NASCAR Winston Cup Teleconference GM Racing August 5, 2003 Part 2 of 2 HOW OLD WERE YOU WHEN YOU DECIDED THIS IS WHERE YOU WANTED TO BE? "I had a definitely different situation than a lot of other people. I followed my brother, Robin,...
NASCAR Winston Cup Teleconference
August 5, 2003
Part 2 of 2
HOW OLD WERE YOU WHEN YOU DECIDED THIS IS WHERE YOU WANTED TO BE?
"I had a definitely different situation than a lot of other people. I followed my brother, Robin, through his career and I got opportunities to do some different things and get on the inside. A lot of people don't have that luxury to get on pit road or to run tires at a very young age and wash parts and things like that. So I was very fortunate to have the doors open up for me pretty early - in high school days. I tried to take advantage of all those situations and keep my eyes open and watch and learn and learn from mistakes. My situation was a little bit different and I was fortunate to have that involvement in racing in those younger days."
HOW DOES IT FEEL TO COME INTO WATKINS GLEN WITH A 'HIRED GUN'?
"When you have a guy like Boris and you're running good, they're more open to you. They want to be your buddies and they want to know everything you're doing. It's not been a problem. Boris has a great relationship with a lot of these guys. We were at VIR testing and there were about six or seven teams out there. Dale Jr. asked Boris if he would drive his car. He wanted to see how fast it would go. I thought that was kind of funny. Boris jumped in the car and his knees were all crammed up under the steering wheel and everything and he didn't even look like he could drive it. But he went out there and busted off a couple of good laps and told Jr. what he thought of his car. Jr. went back and worked on it and I think he ran extremely well. Most all of those Winston Cup drivers are very open to Boris."
HOW DO YOU SEE THE HOT WEATHER AS PLAYING A MAJOR FACTOR IN A ROAD RACE LIKE WATKINS GLEN?
"No, I don't think it's going to be a huge factor in how you handle it. But it will be a big factor in qualifying if the sun is out and then goes away. That track is more temperamental than you'd ever believe. When the sun moves in and out, the track would pick up as much as seven or eight or a tenth of a second. This big different will be if it rains. There are a lot of changes there. NASCAR has toyed with the idea of running in the rain. I don't know if they'd ever do that. We're going up there prepared to run in the rain, which we've never done before. There is that chance. We had rain tires out there a few years ago. That could be a big factor in how we address the car."
HAVE YOU BEEN TOLD THAT THERE WILL BE RAIN TIRES AT THE GLEN THIS WEEKEND?
"I haven't been told that there would be any, but they've brought them up there the last three years. About three years ago it was raining and a couple of guys actually went out in the rain. Mark Martin was one. I don't know how that would work if it comes to that."
DO YOU KNOW IF GOODYEAR WILL HAVE RAIN TIRES THERE?
"I don't know for sure. But we're building cars with windshield wipers and defoggers. We have for years. I'm not doing anything different. Right now, we've got to make plans for it."
GIVEN SAID'S BROAD RANGE OF RACING EXPERIENCE, WHAT RESERVATIONS WOULD A WINSTON UP OWNER HAVE ABOUT PUTTING HIM IN A CUP CAR TO PROVE HE COULD HANDLE RACING ON OVALS?
"Boris has as much talent as anybody I've ever worked with. It would just take a little time. It might not take much time. He's a much better racer right now than he was three or four years ago when we first started really working together. He's more knowledgeable. He's got the ability and I hope that somebody gives him the opportunity."
DO YOU HAVE ANY PLANS TO TEST JERRY NADEAU AT THIS POINT?
"No, but we're getting cars geared up. We've got a car set aside that's a good race car but it might be a little bit outdated on a couple of body panels or something like that. But we're getting gears to start with maybe some short track stuff around here and work our way up. We'll do maybe a couple of short track tests and then go to Kentucky or a place like that. Those are our plans. Obviously he's going to start out racing on some Go-Kart tracks. I ran with him a couple of weeks ago on the Go-Cart track in Charlotte and he beat me. I feel good about that. He's got to be 100 percent when he gets back into a car. He knows that and that's what he wants. That's what we want as a race team. We're just going to take our time. We want him back in the car, but there's no pressure to put him back in the car too soon. We're going to let him get healthy and get 100 percent. We're going to get some good tests under our belt so we can come back swinging."
Q&A'S WITH RON FELLOWS:
HOW MUCH WOULD A NASCAR WINSTON CUP WIN ADD TO YOUR RESUME?
"It would be big. We've gotten to win some pretty neat sports car races like a couple of class wins at Le Mans and overall win at the Rolex 24 Hour at Daytona, but without a doubt winning a Winston Cup race - a road race - would be the biggest in my career just because of how big NASCAR Winston Cup racing has become."
HOW MUCH EFFORT HAVE YOU PUT INTO PREPARING FOR THIS PARTICULAR RACE AT THE GLEN?
"Much like a number of the teams, we were at the test last Monday and Tuesday. That was primarily it. We certainly have had a number of conversations with the DEI shop about things we need to do differently from Infineon. We feel pretty good that we'll have a good car to race on Sunday."
HOW DIFFERENT IS RUNNING A WINSTON CUP CAR AT THE GLEN VS. RUNNING THE OTHER SPORTS CARS?
"They're tougher to drive than what we're used to - certainly our Corvette that we race in long distance sports car racing. It's 1,000 lbs. lighter than a Winston Cup car. It's got probably twice as much downforce. It uses carbon brakes like they use in Formula 1, and about two inches more Goodyear tire. The Winston Cup car takes quite a bit more finesse. They have tremendous power. You've got to be a little bit smoother. You've got to be a little bit more attentive to the fact that you don't have the same grip level. You can easily overheat the brakes, so you've got to be smart about that. They're a lot of fun to drive. Again, that finesse factor is much more prominent."
WHEN YOU LOOK BACK AT A RACE WHERE YOU FINISHED 2ND, HOW MANY TIMES DO YOU LOOK BACK AND THINK ABOUT THINGS YOU MIGHT HAVE DONE DIFFERENTLY?
"I don't know that we could have done a lot of things differently. I think the margin of victory for Jeff Gordon then was under a second. It was like three-quarters of a second. So if you wonder why you couldn't make up three-quarters of a second, the answer was probably Jeff Gordon. It was a great race. We came very close. And it's not going to be any easier, that's for sure. I watch primarily from the outside looking in, and in the previous four years Winston Cup racing has become so much more competitive. The number of guys who are going to be a factor at a road race has increased by a lot. My odds have increased as well (by) being with Pennzoil and DEI. But as we saw at Infineon, not only do you need to be leading a race, but the stars have got to be all lined up as well. Then maybe we can win one."
DO WINSTON CUP DRIVERS NOT GET ENOUGH CREDIT FOR BEING ROAD RACERS AS WELL?
"I don't know if they do or don't. I have tremendous respect for a great number of them. They are a number of really great racing drivers in the Winston Cup Series. That's part of the attraction. You want to be there to measure yourself against the best. Yes, I'm more comfortable on a road course (because) that's my background. But at the same time, you want to have a chance against some guys that you admire and that you think are some of the best in the world - particularly with how popular Winston Cup racing has become. It's huge. Even up here in Toronto. It's a big deal up here."
IF YOU WIN, WOULD YOU BE THE FIRST CANADIAN TO WIN A WINSTON CUP RACE?
"No, actually Earl Ross won one - I think it was North Wilkesboro in 1974. He ran one full year in what was called Grand National then. I'm not sure what the team was. It was for a Canadian beer company, I can tell you that. But I believe it was 1974."
KNOWING CANADIAN FANS, THAT WOULD ALMOST BE A CANADIAN HOLIDAY, WOULDN'T IT?
"That I don't know (laughs). It would be a holiday for me, I can tell you that."
DEI SAYS YOU ARE ABLE TO PASS ALONG TECHNICAL KNOWLEDGE FROM THE TRACK TO THEM FOR THE CAR SET-UP. HOW HAVE YOU BEEN ABLE TO DO THAT?
"I guess it just comes from years of practice. Testing is something I have always enjoyed and still enjoyed. Back in the Trans-Am days with the Camaro was a big part of our success was the amount of work Chevrolet put into testing and preparation. And certainly, in their long-distance program with Corvette, testing was super critical. I've gotten to do a lot of that and really enjoy it. You've got to like it to start with. And then you test and develop a good feel for what the cars need to go faster. And that's one of the things that I've learned. It's one thing to translate what the car is doing. It's another thing to translate what you need to do for you to go faster. So it's also understanding your own driving. That's one of the things I think I'm improved at over the past few years is a better understanding my own driving and what I need the car to do for me to be successful."
BY BEING WITH DEI, ONE OF THE THINGS YOU DON'T HAVE TO WORRY ABOUT IS QUALFIYING. DOES THAT TAKE SOME OF THE PRESSURE OFF?
"Yes and no. Yeah, it's great that we don't have to worry about not being in the race on Sunday. The other thing is Jr. leaning in the window at the Watkins Glen test last week and saying, 'Just go and get the pole at Watkins Glen and that'll put you in the Budweiser Shootout at Daytona. So, no pressure there (laughs)."
JR. HAD HIS BEST TEST EVER AT WATKINS GLEN. WAS THAT BECAUSE YOU WORKED TOGETHER?
"I think so. One of the things about DEI is that they have an excellent engineering department. When these guys go to a test, they've got a lot of parameters to study the car. They load the car up for downloading every function the car has as most of the cars have. You can't use it during the race, but certainly during testing it's a great tool for testing. It also helps to speed up the process of improving the car. Certainly having the data from both cars, we both learned. That was probably the biggest asset we had."
HOW DO OTHER DRIVERS IN OTHER SERIES TALK ABOUT THE WINSTON CUP SERIES? IS THAT THE PLACE TO BE IN NORTH AMERICA?
"It goes without saying, yes. Even some of the guys I race with in American Le Mans Series. Their first question is that I finished 7th and the prize money was $94,000 and they want to know if it pays that much every week. Because of how popular it is, you get a lot of crossover when you've got drivers like myself and Boris Said and Scott Pruett have come from other forms of road racing. Certainly the road racing community watches and has lots of questions about what the cars are like to drive. It's a lot of fun to race those cars. It's so competitive and so popular."
IS THE BEST RIDE WITH THE BEST OPPORTUNITY AT THE GLEN?
"Without a doubt. We were in pretty good position at Infineon Raceway back in June. We were just a little bit unlucky with that caution with about 30 (laps) to go. The resources that DEI has are a big advantage. They're a multi-car team and one of the best in the series. I never thought I'd get this kind of opportunity. I've really enjoyed working with Tony Gibson and the crew."
IF IT WERE POSSIBLE, WOULD YOU LIKE TO GO FULL TIME IN WINSTON CUP AND JUST DABBLE IN SPORTS CAR RACING, OR THE OTHER WAY AROUND?
"Am I interested in doing Winston Cup full time? I'd be crazy if I said no. But again, I don't have a lot of oval experience and I'm over 40. So, I'd sure like to give it a shot, but I'd be quite happy doing what I'm doing and be able to dabble in Winston Cup with DEI and do whatever they'd want me to do."