JEFF GREEN (No. 43 Cheerios/Betty Crocker Dodge Intrepid) WHAT'S IT LIKE BEING PART OF SILLY SEASON? "I don't think it's very much fun to tell you the truth. I always want secure places to work and secure places to build people around you and...
JEFF GREEN (No. 43 Cheerios/Betty Crocker Dodge Intrepid)
WHAT'S IT LIKE BEING PART OF SILLY SEASON?
"I don't think it's very much fun to tell you the truth. I always want secure places to work and secure places to build people around you and to build your race team around the driver and crew chief and things like that. Once you start looking and people start talking it pretty much tears your team apart. I think the more lock solid you can be, the more you can prepare for the coming weeks and coming years for sure. Once you can do that you can put your program in high gear and make it easier for everybody. It's different in every scenario. I can't put my finger on ever questioning the people surrounding me. They might have questioned me at times, but for what I think and what I'm trying to do each and every day I'm at the race track and each and every day I'm away from the race track is trying to concentrate on how to make the race team better whether we're going to be there next week or not. Hopefully it'll play into a future job and give us something we can build on week in and week out."
DO YOU THINK DRIVERS SHOULD BE REWARDED WITH POINTS FOR WINNING POLES?
"I don't know. You get rewarded for winning the pole by getting the opportunity to pick the first spot on pit road. You've got great track position when the race starts. As far as the points system, I don't know how you can argue with it. It's been in NASCAR for years. Consistency is what it rewards, and I think that's what every race team wants. Matt Kenseth and his team has shown once again that running in the top 10 and top five every week is what it's all about. If you win the race, you get all the rewards and you get the trophy. Winning poles you get to start on the pole and get the first pick on pit road, so I think you get all the rewards. I don't know if points should benefit sitting on the pole. How can you argue with success? Going back, I'm sure somebody has figured it up over the years. I don't know if you would have had any different winners of the championship going with a different point system. I'm sure somebody has figured it out. Probably some would have been different, but most of them would have been the same."
ANY CHANCE OF EARNING A SPOT WITH PETTY ENTERPRISES IN '04?
"I don't know. I hope so. We've been pretty competitive each times we've raced in the four races we've raced. I just want to be competitive and have an opportunity to win. They needed me the past couple of weeks as bad as I needed them. It's the first time I've ever driven a Dodge, and that thing is very capable of being competitive each and every week. Gary (crew chief Putnam) and the 43 guys have done a lot helping me get the car better throughout the race. I think the Dodge is part of that. That's what I'm feeling. It's part of that. I'm looking forward to the next couple of weeks, trying to put something together. We're talking about it now. The last couple of weeks we've been trying to get prepared for the rest of the year, but right now we're talking about some stuff for the future. I hope that will come through for me."
IS IT MORE PRESSURE TO BE IN AN "AUDITION" MODE?
"No really. I've been auditioning all my life it seems like, especially in the Winston Cup Series. The Busch Series is different. I've had some very good rides in that series, and I never worried about my job. I'm really not worried about it now. It is in sense an audition, but there's only a handful out there that's not auditioning every week. I just try to do the best job. I don't know put any pressure on myself to go out and do anything different whether I have a full-time ride or an audition ride or a week-to-week ride. I just go out and do the best job I can with what that night or what that day gives me and try to make the best out of it. If that gets me the job, so be it. If it doesn't, so be it, too. I just try to do the best job. If you do anything less you're not doing justice. If you do anything more, you might not be doing yourself justice anyway. I think a lot of these races you can't make 'em happen. The guys that are winning races can't make 'em happen. It pretty much has to be in your hands when you do it. The guys who are winning races today are competitive every week, and we want to get that 43 car where we can be running in the top 10 and top five every week. If we can get back to that, we'll have a chance to win every once in awhile."
ARE YOU COMFORTABLE MAKING CHANGES TO THE CAR?
"We did that the first week. If the driver and crew chief see eye to eye, they're going to want to work with each other. Gary Putnam and I stepped into a situation where we helped each other and all the guys on the 43 car. If I'm shy of saying something that I know is wrong, I don't need to be there anyway, and if they don't want to listen to me, I don't need to be there, either. I've been fortunate in the situations I've been in that they're listening to me as a driver and they trust me as a driver and they want to hear what I have to say. I think that's why some of these deals don't work. If the driver doesn't listen to the crew chief, and the crew chief doesn't listen to the driver it's not ever going to work. There's nobody else on the racetrack except that driver that can feel what that car is doing. If the crew chief doesn't trust that driver, they don't need to be together. I've been fortunate with the situations I've been in and especially now with Gary. He trusts every word I say, and I trust every word he says. I think that will make for a team and consistency every week. I think that for the long haul that will pay off for us."
WHAT'S IT BEEN LIKE DRIVING FOR THREE DIFFERENT LEGENDARY TEAMS IN ONE SEASON?
"I don't know if that's good or bad. It's good in a way. I've been very fortunate to be having the trust and opportunity and ability to go out and drive these racecars and be with Richard Childress and Dale Earnhardt, Inc., and now with Petty Enterprises. Growing up in Kentucky several years ago, you never dreamed you'd get an opportunity like that, but it's been kind of a nightmare season because this is the third uniform I've had on. Also, it's been a dream come true to be able to do that and to be able to say you've done that. I'm looking forward to the rest of the season trying to get that Dodge where it needs to be. Kansas was a good showing for us. What we did there (showed) what we're capable of doing. We ran great in that race until we had a problem with the tire. I think we can do that week in and week out if we can get our situations right. More or less, me and Gary (need to keep) working together and getting the thing capable of running up there every week. They've got some great stuff up there equipment wise. I think the outsider looking in the last year and a half would say Petty is behind, but I think Petty Enterprises is right where they need to be. They're growing and they're getting better people. They're putting 110 percent effort into getting that 43 car and 45 car back where they need to be. That's in the top 10 every week and hopefully we can do that for them."
HOW INVOLVED ARE YOU WITH CAR BEFORE GETTING TO TRACK?
"I try to go up there once a week if not twice. It's about an hour and a half from my home in Mooresville (N.C.). I can't get up there as much as I want, but I'm a hands-on guy. I built my racecars growing up. I built a lot of things here in my shop. I built hot rods and things like that, so I want to be there to help those guys, but it's so far away I can't every day. Gary and myself talk a lot over the phone and we talk a lot when I'm there at the shop about what he thinks and what I think. He's been pretty much right on pretty much every time we've gone to the racetrack. That's pretty exciting. In this sport if you're behind when you unload, you're going to be behind the whole weekend. It's fortunate to be right when we get there and tune on it and make it better. To answer your question, I'm not there as much as I want to be, but I'm there as much as I can be."
DO YOU FEEL PRESSURE BEING IN THE 43?
"Not until somebody asks me and reminds me about it. As a kid growing up in Kentucky, watching D.W. and then Richard Petty and Cale Yarborough and those guys battling it out every weekend, back then it was a lot different. The feel when you climb in that car and see the number you're stepping over getting in the window, there's so much history behind that 43 number. Richard has so many fans. Petty Enterprises has so many fans. It's just unbelievable. The last three or four weeks I didn't have any idea how big it was, but I found out. I think all drivers put pressure on themselves before you get in the car, but as soon as you strap in you do your job and that's the only way to do it. If you're doing anything else, you're not doing the job you're supposed to do, so you just get out and do the best job you can. The better we make it the easier it's going to make it on me and the better finish we're going to have at the end of the day. That's the main thing I think about. It is a little heart-stopping you might say, especially the first couple of weeks I stepped in that thing. It's unbelievable you have an opportunity to drive for The King. I'm just pretty fortunate right now."
DO YOU FEEL PRESSURE FROM THE YOUNGER DRIVERS?
"Trying to get into this sport, it was all about experience. It wasn't about youth. All of a sudden, the last three or four years now, it's all about youth. You don't have to have any experience, just so you can tie your shoes and get in the car you're old enough to do that. I think experience overcomes the youth. I've got several more years under my belt. I think right now I'm at my prime. I'm 41 years old, but I know Bill Elliott and those guys are out there pushing 50. I still feel as young as I did 20 years ago in the racecar. I just try to do my job and let those other guys take care of themselves."
WHAT WILL THE LAST RACE OF THE SEASON MEAN TO YOU?
"I guess everybody gets a month off. The 20-week stretch, everybody is ready for a break, not so much the drivers as the guys who work on these things. I think most of the drivers, especially me, my wife goes with me to the racetrack, and these guys who work on these cars each and every week don't get much time to see their family and friends and do the things they want to do. I think that's the biggest thing. They can have a couple of weeks off, especially the weekends, to be able to relax a little bit. For me, I go directly to North Carolina to do some hunting. It's exciting for me to be able to do that."
BEING A FREE AGENT, HOW DO YOU HANDLE IT IN THE GARAGE?
"I think you keep your mouth shut and listen and look more than anything. As my career grows and I get older and I can kinda see the light where maybe I won't have to do this someday, I try to put myself in a situation to build up and bring trophies home. If I'm going to go out and run 30th every week, I'm going to do something different. I can stay right here at my shop and be happy about that. My whole career has been when I walk through the tunnel or drive my rental car through the tunnel at that racetrack, to have an opportunity to win. When that goes away, that's when I'm going to find something else to do. I try to look at the situations available, try to find out the caliber of people I'm going to be working with and the caliber of equipment I'm going to be driving, if that will put me in victory lane and make me competitive every week, I'll definitely be looking at those things. For the most part, these days, the way the economy is, there's not a lot of good cars out there to drive. I want to be able to roll into victory lane. In our sport, I think all drivers, I shouldn't say all, but most of them are capable of winning races and have been winning races. It's all about what you're driving and what you surround yourself with. That's the way I look at it. I just try to get the best situation that will take me back to victory lane. Hopefully we can do that. I've never been in a situation where I was driving somebody's car and looking for something else, other than when I drove the Nesquik car and Richard Childress came to me to drive the AOL car. That was at the end of the year. I've never been in some of these guys situations that are looking for better opportunities or looking at what they might think are better opportunities. I don't know how you balance that. I think it would be taking away from the effort you're doing at that particular time, and that's not good either. If you can't do 110 percent there's no use being there. I don't know how Ward Burton and those guys do it, but I just try to do the best job I can with what I'm doing at that particular point and the other stuff should take care of itself. I've got a couple of Busch deals going, but they've been going for a month or month and a half and they might not play out either. If I did go back to Busch, it would be with an opportunity to win the championship right off the bat. From what I've seen so far, I think the Petty operation can be competitive and we can get it back where it needs to be. That's exciting for me for that challenge to go out and try to do that. If we could roll that 43 car back into victory lane I'd be the biggest hero ever, and that's what I want to be a part of."
WHAT'S BEEN MISSING AT PETTY ENTERPRISES?
"I think the biggest thing is the drivers giving the crew chiefs back what they need to hear. If a driver can't tell the crew chief what the car is doing, the crew chief can't fix it. It doesn't matter who it is. It's just communication. If the communication ain't there, it's never going to work. I think that's the biggest worry. Everybody hears that a lot, but it's the truth. The race before Dover, when I stepped in the car at Dover, they planned on taking that car and that motor and those people to Dover. That thing hauled butt when I got in it. I've known Gary Putnam for quite awhile. I haven't worked with him that much. I worked with him when Derrike Cope got hurt when he was driving the 30 car. I drove the car at Martinsville because Derrike was hurt and Gary was the car chief on that car, so I've known him since '94 or '95. We kind of fell in right there together. We're not strangers, and we're not scared to tell each other what we think, and I think that goes a long way when the race is said and done. I think Gary is very capable of being a winning crew chief, and I think the guys on the team are very capable of being a winning pit crew. What they do on pit road is awesome. I think that scenario is there. I think the engine program, I'm not saying it's the best, but it's not near the worst. I think we can all use a little fine-tuning, but for the most part the package is there. We've just got to mix it up a little bit and get the right scenario. When we do that, we'll have a competitive racecar every week. We've had that the last four weeks. Charlotte was just a little bit confusing for me. We didn't run that good. We were really good in practice. We didn't pick up in qualifying, and we didn't get any practice because the motor blew up four laps into Happy Hour, so we were kinda behind the 8 ball there, but for the most part we were still competitive. We were able to make the car better throughout the night. That's very pleasing for me. At Kansas and the other three races were really good for us. We didn't have the finish to show for it. We had a very competitive racecar at Kansas. If you keep taking competitive racecars back to make 'em better each week, you're going to be in the top 10 and top five."
ARE THE HANDSHAKE DEALS OVER IN NASCAR?
"I think the contract days are over, too. A contract is about as good as the paper it's written on. A lot of these agents are coming from basketball, football, baseball, sports agents, so they don't have a lick of sense about NASCAR or our racing situation or what a handshake might mean. There's no better than agreeing on something on a handshake and a guy taking it to the end on his word. That's the way I grew up. That's the way I was taught. I've had contracts, too, and they don't work, either. You just try to do the best job you can, put yourself with the right people, and they'll take care of you if you do that."
WHAT'S YOUR OPINION OF TRAVELING SAFETY CREW?
"I think it would be great if we had a traveling crew like that, like the NHRA's got. You don't see them ever waiting when a car quits rolling. They're there, but they've got a different situation. They've got a drag strip instead of a round track, and they're not dealing with 42 other cars. They're dealing with one. I think the safety crews this year have been right there, but having a traveling safety crew, they would know every driver. They would know every car, and they wouldn't have to learn that guy or that car every weekend. That's what we do now. I think we have safety meetings before every race to teach them about window nets, seats, things like that. If we had a traveling crew it would make it so much easier, and we'd know those people. I think we'd feel a little more secure with them. They've done a great job this year, so you can't really argue with them, but I think it would make it easier on everybody if we had that traveling crew. If it were easy we'd probably already have it done, so it must not be too easy to make that happen. They'll get there."
WHAT'S IT GOING TO TAKE TO RUN WELL AT MARTINSVILLE?
"It's been pretty good to me. It's been pretty bad for me at times, too. Kyle went up there and tested last week and tested his Dodge. He really had a great test, and they thought they learned a lot of stuff. Kyle usually runs good at places like that. I'm sure he learned some stuff that will help our Cheerios Dodge, and hopefully we can go up there and be competitive, keep the fenders on it and keep brakes on it and have something for them there at the end."