Dodge Motorsports Media Teleconference Tuesday, July 5, 2005 Jeff Green Transcript JEFF GREEN (No. 43 Cheerios/Betty Crocker Dodge Charger) Note: Jeff Green has earned top finishes of 12th and 16th (in 2002 and 2003) at Chicagoland...
Dodge Motorsports Media Teleconference
Tuesday, July 5, 2005
Jeff Green Transcript
JEFF GREEN (No. 43 Cheerios/Betty Crocker Dodge Charger)
Note: Jeff Green has earned top finishes of 12th and 16th (in 2002 and 2003) at Chicagoland Speedway. He earned a season-best finish of 11th at Charlotte in May. The 2005 season is Green's second full season running with Petty Enterprises in the Nextel Cup Series. He took over the seat of the No. 43 Dodge for the final nine races of 2002.
"Yeah it was an endurance race I think, more than anything, but thank you for having me. I just, we look forward to these things; wish we could have more, better to talk about. But, we didn't have a very good Daytona; I heard Daytona wasn't very good for us.
"Yeah we blew a right, front tire and got in the fence. But really, that was minor to the way we ran. Our car was not very good. It wouldn't run by itself and wouldn't run around. I think we got pretty good, pretty decent in the race. But, we just never had the opportunity to deal with it there after we crashed."
Q: Do you have a good grip on Chicago? It seems to change drastically every year...
"Yeah, I think Chicago being one of the newest racetracks that we go to, with the Midwest sun on it and the weather that they have on it each and every year up there, it really changes - probably as quick as any of our racetracks that we go to. The new pavement is no more new, I don't think anymore. Kyle had a great test up there, I think it was last week, and really ran good. He was really tickled with how his team performed and what they learned. So, hopefully that will carryover to the No. 43 Cheerios Dodge Charger and both of us can go up there and run good. You know Daytona is either a feast of famine down there, and to come out of there without a wrecked racecar is probably... You've got better odds of going to Bristol and doing that, you know? It was a good weekend for us. We had a good time down there. But, as far as our performance, it wasn't there. So, we're really disappointed in that. Struggling like that is not fun at all, so we look forward to getting to a track where we can run good."
Q: What is it going to take to turn around, not just your team, but the entire Petty Enterprises organization?
"Well I think we've just got to work. Those guys up there are working really hard at the fab shop. We've asked a lot out of them this year, which every fab shop has, with the new rules. Plus our new Charger body we've had to put a lot of bodies on, and cut a lot of them off. I think we just need to work really hard. We can't give up and our motor package with Evernham Motors, I think, has turned our team definitely in the right direction. We go to the racetrack without worrying about that anymore. So, we've got to figure our aerodynamics out and our downforce. Our sport has changed so much body-wise and what you do with the springs and the shocks. And even two years ago, it's unbelievable. And we have to figure that out. We seem like we've figured it out, but we're like a step behind everybody. We've just got to make sure that we keep stepping high and hopefully we can get back to where we were. I think our performance, at times, is as good as anybody's. But we just can't ever finish out a day for some reason; we can't keep up with the racetrack. We've just got to working racing hard. It's not easy. The harder you work, the better you're going to run, for sure. I'm not taking anything away from my guys. They work really hard - they work as hard as anybody. We've just got to make sure we keep ahead of things and try to have that advantage. I think those are the guys who are winning - the one who have figured that advantage out. We've just got to make sure we can try to get that."
Q: How do you mentally keep stepping high?
"I don't know. It's tough. It's very tough at times to know that you're capable of winning races and doing the things that you've done in the past. When you have setbacks, it's pretty tough to go throughout that day to finish that race. In Michigan, I think we had a top 10-racecar, a top-eight maybe, and we broke a rim on pit road. I've never done that before. Things like that are really disappointing, but you've got to keep your head up and look forward to next week, and hopefully you can turn that corner. It seems like, in the Busch Series, when I did turn that corner a lot of things went right. And I think a lot of that is on your performance and how you make it and how you run that particular day. You can make a lot of your luck. Yeah, we can say we had a lot of bad luck, but I think if we run better we can make a lot of our luck, and that would make a better day for us. I keep reminding myself that this is the most popular racing and probably the toughest racing in the United States. To be a winner and to be a competitor, and to be competitive each and every week. You have to earn it. And you have to work hard to make sure you do earn it. What drives me as a driver is just working hard to try to conquer it and hopefully we can one of these days."
Q: How do you get rid of the frustration?
My wife helps more than anything. I think if I were 20 years younger, it'd be tough. I don't know if I could do it or not. Being around the ins and outs of this sport, and how it's come along, and what I've seen in my career - the ups and the downs. Our sport, unfortunately, has a lot more downs than it has ups, and you just try to balance that if you can. I have a lot of great team members on my Cheerios Dodge Charger. All of the guys who work on my cars, and the No. 45 too, those guys are behind me 110 percent. And I'm behind them 110 percent. We support each other and hopefully we'll make it through that."
Q: Having paid your dues, what goes through your mind when you see young drivers doing what they're able to do today?
"I think what goes through my mind, first of all, is I don't think they know how lucky they are to have an opportunity with an organization like they have, and to step into a car that can win races at 18 or 19 years old. A lot of us were still racing go-karts and trying to get into late models and things like that at that age. That's, probably more than anything, what goes through my mind. Those guys don't have a clue how lucky they are. They're very blessed and very fortunate to have that opportunity. But, to go back and change my career and do it differently, yes, it'd be awesome to have that opportunity at that age, but the memories that I've had in my career, and the things I've done, driving up and down the road pulling my own racecar. Two or three of my buddies and I, we worked during the day and worked on my car at night in my Dad's garage... Those memories are priceless, so I wouldn't change trade them for anything."
Are you still happy where you are?
"Oh, yeah. I'm happy. The King, he's second to none as an owner and Linda and all of the Petty family, Colin, Patty... Everyone in that organization, they really treat me good as a human being, more than anything. It's hard to find that in this sport. I might be fooled, but I don't think my job is in jeopardy, by any means. I feel like I'm doing the best job I can for that team and for Cheerios and all of the General Mills products. Definitely, if we're happy together, we're definitely going to conquer it, and we're definitely going to have a lot of fun down the road. The best day of my life is going to be to roll back into Victory Lane, and to do that in the No. 43 Dodge Charger would be pretty cool."
Q: What do you miss most when you're not at the track?
"Nothing. (Laughs.) I have a shop of my own in Mooresville, N.C., and I have a lot of fun working on my motorcycles and building hot rods and things like that. Probably, (I miss) my friends more than anything. I have quite a few friends in the garage area - not just the drivers, but the guys that work on these cars. I've been fortunate to meet a lot of people, and work for some different people along the way. Just being around those guys and girls, it's our family, basically. I see those guys more than I see my Mom and Dad, so, it's definitely our family. We enjoy kidding around and doing things like that. That's probably the stuff that I miss when I'm not there."
Does your experience give you an advantage, preparing for a race?
"Probably more than anything, what to expect, what not to do and what to do. When you put yourself in a chair for several times, and when we go to Chicago, I pretty much know what the race is. We all know pretty much what's probably going to happen, you never know what's going to happen. But, we feel like going into that day, we've kind of got an upper hand on maybe some of the guys that haven't run there much."
On characteristics of the Chicagoland Speedway:
"Over the last couple of years at Chicago, the groove has definitely widened out a little bit. I think, over the first year the track has gotten a lot more racy. It doesn't matter where you're at, track position is going to be key, whether you're going to be able to pass or not. We go in knowing that we're going to do the best job we can on pit road to get track position. Also, if you've got a car like Tony Stewart has had over the last couple of weeks, you have opportunities to pass, too. I think the weather and time on the asphalt at Chicago gives us more racing room and enable us to move around a little bit."
Is Chicago a bit of an easier track, coming off an aero-track like Daytona?
"I don't consider any of them easy. They all have their own face, and the things that you've got to do and not do. I enjoy running restrictor plates, but the best thing about them is when we leave that racetrack, I think. It's a great show for the fans. Without those four races each year, I don't know whether our sport would be as popular. But I feel like all of us, as drivers, like to go to a downforce track or somewhere where you don't have to depend on your friend to help you pass. That's the best thing about going to the next race, going to Chicago. If we have a fast racecar, we'll be able to go from the back to the front without any help. That's the cool thing about it."
Q: How much has the change to Evernham engines helped?
"It's turned our program around 100 percent. We go to the racetrack not having to worry about that. The best thing about it, I think, is that I've got a motor that's as good as the No. 9 or No. 19 Dodge Chargers, either one. That's a variable when you go outside to get any product, is whether you're getting as good as the house cars are, so I feel like that's out of the question. I think those guys at Evernham Motors do a great job for us. They have great horsepower. We just have to make sure that we get our cars handling. That's been a big effort for us this year. We're running faster getting into the corners, on top of learning a new Dodge Charger body and learning the new smaller spoilers. That's hurt us a little bit. Not that we weren't working hard last year, but I think it's made us work differently, I think you might say, this year because we have more power and definitely more durability. That's the best thing about it. We haven't fallen out of any races because of motor problems, so that's a good thing."
Q: How many fans want to talk to you about the No. 43 history?
"Tons of them. I've got so many fans because I drive that car, because there are so many Richard Petty fans, and Petty Enterprises fans, and Dale Inman fans and people like that. That's the prestigious part about driving that particular car, is what it has done in the past. Hopefully we can get some of that magic back."
Q: On NASCAR holding off to run a late, late race at Daytona?
"As a driver, you want to get it done and get it over with. You prepare yourself all day long and kind of get yourself psyched up for the race, and when you get ready for introductions, it starts raining. As a driver, you want to get it over with, get in that car and race. When you're in the racecar, you don't know if it's six o'clock in the afternoon or two o'clock in the morning. I don't think any driver minded that we were able to come home that night, so that's a pretty cool thing. As the fans, sitting there all day long waiting for that, I'm sure they're getting more psyched up than we are. I think it was the best thing that NASCAR could have done. I don't think anybody's looking at their watch while the race is going on. Just fighting that curfew they have down there, I think that's probably the most critical they had to work with.
"One of the gentlemen from NBC told us the other day in the drivers' meeting that (John) McEnroe, the tennis player, somebody asked him why tennis hadn't developed like the rest of the sports have. He said, 'Everyone needs to look at NASCAR.' So, NASCAR is definitely doing something right, to promote their drivers, to promote their sport, to get the fans to come each and every week to watch it on TV. Definitely, I don't think anybody would argue that it's the best sport in the world, and probably the most-watched sport in the world. That's pretty cool to be a part of it right now."
Q: On restrictor plate qualifying. What do you think about putting 10 cars on the track and get them to run a maximum of 12 laps and a minimum of four, and your best speed is your qualifier.
"I think it would work fine. In our situation the other day, our car wouldn't run a lick by itself, so it probably would have helped us. But the only unfair advantage is in practice we see at those racetracks whoever gets a big pull, if you're 100 or 200 yards behind the pack and you suck your way up there to them, you're going to get a faster time than a guy leading that pack. Definitely, there would be some scenarios to make a better time of it. If you're going to do something like that, you might just go off your two-hour practice session and just line them up like that. I don't think where you start really matters. Other than the guys who have to make it, there'd probably be some trick things going on trying to get a better time. But, if you had 43 cars, I think you just line them up how the practice sheet shows and just lay with it.
"To sit there for six or seven hours worth of two sessions - with the Busch and Cup Series qualifying - I don't know anybody that would sit there and watch that whole thing. So, I don't know if we're doing our sport any good that way."
Q: How are No. 43 fans dealing with the change in the team's performance?
"There are a lot of fans out there that have a lot of drivers and a lot of teams that they pull for. Even if they're a Richard Petty fan, or a Jeff Green fan, or a Cheerios fan or a Petty Enterprises fan, I still think they have other drivers that they pull for. But, I think all of them live the pain that we're living on some of the weekends that we don't run good. But, I think they're all there through thick and thin. Whether you're running good or not, they're Petty Enterprises fans and they're Richard Petty fans. I think that's the best thing about our sport and the fans that follow our sport, is they're loyal. Whether you have a bad weekend or not, those good weekends are going to keep them shining. That's the best part of it, I think."
Q: Do you think a younger driver could appreciate driving the No. 43 Dodge Charger, like a veteran like you can?
"I don't know. I don't know what those guys think. I know what I was probably thinking at 20 or 21 years old - not a lot about life, not a lot about where we've been and what's went on in our past. I don't know if they could appreciate that as good as some of the veterans and as soon as I do. Every time I crawl over that No. 43 number on the side of that racecar, it kind of sends chills up your spine, just to think about how many times the King crawled out of that car in Victory Lane. That's pretty awesome. For that record ever to be broken, I don't know if that will ever happen in our day and time, anyway."
Q: How much do you think that Petty Enterprises could use a third team?
"Well, it's definitely a disadvantage. Anytime you have three, four or five racecars, you're going to get that much more data from each test, you're going to get a lot more tests out of it. I guess Roush has five cars. They've got 30 more tests than we've got, or some odd 28 or 30 more tests than we've got. To have that data throughout the year, it's pretty hard to overcome that. Especially, for as much as our racecars change week-in and week-out, our tires change, our aerodynamics change, to have that data is critical for engineers to help us throughout that weekend. We have engineers at Petty Enterprises, but they only have so much data to pull from because that's all we can get throughout the year. So, we end up going back to years past, and whether that information is any good or not I don't know. It seems like sometime it doesn't, and sometimes it does. It's definitely a disadvantage for us. The way it's looking, it's definitely going to be a thing of the past to have one or two cars. Hopefully, we can stay with them. You never know, maybe we can get three or four teams at Petty Enterprises if things go right. The best thing about it is that those guys are working really hard. We do get information, our motor information and stuff like that we share that a lot with Evernham. As far as the cars, I don't know if a lot is shared there, but definitely, we can go to other Dodge teams, and Evernham too. I feel like they would steer us in the right direction if we asked questions. But, having that at your fingertips would be a lot better."
Q: How's planning coming for the sixth annual Green Brothers Celebrity Golf Tournament?
"That's an annual deal, and a year-long thing. My wife, Michelle, and Mark's wife, Kathy, they work really hard on it. We're lucky to have the drivers, they're very generous in the things they give us, sheet metal and things like that to auction. We have several drivers, Larry McReynolds and some of the TV guys come over and play that day. It's just that we're very blessed, for one, to be able to be in the situation we are to give that back and to go to Owensboro, Ky., for a day and sweat your butt off in 100 degree weather. I'm not a very good golfer. I really don't even like it. But, to be able to go over that day, it's pretty cool. To see the fans that turn out that follow our sport, that follow the Green brothers, it's pretty awesome. It does me good. We do as many as we can. We do three or four things a year for the Green foundation, for our charities. To give that little bit back is pretty cool. I think it makes me realize it's worthwhile, what we do, to be able to do that little bit."