JOE NEMECHEK, No 01 U.S. Army Chevrolet Monte Carlo - Qualified 2ND Post-Qualifying Press Conference Highlights: "Our U.S. Army Chevy unloaded. The first lap off the truck was very fast. It seemed like the tires fell off every run we made but...
No 01 U.S. Army Chevrolet Monte Carlo - Qualified 2ND
Post-Qualifying Press Conference Highlights:
"Our U.S. Army Chevy unloaded. The first lap off the truck was very fast. It seemed like the tires fell off every run we made but we didn't seem to fall off as much as everybody else. We put stickers back on when the sun was out and ran almost the identical time. I was hoping we were going to get a cloud out there during qualifying, but we didn't. The sun was out all the way around the race track. To run a 52.43 is pretty good with the sun being out. With Casey (Mears) going out late, I think a little luck of the draw played into that. But that's how qualifying goes. Next week, we're all going to be begging to get that early draw to go out on a cool race track in Indy. Here, if you can get a cloud you're going to pick up speed. My team did a great job giving me a good car. It was the same car we had here for the first race and led for the first eight or nine laps and had transmission failure in the first race. Hopefully we've got all that worked stuff out."
WHAT LEVEL OF CONFIDENCE DO YOU HAVE AT THIS TRACK?
"I sat on the pole here in '97 and I've been close here quite a few times. It's a tough race track. You have to shift. Most of us are shifting on the front straightaway and on the Long Pont straightaway. There are up shifts and downshifts - four shifts per lap - plus getting through three different types of corners. It's kind of a compromise on how your car has to be set up to get around here. But I've been fortunate enough to know and have a pretty good memory of what you need to do to go fast here. I think we're going to have a great run on Sunday."
WITH THE FOG, WAS THERE A DIFFERENCE IN THE QUALITY OF THE TRACK BETWEEN PRACTICE AND QUALIFYING?
"It seemed like the first time we went out on the race track I ran my fastest lap. The majority of the guys ran their fastest lap the first lap on the race track. The asphalt temperature was cool from the cloud cover and from being overcast. We had pretty heavy mist from those clouds that were rolling through and that kept it cool. When the sun came out, it seemed like it made it a little slicker.
"We're very fortunate we have Hendrick engines in our cars and the motors are running awesome. They tuned them up a little bit and we picked up a little speed. I've got to thank those guys in the motor shop for working hard. My guys have been working very hard to improve the race cars. With every improvement they make, the cars go faster. You see how we race. My effort on the race track just reflects how hard these guys work.
HISTORY SAYS IF YOU START IN THE TOP FIVE YOU HAVE A PRETTY GOOD CHANCE OF WINNING. WHY IS THAT?
"I'm not sure. Somebody asked me the question of whether it matters where you start. Yes and no. It's nice to start in the front, but with a 2.5-mile race track, you can start in the back. If you have a pretty good car that drives good, you're most likely not going to get lapped. But the way the racing has been lately, it's getting harder and harder to pass. Whether it's aerodynamics or whatever it is, it's getting harder to pass. Qualifying is playing more of an effort.
"You don't have those two-tire stops anymore to have all that tire strategy involved. So when you stop, you take four tires from now on. You just go. When you're up in the front and have clean air on your car, you have a better day."
HOW DO YOU GET RID OF THIS CLEAN AIR, DIRTY AIR THING?
"I don't know. I don't know what the answer is. Last week, Kurt Busch was fortunate to win there at Loudon. He had a very good race car. I know the one point in the Busch race when our car was just kind of struggling, we got two tires and got out in front and man, I was four-tenths quicker than I had been all day by just keeping air on the front of the cars. We do some crazy things to our cars to make them go fast. All the teams are doing it because speeds are up. The compromise to that is that they don't drive quite as good. This is more of a handling race track. If you can make your car handle and make it drive right, you're going to fast. It's more important than having the aero part of it - especially in the race."