JEREMY MAYFIELD (No. 19 Dodge Dealers/UAW Dodge Charger) WILL THERE BE A DIFFERENCE IN TESTING AT LAS VEGAS AND CALIFORNIA? "I'm not sure, but we'll know shortly. I'm still not sure if we're going to know because of the way the wind...
JEREMY MAYFIELD (No. 19 Dodge Dealers/UAW Dodge Charger)
WILL THERE BE A DIFFERENCE IN TESTING AT LAS VEGAS AND CALIFORNIA? "I'm not sure, but we'll know shortly. I'm still not sure if we're going to know because of the way the wind is blowing. It's got my hair blown all out of shape. I'm not sure about the spoiler or tire yet. We had a great test at Las Vegas. I'm still not sure because we haven't raced it yet and we were just as fast as we ever were. I'm not sure what we've gained yet as far as cutting an inch of spoiler off or changing the tire. I'm not sure what we've gained or if we as a group, meaning NASCAR, have reached our goals of what we're trying to gain. I'm not sure we've got the full effect of that yet."
HAVE YOU CHANGED YOUR STRATEGY IN REGARDS TO NEW QUALIFYING PROCEDURES? "The last three years we've never shown up at the racetrack and tested qualifying stuff other than at Daytona. We were testing race stuff. It's probably not going to be as big of a change for us. We would be testing our race stuff when other people were working on qualifying on Friday anyway. Then we'd throw a setup in there for qualifying and go from there. It won't be a big change for us other than the guys won't have a lot to do on Saturday. They're going to have a lot of down time on Saturday."
HOW WILL THE STRONG WIND AFFECT TESTING? "I barely made it here. I'm got this convertible. It's a Chrysler Sebring. I thought the top was coming off a couple of times. It's going to be wild here today. Vegas was pretty tough. It's hard to test when the wind is blowing like this. You might go out and the car will feel better, but you're not sure it's better because the wind may have helped you get through the corner on one lap and hurt you on another. It's going to be hard to get a good, true test of what we're trying to do here, but it's better than not being here."
DISCUSS THE CHASE "Last year we learned we need to get all we can early and not give up anything when we do have a bad day, meaning, I don't think we can try to run any harder or make our stuff any better. That's going to all stay the same. The thing I see changing for us will be the days you do have bad days you're going to get back out and do whatever you can to gain a couple of spots here and there. What might not look like much, one spot on Sunday, if you do that five or six times a year it equals to 30-50 points maybe. Last year we had several races we can look back on and go 'man if we had pitted here or not pitted here or I hadn't acted like an idiot at Sears Point and with 10 to go I'm in the top 10 and got too aggressive and downshifted and tore out the transmission and spun out and we finished 30 something. That one race would have put me in the top 10 and I wouldn't have had to worry about going into Richmond. Then I might not have won and I really would have been (upset). That's the way you start looking at things. You look at hindsight and try to make it 20-20 and not let it happen again. Racing is racing and teams are going to run into bad luck streaks and wrecks or whatever that might not be your fault, but when you do that you've got to capitalize on it, capitalize on your own mistakes basically and not give up as much as you can. We're going to go all out at the beginning and not give up anything and hopefully be in the top 10. As far as the format goes I like it, I love it, I'm probably the biggest fan of it because of the way we lucked out, but it wasn't given to us. It was pretty hard getting to that spot, but I feel like it was a breakthrough year for our team."
WILL YOU MAKE ANY CHANGES BECAUSE OF THE CHASE? "Not really because the way the testing schedule has been. The schedule has been pretty well laid out for you. It's not like it used to be when you had the freedom to do what you wanted to. Even last year was a little different from this year. We've tested more this year at the beginning of the year than we have in the past, especially last year because we saved a lot of our tests throughout the season which I don't think we're going to do this year. You're so involved with racing it's hard to test in mid-year and really try to learn anything. It really burns your guys out and you don't really learn what you would in the off season."
WHAT'S THE DIFFERENCE DRIVING FOR RAY EVERNHAM? "I've been honored to drive for Ray and Roger Penske and Cale Yarborough and Michael Kranefuss and Earl Sadler way back. I got to see the way they do things and run their businesses. Roger is a first-class business guy, racer, every thing else, but Roger was more of a hands off owner. Kranefuss, same way. He was more involved in the day-to-day basis, but he still didn't understand the cars and the total aspect of what it takes to run things. Then you get with Ray and I thought he'd be lacking on the business side of it and be right there on the car side. That's not what it's turned out to be. Ray has turned out to be a great spokesperson for the team, Dodge and NASCAR. As an owner, he's done a tremendous job from the business side of it. He's turned out to be a great car owner that understands everything about the car but lets us do our job. I keep bragging on him. I'm not doing this to get brownie points, but he's doing a great job of being an owner and taking care of the sponsors. He knows what the priorities are, and he's focused. That's the biggest difference I've seen. He's covered all the areas he needs to cover to be a good car owner."
HOW IMPORTANT IS IT TO MAKE THE CHASE AGAIN TO PROVE LAST SEASON WASN'T A FLUKE? "I don't understand how it can be a fluke. We were in the top 10 most of the year, back and forth. We finished in the top 10, so obviously it wasn't a fluke. In this sport, you don't see too many flukes flying around. It's a tough sport, and after we got in the top 10 it looked like we kinda fell on our face, but Robby Gordon had a little bit to do with that and Kevin Harvick blowing a motor in Charlotte had a little bit to do with that. It wasn't really our fault as a team. If you look at the way our race teams are run, Kasey and I both, our teams were up front every week. It might be different if I wasn't up front every week or if I was 25th in points and got lucky all of a sudden. We're solidly moving our way up the ladder and we're not done yet. As far as people not picking us, I'm used to that. I'm dealt with that my whole career. That's what makes us strong. Ray hasn't been an underdog, but a lot of people stay focused on him and wonder what he's going to do. If you know him, you know he's not going to lose."
WHAT DID YOU LEARN BY BEING IN THE CHASE LAST SEASON? "First of all we got in the top 10 and our team was as good as the 6 car and as good as anybody in the top 10 other than the 24, 48 and 97 at that time. We feel like we've closed the gap on them so much and in such a short amount of time that it won't be long before we're knocking on their door if we're not already. Once we got in the top 10, we had a couple of bad runs that we couldn't do anything about. What do you do when things happen to you? I'm sitting there looking at a top three or top five at Loudon (New Hampshire) and whatever Robby and Biffle's deal was, I got taken out. We didn't do that as a team. They did. We learned a lot from it and feel like it's going to help us tremendously this year. We feel like our team is just beginning. Even last year being in the top 10 in points, everything was awesome, but we feel like we're just beginning. If you know where we're going and what we've got going at our race shop and the future of Evernham Motorsports, then you'd know it's just the beginning of a great thing. I'm real excited about that."
YOU COME TO CALIFORNIA SPEEDWAY AFTER TWO WEEKS IN DAYTONA. WILL YOU HAVE TO MAKE ADJUSTMENTS FOR THE SCHEDULE? "There's a lot of planning going around that race. I think we've got a new tractor-trailer that holds four cars so the truck doesn't have to come back home all the time. You're going to see more of that kind of stuff as far as logistics go. As far as the way we treat the race, it's going to be a normal Daytona 500. Behind the scenes there's a lot going on to get here from the Daytona 500."
WHAT KIND OF ADVICE WOULD YOU GIVE RYAN NEWMAN? "I've been asked that a lot lately. I'm driving Rusty's Busch car now. I look back and if you take the egos out of it, we really didn't have a problem. Ryan and Rusty have this thing going on, but I bet if you ask either one of them they really don't have a problem with each other. So, what's the problem? It was there when I was there. It's there now, and it'll be there after Rusty's gone and Ryan's gone. That's the way I look at it. It's not Roger. We don't have that problem at Evernham Motorsports. I have zero trouble with my teammates or anything at our deal. Ray doesn't allow that. He's there on a day-to-day basis and he sets the standard, and that's the way it's going to be. If Ray came in and said the 9 car is this or the 19 car is that, that gets things stirred up at the shop when the leaders do that. Whether I'm involved or Kasey is, the teams get animosity stirred up between them. Guess how it looks like it is? It's me and Kasey. The next thing I do, I'm going to follow my guys and he's going to follow his guys we're going to be racing hard on the racetrack. It all starts at the top. I don't if I've got advice for Rusty or Ryan. My advice is for both of them. Maybe you should look somewhere else in the organization, and it's not Roger. Roger does his job. He provides everything they need to race. I don't know who the managers are over there. It starts at the shop. When they leave the shop the trucks need to be rolling together. It needs to be a team effort everything they do, and it's not that way over there."
ALL DONE AND ALL IN AT LAS VEGAS-- Fresh off a two-day test at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, a couple of Dodge Charger drivers made time to take part in a charity celebrity Texas Hold 'Em tournament at The Palms. Ryan Newman and Casey Mears made the cut for the six-player final and bluffed their way to second and third-place finishes, respectively.
Newman, driver of the No. 12 ALLTEL Dodge Charger, lost to Tony Stewart in the final hand. Newman had pocket fives, but Stewart matched an ace on the flop and took the title. Newman's main charity was the Humane Society of Catawba County (N.C.)
Mears, driver of the No. 41 Target Dodge, played for the Target House charity. Stewart ousted Mears with a pair of nines, while Mears held a pair of fours. A novice poker player, Mears managed to bluff his way to the final three by going all in against Dale Earnhardt Jr.
"I never played cards much growing up except Go Fish or something like that," Mears said. "A lot of the guys were making fun of the way I was playing at first, but most of them were watching while I was still playing. I bought a set with chips and cards to put on the truck for rainy days at the track. I learned a lot about the game playing those two nights, and it got a lot of good exposure for Target House."