JEFF GREEN ( No. 43 Cheerios/Betty Crocker Dodge) NOTE: Fresh off his best finish of the season, a 14th-place run in last week's Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Green finds himself with a new crew chief and basically a new crew ...
JEFF GREEN ( No. 43 Cheerios/Betty Crocker Dodge)
NOTE: Fresh off his best finish of the season, a 14th-place run in last week's Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Green finds himself with a new crew chief and basically a new crew heading into Sunday's Sirius at The Glen. Crew chief Greg Steadman has moved over from the No. 45 team to work with Green and company the rest of the season. Green, a 41-year-old Owensboro, Ky., native, discusses the recent shakeup at Petty Enterprises and Sunday's race at The Glen.
"Kyle and I talked a couple of weeks ago at New Hampshire and talked about changing some things up. He never told me they were going to get rid of some people, but all of us want to run better. I like Gary Putnam and those other guys that got let go. I think they did a great job. We got along good and communicated well, but we need to run better and get better finishes. I trust Kyle and The King and what they do. It's their team, and I've always been on the other end of that deal. I've always been the one that got let go, and I kinda feel for those guys. There are jobs out there. They're good enough to get jobs. I hate it for them, but we've got to make our program better. Hopefully this will make it better. I guess about 75 percent of Kyle's team came to my team. I guess the theory was they didn't think they were giving me the things I needed to have good finishes and be successful. I know Greg and them can do it, so hopefully this is what we need for the 43. The 45 might struggle to get their program back going, but we were struggling anyway. It's not the 43 is the house car or it's any better than the 45, but we feel like if the 43 runs better it'll make the 45 better, so it's a switch. I hate switches, but I guess if you're going to do one is better to do it now and make next year better. This year is kinda up in the air anyway. We could win every race and still not be where we need to be. We just need to get prepared and make sure we can be in the top 10 after 26 races next year."
DO YOU THINK THE 43 TEAM IS IMPROVING?
"I definitely think we're getting better. I think our motor program has held us up. The last two races are the first time this season we've run any high rpm motors. I think that's been a big deficit for us this year. With the tire situation at the tracks we've been to, the tires fall off and you need that extra rpm to get you up off the corner because the times are slower. The fab guys are getting better. They're making changes to the body the way I want 'em and the way Kyle wants 'em. We're still a step behind, but I think we're coming together and getting our stuff better each and every week. We've been competitive, but we haven't been as competitive as I want to be or as Kyle wants to be. I don't think Watkins Glen will show us anything. I think we'll have to wait until we get to Michigan before we can tell if the change is better or worse. I enjoy road courses, but we run on places like Michigan every week, so I look forward to getting there with Greg and the guys. General Mills and Dodge deserve better. They deserve for the 43 car to be in the top 10 or opportunities to be in the top 10 and we haven't been able to do that yet."
DO YOU FEEL LIKE YOU'VE IMPROVED AS A DRIVER?
"I think it's made me better. I've had to work harder. We slide around a lot, and that's because of our bodies that we're making different and better each week. If you work harder it makes you a better driver. It's made me think about the information I'm giving back to them more. If something goes out there and drives itself, it's hard to make it drive better and give the guys any help. It's been a struggle for us, but I think it's making us better."
COMMENT ON THE EGE ENGINES
"We're running them until the end of the year. Kyle said he had some good plans. I haven't heard 'em yet, so hopefully he's got some good plans for next year."
TALK ABOUT YOUR MOTORCYCLE TRIP AFTER THIS RACE TO MICHIGAN
"Matt Kenseth and his wife (Katie) and Michelle (Green) and I are going up through Niagara Falls and Canada. We've got a cabin rented up there for a couple of days. We're going to do a little fishing and just hang out. Michelle is always on me to take her on vacation. I tell her I take her somewhere difference every week. That doesn't satisfy her, so we're going to take a little vacation. I enjoy riding a motorcycle and it's the perfect time of the year up here to have good weather. We rode on Kyle's Charity Ride, and Matt and Katie didn't get to go this year, so we missed them on that. We ride a lot. We rode to Daytona together, so it's just a fun time to get out and enjoy the scenery. I like to fish, but I'm a hunter. I've done a little bass fishing growing up, but that's fly fishing up there and I've never tried it, but I think it'll be fun."
DO YOU RIDE MOTORCYCLES A LOT?
"When I'm not at the track, I'm at my shop working on hotrods, so I don't get to spend a lot of time with my wife. She likes to ride, so it's a good time for us to spend together. We'll ride through Canada and get to Michigan sometime Thursday afternoon. We'll probably put 'em in the trailer and fly back home from Michigan, but this time of the year is so busy in our sport. Just to get those couple of days will be pretty cool."
WHAT'S YOUR OPINION ON NEW POINTS' SYSTEM?
"I think it's definitely added some excitement to our sport. Hopefully when we're in that last 10-race period at the end of the season they won't be watching Jimmie Johnson more than they do now just because he's a contender. Hopefully they'll be watching everybody else, including the 43 car. If we're leading the race or running in the top five, they're not watching Jimmie Johnson if he's running 20th. That's what I'm concerned about for General Mills and Petty Enterprises and myself. I think it's gained us some fans. It creates more excitement for our sport at the end of the year when it might not have had much excitement. If I'm Jimmie Johnson, I'm mad about it. It's very exciting for those guys still trying to get in,
but it'll be very disappointing if they don't get in there. If you're 11th after the 26th race, you can't do any better. I've got mixed emotions about it. I won a championship in the Busch Series by 600 points. With 10 to go if they told me they were going to take those 600 points away, and it was going to be five, I'd be pretty mad about it. It's excitement, and that's what we're here for, to generate excitement for the fans so they'll keep coming back and keep watching us on TV and keep selling those Dodges on Monday."
WILL THIS GIVE YOU A CHANCE TO GO FOR BROKE NOW?
"We've been doing that anyway because we're so far behind right now. We can't gain anything. If we run like we're supposed to each and every race until the end of the year, we can get in the top 25. That's about as good as we can do. We've had eight DNF's because of motors and wrecks, and you can't put that many DNF's on your side and have a good season. We just need to gain some experience as a team, make our cars as good as we can for next year and get ready to run for that points' championship next year."
WHAT'S THE 43 OUTLOOK FOR SUNDAY?
"I didn't race here last year. I came up here as a spotter for Ron Fellows. That wasn't a lot of fun. From where I was spotting I saw him for about five seconds and that was it. I really like Watkins Glen. It's fun. You can learn from your competitors. It's not as nail-biting as Sears Point. Sears Point is a lot slower and people take a lot more chances. They make it two or three wide a lot more. I don't think you can do that here as much. It's a relaxed race, and it's a fun race. You can hang it out a little bit. I enjoy going right as much as I do left. We grew up racing on these kinds of racetracks. We didn't shift, but we raced right and left, and it's fun to go back to those kind of races. The last time I ran here was in the AOL car in 2002 and I finished 12th. I was satisfied with that. A top 15 the way our year has gone would let us build on that. We had a top 15 run going at Infineon and left a lug off and had to come back in under green. We never got caught up after that. I think I can race with those guys. I think our car is good enough to do that now. Shifting gears makes the motor program go away a little bit. It hides it a little bit. You don't have to have the best motor out here. You've just got to have a good-handling racecar. You've got to get up off the corner good, so you've got to have a good forward bite. You've got to get the right breaks on the racetrack, pit at the right time and get good track position. I finished fifth at Infineon in '02 in the AOL car. I feel like we can get it done. You've got to have good pit strategy, too."
IS THE PIT STRATEGY HERE STILL 30-30?
"I think you have to plan it that way. Every time the caution comes out it seems like it's at the wrong time for us. You've got to go in with the attitude if it works out right, fine. If not, you've got to do the best job you can to make it work. I think if you come in the tunnel when you get to a racetrack and you don't want to be there or you think you can run better somewhere else, you're beat already. When I go to a track, and it's been my mentally since I've been racing no matter what it was, I feel like I can win when I roll in the tunnel. That's the way it is right now. Until they prove me wrong, I'm going to keep feeling that way."