NOTE: Three NASCAR Nextel Cup Series Dodge Charger drivers are fighting to remain within the top 10 to make the cut for the 2005 Chase for the NASCAR Nextel Cup. Rusty Wallace, currently ranked fourth in the series, needs only to qualify for ...
NOTE: Three NASCAR Nextel Cup Series Dodge Charger drivers are fighting to remain within the top 10 to make the cut for the 2005 Chase for the NASCAR Nextel Cup. Rusty Wallace, currently ranked fourth in the series, needs only to qualify for Sunday's race at California to earn enough points to clinch his place in the 2005 Chase lineup. Jeremy Mayfield, who currently ranks sixth in the series, needs to earn an average of 93 points in the next two races to clinch his second straight appearance in the Chase. Ryan Newman, ranking ninth, holds a 30 point lead over 11th place driver Matt Kenseth, heading into Sunday's race.
RUSTY WALLACE (No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge Charger) -- On clinching a spot in the Chase
"We worked our butts off to get ourselves into position to get in the Chase, and we deserve to be there. This team hasn't been out of the top 10 in 17 years, except for the last two years. And now we've got a good solid crew chief, a good solid team, and we're where we belong right now."
What do you do in the next two weeks to make sure you're where you need to be to run for this Championship?
"We just need to do the same thing we've been doing. Just stay prepared, try to get a little couple faster race cars. We've been finishing good -- a lot of top-10 finishes. We've made some smart calls to stay out when we need to stay out. But, I'm confident that once we get locked into the title, we've got a lot of good racetracks coming up for us, and we can take a good run at this title. These guys are all beatable. I've been beating a lot of them in the last 10 races, and I don't know why we can't keep doing that. So, I'm very much excited about going to the Chase for the Championship."
The state of California has been pretty good to your racing career:
"Yeah it has been good to me. I was able to win the last two races at Riverside. I've won the California 500. I've won a couple a couple times at Sears Point, so yeah, it's been really good to me. The only place I haven't won at was Ontario, and the last time I ran there was in a USAC car, and I finished fourth. So, that wasn't too bad of a run."
How is the car for this weekend?
"Well, I've been fighting loose all weekend long here. But, finally, at the very end, we got it pretty doggone good. So, I've got the car driving really neutral. I'm working on qualifying stuff right now. I didn't post the biggest numbers that I wanted to in qualifying, but the things we're going to do before qualifying are going to help me. So, I'm looking forward to it."
How important is qualifying here?
"You do have a lot of room to race. It's not nearly as important as some other racetracks because it's such a big track. I think track position is important no matter where you go. Although, if I'm going to have a bad run, it's better to have it at a big racetrack, a place where it's easier to pass on."
How does a driver save fuel on the racetrack?
"It's pretty tough at a place like this unless you just get out of the throttle early going into the corner, pick up the throttle coming off really nice and easy, when the caution flag's out start running a high gear, push the clutch in a lot, and save all the gas you can. I'm sure it'll happen. It always seems to happen here and Michigan."
Do you have to win a race in the final 10 races to be a champion?
"You certainly don't have to, but I'd rather. It'd make it sound a heck of a lot better."
RYAN NEWMAN (No. 12 SONY HD TV/Alltel Dodge Charger) What is your state of mind after Bristol?
"Obviously, we need two top fives, and we can do that. We've proven that we can do that. But, it's just going to be a matter of doing it. Everything else will take care of itself if we get two top fives. We'll just try to run strong. Obviously, Bristol wasn't what we wanted or expected, but we did prove that we had a pretty fast racecar. And we had a good test at Richmond. We'll have to see if we can just knock the two top fives out."
On retaliations being a factor in the Chase lineup, and having already hurt you a little bit:
"Oh, it does all year. We haven't seen a whole lot of retaliation, but I experienced it firsthand there at Bristol. But, I've seen it happen to other drivers, and it also happened to me, where it has had a big impact on our situation as far as points go. And it definitely is not a good thing."
What have you learned in practice this weekend?
"We really struggled in practice, but we feel like we've got a pretty decent car after the two practice sessions. I'm glad we had today's practice to work on it because that was big for us. We'll just have to see how the situations line up and what kind of position we're in. You never who's going to bail an engine, especially at a track like this, so we'll see what happens."
Does fuel mileage play a bigger role this weekend vs. most others?
"It's different because it's a bigger racetrack, and you have less opportunity to make laps under caution, and you gain an advantage that way. But, it's always going to be a part of what we do."
On relief for Hurricane Katrina victims:
"I don't know exactly the numbers, but I know that we're going to donate a percentage of what goes on, some money and things like that to the Red Cross. So that's a cool deal. Obviously, to be associated with Penske, we're doing something like that to just kind of set an example, not for the honor or prestige or anything, but to set an example of what can be done to help out people down there.
"Obviously, it's devastating and tragic and all of those things, but it's a part of life and people need help to get through it. I've watched some of (the news coverage). There's so many things that you can spend time watching and seeing with all of the devastation down there, but it comes to a point where you see so much of it it's like, 'Man, I just don't want to see any more.' It's that bad. It's unfortunate, but it's a part of life and as a community and as a group, I'm glad NASCAR and Penske and everybody is trying to help people get through it."
JEREMY MAYFILED (No. 19 Dodge Dealers/UAW Dodge Charger) -- How do you feel this year entering the Chase cutoff, vs. last year? Is the pressure any different?
"Not really. Not right now. We're taking it one week at a time. We're not in yet. So, I'm just trying to stay focused and not let anything bother us. It's a little different because we had a cushion, then we were wrong. But, I'll probably know more about it next week. At this time last year we weren't sure either."
How is the team staying motivated? Who's taking the leadership role on this team?
"We all are. Everybody is pretty much keeping their heads on straight. It's been weird, you know We're just doing our own deal and everybody is trying to stay focused and all that."
"I talk to each and every one of them every day in the shop and while we're here. I just tell them to keep everybody positive. It's time for all of us to be leaders, and don't let anybody get down. That's why you don't see us when we're running bad, or whatever. Nobody's getting down on each other. We just keep pulling each other up."
"I'll tell you what's going to be good, when we get in the Chase, if everything goes good, the last 10 races I feel like we've got a new energy. The whole team does. We're getting better every week and a lot of teams are already maxed out. So, I feel like we're going into the Chase riding our own momentum that we've built, being that we're getting better every week and the cars are getting better. I feel like going into the Chase this year we'll be ready for them."
On the Chase format:
"I love it. I have to say that. Well, I don't have to say that, I want to, because we ran it last year and we ran it this year and it just gives everybody an equal opportunity, it feels like. Everybody has a chance to get into it, but then once you're into it, you've got 10 drivers driving for a championship instead of one or two every year, which is just more excitement and better racing for the fans."
"It's been a tough year. We've worked hard at all the testing and grinding that we've went through to get here -- it's been tough."