JEREMY MAYFIELD (No. 19 Dodge Dealers Intrepid R/T) "I think Bill's a big part of this deal. We're just working hard and the team is working together really good. It's been a pleasure to work with Bill Elliott. Just to hear what he's got to say...
JEREMY MAYFIELD (No. 19 Dodge Dealers Intrepid R/T)
"I think Bill's a big part of this deal. We're just working hard and the team is working together really good. It's been a pleasure to work with Bill Elliott. Just to hear what he's got to say about the race tracks and everywhere we go and comments he makes on his chassis and stuff. It's just been a pleasure for me. I'm glad to be a part of this deal. I'm glad hopefully that I've been able to contribute a little bit to such a professional organization like that.
"We really go all the way back to when I was driving for Sadler Racing in the 95 car. We were renting engines from Ernie Elliott, and I got to know Bill a little bit then. I feel like he kind of took me in. He didn't physically help me as far as getting a ride or anything, but he was always there for me for advice and always came to me checking on me and just made me feel good and welcomed in the garage area. I think that when you're a rookie coming into the sport, especially then, I didn't have a clue as to what was going to happen. For a guy like Bill Elliott to come in and want to get to know you and talk to you and treat you normal, I thought that was pretty neat on his part to be able to do the things he's accomplished and still spend that much time and effort just to come by and say hello to me.
"If I'm trying to explain to Ray or Sammy what my car's doing, Bill's been there a lot and Bill will explain it the same way. When you say we speak the same language, I think we really do speak exactly the same language. The last couple of weeks there's been times when we tried different things on our setups. I went right back to what Bill was running and what he had in his car felt great. That's a good sign for the future for this race team, having two drivers that can run the same type of setups.
"I did think it was going to take us a little time. We went to Daytona and ran the 125s and ran good, and I thought we were on the right track. About the time you think you're on the right track, we went to the 500 and didn't run that good and got in a wreck. It's amazing what wrecks can do to a race team. No matter whose fault it is, the finishing result shows you finishing in the back. We knew as a race team how good we thought we were going to be . We just haven't been able to showcase it yet. Then we go to Rockingham and kind of the same thing happened there. We thought we were going to be a solid top 10 or top 12 car there. It felt good to show as a race team, when we unloaded off the truck, we weren't as good as we needed to be the first practice. We kept working on it and we got a decent qualifying spot it. Saturday, we worked on it again and then finally got a pretty decent car. We went into Sunday's race and kept working on it all day and at the end of the race we were good. That shows me the communication and the part a lot of people call chemistry is on its way. The thing I feel like is the chemistry is there. Sammy (crew chief Johns) and I get along great and the race team is pumped up. Ray has been awesome to work for. All that stuff is there. It's just the communication where it's amazing. When you try to run up front in Winston Cup Racing, it's like you have to be clicking perfect. The biggest problem we've had so far, when I say the car's loose or tight, it's for them to know how loose or tight it is to make those adjustments. I feel like we've overadjusted a couple of times just because of the communication factor, but I've seen improvement every time we've been out.
"After the race you hear about all the stuff that's happened. Like, I didn't even know that Sterling had spun the other day on pit road. I didn't have a clue as to what went on until after the race. Without seeing exactly what's been going on, I feel like if we're all going to be consistent, then we need to be consistent. It sounds like some of the calls haven't been consistent, but I'm sure NASCAR had a good reason why they weren't. I think if we were consistent in all areas then we'd be a better organization.
"I think Casey and the 7 car have been trying to find their communication line, too. They showed great signs just like we have. This past week they didn't have a very good race, but that team is certainly going to be a team to be recognized with. He's been as fast as me and Bill or faster in all three races so far except late in the race on Sunday. I think that's been good on Casey, because Bill and myself both try hard to help him. It's taken a lot of pressure for him to perform. He can sit there week in and week out and not have the pressure maybe Bill and I do have on us. I was over at his car last weekend trying to figure out what he had. Casey has been awesome to work with, and the same with Bill.
"I don't know that he has changed. From what I know of Bill, he's been the same Bill Elliott since I've known him. That's what I like about him. I call it normal. He's just a down to earth guy and very supportive. He's just a great guy in general. His driving style is so smooth. He's always solid. He's more excited than I've ever seen him about being at the race track.
"I've heard a lot of this stuff going on at the end of races, and it's hard for us as drivers to comment on it because we don't see it. We're right in the middle of it. I think the big word is consistent. As long as NASCAR is being consistent, I don't have any problems with it. I can't really comment on it because I haven't seen it. I know from the competitor's standpoint when we roll through the tech line every week, we ask for them to be consistent with us on templates on everything we do. I think the big word is just try to be consistent. If I could change anything it would be to make sure the rules are consistent with each other.
"I'm trying to do my best to go ahead and look forward into the future. I don't really look back and say what really happened over there. I know Rusty and I got along fine. I didn't feel there was a problem between us personally. We were just both competitors. I feel like our total program started out wrong. We were two separate teams to begin with. That's different than what we have at Evernham Motorsports. We've got three teams over here that are equal and we all know where each other standings. I guess the problem I saw at Penske's was two separate teams trying to be teammates and that was pretty tough. Rusty and I are both highly competitive. Probably between the two of us we were probably more bull headed on each other's part and that probably didn't help matters. It'll be interesting to see how Ryan Newman and Rusty do. Maybe that will answer some of my questions. Maybe it was all me. Who knows? I know I'm very happy where I'm at now, and I'm very happy to be a part of Evernham Motorsports and be Bill Elliott's teammate and Casey Atwood's teammate.
"It's made me tougher. It's made me a headstrong person. I think just being in this sport is tough because it's so competitive. I made a commitment to myself a long time ago not to change who I am and what I believe in and what got me here. What got me here was hard work and determination. I feel like if it gets to be more than that, whether it's a money thing or just to be doing it for the politics or whatever, I think I'd do something different. I think Bill is kind of the same way. That's why I think we've got a lot in common. Casey is coming up in the world, and I think all three of us have similar traits. I just do my best to try not to change. I just want to live my life and race hard. That's what it's all about. I want to try to do the right thing all the time. Certain situations you're put into and you don't really want to be in 'em. I'm not comfortable with that at all. You get to a point where you start thinking about doing things different. I always said when I get to a point where I don't want to drive or be a part of it, then I should do something different because something's wrong. I love racing. It's been No. 1 in my heart forever. I think I got to that point last year where I just wasn't sure if I wanted to do it anymore. A lot of it were the struggles and fights you have to go through all the time. This is a new world for me, a new beginning and I love it like I used to. This is what it needs to be like.
"I think any time you're in a situation that doesn't work out. The situation I was in with Penske didn't work out for us, which was best for all of us, and we parted way. You sit back afterwards and wonder what you could do different. Sometimes you've got to stop and take a look at yourself and make sure you're doing the right things. I'm trying hard to make sure I'm doing everything I need to do on my end. If there's anything I contributed to myself and Penske and Rusty, I want to make sure I don't do that again, so it's been a learning experience for me. To be honest with you, I don't think I'd be ready for where I'm at now if I hadn't gone through some of the experiences I went through in my career. I think you have to do that to become Winston Cup champion or the driver you want to be. To be, I turned it all into a positive. If anything, it's helped me. I don't think I'd trade it for anything in the world.
"I pretty much knew immediately. I've watched Ray with Jeff and then watched him build the Dodge program. We talked along the way and when he started that deal, we were talking as friends. We clicked and I knew right then the chemistry was there. I'm not going to say I didn't come into it with my guard up because I have. I feel like starting a new deal like this that everything that happens, I just tried not to panic. You see a lot of drivers who have been through bad experiences and they carry that into their new team. All of a sudden, they've got their guard up. I've looked at every area and tried to resolve this, but it looks like the drivers who have the chemistry are the ones winning races.
"I'm looking forward to Atlanta. It's been a great race track for me. We tested there a couple of weeks ago and had a good teat. I'm really excited about going to Atlanta and feel like we've got as good a shot at winning as anybody.
"I think Atlanta has always been hard on engines because we run so fast, so this will be the ultimate test for the one-engine rule. I guess we'll see who is going to put it on the line for Atlanta. It'll be a pretty touchy situation for a lot of people. You'll see guys that are going to run well or no good at all. I feel like going into this weekend, we'll probably run the minimum amount of laps that we can and still feel like we're competitive."