NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Teleconference GUEST: JOE NEMECHECK, NO. 01 U.S. ARMY CHEVROLET MONTE CARLO July 12, 2005 This week's NASCAR NEXTEL Teleconference featured Joe Nemechek, driver of the No. 01 U.S. Army Chevrolet Monte Carlo, who discussed his...
NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Teleconference
GUEST: JOE NEMECHECK, NO. 01 U.S. ARMY CHEVROLET MONTE CARLO
July 12, 2005
This week's NASCAR NEXTEL Teleconference featured Joe Nemechek, driver of the No. 01 U.S. Army Chevrolet Monte Carlo, who discussed his season to date as the series moves to New Hampshire for Round 19 next weekend. Nemechek has enjoyed much success at NHIS, the site of his first career NASCAR NEXTEL Cup victory in the fall of 1999. He also has a Busch Series win there and finished sixth in last fall's race in Loudon.
Q&A's WITH JOE NEMECHEK:
(IS NHIS ONE OF THOSE UNIQUE TRACKS WHERE ONCE YOU FIND OUT HOW TO ATTACK IT, YOU CAN GET VERY COMFORTABLE?)
"You definitely can. It's actually a pretty tough race track because the corners are so flat. Getting into the corners is very, very tricky. If your brakes are right and your chassis set-up is correct, there's a big advantage that can be had getting into the corners. That seems like where I've always been able to get my race car right in the past."
(ARE TIRE ISSUES AMONG THE CRITICAL THINGS WE SHOULD LOOK AT FOR LOUDON?)
"That's going to be a very interesting thing. I'm not sure what's going to happen as far as the tires are concerned at New Hampshire. We did not go up there and test. I know there have been a couple of cars that did, but we haven't heard of any issues. I know the tires have been softened up since last year, which is a good thing. If the tires wear out, that means that the drivers have to be more tire-conscious about managing the tires and not burning them off. The other part of that is that chassis set-up is going to be very critical."
(DO YOU DRIVE THE CAR DIFFERENTLY TO ACCOMMODATE THE SOFTER TIRE, AND IF SO, DO YOU HAVE A SPECIAL MINDSET?)
"No, not really. The way things are going right now, everybody is driving them as hard as they can drive them every lap. I think it's more about having the chassis right and just knowing what you can and can't do to make those tires live. It's some of the same things we fought at Michigan. If your car was tight or your car was loose, that was the tire you were going to abuse. You just have to keep all that in mind when you're out there racing."
(DOES NHIS SUIT YOUR STYLE?)
"I think so. I've had a lot of success at Loudon. We've only won one Cup race and one Busch race there, but we've been so close so many times. That just shows me that we are capable of running good anywhere. But since I've been going to Loudon since the inaugural race, we've always run well. Whether it's the high speed getting in the corners - right on the edge of getting loose - it's really tricky getting in the corners. But then you have to have your car be able to rotate correctly and have good traction off. There are a lot of things that have to be right in order to run well."
(IS THE TIRE PROBLEM HEAT RELATED, OR DOES IT GO WAY BEYOND THAT?)
"Again, most of the drivers last year wanted to have tires that would wear out. So everybody got their wish. Goodyear is building tires to what they are basically told to do. The tires are definitely softer. And we get everything we can out of our cars. We're not going to run the things half-throttle around there. So we abuse them more than anything should ever be abused."
(NOW THAT YOU'VE SIGNED A NEW CONTRACT, HAS THE ATTITUDE CHANGED WITHIN THE TEAM?)
"I don't really think it changes. It's a relief to everybody. One of the things we're trying to do week in and week out is to make sure this Army car runs good. I'm proud of representing all the soldiers out there. I want to make sure that the Army Chevy is up front where it needs to be. So our team takes a lot of pride in that. We're trying hard every week to make that possible and to do the best we can. As far as getting the contract thing done, it doesn't change the way I drive or anything. I'm trying to go as hard as I can go all the time."
(IN TODAY'S NASCAR WORLD, CAN SOMEBODY BE SUCCESSFUL AS AN OWNER/DRIVER?)
"I think the possibilities are still there. But the tough thing you have - and I know NASCAR has got a lot of stuff in the works as far as trying to get the teams even from the big teams to the small teams - but it's tough. When you're competing with Roush and Yates and Hendrick, it's a tough battle out there. I think the biggest advantage they have is their testing policy. They can test so many times with so many different teams and the have data from every race track they go to."
(IS PIT STRATEGY CRITICAL AT NHIS BECAUSE IT'S SO TOUGH TO PASS ON THAT TRACK?)
"Like everywhere, pit strategy is definitely going to be crucial. Being a flat track, it is very, very hard to pass. I think the call for two tires at times....a lot of guys are going to end up doing it. Maybe for a whole tire run, it may not be right, but pit strategy is going to be crucial."
(AT THE TAIL END OF A RACE, HOW DO YOU TRY TO GET POSITION AND THEN TO AVOID THE ACCIDENTS?)
"You have to drive a smart race. You have to know who you're around all the time and where you're at on the race track. I'm sure fuel mileage will end up playing a factor into the race. It seems like it always does. The thing to do is to get four tires if you need it and hopefully your team can have awesome pit stops all day and you can make up spots on pit road."
(AFTER TRAVELING SO MUCH, WHAT'S THE BEST THING ABOUT GOING BACK HOME TO LAKELAND, FLORIDA?)
"There are a lot of things. We spent a few days in Lakeland over the 4th of July and we still have a lot of family who live in Lakeland. We enjoy going down there. I know it's hot all over the country, but it's seriously hot in Florida right now. I grew up there. From the heat to the scenery, Polk County was my stomping ground. I just really enjoy the Lakeland area."
(TAKE US ON A LAP AROUND NEW HAMPSHIRE)
"Okay. A lot has changed over the past couple of years because they've actually widened the race track out on the bottom. We used to go in and run right there on the white line getting into the corner. Well, now there's an extra groove down there. So it's actually pretty tough trying to figure out where you need to be on the race track getting into the corners. So you're midway up in the race track, getting in the corner through the center of the corner, and depending on how you're car is working and if your car has very good grip, you can run right on the bottom. The downfall of running on the bottom is that it seems like your car really wants to get loose coming up off the corner. And then the outside line has the advantage."
"Turns 3 and 4 are very similar to Turns 1 and 2. It seems like you're kind of driving downhill a little bit getting into Turn 3. One of the things that happens in Turn 3 more than Turn 1, is you get in a little bit lower and then you actually slide up the race track right in the center part of the corner - making more of a diamond shape out of it. Having traction off of Turn 4 seems to be one of the really tough things during the race. You're really wanting to spin the tires right there and if you can have an advantage on somebody getting traction off, that's normally where you get up underneath of them and make a pass."
(HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT THE IMPOUND RULE?)
"I think it's a good thing that NASCAR has going on. In the long term I think it's going to save all the teams an awful lot of money. This is the first year of it, so they're trying to get the bugs worked out. I know it's something that's constantly talked about. But when you don't have to practice for two hours to make one or two qualifying laps, that's an incredible amount of savings. When we show up for the impound races, we show up in race trim. We work really hard on the race trim. NASCAR dictates what kind or adjustments you can make from after the time you qualify to the time you start the race, and those are the things we can do to the car and that's it. So you do that and you work on your air pressure and you've got to go qualify. So far this year, I think impound qualifying has definitely suited my style and my U.S. Army team's style."
(WHAT'S IT LIKE TO GO TO LOUDON, AND WHAT ARE THE FANS LIKE IN THE NEW ENGLAND AREA?)
"Oh, I definitely like it. Everywhere we go is unique. But going up to New Hampshire, we get some great seafood. Normally they're having lobster cookouts everywhere and that's a good thing. There are a lot of great race fans in the New England area. We have a good time signing autographs and eating with them. Loudon is a special place for me after winning my first Busch race there - beating Dale Earnhardt Sr. there. It kind of put me on the map. I beat him by a fender in one of the best races ever run there. The fans remember that and every time I'm back there, that's one of the big things that gets talked about."
(WHEN YOU HIT A MILESTONE LIKE YOUR FIRST CAREER WIN, DOES THAT SPECIAL FEELING STAY WITH YOU AND HELP WITH YOUR LEVEL OF CONFIDENCE EACH TIME YOU RETURN TO THAT TRACK?)
"I think it definitely helps with your confidence. But the NASCAR sport is ever changing. The rules change. The Goodyear tires change from year to year. So it's a tough thing to get your cars to handle right all the time. Right now, we've been pretty good with our handling package and getting my cars to drive good. Man, if you're off a little bit, you're off a long way. It seems like one guy will set a blistering pace out there in the front and if you miss it just a little bit, you're going to be a lap down pretty quick."
(DO YOU THINK THE COMPETITION IS AS TOUGH AS EVER?)
"Oh absolutely Unfortunately for us, we still haven't won a race. We've come close. At four races we had awesome race cars: California, Charlotte, Las Vegas, and Atlanta. We had some issues in those races when we were in the perfect position to win them. It's definitely tough. You see a lot of different drivers out there that have opportunities to win. When you see that, that means it's competitive."
(DO YOU THINK YOUR TEAM IS JUST AN EYELASH AWAY FROM BEING WHERE YOU WANT TO BE?)
"We're definitely that close. We've been a little bit inconsistent, but for the most part we've had good race cars. The pit crew has been right. Everything has been right. A couple of times strategy has worked out in our favor and we were in position. If you can run consistently in the top five, you're going to definitely win your share of races."
(DO YOU THINK THERE WILL BE A LOT OF NOTE-TAKING GOING ON THIS WEEKEND IN PREPARATION FOR THE NEXT RACE AT LOUDON, WHICH IS THE FIRST RACE IN THE CHASE?)
"The guys who are in the running - I can't even say top 10 anymore because that doesn't mean anything - but I think there will probably end up being more than 10 guys in it. I know Jimmie Johnson went up there and tested, which was probably smart on his part because you can burn one test for two races now and learn something for both of them. You've just got to learn all you can learn every time you're out there. There is nothing given to you fee in this sport and you've got to earn every bit of it. And you are graded weekly on it."
(ON HIS CREW CHIEF, RYAN PEMBERTON)
"Ryan and I have been friends for a long time. He was a good friend of my brother, John. And I'd been trying to get hooked up to work with him for a long period of time but it never happened. And then when this opportunity came about, it was pretty unique. He's a great guy; he's a people person. He keeps all his guys and troops pumped up. That's what it's about. You've got to put the best possible people around you all the time so you can achieve the most success you can."