DodgeTeleconference February 24, 2004 BRENDAN GAUGHAN (No. 77 Kodak Easy Care Dodge) WHAT CROSSES OVER FROM THE TRUCK TO THE CUP SERIES? "A lot of stuff crosses over. One of the great things about the Craftsman Truck Series right now is...
February 24, 2004
BRENDAN GAUGHAN (No. 77 Kodak Easy Care Dodge)
WHAT CROSSES OVER FROM THE TRUCK TO THE CUP SERIES?
"A lot of stuff crosses over. One of the great things about the Craftsman Truck Series right now is the competition. At the top of the Craftsman Truck Series there are a lot of great drivers and a lot of great teams. The difference in the NEXTEL Cup Series is that instead of 15 of them there are 40 of them. You really have to be on your game every day, every lap to stay in front of the 40 instead of just the 15."
ROOKIES HAVE BEEN ON THE PODIUM AFTER EACH RACE SO FAR. DO YOU EXPECT THAT TO CONTINUE?
"We've been talking all year, and the rookie battle this year is going to be awesome. The biggest thing about it is the race teams they're with. I'm with the Penske/Jasper folks and they're tough team. They've got Rusty Wallace and Ryan Newman as teammates. We haven't had the greatest start to the season like I wanted, but we're going to be pretty good as the season rolls along. All the rookies have great teams: Wimmer with Bill Davis, Sauter with RCR, Kasey Kahne last week with Dodge and Ray Evernham. A lot of great race teams and a lot of great sponsors."
ARE ROOKIES COMING IN MORE PREPARED?
"You look at the rookies this year. Brian Vickers is a Busch champion. That's a pretty good resume. I think a lot of it is that a lot of the race teams are top-notched race teams. A lot of this business is about the team and the people you surround yourself with. Take our situation for instance, you have the Dodge engineers, the Penske engineers. You have a sponsor in Kodak and a second owner with Jasper in Doug Bawel. Look at the amount of dollars and the amount of help we're able to achieve. That's what this business is about."
DO YOU MISS LIVING IN LAS VEGAS?
"Well, we're coming home to Vegas this week. Me and my buddy Johnny are packing the house right now. We're leaving early. We've got a test session to go to in Atlanta this week or next week and then we're going to be out in Vegas early and get the town pumped up for the Vegas race."
WHAT'S YOUR OFF-TRACK SCHEDULE LOOK LIKE IN VEGAS?
"They're going to keep us pretty busy. Dodge has asked us to go to a Dodge Dealers appearance. I used to buy my Dodges from out there, so we'll go take care of the dealers there. I'm going to go do some stuff at the Orleans. That's my family's place, so we're going to do the PRN radio show there one night. We're going to try to get the Kodak apparel trailer over there at the Orleans for a couple of nights to let some of the fans come out and find some of the Kodak apparel. Other than that, we'll just do like we did in the old Craftsman Truck days. We'll go see all the local guys. They want to come talk to us and the radio and TV stations want us to come in and talk, so it'll end up being like Daytona Speedweeks for us. We'll be busy."
COULD YOU TRY TOO HARD TO DO WELL AT VEGAS?
"I think me and Shane Wilson did that the first few years in the Craftsman Truck Series and the Winston West Series. Every time we came to Vegas, I like pressure, but there's a point where you over analyze, you over engineer and get too pumped up. We hurt ourselves a couple of times. It's not the home race for the Penske/Jasper team. This is not where they are from. It's just where Shane Wilson (crew chief) and I are from. The guys will do a normal job, and their normal job is awesome. We're going to have a good Dodge out there. Me and Shane are just going to go out there and we have tried to over emphasize and hurt ourselves. We're just going to go out there and know it's a racetrack we'd like to win at and know how to win at it and just do it right."
COMMENT ON NASCAR SAFETY CREWS
"Would I have felt slighted (without a crew at a Winston West race)? No. Do I understand what he (Mike Helton) is saying? Yes. The IRL and CART and those guys only have one series. It doesn't take as much manpower. I understand his issue. NASCAR has 13 different divisions or somewhere near that amount of race levels. If they do it for one, they open themselves up for a problem. Is someone's life more important? Would I feel slighted? No. Would the media take that out of context and say they're putting more emphasis on certain lives than others? Yes."
DO YOU FEEL SAFE IN A RACECAR?
"I've been upside down in racecars a ton in my life. It's all about the people that build your racecars. Safety crews will get there and they'll take care of you. They'll do their job to the best of their ability. I think NASCAR has done a great job making sure the tracks are getting well trained people and they're going out there and doing their stuff. It's all about before you get to the track. You've got to have a good seat, good seat belts. I'm with Bill Simpson and Impact Racing. We have good seat belts, good fire suits, good helmets, all that stuff to protect us. Scott Savage is the guy who puts my seats in. That's what it's about. Safety starts before it hits the racetrack."
DO YOU HAVE MORE ENERGY NOW THAT YOU HAVE TWO RACES UNDER YOUR BELT?
"If it could be more, it might scare a few people. I'm still having fun. I've worked a long time to get here. Dodge has helped me get here. For me to get here and all of a sudden say, 'cool, let's slow down.' That sounds pretty dumb to me. I'm having fun. Kodak is keeping me busy, and Kodak is sending me around to do things, and I'm having a great time doing it. Do I have more? If I have more (energy) than normal, there's going to be some frightened people. I'm still happy and having fun."
DO YOU YOUR ENERGY OR EXPERIENCE WILL HAVE MORE IMPACT ON YOUR CAREER IN THE FUTURE?
"I think it's all a big package. I can have all the energy I want if we don't have the performance. I think we need to have a little better performance and keep the energy. Once we start winning races and running up front, you'll be able to see the energy more and hopefully the fans will like it and it'll be contagious for the team and the team will enjoy it."
HOW ENCOURAGED WERE YOU TO SEE TWO ROOKIES WITH TWO TOP-FIVE FINISHES AFTER THE FIRST TWO RACES?
"I wouldn't call it encouraging. I'd call it a bummer. I'm getting my butt kicked right now. It's about this race team. A lot of the rookies have great race teams with them. I think we'll get up there. We went to Daytona, and the Penske team has never been stellar at Daytona. We're working on that. At Rockingham, I really wanted to do a little better. Rusty and Ryan were both up there and we had a little trouble. We'll go to Vegas, and although I have not been there in a NEXTEL Cup car, when I drove the Winston West Series is was a Winston Cup car, but I've got a lot of experience around there. We went there and tested, so Shane and I feel prepared, and we're going to try to get Kodak their first top 10 with the Penske/Jasper team."
HOW SHARP OF A LEARNING CURVE ARE YOU UP AGAINST COMPARED TO THE OTHER ROOKIES?
"I don't know. I don't try to base myself off the other rookies. I try to base myself off whatever we're doing that day. The Penske/Jasper guys have really been doing a lot to make the learning curve as flat as possible because I came here with a decent amount of experience. Put Billy Wilburn next to Shane Wilson and that takes some of that curve out. Put Buddy Baker next to me and that takes a little more of that curve out. I have Rusty Wallace and Ryan Newman as teammates and that takes a little more of that curve out. Put the PR people next to me and they get me from place to place and make sure I don't have to worry about messing up too much, and that takes more of that curve out. The team has really done a good job of making it as flat as possible. I definitely appreciate it."
WHERE ELSE WILL YOU TEST THIS YEAR?
"I think we have Atlanta, Texas, Sears Point, Bristol. I haven't looked at the whole test schedule. I look at where I've got to go that week."
IS THERE A DRIVER, OTHER THAN TEAMMATES, THAT YOU'RE REALLY CLOSE TO?
"What we do for a living requires friendship. Jimmie Johnson and I have been friends most of our lives since we were 15 years old racing against each other. I saw him last night at dinner when I walked in a restaurant. It makes me a little nervous when I saw him hit the wall like he did this weekend. He's OK. Casey Mears was a teammate of mine when we were 16 years old. Robby Gordon was one of the guys I grew up with in the desert watching him race and trying to catch up with him. I'm a good friend with a lot of those guys."
WILL TEXAS BE A DIFFERENT ANIMAL FOR YOU IN A CUP CAR?
"A lot of it is confidence. A lot of it is confidence with the team knowing I know how to drive there and get them pumped up. I think from what I've seen so far the Craftsman Trucks definitely carry over pretty good. The biggest thing is confidence. Everybody has to have it. When the team believes it and the crew chief believes it and the driver believes it, then it feels pretty good."
WOULD YOU LIKE TO SEE NASCAR PICK UP CART'S SAFETY TEAM?
"I don't really know. I'm not smart enough or in a position to really say too much about that. I know Dr. Trammel is one of the doctors that was with CART, and he's a hell of a doctor. He's put back together a lot of my friends and I went to see him once. We'd love to have guys like that around. As far as NASCAR's stance on that, I can't answer for NASCAR. I'm just driving right now. We'll see what they do with it."
HAS ANYONE TRIED TO QUIET YOUR ENTHUSIAM?
"I don't think anybody has really tried to quiet it down. The only thing is if I can't perform I'm going to quiet myself down. Finishing 20th each week is not indicative of walking around with as big of a mouth as I have. We need to start running better and let some of that enthusiasm be contagious for the Penske team and try to get us all running really good."
IS THERE A TIME WHEN YOU'LL TURN IT OFF AT VEGAS AND CONCENTRATE JUST ON RACING?
"This team has come together in a short period of time, and all the stuff is brand new. Dodge has given us more wind tunnel time. The Penske engineers and the Dodge engineers are two of the best groups in the country. It just takes awhile for us to assemble all the data and get running. It's going to start coming. We're going to hit Vegas and hit some of the other places I'm a little more comfortable with. Once we start running better and that enthusiasm becomes contagious through the team, we'll get there. I'm not worried about having to settle down. I don't worry, and I don't have a whole lot to do except on track. I've always believed that rookies in basketball and football can always contribute. When you've got teammates like Rusty Wallace and Ryan Newman, you've got two superstars sitting there. I'm going to try to learn from them right now and become a better leader."
COMMENT ON HOW BUDDY BAKER IS HELPING YOU
"He's supposed to be my coach all year. He's been with us at every test except Vegas, which I still give him a hard time about. At Rockingham it was pretty funny. He had a radio malfunction and had to run back to the pit to get a second radio. I was calling on the radio and saying, 'hey Buddy. I need help. What do I do?' No one was answering, and I was wondering if Buddy was mad at me. He's working pretty hard to help me out. He's supposed to be here all year with me. With any luck, he'll stay more than just a year. I'm having a great time with him helping."
WHAT'S SO SPECIAL ABOUT BAKER'S COMMUNICATION SKILLS?
"I played for John Thompson. I played for some pretty big people. You've got to be pretty blunt, and Buddy is definitely blunt. He tells you what he feels and what he sees. I like that. He garners that respect that he's earned over the years. He's earned it and he deserves it. I listen to everything he says, and he does a great job telling me what he wants and where he wants me to be."
HOW WILL THE NEW SPOILER BE AT VEGAS?
"It beats the heck out of me. I didn't race the old spoiler. We went there and tested and that's what we've got to deal with. I don't worry about rule changes or different tires. I like the tires, and I like the spoiler. We all have to use it. If they gave me a different spoiler, I'd be upset. We're going to make our Dodge handle better than the next guy's and go out there and try to win."
IS THERE A LOT OF PRESSURE PUT ON THE ROOKIES?
"They haven't sat there and said 'all this pressure, blah, blah, blah.' I think I do better with pressure. I kinda like the pressure when it comes to having to step up. They're not standing over my shoulder saying, 'you have to win, you have to win, you have to win.'"