Continued from part 1 BUT WHAT MARK WANTS IN THE SHORT-TERM TOOK A BACKSEAT. "I said I was gonna put my family first and as soon as it came up, Jack Roush went to sit down with Matt and Arlene. That's how I'm getting around putting my family...
Continued from part 1
BUT WHAT MARK WANTS IN THE SHORT-TERM TOOK A BACKSEAT.
"I said I was gonna put my family first and as soon as it came up, Jack Roush went to sit down with Matt and Arlene. That's how I'm getting around putting my family first because if they said no, then I wouldn't do it."
SO YOU TOLD JACK TO GO TALK TO THEM?
"You go talk to them. I'm interested in this, but you go talk to them because I said I was gonna put them first and I'm not going back on that. There are certain things that I won't go back on and if they don't bless it, then we're not going forward."
SO JACK CONVINCED THEM?
"They were fine with it. They were OK with it."
YOU SAID THOUGH THAT THIS TIME NEXT YEAR THEY'RE ON THEIR OWN.
"They're on their own. I promise, they are on their own. (laughing)"
THIS IS SOMETHING WHERE YOU'VE HAD TO PUT ASIDE SOME PLANS.
"I have been disappointed from time to time that I wasn't able to go on and do my truck racing like I planned. What I am excited about is I have already tested my truck. Kevin Harvick has agreed to move the 6 over to my truck, which I would say that is a super stand-up guy, and I have agreed to race that truck six times next year. There is a plan for that truck to run a full schedule and to build that team and have it more ready for me in '07 than it would have been in '06."
AT LEAST IF YOU WIN THE TITLE THIS YEAR YOU'LL HAVE NEXT YEAR TO TRY AND BE THE BEST CHAMPION THERE EVER HAS BEEN.
"Yeah because I was gonna walk away (laughing). My plan was I was gonna go truck racing, but you're right about that. Obviously, there again, that's something I really don't want to contemplate until it's over with because that's another one of those straws. I'm telling you, with all the testing and all the stuff we're doing, there's only so much that a guy can take. Right now, I really want to deal with the stuff at hand and I really don't want to deal with the day after Homestead until we get done with Homestead and that's how I'm working it. I tested last week, next week, the week after, the week before. I mean, this is by far the toughest schedule I have ever been involved in."
RUSTY SAID HE WISHED JACK WOULD LET YOU RETIRE LIKE ROGER IS LETTING HIM RETIRE. HAS HE SAID THAT TO YOU?
"No, not necessarily. Everybody has their own deals. Rusty and I are good friends. I have the greatest respect for Rusty and he was a lot of fun doing that together with him and sharing that together. He may not be as comfortable now that we're not sharing it. We have roots that go back 30 years, so I appreciate that. But, at the same time, this is right for me. This is right for me and I'll feel great this time next year. It'll be a joke if they ask me - totally - and everybody knows that. Everything will be fine, but the situation is just not good for me to step out of the way right now. It would leave the situation in an uproar, so there's just not a suitable solution, especially when they had a sponsor lap over, where the sponsor and the driver ended at the same time. That was not normal for Roush Racing to have set up that way. To secure the sponsorship back in the summertime, they needed me to make a commitment to them and I'm gonna do that."
DOES JACK HAVE MORE ON HIS MIND NOW WITH THIS TEAM LIMITATION ISSUE?
"I might be wrong, but I think that team limitation thing is just a non-issue to me right now. I know that Jack has been upset about it, but I just don't see it. I don't see it happening. Of course, I'm telling you I'm focused. I've got the laser-focus. But Jack seems fine to me. He doesn't seem more preoccupied to me. He likes that stuff. He likes arguing. He likes a good fight. He likes that stuff. He seems like he's into it, to me."
WHAT HAS HE SAID TO YOU ABOUT IT?
"Just in the room and in conversation that he didn't see it coming and all of those kinds of things. He's just debating why it's wrong and he hadn't seen any of that coming. It's not like he seen this stuff coming, and that's why I don't think it'll happen because there hasn't been a long-range plan. It hasn't been thought out. It's not a very easy thing to do. I'm just a little old racer. I don't know. All I know is that seems pretty difficult to me to make happen."
HOW CAN YOU REPAY THESE GUYS YOU CALL YOUR HEROES BESIDES THANKING THEM OR PATTING THEM ON THE BACK?
"Do something like we did at Kansas. That's the best way. You can say thanks and thanks are nice. They make you feel good, but they don't make you feel as good as standing in Victory Lane."
THE MORE YOU WIN, THE MORE THEY MAKE?
"Yeah, but it ain't money. That feeling money can't buy, so it's not like your bonuses or something, it's that photograph in Victory Lane and that feeling you have that you're able to carry for only a few hours. That can't be bought. In fact, no hug, no handshake - it can go a long way, but it can't go as far as that. So we've done that. We had a great time in the all-star race and at Kansas and here we are with a shot at it. We're not done. We can still win some races this year. We can win this championship. If I was leading by 50 points, I would be no more confident than I am right here because I know how hard it is to win these things. Some people don't (laughing). I know how hard it is, so if I was sitting here with a 50-point lead, I'd still be skeptical. Things have to line up. They're gonna have to be meant to be for us to win. Tony Stewart is a perfect example last week."
IT'S HARD TO MAKE UP GROUND WEEK TO WEEK.
"That's right. I'm a big boy. I can take a whooping, but I am not a pessimist. I just look at things differently than some guys. I'm the opposite scale of a Wallace. A Wallace is an eternal optimist, but I couldn't live that way. If I thought every race I was gonna win, I'd be brokenhearted 99 times out of a 100. I don't want to be brokenhearted. I want to say, 'Man, we've got a good car and I'm gonna give it everything I've got.' That way if I run second, I don't have to be brokenhearted. That's just how I operate. That's a long explanation to what you said, but these guys are finishing top 10 every week and even if you had a cushion it can go away. It's still a long, hard road. There are five races to go and it's exciting. I hope it's as exciting when we leave Martinsville as it is today. I hope it doesn't spread out after the race."
YOU MUST HAVE A LOT OF PRIDE TO BE IN THIS TITLE HUNT IN YOUR NEXT-TO-LAST YEAR.
"There's enormous pride. That's what I wanted for this year and that's why I was willing to give more of myself than I ever had before - to reach deeper and to work harder at it and all that. That's another reason why I can't deal with 2006 at this time. Today I'm too spent to say that I can keep going. I have to have a break before I can tough up and say, 'Alright, I can do that much again.' I don't know if I can do that much again. I don't want to deal with that right now, but you know what? Worse-case scenario, if 2006 doesn't turn out as good as I hope, at least I can look at 2005 and say that was supposed to be it. Nobody can say that Rusty Wallace and myself haven't gone out at the top of our game. You just can't do it, especially us, especially what we've done. No matter happens next year."
YOU'VE SEEN SOME GUYS GO OUT THAT WEREN'T NEAR THE TOP OF THEIR GAME?
"Yeah, and that hurt me bad. I love this sport. I love the tradition. They were the heroes when I was growing up wishing I could drive. I don't want to see that. I'm so happy to see Gil de Ferren do what he did. I'm so happy for Rusty, who may still win this championship. He's got as good a shot at it as anybody in the chase. Considering the competition, 2005 could arguably be as good as any year of my career. I won seven races in '98 and The Winston. That was a great year, but that was so long ago I can't remember it. So, to me, this is the best."
HAVE YOU LEARNED ANYTHING FROM LAST YEAR'S CHASE?
"We had to play the cards we were dealt last year and our hand is different that we're holding this year, so we're able to do some things differently. So, no, not really. But what I will say is it's gonna have to be a lot tougher next year because these people that didn't make it have got to be getting sick of it. Sooner or later they're gonna learn, and the ones that did make it, they're gonna want to be back in. So I'm telling you, 2006 looks scary to me because there are a bunch of guys that didn't make it that are not gonna go for that again. It's gonna be tough next year if you think about it. From 11th to 20th all of those guys are sitting there looking, 'Boy, this isn't gonna happen to me again.'"
DO YOU FEEL CONFIDENT ABOUT THE REMAINING RACES?
"I feel good about this race, but I feel good about all of them. I feel good about all of them, but I do feel good about this race. Even though I have struggled here, I've also had bright days here, too. Right now I feel like we've got a handle on this place."
IS THERE SOMETHING THAT CAN BE DONE IN THE FUTURE IF A TRACK PROBLEM - LIKE TIRES - IS DISCOVERED DURING TEST SESSIONS BEFORE THE RACE?
"You know what, it's a great question. Lowe's, everyone did everything they could. Goodyear brought the hardest tire they probably have ever made. It worked in May and we didn't have any reason to believe that it would be so marginal, even if one or two guys might have trouble. There was no reason to believe that it would be that marginal. Humpy did everything he could with the race track, short of never messing with it in the first place, and it's got to stop in the future. He's already made mention that he wouldn't do something like that again without conferring with NASCAR, and they've got to tell all these tracks that, 'you don't do anything to the race track without us supervising with you and agreeing.' So everyone did everything they could. No one foresaw it to be as bad as what it was, although there were tire troubles in practice. A lot of times the tire trouble gets less as the week goes on. That being said, I went and tested in Chicago and tore tires up in 17 laps. It was three weeks before the race. I told Goodyear about it and nothing happened. Of course they didn't have a disastrous race, but if you look back there were a lot of tire problems."
MAYBE BECAUSE THERE WEREN'T AS MANY COLORFUL COMMENTS AS SATURDAY NIGHT.
"It was a bad issue because it was the same thing. Right fronts were blowing out, but right rears were tearing up, and if you protected the right front the right rear would just come all to pieces. You can't protect two at once. You can protect one, but you've got to use the other one a lot to do it."
AT THIS STAGE OF YOUR CAREER YOU DON'T HAVE TO CODDLE GOODYEAR. IS GOODYEAR AS PROACTIVE AS THEY USED TO BE?
"It's a massive undertaking because they supply the Trucks and the Busch and the Cup. It's a massive undertaking and to change a tire after Mark Martin goes to test at Chicago and says, 'Hey, this tire isn't gonna work.' For them to change what they're gonna bring three weeks later - it can be done, but they have to be sure that what they've got laid out is not gonna work. I suppose that they weren't convinced that what they had laid out wasn't gonna work. Now, that being said, I'm not a guy that's too soft on them. I think that they should have been paying more attention with that one. I also think they had nothing to do with the Charlotte thing. They couldn't help that and they couldn't have helped it based on the test. The first calls they got from us at the test were, 'This tire is too hard. Everybody is just wrecking. It's too slick. This tire is too hard. You've got to get a softer tire.' Well, they never changed the tire and it wound up not being tough enough. That wasn't their fault."
GOODYEAR DIDN'T HAVE TIME TO TEST AFTER THE SECOND GRINDING.
"I don't know if they didn't have time or if they assumed it should still work because I assumed it would still work. It worked in May and they only ground where it wasn't ground. Logic says they got caught in a box there. That was not their fault. Charlotte was none of their doing."