Dodge Motorsports Teleconference Tuesday, Aug. 24,2004. CHAD CHAFFIN (No. 18 Dickies Dodge Ram) NOTE: Chaffin is a 36-year-old Nashville, Tenn., native. He scored his first NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series victory on June 4, 2004 at Dover...
Dodge Motorsports Teleconference
Tuesday, Aug. 24,2004.
CHAD CHAFFIN (No. 18 Dickies Dodge Ram)
NOTE: Chaffin is a 36-year-old Nashville, Tenn., native. He scored his first NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series victory on June 4, 2004 at Dover and went on to record seven straight top 10s. He hasn't finished lower than 12th in the past 10 races, and he won his second race of the season at Indianapolis Raceway Park on Aug. 6. Chaffin, who drives for truck owner Bobby Hamilton, has worked his way up to third in the series standings entering Wednesday night's race at Bristol Motor Speedway. Chaffin trails Hamilton by 196 points and is 112 points behind second-place Dennis Setzer.
HOW DO YOU LIKE THE ONE-DAY SHOWS?
"It depends. If the truck isn't running well I prefer the Happy Hour and race the following day. It gives the crew chief time to sort some things out. If you unload and the truck is really fast, then you like the one-day shows because it doesn't give everybody else a chance to catch up. We've done pretty well. We ran one-day shows at IRP and Milwaukee and we finished first and second. At Nashville, even though it was a two-day show, it was run like a one-day show. We didn't have a Happy Hour and we struggled a little bit there. It just depends on how you're running. As far as the driver, I think it's harder on the crews than it is the driver doing everything in one day, but it really is fair for everybody. I don't have a real preference."
DOES NOT HAVING A HAPPY HOUR PREVENT YOU FROM WORKING ON THE TRUCK TOO MUCH?
"You know going into the race if you're going to have a Happy Hour, so you work on your race setup and you basically qualify your race setup. That's why NASCAR is doing this, you waste the whole first practice on your qualifying setup and then you concentrate on race trim. If you unload and you're fast off the trailer and you qualify good, you really can't screw it up because they're only going to let you do a couple of things to the truck. On the flip side, at Nashville, we really needed to work on our truck and I think we knew what to do to fix it, but we just didn't have that option. After you qualified, that's what you're stuck with to race. It works both ways. If you're running good, I think it's an advantage, other people can't fix theirs and you can't screw yours up."
WHAT DOES SUCCESS MEAN TO YOU?
"More than anything we rate our success, we want to be a top-five team. That's what we qualify as success. If we go and run the top five in the race we feel like we've done our job. If we can't run in the top five, we want to do the best we can. What it means to me, to establish ourselves as a top team, I believe first of all it's great for Dodge. Dodge allowed Bobby Hamilton to hire me, so it's great for Bobby Hamilton Racing. It's great for Dodge. We have two trucks at BHR that are winning races, and Dodge has another program it can count on to perform well. For me personally, it's been so long before I could get a topnotch ride in the sport, and now I feel like I'm validating the opportunity I was given to drive this truck. It's not as much an ego thing as it is now I don't feel like I have to justify having this opportunity. I feel like the people who have given me this opportunity are getting their rewards, so I feel great for my sponsor. It's great Dickies is getting a lot of exposure. The main thing is I want to be in this sport for a few more years to come and having this success is going to allow that to be possible."
WHAT DO YOU LIKE MOST ABOUT YOUR JOB?
"I love racing. Just being able to drive and being able to do it for a living, that's the biggest thing. I obviously want to win, but everyday I wake up and I'm a racecar driver. That's my profession. That's really a big deal to me. All the other stuff is just perks of the job. Being a racecar driver is always what I wanted to be. That's the big thing."
DO YOU STILL WORK IN YOUR CARPET PADDING RECYCLING BUSINESS?
"Yes, as a matter of fact I'm sitting out front of it right now. I had to come in today, just like any small business, it needs a lot of attention. I try to come down here one or two days a week and handle some stuff. We pick up used carpet padding and sell it to the recycling industry. I'm headed out to Bristol as soon as I leave here. The time restraints aren't that much different when you're doing good or struggling (in racing). It makes this little job of mine a lot less important to me than it's been the last couple of years before I got this ride. I needed this company to subsidize my income. Now, it's just something I got into. When my driving career is over, I wanted to be in business and so now I'm spending less time with it. It's a good thing. It's not a bad thing. I just want to make sure it's taken care of because one day I'll be relying on it for sure."
YOU'VE WON TWO OF LAST 10 RACES AND YOU'VE GOT 10 RACES LEFT. HOW MANY MORE CAN YOU WIN AND CAN YOU CATCH THE BOSS?
"I think we can win. The thing about winning races is, I can't put a number on it because I didn't expect to win Dover or IRP. We go into every race thinking we can win. You just have to get in position to win. We had one kinda snatched away from us at St. Louis. If things go our way, we could win two or three of these things at the end of the year. If things don't go our way, we might not win any of 'em. You can't predict any of that, but I know we're going to be competitive enough to be in a position to win a race or two or more. As far as catching the boss, it's going to be hard. He's almost 200 points ahead and that means he has to have two bad races more than us. If we have one bad race, you look at the law of averages and you have a bad race every one in eight or 10. That's if you're lucky. He's going to have to have two or three bad races for us to catch him. I don't think we can outrun him enough to pick up 200 points, nor do I think Dennis Setzer can, either. I think everyone is hoping Bobby has some bad luck. I'm not hoping, but that's what it's going to take. Right now, I've got my sights set on Dennis Setzer. I'm not worried about Bobby. I'm not out there to race him. I want to beat everybody else. Then if it works out that he does have bad luck, I want to be in position to bring the championship home for our team and Dodge. Right now, my goal is not to try to beat the boss. He's out there doing his thing, and I'm doing mine."
CAN BOBBY HAMILTON RACING FINISH 1-2 THIS SEASON?
"I think right now I'm real proud we're first and third. My third place is not as solid as his first place is. I could lose 40 or 50 points and my position could swing three or four spots in any given week. We're not here by accident. I don't feel like we're a fluke. I think we can stay up there and maybe move into second, but I think we have to just keep doing the things we're doing, finishing races and doing the best we can. You go into a place like Bristol and you never know what's going to happen. So much happens there that's out of your control. I'm kinda going in there with my fingers crossed that everything works out all right."
DO YOU LIKE RACING AT BRISTOL?
"It's a ton of fun. I love it. It's one of the most fun places to race if the car is working good, or in our case, the truck. It's a lot of fun, but you can get taken out there so fast. Things happen so fast, and you can't avoid a wreck or you get spun out or something. You're kinda at the mercy of your competitor up there. I go in that race a little apprehensive wondering what can and will happen. A lot of other tracks are more wide open and it seems like you can get away from your competitors if that's what you want to do. You can't get away from your competitors at Bristol. You're all thrown in there together, and it's dog eat dog."
WHAT HAVE YOU LEARNED FROM BOBBY HAMILTON?
"I learned so much from Bobby that I can't even really describe it. Sometimes we sit down and he'll actually point out a suggestion or I'll ask a question and he'll give me an answer. He's always there to help me. He's never refused to give advice or help. I've learned so much from him just watching him. I can follow him on the track or I can see the way he handles the situation on and off the track. I've probably learned more about racing in the last couple of years and I can't really put a pencil to it and say 'here's what I've learned.' It's just the way he goes about it. He's very successful, obviously. Throughout the years, Bobby has helped me. In 1997, my first major NASCAR Busch ride with Joe Nemechek in the BellSouth Mobility car, and that was basically done on a recommendation from Bobby. Joe asked Bobby who he would recommend, and he recommended me. Then, through the years he used me to test for his team. That was some behind-the-scenes stuff I did, helping his team test. Then, finally he offered to let me drive his second truck. All that kinda had to work out for that to happen. When he gave me that opportunity, it put my career back on the right track. I'd gone through a couple of rides. I was happy, doing OK in the Busch Series, but I wasn't really with competitive teams that were going to go out and run in the top 10 or win the race. Now I have the opportunity to run in competitive equipment, so it's meant a lot."
WHO WILL YOU HAVE TO BEAT AT BRISTOL?
"It's going to be the same ones. I look for Carl Edwards to run real good. We struggled last week and ran 12th. Man, he ran 20th and that was very uncharacteristic. Him and Dennis Setzer, a lot of times when a guy has a bad race, I don't know if they get more determined. It seems like we're determined all the time, but usually a team will rebound from a bad race. I look for Carl Edwards and Dennis Setzer to be really strong, and then the same group -- Ted Musgrave, Bobby Hamilton, myself, Shane Hmiel, Jack Sprague, Mike Skinner. It's going to be about 20 of them to watch."
DO YOU THINK DODGE CAN HOLD ON AND WIN THE DRIVER'S TITLE AND MANUFACTURERS' CHAMPIONSHIP IN TRUCK SERIES THIS SEASON?
"I think we're focused on the drivers' title, and I think it's going to be up to Bobby, myself and Ted to get that done. I think we can win the manufacturers' championship. Between us and Steve Park and Andy Houston, I think we'll accumulate enough team points to get that done, but the drivers' championship is the one that's eluded Dodge so far, and I think that's the one we really want to get."
WHAT PLANS TO YOU HAVE FOR YOUR RACING CAREER?
"I think I can race 10 more years easily as long as I can stay competitive enough that I can keep getting good rides. That's the main thing. I'd love to see myself stay here at BHR the next few years. I know Bobby is talking about retiring in the next two or three years. The way these teams are formatted, you typically have a younger driver and an older driver, so maybe I can take over the elder driver role and put in six or seven years at BHR and we can bring up a younger guy through the second team. Right now, even at my age, I'm playing a young guy at BHR. Maybe in a couple of years I'll be able to step into the veteran role."
ANY PLANS FOR THE CUP SERIES?
"Not really. I'd love an opportunity to race one time in Nextel Cup just to say I've done it. I don't really expect the opportunity to come along to do that. Being a realist, I'm not out there looking or calling car owners or trying to get auditions in one of those cars because I think most of the teams already have their drivers and the ones that are looking are looking for young guys coming up, like Kasey Kahne. That doesn't mean I couldn't compete there. I just don't think the opportunity will be there, so I'm very content doing the truck series. Right now, I'd just like to become a truck champion and concentrate on doing that."
Dodge teleconference - Kasey Kahne