Indianapolis: Waltrip post-qualifying interview

MICHAEL WALTRIP: Michael, walk us through your qualifying lap, the fact your car was seventh in practice, obviously ended up better than you expected. No, I expected to get first. We were really loose when we practiced in our qualifying run in...

MICHAEL WALTRIP:

Michael, walk us through your qualifying lap, the fact your car was seventh in practice, obviously ended up better than you expected. No, I expected to get first. We were really loose when we practiced in our qualifying run in practice. Tony Jr. and the guys tightened it up for me. I left pit road with a lot of confidence that they had done the job that they needed to in order for me to drive it hard and have a shot to get the pole. I drove a little tentatively at a couple of points because I was loose. I was kind of mad at myself for not trying harder, but then I saw Rusty crash. I thought, "Maybe I tried just as hard as I should have.

JEREMY MAYFIELD: Don't say that.

MICHAEL WALTRIP: That's what I'm saying. Maybe if I tried a little harder, I would have wrecked. I didn't do that. Then Elliott beat me by 3/10ths. There was no way I could have done anything that drastically different to beat him. So now I'm happy. I didn't crash. I couldn't have beaten Elliott. I got third.

Is track position even more important at this place than most? Therefore, is starting position more important at this place than most because of the nature of the track, the difficulty passing? Did this thing being forced into an impound situation help everybody across the board or hurt everybody across the board?

Yeah, I like the impounds. I feel like they really help me and my team. We seem to perform well when they're impound events. On the track position deal, there's not a race that's not a track position race these days. It's just that hard to pass. It doesn't matter whether we're at Indy or Pocono or Michigan or where we are, you have to find a way to get your car to the front as the laps start to wind down. Whether you take two tires or whether you stay out when the leaders pit, you must gain track position by strategy. If you've got a good car, you can come from third or fourth to first, but it doesn't matter what you've got, you can't come from 10th or 12th to first in 20 laps these days. It gets too spread out.

More track position and qualifying per se doesn't mean more than it used to?

I think that's exactly right. If you've got a fast car and you screwed up today, it doesn't matter. Take Pocono, for example. I thought this this past Pocono. I thought I had a chance at the pole. I got a little bit sideways coming across the tunnel trying too hard, hit the wall. We had to go we had to work on our car and we started last. We were running third with a chance to get a top five late in the going when Biffle cut a tire and crashed us. What it allows you to do, when you start last, is to switch things up some. You know, if the other guys pit at lap 20, you stay out. If the other guys don't pit at lap 20, you do, and when they do pit at lap 40, you stay out. You have to always be ready to do something different when you qualify bad, but it's not a definite.

Did the change in schedule with yesterday's wash out and the way you had to practice this morning, does that put everybody behind going into tomorrow's race or do you feel like you guys are where you need to be as far as what you know you'll need to do to your car through the race and everything tomorrow?

We're fine. The schedule is perfect.

RE: Changes and how they have the same effect on everyone

That's like you say you can't pass at Pocono because you don't shift. That makes no sense at all. Nobody can shift. Therefore, it's the same as if everybody was. Your only goal is to get your car as good as you could get it in the time they allow. They didn't allow Jeremy or anyone any more time, so we're all in the same boat. I think we're all happy.

Re: is there any benefit at all to having your teammate right behind you in the qualifying when you start this out?

Generally the only place a teammate is an advantage is at Daytona and Talladega, once the race starts because there's nothing you can do then. You share your setups and try to get your cars as close as you can get them and then go race them. There's no advantage on the track to having a teammate anywhere.

Michael, you said this trophy would look good between your two Daytona trophies.

Kind of a smartallec.

Can you talk about the importance of winning here?

Well, it would be good. I usually don't say stuff like that. But, you know, the Daytona 500 is our biggest race, and this one is probably second. I would be honored if I could figure out some way to win the race tomorrow, as would everyone. But, you know, winning the All Star race 10 years ago was quite an honor for me. Then to have those Daytona 500 wins are big, as well. I wouldn't be able to put into words what it would mean to win here.

Mike, earlier this afternoon we heard about the thing with Kasey Kahne, extending the long term contracts. Are you any closer to settling up for next year?

I'm getting closer, I think. I have a couple of meetings this week that might shed some light on where I'll be. Maybe by Watkins Glen or shortly thereafter I'll be able to tell what I'm going to do. Just don't have it all worked out yet. I feel pretty good about where I wind up.

Owensboro having two of the top three spots in this race, a comment from either one of you?

I'm glad it was us. Nicky Hayden is the big story in Owensboro. He won the Moto GP race at Laguna Seca. First American to win one of those in a while. There's a lot of cool things that come out of Owensboro, Kentucky.

Michael, in addition to the trophy looking good between the two Daytonas, the prestige of the event, would it be sort of the ultimately satisfying swan song for you on the way out at DEI to add this to the two Daytona 500s with this team?

Honestly, I don't feel that swan thing right now. We have a half a year ago. Tony, Jr. and I committed to one year that we would race our rear ends off till the last race of the year.

I think at Atlanta or Homestead, where we wind up, then it will be special to have it. But right now it would just mean that we would battle ourselves back into a position to be a part of the Chase. If you'll look at three of the last four races, I blew tires at Chicago and Daytona, while running really well. And Biffle blew one last Sunday while I was race forget top six or seven spots. You take those three events out of it, I'm right there where I need to be. I've just fallen onto some hard times here lately. But we're certainly thinking our car performs well enough that we can at least make a run at it.

Michael, I hate to ask this of you, but given where you're at right now, if a situation developed that you may have an opportunity for a long term situation, would you leave now as opposed to staying the rest of the season with DEI?

No, I would not ever do that no matter what. I mean, I would leave if they ran me off. I wouldn't hang around there. I wouldn't go I wouldn't do anything that would jeopardize what NAPA has put behind me and that team and what the contracts say that I will do. I can't imagine a scenario that you could paint that would that I would leave that place.

-gm racing-

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Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Nicky Hayden , Kasey Kahne