Indianapolis: Friday press conference (part 1)

Brickyard 400 NASCAR Press Conference Friday, Aug. 6, 2004 Jimmie Johnson Kasey Kahne Jeremy Mayfield MODERATOR: We have with us Kasey Kahne who drives the No. 48 UAW Dodge. He was eighth in practice today. He has had four poles this season,...

Brickyard 400 NASCAR Press Conference
Friday, Aug. 6, 2004

Jimmie Johnson
Kasey Kahne
Jeremy Mayfield

MODERATOR: We have with us Kasey Kahne who drives the No. 48 UAW Dodge. He was eighth in practice today. He has had four poles this season, six top-fives, seven top-10s and he sits twelve in points. He is 69 out of being 10th place. Kasey, just give us an idea, this is your first time running at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. You seem so comfortable to have run well here and then the differences in IRP versus here.

KASEY KAHNE: You know, this track we came and tested at about three weeks ago, and that definitely helped. I mean, it's really cool to be here and to get to race here finally at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. It's somewhere I always wanted to go, and I've watched a lot of races here. So I've kind of always watched the track and knew a little bit what to expect. Then when you get on it, you can learn a lot more. So I really feel pretty good today. I feel like we're pretty close. We got a little loose there at the end. The front of our car is really good, and the back just slid all over the racetrack. We'll fix that for tomorrow morning and go out 23rd and see if we can't qualify in the top five.

MODERATOR: Your practice run obviously should encourage you somewhat being your first time on the track and the fact you're only 69 points out of being in 10th place. What's your focus going to be tomorrow for qualifying?

KAHNE: Just try to -- to get a Bud Pole here at Indianapolis would be the ultimate goal. We haven't got one in a while, and this would be probably the greatest track to start first on. It would be pretty neat. I think it matters a lot when you go out and if there's a cloud of how the track is at that time, if the sun's really been beating down on the track. So we'll just have to see how it ends up in the morning. I think to go for a pole would be what we have to do.

MODERATOR: I'm going to open it up for questions. Do we have any questions for Kasey? No? No questions? You have a question, sir?

Q: At this point of the season, do you feel like you're racing for that 10th spot or are you racing for first and did that seem odd with the new chase for the Nextel Cup?

KAHNE: Obviously we can't race for first right now, we're too far behind. But to 10 races, but once we get to those 10 races, if we're in the top 10, then, yeah, we can race for that. It is definitely, it's a little different trying to race for 10th. Actually, I think we're racing, I'm looking all the way to sixth place because that's only 150 points away. If we can run really good, we can end up sixth by the time of the next 10 races, start over and be 14th. You don't know, you just have to -- but definitely run for the top 10 right now.

MODERATOR: Do we have any other questions for Kasey?

Q: Kasey, how far after Homestead did you officially take the job that you have now with Evernham?

KAHNE: Officially it was during the NASCAR banquet a day before that in New York, the Cup banquet there. So that was when it was all official. I don't know the date, middle of December.

MODERATOR: Do we have any more questions for Kasey? No? OK, good job today and good luck tomorrow qualifying, Kasey.

KAHNE: Thanks.

MODERATOR: We'll start with Jeremy Mayfield, also Kasey's teammate. Jeremy was sixth fastest in practice today. Thus far this season he's had one pole, three top fives, eight top 10s, and is 11th in point standings with only 40 points being out of 10th place. And also right behind, as we just mentioned, Kasey is 69 points, so there's a tight race between teammates. He's finished consistently, three straight top-10s over the last three weeks obviously and nine races here, though, he's only finished in the top 10 once. Based on that, what are you going to have to do tomorrow, more so Sunday to have a top-10 finish?

JEREMY MAYFIELD: That's something we've been working on a lot of places just trying to finish not just top 10 but top five. Indy's been weird for me. I've run here good in the past and had good cars, but it seems like something happened, something would break, a wreck in practice or not even be able to run the race. I feel real good about it this time. We had a great test, car handled great and we came back today and unloaded off the truck. So usually when you do that, everything is going our way so far. So we just have to wait and see what happens. But the main thing is we're trying to stay focused on what we've got going on and not let everything around us get to us as far as how well someone else is running; or if we're running bad, we just keep doing what we've been doing and I think we'll be OK, you know, and not get hyped up about -- Indy is so big that sometimes you come here overhype yourself and get all stressed out over how big it is and what a prestigious race it is to try to win. We're going to try to treat it like a normal race and do the best we can.

MODERATOR: Do you feel like at this point in the season you're racing for that 10th spot or are you going to race Sunday for a win here? Are you going to play it safe?

MAYFIELD: We're not going to play it safe. We've come here with everything we've got. I think that's the difference between being 11th or 12th or 13th or whatever in back right now than being in the top 10. If you're sixth, seven, eighth, ninth and 10th, you're probably a little safer than we're going to be. We have nothing to lose really. We've got to run hard, we've got to try to win the race. If we know our car is not capable of winning, you've got to get the best finish you can out of that day. That's our goal and that's our plan, and we'll try to stick to that and not get wrapped up in trying to win the race and mess ourself up.

Q: As you have your logo there, were you surprised to see that Jimmie was fined last week?

MAYFIELD: I know that Mike (Helton) said in the driver's meeting a couple weeks ago, be respectful to the items on the car there in Victory Lane or anything around Victory Lane. I heard that, and I had no idea that it was going to become fines and all that stuff. That's pretty crazy, because if you stop and think about that, you look at the guy in Victory Lane and you see, let's say it's Jimmie, for example, he's got logos on his car and if there's competitive sponsors on top of his car that didn't help him get there, if I was the guy at Lowe's, I'd be mad, too. I'd be pretty pissed off because Victory Lane is all about what got you there, who got you there. It's not fair, let's say for example, the Dodge car would be in Victory Lane and have a Chevrolet emblem on top of it. Chevrolet didn't do nothing to help him get there. That's kind of the same thing I'm looking at there. I'm not sure what their problem was there, what he did. But I can say that maybe we need to stop and look at Victory Lane itself. If a company that's competitive to your sponsor, they shouldn't be on your car anyway; and maybe NASCAR needs to look at that side of it instead of just saying it's OK and let's be respectful. I mean, that's not respectful, either, putting your competitor's product or whatever on top of the car that's in Victory Lane. That's not very respectful in their area.

Q: Jeremy, I guess this thing with the points depends on where you are in the standings. Might not be very rewarding for Jimmie, but can you talk about that and if you could be in charge of NASCAR for a day, what would you do?

MAYFIELD: First of all, if I was in charge of NASCAR for a day -- I don't know if you want to repeat that question --

MODERATOR: He's so excited. The question was referring to the new changes in the points standings. For Jimmie this could be his worst nightmare but for you it could be a dream come true. What would you do if you --

MAYFIELD: What I would do first of all is give Dodge more downforce, bigger carburetor intake. (Laughter) I guess you'd say if you had to change it, at the beginning of the year when they first came up with this deal, I was like, I was just open-minded about it because we were back in the points, we were 19th last year. So you really don't know how it's going to help or hurt you at that point where we were at. Now that we're going into it, I have to say I like the system, I love it. Yeah, it's bad for Jimmie, but that's part of the deal, you know. For us it's going to be good because what we can -- we're sitting here going, OK, we're on the edge of being in the top 10 and still have a chance to win a championship with 10 races to go. I think that's great for the sport. At the beginning of the year, you didn't hear the hype about all the new points system, we all wanted to know how it was going to work out, I think we all were. Not real for sure how it was going to happen, and now that it's getting down to the wire, it's making it more exciting, and I think the fans are liking it, and more people are talking about it. I think it's great, that's going to be my answer. I'm sure Jimmie will differ a little bit, if he's not already been here. He's probably not liking it. That's what's going to make it exciting, because with 10 to go, you're not going to know who's going to win the championship. I think it's going to be cool for an underdog like myself to come in there running 11th right now, come back and win the championship.

Q: Jeremy, a little bit off the beaten path, I don't know if you've had much of a chance to think about this, but next year Dodge will go to the Charger instead of the Intrepid, what's your thoughts on that? Are you worried?

MAYFIELD: I'm not really worried. I've seen the car. If you see it, you won't be worried either because it looks real good. It's a great race car, something they've been working on for a while. It's not something that just happened overnight. That's the good thing about Dodge I've noticed is how involved they are in motorsports and NASCAR NEXTEL Cup racing, they give us all the support and resources we need, and they're already working on the stuff for the future. That's what's got them so competitive so early in the sport right now when they came back in. The Charger is going to be great, I'm excited about it. It's awesome. It's pretty mean looking. If I was a guy driving anything else but that and look up in the mirror and see this thing, it's going to be pretty cool. We know what our balance numbers needs to be now and about where we need to be aero-wise, and I know that NASCAR is going to help them if they're off any get where it needs to be, too.

Q: Having a muscle car in there.

MAYFIELD: That's what I am excited about, it's not an Intrepid, something that's just a street rod, this is a hot rod and the brand of hot rod, so it's going to be cool for us.

MODERATOR: Just a side note, it's not necessarily a Charger or Intrepid yet, they have not identified the actual name of the car. It is the Dodge, 2005 Dodge.

MAYFIELD: I didn't even know that, so sorry. All I know, it looks mean.

Q: Two years ago Evernham received a win here, a very hot day. Cooler weather this weekend. Can you use any of the information from two years ago to try and pick up a win here?

MAYFIELD: I think so. I don't know if you use any information from that, but we've built off that. We've been building off that same program for a long time and just keep getting better and better and better and better. We still are back, we're kind of running the same type setup but we've made things a little bit better along the way downforce-wise and drag-wise and all the way. Temperature-wise I think it's going to be great, it's going to be good. It's going to be a different race than you've seen here because of the weather. It's going to be more grip, run more faster, you'll probably see faster qualifying speeds tomorrow. You look at some of it, which is a baseline you had a long time ago that you built off of but I'd say we're going to be pretty far off of that come Sunday.

Q: Jeremy, how much does momentum play week to week? Even if you have a bad week you have another race, but you've got a good streak, bad streak.

MODERATOR: The question is how much does momentum play in your success week in and week out? If you have a bad week, can you come back and do well?

MAYFIELD: I think it's the most important thing anymore in this type of racing is that it's all about people anymore and to keep the morale up and keep the excitement up and enthusiasm up in the shop and around you, that's what it's all about. Every car has good race cars, great teams, great motors, and it's all about the good teams working together through thick and thin. Ray and I kind of struggled the first year, year and a half with our team and each other. We made it through that. That's nothing that was any harder when you're starting over and trying to get that momentum going. Now that we got that going, I don't see it ever going back to where it was. I think it's probably, if I had to say, OK, what's the main thing you need in a NASCAR Nextel Cup team to win races and championships, it's people. Like I said, we've all got the resources and everything else, so that people thing is part of the momentum. When you have a good run, OK, you go back and have another good run, another good run, then when you have the bad run, that's when people come into play, because you don't have any finger pointing. You don't have anybody going I can't do this or whatever. It could take one person to change a whole race team. I think that's how important momentum is. That's what you're talking about and referring to. Once you get on a roll like that, I seen Jeff Gordon get on that a while back, two or three poles in a row and a couple wins and it's just all about getting the thing going. You see the 24 team, they might not run well a couple weeks, they'll come right back and have it again. That's the sign of a good race team.

MODERATOR: Are there any more questions? Good luck on Sunday.

MAYFIELD: You want me to play Jimmie for a while? Chad has got my car messed up and -- no. (Laughter) I would like to thank Home Depot and Dodge. (Laughter)

MODERATOR: We're joined now by Jimmie Johnson, driver of the No. 48 Lowe's Chevrolet. He's had four wins this season, including last weekend's dominating performance at Pocono. He is leading the points, 232 ahead of his teammate Jeff Gordon.

JIMMIE JOHNSON: I hope that doesn't cost me anything.

MODERATOR: In his two races here he's finished ninth in 2002 and 18th in 2003. This time around he was fourth in practice. Basically with your performance here, what are you guys going to have to do on Sunday to obviously crack into the top five or either have a solid top-10 finish?

JOHNSON: I think we've really learned some stuff at Pocono. You know, in the spring race and rule change was made that we had to go back to the drawing board and find something again. We found something obviously real good last week in a different area to find speed in the race car. So bringing that here, very excited, and I think that we're very optimistic on the Lowe's team. To be fourth on the board with only 13 laps on the track this year, we didn't test up here, this is one of the most difficult tracks, I feel, from a driver's standpoint to find your marks. The last two times I've raced here, I had two days of testing prior to the race weekend to sort things out. I still don't feel like I'm doing my job right or sorting out a brand new race car that hasn't been raced all year long with 13 laps on both of us and being fourth on the board, I'm very happy with that. I'd hope, we drew late in qualifying, so it's going to hurt us some, but I think once we get into race practice and get into the race, we're definitely hoping we have a performance like we did at Pocono.

Continued in part 2

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Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Jeff Gordon , Jeremy Mayfield , Jimmie Johnson , Kasey Kahne