KEN HOWES, DIRECTOR OF COMPETITION, HENDRICK MOTORSPORTS (YOUR TEAMS HAVE DONE WELL IN TESTING, HAVEN'T THEY?) "We're encouraged, obviously, any time you come down here and run well. You feel good because as a racer that's what you like to do....
KEN HOWES, DIRECTOR OF COMPETITION, HENDRICK MOTORSPORTS
(YOUR TEAMS HAVE DONE WELL IN TESTING, HAVEN'T THEY?) "We're encouraged, obviously, any time you come down here and run well. You feel good because as a racer that's what you like to do. It also tells us the guys have been working really hard over the winter. The No. 5 car is not quite where we want it right now, but that's new team with a lot of new faces and it takes a while for that to all come together and learn the lessons. This form of racing is very difficult. When you have a good, experienced team it will show.
"I feel a little better than in the past about coming to this test. In the past we have struggled a little bit. So far so good but again there's no money on the line, no trophies. Don't read too much into it."
(WHY IS JEFF GORDON FAST AND THE USUAL TEAMS NOT RUNNING NEAR THE FRONT?) "That comes out because people inevitably ask, 'what's up with the No. 8 or the No. 15 and why aren't they where they need to be?' Who knows the answer why? They've had a lot of personal changes and different things happen to the cars. We're like anyone else - we've got to rely on them and respect their ability at these tracks. So, it's a little surprise to us but in the scheme of things we don't know what's going on down there, or what problems they could be having. Hopefully for us they stay struggling."
(HOW ARE THINGS AFTER THE REORGANIZATION WITHIN HENDRICK MOTORSPORTS?
"We're encouraged by coming here and running well. It shows that the guys have been able to keep their heads down and stay focused on what we need to do. In another way that's sometimes you tell yourself that maybe it's a result of what happened-that you tend to work hard and try to occupy your mind when something like that happens to you because it's one way to keep going. You have to wake up each morning, put your foot on the ground, and go. So, in all, we feel good but we've done it too often to feel excited. When we get six weeks down the road, we'll see."
(ON HOW THE DIFFERENT MANUFACTURERS ARE RUNNING) "You can get into all the car makes. They way we look at it is that NASCAR has the rules where everything is really close. The cars are very close in their performance, so the differences you see are really small details. I really don't know that there's anybody with a clear advantage-it's more an indication of teams' abilities, strengths and weaknesses. The rules just force us into a really close competition here. Hundreds of a second make a difference and they are really hard to find."
(WHY IS JEFF GORDON SO FAST HERE?) "Well, we were for a while but then Dale Jarrett got us yesterday. It's an indication that we started out with some good equipment and the guys have worked hard over the winter. But, it could change. There's another test next week and somebody else can take it. I don't think we're showing everything and neither is anybody else. We just happen to be leading the test. It's only a test."
(DO YOU LIKE THE GAME OF TESTING?) "I don't know if game is the right word. I think it's more an opportunity to get out, get back to the track, and get some Florida weather. Cabin fever is a real thing that we struggle with in the winter and it almost makes us feel like we have real jobs. So it's nice to get out and go back and sort of race. It's not really racing, but it sort of is."
GREG ZIPADELLI, CREW CHIEF, NO. 20 HOME DEPOT CHEVROLET
(HOW IMPORTANT IS DRAFTING DURING THE FINAL DAY OF THE TEST SESSION?) "We would like to do a little bit of drafting at least with one car because we've got data. Other than that, maybe for us, it's not a huge deal. Probably for a lot of other people, they would like to have it. Without Tony Stewart being here, I wouldn't spend that much time working on the car as far as getting it to drive any particular way. So for us, if it rains, it's not a big deal."
(HOW IMPORTANT IS THE TEST AT DAYTONA?) "It's always important to come down here and test at Daytona and spend three days. I'd like to think it's been somewhat productive. It's one of our better tests.
"We've made a lot of changes that have you going faster or going slower. Last year we spent three days and I don't know that we found two things that were any better. So, we were able to bolt some stuff on our race car and we picked up and we were able to go back out and maintain that. We're still not anywhere near as fast as we need to be. But we're making gains.
"The No. 11 (Jason Leffler) car got a lot better yesterday afternoon. About all four of our cars are running about the same speeds. I think that was good and a little bit more encouraging for all the guys. There were some sad faces there for a little bit yesterday. So that's good. That's what it's all about. Everybody is working good together as far as both teams. We're all sharing information. What's mine is theirs and theirs is ours so that's worked really well. It's good that we've been able to park next to each other and just spend some time just going through some of that stuff. And when we go back to the shop, Steve Addington (crew chief, No. 18 Chevrolet) will get everything. And I've talked to my brother (Scott Zipadelli) who is the car chief three or four times about all the things that we've learned that are better so that they'll be able to come down here and try those things and try other things. So hopefully by the time they leave, all of Joe Gibbs Racing will have a better package. So that's what we're working on."
(WHAT CHANGES WILL YOU HAVE TO MAKE FOR TONY STEWART TO BE COMFORTABLE WEARING THE HANS DEVICE?) "We've just got to re-do all the backs of our seats and headrests. We're working on that for Texas next week to get him in the HANS. We've got a representative from HANS coming January 24th before we go to Las Vegas and California to spend a day with us. He's going to help us get him fitted and with all the do's and don'ts and to make sure we're doing everything right. He's had to deal with a lot of people in the past as far as getting people adjusted to it. So he'll have a lot of suggestions and thoughts and ideas for us and we're going to take everything we can get and put it all together. We're trying to just do everything we can to make him as comfortable as we can. Hopefully we can make a really smooth transition. But we don't have any choice. We've just got to suck it up and get it done. We've got to do the best we can at getting him comfortable. We want to get it to the point where he doesn't even know it was done. That's what we're working on."
BORIS SAID, NO. 36 CENTRIX FINANCIAL CHEVROLET MONTE CARLO:
(YOU'VE DONE WELL IN TESTING) "It's been encouraging but it wasn't unexpected because here the driver doesn't have a lot to do with that. It's more about the team. Last year, MB2 was really competitive. When they started the MB Sutton team, they gave me great equipment with Hendrick motors and the cars are great. I think they expected to run well so I'm really happy about it."
(YOU'RE A ROAD RACER, SO HOW ABOUT PUTTING SOME RAIN TIRES ON AND RUNNING TODAY?) "Exactly. I asked Junior, 'How come you don't get the groove out and take a few laps?' But he said, 'Yeah, you can go first!'"
(DO YOU THINK YOU COULD DO MORE THAN 10 RACES IN 2005?) "CENTRIX wants to walk before they run. They want to do 10 races right. To start a new team like MB Sutton is pretty hard. If things are going good they might add more races or they might not. I would think they'd become a full-time team in 2006. Whether or not I'm the driver will depend on what kind of results we have."
KERRY EARNHARDT, NO. 33 BASS PRO SHOPS CHEVROLET MONTE CARLO:
(ON THE TEST) "We know what package works at these speedway races because we've been running pretty well at them, but every team is always out to find something better on top of what we have. If we can find some stuff that can improve our package and what we have in place right now, makes it better when we get ready to race. That's all we're working on. Looking at the time sheets, it looks bad. But all these folks here (team) are happy. We know what kind of game plan we're on. Everybody else can be on their own deal, but we know what we're doing and what we've got and what we'll come back with."
(HOW IMPORTANT IS THE DAYTONA TEST TO YOU?) "I think it's very important because it's in the driver's hands when you're drafting because before you just ran wide open like at Talladega and you'd just ride around here. Now, you have to lift in the corners and you've got more of a driver control than just a car.
"So we're trying to find things that'll help the driver try to keep it flat all the way through the corners just to be better than anybody else, but that's what this program is about is trying to figure out how to go faster and how to make the car handle better."
(ON DRAFTING PRACTICE) "It's important to me. I wanted to draft because number one, it gives me seat time and I need as much of that as I can get. But also you can find stuff that helps your car in drafting and stuff like that."
(ON RUNNING WITH DALE JR. AT TALLADEGA AND DAYTONA) "Oh, that's real fun. I wish I could do more of it longer instead of the way some things have happened and getting taken out of races and things like that. But our time will come and hopefully here at Daytona we'll be able to race one-two and hopefully me and Jeff Burton and Dave Blaney and Kevin Harvick (RCR drivers) can all be up front together."
(HOW MUCH OF THIS TEST INFORMATION DOES YOUR TEAM SHARE WITH THE OTHER RCR TEAMS?) "It all goes through the whole RCR organization if we find something that helps our program, it's definitely going to help their program too. That's what I'm about this year. Richard Childress Racing needs to start competing for championships again and being in the running for it. So I'm here to do anything I can do to help that organization as much as I can. We're trying to help the speedway program with their stuff and learn as much as we can and take it over to them."