Pocono: Waltrip, Eury Jr pole winner interview

Waltrip Wins Pocono Pole Post-Qualifying Press Conference with Michael Waltrip MICHAEL WALTRIP, NO. 15 NAPA CHEVROLET MONTE CARLO - Bud Pole Winner Note: last pole won was at Michigan on June 21, 1991 - 456 races ago. "I'm a little amazed ...

Waltrip Wins Pocono Pole
Post-Qualifying Press Conference with Michael Waltrip

Note: last pole won was at Michigan on June 21, 1991 - 456 races ago.

"I'm a little amazed really. I didn't see this one coming. We haven't qualified very well this year. Our best starting position was 18th. And that was last week at Dover and we got that because it rained. So to get first here, I'm pretty amazed. I knew I did Turns 1 and 2 really well. But then when I exited (Turn) 3 I got sideways a little bit and I had to let off a little to correct it. I remember when I won a pole, you had to be about perfect to do it. We weren't perfect, but yet we were still good enough. Our car is one of the best cars in race trim. It was right. I feel real confident about the race. Qualifying today was just a bonus. We are really optimistic about winning the race tomorrow. This proves how fast our car is - to have a car that races as well as it does and to make the few adjustments you're allowed and qualify like we did too."

(HOW MUCH CREDIT DO YOU GIVE TO TONY EURY JR. AND HOW DID THE NO. 8 CAR TESTING AT MICHIGAN HELP?) "Any time you can gather information it helps. The credit goes to the team. I can't express to you how much more important having a team is than having a great driver. The driver is part of the team, but you have to use that driver and all work together and have great resources and smart people and I'm in a position now where Stiffy (nickname for Eury Jr.) believes what I tell him and he hears what I'm saying. I've never met anybody who knows as much about the sport as he does. When I say that, I think I know a lot about the sport because I've been around it my whole life. When I talk to him, he says all the things I think I already know. When you take his knowledge of the sport and savvy of the crew guys and the car, and couple that with his knowledge of springs and shocks and aerodynamics, you've got a guy right there who is hard to beat. I promise you this, I've already heard rumblings of it, people are saying, 'He can take Michael and run good with him. Just think what he could do if we gave him a real driver.' And so I think it's going to be an all-out assault on Tony Jr. and I'll bet you he gets some offers to be somebody else's crew chief. I just want him to be my crew chief forever because he's definitely the best I ever had."

(WHAT DO YOU REMEMBER ABOUT 1991?) "We started out in the Daytona 500 and were running second with just a handful of laps to go and broke an engine. No, that was '92. Maybe I don't know anything about that year. No.we came to Charlotte in May, fourth in the Cup standings and won the Open and Dover was the next race. We got the pole there and then we went to Pocono and then I won the pole in Michigan. But, we started breaking engines and had to change engine builders and went into a bit of a funk for the rest of '91 and part of '92. And then in '93, '94, and 95, we got that No. 30 car running pretty good. I remember specifically that pole at Dover and that pole at Michigan and I didn't dream I'd be an old man when I won my next one."

(WHAT DID IT MEAN TO HAVE THE NO. 15 AND NO. 8 TEAMS SWAP?) "We had an adjustment period of about one day. We had a lot of good conversation prior to heading to Daytona for our first test. We worked through that first test. There were some things they did to the car that I really liked. They began to hear what I was saying relating to what the computer was showing. I think I gained their utmost confidence and respect that day to day all right, he knows what he's talking about. We had a chance to win the Daytona 500, but broke. We had a chance at California, but broke. We adjusted to each other right away. I wasn't as comfortable with my situation at DEI last year. I didn't feel like I had the respect of my crew guys and didn't think they thought I knew what I was doing. I told Richie Gilmore that something needed to be different for me. One day, when I walked in, they said I was going to drive the No. 8 car now and Dale Jr. is going to drive your car. I said, 'All right.' Think about that for a minute. That was pretty cool. I just hoped I could fit into that car like Dale Jr. did. That's how it went down. They accepted me and believed in me. I fit in great. It's all been good for me. Obviously Dale Jr. has struggled a little bit. But I think that DEI will be better and stronger because of this swap. I think everybody sees that one team was a little bit better than the other one. Now we've got to get them both ramped up to that par."


(ON WINNING THE POLE) "It's been pretty awesome. I think we've had a very successful season other than motors blowing and the little bobbles and incidents we've had. When you win a pole, it's pretty gratifying because that means your whole weekend is coming together, not just part of it. We were really impressed with the way the car ran in practice yesterday. We knew if we could get it tightened up for him today, he'd have a good shot. That's probably been my fault all year. But we put it all together today and hopefully that'll show in the weeks to come."


(WHY IS ONE CAR GOOD HERE AND ANOTHER BAD?) "This is an impound race. Somebody has something good for the race that might not work for qualifying. I would reserve my comment on that until the weekend is over."


(WHAT HAVE BEEN THE DIFFERENCES IN THE START OF THE YEAR UNTIL NOW?) "We broke in the first two races and ran crummy in Vegas. After that, we got on it. If you take from Atlanta through Talladega, we led the points. That's like a seven or eight race string there that we led the points. Everybody thought we were running bad because people have a tendency to just look at the points.

"But we've been happy from the start and confident from the start that we could do this."


(ARE YOU SURPRISED ABOUT THE PERFORMANCE OF THE NO. 8?) "They've had some change. I, quite honestly, wanted some change if I was going to drive that car again this year. So I guess I'm not overly surprised. I do believe though that Dale Jr. has the talent and ability to work with his crew and then Richie Gilmore is bringing both teams together to share information more than we've ever done before. The change is going to be good for DEI."


(WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THE TWO DEI TEAMS) "It's not really been like you can't see my notebook or anything this year. Last year, both shock guys worked really well together. I've got a new shock guy this year. He's brought in a lot of information to help us. Just getting the two teams to gel and figuring out who wants to stay long term at DEI has been the biggest deal. We don't just want to learn a lot of stuff and get these cars running and then have the doors open to where the Hendricks people and Roush people can get in and get our information. We still feel like we're a solid company. They put us with Michael because they thought we could get his confidence up and make him the driver that he's capable of being and we thought Dale Jr. was a good enough driver that he could pick up that team and maybe bring some experience along to make that team step up. That's what the whole swap was about. Yes, we're probably on the better end of the stick right now. But in the long run, both of them will be really good."


(ON MAKING WALTRIP COMFORTABLE IN THE CAR) "They way my dad brought me up - and this is the way I feel about anybody - is that the driver is the only one who knows what's going on in the car. If he's not comfortable, he's not going to run fast. My main goal is to do whatever it takes to make Michael Waltrip comfortable. I don't care what anybody else's set-up is in the garage. I've got to concentrate on what he wants. That's what sets our team apart. We try to do our own thing, and that's what keeps Michael happy.


(DO YOU THINK YOUR TEAM WAS UNDERSOLD BEFORE?) "We've got our dues. When you've got Dale Earnhardt Jr. driving your car - he's one of the greatest race car drivers out there - there's a lot of drivers out there (like) Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson. There are a lot of drivers out there and all you'll hear is the driver's name. You won't hear the guys behind the scenes and what they're doing. So, in some aspects, yes. It's nice to get out on our own and make Michael successful like he needs to be."


(ON WORKING WELL WITH TONY EURY JR.) "I really believe there are drivers who go into circumstances and that begin to believe they are the reason why things are successful. I just don't happen to buy into that all the time. You have to have a partner and Tony Jr. has been my partner this year. I tell him all the time I believe I'm as good as Jeff Gordon. But I don't believe I've had a chance to show that. Someone that wanted to argue that could pull out some notes and make me look like an idiot to say that. But when we got in our cars to qualify today, I had just as much shot to go around there as fast as Jeff Gordon does. That's my thinking. I don't know where my final employer will be or who, but I do know I've learned a tremendous amount over the past 13 races about what it takes to be successful. And that makes me feel content to know that.

"I don't believe in the youth movement and I don't believe in drivers being superstars unless they have a great organization. I believe you can take a cat like me and make him a superstar when you put people like Tony Jr. behind him. You have to have a front guy. I can be the front guy. But you've got to understand why it's all happening. I understand it better than anyone. In 1991 when I won that pole 14 years ago, I might have thought I was smarter than I am now. You just grow up and learn. I'm glad I'm where I am right now. I hope I can race my car for a couple three years and then figure out what I want to do next.

"I really believe it's directionally correct for our company to go about things the way we're going about them. Dale Jr. is getting a lot of help from Tony Jr. and those guys and they'll implement that and he'll start running up front."


(ON NOT SHIFTING AT POCONO) "My mental state was so positive coming here because I didn't want to shift. I never felt my car would go any faster when I would shift. I just thought it was a lot of work for nothing. I wondered why it was necessary. What are the chances if you finish in the race if you don't shift? They are about 50 percent - at least - greater, because you're not going to have to stress your engine for rpms and you're not going to break your transmission or your gears. So it's just a simpler way to go about something. People will say you can't pass. You explain to me the logic in that statement. You shift, to try to pass, but the guy you're trying to pass is shifting too. Now you're both not going to shift. Why the heck is that going to make it harder to pass? How is that any different? It's crazy. Don't tell anybody this, but drivers get on my nerves, too."

-gm racing-

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About this article
Series NASCAR Cup
Drivers Dale Earnhardt Jr. , Jeff Gordon , Michael Waltrip , Jimmie Johnson