RAY EVERNHAM - President and CEO Evernham Motorsports COMMENT ON NASCAR SCORING PROBLEM "I don't know that it's a crisis, but it's a concern for sure. NASCAR is a big organization, and if we going to continue to take our rightful place...
RAY EVERNHAM - President and CEO Evernham Motorsports
COMMENT ON NASCAR SCORING PROBLEM
"I don't know that it's a crisis, but it's a concern for sure. NASCAR is a big organization, and if we going to continue to take our rightful place with the other professional sports, specifically the NFL, NBA, major league baseball, we've got to make sure we show that level of professionalism. NASCAR is very professional in some ways, and I think in other ways it's been a little bit of a fiasco. They've got smart enough people to figure that out. I think they need to look hard at their systems because we put on a good show. I feel the race teams, NASCAR overall is a very good product. It puts on a good show. To have it kinda cheapened by low-level mistakes, it just can't continue like that."
DID THE KENSETH-HARVICK INCIDENT AT END OF POCONO RACE PREVENT AN OPPORTUNITY FOR A GREEN FLAG FINISH?
"I really don't think so. I don't think one green flag lap is a good idea. I think you're looking at certainly trashing some cars. When you do a kind of a green-white-checker, I just don't think that's a good situation. When the caution comes out inside of five to go, it's hard to restart a race. I know when Kevin and Matt got into it they put some stuff down in turn three, but I think there was a lot of stuff in the tunnel anyway from a blown engine, so I just don't think that made a difference on restarting the race."
CONTRAST YOUR LIFESTYLE TODAY AND WHEN YOU WERE A WEEKEND RACER
"It's probably a bigger contrast than I imagined, and still it's always been racing to me. The feeling when you win, lose or draw has always been the same. Certainly there was a time when I worked on the car all week, drove the hauler to the racetrack... When I first started we towed my car with a wrecker we used in the gas station. Now we're towing my cars with tractor trailers and other people are driving them. I try not to get caught up in the fact we go in jet planes and stay in motor coaches. It's still about the race. I imagine it's the same comparison that somebody who wanted to play professional sports would draw when they played sandlot baseball and are playing in Yankee Stadium today. I've been fortunate enough to follow that path. I try not to get caught up in too much of the... now we have jet airplanes and stay in motor coaches. It's still about the race for me because some day when it's all over and you have no more jet airplanes and 190 people, what's really going to count is what you've accomplished. I really try to worry more about the wins and losses than I do about that other stuff. Some day I'd like to be able to go through that again, maybe with my son or nephews, but I wouldn't trade anything that's happened in my career. You work really hard all your life and you dream about getting here. I certainly wouldn't trade it to go back. I'm as bad as everybody else. I complain and moan about some of the things that go on, but you work all your life to get here, so I wouldn't trade it for anything."
DO YOU FEEL LIKE YOUR TEAMS HAVE HIT THEIR STRIDE?
"I don't think they've hit their stride. We still have more potential that we haven't tapped. It's just that more and more people are hitting their stride together. Certainly Jeremy and Kasey have complimented each other way better than we ever thought. They are a good team. They're helping one another a great deal. I think Jeremy trying to help Kasey has made Jeremy a better race driver. I think that Tommy Baldwin coming in and getting along with Kenny Francis, Josh Brown and Sammy Johns, they've just made a great team. The communication is great there. We've got a little more to go to hit our stride. I don't think anybody could imagine that all these different personalities would have meshed this good."
IS IT DIFFICULT FOR YOU AND KASEY GETTING SO CLOSE AND NOT WINNING?
"I think at the time it happens it's really easy to be hurt emotionally. I felt like throwing up at Dover. The truth is when you look back and go, 'man, I feel a lot better about having a shot to win and not, than never having a shot.' There were a couple of years we were doing our program that we didn't have a shot to win. We've got five second-place finishes this year with two different cars, so we've had a shot to win. We've just got to keep taking those shots on goal and sooner or later we're going to score. As far as Kasey is concerned, I'm probably worried more about the extra media attention and things he's got. You're looking at a guy that's run 15 Cup races and everybody is going 'oh, man, he's overdue to win.' Wait a minute. That's putting a little too much pressure on those guys. I'm just trying to keep them in perspective to perform and try and shoot for top 15s when they have an off day. They had an off day at Pocono on Sunday and still had a top 15. I think that's good for a rookie team.. They've just got to focus on fundamentals and the wins will come, but if Kasey focuses too hard on trying to compare himself to Jeff Gordon and other people they're trying to compare him to, I think that could be a bad thing. I'm just trying to keep him focused on being Kasey Kahne."
DO YOU FEEL RACE SHOULD HAVE BEEN RED FLAGGED AT POCONO TO HAVE A GREEN FLAG FINISH?
"NASCAR has a rule. They let us know when the red flag is going to come out. If you're inside of four laps to go it's not going to come out. You know that going in. Lately the circumstances really haven't fallen for us, but they'll come around. Days will work for you and days will work against you. Jeremy was probably the only car, except the 24, that had a shot at beating the 48 and we're proud of that. Jeremy is doing a great job."
COMMENT ON OPENING OF VICTORY JUNCTION CAMP
"What Kyle and the Petty family have done there is really amazing. That's a big, big day around here. I know a lot of people are leaving work early to make sure they can go up there and spend some time and visit with them. That was a monumental undertaking, and it's something that's big, not just for this area, but for the state of North Carolina. I can't commend the Petty family enough for what they've done. I'm really happy for Kyle and Patti because they get to see it come to life today in Adam's memory. It's just a great day for all those people."
DO THE EVERNHAM TEAMS HAVE A SHOT TO WIN TITLE?
"We're not ready as a team to start setting goals on wins and championships. We've set our goals on stuff like horsepower and aerodynamics and how fast our pit stops are going to be. We're still working on blocking and tackling. We're working on getting this team to be ready. I believe we're real close to being ready to start to challenge for championships. I think that wins and top fives and things like that are going to come. We want to make sure if we have a top five car that we finish in the top five, not 10th with it and we can continue to bring top five cars consistently. I'm very proud of my guys. The last two weeks in a row, two poles, two track records with two separate cars. Our goals have got to be building Evernham Motorsports and then focus on wins and championships. We've haven't quite hit our stride yet, but we're getting close. You always want more, but you have to be realistic how you get it. Certainly if you were a weight lifter you'd want to be breaking the world's record, but if you're bench pressing 200 pounds you're not going straight to 400. You're thinking what you've got to do to get that next 200 pounds. Well, I've got to eat right, I've got to gain some weight and I've got to keep working out. Right now, if we want to win consistently and we want to win championships, we've got to keep improving in a lot of areas. In a short period of time, we have done a really great job. We started with nothing in late 1999. We've built buildings, an organization, helped design cars and motors, pit crews and a lot of things like that. Will we win a championship in a shorter period of time than other race teams? I don't know, but I think right now we've built a good organization in as short a period of time as anybody has ever done it."
DOES ANYTHING JUMP OUT AT YOU ABOUT THE 48 TEAM?
"They're on their game. Last year Ryan and Matt were on their game. I think Chad and Jimmie are on their game. I think Chad Knaus is a great young crew chief, and Jimmie Johnson is a very focused race driver. Rick Hendrick gives 'em what they need to work with. Right now things are going their way. This sport goes in cycles and people get on top of their game. Chad is focused and they've got good resources. I think that's the secret to any good team. Again, things are going their way."
HOW HAS JEREMY TRYING TO HELP KASEY MADE JEREMY A BETTER DRIVER?
"Kasey brought a lot of newness to this race team and people are excited and things like that, but Kasey goes to Jeremy a lot and asks some things. I think sometimes when you're the teacher you can actually become a better student. I think when Jeremy is trying to help Kasey explain some of the things he needs to do at certain tracks for qualifying and getting around, it gets Jeremy thinking about that and I think he does better because he's teaching Kasey. We always felt like Jeremy had a lot of talent that we couldn't get out. We were missing something. For some reason now that Bill is not the senior guy on a full-time basis, probably Jeremy is looked up as the veteran on the team and he's a journeyman, he's stepped into that role real well. I think maybe it helps him puff his chest out a little bit more, but I think there's a newfound confidence there and he's really happy with that role and he's driving better because of it."
HAS DODGE CAUGHT UP TO EVERYBODY? "When they made a commitment to get in, they made it 100 percent. Factory dealers and everybody who supports the program, there's not been hesitation on their part. I think NASCAR is the most competitive, not just motorsports, but the most competitive form of sport in the world. You're racing the top 40 or 43 teams every week. From the factory side, the commitment has been there. Race team wise we're getting the drivers in line that we need. We're learning more about our cars, about our engines. We're building a bigger and better information base. The teams were fairly young except for Penske when he came on board. I think the teams are starting to hit their stride and learn more about the racecar, but as far as Dodge's commitment, they've been really committed since they day they threw their hat back in the ring."
DOES NASCAR NEED TO EDIT THE RULEBOOK? "From the car building side, they could absolutely do that. These cars are way too difficult to build and we're spending too much money messing around with rules and regulations as far as the car. As far as operating the race, a large part of what we're going through now is a work in progress. It all stemmed around the racing back to the caution rule, and that's a rule that needed to be put in. We had to stop racing back to the caution because sooner or later somebody was going to get hurt or worse. This is something that's new to NASCAR, and it's taken them awhile to get it worked out. They're working out their scoring problems. A lot of what we're still fighting with is a result of them changing that rule. I agree with them changing that rule, and I've got to be patient while they get the time to figure it out, and they will figure it out. One area they have to be careful of, they have to be consistent while they're figuring it out. When they're not consistent, I think they lose some credibility. I think as far as anything we've got to do with scoring because of the rule about racing back to the caution we need to be patient. Like I said, with some of the car rules, I'm not so patient. When we do some things two weeks in a row that could have been avoided, then you start to lose your patience. Again, these changes have all come about over a rule that has a direct effect on the safety of a driver, and we need to have more patience over something like that."
HOW CAN TWO CARS BUILT AT THE SAME SHOP COME OUT SO DIFFERENT AT TIMES? "We put a lot of things in place to make our cars as close as they can possibly be. At the racetrack you have to tune the chassis to the driver's preference -- springs and shocks and sway bars and weights and things like that. Sometimes now as competitive as it is in NASCAR you don't have to be very far off to be way in the back. The fields are very close, and these cars are so aerodynamically sensitive now and whatever we do with tires and shocks is so critical, that line is a lot finer. It used to be when you were up on that plateau, it wasn't so bad. Now it's like a sharp peak. If you're on top of it, your car is good and you're hauling butt, but if you get on one side or the other, you can fall off pretty quick. I think that's what you're seeing. I believe to this day there was a mechanical problem on the 24 (in Coca-Cola 600) for that team to be that far off. There had to be something wrong mechanically. I've seen instances where our two cars were not that far apart but their performance was quite different. I think just because everything is so close right now you don't have to be far off. What happened Sunday, Jeremy's car was a real good top-five car all day long. Kasey was 10th-15th and they really weren't that much different, just a couple of little things, really minor adjustments, and we couldn't overcome it with Kasey. We were pretty much on the money with Jeremy."
COMMENT ON PROGRESS OF 19 TEAM "I don't think when you put an expectation or pressure to win on anybody in this business that it's fair. It's just too competitive and there are too many things that dictate whether or not you're going to win. Jeremy could be sitting here on a couple of wins this year. Kasey could be sitting here on two or three. Jeremy's performance picked up about halfway through last year, and he had a top 10 points performance basically from the second half of the season on. He picked it up again this year. He's had some problems, some DNF's and some things happen to him, but all-in-all he's doing exactly what we need him to do. He's doing a great job qualifying the car. He's competing in the top 10 every week. He's leading races and challenging for wins. I think that's all you can ask of somebody."
COMMENT ON RACING AT MICHIGAN "Michigan is a track that really you've got to suit your driving style to Michigan. It's pretty much a textbook oval. You won't see a lot of different driving styles there. Some guys like the car a little bit tighter. Some guys like the car a little bit freer, but Michigan is a place where you've got to get through the middle of the corner and be able to get off the corner hard in the throttle. I think the guys that can run the car a little bit freer are going to be the guys that are going to be fast at Michigan."