Continued from part 1 Q. Who are some of the best at observing that etiquette? Who are some guys that maybe need a little work? GORDON: "Well, I think Mark Martin's always one of the best gentlemen-type racers out there. He's a guy, even...
Continued from part 1
Q. Who are some of the best at observing that etiquette? Who are some guys that maybe need a little work?
GORDON: "Well, I think Mark Martin's always one of the best gentlemen-type racers out there. He's a guy, even when he's in the lead, and he doesn't have the car that maybe the guy behind him has, he's really great at moving over, working on his car, getting his stuff better, then going back after those guys later.
Who needs work? I have no idea. I mean, you know, some weeks guys do a fantastic job, other weeks... You never know. Something may have happened to Dale Jarrett that he was just ticked off. You don't know. Sometimes things set you off to where you don't want to get out of anybody's way, you're mad that you're a lap down, you're mad your car is wrecked, maybe it wasn't your fault, you're not thinking about being kind to the guy coming up behind you."
Q. How do you size up your season's development so far? Are you pleased? Satisfied? Impatient?
GORDON: "I'm pleased. I guess this is what I was expecting of us at this point in the season where we were a better team. We had better race cars. Not necessarily the cars being better, but the setups relating to how I like to drive, the comfort and feel. I think it's given me more confidence. It's building confidence in the team.
I knew over the off-season that we were not going to come out of the box as "the best team" and "the team to beat." I still believe, and probably believe it even more now, that we're still in such a learning curve that by the summer, I think we will be one of the teams to beat. I think you're going to see some huge improvements out of our performance, of really competing with the guys. If it's not the summer, shortly after that.
I think we've got big gains that we still know are out there for us. I think other teams have -- I'm not saying they peaked, but I think they're at a level I think we can get to and really be up to, you know, being one of the top teams hopefully before the Chase, and then more importantly if we do do that, you know, being in the Chase with a chance to win the championship, not just a team in the Chase."
Q. Are the new testing limitations changing the way you do things? What are your thoughts on the new regulations?
GORDON: "Well, I like the fact we've limited the number of tests. I've got thoughts and ideas all the time about the testing policy. If it was up to me, I'd get rid of testing altogether and allow us to put telemetry on the car, either the first day we get here or a day early or something like that at least at every track one time a year. There are obviously some challenges that come along with that from a NASCAR standpoint or a timing standpoint. It takes a long time to put the telemetry on and take it off. We can't race with it because we don't like us having wheel speed sensors because they think - which we probably could - incorporate traction control, things like that. So I understand that side of it.
You know, I'm in favor of limiting the test. You know, I like Richmond. I'm glad we're here. I wanted to be able to test here, but not this week. I don't think that we should be testing on our off week. I think we have so few off days that I wish we were here on a different week.
But I like the night testing a lot. Being able to test here under true conditions for what we do here for the race is extremely important and probably some of the most valuable testing that we've ever had here at Richmond."
Q. When you look ahead to Phoenix, what is the main priority or top of your list in terms of what you're looking for, especially since this is the first night race?
GORDON: "We ran pretty well at Phoenix the last race there. We're just going to try to build on that, be a little bit better. I love racing at night under the lights, especially there at Phoenix. They did a fantastic job with it.
Obviously, you know, we're looking to come off an off weekend and build some momentum, you know, put some top fives together and hopefully a win. We want to get to the winner's circle. We recognize we have to walk before we can run. We've been putting some pretty good finishes together, especially on the short tracks. Phoenix is somewhat of a short track, in our opinion."
Q. I wanted your assessment of the quality of this year's rookie class.
GORDON: "The quality of the rookie class? It's very high quality, that's for sure. I think you've got some great drivers with good experience coming out of the Busch Series. Then you've got, you know, guys that have just solid race teams.
I think from what I've seen so far, the guys are doing a fantastic job. We've just been seeing this trend more and more over the last six, eight years of rookies just being able to come in and perform well, win races and put consistency together and also come in with strong race teams.
You got to give the Busch Series a lot of credit, credit to the young talent that's out there."
Q. Your thoughts on a couple recent changes by NASCAR. Reduction of the fuel cell for the race at Lowe's Motor Speedway, and the softer bumper for Talladega.
GORDON: "Yeah, the Charlotte situation is very unfortunate. I was really hoping -- it's a temporary fix because we shouldn't have that problem once we get a couple races on that new surface. I haven't been on the surface yet, but I hear it's really smooth, got a lot of grip, really fast. Unfortunately, Goodyear hasn't been able to build a tire that can really withstand the heat that's built up from that track having so much grip.
Somebody suggested, you know, to NASCAR, you can either throw a caution every 25 or 30 laps or you can run us out of fuel. I guess that seemed like the best option. It's going to be -- a lot of that race is going to be won on pit road. You're looking at probably 16 pit stops if not more. That's going to be incredible.
Still going to use up a lot of tires, but hopefully we won't have failures. Safety issue, you got to look after the safety, especially with what we saw there last year.
The soft bumper, I'm all for it. I've been hoping for something like this for a while because I think the bump-drafting has just gotten out of control. NASCAR took the first step in Daytona by incorporating some penalties. This is the next step. I'm real curious how they're going to govern that because there's so much behind that front bumper, duct work, it's going to be difficult for them to really get behind there. I think there may be some teams that are still trying to hide things back there that they're able to use that bumper.
I think in the closing laps of the race, the bumper's not going to mean anything. In that last two or three laps, guys are going to go for the win. They're going to be -- they're going to be using their front bumpers. They don't care whether it overheats or not. The only reason you soften the front bumpers up is so you can't hit the guy because it overheats the engine with the radiator ducting."
Q. With so few chances to test, how much more of a sense of urgency do you feel each time you do test, especially at a place like Richmond, knowing this is the last race before the Chase in September?
GORDON: "It's a lot like Dale Earnhardt, Jr., was saying. What's amazing, we can now come to Richmond and not only learn about Richmond, but we're actually doing things and applying things we learn here to other tracks, mile-and-a-half tracks, Phoenix, all different types of tracks because of the technology that we have and because of the direction that we're going into with the setups these days, you're able to -- you'll learn a lot from every single track that you go to.
This is a very valuable test. We do have to take advantage of the limited number of tests that we do get and take full advantage of them.
It is a long day, 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Because of the limit on how many tests, we're welcoming it and glad to have that amount of time."
Q. Where does this track rate on your list of favorites?
GORDON: "Right up there. I'd say -- I always for back and forth between here and Michigan. This is definitely one of my favorites. I like Michigan as well. Michigan is a two mile in length Richmond. That's probably why I like both of them. It's a great racetrack, multiple grooves. It's fast but yet still has a short track quality to it. Any track we go to where there's more than one groove to run around the track, I like it. As far as short tracks go, Richmond is really the only track out there that has multiple grooves. "
Q. I read somewhere where your style has changed a bit maybe this year, no more Mr. Nice Guy. Have things changed the way you drive a little bit this year?
GORDON: "Well, I don't think so. I think that my team is just providing me with equipment that in the -- and the passion they have for what they're doing has probably transferred over to me. I feel like, you know, Steve Letarte, a lot of the new people on the team has sort of rekindled things for us.
I want everybody to know the passion is there within me as well. I think maybe because some people questioned it last year with our performance, then bringing some of the new things to this race team, I think those have just gotten me more fired up on and off the racetrack to go out there and perform.
When you've got a good race going, it only gets you more upset when something happens, like what happened at Bristol. Every race is valuable. You need all the points that you can get. You can't get 'em back, but you have to move on from it as well.
Out there on the racetrack, I guess I've just been -- the last couple years, to a lot of the guys, especially some of the young guys that have been fast, running good, the 24 car has just kind of been a car that every once in a while runs good, so you catch me and I didn't have a car capable of running with them, they said, I'll stick my nose in here and he'll move out of the way. I did in the past. But now I've got a car capable of running with them and I'm not going to do that this year, or anywhere. If I have a car any year, any time, that's capable of running up front, I'm not going to move out of the way quite as easy as I would if I didn't have the car." *** SCOTT WIMMER, No. 4 AERO Exhaust Chevrolet
Q: We have 8 drivers from Virginia in the Busch race Friday night. You're the only driver representing the Virginia-based team (Morgan McClure Motorsports). Talk about that and how the test is going.
WIMMER: "So far really good. It's real exciting being with Morgan McClure and being the only team left in Virginia. A few years back they had a few more teams but Morgan McClure has been able to stay in the series and stay competitive and do real well for the sport. It's exciting for me representing him coming to what they consider one of their hometown tracks. It's a special race for them. The test is going real good. I think we're going to learn a little more once the temperatures cool down a little bit and we get to actual racing conditions. So far we've been going through a few things and figuring some things out and hopefully later we'll get more speed out of the car."
Q: Is your team starting to get there as the season goes along?
WIMMER: "We had a big letdown missing Daytona this year, but ever since we've been running real well. We've been inching our way back up into the top 35, qualifying for races. It's really hard going to the racetrack and Friday we have to concentrate on qualifying. We first need to make the race. We've been able to do that the last few weeks. Hopefully we can get back to where we can just concentrate on the race and work on the race setup all day long. Qualifying is qualifying and we can just land where we need to. It's my first time working with these guys and we're only seven races into the season, so I think by midway through the season we'll gel pretty well and you'll see some of our better runs coming."
Q: Does this track suit your driving style?
WIMMER:"Yeah, I really love coming to Richmond. I think it's one of the tracks that all the drivers enjoy because it seems like we have two grooves of racing. We're already running a second groove out there and that's real encouraging in testing to already be running that. I grew up on the short tracks. I think our cars run great on tracks ¾ to a mile. I think it's where we see our most exciting races. We definitely look forward to coming here twice a year, it's under the lights, great fans, and it's just exciting for everybody."
Q: Are you happy with your position so far?
WIMMER: "I look at our performance and our finishes haven't been where we need them to be. We had a couple of off weekends. We ran out of gas at Atlanta. If we hadn't had those problems we'd probably be in the top 35, and there are some pretty good cars outside the top 35 with Ganassi's car and Ray Evernham's car. It's tough being a single-car team and trying to overcome the obstacles we've overcome this year, I think we're doing a great job. Our first goal is getting back in the top 35 and then I think we can concentrate on racing a little bit harder, trying to get up front and maybe taking some risks that maybe we don't take right now because we need those points to get back." *** KEVIN HARVICK, No. 29 GM Goodwrench Chevrolet
Q: Tell us about testing here under the lights, how it's going and give us a recap of your season.
HARVICK: "The testing is way to long first off, we should start it about noon. It's the 24 hours of Richmond (laughter from media). The test is going good, we've run through a lot of stuff. They won't sell us anymore tires. We only have one more set of tires so that's what we're gonna do for the rest of the night is burn up one more set of tires and go home. The test has gone good. The performance of the cars has gone really good at the start of the year here, we didn't capitalize the first three weeks or so but had good cars, so we're just gonna keep doing what we're doing and everything should be fine."
Q: Talk about how well things are going on the ownership side.
HARVICK: "It's going good. Burney's kinda been up and down as we expected in his rookie year, but he's done good and the 33 is sitting third in the points in the Busch owners points. Really on all sides of it, everything is going really well, so hopefully we can keep them going that way all year."
Q: You're coming back here to run the Busch race as well, running the full season, obviously your goal is to win the championship.
HARVICK: "Yeah, that's the goal. Obviously we can't control the circumstances through June and a couple of other races that are conflicts. I think if we could just have the weather cooperate with us and get back and forth and not have any hiccups in June, I think we'll be fine."
Q: You're always run well here, won the Busch race in September, where does Richmond rank on your list of tracks?
HARVICK: "I enjoy coming here, the racing's always good here. We've always run good in the Cup and Busch car here. I've been fortunate to win a couple of Busch races and sat on the pole last time in the Cup race and led a whole bunch of laps, so hopefully we can win one of the Cup races here soon."
Q: It seems like after every race this season guys are angry with each other over a wreck or something that's happened and it seems like the solution is you call the guy the Monday or Tuesday afterward. What do you think about that concept, is that the best way to work out differences or do you think it'd be better if these guys settled things at the racetrack? Why doesn't that happen more often, why do they wait to make the phone call?
HARVICK: "Are you married? (yes) You know why then (media laughs). It's always better to sleep on it than it is to settle everything that evening. Once you go home, you can look at the tape and think about what happened and analyze everything that actually happened. It's better just to settle it when cooler heads prevail."
Q: In the old days, guys would get out of their cars and duke it out. Do you think it would be better to go back to that way?
HARVICK: "If you want to pay the fines, I'll do it.
The way our sports is now, it's so mainstream. There's multi-million dollar companies that sponsor these cars and most of them are not looking for that, they're looking for something that's a little bit cleaner. I think there's still room to show your emotion and show that you're unhappy with somebody and do what you need to do, but you still have to handle it as a professional as much as we can. Just be who you are and say what you think. Sometimes emotions overrun and sometimes they get a hold of you and can do what you need to do on Monday or do what you need to do down the road. Things usually aren't forgotten as easily as everybody says they are."
Q: At Bristol, Matt Kenseth made some comments about Dale Jarrett and the unwritten rule of getting out of the way of the leader. I've gotten wildly different answers from different drivers. Are there unwritten rules on etiquette and what do you think are the most important ones?
HARVICK: "There is a lot of etiquette that's developed over the years and I think when it comes time to end the race, it just depends on who you're around and what you're doing and what the circumstances are. You just try to treat everybody how you want to be treated as much as you can but sometimes the circumstances just don't dictate that. It's not the way you want it when you're the leader or racing somebody but I think (Tony) Stewart could probably give you a better analysis of what we're supposed to do and not do. I'll have to think about what the most important one is. Just if your car's not running good, get out of the way."
Q: Which driver has the best etiquette?
HARVICK: "Mark Martin. Mark is one of the hardest racers, but he doesn't appear to be that way because he's probably the smartest racer on the track as well. He can let somebody go by and not effect the guy he let go by, not effect his lap time and not lose any more time than he would have lost if he'd of sat there and raced that guy for two or three laps and just knows when to do it. He pays attention and when you catch him from a straightaway you don't even miss a beat until it's 25 or 30 laps to go, then he becomes one of the hardest guys to pass because he's so good with his car. I'd say he's probably the best one at it."
Q: Looking at the top 10 in points, it doesn't seem like it's as much Roush/Hendrick dominance. Is it accurate to draw the conclusion from that, does it seem like it has balanced out a little bit?
HARVICK: "I think it has balanced out. It seems like a couple Roush cars every week are off and a couple of them are on and the Hendrick cars are not as dominant. Obviously Jimmie's had a great start to the season, but it doesn't seem like his car's as dominant as it has been over the past couple of years. I think everybody's catching up a little bit. I know we've gained some ground and we still have ground to gain but it seems like we're closer than we have been."
Q: What has made the difference from 2005 to 2006 and your performance?
HARVICK: "We had cars built in October last year and had the on the racetrack in Homestead before we went to the last race. To have two other teams that are running good is probably been the biggest help. When we're off it just gives us more notes to compare to. We're all running the same type of spring packages. I can jump into Clint's car and he can jump in my car and that makes things a lot easier when you can relate to the stuff you have. Over the past two years, those other two cars haven't been any help at all."
Q: Has it surprised you that Clint has been able to jump in that car and do so well?
HARVICK: "Yeah, but he's not driving anything that those guys were driving though. Those are all brand new cars. I think the attention to detail is a lot better on the 07 and 31 and the cars are better, it's not anything magic, it's just better preparation and Gil does a great job and Scott Miller does a great job. Half this battle is won or lost in the shop.