KERRY EARNHARDT, NO. 15 KRAFT FOODS/STATER BROS CHEVROLET SILVERADO: ON WHY HE MADE THE DECISION TO DRIVE IN NASCAR CRAFTSMAN TRUCK SERIES: " We were in the NASCAR Busch Series with the FitzBradshaw Racing Team and things just weren't...
KERRY EARNHARDT, NO. 15 KRAFT FOODS/STATER BROS CHEVROLET SILVERADO:
ON WHY HE MADE THE DECISION TO DRIVE IN NASCAR CRAFTSMAN TRUCK SERIES: " We were in the NASCAR Busch Series with the FitzBradshaw Racing Team and things just weren't working out, we didn't have the chemistry a team should have. I could have stayed there and run around maybe mid pack or further back. But that isn't what I want to do. I want to compete, I want to race and I want to win. We gave that up and joined up with Bill McNally Racing running here in California running the NASCAR Grand National West Series races for most of the season as Austin Cameron's teammate. We had a lot of fun in that series. We almost won the big race at Irwindale Speedway but I messed that up myself. But we still had a great time in that series.
"Then when Shane Hmiel made the decision to go to the Busch Series this season, the opportunity opened up with Billy Ballew Motorsports. This team ran really well last year. We had a tie with Billy Ballew Motorsports with the Dale Earnhardt Inc engines. Doing that program for them last year just helped me a little bit get my foot in the door. I have been working with Billy for a little while to try and get something put together. We were working mainly on sponsor stuff.
"This NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series is really growing drastically over the last three years. When it began 10 years ago, I never thought it would be where it is at today. It is amazing what these folks have done with this series to get it where it is now.
"The SPEED Channel ratings for the Daytona race were 2.1, the highest rated SPEED Channel program ever and the highest rated for the NCTS ever as well. The crowd was way more than last year. The stand were pretty packed and all every exciting racing for the fans all night. There were 17 different leaders and I think 26 lead changes, which was a record for that race.
"This series has really taken off. It has a lot of people's attention. I think it is a great opportunity. When you look at it you have Ron Hornaday coming back into it. You have Bobby Hamilton, Jimmy Spencer; there are a lot of good guys in it. Bobby Labonte came in a raced a few races, Jamie McMurray, Kasey Kahne. Mark Martin is talking a lot about it so the series is getting a lot of attention and I think this is the perfect time for me to get involved in it by getting into a good ride in the series and grow with the series.
"We are working hard on getting sponsors. It is still a little hard but after we won the pole and raced at Daytona, we got a lot of people excited more about our program.
ON DIFFICULTY OF A DRIVER TO GET ATTENTION: "To get someone's attention, you have to be able to drive a car or a truck as hard as it will run. Without the right equipment to race, it is hard to show your talent. There have been several people that have struggled in the Busch series because of the equipment they were in that have come to either the NEXTEL Cup Series or the Craftsman Truck Series and have really excelled. Regan Smith is one of the examples I can think of right now. At Daytona that kid was upfront all night and racin' hard. He was really wheeling that truck and he has hooked up with Xpress Motorsports and you know they have great equipment because they have won two championships. His talent has started shining until his night got shortened.
"You watch here, Regan has been running pretty strong, turning some good laps. Without the right equipment, people just aren't going to notice you. That is why I was happy to have the opportunity to start out in good equipment and got a lot of eyes turning toward our team now.
"I started out in the ARCA deal with really good equipment and people started to notice and things turned around. Then went to the Busch series and didn't have the right equipment and opportunity and kind of struggled there and that didn't work out so well. But I got hooked up with Richard Childress Racing in their superspeedway program and things went pretty well and people started watching us again because we are good in good equipment.
ON FIRST PRACTICE SESSION THIS MORNING: "The No. 15 Silverado was pretty good. I don't know, we were about 15th on the charts but we kept getting faster as practice went along. I thought these tires would fall off pretty good but as we went along, we were still running within a tenth of where we were when we first went out with sticker tires. I am hoping we stay on these tires all of practice and then put stickers on for qualifying and just save our tires for qualifying and the race.
"We made tremendous gains during practice. Ritchie (Wauters, crew chief) and the guys are really working hard on this No. 15 Silverado."
"We were working mostly on race setups and that makes it easier. We were trying to get with groups of trucks out there to see how we were in a pack with guys we know are consistent, smooth and fast. We wanted to run with them to see how our truck does in the draft with the air. It is amazing the different the air makes in the draft here at California with these trucks.
"We are looking more at the best race setup we can get because we are automatically in the race because the team finished 11th in points last year. We are guaranteed a starting spot. We just focused on race setup at Daytona and we went out there and sat on the pole so we are looking to keep that streak going here."