ONE YEAR AGO THIS WEEKEND, KENNY IRWIN MADE HIS NASCAR WINSTON CUP DEBUT AT RICHMOND INTERNATIONAL RACEWAY FOR THE EXIDE NASCAR SELECT 400. HE WAS DRIVING THE NO. 27 HASBRO/ACTION PERFORMANCE FORD THAT NIGHT, A JOINT VENTURE BETWEEN ROBERT...
ONE YEAR AGO THIS WEEKEND, KENNY IRWIN MADE HIS NASCAR WINSTON CUP DEBUT AT RICHMOND INTERNATIONAL RACEWAY FOR THE EXIDE NASCAR SELECT 400. HE WAS DRIVING THE NO. 27 HASBRO/ACTION PERFORMANCE FORD THAT NIGHT, A JOINT VENTURE BETWEEN ROBERT YATES RACING AND DAVID BLAIR MOTORSPORTS. IRWIN SURPRISED EVERYONE BY QUALIFYING SECOND, LEADING 12 LAPS, AND FINISHING EIGHTH. THIS YEAR HE RETURNS BEHIND THE WHEEL OF THE NO. 28 TEXACO HAVOLINE TAURUS.
KENNY IRWIN -28- Texaco Havoline Taurus -- YOU MADE YOUR WINSTON CUP DEBUT LAST YEAR AT RICHMOND. DO YOU REMEMBER HOW YOU FELT THAT NIGHT?
"That had to be the high point of getting into Winston Cup. It was awesome. Richmond was my favorite track going into it. We got to test there a couple of times and we were ready to go to Richmond. I mean, we felt good about going there. We led some laps and to have a debut like that it was very special to me and very special to Slugger (Labbe) and Robert (Yates) as well."
AFTER DOING SO WELL THAT FIRST RACE, WHAT WERE YOUR THOUGHTS?
"I think we were very prepared going into that race and I knew that we were not going to be able to test as much at every track like we did there. I don't want to say that I thought it was gonna be easy. Anybody that thinks your just gonna come in here to this Winston Cup deal and roll over these guys is sadly mistaken. I don't think anybody knows what to expect until you get into it. Even as a car owner, guys look at it from the outside and say, 'Man, I've been successful in this and I can do that. I've got as much money as anybody else. I can come into Winston Cup and be successful.' It takes a lot of learning as a car owner, as a crew chief, and especially as a driver to figure out everything that's going on, so you don't know what to expect until you get here. Anybody that tells you different, I think, is wrong."
I WOULD IMAGINE YOU HAD A LOT OF FUN LEADING AND COMPETING IN LAST YEAR'S RICHMOND RACE, RIGHT?
"Well that was more in awe than fun because I didn't know what fun was then. It was pretty cool. It was very cool, especially when I got to lead a few laps. It was like, 'Man, this is where it's at.' And when you get up there and you run up there a couple times it's like, 'How can I make this team run up front every week,' and that's the goal for anybody."
IS THERE ANY WAY OF CALCULATING HOW MUCH PROGRESS YOU'VE MADE SINCE THAT INITIAL RACE?
"I'm a lot farther along and how you would measure that I don't have any idea. The people in the grandstands probably measure it better than anybody else, but I wouldn't know how to measure it. I know as a driver just everything I learn as far as getting the car set up to racing with other guys on the race track to pit stops and talking on the radio, it's just come a long way and it needs to keep coming."
THE RACE TRACK ITSELF, CAN YOU TALK ABOUT WHY YOU LIKE IT SO MUCH?
"I love it. I wish Richmond was the home track that NASCAR runs every week. I don't know why. Some people just like certain race tracks. I mean Dale Jarrett probably thinks Darlington is his best one, but Richmond is mine."
RUSTY WALLACE -2- Miller Lite Taurus -- WHICH CAR ARE YOU GOING TO TAKE TO RICHMOND THIS WEEK?
"We're not taking 'Midnight' this time, we're taking a car we call 'Ronnie'. It's a Hopkins car that I've won with there many times. It's a good car and I'm gonna have it there. That's the car that I had that last lap, knockdown, dragout with Gordon and Labonte and Jarrett and finished third. I thought I had the thing won. I'm gonna take it back with hopefully a little bit better motor and a little bit better handling package."
YOU MENTIONED THAT RICHMOND AND BRISTOL ARE AMONG YOUR FAVORITE RACES. CAN YOU TALK ABOUT THAT?
"I like night racing, it's fun. I wish we had everything at night. It's cooler, more consistent, and better on the fans. If you get rained out Saturday, you've always got Sunday."