Continued from part 1 HOW DO YOU RACE DIFFERENTLY WHEN YOU'RE ON THE BUBBLE? "You just be careful. A couple of times at Loudon I had to get myself out of some positions I was in. When you end up three-wide going down in a corner, or you're ...
Continued from part 1
HOW DO YOU RACE DIFFERENTLY WHEN YOU'RE ON THE BUBBLE?
"You just be careful. A couple of times at Loudon I had to get myself out of some positions I was in. When you end up three-wide going down in a corner, or you're racing with somebody that doesn't have that great of a record of coming out the other end of the corner three-wide, or somebody that's not in the chase -- that you maybe feel like they might be driving over their head for those few laps that you're around them. Sometimes it's better to get in line and wait it out than press the issue right then, so those are some things you do to be a little more cautious around who you're racing with maybe, and use the more patience game than racing hard in that particular instance."
WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON WATKINS GLEN?
"The same as Sonoma. We've got really good road race cars and I love Watkins Glen. I like Watkins Glen a lot more than I like Sonoma. I just run better there and the track suits my driving style a little bit better. I just have better finishes there and we qualify well there as well, but just stay on the race track and don't break any parts. Last year I broke a transmission. I'm not sure if it was a part failure or if I did something wrong inside that car, but that's gonna be key is to stay on the race track and not break any parts. That's my whole goal for Watkins Glen and I think we can end up with a top five finish there pretty easily."
DESCRIBE HOW IMPORTANT INDY IS FOR YOU AS A DRIVER AND DO YOU WANT TO WIN THERE AS MUCH AS DAYTONA?
"Yeah, absolutely. The Brickyard is obviously probably number two on the win list compared to Daytona. I'd certainly like to win a Daytona 500. I've been able to win in July in the 400, but the Brickyard would certainly be a race that I'd be very excited about. I'd like to get a win in my career there, but the facts are that we don't run as well on flatter race tracks and faster race tracks like that. We ran well this last weekend at Loudon and we've run well at Indy before, but our test was fair there. We were OK. It felt like our last run of the day we were pretty decent and, unfortunately, blew a right-front tire on the last lap and wrecked our car. It was completely gone, so we had to throw that thing in the garbage can and get another one. But I think we learned some stuff that we can go back and be competitive. I'm gonna take my favorite car back there -- 239 -- so at least I'll have some confidence. If we can qualify well, I think that's a place that we could possibly win at."
WHAT WERE YOUR IMPRESSIONS OF INDY BEFORE YOU RACED THERE AND NOW AFTER?
"You don't really get a feel for that place until you pull in through the tunnel and actually see it for yourself. You watch it on TV and it just looks so different from watching it on television versus being there. It's pretty intimidating when you pull out on the race track and you go around the corner and you can't even see the other corner. It's so far down there you can't even see it. That's a pretty amazing place to be able to race at."
POCONO SEEMS TO BE KIND TO YOUNG DRIVERS. WHY?
"I don't know. That's a good question. I ran fairly decent here my first couple of times and I think it's a race track that -- number one, the shifting has changed the way you drive this race track a lot -- just the way that it feels. Those guys -- starting with Carl -- was the first time that we didn't shift so they didn't know any better. They just showed up and it was kind of a different track for them because they weren't shifting. I just think for some reason, I can't explain it, but it this seems like a race track that a new guy could do well at and I don't know why I say that. It's just because of the shape of the corners, the way the race track is laid out. It seems like a race track that guys could do well at. I don't know why. I feel that as a driver. The tunnel turn and it just seems like a place you could run well at as a new guy."
HOW HARD IS IT NOT TO CHASE GHOSTS WHEN THINGS CHANGE SO FAST?
"It's really hard because we've caught ourselves doing that. We've tried what's working this year and we've gone back to the Kansas City rig and put the stuff in we used last year -- A-frame configurations and things like that -- and found it to be a little better than what we've been doing this year. What we're doing this year is better in some aspects, but we don't think it's better overall. By the time you average it out, we think that last year was a little bit better and we proved a little bit of that at Indy. We switched back and forth compared to how we've had our suspension set and we think our last year's configuration may be a little bit better in certain spots. It's hard. You're always looking for what's next, what's gonna make our car get down in the track better and stay down there. Let's face it, the Chevy teams it just so happens have figured that out better than everybody else. In the Busch Series I see the 2 and the 21 and the 20 and the 18 and the 5 -- I see those guys and their cars are down in the race track a lot better than mine and a lot better than our cars. I know some of it comes from the Cup side because the Cup cars have gotten down better. Jeff Burton and Harvick, those guys have figured this deal out on how to get their cars to stay down and drive. Last year they got them down there, but they couldn't get them to drive and we would always beat them. But they've got them to drive now and we're trying to figure out how to do it and can't quite do it. We think we've learned something at Chicago, but without testing it's so hard. It's so difficult to try things -- to go to the race track and throw a bunch of stuff at it."
LAST YEAR THE 17 TEAM HAD TO GO BACK TO WHAT THEY WERE DOING AND THAT'S WHEN THEIR RALLY STARTED.
"Yeah. That's definitely something that you can get caught up in very easy. We feel like when we show up at the race track that's our opportunity to try a couple of those things in the first practice like today. It's possible that we're gonna try a few things off the wall that we normally wouldn't race here, and then it's really hard to convince yourself -- "Yeah, I think that's a little bit better, it drives a little bit better," but I've never raced it before so should I roll the dice? It's hard for us to roll the dice right now being in the top 10 by 11 points. It's really difficult. Even though I think it's better, it's a big gamble to try that in the race."
HOW MUCH OF A CONCERN ARE TIRES GOING BACK TO INDY?
"I think it's a big concern. I think it's our first tire issue of the year. Obviously the race track was green. As it gets rubber on it, it gets better and we saw that. We saw cords on the first set of tires in six laps -- we had cords showing on the tires. At the end of the day, it was 14 laps or so -- 12 -- that cords were starting to show a little bit. We made some adjustments to try to make it better. The track was taking rubber. It may not be an issue by the time we get back and everybody starts putting laps on it, but we've looked at our tire that failed unfortunately at the end of the straightaway and went right in the fence. We looked at that tire over really, really close and we feel we ran something over. That was only lap nine of that run and we feel that tire failed from debris because a lot of people hit the fence right there coming off of turn one in that little short chute. A lot of guys scraped the fence and there could have been a piece of skirt or a piece of metal or something small that you couldn't hardly even see. Those tires are so soft that it could have punctured it, so we're pretty confident that the tire didn't fail and it was something we ran over because the tire looked perfect. Obviously it didn't spin the rest of the way back, so a third of the tire was ground off of it so we didn't find any holes in it either, but we're pretty confident that we ran over something."
AT DARLINGTON YOU SAID YOU KNEW YOU WERE GOING TO MAKE THE CHASE. ARE YOU STILL THAT CONFIDENT?
"I'm pretty confident. If I could re-do that Daytona finish, I'd be really confident but I feel pretty good about the next seven races. I feel good about Watkins Glen, here, Richmond and there are some other race tracks coming up. We run good at Bristol. I feel like we can get in there. I feel like we can."
WOULD YOU BET ON YOURSELF?
"The last time I bet on myself I lost the race on the last lap, so I'm not gonna bet on myself this year. But I would recommend you to bet on me."
WHEN WAS THAT?
"I don't know if that's legal. It was a truck race in Las Vegas and it was really, really good. It was in Vegas, so. The guys were going to bet on the car and I said, 'Put 100 bucks in for me.' So, yeah. Sprague and I were wrestling on the last lap for the win and I think I ended up second."
AT CHICAGO WE HAD KENSETH AND GORDON. AT LOUDON YOU HAD TONY AND RYAN. AT DAYTONA IT WAS TONY AND MATT. THEN YOU LOOK AT MICHAEL WALTRIP WRECKING UNDER CAUTION. WHAT'S GOING ON OUT THERE?
"That's pretty unusual that you see that. I'm not gonna say that Tony did anything wrong, I just saw the incident when they crashed, but I heard they had been racing pretty hard for that position. I would have to say that if I was in Tony's position, I would have probably let him go and not race with him because he was a lap down and it really didn't matter, but anybody can be Monday morning quarterback I guess, so I hate to even say that I'd do that, but, yeah, that's been something I've been thinking about. I certainly can't answer it. Jeff Gordon ran into the side of my car at Las Vegas. I was in the middle of the straightaway, left him plenty of room, and he came down and smashed into the side of my car and ripped his door open because he was upset that I passed him the corner before. I felt that was pretty unusual. I've never seen that kind of reaction out of him. He's been pretty level-headed in the race car and he's got a ton of talent. He certainly doesn't need to drive like that, but I was surprised. And I think I was surprised at Chicago too.
"I wouldn't have been surprised if he had been racing Matt for three or four laps for that spot, but he had been catching Matt and catching Matt and just got to him. I have to admit that I was surprised he did that as well. Nobody wants to hear it, but that could have been payback from earlier in the year. I don't know. He may have been thinking about that at that particular moment."
BUT THAT'S STILL NOT SMART RACING.
"No, it's not smart because I promise you, what comes around goes around. Being 10th in points that's not a good spot to be. I wouldn't want anybody angry at me. I'm 10th in points and I don't want any enemies. I don't want Matt mad at me. I don't want Jeff Gordon mad at me. I don't want Tony mad at me. I don't want the 11 mad at me -- none of them. I don't want to have any enemies when I'm on the bubble you know what I mean? There's no room for error right now."