Nascar Winston Teleconference, May 27, 2003 Joe Nemechek , No. 25 Uaw-Delphi Chevrolet Monte Carlo CONCORD, N.C. - Joe Nemechek, winner of the recent Pontiac Excitement 400 at Richmond (Va.) International Raceway, was the featured guest on this...
Nascar Winston Teleconference, May 27, 2003 Joe Nemechek , No. 25 Uaw-Delphi Chevrolet Monte Carlo
CONCORD, N.C. - Joe Nemechek, winner of the recent Pontiac Excitement 400 at Richmond (Va.) International Raceway, was the featured guest on this week's Winston Teleconference. Nemechek earned his third career NASCAR Winston Cup victory on May 3 at Richmond, then followed that performance with a fourth-place finish in NASCAR's all-star event, The Winston, at Lowe's Motor Speedway on May 17. In Sunday's rain-shortened Coca-Cola 600 at Lowe's, Nemechek finished 11th. He is 11th in the point standings heading into this weekend's MBNA Armed Forces Family 400 at Dover International Speedway, and he and his Hendrick Motorsports teammates are looking to keep a streak of three straight Winston Cup victories alive at The Monster Mile.
IT'S A PRETTY GOOD STREAK YOU HAVE GOING THE LAST THREE RACES. IT SEEMS AS IF YOU AND YOUR TEAM HAVE THINGS HEADED IN THE RIGHT DIRECTION: "We definitely do. I think the whole UAW-Delphi team is looking in the right direction. We wanted to have a better finish at Charlotte, but we overcame some obstacles there. After having such a great run in The Winston, we just missed it a little bit in the 600. We recovered to have an 11th-place finish and that takes us to 11th in the points, so we're heading in the right direction."
WHAT DO YOU SEE AS A DRIVER THAT TELLS YOU THE TEAM IS HEADED IN THE RIGHT DIRECTION? "When you're around the shop all the time and when you see your guys, when you see what happens when you win a race, they are very motivated to do well. You see them putting that little bit extra into things. It's the kind of feeling you learn, how everyone communicates and what they say. I think Peter (crew chief Peter Sospenzo) and I have got good communication going, and that leads to good decisions on the chassis and that leads to good performance."
HOW BIG A FACTOR IS MOTIVATION? "It's a big factor. If you have one guy that's laying down, whether it's the driver, a tire changer, the gas man or whoever, everything goes to heck."
IS DOVER AN EXTREMELY TOUGH TRACK ON A DRIVER, AND IF SO, WHY? "It is tough, just because physically, you're in the banking all the time. The place has a lot of banking, a lot of grip. If you hit something there, you usually hit pretty darn hard. You're trying to be smart about how you race. Normally, the wrecks that happen there, when one guy hits it usually takes out a few more. It's very easy to get in trouble. With the banking, you're always up on top of that wheel, it's got you thrown over in the seat the whole time."
DID YOU USE THE CARBON MONOXIDE CATALYST AT CHARLOTTE, AND IF YOU DID, DO YOU HAVE ANY COMMENTS ABOUT IT? "No, I didn't use it. I got a paper that was passed out on Saturday that showed what NASCAR has done to help reduce the carbon monoxide, and that's about as far as it's gone. All I've done is look at it."
DO YOU EXPECT TO USE IT AT DOVER, OR DO YOU EXPECT TO EVER USE IT? "I don't know yet. I know NASCAR is doing a lot of work on that and also there's a lot of guys at Hendrick Motorsports that are working on special projects like that. They're kind of the ones in the driver's seat on that. I'm kind of susceptible to carbon monoxide, I've been doing it long enough, and we try to do everything we can to make sure I get fresh air in the car. I don't know much about this new project, and I'd like to see some facts before I start using it."
HAVING RACED AT NIGHT AT RICHMOND AND AT LOWE'S, WHAT ARE THE DIFFERENCES IN SETTING THE CAR UP FOR DAY AND NIGHT RACES, AND WHAT IS YOUR PREFERENCE? "There are some big differences between day and night racing. Anything that happens during the day, the track temperature is much, much hotter. The temperature of the asphalt and how the chassis works goes back and forth. If clouds come in, it tightens the car up. If the sun's out, it makes the cars really loose. That's pretty much a given anywhere we race. When you get to night racing, the track seems to be more consistent. I love night racing. You have to deal with whatever you're dealt on a weekly basis, and you do the best with what you have. Night racing is good for the fans, it's cooler and it just seems to make it more exciting."
WITH THE WAY YOUR LUCK HAS BEEN GOING, WHAT DO YOU THINK IT'S LIKE FOR A SPONSOR TO SEE THEIR DRIVER IN VICTORY LANE? "It's hard for me to speak on the sponsor's behalf, but I know it definitely makes the UAW folks and all the Delphi folks happy. Any time you can have a good performance, that's what the sponsors are looking for these days. They want to win races. They don't want to run in the back. I think that's part of what's driving the sport. It keeps getting more competitive and more competitive, and we keep spending more money. The cycle is never going to end. You try to improve. Number one, you improve your people and you improve your product. We have to showcase that on a weekly basis."
YOU'VE HAD SUCCESS IN THE BUSCH SERIES AND IN WINSTON CUP. DO YOU FEEL IN THE UAW-DELPHI CHEVROLET MONTE CARLO TEAM YOU HAVE FOUND A PLACE WHERE YOU CAN BE SUCCESSFUL YEAR IN AND YEAR OUT? "I definitely hope so. Believe me, this is the best opportunity I've ever had to win races. The facility, the people and the vision that Rick Hendrick has put together is phenomenal. When I first went to work there, I told myself, 'How in the world did you ever compete against these guys?' Now that I'm there, I've won a race, we're getting more competitive on a weekly basis, getting more consistency. I think we can win a lot of races. Hopefully, I'll be there for the rest of my career."
A LOT OF DRIVERS HAVE TRIED TO WIN IN THE NO. 25 CAR, BUT HAVE NOT BEEN ABLE TO. WHAT HAS CHANGED THERE? "I think the biggest thing is we have the right group of people and we have the right chemistry going. As far as myself driving, when I first jumped in that car, I thought it had taboo written all over it. But, once we got the right people in the right places...we got Peter Sospenzo on board, and he made a lot of changes around the shop and boom, all of a sudden we started running well. It's people and it's also equipment. You have to have the whole package. Big key to that is communication, and I know everybody gets tired of hearing that, but Peter and I have been able to communicate very well. When I tell them the car is doing something, they work on it and they go about it in a pretty smart way. We've made a few mistakes. There're a couple of tracks we've just messed up on, but we've been able to recover from those mistakes. That's what makes you have a good team."
IT'S A PRETTY HEALTHY STABLE YOU'RE IN RIGHT NOW AT HENDRICK. DID THE VICTORY AT RICHMOND ENABLE YOU TO WALK A LITTLE TALLER AT THE SHOP? "I don't know. I hope so. Heck, when I got in that car, I'd already won two Winston Cup races. Winning in that 25 car and the way we did it...it wasn't a gimme race. It was one that we earned, and we had to work hard for it. The neatest thing was to win for Papa Joe Hendrick. He's been there a long time and he's seen victories come, but the way the team has struggled in the past few years, it's very special. I know it meant a lot to Rick to see that team run well. As far as the other drivers, we have a great group in there. With Jimmie [Johnson] winning both races at Charlotte, that was really big for Hendrick Motorsports and for Lowe's. Heck, I think Hendrick Motorsports has won four of the last five, so it's pretty incredible. I heard Rick on TV the other night, saying he was so proud of the teams being able to work together. That's a big part of it. This year, and even last year, it's pretty incredible when you come into an organization and the crew chiefs talk, all the engineers talk and there's no secrets. That's the key. The drivers get along with each other, and it's cool, because whenever anybody wins a race, the other drivers are coming victory lane. I know they all came when I was there, and I go see Jimmie and Jeff and Terry. It means a lot. I guess you have to want to do it, you can't be forced to do it."
GARY DeHART AND JEFF GORDON ARE WORKING ON A COMPOSITE SEAT. IS THAT SOMETHING YOU MIGHT CONSIDER IN THE FUTURE? "Absolutely. I've actually been up, sat in it. David Green has one in his cars and I've been in it. I know they're working on it, and I've told them to build me one. As soon as it gets finished, we'll put it in the car."
DO YOU THINK THIS NEW SEAT IS GOING TO TAKE SOME GETTING USED TO, JUST LIKE THE HANS DEVICE OR THE HUTCHENS DEVICE? "The safety device I wear is the best one made, and that's the HANS. As far as the seat is concerned, everything that NASCAR has done in testing, Hendrick Motorsports as well as Delphi, they sled test all kinds of their own stuff, trying to make improvements. That's what's cool about having Delphi as a sponsor, because there's a lot of resources there. The safety part of it, what NASCAR has found as well as Hendrick Motorsports, is that the stronger you can make the parts, the better off you are. Composite is as strong as it can be, stronger than aluminum. Right now, I feel I have an adequate seat. It's strong, I feel safe in there, and I'll go 100 percent every time I get in the car. The composite seat is kind of the next phase. It's even stronger yet. We're definitely going to go that direction. Right now, I don't know how many seats we have down there. We use Randy LaJoie seats, and we beef them up even more than they are already once we get them in the car. The next step is the composite deal. They have them there, and they had to change a little bit of the shape for me, but hopefully in the next two or three months we'll get one in the car and get racing."
WHAT HAS BEEN THE CHANGE IN YOUR TEAM'S RESULTS THE PAST THREE RACES? "We've been competitive all year, we've just had some bad luck in some of these races. We haven't really been able to show the true potential of this race team. These last couple of races, we have been able to finish without any major problems. When you finish higher, you get more points and that's how it's been working for us."
JOE TALKED ABOUT COMMUNICATION BEING THE KEY TO SUCCESS. HOW HAS THAT HAPPENED IN YOUR SHOP? "It started when I first got here with Joe. The driver and the crew chief have to communicate real well and be on the same page and the whole team rallies around both the driver and the crew chief. You can't have the driver and the crew chief going in separate directions, or you have half the team going one way and half going the other. You really don't build any kind of consistency in your team. That's how it happened with Joe and myself when I first got here. We communicated right off the bat and we've been getting better every weekend. We just keep maintaining what we've been doing and trying to get a little better in all the areas we need to be strong in."
FOR A CREW CHIEF, IS DOVER MORE DIFFICULT THAN OTHER RACE TRACKS? "There always seems to be a tire issue there every time we go. It's difficult, because you don't want to get too aggressive with your camber settings and your A-arms and the right front, because the right front tire seems to be the Achilles heel for everybody at Dover. You have to give up a little bit to be able to get in a long run. We have to be a little conservative, because we want to make sure we finish up there and not have a problem."