NASCAR Teleconference Octorber 20, 2008 An interview with: Cale Yarborough JIM HUNTER: Good afternoon, everyone. Welcome to a special teleconference ahead of Sunday's Pep Boys Auto 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway. Our guest today is three-time...
NASCAR Teleconference Octorber 20, 2008
An interview with:
JIM HUNTER: Good afternoon, everyone. Welcome to a special teleconference ahead of Sunday's Pep Boys Auto 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway. Our guest today is three-time NASCAR champion, Cale Yarborough, the only driver to win three consecutive NASCAR Sprint Cup Series titles in 1976, '77 and '78, and one of only seven drivers with three or more titles.
His place in NASCAR history is especially important now that the series reigning and two-time champion Jimmie Johnson, driver of the No. 48 Lowe's Chevrolet, is attempting to become the first driver in 30 years to equal Cale's feat.
Cale, it's great to have you on the call with us today and we appreciate you taking the time.
CALE YARBOROUGH: Thank you, Jim. It's good to be with you.
JIM HUNTER: As one of NASCAR's 50 greatest drivers, Cale ranks fifth all time with 83 career wins. He competed for 23 seasons, winning all three of his championships with legendary car owner and driver Junior Johnson. A native of Sardis, South Carolina, Cale also is a three-time series runner-up, a four-time Daytona 500 champion, and a five-time race champion at Darlington Raceway, the track too tough to tame.
He has three wins and two poles at Atlanta Motor Speedway where the series heads this week for race seven in the 2008 Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup. He also won once as a team owner with driver John Andretti in the series '1997 July race at Daytona.
Cale, what is your perspective and how do you feel today having won three consecutive championships?
CALE YARBOROUGH: Well, I feel good. I'm happy that I was able to win three consecutive championships. But it looks like that record's going to come to an end this year.
JIM HUNTER: We'll turn it over to the media for questions for Cale.
Q: Pretty exciting situation obviously. You had this record for a long, long time. Did you ever think it would be equaled? Is it more difficult now with the Chase for the Championship to do this or is it just the same as it was back then, just a difficult thing to do?
CALE YARBOROUGH: Well, it's an awful difficult thing to do. I think it may have been harder to win 'em back then than it is today because you had to compete against everybody back then.
As far as it lasting 30 years, I just wonder how come it took so long for somebody to win three in a row. That was a long streak. 30 years is a long time, but I was happy to hold it.
Q: Cale, as you look at this 48 team, watch them, Johnson and Knaus compared to you and Junior and Herb, in what way do you think this 48 team is like you and Junior's team and in what ways are they different?
CALE YARBOROUGH: Well, you know, there's no doubt about what kind of team Junior put together during those years. It was an excellent team. Of course, Rick Hendrick has put together an excellent team for Jimmie Johnson. That's what you've got to have to be able to win a championship, much less three championships in a row: an excellent race team.
Q: Did you kind of see this coming the last year or two? Did you see the 48 team and say that your record may be tied if they keep going?
CALE YARBOROUGH: Well, yeah, of course the first part of the season it wasn't looking too good for Jimmie. But he always comes on strong in the end. The handwriting's on the wall now. It's gonna happen. And if it happens, I understand that I was Jimmie's hero when he was growing up, so if he does it, more power to him.
That don't mean I'm pulling for him now (laughter). But if he does it, I'll be in good company. I hope he feels the same way.
Q: Do you have any thoughts on why it's taken 30 years to put three together again?
CALE YARBOROUGH: I have no idea. Thinking back with Petty and Earnhardt, Gordon, you would think that some of those guys would have put three together within those 30 years. But thank goodness they didn't.
Q: Cale, can you talk a little bit about the magic that a team has. It seems like when somebody is going for a championship, nothing goes wrong. Jimmie and Chad last night said they almost felt they were on a different plane.
CALE YARBOROUGH: It's hard to explain really. When you get on a roll like Junior and I were back in the earlier days when we won three in a row, Jimmie and his team all are on a roll now, it's just hard to break that momentum when they get going.
Q: Does it have a lot to do with chemistry? Is chemistry really the key?
CALE YARBOROUGH: No, no doubt about it. Without chemistry, any of it wouldn't work.
Q: You talked a little bit about why it took so long. You had pretty formidable opponents back in the '70s. We also have the discussions today, the quality of the playing field, your going against guys like Petty, Pearson, and he's going against guys like Carl Edwards, Greg Biffle, Jeff Gordon. What is the difference looking at it today compared to the competition as it was back in the '70s?
CALE YARBOROUGH: Well, back in the '70s, was tremendous competition, like you said, the Pettys, Bakers, Allisons, all those guys, they were all great racecar drivers. Jimmie is going up against some good racecar drivers today. They were good back then and they're good today. It's just hard to do.
Q: You were such a popular figure back in the '70s. Junior's personality was so strong. The contributions of Herb Nab get pushed back into the background by folks. Talk about Herb, what his real input into that team was.
CALE YARBOROUGH: Herb had an awful lot of input into that team. He was the dedicated crew chief. In his day, he didn't have the engineering degrees and all, but he had the knowledge of a racecar, how to make it work. He was very much part of a winning team.
Q: A lot of folks look back, including some of today's drivers, at result sheets from some of those years and point out that a lot of races finished with two, three, four cars on the lead lap. They'll make a point that today's competition is so much tougher than back then. I'm guessing you don't look at it that way. Is winning a championship to you as difficult when you did it as today?
CALE YARBOROUGH: Must have been pretty tough. Nobody's done it in 30 years.
Q: There are some people who say if Jimmie wins three straight, his accomplishment can't be compared to yours because of the differences in the points system. Do you believe that?
CALE YARBOROUGH: You know, even though the points system has changed, to be the champion you still got to do better than anybody else has done. That's the bottom line.
Q: Looking back when you won three in a row, you won a lot of races at the tail end of seasons, were good at slamming the door on people. Does that make you wonder what kind of Chase driver you'd be?
CALE YARBOROUGH: The only thing I can say is Jimmie better be glad I'm not racing with him today (laughter).
Q: When you look at what Jimmie is doing right now, in terms of appreciating what you've done, have you appreciated what Johnson is doing, particularly the way he seems to be able to dominate when he wants to at certain tracks?
CALE YARBOROUGH: Oh, yeah, I can appreciate what he's doing. He's got his head on straight and he's doing everything right and I can appreciate that.
Q: As far as the Chase, this format, how do you think you could do in a format like this? Could you just go all out or would it be a thing where you could calculate like some drivers seem to do?
CALE YARBOROUGH: I never was one to do much calculating. I went all out every lap I ever raced in my whole career. I'd still be doing it today.
Q: Could you contrast and compare your style of driving with Jimmie's. Do you see a difference in the way you drive a car or is it pretty much the same?
CALE YARBOROUGH: I think it's pretty much the same. I've watched Jimmie. He's the kind of driver that likes to run up front. That's the way I drove. I can see a lot of me in Jimmie.
Q: Have you ever met Jimmie? Can you talk about his personality versus your personality a little bit.
CALE YARBOROUGH: I don't know Jimmie that well. I've met him. He came along after I was gone. He seems to be an awful nice fella.
Q: People are going to want to compare Jimmie with you and some of the other greats in the sport if Jimmie wins a third title. For the sport's newer fans who might not have seen you race, Petty, but know the names, how do you compare Jimmie Johnson with drivers of another era? How do you judge who's better or where they rank?
CALE YARBOROUGH: Well, of course, Jimmie's going for his third straight championship so he ranks up there pretty high. As I said a few minutes ago, I see a lot of me in Jimmie and his driving style is a lot like my driving style was.
Q: What are things that some of the newer sports fans who know the names but see the drivers like yourself, what are some of the things they should be reminded about what kind of drivers you were and the talent level back in that era.
CALE YARBOROUGH: We were all dedicated drivers. Jimmie is a dedicated driver and has a lot of dedicated competition he's running against. That's what it takes to run races and win championships, is have that dedication and determination to get it done.
Continued in part 2