JACK ROUSH "Matt and Kurt were the benefactors of a really good program constructed around Jimmy Fennig and Robbie Reiser and the depth of the program was able to set the cars up today so that they were better than average with no happy hour and...
"Matt and Kurt were the benefactors of a really good program constructed around Jimmy Fennig and Robbie Reiser and the depth of the program was able to set the cars up today so that they were better than average with no happy hour and very little practice time that we got on Friday. We really enjoyed having that strength in our program. Jimmy Fennig can speak for himself, but my understanding of what they've done is Kurt had such good luck with the race this spring here and the car was really off the page from what we're doing with our Taurus this year - it was really a page out of last year's book in terms of chassis technology and aero balance and all. So he took last year's car that he'd had with last year's package that he had such great luck with in the spring and carried it forward and it got one more good result from it. The car that Mark had and the car that Matt had were similar, but they were a little newer rendition of the Taurus than actually what Kurt had. So comparing the specifications on the cars from the drivers and the crew chiefs - the crew chiefs in particular doing their analysis of what the result was - they were able to put together good packages without the tweaks you normally are able to get at a race track through happy hour and testing."
WERE YOU SURPRISED WITH KURT'S CAR?
"I felt that based on the way he had run in the spring, I felt that he had an advantage over most folks in the field because he had the best car in the spring. Basically, he went off that page. The thing that winds up happening throughout the year is that you develop improvements in a car and when you come to a race track that is as unique as Loudon, there is always a question of whether the things you worked out for a mile-and-a-half race track and maybe some of the shorter tracks like Richmond - whether the things you think you've learned at those race tracks really come back and apply to a race track that's as unique as Loudon. So they didn't take any chance on it. They just went back on the same thing they had. They had a little problem with pushing off and they made a small spring change, but the shocks and the same car and everything was pretty much what it was in the spring."
WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT STRATEGY FOR THESE 10 RACES?
"I'm glad that I've got a feature of my management style that says the crew chiefs are the captain's of their own ship and I don't have to make that decision. Individually, they'll decide with their drivers what kind of strategies they want to have. If I were a crew chief, I would look at these as more of sprint races than endurance races, but I'm sure that's not what Matt and Robbie are doing, and I suspect Jimmy and Kurt will not be there and I know that Mark and Pat won't. So I don't really have a driver to lead as a crew chief, so I can sit back there and squawk and quack about what I might do, but it doesn't mean much. They'll do whatever they think best. I'm sure that the same strategies that they used through the previous championships for the entire program will be what they ultimately wind up taking. The 10-race schedule here with everybody being as close as it is means that the best average finish, if you don't have somebody take you out like what happened to a couple of guys that were in the top 10 today, if you don't have that happen, then the cars that are able to put it together and trip the light fantastic for 10 races will come forward and come out on top."
"I'm really happy about the engines. Did I hear the e word?"
ARE THE DRIVERS WHO HAD TROUBLE IN THE TOP 10 TODAY DONE?
"If the bad luck that people had today in terms of being taken out for reasons that weren't their own, if it moves around and everybody has that result for at least one race, it'll be a non issue. I suspect that one or more of the guys will dodge that bullet and it'll be pretty hard to overcome. The 24, the 48 and the 8, obviously, didn't have a problem. So the difference between the folks that are at the top of the 10-driver group - the ones at the top - there will be more difference between those and the ones in the back than it was to start with. It's gonna be hard to climb back up there. I don't expect the people that are in the top five will have very many bad races. It's gonna come down to whether they crash and whether or not they get involved in a problem that is not of their own doing or whether they have a mechanical issue."
WILL YOU CHANGE YOUR TEAM'S STRATEGY AT ALL?
"The answer to that is from a hardward point of view, the answer is no. We do a real nice job of testing the engines and understanding what we can do with low risk as far as gear ratios and that sort of thing. We won't step outside of that. If Doug Yates and the engine guys say that we can't go more than 8900 rpm, then we're gonna have 8900 rpm tips in our engines and our cars. Happily, we've got a little more than that to work with, but, no, we're running the programs to the max right now. We've got no room in them."
DOES HAVING A TEAMMATE HELP IN THIS CHASE?
"The question I get asked a lot is if there are orders - if there is some order within our chaos - our multiple-team program - and the answer to that is there is an expectation, and it's the same as it would be for the rest of the schedule - the first 26 races or the old 36-race championship schedule - I hope that none of the guys will take one another out. But there's no expectation that anybody wins or that anybody would pull over for anybody else."
CAN YOU FEEL FOR GORDON AND JOHNSON TO NOT BE LEADING NOW AFTER DOING SO MOST OF THE YEAR?
"The thing I really feel for them, particularly Johnson, is he had those three mechanical issues. A mechanical issue is really a cancer on a race team. When you start having things go wrong, the next thing that happens you may overreact and change parts that are good and/or become more conservative than you should and then you lose your edge from a competitive point of view, from a performance point of view. I talk to parts and I assume the responsibility when things break in my world, so my heart went out to them when they had their issue with their parts. As far as the things that happen on the race track, that's the domain of the drivers and the crew chiefs. Things ebb and flow. When we have our bad luck, and we've had a lot of it over the years and some of it this year, I'm happy to see it move around some."
HOW DO MATT AND MARK LOOK FROM HERE ON OUT?
"It was a real win for Mark, from the point of view of what his objectives were. He felt he needed the practice here and happy hour and he didn't get that, so they were apprehensive. Matt, if you look at what's happened with the 17, they've been off their game just a little bit. As far as where Jimmy and Kurt have been and where Matt and Robbie have been, let me say that I may have gotten a little sloppy. I shouldn't point fingers, but the last couple of races in the first 26 were almost freebies. There were a number of teams out there, and possibly ours, that were using some strategies that may not have been well thought out, that were potentially problematic that they had some curiosity about and, hopefully, that's all behind us now. We've got to take care of business and make sure that we make the high percentage choices and be on a conservative strategy that really led Matt to his championship last year and had Kurt and Jimmy in good stead when we didn't have mechanical issues or other things that frustrated."