk to on the radio. We're all part of the decision making, and I think that's what's helped our program. Ray's allowed us to work together as a unit. Kenny relies a lot on me and Josh (engineer Browne) and I rely on them. Overall you've got to have a leader, and Kenny is our leader. He's the one who makes the final decision.
"We all sit down after practice. I might get out of the car and Kenny's there and I explain to him what the car is doing. He's thinking about it. I'll talk to Josh a little bit after I've had a few minutes to think about it, but the ultimate decision goes to Kenny. We don't do anything until the three of us know what's going on. It's never me and Kenny only or Josh and Kenny only. We all talk different sometimes, but it's never a decision made until we all three talk about it.
"This is a little bit of the way I was used to doing this. Sometimes I don't think of something to tell Kenny or Josh and then I'll tell our car chief, Mike. That's what it takes to be successful, having that many good people around you that you can talk to. This is probably the first time I've had this many good people around me that I could talk to and we all relate to each other. That's so important today. In the past, I've had situations myself and the car chief would talk or myself and the engineer, but not everybody was on the same page all the time. This is the first time I've ever been in a situation where everybody is thinking in the same direction.
"I've been here awhile, but you get the urge to make that move you know better. It's important that you have people on the team that trust what the driver is saying. Then the driver, like Sunday when my car was loose I knew that it was early in the race and that goes with patience. I knew we had a good enough car that all we had to do was make it a little tighter. We worked on it and go it fixed. You've got to be aggressively patient sometime.
"I think it's a good rule (no driving below yellow line at Daytona), but I think you also have to be open minded. I think the deal that happened on the 40 car the other day, I know the decision Sterling had to make when he did that. It's a good rule, but you've also got to also got to be open minded about it. It's going to be a judgment on whoever makes that call. I see both sides of it. It's great for us because we don't need to be racing below that thing. There's got to be some kind of fine line, but I'd hate to be the one to make that call.
"It was kind of the situation Sterling got into, especially if you've got cars behind you and you've got momentum rolling. You let off and get hit in the back or run across the grass or maybe take half the field out. Sometimes you don't have a choice. It may have looked like you were doing it trying to gain position, but you're really not. You've got momentum going and all of a sudden the guy slows in front of you and you have no choice. I think there's going to be times that NASCAR is going to be put on the spot and they've got to make the decision at that particular time. Sometimes they might be right, and sometimes they might be wrong. That's a tough call.
"I feel like the Daytona 500 was a key race for us starting the year off. You've worked all winter and you're excited. At times you go to the Daytona 500 and have bad luck and get in a wreck and finish 30th like we did last year. Sometimes that can be devastating on a team that's trying to get its momentum going. I feel like it was key for the 19 car. If there was any time we needed a good run, it was our first race tonight. I feel like it's a weight lifted off of us, and now I'm so excited about getting to Rockingham. I'm very confident with what's going on and the direction we're going in.
"We've got great race car. Our Dodges have been great everywhere we tested this year. I can't wait to get to Rockingham. You go to Rockingham a little more conservative, and that's the way we're going. Our confidence is high and hopefully we can come out of there with another top 10 or a top five and hopefully a shot to win the race. You've got to be patient at Rockingham, but you've got to run fast enough to keep up. When you do that you're going to lose your tires, so there's a fine line on that deal. In the past, I've had good cars there and I may have taken off too fast. There again, you've got to be patient, but you've got to be aggressive enough to run up front."