Tuesday, April 8, 2003. Dodge This Teleconference Highlights Sterling Marlin, Andy Graves STERLING MARLIN (No. 40 Coors Light Dodge Intrepid) "I haven't seen it yet (replay of Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s controversial pass at Talladega), so I...
Tuesday, April 8, 2003.
Dodge This Teleconference Highlights
Sterling Marlin, Andy Graves
STERLING MARLIN (No. 40 Coors Light Dodge Intrepid)
"I haven't seen it yet (replay of Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s controversial pass at Talladega), so I don't know. I'll probably see it sometime. I don't know when. I guess when I see it, I'll see it. If I don't, I don't. There's nothing I can do about it. It's water under the bridge. When they make a call, they stick with it, so there's nothing you can do about it. I've been around this business long enough, you just go ahead, go to the next race and don't worry about it.
"I'd say if they black flagged him, there might have been afraid of a riot. They might have torn the grandstands down. I don't know. You'll just have to ask them guys. It happened to me at Daytona. Elliott Sadler was trying to get out of the way and it was either hit him, let off or get run over. I think we had a good argument, but they didn't want to hear it at Daytona.
"The brakes have come a long way over the past few years. In the old days, you really had to watch your brakes and stay off your brakes. They wouldn't last, but we've got a lot better equipment now. You still have to watch it a little bit, but as far as the veterans having an advantage saving brakes, I don't think they have one.
"It's fun to me now, but it's getting more and more... Not for me, but watching the crew guys at Talladega it's crazy. These guys have to come in at 7 o'clock in the morning and they get out of the garage at 7:30 at night. It takes 'em all day long to qualify at a track where it don't matter where you qualify. There's all the inspection you've got to go through, all the templates. With me talking to the crew guys, it's just taking a lot of the fun out of it. A lot of them might be on the road one more year and they're going to quit. If you'd just go race and put five or six templates on the car and go on down the highway, but with all the work they've got to do now is just killing them.
"If you had a guy that owned the car and just had a pocket full of money and wanted to run 12 races a year and just cherry pick the races, but I like to race every weekend. I really like doing it. You've got to stay so caught up with the program now, and there's so many week to week changes. I think you need to run every week.
"I guess I'll keep my mouth shut and go on down the highway. I knew in Daytona getting out of the car that we were probably going to have to go to the back, but we had to pit anyway. That wasn't a big deal. At the driver's meeting this year, they said if a caution comes out on lap 195 we're not going to red flag the race. If that had been a year ago, we would have won (Daytona) 500. That's a million three ($1.3 million) down the drain. The call with Jeff (Gordon) passing at Texas, to me that was a no-brainer. Jeff was leading the race. I don't know if you've got too many chiefs up at the top or who's making the calls. I don't know. It's none of my business, but to me they've just got to be more consistent. If you go below the yellow line, you get black flagged. If they give it to one, they've got to give it to somebody else.
"I've been around this a long time. There's nothing you can do on Monday morning that's going to change what happened on Sunday. You go bitchin' and moanin', you just make it harder on yourself. If something happens on Sunday, there's nothing you can do about it. You just go on down the highway and come back next week.
"Ernie Elliott told me three years ago that he learned you can't fight city hall. You get home Monday and try to regroup for next week and come back and give it the best shot you have."
ANDY GRAVES (Team Manager Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates)
"NASCAR has got a great show, and I guess we're not going to always agree with all their calls. A dictatorship I believe is still the best way to run a racing series. It seems like the last couple of years here we've gotten the short end of the stick, but it's their show.
"I've never been one to agree on blasting NASCAR in the press. I've always kind of taken the stance that if you have a problem or disagree with a call, you probably need to call Mike (Helton) or John (Darby) or Gary Nelson and talk behind closed doors. There's no sense in airing this all out in the public. They will get mad and they can make life difficult. I don't think that's a secret to anyone.
"It doesn't really matter what the rules are at the end of the day. It's just like Sterling said, as long as they're consistent with their calls. The last two weeks, I think they've made a couple of blunders remaining consistent.
"I talked to Chip after we landed in Charlotte Sunday night and he asked me what we've done to get on the bad side of things. We kind of laughed about it. I haven't talked to Mike or John yet. I figure they're probably getting enough heat the first day or two from a lot of other people. The last phone call they want to take is mine, but I'm definitely going to address it this weekend and talk with them and see where their heads are. I kinda see some of these statements from Mr. Hunter saying he didn't improve his position when he was below the line because he was already past. From the replay I've seen and from the angle I've seen, and maybe they have a different replay with a different angle, but he wasn't clear of Matt. He was alongside. From the way they've explained the rule to me in the past, including Sunday morning in the spotters' meeting, the only way you can be forced below the line is if you're beside someone. When you're alongside someone, you have not completed the pass, so I'm a little confused there. I'd just like to find out where their heads are.
"I'm not sure why they made that call. They felt it was a judgment call and that was their judgment or choice. When I looked from on top of the spotters' stand and I look down and see a lot of people cheering, it seems like a lot of 'em have red shirts on with the No. 8, so I don't know if that influences their call or not.
"I think we feel like we go in there with a good grasp of maybe 98 percent of the rules. Circumstances are always going to come up that they haven't seen before, like the deal at Texas with Jeff and Matt Kenseth. It's something they haven't seen and they had to make a call real quick. Obviously, as Mike stated, they messed up. They made the wrong call. In that situation, I don't think you could ever feel like you have 100 percent dead grasp on everything.
"We were told at Daytona after we got black flagged and we went up in the truck, we were told the only two excuses whatsoever for going below the yellow line were if the guy in front of you blew a motor or if he ran out of gas. To my understanding, that means he's not under power and you have to go below the yellow line to not run into him. Well, OK, what do you do if Elliott and Raymond Fox both come to us afterwards and say, 'We're sorry, our ignition shut off. The motor shut off.'
"How's that any different than running out of gas or blowing up? That was our argument at the time. As far as I know, I don't think Matt ran out of gas there, and I'm pretty positive he didn't blow up or ignitions went out. I'm not sure why they can justify the calls.
"I wouldn't say we probably get them (bad calls) more than anyone else. There was a controversial call at Las Vegas when we won last year, and it went our way. It was a decision they had to make, so there's one right there that went in our favor. If you spend enough time in this sport, those judgment calls, some are going to go against you and some are going to go for you. Maybe not all of them are as publicized as this call, but I think there's small things that happen and sometimes you get a break and sometimes you don't.
"We've got plans for short term, what do we need to do the next week. Then we have a plan on what we need to do the next month. Then six months and 12 months down the road we have pretty detailed plans of what we want to accomplish and where we want to be.
"I've got a contract with Chip, and my contract with Chip is to go racing. In 2001, we won Indy, the Indianapolis 500 and then he decided he wanted to start a Winston Cup team and he brought me down here. If Chip called tomorrow and said 'Andy I need you to pack up and go help with the IRL team' or start back in CART, then that's what I'd do. I just love racing. My personal opinion on this, and this is not the view of the organization, at the end of the day NASCAR still has the best game in town. The racing is great. They have a lot of competitive people, and I love it. Sometimes the calls you get or the way they're orchestrated isn't the way we do it, but as I stated earlier, I think dictatorship is the best way to run the series and I enjoy it quite a bit.
"I think we had a call on pit road (last year at Las Vegas) where we got spun out coming to pit road. When we first hit the entrance, because we got spun out and were going sideways, some people thought we were speeding. We ended up making the stop, and there was some lack of communication on NASCAR's part with the inspector in the pit. They were supposed to hold us for a timed penalty and it never did reach down. Later in the race, there was nothing they could do about it, so I think there was a little controversy."