Joe Nemechek -- ...
Joe Nemechek -- #01 U.S. Army Chevrolet
Yeah, good practice. We were pretty good right off the bat. Just kept working trying to get it to drive just a little bit better and work on our speed. I mean, it's a fine line here going fast and keeping all four tires going in the right direction.
WERE YOU TOTALLY SET UP FOR QUALIFYING OR RACE? No, we're in qualifying trim. We'll work on race stuff tomorrow.
SEEMS THAT YOU AND SCOTT HAVE DONE WELL. WERE BOTH OF YOU ON THE SAME SETUP OFF THE TRUCK? Yeah, they're close. There are a few differences just from what he likes and what I like. But we're pretty close and it's cool when you see everyone run well.
HAVE YOU GIVEN BORIS SAID ANY POINTERS? Oh yeah. I try. I've been over there a couple of times trying to help him going in the right direction. But this is a tough place to come first time. It's a lot of speed.
Brian Vickers -- #25 GMAC/ditech.com Chevrolet
Note: Engine failure at the end of practice
TELL US ABOUT YOUR ENGINE PROBLEM Yeah. Well, when we were going around the back we just blew up. I'm not really sure what happened.
IT'S A GOOD THING THAT IT HAPPENED DURING PRACTICE THAN LATER IN THE WEEKEND Yeah. I'd much rather have it happen not at all but I'd much rather have it happen now than during qualifying or the race.
WHAT DID IT FEEL LIKE IN THE CAR? It just blew up. I'm not an engine guy. You know, I could sit here and say it was doing this, doing that, but I have no idea. I hate to be the guy that blamed the part that wasn't the problem.
HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT TEXAS IN GENERAL? Yeah, I like Texas. It's a fun race track. We've had some good runs here in the past. I'm happy to come back. It's a fun, very fast race track.
ANYTHING ELSE YOU'D LIKE TO MENTION? I'm looking forward to a good race. You're not going to miss us out there this weekend, in bright green.
Jason Leffler -- #11 FedEx Express Chevrolet
PRETTY GOOD RUN FOR YOU AGAIN TODAY IN PRACTICE Yeah. The FedEx Express Chevrolet started off in race trim and we ran about seven laps. We just did that so I can get some reference points on the track and stuff. The guys are doing a great job. Then we just switched over to qualifying trim. It's pretty fast so I'm looking forward to qualifying.
WHAT WOULD BE A GREAT QUALIFYING SPOT FOR YOU GIVEN THE CAR YOU HAVE? Top ten, top five. Pole. We're going to be happy when it's all over with and we're up front.
IS YOUR TEAM STILL EXCITED AFTER YOUR STRONG FINISH LAST WEEKEND IN MARTINSVILLE? Yeah. It was a turnaround race for us. It showed flashes of what we're capable of. So, if we can do that every week.we're just going to make a mainstay of doing it. It will be pretty cool.
Jeff Gordon -- #24 DuPont Chevrolet
HOW WAS PRACTICE? We were decent. We felt like we were making some gains but then the sun started to come out so it changed things a little bit. We're not a threat for the pole, but if we can pick up a tenth, we can get in the top 10 I believe.
WHAT HAS CHANGED ABOUT TMS OVER THE YEARS? I think it's a combination of things. They've made some changes in the track. It's matured and aged like any other track, and that only helps it for our type of cars. The groove has widened out. When we first came here, it was so fast and had so much grip that you'd just ride around the bottom. There was no racing room. If you clipped the apron, you'd be in the wall. It's still a fast place where you've got to get comfortable. But I think we all like it a lot more now than when we first came here.
Because you've got a wider groove, you've got more room for air. If you get side by side, you're not just hunting for the bottom and cutting people off trying to get to that bottom groove because you think you're going to wreck on the outside. You can actually run around the outside of a guy through Turns 1 and 2. Each year that we race here, it gets better and better.
ARE THE TRANSITIONS THROUGH THE CORNERS AT TMS LIKE ANY OTHER 1.5 MILE TRACK OR ARE THEY MORE ABRUPT? They're definitely unique to this race track. We were all making comments about how the car acts going into the corner - especially into Turn 3 but also into Turn 1. And we fight those similar things at other tracks, but this seems to be even a little bit more than others. But I'm not looking at it as a problem - just as one of the things we're trying to adjust for while we're out there.
Off of Turn 4 is not bad. It's really off of Turn 2 where transition happens very abrupt and fast and you have very little room for error there - especially at the speeds we're running here today. But in the race, we should be pretty good I think.
ON THE FRUSTRATIONS OF NOT WINNING AT TEXAS TO DATE Wins don't happen just because you show up at the track. You've got to do your job. We've had cars capable of winning here and it just didn't work out for us because we weren't in the right position at the right time at the end of the race. I felt like last year was our best opportunity to win.
We were leading with 30 laps to go and we had an electrical problem. We ended up finishing 3rd. So, we've just got to keeping doing that and hope it goes our way and we can get ourselves in position to pull off that win. I'd much rather be here saying we haven't won here and know that we've run good, than to be completely lost and say we've never had a handle on this place or even been close to be in contention for a win. Having two races here this year are two good opportunities for us to get our first win here.
HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT RUNNING TWO SHORT TRACKS BACK TO BACK AND THEN COMING TO A FAST, WIDE-OPEN PLACE LIKE TEXAS? Maybe the first lap or two are a little bit of an adjustment, but we adapt pretty quick. And then the cars are set-up for this type of a track and a lot of things are relative. But I liked running the short tracks back to back like we did. I don't seem to have many issues coming here.
ARE YOU HAVING WHEEL PROBLEMS? We've been concerned about that for sure. I don't think any of us have really found exactly what the problem is. We've got some different wheels. We're researching it hard and trying to go back to what we know and get a comfort level on that before we move forward.
ON RESPECT The respect gets lost when it's either a one-groove race track and you can't pass. Or, the competition gets tougher and tougher. And that creates less passing. That's what's happened over the years. We all respect one another and we're all racing extremely hard, but we are also aware of how hard it is to gain position and how hard it is to maintain track position. And that just means you're going to fight harder and take more risks. It's not necessarily a lack of respect, it's just pushing the limits of yourself and the car more.
ON PATIENCE You can have patience at a track when your car is good and you have room to pass. You can't have patience when you're at a track that is narrow with one groove. That's why Bristol has so many wrecks. It's a one-groove race track. You're all fighting to get to the bottom. Even if you're faster than the guy ahead of you, you can't pass him. So usually you start getting in your bumper and running out of patience. Last week, for us, you know what? I didn't consider that patience at all. I've never driven a complete race at Martinsville that hard. I drove every single lap as hard as I possibly could. I wore the brakes completely out and wore the tires out. We had such an awesome race car that for whatever reason, it worked out. It worked in our favor. We were in position when it counted.
DO YOU ACTUALLY LIKE TMS NOW? No, no, no.you've got to realize something. The first year we came here, they had problems with rain and drainage and water seepage and the track had a ton of grip. It was just a bad experience. I think all of us understand that the facility is top notch. The racing groove is wide now. I think all of us enjoy coming here. The Dallas/Ft. Worth area is a nice area as well. There are a lot of things that we really like about it. And it's just taken a while for the track to mature enough for us to also like the race track.
IS THERE MORE OF A SHOW BUSINESS ATMOSPHERE AT TEXAS? We all know this is one of our bigger events - one of our top five events when you look at the media and the excitement that the fans have - and the magnitude of the number of fans here and the purse and all those things.
DOES HAVING TWO SHORT TRACK RACES GIVE OTHER TEAMS ENOUGH TIME TO CLOSE THE GAP? I don't know that I've necessarily seen the gap that everybody talks about with the cars themselves. You've got to look at the whole picture - the pit crew, the team, the communications, and how well things are organized, as well as the cars. We hope that we're gaining as they're gaining, and that if we have any advantage we can keep it going. We're focused on making ourselves better and can compete against guys that have been up front each like the No. 48 (Jimmie Johnson), the No. 97 (Kurt Busch), and the 38 (Elliott Sadler) - but mainly Roush and Hendrick. We're just focused on getting our stuff as good as we can and getting better each week.
WHAT IS YOUR REACTION WHEN EVERYBODY SAYS YOU ARE THE ONE TO BEAT? It's obviously a good position for us to be in. When you go into a race track and everybody is looking at your speeds and how you're running, it allows us to keep focusing on our own stuff in going faster and doing it better. We want to get in their heads. It's not necessarily our goal. Our goal is just to go out there and go fast. But if we get inside their heads a little bit as well, then it certainly doesn't hurt.
WHAT DO YOU WANT TO GET INSIDE THEIR HEADS? Well, when you're fast all the time and you're running up front and you're leading laps and winning racings, it definitely affects the competition. It makes some of them mad and they go to work. Some of them, it frustrates and they go the opposite direction.
IS THIS AN EASIER WEEKEND FOR YOU BECAUSE IT'S NOT AN IMPOUND RACE? I'd just like to have the same schedule every weekend. That's my issue. We don't know what we're dealing with week to week. One week we're impounded and one week we're not. One week we're a Saturday race and one week we're not. One week we're a two-day event and one week we're a three-day event. I don't quite understand why we put a Saturday night race in Phoenix when it's a three-day event. I thought the reason why we did Saturday night races was to bring more excitement in and to shorten the schedule up and have a Richmond / Bristol weekend. When you look at other night events, that doesn't seem to be the case.
FIVE RACES UNTIL YOU REACH DALE EARNHARDT'S RECORD. CAN YOU REFLECT ON THAT? I look at 71 and I'm blown away by it. And I look at Dale Earnhardt and I know what a legend he was in the sport. I'm pretty overwhelmed by those numbers. But at the same time, I also recognize that you've got to take them one at a time. Just when you think you're knocking at the door and you think five more, all of a sudden you go on a 31-race stretch where you don't win any races. So, you can't focus on that. We just focus on week in and week out. I'm not trying to break that record. I'm not trying to match it. I'm just trying to get all that we can get out of our race team and our race cars.
HOW MUCH MOMENTUM DO YOU CARRY NOW FROM LAST WEEK'S WIN? Definitely, we're on a high. It was great and it pumped us up. But at the same time, it's not like we're going back to a short track. So far this year, we haven't qualified well at these types of tracks. We've run well in the races. We're at a track that we haven't won at, but yet we ran great here last year and had a shot at winning. So, we've got good things happening, which I'm always for. And I think it gives you a bit of an edge. But we also recognize that we have to work at it. Each week, you have to look at it on it's own level and not really worry about what happened last week whether it's good or bad.
GIVEN THE AMOUNT OF MONEY THE TV PACKAGE HAS GENERATED TO THE TRACKS, ARE THE PURSES WHERE THEY SHOULD BE OR SHOULD THE COMPETITORS DESERVE A BIGGER CUT OF THE PIE I question whether or not we've gotten what we thought we were going to get out of the TV package. We've steadily seen some increase, but certainly not what I think we were led to believe.
HAS ANYTHING CHANGED TO CONTRIBUTE TO THE HIGH NUMBER OF CAUTION FLAGS THIS YEAR? Well, Goodyear has a different tire this year. NASCAR has taken downforce away from the cars. So they are a little bit harder to drive, which I like. It think that's a good thing. And I think some guys have maybe had to work with that. I also think the competition just gets tougher and tougher every year. Anytime that happens - like going to a one-groove race track - you run out of patience and more accidents are going to happen.
IS TMS AN EXTRA TRICKY 1.5 MILE TRACK? No, I think Atlanta is a tricky place. Not to compare the two race tracks, but as far as levels of difficulty, I think both these tracks rank right up there. This track doesn't have quite as wide of a groove as Atlanta, but it certainly has widened out from the past. It's a little bit harder to pass on. I want to qualify good here because I know how hard it's going to be to move up to the front even when you have a good car.
IS NASCAR DOING A BETTER JOB OF CLEANING OFF THE TRACK DURING CAUTIONS? Certainly late in the race, they have, because they're not so worried about running out of green flag laps now that we have the green-white-checkered (finish). They can spend more time making sure that any kind of cleaning any kind of debris so they can get back to good racing and not worry about the length of the caution.
ON THE DIFFERENCE IN GRIP BETWEEN TMS AND LOWE'S MOTOR SPEEDWAY I think that as team, we've done a good job of creating grip with the cars and Goodyear has with the tires. The first time we came here, this track had a lot of grip. The track has matured and there is a wider groove, which gives us a little more freedom and has made the track a little more forgiving. When I see speeds that some, there is no way that comes from the track gaining grip. We're gaining grip to the track.