CASEY MEARS (No. 41 Target Dodge Charger) "We struggled in practice. We got the car better for sure. I was tight off in practice and they made a couple of adjustments. It got me where we were loose in. It felt decent. I just couldn't get in...
CASEY MEARS (No. 41 Target Dodge Charger)
"We struggled in practice. We got the car better for sure. I was tight off in practice and they made a couple of adjustments. It got me where we were loose in. It felt decent. I just couldn't get in like I wanted to. For some reason we've had a hard time qualifying this year, but I think we'll be pretty good in race trim."
JEFF GREEN (No. 43 Cheerios/Betty Crocker/Narrida Dodge Charger)
"It didn't react the same as it did in practice. It got loose on one end and pushed on the other end. It didn't do that in practice."
STERLING MARLIN (No. 40 Coors Light Dodge Charger)
"We just haven't hit this combination yet. This is the car we had at Atlanta. It raced good, but we didn't qualify good there, either. We just aren't where we need to be with it. We were good here last time. We qualified 13th last time. Now we've just got to get it racing good."
RUSTY WALLACE (No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge Charger)
"We didn't qualify as fast as I thought we would. I thought we'd be about a tenth better, but we got tight on entry in turn three. We're ready to race. We'll put the race setup in it and see where we end up.
"My luck is bad right now. I've had three wrecks in a row, but the performance of the car has been good. I haven't been concerned about the performance. We had some loose lugnuts at Charlotte and the flat tire got me behind. The car ran great at Martinsville. Last week we were going to be about a 12th-place car. It wasn't great, but the performance has been good. Let's hope the trend of (bad) luck is over. That's crazy things. When a guy runs seven laps and blows a right front tire out. I just happened to be the guy behind him. At Martinsville with about 10 laps to go a veteran spins you out and he doesn't mean to. You can't do much about it. It's really hurt my chances, but my goal is to get back in the top five and try to win a race before the season's over. That's the best I can hope for.
"It's frustrating. All year long we've dodged every bullet. We've been very consistent only to have three of the craziest things in the world happen in a row. It's unbelievable. I never say never, but I'm realistic, too. Two hundred something points is pretty far back. I need the guys to pile up a couple of races. Are they going to do that two out of three times? I doubt it. I didn't think I'd wreck three out of three times, so anything can happen. We'll see what happens at the end.
"I don't have any pressure on me because I'm already in The Chase. I'm just giving it my all. I have no pressure. I've got self-induced pressure, self-induced to get in the top five. I really thought three weeks ago I was going to win this championship. Now it doesn't look that great.
"I think The Chase guys need to race each other. The rest of the field doesn't need to get involved with what's happening with the outcome of The Chase. If it's a format style playoff system like it is right now, and it's down to those 10 guys, then those 10 guys need to be racing each other. If Tony Stewart finishes third, the next guy in line was seventh, then the seventh-place guy would get second-place points.
"I've got three more chances to win. This is a good chance. Phoenix is a good chance and Homestead is a real good chance. Last year at Homestead I led a ton of laps and ran second most of the day -- me and Biffle back and forth. He put four tires on at the end. I did two for track position. He won and I finished seventh. I should have put on four. If it hadn't been for the bad things in these last three races we wouldn't be having this conversation.
"Track position is important everywhere we go. I think the challenge now hearing about the afternoon/night finish deal, the car is going to get tighter and tighter. You're going to have to loosen it up as the race goes on, so that's going to be the challenge I think. The second groove will come in, but I've got a feeling we'll be running up at the top of the racetrack a lot. I don't expect any problems."
KASEY KAHNE (No. 9 Dodge Dealers/UAW Dodge Charger)
"That was a lot faster than we ran in practice. I knew we had a good lap going coming into three and four coming to the green. They had changed everything on the car since practice, and coming to the green it felt a lot better. It got through one and two pretty good. I was a little off in three and four, but it was still a good lap. The wind is pretty strong out there and that changes it some on the exit off two and through three and four the most. It was a pretty good lap for the conditions and all the changes they made today."
BILL ELLIOTT (No. 91 Auto Value/Bumper to Bumper Dodge Charger)
"The track has changed a lot. Once you get the new off the tires you're not going to run good. It's hard to get the car turning. If I could go back and run again I know I could get the car to go faster, but you don't have that option."
KYLE PETTY (No. 45 Georgia-Pacific/Brawny Dodge Charger)
"We were the same as we were in practice. We're struggling to get off the corners. We're good getting in and in the center, but it won't get off the corners."
JEREMY MAYFIELD (No. 19 Dodge Dealers/UAW Dodge Charger)
"We've been good all day long. We were really happy with the car off the truck. We kept adjusting on it all day, and this is a real good qualifying lap for us. You just have to have confidence in your own equipment and go out there and give it all you've got no matter what's happened."
BILL ELLIOTT (No. 91 Auto Value/Bumper to Bumper Dodge Charger)
COMMENT ON PGA ADOPTING A NASCAR-STYLE PLAYOFF SYSTEM
"I think all of them are looking for something fresh. They look at NASCAR and see that NASCAR is a popular sport. They're going to look at it from this side whether it's right or wrong. I think everybody is just playing off everybody else."
HOW DIFFICULT WAS IT FOR YOU TO MAKE THE TRANSITION TO PARTTIME DRIVER? "I don't think I could have ever done it cold turkey. I've done it for so many years. It's hard to get away. I keep telling people this year and even last year. I'm in a little different position than most guys because I'm being used as a tool for the future. Sometimes performance at the end of the day is not what we're looking for. Don't get me wrong. We want to run good, but what we're really looking for is that little extra for Ray to carry on to the future. That's the key of my role today rather than going out to run races to try to win races. Every race we ran early last year it was basically an unsponsored car and we were doing R&D on the chassis. This year, we've got sponsors that want to have a taste for NASCAR and we're doing development stuff, so we're kinda doing a twofold deal. We're bringing sponsors along that want to get their feet wet, they want to get into it. They want to do it on a limited basis. We're able to customize the program for whatever comes along."
ANY TRACKS YOU MISS NOT RUNNING? "Yeah, there's several. I miss Vegas. It's just like when I didn't get to race Atlanta last week. At Atlanta early on when they first paved it, it was not a lot of fun to drive, but it's a fun racetrack today. You look at some of the other places, and like Charlotte before they did what they did, it was a fun racetrack. Now it's not so much fun. I miss Martinsville. I had a good time there. I don't mind going to Daytona. I kinda like that racetrack, but I don't care anything about Talladega."
DO YOU WATCH THE RACES ON SUNDAY? "I usually sit down with my son and watch some bits and pieces. What I've been doing lately, he's been go-kart racing and I've been wrenching the car on Sundays. I don't know if that's a bad thing or good thing, but I've been hanging out with him. Watching racing through him is a whole different avenue. I'm not racing, but seeing it through him is a whole different deal. He's young and new at it. Watching him make mistakes is pretty fun. He's done a good job. I'm proud of him."
COMMENT ON DRIVERS LETTING OTHER DRIVERS LEAD A LAP "Everybody will make deals. If the same brand of car is up front and a guy needs to lead a lap they'll let 'em do it. It's just like the gentleman's agreement on getting your lap back early on and then they went to the Lucky Dog deal. It's the same thing. If one of your team guys was up front and the caution came out and he let you beat him back to the flag, that was part of it. NASCAR did away with that. That was their way of saying without playing favorites, here's what we're going to do."
COMMENT ON LIMITING NUMBER OF TEAMS AN OWNER CAN OWN "I don't see how you can do it. How are you going to do it? Even though the cars are in-house, I guess each two teams are in different names. What if they're in the same facility? What are you going to do about it? Maybe we're going to have to build five separate buildings in five separate lots. How are you going to do it? You can't go to lunch together? You can't confur as team guys? How are you going to stop it? You've got the guys working together, and that's still going to be more of a benefit. It comes back to me. When I was trying to do it as a soul team you can't keep up. If those people have those ties, whether they go to lunch together or discuss it later, or whatever, without those ties you can't get ahead. That flow of information is what makes this sport what it is. If you've got 10 teams and have access to 10 teams, you're beat by 10 fold if you're by yourself. That's why everybody is trying to get aligned with several teams whether it's by technical support or engines or whatever so they can beat the curve. Look what happened to the Bud Moores and Junior Johnsons and the rest of the guys and the Bill Elliotts and Cale Yarboroughs and Bobby Allisons right on down the line. The only way I can see you coming in is to align yourself with those guys. That's the only way you're going to be able to compete."
WHAT'S THE POTENTIAL FOR HOMESTEAD'S STATUS AS THE SEASON FINALE? "With them changing the format it kinda guarantees that it's going to be a positive deal. The way it was in the past there was no guarantee. You look at the whole deal, and I still don't agree with locking 10 guys in for the final 10 races. .Well, what about 11th place on. He's non-existent anymore. He could be in the top five if he had a good last 10 races and those five cars had a bad season. Look at the top 10 today. Jeremy is in the top 10, but he's had a run of bad luck. Look at Jamie McMurray. He's had a run of good luck. You take that into consideration and lock those guys out. People go to different racetracks for different reasons. Atlanta used to be the last race of the season. Now Homestead is playing on that. Fans will show up to see who's going to win the championship."
COMMENT ON RICKY RUDD MAKING 873rd CAREER START ON SUNDAY "My hat's off to him. I don't know how he's done it. He started along about the same time I did. You look back at all the stuff you go through. I was just lucky to survive the era I survived. There was such a change from the 70s to today. You try to explain it to people and they don't understand it. It's like watching TV and watching a 70s program. The cars we drove then were really different. Ricky has done a lot. I couldn't have ever done it. Ricky and I have always been pretty good friends. We don't hang out together, but we've never had a conflict. Ricky came up the hard way. He was working hard, doing it like an Earnhardt or any of the guys in that era did, like I did. For me, being able to see him get to this point... the ones that can stand the test of time and continue on year after year and produce, there's only a few of us who have been able to experience that and quit on your own terms. I feel fortunate about it, and I'm sure he does, too."
HOW DO YOU LOOK AT THIS CHAMPIONSHIP RACE IF YOU'RE TONY STEWART? "You've just got to keep focused. He's won a championship before and with his crew and crew chief and everyone involved on that side, they're experienced and I think they can keep focused on what's at hand. It's like I say about any championship. The guy who has the least amount of bad luck (wins)."
DOES THE CHASE PUT TOO MUCH EMPHASIS ON LUCK? "It probably does. You magnify the last 10 races. Like Jeremy, with a few bad races right off the bat, or Kurt Busch, they're out. There's going to be a certain percentage that doesn't have a lot of bad luck, and they're going to put points on everybody else. I keep hearing about the guys in the top 10 are usually the guys in the top 10 qualifying and running in the top 10 in the race. That's why they're in the top 10 in the points, because they've been there all year long."
ANY SPECIAL MOMENTS IN YOUR CHAMPIONSHIP SEASON? "If you look back at things that happened or could have happened, Rusty and I were racing pretty close and things happened to Rusty that knocked him out. I won Bristol the first race and ran second to Earnhardt in the second race. That was probably a key deal for my success. We never gave up. You look back at the '92 championship that Kulwicki won, it came down to the guy who led the most laps in the (season finale) Atlanta race. It was so close. That's what makes the history. You look back and say what could I have done different? You've just got to forget it and go on. What happened to Kulwicki, it was probably destiny what happened that day. It's just sad he didn't get a chance to enjoy it. I would have liked another championship, but...."
JEREMY MAYFIELD (No. 19 Dodge Dealers/UAW Dodge Charger)
COMMENT ON RACING AT TMS "We had a good test here and I think we should have a good race. It should be a good weekend for us. We're doing all we can do. We cut a tire down at Martinsville. We broke a flywheel last week. I don't know what else we can do. We're doing all we can do. We had things happen that didn't happen all year, so what can you do?"
ARE BONUS POINTS MORE IMPORTANT THAN THEY USED TO BE? "Yeah, you see it every week, guys staying out leading laps and stuff, trying to get all the points you can whether you're in The Chase or not. I've noticed that every week, and it'll all add up at the end."
COMMENT ON GUYS RACING FOR 11TH "It's as much as people in the top 10. We could still finish seventh or eighth realistically. We're still racing for that, but those guys are racing hard every week, too. We've got three more races to get all we can. I think everybody is tired. It's been a long year for everybody. I'm not wishing it was over, but I'm ready for next year. I can tell you that. When I get in the racecar that's the best part of my day, the best part of my job, the best part of what I do. Mondays when you get home you're tired. You get drug down, but the drivers get to go home and rest a couple of days. No matter how bad it is you act like things are cool, but things are cool here. I promised you that. Things happen for a reason, and you always take the good out of it whether you're on the bad side or good side. We're going to be fine. I'm very confident."
HAVE YOU RESET YOUR GOALS? "We're going to race as hard as we can and get all we can. We're not going to give up. We're here and we're going to do the best we can and get ready for next year. As far as performance-wise we ran better last year than we have this year. A lot of teams did that. We're better than 10th with an average finish, but we're still not where we want to be. We have won a race. Hopefully we'll move up a few spots in the standings and call it a decent year."
COMMENT ON RUSTY WALLACE "He's a racer. Even when you think he's down. He's not down. He's right back up. He's a tough competitor and always has been. He'll go down in history like that, and I've got a lot of respect for him."
DOES AN ENGINEERING BACKGROUND HELP FOR CREW CHIEF AND DRIVER? "You've got to have someone on the pit box that knows more than the elementary stuff. NASCAR racing is high tech. You've got to keep up with the technology in the sport now. If you don't, somebody else will."