Highlights of Tuesday's Winston Cup Teleconference RAY EVERNHAM (Car owner Evernham Motorsports Dodge Intrepid R/Ts) "New Hampshire is a unique track. It's a flat track. Track position is important, and for awhile, Jeff Gordon and Jeff Burton...
Highlights of Tuesday's Winston Cup Teleconference
RAY EVERNHAM (Car owner Evernham Motorsports Dodge Intrepid R/Ts)
"New Hampshire is a unique track. It's a flat track. Track position is important, and for awhile, Jeff Gordon and Jeff Burton hit a combination there that worked. I think now with the change in tires and a change in some of the things we're doing with setups, a lot of other cars are closer. I'm actually looking forward to going to Loudon, and I wasn't the first time because it hasn't been historically one of the best tracks for Bill or Jeremy. It seems like our flat track program has really come alive this year with Bill sitting on the pole there for the last race. We had a little bit of carburetor trouble that kept Bill from getting a good finish. Jeremy actually had a good run. We just didn't keep him in the track position that he needed. We're taking the same car for Jeremy and a different car for Bill and hope we can go up there and have a good run. We're focused on top 10 runs for that 9 car and building Jeremy's team so it can get closer to the top 10.
"With Jeremy, in fairness to both of us, we're just now getting to know one another. We both expected to come into this deal and go win races right off the bat. When I look back to last year, it really took six to eight months to understand Bill. I think Jeremy and I have gotten to that link now. I probably put a little too much pressure on him at the beginning of the season. I agree with him 100 percent. We're both really happy with the way things are going now. He really showed me a lot, I was really proud of him at Richmond on Saturday night. I felt like we had a fourth-place car. We had to stop for fuel and ended up 10th. He listens. He cares. He's a lot of fun to be around. I call him Eddie Haskel. I think our personal relationship, along with his personal relationship with the people here, has grown. I know the people at Dodge love him, and the UAW and Mountain Dew, they all love him. I'm trying to help them as a group, but since it's not my total responsibility for Jeremy, but if I can help as a group I'm going to continue to do that.
"As far as the templates, basically everybody has got to cut the bodies off the cars with the new roof template and body location, so I don't know that we have any cars that will pass the roof template thing. I agree with what NASCAR is trying to do, but I also don't know how many changes we can do. We basically had to change every body last year because of some template changes. The cost for that is $900,000 and a million dollars for our team and a loss of 12,000 man hours. It's a hard hit, and if we are going to go to a bigger greenhouse I want to make sure we don't have to change it. I'm willing to do what NASCAR asks to help, but I also don't want to do it every year. The body location rule is in effect for next year as is those new roof rail templates.
"When you're building a program, obviously Bill Elliott has done a tremendous job for me personally and for the race team. We've built the program around him. We just need to improve technology wise. Casey Atwood was reallly doing a good job for us, but I couldn't get to the level of technology to make the cars better. Jeremy became available and it was kind of a no brainer to get him. His level of experience, he's 33 years old so he's smack dab in the more middle of Bill and Casey. He doesn't have as much as Bill but more than Casey. He has a good technical understanding of the race car, so it was more about Jeremy becoming available.
"You want a 25-year-old driver that's won races and championships and is a pleasure to work with, doesn't want any of your licensing money and wants a minimal salary. It's hard. What's the model for a Winston Cup driver? There doesn't seem to be a set model. I've got a guy that's about 47 years old that's about as good as anybody on the race track right now. I don't know that age totally comes into it. When you look at the age of a Winston Cup driver, what you're really looking at is how much longer his career is going to last. I think some 45-year-old drivers can do everything a 25-year-old driver can do. You certainly want a guy that can do the job in a race car. Everything else like age and everything else comes as a bonus.
"I know that a lot of people are concerned about the race track (NHIS). I've got to tell you straight up that the race track didn't cause my problem the last time I was there. What I've got to work on is getting my cars handling better, making sure Bill's car runs all day and handling the stuff that I can by providing better cars for my drivers. I can't sit here and tell you that my problems in July at New Hampshire were caused by the race track.
"It's no different than begin a football coach or a baseball coach. You've got an athlete that can actually do something better than you do it, but because you don't have to do it, you can stand there and critique it. That's why sometimes the best football coaches are guys who played but really weren't great players. Because I've driven and understand what they feel doesn't mean I was a great driver. I can critique and help them think about things they might not think about, so I watch Jeremy's style and I'll talk to him about the car or race track and the things he's feeling. Sometimes a light will go off in his head.
"A guy who hasn't driven these race cars sometimes has a hard time understanding what those guys are feeling. I try to be a little bit of a translator. I also encourage Jeremy to think about things in a different way.
"We had tried some things that weren't working before, and I really believe that's going to be the future of the sport. The things you do are getting so close and so competitive. You look at Richmond last week, 36 cars in less than three tenths of a second qualifying. Some had the same times to the third digit. There's been times I walked away because I felt like I was screwing them up. There's time when I've got to stop. I don't want to be a crew chief. If I wanted to be a crew chief, I'd still be with Jeff Gordon, but I don't want to be a crew chief. I won a lot of races and championships as a crew chief and it wouldn't be the brightest thing in the world to stand by and not use any of that that might help my guys. That's a fine line, because sometimes by trying to help you can screw them up. I walk a fine line.
"You have input into it. It just depends on what's available. NASCAR will work with you getting the number you want, but if somebody's already got it, they're not opposed to making deals back and forth. They try to work with you and get you the number you want. Sometimes that's just impossible. I had pretty good success with that 24 but somebody else has already got that one. The 9 was special to me because I wanted to do that for Bill. I thought if we could put a program together and get Bill his No. 9 back and hopefully he'll stay in my cars until he retires, so that would be great. Dodge and Mark Melling, he actually had that number, so he worked with us getting Bill that number. The 19 was my first number when I drove, so I was very lucky to get that. I requested that and NASCAR helped me get it. To me it's always been more about the man than the number. I understand the pros and cons of both, but when I look at Dale Earnhardt, his stylized No. 3, I don't think anybody should ever run that again. Richard Petty, his stylized No. 43, they shouldn't run that unless Richard wants to keep racing. That was personal to Dale and Richard.
"We've got to go back and do work we didn't have to do. I think it puts the Dodge at the Dodge at the most disadvantage. We're all new. We started in 2000 to get ready for 2001, and everybody had to rebody because they were switching to Dodge. In 2001, NASCAR came out with some decklid template changes that made everybody basically rebody all the Dodges. It takes time away from working on our motors. We're talking about 12,000 man hours to rebody all our cars, so that's stopping me from getting ahead. I'm 20 years behind my competition, the people I have to race to win championships, the Roushs, Yates, Hendricks, Gibbs. We're behind those guys and we've got to catch up somehow. Doing work that's already done is hard on us. I'm willing to do my part to help NASCAR. I just wish we could do it once and stop."