Tuesday, May 25, 2004. Dodge Motorsports Teleconference Nextel Challenge Recap, Coca-Cola 600 Advance MATT BORLAND (Crew chief No. 12 ALLTEL Dodge) NASCAR NEXTEL CHALLENGE RECAP, COCA-COLA 600 OUTLOOK "It was a real fun race for us the...
Tuesday, May 25, 2004.
Dodge Motorsports Teleconference
Nextel Challenge Recap, Coca-Cola 600 Advance
MATT BORLAND (Crew chief No. 12 ALLTEL Dodge)
NASCAR NEXTEL CHALLENGE RECAP, COCA-COLA 600 OUTLOOK
"It was a real fun race for us the whole weekend really. All the guys had a lot of fun with it. The car was running pretty good. I had a little excitement there during the race as far as pitting or not pitting, but all-in-all it was good practice for the 600. We had a real good car and hopefully we'll bring the same car back for the 600 and see if we can't do a little better this weekend."
HOW IMPORTANT IS CHEMISTRY AMONG CREW MEMBERS?
"It's just as important if not a little bit more. All the people on the road are away from their families more than they're with their families. It takes a lot of hard work and dedication for those guys to put in the effort they do every weekend. If all the guys feel like they're a part of the team and going in one direction, it's a lot easier for them to focus on the job at hand and feeling their contributing to a winning effort. I think that's one of the most important things in the Nextel Cup Series. Between all the shops you're probably talking about 200 people."
DOES A 600-MILE RACE CREATE SPECIAL CHALLENGES?
"One of the biggest issues of the 600 is making sure you've got a car that's handling well. You'll have one or two long green-flag runs and you've got to have a car that handles well for the entire run or you can go a lap down pretty quick. The other big piece of it is just the durability of pieces -- engine, transmission -- has to be able to handle a 600-mile race plus all the practice you put on it that week."
IS COMMUNICATION BETWEEN DRIVER AND CREW CHIEF EVEN MORE IMPORTANT IN A 600-MILER?
"The driver has to have a real good feel with what's going on with that car as the track's changing and being able to distinguish between the track changing and other things changing on the track so you make sure you stay ahead of the track and go in the right direction. If you don't keep up with the track it's bad enough. If you go in the wrong direction it takes quite a well to get back in shape."
DO YOU TRY TO STAY AHEAD OF CHANGING TRACK CONDITIONS?
"We check the weather all through the day and night and try to predict what the track is going to do in the next run and the next two runs and get ahead of what the track's doing. If you're chasing the track it can get you behind, especially in the 600 where you have so many green flag runs."
IS THIS RACE THE BIGGEST CHALLENGE FOR YOU AS A CREW CHIEF?
"No. The speedway races are probably the biggest challenges because our hands are so tied with what we can do legally. There's not a lot you can do there, so it's a big challenge trying to go fast as those places."
WHAT STANDS OUT TO YOU ABOUT CHAD KNAUS?
"I'd say the biggest thing with Chad is he's dedicated to do whatever it takes to go fast. He puts in the effort around the clock, and he expects the same things out of his guys. He's willing to put that effort in non-stop to make sure he's got the fastest car out there, and that carries through to the whole team. If our two cars were the fastest on that given day and running 1-2, it's trying to figure out if they're going to pit or not pit, take two tires or four tires or just fuel at the end or fuel and two tires to get out in front of the other guy. Both drivers are as good as they come and the teams are always strong, so if you can get an advantage by getting out in front of the other guy you're in pretty good shape for the rest of the race. It goes both ways. Some days you look like you made the perfect call and some days you look like you made a stupid call. It just goes with having to make decisions and you've got to stick with what you made and live with it."
COMMENT ON DOVER BRIDGE WITH SEATS IN TURN THREE
"I think it would be a real good view. It would be pretty exciting. Safety-wise, it sounds a little risky, but it's probably better doing it with Cup cars than open wheel cars. Chances of getting airborne at Dover is a lot less, but the chances are still there."
COMMENT ON SAFER BARRIERS
"I think they reduce the drivers' chances of getting seriously injured or killed. There's no reason they shouldn't be up at every track we go to. As a team we get a lot of pressure on us to make things safer and safer with the cars at any cost. I think the more tracks that can do the same things we're trying to do, make the tracks safer, is just going to benefit everybody."
IS THERE ANY EXTRA PRESSURE RACING ON MEMORIAL DAY FOR ROGER PENSKE?
"It depends on how he does at the Indy 500. No, we put a lot of pressure on ourselves every weekend. Obviously the Indy 500 is a huge weekend. We like to watch it, but it doesn't affect our series and what we do."
COMMENT ON JAMIE McMURRAY'S SAVE AND RYAN HOLDING OFF MATT KENSETH AS LONG AS HE DID SATURDAY NIGHT
"We watched the 42's race on TV before our race started. Jamie did one heck of a job saving that car. I think he had it wrecked four times and managed to save it. That was pretty impressive. The situation in the all-star race with what Ryan did, anyone who had doubts about his driving talent that was a pretty good showcase of what he can do. It was pretty fun and impressive to watch."
DO YOU WATCH INDY 500?
"We usually watch a little of it. Usually by Saturday night or Sunday morning you've decided what changes you're going to make to the car. Our guys are making those changes, and at that point you can kind of forget about that and watch the Indy 500 a little and watch how Roger is doing."
BIG DIFFERENCE BETWEEN FIRST AND SECOND PAYOFF SATURDAY NIGHT. DO YOU THINK ABOUT THAT?
"No, the money aspect is really not that big of a deal. The biggest thing is just trying to win races, and that's what we did. Winning is what that night's all about, and it's kind of fun because you don't have to worry about points or leading a lap or all the crazy things you do on a normal points weekend. You just go out there and run the car as hard as you can and try to win."
COMPARE THIS SEASON TO LAST YEAR SO FAR
"At this point last year we were 27th in the points and 660 points out. We only had one win at this point. The wins come in streaks, but to be finishing as many races as we are now and running a lot more consistently than we did last year, it feels a lot better."
COMMENT ON AGGRESSIVE DRIVING
"I think it's kind of a normal amount as far as how often it's happening. It's definitely happening more frequently with some drivers this year, and it was happening to different drivers last year. It's happening to different cars. It's kind of the same but different, but it's about the same frequency."
DO YOU FIND TIME FOR INTERESTS OTHER THAN RACING?
"There's definitely not a lot of time. We spend a good portion of our time away from home, and when we are at home we spend quite a bit of time at the shop. We just try to make as much time as we can to be with our families, but there's definitely not a lot of time."
DO YOU FEEL MORE PRESSURE WITH THE POINTS SYSTEM THIS YEAR?
"There's definitely more pressure. In previous seasons you had 36 races to get the best position you could. Now you know that in 26 races if you don't get in the top 10 there's almost no point in running. You can't improve your position if you're 11th and 401 points out of the lead. Your season is over. All you can do is go down hill. There's a lot of pressure to make sure you get in that 10 position window or that 400-point window and doing it in a shorter period of time. It's hard to say. Right now I wouldn't say it's better or worse because nothing really has changed until you get into that final 10. We'll just have to see how it all unfolds if the championship comes down to the end and somebody wins the championship without winning a race or you've got a guy that wins 10 races and finishes 10th in the points. I think there's going to be a lot of angry people, but the guy who wins 10 races might win the championship, too."
DO SPONSORS AND TEAM OWNERS APPRECIATE POINTS AS MUCH AS WINS?
"From our end of it, I don't think any of us appreciate points more than wins until you get to the final race of the year. If you finish second or third on a weekend, you don't go away from that feeling great, feeling like you just dominated a weekend. At the same point, you improved your position usually in the points and winning races is what we're here to do. That being said, when it comes down to that last race of the year, you want to be the one holding that cup up. That's the biggest race of all, so I think the wins still outweigh everything else until that final race."