Tuesday, Sept. 14,2004. Dodge Motorsports Teleconference John Fernandez and Ray Evernham RAY EVERNHAM (President and CEO Evernham Motorsports) OPENING COMMENTS "To cap off a season that has been progressing nicely for us, it was an honor to...
Tuesday, Sept. 14,2004.
Dodge Motorsports Teleconference
John Fernandez and Ray Evernham
RAY EVERNHAM (President and CEO Evernham Motorsports)
OPENING COMMENTS "To cap off a season that has been progressing nicely for us, it was an honor to have two cars have a shot at being in there. We got one in there, and I was happy for the 19 team and Jeremy getting their first win for me and for Dodge. Just looking forward to a productive 10 races, trying to get Kasey into victory lane and the 9 team being in contention for the Nextel Cup."
HOW DID YOU TURN AROUND THE 19 PIT CREW?
"That's a challenge because you don't know what goes on with the psyche of an athlete. The guys can practice well here, and for some reason they've been struggling with different things. Sometimes it takes a big pressure situation to get everybody to focus on small details and teach 'em how to do it again and they realize they can do it. They stepped it up and took the lead on pit road this week. It's the same pit crew that's been struggling knocked almost a full second off their pit stops in a week. Really, that is largely an attitude thing. When someone's got the physical ability and they don't seem to be able to do it consistently you've got to work on their mental focus. That's what we worked on this week, that mental focus, visualizing how to get the job done and seeing yourself being successful and things like that."
HOW PROUD ARE YOU OF JEREMY?
"That was probably one of the happiest moments I've had in my racing career because he is a good guy and I know how bad he wanted to win and how much he deserved to win. To see him finally win in our car, to win like that, lead the most laps, put the car in the top 10. That was a career day for Jeremy, and it made me feel real good to see that for him as a friend."
DO YOU THINK JEFF AND JIMMIE ARE THE FAVORITES?
"Yes and no. Certainly, you cannot have a championship hunt and not consider Jeff Gordon one of the favorites. Certainly Jimmie, the way he's run and his performance, he should be. Having said that, they've also had some trouble, and I believe this championship is going to come down to a guy that runs good. You might get away with having trouble in one race, but you're not going to get away with having trouble in two races. You're just not going to be able to make those points up."
CAN YOU BELIEVE HENDRICK WOULD HAVE THOSE PROBLEMS?
"With the rpm we're turning and the horsepower we're trying to get out of these engines and as hard as you've got to run to win and be up front, I think it can happen to anybody. When you're relying on metal and the laws of physics, sometimes things can go wrong."
HOW HUGE WAS IT FOR JEREMY TO PULL OFF THE WIN?
"With any athlete, I think that put Jeremy in a whole different class. People have got to look at Jeremy in a whole different light right now. He's got to look at himself in a different light. He stepped up at the big game, the big game, the final shot right on the buzzer and he and his team performed flawlessly. I think that they're a different race team today because of that. There's a different look on their faces. There's a different attitude in that shop, and when they roll into Loudon, they're a real mature, bonded race team. They've accomplished something to them that was great. It was a great step for them, their first great step together, and they're a different race team today."
WHAT WAS IT LIKE FOR YOU SATURDAY NIGHT WITH TWO TEAMS TRYING TO MAKE THE TOP 10?
"You always worry about things. I went into that weekend knowing that no matter what happens, one in, one out, both in, both out, somebody could be happy, somebody could be disappointed. No matter what happened we've had a great season, and we took a step up. This organization took a step up. Everybody did all they could do, and chances are I was only going to get one in there. Chances are I was going to get none in there. It is a lot like having two children that play for different schools or different football teams playing one another in a big game. Somebody's going to be happy and somebody's not. The fact of the matter is, both of them had gotten into a battle that was a battle to at least get into the championship, and I was really proud of both of them. I talked to both teams about no matter what happened they've done all they can do. They've got to hold their head up walking out the back gate because some things happen that are out of their control. From Kasey's point, he's done a heck of a job all year as has Tommy. They're going to win. They're going to have more shots at championships. Some of the reasons Kasey is not in the hunt weren't entirely in his control. You've got to let that go on and get past it."
WHAT DID YOU TELL JEREMY BEFORE THE RACE? WHAT DID YOU TALK ABOUT AT TEAM MEETING?
"It was right before he got in the car, and I looked him in the eye and I meant it. I said, 'look, I want you to understand something. Win, lose or draw tonight you've done a hell of a job getting us here. We're here because of you. If we make it we make it. If we don't, we don't, but we've done our best and we're going to go on.' For some reason, it kinda stuck in his mind. I believed it. He's worked hard to get us here, and he's just a great guy.
"Yesterday we got everybody together, even the guys from the motor shop and had our team meeting. We brought in lunch for everybody. I just said, 'look guys, that was a big day for Evernham Motorsports.' Too often in this business we go on to next week and not stop and realize we've done something. We got everybody together and just stopped and realized how far we've come and what we've done. We've got a big fight on our hands in the next 10 races. We've certainly got a long way to go with the 9 car to get to victory lane and get in that No. 11 spot, win rookie of the year for Kasey. We got everybody together for a minute to reflect on what they've done. So many times when we were winning so much with the 24 car we just went on to the next week. A lot of those wins I don't even remember. We did a lot of things that I have no recollection of, and I don't want that for these guys here. When they do something good I want them to stop and reflect on it."
DOES WHAT YOU'VE DONE IN THE PAST PREPARE YOU FOR THE CHAMPIONSHIP RUN?
"I think it's a different ballgame. This championship run, only one guy is going to win it, so it's going to be a lot like the normal championships where you race two or three cars when you head to the last one or two races. The big problem with the shootout, getting in that top 10, that was more pressure than I have ever been under because you're racing seven or eight teams for the last three or four weeks being that close. That was really a high-pressure shootout if you think about it. It was very abnormal pressure. When you go down to Atlanta and you're racing one or two cars for the championship, but you're racing seven cars for a spot to get in, it was pretty nerve-wracking. I think you saw that on the faces of a lot of guys that didn't get in like Kasey and Jamie McMurray and Dale Jarrett. Some of the guys that are normally pretty cool showed some pressure there at the end."
WHAT'S THE BIGGEST DIFFERENCE GOING FOR A CHAMPIONSHIP AS A CREW CHIEF VERSUS A TEAM OWNER?
"I'll let you know after about 10 races. When I was a crew chief, I had to worry about cars, motors and picking my races to test and things technically. Right now I've got to make sure I've got the resources in order and I'm making things easy for my guys so I'm taking away all the distractions. Making sure the travel is right, making sure they have the parts and pieces that they need and they can focus. As an owner, I'm standing back making sure the guys are rested and taken care of and making sure my sponsors and partners are involved and are able to take advantage of the media and things that are important to sponsors, also."
DO YOU THINK KASEY CAN FOCUS MORE ON HIS FIRST WIN NOW?
"It could be. That team is new and young. It would have been great for them to be in it, but it's not such a bad thing. The old adage you've got to lose one before you can win one, it's not really a bad thing if they learn from it. It they go back and look at all the things they could have controlled a little bit better, the things that went wrong for them on Saturday night, the things that have gone wrong for them in the past. I think they're going to be a real threat now in the next 10 races because of it. As I said, the 19 team is a different race team today because of what happened Saturday night. I think you'll see the No. 9 race team is a more mature race team because they didn't make it Saturday night.
"We didn't have the car to do it. It didn't help when the 8 car dumped him. We didn't have the car to win the race, but I think he could have finished somewhere between 12th and 16th. If you look at it, if he hadn't lost that lap because of that spin, he still would have made it."