Continued from part 1 CAN YOU DESCRIBE HOW DIFFERENT IT IS BEING IN THE CHASE VS. HOW YOU WON YOUR TITLE? "The last 10 weeks are almost like the whole season was that year for us. It's kind of nerve-wracking. You don't want to lose any points.
Continued from part 1
CAN YOU DESCRIBE HOW DIFFERENT IT IS BEING IN THE CHASE VS. HOW YOU WON YOUR TITLE?
"The last 10 weeks are almost like the whole season was that year for us. It's kind of nerve-wracking. You don't want to lose any points. You don't want to have trouble and do all that kind of stuff. The rest of the year, the first 26, is maybe a little less stressful if you have a strong team and you're solidly in the top 10 it's a little less stressful. You can lose 30 points and have a flat tire and not feel too bad about it because you have enough weeks to make it up and things get evened up with 10 to go."
IS THERE ANYTHING YOU CAN WORK ON WITH REGARD TO PERFORMANCE?
"We've just been working on it. We worked on it Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday before the car left to come down here and did a lot of different stuff to try to make it better. We haven't really had a lot of bad luck in the chase so far. We've had pretty even luck. We haven't had any flat tires or anything silly going on. I don't think we've made really big mistakes on pit road or on the race track. There may be some little stuff here and there, so we've been fairly solid, we just haven't been very fast."
DO YOU LIKE THE CHASE FORMAT?
"I don't care whether they change it or not. I've grown to like it. I think it's OK. I still think it's about being consistent the last 10. The guy with the best average finish is still gonna win, which is, I think, the way it should be because there are 43 cars on the track and not five or six. I think it should be about consistency and about winning and I think it's about both right now."
YOU HAVE NOT DONE THAT WELL HERE. WHAT MAKES YOU OPTIMISTIC?
"Well, the first year I guess we blew up. When we had the championship won they tried some different stuff on the engine, which didn't work very good. I guess we have had a little bit of trouble here, but we've run OK since they reconfigured the track. We didn't run great last year, but we finished good. I think we finished third or fourth or something like that. It's a good track. I think this is only the third year since they've reconfigured it and in the first year, like I said, we broke and then last year we ran OK."
HAS ANYBODY COME TO YOU AND ASKED YOU TO EASE UP ON YOUR RACE TEAM? "I don't think I've been extra hard on my race team. They've all been around a long time. They're all big boys. We all get paychecks for how we perform, so I don't think I've been especially hard on them and I don't think they've done a bad job. Our cars haven't run great, but is that the over-the-wall guys' fault? No. Is that any one person's fault? No. I take as much responsibility for that as I give to Robbie or Chip or whoever is setting the cars up. I have a big input in how the cars are built and what gets put in them for shocks and springs and whatever and we've just been missing it lately. That's just the truth. That's not being hard on anybody. That's just the truth. Our pit stops haven't been perfect. They haven't been as good as what we were early in the year. I don't feel I've made any big mistakes in the chase like in year's past. In year's past I put it on the tires at Dover and I've done dumb things to take us out of it and I'm the first one to admit that, too. So I think more than being hard on anybody or being pessimistic or anything like that, I think I've been realistic and I've been calling them like I've seen them and have tried to make them better. If things aren't going great and to tell everybody how great it is, that's not gonna help them make it better either. I think there's a time and place for everything. There's a time when you've got to realize that things aren't going great and you've got to buckle down and try to make them better."
HAVE YOU BEEN MORE FRUSTRATED OR CONFUSED THE LAST FEW WEEKS?
"I've been both. I don't know exactly what's wrong, but yet I think everything kind of works in a cycle like I was saying before. Last year all the teams were really strong and we were the last one to get going. I think this winter Robbie did a great job making our bodies better and Chip went kind of a different direction and got some of our chassis stuff better and we combined that and were the first ones at Roush kind of running the new generation of stuff for us and we took off this year really, really fast and were the best team over there. We were as good as anybody in the garage and as the year went on the rest of our teammates incorporated that and I think we kind of got passed by some other people and they've just made their stuff better and we just haven't been able to keep up. We've made a change in engineering and some other things and we haven't kept up with the new stuff. We just got behind, I think, because we lost some people in some key areas and we haven't necessarily replaced them and got the thing going forward."
WHEN ONE OR TWO TEAMS DOESN'T PERFORM WELL DOES IT DRAG THE OTHERS DOWN AS WELL?
"Eventually it does, not attitude-wise but performance-wise. The thing is kind of consolidated, so the same people build all of our chassis. The same people basically put all of our bodies on. All of our hardware is the same, so if Greg's not running with the stuff, it's only a matter of time before my stuff is not running, or vice versa. Especially Greg and I, we drove the same car at Homestead a little bit at the test and we both had the same feedback about it, so I think a lot of our stuff we've been able to run the same. Last year I used a lot of his stuff to get running better and kind of got it turned around at the end of the year with a lot of stuff that Greg was doing, so, obviously, he's not running and Carl's not running, so you've got some of that stuff going on. Obviously we're a little behind somewhere."
ARE YOU BEING UNDERESTIMATED THIS WEEKEND?
"Maybe. I don't know how many points we're ahead of Kevin, but I think if we finish within five or six spots of him we can still beat him, and I think that's certainly doable unless he goes and dominates the race -- we might not be able to run sixth. I think that's doable, but yet those guys with the way we've run the last five or six weeks, they could obviously beat us by more than six spots. Certainly, if something happens to the 48 all four of us are right back in it."
IT'S ONLY HAPPENED TWICE IN THE LAST 30 YEARS WHEN THE LEADER WAS OVERTAKEN IN THE LAST RACE. ARE YOU SURPRISED BY THAT AND DOES ALAN KULWICKI'S COMEBACK INSPIRE YOU?
"Both. Anything can happen. Honestly, it usually doesn't. Most likely he's not gonna have a problem. Most likely the stuff is gonna be prepared great. Most likely they're not gonna have mechanical problem. Most likely they're not gonna get in an accident. Jimmie is smart, but there are a lot of things that can happen. Look at Kurt when that wheel fell off and it all just happened just right and he got on pit road and still won the championship. If that would have happened off of turn two, he probably wouldn't have won the championship. So anything can happen and you've got to be ready for that. You've got to prepare like that. You've got to have all your stuff ready in case something does, so you can still be in a position to capitalize on it because with the way we've fallen behind, even if he does have trouble we've got to be careful or the 29 and the 11 and those guys are gonna pass us. So I think Jimmie is in the driver's seat. I think it'll be difficult for something to happen to them to take them out of the championship. They've got a big enough of a lead where even with a little bit of adversity they still should be able to overcome it."
IS THERE ANYTHING YOU CAN DO TO MAKE SOMETHING HAPPEN?
"We've had nine weeks to make something happen and the bottom line is the couple of times have, we haven't really gotten the finishes we need and we've had other things happen. You can only run the best you can. You can't do better than your best. If you try to make your car go faster than you know it's capable of going, that's when you're gonna wreck or get yourself in trouble. You can only run as hard as you can run and do the best job you can do. We've really been doing that every week, we just haven't had the cars capable of running up front, but we've been doing the best job we can and putting in 100 percent effort every week and we'll just do that again."
IS ANYTHING DIFFERENT THIS WEEK?
"No, nothing is different. If we were in Jimmie's spot it probably would be just a little different because you know you only have to run 12th to 17th to win the thing no matter what everybody else does. You'd maybe have a little different approach, maybe be a little more careful with your gear ratio or your aggressiveness on your engine. You might be careful so you don't break any parts, but other than that I think you do everything the same."
WILL IT BE MORE NERVE-WRACKING THIS WEEK THAN LAST?
"No, if we're out there running the race and we're running ninth and something happens to the 48 and the 29 is a few spots in front of us and everybody is right around us, then it will probably get nerve-wracking, but until that time I don't think it's that nerve-wracking. I think we try to keep those other three guys behind us and run the best we can. They're in the driver's seat. If something happens to them, obviously it's gonna change and it'll be a little nerve-wracking and you'll see where everybody else is running, but if that doesn't happen, I don't think it'll be much different than normal."
IS JIMMIE WINNING A TITLE INEVITABLE?
"Oh yeah, for sure. I think if you asked anybody in the garage and they told you the truth, they'd say the 48 deserves to be a champion. They've been a championship-caliber team since the inception of it. Since Jimmie and Chad Knaus got together they've been championship caliber. They've really been the overall team the last four years I think. If you asked about one team you had to beat to win the championship, you'd have to think about them."
DOES WINNING A TITLE HELP YOU GOING INTO THIS RACE?
"Not anymore. I think it would help if we were leading, but where we're at I don't think it really helps. The only car we control is our own and, obviously, if we beat Jimmie by a spot or two that's not good enough for the championship, so I don't think that really helps right now. If we were in the lead, it might help a little bit."
IS THERE LESS PRESSURE ON YOU NOW? HE'S NEVER WON IT.
"Yeah, I think they've got the most pressure on them because they know they're in the driver's seat. Unless they have a problem, they're going to be the champions, so I think for sure the most pressure is on them and they're the ones probably the most nervous in making sure that everything as they're preparing it that they go through everything real good."
HOW HARD WOULD YOU RACE JIMMIE ON THE LAST LAP?
"If it gets down to the last couple of laps and you're racing Jimmie, he's not gonna race you very hard. He's not gonna give anybody an opportunity to race him very hard. Jimmie is smart. He's not gonna put himself in a spot to get wrecked. Just like Tony last year. Tony knew where he had to finish and that's about where he finished. I don't think he was up front or a factor to win it, he just got in a spot and made sure he stayed out of trouble."
WHAT'S THE BIGGEST WORRY YOU HAVE ON YOUR MIND?
"I don't really have one right now because we're not in that spot. If you were in that spot, I'd worry about everything. I'd worry about tires being loose or engines blowing or running over a piece of debris. I'd be worried about everything, but not being in that spot, I'm not really worried about anything right now -- just getting our stuff to run."
IF IT CAME DOWN TO YOU AND JIMMIE AND YOU HAD TO MOVE HIM OUT OF THE WAY, WOULD YOU?
"No, I wouldn't do that. I'd race somebody else how I think they'd race me. That's how I do it. I'd figure out who it is and what I think they would do in the opposite situation and that's how I'd race them. I've been in a lot of races with Jimmie and he's had a lot of chances to knock me out of the way, even at a track like Bristol where it's acceptable, and he's never done it, so I wouldn't do that to him either. If it was the 24, maybe that would be different but I don't think the 48 would do that to me and I wouldn't do that to him either."
EVEN WITH THE TITLE ON THE LINE?
"No, I don't think so. I don't think you should race anybody different, whether it's for the title or not. I think you should race people the way you want to be raced. Most of the time it works out. Most of the time they race you back like that and sometimes they don't. Sometimes you'll make a mistake and you'll have a problem with somebody, but I really think you should race people how you want to be raced. You should race people as hard as you can race them but still do it cleanly."
WHAT WILL YOU BE HAPPY WITH ON SUNDAY?
"I'd be happy Sunday if we ran competitively. I'd really be happy if we could run in the top five, lead some laps and finish in the top five. I'd be pretty happy with that for a day because we haven't been able to do that the last five or six weeks. If we could put together a solid run, have a solid day on pit road, run up in the top five and finish up there, I think that would be a good day for us."
WHAT IS YOUR STRATEGY?
"I'm just focusing on trying to get our stuff to run better, trying to figure out what we've been doing wrong, trying to get a little more competitive so we have some ideas going into the winter to get our stuff better for next year."
WHAT DO YOU THINK YOUR CHANCES ARE OF BEING IN THIS POSITION NEXT YEAR WITH THE CAR OF TOMORROW AND ALL?
"It's hard to predict a whole year out. After the year we had last year, if you would have asked all five Roush drivers what they thought their chances for a championship this year were, all five would probably would have told you, 'Great,' and only a couple of us ended up making it. A lot of things can change in a year. I have no idea what the car of tomorrow is gonna be like and how we're gonna run with it. I don't know what we're doing for some of the people at Roush. We're losing some people and we're getting some new people, so I don't really know. I hope it will be good. If we can keep our same basic team together, I think we'll have a shot but I don't know."
-credit: ford racing