Pocono II: Dodge - Jeremy Mayfield interview

JEREMY MAYFIELD (No. 19 Dodge Dealers/UAW Dodge) "Pocono has been a great track for me. I've had a lot of good experiences and a lot of good races here. I love coming here. I love coming here. We hear about tracks that might not be on the...

JEREMY MAYFIELD (No. 19 Dodge Dealers/UAW Dodge)

"Pocono has been a great track for me. I've had a lot of good experiences and a lot of good races here. I love coming here. I love coming here. We hear about tracks that might not be on the circuit next year. Different tracks come up, but I wish we could run Pocono three or four times a year. This is my favorite place. I love coming here. It seems like the last couple of years we haven't run good. I couldn't run like I used to run. Now it feels like we've got it back. The guys on the team know what I'm looking for, and we've got our stuff back together. It feels real good to be back here and be competitive.

"All year long I've been asked how the new point system is going to work, and I've been giving the same answer. I kept saying it was no big deal and it's going to be the same as it's been. It's not. We're sitting 11th, and now if you ask me that question I tell you we've got a legitimate shot to win the championship. That's a pretty cool feeling. I've got to thank Nextel and NASCAR for doing this. I think it's going to be great. I think it's going to get more exciting every week leading down to the race for the Nextel Cup. I'm excited about it, and we've got to run good to stay in that chase. This is a great place to do that right here."

DISCUSS RIDING AROUND THE TRACK YESTERDAY WITH RAY EVERNHAM

"They asked me a couple of weeks ago if I minded riding around the track with Ray for a promotional deal with Mountain Dew. I said no problem, but as it kept getting closer to the date, I wondered if we were going to ride around in a rental car or the Mountain Dew car or what. I found out we were going to ride around in Wally's car, and the more I thought about it, I didn't know if they knew Ray very well. I know what type person he is, and I've seen him in a racecar before. He's not just going to ride around here, especially with me in the car. This is the guy that tells us how to drive all the time. It kinda got me worried. I brought my HANS and all that stuff just to make sure I was safe. He did a great job, but I'm not sure I'm over it yet. We went around the track yesterday, and you'll see it tomorrow. I was kinda scared. Riding on the passenger side of a racecar with Ray driving -- it's not that he couldn't get the job done -- it's just not good riding in a racecar as a passenger."

HOW DO YOU MAKE UP GROUND IN THE STANDINGS?

"We've got to race like we've been racing as hard as we can every week. We might have to take a few more chances than we would if we were sitting ninth or 10th. Those guys eighth, ninth and 10th have got to hold on to what they've got. We're trying to take away what they've got. Dale is going to be strong every week. They're real consistent, and they're going to be good from here on out. We're doing the same. You've got Harvick up there, and they've had kind of a mediocre season. We want him to read all this too and get psyched up.

Ryan didn't qualify good yesterday, and that's uncharacteristic for that team. Is that a sign they're already trying to back up their program a little bit. Maybe they're not being as edgy as they've been on their engine program or something. In a couple of weeks it could go either way. The next couple of weeks is going to be very important for us.We've got to race like we've been racing and not worry about anything and hopefully psyche them out a little bit and we'll go from there."

HOW HAS THE CHASE FOR THE NEXTEL CUP FORMAT AFFECTED YOUR TEST SCHEDULE?

"I think a lot of them out there have saved some tests in case they're in the top 10. That's what we've done. We're testing at Richmond in a couple of weeks. That would have never happened in the past. We would have already been out of tests or had one or two left. We've got several tests left. We tested Loudon and it paid off. We got a top 10 there. We've definitely changed our testing program around just because of that. Ray has turned our program around a little bit with Sammy Johns. You don't see Sammy at the racetrack as much. He's doing a lot of testing for us. He's staying back at the shop doing a lot more work than he's ever done. We're really planning for the last 10 races and getting all the information we can. If we've got a shot at the Nextel Cup in those last 10 races, we're not going to give that up."

HAVE YOU NOTICED DRIVERS USING DIFFERENT STYLES ON THE TRACK?

"I think you're seeing different styles in the programs. You're seeing guys who might not be having good days staying out on cautions so they can lead a lap. At Chicago, we were probably a fifth to seventh-place team. We ended up taking two tires to get track position and ended up fifth. I think you're seeing a lot of teams do that. I said at the beginning of the year this point system wasn't anything different because we hadn't done it yet and I wasn't sure about it. I think it's changed the teams' testing programs and the way we're racing. It's all about points now more than ever."

DO YOU THINK WE'LL GET TO THE 26TH RACE AND SOMEONE WILL SAY WE'VE GONE ABOUT THIS THE WRONG WAY?

"You won't really know until it's over. I think there's some kind of formula to this. I don't know what it is yet, whether it's saving all your tests until the end or what. I'm not sure. I think at the end of it we'll all know. It'll change your whole way of thinking about the way you race. We've done that a little bit. We're starting to see that a little bit. We're sitting here right now talking about us having a chance to win the championship. I think that would be great. It would be a dramatic turnaround for the sport for a team to come back and win the championship. It would be interesting to see it, an 11th place team coming back to win the title."

DO YOU FEEL LIKE YOU'RE CLOSE TO WINNING A RACE?

"I feel real close. I'm real confident that our team is going to win races. We're solid and have a great foundation under us. I think we can win a lot of races. I don't feel like we've got a lot of pressure on us. I know where we're going. I know in the future this team has got to win, and so does Kasey and the 9 team. It's great knowing you've got a confident team that knows the direction you're headed in."

WHAT DO YOU FEEL LIKE IS MISSING?

"We have our meetings and ask what's keeping us from winning races and being better? This is my third year with Ray. In the past it seemed like we were missing big things. We're not missing big things anymore. It's the little things. I can't even sit here and tell you what right now. There's no one thing holding us back. Everything has just got to go our way, the cautions, pit stops. We were running good at Dover and all hell broke loose. I got in a wreck and Kasey got in a wreck. Who would have thought that? That's the type of stuff that's keeping us from winning right now. It's not the Dodge car. Dodge has got a great car. We've got great chassis and pit stops. It's nothing like that. It's the little stuff. A lot of that is luck. We can throw luck out the window. We're going to do what we've got to do and not use luck as an excuse."

ANY KEY TRACKS OTHER THAN POCONO COMING UP?

"We went to Sears Point thinking it could be a weakness. We're sitting there with a few laps to go running in the top 10 and I jam it in gear and spin out and wreck the thing. I feel like that's going to be the key if we don't get in the top 10. We knew anything could happen going into Loudon. We came out with a top 10, and we felt that was a key for us. We're taking it week to week whether it's a good place for us or not. Indy is coming up for us after this, and we feel like that's a good place for us. We had a good test. I think every week is going to be a key week. It's not that one coming up is going to be a bad one or good one. There's a lot of key things that happen every week."

COMMENT ON HOW RAY EVERNHAM HAS HELPED YOU

"It's funny. I've learned so much from Ray that at the beginning of our deal I didn't know I was learning. Now I look back and understand that's what he meant by this or that. I think that's why our team has come together like it has. Ray is very good about looking ahead and thinking way on down the road from where we're at right now. To him this week is just another small step for his big picture. I think he's done a great job of doing this and knowing our future is in his hands is even better. That's something I've got 110 percent confidence in. I know with him leading the way, I don't ask questions. I'm just riding that train and doing my job."

WHAT IS IT ABOUT POCONO THAT APPEALS TO YOU?

"Well, for one thing you can race. Sometimes we ride around and there's not a lot going on. There's not a lot of passing and you don't see a lot of two and three-wide racing. At Pocono, from the time they drop the green flag until the time the checkered comes out, there might be five wide on the front stretch and every lap they're two or three wide in the corners. You go into the tunnel turn and there's still passing going on in there, too. You get to turn three and think all the excitement is over with and you're two or three-wide going through there. I like it because it's a place you can race. It's not all about aero. It's not all about chassis. It's got the whole package. You've got to have good fuel mileage and good pit stops. If you're sitting back as a race fan I think this is about as exciting as you can see. If you've got a good car you can pass and race."

HOW WOULD YOUR PERSPECTIVE CHANGE IF WE WERE USING THE OLD POINTS SYSTEM RIGHT NOW?

"I think it's something we're seeing now that I didn't think was going to happen when they first started this. All the excitement that is going on now is through 15th really. If it was like it was last year, we'd be sitting there trying to get in the top 10. The guys eighth, ninth and 10th would be trying to hang on to it. Knowing you've got a chance for the championship makes you want it more than you've ever wanted it. It makes you more hungry. In my career, I can't ever remember not being able to wait until next week, can't wait to get back to the racetrack, can't wait for practice. Like this morning, I want to practice and run. I've never in my whole career felt like I feel right now, and I think that's because we've got a shot at winning the thing."

AFTER RICHMOND, IF YOU'RE NOT IN THE TOP 10, WHAT HAPPENS?

"I'll be honest with you. I haven't even thought about that. All I'm thinking about is we're going to be in it. I know what you're saying, but I kinda don't want to answer it. I feel like I'd have to think about it. I've got a good feeling about us being in the top 10. I have not thought about what if. Like my wife said last night. She said she wasn't even sure if she was going to the last 10 races. She's so excited about it. If we're not in the top 10, we're going to be (upset), and we're not going to be nice to anybody. We're going to win and have an influence on how the championship turns out."

ARE YOU STARTING TO SEE RESULTS WITH EVERNHAM

"We all have great expectations, or thought we did when we went there. When we first started it was a struggle and that was as much my fault as it was his. I couldn't find my place with the way things were supposed to work with the way Ray had his program set up. We were struggling with each other and didn't really know what. We couldn't understand why we weren't running good. I think you can look back now and I wouldn't trade anything for it at all. It was a great experience for me. I was ready to move on to something different, and I'm sure Ray was, too. You couldn't run me off now, and he's not going to run me off. It has taken a little bit longer than we thought, but I still wouldn't trade it for nothing. I know what we've got now is more than I could ever get if I had to go get something different. It was great experience for the race team to get us where we are right now. We had to build the program from the bottom up, and that's what Ray has done. I think he's done a great job. I'm not looking back. I'm looking forward. It's pretty amazing going from where we were two years ago to now. It might not look that way on paper, but it's amazing to see the results."

-dodge-

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Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Jeremy Mayfield