CASEY MEARS (No. 41 Target Dodge) -- Wins Second Straight Pole "I'm real happy with that. It was an awesome lap. That was an awesome time, so if they can beat that they can have it. It would be unbelievable to win the pole. I think I've made a...
CASEY MEARS (No. 41 Target Dodge) -- Wins Second Straight Pole
"I'm real happy with that. It was an awesome lap. That was an awesome time, so if they can beat that they can have it. It would be unbelievable to win the pole. I think I've made a home in NASCAR now. We do the best job we can every week, and to win the pole last week at Pocono was great. If we can pull this one off it would really be huge.
"I don't know if it was a perfect lap. It's hard to run a perfect lap, but I'm not sure where I could have got much more out of it. It was pretty close. A lot of times when I try harder I go slower, so it was a real good lap. The car felt great. It felt like a fast lap, and when it feels like a fast lap it's usually pretty good. It really feels good to be up front with this Target Dodge.
"I've watched this race as a young kid for a long time. I've watched my uncle in the Indy 500 and even my dad in the early 80s. I came here and missed the race in 2001. That team has since gone away, but I've got a lot of unfinished business here. I really wanted to come back here and run well. To not qualify that year was really a heartbreaker, and to be at the top of the board now is really unbelievable.
"It feels great being back here at Indy and holding up the Mears name proud. This place has a lot of special meaning to me with my uncle running so well here. This place has created a lot of good fortunes for my family, and it just feels great to be here and running so well. They say when things don't go well right off the bat you really appreciate the good times. In 2001, it was a dream to come here and qualify for the Indy 500. We couldn't get it done at the time. Last year we came here with a great team and struggled. I was just very inexperienced. I've got the experience under my belt now, and we're running awesome. The team is putting some great racecars underneath me, and I'm finally able to drive 'em.
"We knew we had a really good car and a shot for the pole. Those guys went out early and put some good times down. Dale Earnhardt Jr. put a great lap on the board, but our guys did an awesome job. We never changed one thing on the car from the time we unloaded. All we did was wipe it down and put tape on it and go qualify. I'm proud of Jimmy Elledge (crew chief) for making that call to take the same setup we had at Pocono and bring it here.
"As far as the lap goes, I knew I put in a good lap yesterday, but I felt like I gave up some in certain areas. I knew we were going to have to be on the top of our game. The car felt good. I went into one and it got a little loose. I got back in the gas hard and came off turn one good. When the tires get loose like that you worry that the next turn is going to get looser. I was a little bit timid in turn two, just a little bit, more than I wanted to be, but I got through turn two well and that gave me the confidence to bury it on to turn three. We were awesome in turn three. As soon as I got in the corner I was back in the gas. I barely cracked the throttle for turn four, just came off the floor enough to get the nose to cut. I knew if I came off turn four good we had a shot at it, and I did. It's pretty awesome.
"It's huge. Last year was such a struggle, and I've said it a million times. I was so green as a racecar driver as far as driving goes in general and in stock cars. In Indy cars I just didn't get the seat time you get over here running 36-38 races a year. Running all the Busch races and ARCA races last year really contributed a lot to that, and we're racing to win now. This year I took all that experience and started applying it. It keeps getting better all the time, and we took the same setup we had at Pocono, brought it here, and it worked great."
COMMENT ON CONVERSATION WITH RICK MEARS ON CELL PHONE "He said just be patient and do the best you can. If things aren't right right off the bat just remember it's a long race and get your car right and think about where the track is going. That's the big thing. This track changes a lot. If you make the right adjustments on that last pit stop you'll be good at the end. That's going to be big. He said be patient, be smart and try to make the right calls to get the car right.
"The first stock car I ever drove, period, was for Chip. We went and tested in 2000 or 2001, and that was the first opportunity I ever got in a stock car.
"The track was a little bit slick, but it was actually pretty close to the same temperature we practiced in yesterday. Historically, if you go out first here it's the best time to go out. The later you go the worse it gets, but if you've got that in the back of your mind you're giving yourself an excuse right off the bat. I just went out there and acted like this track was going to have the best grip in the world, and it's going to be the best track out there and just go out there and run the best lap I can. If you do that, there's a chance you might pull something out, and it worked out pretty good. I really don't follow it (track temperature during qualifying), but I overheard Jimmy Elledge tell somebody that the temperature was right about where it was in practice or maybe a little bit cooler. Just hearing that gave me even more confidence.
COMMENT ON MEARS FAMILY HISTORY AT INDY "I don't think it's pressure as much as excitement. It's exciting to come back to a place that has a lot of family heritage. I'm sure a lot of people look at it like his family has had success here in the past and he should be successful, but I think for the most part people see I'm a young guy like everybody else and trying to learn like everybody else. I have a strong family background at Indy and I was able to learn some things early. I think it's awesome to come to a place where the fans or on your side and a lot of guys are on your side when you come to this track. It's neat not only to give us a good run but to give the Speedway a good run and all the fans and everybody that have supported my family for so long.
COMMENT ON THIRD TURN "The third turn is the fastest corner on the track, and the corner that has the most grip. It was just one of those corners where I didn't hesitate. When you go in the corner and get on the brakes late and as soon as you get off the brakes if you let it roll at all you're hesitating. As soon as I got off the brakes I was back in the gas and the car stuck. I was all the way out to the wall when I entered and came off. That's what makes a good qualifying run. If you miss the wall, you put in a pretty good lap."
CHIP GANASSI (Owner Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates Dodges)
"We got involved in NASCAR three or four years ago, and it's been a steady climb. Last week Casey got his first pole, but obviously this one is a lot bigger. You still have to get the job done on Sunday, but it's certainly nicer to start first than it is 42 other spots. It's good news and bad news about our Dodges. They're usually all together, whether they're fast or slow. We got all three qualified in the top 10 last week at Pocono, and we were lucky enough to get that done again this week. It has it's plusses and minuses, but we as a team needed to figure out where are cars were before we could start personalizing them too much, but we'll get into that now. We're starting to feel pretty solid about it right now. Last week was big for Casey and the Target team, but obviously this week is a lot bigger. I'm just lucky to have great people to work with and great drivers.
"I've known Casey since he was knee high running around the racetrack. His father and I did a lot of racing against each other in the early 80s. I knew he had a racing legacy. I've known his family, and I knew how he was brought up. At the end of the day the guy's a racer. Racers like other racers. I don't know if a lot of people understand what that means, but it's just nice to have him as part of the team.
"If I had to pick one guy to qualify, I'd pick this guy on my right (Mears). He's the guy who can qualify. It's very nice to be a part of the Mears legacy here at Indianapolis. Casey and I embarked on this NASCAR project a few years ago, and it's been a good process. It's been a learning stepping stone type of this, and this is another step along the way. I like this kid, and I hope he's driving for us for a long time.
"I remember they used to say a guy had to drive 100 stock car races before you can tell what kind of driver he is, and we're not even close to that. Obviously we still have a lot to learn. This business is not only about driving ability, not only about teams or personalities, people and who you like to work with and who you get along with. That's the nice thing about Casey's and our relationship. I've known Casey since he was knee high, so it's nice from an owner's point of view to provide him with a vehicle to help his career along.
"We look back and try to figure out what the turning point was. His soap opera (Days of Our Lives) debut was probably it.
"It's the people I surround myself with. We've got a lot to learn in NASCAR yet I can assure you. I've just been lucky to work with great people through the years."
BILL ELLIOTT (No. 91 Visteon Dodge) -- Qualified 18th
"I figure if I'm in the top 15 or top 20 with where I'm at in points and everything else I've got going against me between the points and my draw, then that was all I needed to be concerned about today. I just wanted to get in a solid lap and get in the race. Now we'll work on the race setup and get ready to race tomorrow. For us, this is a critical race. When Bobby went out and blew up I knew it wasn't good, but we got through that and we'll see where we end up and how we stack up for the race."
BRENDAN GAUGHAN (No. 77 Jasper/Kodak Dodge) -- Qualified 30th
"We knew we were fast, but we were just tight in two corners. They say each corner is the same here, but there's a little difference. We were really good in three and four. One and two was really bad for us. I don't know what happened, but that's OK. The track is fast. I was going to use our draw as an excuse, but Casey Mears took care of that."
JAMIE McMURRAY (No. 42 Texaco/Havoline Dodge) -- Qualified Eighth
"We were just too tight getting in the corners. It was good, but it wasn't good enough. Casey put down quite a lap, but we just weren't balanced quite right. We tested here, and I think we had one of the best cars in testing. All the Ganassi Dodges were pretty good today. It seems like if we're good we're good and if we're bad we're bad. We all run completely different setups. I'm the most extreme one way and Sterling is the most extreme in another direction. Casey is right in the middle, so maybe we both need to start looking at that."
RUSTY WALLACE (No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge) -- Qualified 29th
"That's not good enough. We thought we could run a lot faster than that. We just don't have it right yet. We're just going to have to focus on our race setup and get ready to race. We'll just have to make the best of wherever we end up in qualifying. I feel confident after we get out of the qualifying mode and get in the race mode that we'll be in better shape."
JEFF GREEN (No. 43 General Mills/Boxtops for Education Dodge) -- Qualified 14th
"We were tight and pushing off turn four. I think we had just a little bit too much gear to go any faster. We're still going to be pretty good. We've got a little different paint scheme for this weekend. We're looking different, so maybe we'll turn our luck around this weekend. I thought we were going to get a big benefit from our qualifying draw (12th), but I think it's going to be pretty close for the guys in the back compared to the guys in the front."
JEREMY MAYFIELD (No. 19 Dodge Dealers/UAW Dodge) -- Qualified 13th
"This is the best car I've ever had here. It drives awesome, so I think we should be in good shape. We picked up on the second lap. They didn't tell me to stop on the first one, so I kept getting it. I feel real good about the race. I'm excited. If we don't beat ourselves we'll be in good shape. We've got three straight top 10s, and we're counting on make it four in a row tomorrow."
RYAN NEWMAN (No. 12 ALLTEL Dodge) -- Qualified Seventh
"This is just about the same conditions we had in practice yesterday, and we picked up half a second, so we feel good about that. It was a good run for the ALLTEL Dodge, and I think the track was definitely better at the start of qualifying. I think we'll come away with a top 10 in qualifying, so that's a real good effort. We would have been faster if we had gone out first, but coulda, woulda, shoulda. This schedule is definitely not designed for qualifying."
KASEY KAHNE (No. 9 Dodge Dealers/UAW Dodge) -- Qualified 12th
"It was a good lap for us. It's the best one we've made since we've been here. We were a little bit tight. We were tight in the center off, and we didn't run quite as fast as we thought we could have, but it was still a good lap for the Dodge Dealers/UAW Dodge. It was hotter yesterday I think, so we can't blame anything on the weather. Casey Mears went out after we did, and look at the lap he put down. Obviously there is a lot of speed in the track. We should have been faster, but that's what we got and now we've got to get ready to race."