YOU HAD A STRONG RUN HERE IN THE SPRING, DID YOU BRING THAT CAR BACK FOR THIS RACE? "It is a newer generation car than what we had here at the first race. We raced this car at Charlotte. I'm sure it has some other history. It's a mid-summer new...
YOU HAD A STRONG RUN HERE IN THE SPRING, DID YOU BRING THAT CAR BACK FOR THIS RACE? "It is a newer generation car than what we had here at the first race. We raced this car at Charlotte. I'm sure it has some other history. It's a mid-summer new car that DEI has put together for me. It's been really fast and it was really good at Charlotte. Set-up wise, believe it or not, we're working off the platform that we had here at the first race and are going to try to improve on that. We've been racing a lot of different parts and pieces and front ends and all that stuff. It's a better race car than the one we brought to the last race because it's sort of a new generation of Dale Earnhardt Inc. Those guys have given me fabulous race cars. I've had the time of my life driving for DEI and working with Tony Gibson and the Army team. It's been a really special year. With this race Sunday, with two races to go (Ft. Worth and Phoenix), we'd love to get a win with those guys."
SOME PEOPLE FEEL THAT THE CHASE NEEDS TO BE CHANGED AND THE QUALIFYING PROCEDURE NEEDS TO BE CHANGED. WHAT DO YOU THINK? "I don't really feel like the qualifying procedure needs to be changed. You're hearing about it because we had a one in a 50-year deal here this year with a rash of rainout qualifyings. As far as I know and as far as I can come up with, I think the system that's in place is probably the best system I could think of for rainout qualifying. They do everything that they can to get qualifying in, obviously. Sometimes they try harder than I might if I was in charge. So I certainly think that whole process is very sound and solid.
"I wasn't the world's biggest supporter of the Chase format with they came out with it because I was a traditionalist, and felt that if you built up a lead throughout the season that you ought to be able to hang onto it. But, it did turn out to be great for the sport. And I became a fan of it and I am a big supporter of it. The one thing I did say was if you're going to do that, and start over with 10 races to go, and that's all about excitement and it's not really about anything else but generating excitement for the fans, then just make it 12, 11, 10, nine, eight, seven, six, five, four, three, two, one. But I haven't seen a computer model of how that would work. But don't put the guys; then you can't run 43rd. It seems like it would keep the point system tighter, but I would have to see a computer model of that to see how that would truly work. But for me, being in the Chase, the biggest thing to dig out of is if you have a 43rd place finish and the other guys do what they might do, and finish in the Top 10. That's awfully incredible to overcome. And it seemed like it might be easier to overcome that and so if it's all about that, then I'd be for a system something like what I said where you could only lose 10 or 11 points in a race."
HOW HAS IT CHANGED YOU TO HAVE A SPONSORSHIP FROM THE U.S. ARMY? "I'm a little bit ashamed to say that I'm 49 years old and I still look at myself and think I'm a kid or a teenager, or something in my logic. I think we take things for granted. The older we get, maybe the less we take things for granted. But I certainly took for granted our men and women in uniform and the sacrifices they make whether it's when I visit Walter Reid and see those guys and women with great attitudes and I think I've had a bad day when my car runs bad. I look at them and so many of them have great attitudes and they're short a limb or two. That, in itself, has sort of changed my perspective. I wish I could hold onto that, you know, as strong as the day I left Walter Reid, but sometimes when it's out of sight you forget that. I've seen so many inspiring men and women that were so committed at such a young age, it made me really proud of our young people. I'd have to say that those are the things I hope I hold onto as I move forward in life that I remember to consider and really think about that. That's why this program is really special to me. I have an idea of what it would be like to get some hand-written love and respect when I was somewhere other than home for the holidays and committed to supporting our freedom and freedom around the world."
YOU'VE BEEN CHASING CHAMPIONSHIPS, AND NOW JIMMIE JOHNSON IS CLOSE TO GETTING HIS THIRD. TALK ABOUT HOW HARD IT IS TO NOT GET ONE WHEN JOHNSON SEEMS TO BE WINNING WITH EASE "I've had the opportunity to spend a little time inside the walls of Hendrick Motorsports and once again, I'm a little shamed of myself that I didn't know this already, but Jimmie Johnson makes it look so easy that we don't realize that he's not just a lucky guy who gets to drive Chad's car that's the best car on the race track. That's a little bit shallow of me to have thought that. The more I find out about Jimmie Johnson, the more I understand why he is experiencing the success that he does and that's kind of cool. It's nice to learn things and I've certainly learned from being inside those walls, that Jimmie Johnson is incredibly committed. It reminds me of some young men from many years ago. But Jimmie is willing to do whatever it takes to gain an advantage on the competition, whether it's mental or physical or mechanical. I think that's really cool. I've also learned along the way and have a renewed respect for the incredible talent that Jeff Gordon has because a lot of the success that Jeff Gordon has experienced over the years came because of his incredible talent and not because he drove the best race car in the garage as well. I guess you live and learn and I'm sure I've got a lot more to learn, but those are two things that I've really noticed over the past 12 months or so that I've been involved with Hendrick Motorsports."
WE'VE HEARD YOU MIGHT RUN THE LAST RACE AT HOMESTEAD FOR HENDRICK MOTORSPORTS. WHAT THE LATEST ON THAT? "Phoenix will be my final race with DEI in the No. 8 car and I'll be on the couch for Homestead, watching the race with a remote control. That'll be my last chance to charge my batteries as I head into what will be a very, very exciting year of my life. I'm really excited about it but I won't be driving at Homestead and as far as I know I won't be even visiting."
IF JIMMIE JOHNSON CLINCHES THE TITLE IN PHOENIX, WITH THE ECONOMY THE WAY IT IS, COULD THAT BE A DEVASTATING AFFECT GOING INTO HOMESTEAD? "I don't think we will. Although Jimmie is my future teammate, I certainly think it would be awesome if Jeff Burton could pull off an upset. Right now Jimmie is in an incredible position to keep that from happening, but I'd sure like to see Jeff Burton get one. But you know, there are certain races; I've had certain race tracks get upset because they had a boring race and talk about reconfiguring the race track to try to make the racing more exciting and I said just hold on. Just wait for next time or the time after because you'll have the most exciting finish you'll ever see just around the corner. It's sort of coincidental. I watched the No. 48 run just like everyone else this year and they ran good, but two races before the Chase, it was like incredible. If you watched and really paid attention, I watched Greg Biffle run just okay, and started off the Chase and it looked like he was going to do what Jimmie and his guys appear like they may do now. So, it's just an incredible job. I'm like everybody else last week. I struggled around in 25th position and after the race I had to put my head down like that to see that scoreboard, and I kept squinting my eyes because and then I just had to ask. Did the No. 48 run second? I finished 22nd, and I ran one whole fuel run not further than from here to the wall behind him. At that time I didn't think they were running any better than we were. So, that's how incredible those guys are and when it's meant to be, it's meant to be. They get one more great race under their belt and it's going to be meant to be again this year.
"One of the things that I take some issue with about this whole thing is to me, the points thing has been overplayed for 15 years. It is about the race. It's nothing about points to me. I don't race points. And I still come with every ounce of enthusiasm and I still have some fans out there that pull for me. So, I think the fans that go to Homestead area interested in seeing a race in person, honestly. I think the strategy to make more out of the racing series by making the points more important and paying more money and building more momentum and more media has worked; but at the end of the day, of many of us, it's more about the race than it is about the points."
-credit: gm racing