Robert Pressley, driver of the No. 77 Jasper Motorsports Taurus, had his best qualifying effort since 1995 when he posted the third-fastest time for Sunday's Checker Auto Parts/DuraLube 500K. Pressley's previous best qualifying effort was...
Robert Pressley, driver of the No. 77 Jasper Motorsports Taurus, had his best qualifying effort since 1995 when he posted the third-fastest time for Sunday's Checker Auto Parts/DuraLube 500K. Pressley's previous best qualifying effort was a second-place showing at New Hampshire in July of 1995. He, along with crew chief Ryan Pemberton, spoke about this season and what lies ahead for 2001. Pressley goes into tomorrow's race 25th in the point standings after finishing 39th last season.
--77-- Jasper Engines Taurus --
HOW MUCH DOES A GOOD QUALIFYING RUN LATE IN THE SEASON HELP?
"It helps, but a good qualifying run early in the season helps a whole lot too. I wish this would have come earlier and it should have come earlier, but I've made a lot of mistakes here in qualifying and I've never been a good qualifier. Even back in the Busch deal I think I only had four poles there and won 10 races. I feel like if you can win 10 races, you should win 10 poles. But I think I've hurt the team a whole lot in our qualifying all year. We've been real good about qualifying 15th to 25th, but this team is capable of better than that."
DID SIGNING YOUR CONTRACT FOR NEXT YEAR LIFT A LOAD OFF YOUR
SHOULDERS THIS WEEKEND?
"No, I don't think that has anything to do with it. We've got Phoenix, Homestead and Atlanta left. I'm paid to drive this race car the rest of this year, even before I signed. I want to do the best that I can these last three races and whatever happens in 2001 is gonna happen at Daytona next year. The main thing is we've got to finish this year before I ever worry about a contract or what we're gonna do next year. My priority yesterday was to qualify for this race. Today the main thing is to get this car ready for tomorrow's 300-lap race. Tomorrow, it's to run the best that we can run in 300 laps."
DO YOU GO INTO THE RACE FEELING YOU CAN WIN OR ARE
YOU JUST HOPING FOR A TOP 10?
"What we want to do is finish in the top 10. What I want to do is finish in the top 10, but I know what's gonna happen. It's gonna be the same thing that happened at Charlotte, when we get in the top 10 then the aggressiveness of Robert Pressley is gonna come out again. I don't mind rubbing fenders and tearing up a race car running in the top 10. I hate tearing up a race car running 12th on back because it's foolish to tear a race car up when you don't have a chance to win the race. I mean, you're not building for next year and that's what's been good about this year. Ryan and the crew have put together some great race cars. We tore up a car at Charlotte, which is the only car we've wrecked this year besides Bristol, and it was running in the top 10. When we wrecked at Bristol we were running in the top 10, so if we wreck in the top 10 I don't feel bad. If we wreck running out of the top 10 that's not good for this race team."
YOU HAVEN'T RUN IN THE TOP 10 AS CONSISTENTLY AS OTHER TEAMS, SO DO YOU FEEL
YOU HAVE TO GAIN RESPECT FROM THOSE GUYS WHO ARE THERE EVERY WEEK?
"Yeah, you've got to gain that respect. That's like at Martinsville, we had a good race car but got into a wreck. When we came back out we feel in behind Jeff Burton and Dale Earnhardt and ran there for 250 laps. We could have passed Earnhardt and could have passed Burton and got back a lap, but then we would have only been 61 laps down. I mean, the thing is we went back out as a team to gain respect racing with Earnhardt, Burton, Dale Jarrett and those guys. We want them to see that this team is becoming capable of running with them every week and that I'm capable of running with them. We want them to respect us."
BUT DO YOU FEEL THE PERCEPTION RIGHT NOW IS STILL,
'OH, THAT'S JUST THE 77 CAR?'
"Yeah, it is and I hear it around the garage every once in a while. They'll say something like, 'Oh, they've stumbled on something this week and they're good, but they'll mess up.' The thing is, we want to run with them this week. Now we're getting toward the end of the year and we've gradually climbed up the ladder all year, so I think a lot of teams are saying, 'Hey, Ryan Pemberton and Robert Pressley have got something for us and we're gonna have to start watching them whether we like it or not.'"
ARE YOU HAPPY WHERE YOU ARE IN POINTS THIS YEAR COMPARED TO LAST SEASON?
"I am happy, but we're not satisfied. We sat down last year and said, 'Man, we're a top 25 team.' I thought we were gonna be 24th, 25th, 26th -- right where we are now -- but we've had a lot of breaks that didn't go our way this year and we're still 25th, so we're really capable of being a top 15 team right now. The thing is that's the easy part. For us to get in the top 10 is gonna be hard and from there it's all about dedication."
Crew Chief --77-- Jasper Engines Taurus --
WHAT DID THAT QUALIFYING RUN DO FOR THIS TEAM?
"It's a boost. We know that we've had good cars and we've been able to do this. At various times throughout the year we've been able to put ourselves in a position to do what we did yesterday, but we haven't been able to pull it off. It feels good due to the fact that we went to Homestead and tested and we haven't been testing in a while, so we learned a lot of things and to be able to carry it over here is the biggest boost. It feels good knowing you've been able to take something from one race track and have it help you out at another."
SEEMS WHENEVER A NEW COACH IS HIRED IN ANY SPORT, SOMETHING GOOD IMMEDIATELY
HAPPENS. ROBERT RE-SIGNED EARLIER THIS WEEK FOR 2001, DID THAT HAVE
ANYTHING TO DO WITH THE MOOD THIS WEEKEND?
"No, really I think we've had this potential all along and we thought we'd see more of it earlier in the year. We've had some misfortunes that we couldn't really control and it's taken ourselves out of the game. I just think that eventually you can't have all of that misfortune because eventually it has to turn your way and not go against you. I think that's what's happened this weekend. I don't think Robert re-signing has much to do with it, I think it's just where our program is at and where our team is at. Our learning curve is still pretty steep, but we feel confident and comfortable where we're at right now."
SOME PEOPLE DON'T CONSIDER TEAMS SUCCESSFUL UNLESS THEY'RE IN THE TOP 10,
BUT YOU GUYS HAVE A CHANCE TO BE A TOP 25 TEAM THIS YEAR. WOULD YOU
CONSIDER THAT SUCCESSFUL?
"I think considering all the things we've been through this year with the failures that we've had, we've had some engine failures but anytime you're pushing the envelope with technology you have some failures. We took one step forward and two steps back in that department this year, but since then we've made some changes to make that program a lot better. We've stepped it up and I think it's showing the last few races. We've been very competitive the last few races at Charlotte, Martinsville, Rockingham and even Michigan. We've been very competitive, but have just had some bad luck. You always have some bad days where you have some crashes or mechanical problems. We've had more than our share this year and that's what kind of excites me going into next year. If we can clean that part up or if we can even clean half of it up, if we can cut those DNFs in half, we're right there. We're probably a 15th-place team just doing that and coming from where we were last year to where we are now, I think the future looks pretty bright for us."
YOU TALK ABOUT NEXT YEAR.
THERE HAS BEEN A LOT OF TALK ABOUT YOUR ENGINE PROGRAM. WHERE IS THAT
"It's something that puts a smile on my face right now as far as looking forward to next year. Even the next few races with what we have on the table as far as our program and what we're gonna have access to and do next year. I smile about it, but we're really not at liberty to talk about it right now. Anytime businessmen get together a lot of things can happen. Jasper Motors is a big company and they're looking to expand. We're looking to expand this race team and we're looking to do the things that we need to do to be in the top 10. We're gonna make this race team a top-10 race team. That's our goal and we're set out to do it, but part of doing that is you've got to get like the other race teams. You've got to walk like they walk and talk like they talk and we're in the process of changing some things to put ourselves in a position to be a top race team.
"Some of these things don't happen overnight, but, like I said, I'm smiling right now just thinking about the possibilities and the future of this race team. In order to make this deal really work we're gonna have to increase our funding. Jasper is willing to bring on another partner as far as sponsorship and do some different creative things to increase our budget so we can take the next step of being in the top 10. We're not far from it, we just need some additional support to really make it happen. It'll happen a lot easier and a lot quicker if we can make those additions. A year ago, people probably wouldn't have credited this team with running good or having much success, but right now we're on the verge of doing it and doing it big. When that happens it's gonna be a great day, but right now we haven't done all of what we want to do."
HOW DO YOU FEEL WITH WHAT YOU'VE ACCOMPLISHED
IN YOUR FIRST YEAR WITH THIS TEAM?
"I feel good about it. I'm not satisfied with where we're running, but given the tools of where we were and what we've had to go through to get to this point, I feel as though it's been pretty successful. We've had to overcome a lot of things to get to this points and next year we won't have to get over so many things. We should be better off right out of the box next year and I feel good about where we are considering where we were, but by no means am I satisfied."