Dodge This Teleconference Tuesday, Sept. 23, 2003 Jeremy Mayfield and Kenny Francis JEREMY MAYFIELD (No. 19 Dodge Dealers/UAW Dodge Intrepid) DID YOU HAVE A SMILE ON YOUR FACE AT END OF SUNDAY'S RACE? "I had a smile on my face all day the...
Dodge This Teleconference
Tuesday, Sept. 23, 2003
Jeremy Mayfield and Kenny Francis
JEREMY MAYFIELD (No. 19 Dodge Dealers/UAW Dodge Intrepid)
DID YOU HAVE A SMILE ON YOUR FACE AT END OF SUNDAY'S RACE?
"I had a smile on my face all day the way the car ran and the way the team performed all weekend. To be up there battling for the lead was a good situation to be in. There's a couple of times we ran down the leader. We were second for awhile and never led a lap, that's what's bad, but we chased down Tony Stewart and were battling Ryan (Newman) at the end. It was definitely a good day for us. It feels good to be that competitive again and have cars that good and that strong all day."
WHEN WAS THE TURNING POINT FOR THE TEAM THIS SEASON?
"I'm going to say a couple of months ago, maybe Daytona or something like that. Really the second half of the season we've been really on. We've had a couple of bad races, but other than that we just keep getting better and better every week. I'm going to say the second half of the season was our turning point. We had our ups and downs the first part of the season. You always thought things were turning, but I really feel good about now for sure. I felt it coming after Daytona, but I feel it even more now that we've turned that corner and are headed in the right direction for sure. Everybody is pulling together now and we're really getting caught up, too. Kenny took this thing over at the end of the year (2002) and really has been behind from the get-go and playing catch-up the first half of the season. Now it seems like everybody is working for the same goal and working together and that's what it's all about. Every week you hear race teams talking about the chemistry and communication and how well they're working together. That's the biggest thing for us. I feel like the communication is there and we're all working together as a team."
IF THE SEASON ENDED TODAY, HOW WOULD YOU LOOK BACK AT 2003?
"I'd certainly want to say we'd won, which we hadn't at the end of the day, so we want to win. That would be the bad part of it, but the good part of it is there's a lot of momentum, hopefully, running into next year. At the end of the year, I'd definitely say it's not the year we all wanted, but I think we'd say we ended on a strong note and definitely headed in the right direction. We don't want it to end. We want to keep going for awhile, and hopefully have a few races here left that we can win. Right now I'd say it's been an up and down year, but overall we can end it as a good year."
WAS THERE A POINT IN SEASON WHEN YOU THOUGHT IT WASN'T GOING TO WORK?
"I think Ray (Evernham) has done that, and Kenny has done that. I've done it myself. There's been several of those weeks where we were mad, not as much mad at each other but frustrated we couldn't get it to work. I feel like we all knew the potential was there. We all knew we had a great race team. It was just a matter of how we were going to put it all together. I think that's where we all sucked it up and realized we could all be better ourselves. It's still hard, but you've just got to continue on wanting to learn and wanting to be better. It seems like that's where it's at. There's definitely a couple of times this year I'm sure we all felt that it wasn't going to work for some reason."
WHAT ROLE DOES DRIVER PLAY AT TALLADEGA?
"We really don't have to do a lot in qualifying except sit there and hold the wheel and be smooth and stuff like that. In the race, you have to have a good car, good equipment and good stops, all the normal stuff. You stay in line, so you're part of it in one sense and not in the other. If you don't have a good car to drive you can't make up the difference, and if you do have a good car the driver has to be in position in the right place, so I think it's kind of equal. You're kind of stuck with what you've got. It's hard to tell there really. You hear both sides of the story, but I'd say it really depends on the whole package."
HAVE YOU BEEN SHUFFLED BACK AT THE END AT TALLADEGA?
"That's happened several times to me, and I've learned a lot over the years about speedway races. I learned a lot from Dale Earnhardt. I followed him a lot in those speedway races and learned what he'd do and wouldn't do. I know at the end of the race you want to be in a certain spot, and there's certain spots you don't want to be in because you can get hung out. That'll happen to you. Instead of having a shot to win, you'll end up 15 or 20th. That's definitely happened to me. That's something you don't like, but it goes along with the deal. There's times when I barely lost a race at Talladega and ended up 13th or something, but you could have thrown a blanket over all of us at the start-finish line. I've got mixed feelings on Talladega about that and speedway racing, but that's part of it."
ARE YOU SHOCKED WITH KENSETH'S LEAD?
"Yeah, I really am, but I want to give credit to the Roush Organization. All those cars have been running really good. Matt and the 97, I think they're in the same building together. I know Burton and Martin and Biffle haven't run as good as the other ones, but Matt and those have done a really good job of staying focused on what's going on. Probably mid season or even before I was wondering if they could hold on to this. They had been so lucky and were running good. Now I look back and it's just a good race team. They just keep coming through week in and week out, and that just shows what kind of race team they've got. Matt is making pit calls and good decisions. Everything is just going good for them, and it just amazes me and surprises me how they can keep that up."
DO YOU SEE POTENTIAL FOR PROBLEMS WITH NEW CAUTION RULES AT TALLADEGA?
"I guess you could say this weekend is going to be the determining factor. As far as last weekend goes, I was sitting there and could have won the race, should have won the race. It's going to benefit you at times, and it's not going to benefit you at times. People are going to have mixed feelings about it. I think Talladega is going to be a situation where things might come up that NASCAR hasn't been thinking about. It might be vice versa, things come up that we weren't thinking about as drivers. This weekend will definitely be the test for it, and I'm all for it. That's part of it. It's give and take for everybody, and we try to live with it and try to modify things until they get it right. That's all you can ask for. That's the next thing that could happen (reverting back to last lap after caution comes out). Some series already do it. One thing that you could do is when the caution comes out go straight to the scoring monitor. Even though we're all bunched up at Talladega and Daytona, it still shows exactly what order we're running in. I'm sure they'll have it worked out before we get there. I'm not sure what the answer is by any means, but there are going to be days when guys don't like it. And the guys that are complaining about it, a couple of weeks later, they might benefit from it. It's just going to be a Catch-22 you might say. We'll get it all worked out. I'm sure things will come up they'd like to change. That's just part of it."
DISCUSS TRUST FACTOR INVOLVED WITH SIDE-BY-SIDE RACING
"That was a great race there, and hopefully it was a good race for the fans. The trust factor is we're all at this level of racing where we all trust each other a lot. We were really racing close and hard, but we knew there were limits. There were a couple of times I got underneath him (Ryan Newman). So little bit more and it would have been trouble for both of us. We just trust each other that we don't run over our limits but we run right there at 'em. I think we both showed that. That's what Winston Cup Racing is all about."
HAVE YOU RACED WITH RYAN NEWMAN THAT WAY ANYWHERE ELSE?
"It happened a couple of weeks ago at Richmond. He was leading, and I was running second. We got underneath him there and I could loose and could have taken both of us out. I think he and I have been able to put on a great show for the fans. It's been good, close racing. He races hard, and I race hard. I'm just glad we're in position to be able to do that now, to be able to get up there and race with those guys like that. It certainly makes life a lot more enjoyable."
EXPOUND ON FUTURE WITH TEAM
"Everybody has heard all the rumors and heard all the talk and all that stuff. That's just the way I feel. I said that straight from the heart the other day. This is a good race team. A lot of other teams out there would like to be running like we're running right now. I just feel like when you've got something good, don't change it. Don't fix it if it's not broke. Kenny and I have a good relationship, and the whole race team does from the fab shop to the engine shop. Things are going good right now. I'd hate to think anybody would want to make changes, and if you did, could you get it back like it is right now? It may go the other way. It might happen the same way for me if I went to another team. How long does it take to get back to a point where I am now?"
IS THERE ONE MOMENT WHERE CHEMISTRY CAME TOGETHER WITH TEAM?
"There probably is, but I can't put my finger on it exactly when it all started. I think the biggest thing that's helped this year is chemistry. Everybody on the 19 car kept digging deep and pulling hard to find out what we needed to do to be better. It all goes from each and every one of us as individuals wanted to change and wanted to make it better. I'd come home and say, 'what can I do to help these guys understand what I'm talking about or what can I do to get better in the car?' I'm sure they were doing the same thing. It's all about everybody wanting the same thing and just doing it, putting all egos and pride aside and just doing whatever it takes to race. That's what cool. I've seen this team go down. Before mid season we should have been broke up. We should have all gone different directions, but we stuck it out and feel like now we won a couple of battles early in the year. When we didn't have chemistry we made it through those times. I think that's what's going to make us a better race team in the future."
DO YOU LIKE POINT SYSTEM THE WAY IT IS?
"I think it's all about consistency. Ryan and them are winning races, but if they're not consistently winning, they shouldn't be winning the championship. Matt Kenseth won a bunch of races last year and he didn't win the championship, but he came back this year and he's going to win it this year. I remember Ray and Jeff (Gordon) winning it the year they won 13 races but they had years when they won the championship and didn't win that many races, so that's just part of it. Matt and them have been consistent and I hate to see them change the point system just because Matt and them are the best team out there right now as far as being consistent. I wouldn't want to think they'd want to change the rules just because one race team has their stuff together and they're doing a great job of leading the points and running good all year. You've got guys winning races but falling out of other ones. That doesn't mean they have a championship team."
DISCUSS KENNY FRANCIS' STYLE
"Kenny's not afraid to get in there and work on the car. He kinda leads by example. Everybody has a lot of respect for what Kenny's done, and how he's put this deal together. I guess you'd have to say he organized the 19 car. He's got a great relationship with Ray, and he does a good job of getting good people around him and leaning on them. I think that's great. When he has a problem he'll go to Ray. A lot of crew chiefs in the sport feel like they've got to do it themselves. Kenny is not like that. He tries to rely on his resources, and I think that's very important. I see that, and I think a lot of people on the team see that. When you see how bad he wants it that makes you respect him ever more."
IS THERE A TRACK COMING UP THAT FAVORS YOU MORE THAN OTHERS?
"That's what's cool right now. I feel like any race from here on out, we've got a shot at winning. I really felt that way the last couple of months, and we've really run strong the last couple of months. Now, it seems like we're clicking. I feel like it could be any week. Charlotte has been good to me in the past, and it's been bad for me. I feel like it owes me one for sure. We've got Talladega coming up, and you never know, but we run strong there. You never know. Kansas is coming up, and we run strong there. I'm excited about the rest of the year."
ARE YOU A BETTER DRIVER NOW THAN YOU WERE WHEN YOU FINISHED SEVENTH IN POINTS IN '98 AND WON TWO RACES IN 2000?
"I think it says a lot about the competition. I feel like I'm a lot smarter driver than I was a long time ago. I feel like the experience I've gotten since then has helped me a ton. Even being with Ray here on this car, I've learned a lot the last couple of years about driving race cars. I really feel like right now I'm the best I've ever been. Even though we weren't running good early in the year, I felt that way. I feel like I'm a better driver now than I've ever been, and we're running bad. I think that's what motivated our race team. We all feel that way about ourselves in general. We know this is a good race team. We weren't running the way we were capable of running, and knowing that, I think it's brought out the best in all of us. It's certainly made me sit down and think about what I can do to make this team better."