MICHAEL WALTRIP (No. 7 NationsRent Chevrolet Monte Carlo) â€œI thought it was wise for everyone not to panic or contemplate or look ahead and know the answer to that (restrictor plate) question until the (New Hampshire) race was over. We...
MICHAEL WALTRIP (No. 7 NationsRent Chevrolet Monte Carlo) “I thought it was wise for everyone not to panic or contemplate or look ahead and know the answer to that (restrictor plate) question until the (New Hampshire) race was over. We just had to judge off the race. If it was entertaining and competitive, when it’s all said and done, maybe we learn something and leave better than when we got there. I liked it better when we had more power. It’s kind of what you were used to racing for, so you could be in the gas and drive up off the corner. I think everybody probably prefers the feel that it had before, but if we can learn something and have a good race at a track where we haven’t seen very good racing in the past, maybe we can make our series better, more fun to watch and more competitive for the fans. “I don’t care what they do. I want to applaud them for their efforts. They had to do something when they went to New Hampshire. They went up there and tried to figure out something to do with soft walls, and that wouldn’t work. They had to do something, and this was the simplest thing to do. It’s something we’re used to. We understand a little bit about it. It’s just a different application. I think the soft walls can work, but I just don’t think we’re there yet. Hopefully it’ll just take more time. They can research more and develop more and have an impact-absorbing bearing after time goes along. “I certainly hope we don’t go to Dover with plates on. Dover is a fast track, and the thing that makes it hard to drive is all the power you’ve got to get up off the corners with. I don’t want to go to Dover with them, but I certainly understood why we had them at New Hampshire, and I tried to be open minded about it. “A lot of people were thinking it wasn’t the best thing in the whole world to do. When you get in a race car, you’re so competitive, it doesn’t matter what you’ve got, you’re going to try to figure out the fastest way to get around the track. You have to drive the car differently than we’re used to driving. I went out 45th for qualifying at New Hampshire, and that was fortunate. I got up on the truck and really studied what guys were doing who were running good, seeing guys having problems and understanding what their problems were. I went down into turn one and watched them all. When I got in my car to run my lap, I had a plan. I knew what I needed to do. “Bobby (crew chief Kennedy) and the guys had adjusted the car where it did what I needed it to do. I don’t think you can have a negative attitude toward it and psyche yourself out of the ball park. I don’t think that’s possible. You’re too talented, and you’ve got too much riding on it. But, there is a little bit of getting used to that goes along with it. You get into the turns a little different. You enter them harder, but you can’t forget that the most important thing is to get the gas straight back to the floorboard. There’s a different driving technique you’ve got to use, and if anybody struggled, it was probably just trying to get used to that. “We didn’t know. I think we’ll learn a little bit about the reliability of the engines. Hopefully, we can zero in and learn a little bit more about the gear ratios they want. I know qualifying went from a 411 rear gear to a 463 or 471. That’s unheard of. We don’t see that much split anywhere. At Dover, if we had to do it again, we’d just gain more knowledge about where your engine likes to run rpm wise. Then you get smarter and make it better and better and eventually there won’t be any more surprises. I was hoping they’d just run them at New Hampshire and that would be it until we got back to Talladega. “I like Dover a lot. I’ve won the Busch race there before. I’ve been on the pole for the Cup race. Hopefully we can go up there and run well. You’ve got to drive it just about the same way you do at Bristol. You’ve got to get your car hooked on the bottom so it can run down low. There are more options. At Bristol, it seems the only place you can run these days is down on the bottom. “At Dover, if you have to go high you can. Eventually you can get a groove going up there. Dover is just a good race track. It’s a fast place. It’s very entertaining for the fans. They like to see the cars run around that big ol’ banked track. The cement just seems to make it more entertaining for them. I really like going to Dover. “I’m a survivor. I like it when it goes a long time. If you can’t outrun them you can at least outlast them. There’s been a few races this year when we’ve been good early in the going, but for the most part as a team, we seem to be able to work on our car and get it going better all day long and be better there at the end. You basically have only three pit stops at Dover if it goes green, and it has before. That’s not a lot of time to adjust.”
WHEN IS YOUR NEXT MARATHON? “I’m going to run one more marathon in December in Tampa Bay. I had switched my focus there for a little while to where I was running a little bit less and lifting more weights, working out and trying to get a little. stronger. I think that will benefit my running when I get back into it. It’s just the same old stuff, training trying to be stronger and trying to be fit. I’ll run a marathon in December. That’s kind of like a test to see how I’ve been doing. If I’ve been paying attention to the right details and things I’ve been needing to do to run marathons. “I want to run one in four hours really bad. It took me four hours and 15 minutes to run my first one and four and a half hours to run Boston. All it basically amounts to is preparation. If you’ve been training hard enough and putting the time in or the miles in on the road, then you can do it. The longest I’ve ever run prior to a marathon is probably 20 miles. I’ve run a few 12-mile runs. Mainly I run five miles. Prior to Boston, I was lame. I didn’t run like I needed to at all, and I paid for it. After about 18 miles that day, it was really difficult to make it. I didn’t think I could make the last eight miles. It was just a matter of determination. I couldn’t quit. “The first marathon I did, I prepared for it. I trained. It was in the offseason. I was really focused in on it and ready to go. I didn’t run the last five miles as fast as I’d hoped to, but I ran it just fine. I didn’t ever think about quitting. Prior to Boston, I was really focused on the racing deal. I hadn’t given myself proper preparation for that. It was tough.”
HAVE YOU HAD A CHANCE TO THINK MUCH ABOUT NEXT SEASON? “It all started last Wednesday. Dale Earnhardt called me and asked what was going on. I told him to let me know. Monday we had it worked out and Wednesday we announced it, so I haven’t had time to think about race cars or bodies or what we might do in order to start preparing our team. We’ve just got it squared away. “We talked back in March and April and May about doing something. I thought it was over. I thought he had made up his mind that he wasn’t going to be able to do it, that it wasn’t going to work out sponsorship wise and timing wise. Then the deal changed last week to where they felt like it was the best thing for DEI to take that Busch team and move it up to Cup. The engines would be the same. The cars would be the same. The travel schedule would be the same. Everybody would load up on the plane and go to the same place. They felt to best take advantage of what all they were trying to accomplish, the best way to do that would be to make all three teams Cup teams. “I hadn’t signed a contract or anything with the folks I was driving for. It was something I had pretty much decided I wanted to do the first time I went around, and it didn’t work out. It wasn’t like Dale and I had to do a lot of talking about our philosophy or thinking about how we were going to work it all out. We had already worked it out. When he called up last week it was simple. I said, ‘yeah, I’ll do it.’ Then he worked the rest of it out. “I’m not at all intimidated driving for Dale Earnhardt. Park and Dale Jr. do a good job at it, and I feel like I’m a talented race car driver who can do as good a job as anybody. That part really doesn’t concern me a bit. I know I can perform. If I have that confidence in myself then nothing else really matters. It’ll all work out. I know they’re going to give me a car capable of winning with, so hopefully we can make it all work by teaming up together. “To go to that shop and see what all they’ve put together up there and what they’ve got to work with is incredible. It’s encouraging when you think about driving for them. It was fortunate for me that I was available. I think of myself as being someone who is true to their word. We announced I would be there (Jim Smith’s team) next year, but what was basically agreed to changed somewhat. Therefore, Jimmy was very understanding that I was going to do something different. There wasn’t any hard feelings or ill will. It was as simple as working things out and letting those guys know what I’m going to do.”