DAVID RAGAN-50-Roush Racing Ford F-150 (Qualified 2nd) TALK ABOUT YOUR QUALIFYING RUN. "It would mean a lot to win the Bud Pole here at Talladega, especially in a Roush truck. But, it's pretty cool because we've got all three trucks in the top...
DAVID RAGAN-50-Roush Racing Ford F-150 (Qualified 2nd)
TALK ABOUT YOUR QUALIFYING RUN. "It would mean a lot to win the Bud Pole here at Talladega, especially in a Roush truck. But, it's pretty cool because we've got all three trucks in the top 10. I think that our truck is exceptional in the draft, and I think it's going to draft very well along with my other two teammates. We look forward to having a real clean race, and, again, just because our truck is fast by itself, a lot of people tend to think that it might not draft well, but I think there will be 30 to 35 teams out there saying, 'Hey, our truck drafts very well, too.' It should be an exciting race."
WHAT DO YOU FEEL YOUR CHANCES ARE FOR GETTING INTO THE NO. 6 CUP CAR NEXT YEAR? "I'm not going to try to think about that the rest of the year. I'm just going to think like I have from Mansfield, Ohio, on. I'm going to think about going out there and being patient and try to improve week-in and week-out, and try to reduce my mistakes to a minimum. I think that's what hurt me some in the beginning of the year. I just got out of line too soon at times, and starting here at Talladega, this is definitely a patience race that we'll have to run tomorrow to be around at the end. So, just to go out and continue to do what I've done all year and try to be patient and make good laps and be fast at times and just try to take care of what I can control, and everything else will take care of itself."
COMMENT ON MARK MARTIN'S ANNOUNCEMENT TODAY. "We are losing Mark as a teammate, but we're not losing him as a friend. I think he's still going to be a guy in the garage that we can to go to, and if we have a problem or concern, I think he'll still continue to help us out. It's been real fortunate to have him around this year. He's helped out our truck program along with the learning curve of Erik and I. I think if we still need anything from a driver's standpoint, we'll be able to go to him and talk to him."
ERIK DARNELL-99-Northern Tool + Equipment Ford F-150 (Qualified 6th, Top Rookie)
TALK ABOUT YOUR QUALIFYING EFFORT. "Well, I don't think that qualifying is really going to relate to the race tomorrow. We really didn't know what to expect with our 99 Northern Tools + Equipment F-150. We didn't really get to make a real clean qualifying run yesterday. We know it's a lot better in race trim than where it qualified, though. To end up in the top 10, that's a pretty good deal for us."
COMMENT ON MARK MARTIN'S ANNOUNCEMENT TODAY. "Fortunately, even though we are losing Mark, we still have some great teammates like Greg Biffle, Matt Kenseth and Carl Edwards. Carl ran in the truck series and did very well with that, so we can go to him for information as well. While it is unfortunate that we're losing Mark, we still have a wealth of information to pool from."
DISCUSS THE ROOKIE-OF-THE-YEAR COMPETITION. "It's definitely been tough. You've got drivers who are aligned with Cup teams, and you have Aric Almirola with Gibbs Racing. You have Kraig Kinser, who was with MB2, is not running the whole thing any more. There are quite a few of us out there who run tough week-in and week out, and we knew coming into this thing that it was going to be tough to win the Rookie-of-the-Year award. Fortunately for us, we had some pretty good races and some of the other rookies have struggled a little bit. We've had our struggles as well, but we've been able to stay ahead of those guys and it looks pretty good going down the stretch here."
It was announced today that Northern Tool + Equipment would sponsor Erik Darnell and the No. 99 Roush Racing Ford F-150 for the final five truck series races of 2006 and full time in 2007. Darnell, who was joined by Roush Racing President Geoff Smith, commented on the sponsorship agreement and Roush's truck series plans for '07.
ERIK DARNELL-99-Northern Tool + Equipment Ford F-150
"I just wanted to say that this is going to be a great opportunity for me and for everyone here at Roush Racing to have Northern Tool & Equipment on the truck. We're looking to start off strong here at Talladega. This is the same truck we had at Daytona and we had a sixth-place run with it there and we're looking to build upon that here. We're real excited about the five races for this year but even more excited to go on for the next couple of years. It's a great opportunity, again, for me and everyone here and we're looking to go out and work for you guys and help you guys out, and we appreciate you for coming on board."
WHAT ARE THE CHALLENGES FOR YOU NEXT SEASON? "Well, just to go out there and run well. This has kind of been a learning season for me, being my rookie season in the truck series. We've had some good runs, but we've had some bad runs as well; we've had some DNFs. We're definitely looking to go out there next year and run for the championship. We've got to finish races, we've got to run up front more than we're doing now and I think we're just kinda getting to the point with the team, me and my crew chief, to where we can kind of jell and we're really getting a real good feel for each other. I think it's going to show up for the last couple of races here at the end of the year, and like I said, we're going to go out next year and we're going to be running for wins and running for the championship."
GEOFF SMITH, President-Roush Racing
"Of all of the big teams, Roush Racing is the most bullish on the truck series. We think there's untapped value for sponsors in that series and it's fantastic that Northern Tool has signed up for multiple years as a primary sponsor to be the sponsor behind the development of our young drivers over the next several years. Erik, of course, is the winner of the Discovery Channel 'Driver X' contest and he's doing really well and we're expecting even more from him as the near future unfolds. Not only in the long term, but in the short term."
DOES THIS MEAN ERIK WILL BE IN THE TRUCK SERIES NEXT YEAR? "He's going to be in the truck series full time. We're expecting, and I hope that he's expecting, that by the time this year is over and the team is fully jelled and Erik has his full year of experience under his belt that he's going to be a championship contender in that truck next year full time. Now, whether he does more than that, he may be depending on sponsorship teamed up with one of our Cup guys in the Busch Series for some additional experience along the way. His full-time focus for Roush Racing is going to be for Northern Tool and for Roush Racing to win that truck series championship."
SO, ERIK IS NOT AUDITIONING FOR THE NO. 6 NEXTEL CUP CAR IN 2007? "Well, by default I guess we just lost one for that contest for the 6 next year. Erik is staying in the truck series and getting another year under his belt. He is still a very young guy with a great future ahead of him as he's been demonstrating all year."
IS THERE ANY TRUTH TO THE RUMOR THAT JACQUES VILLENEUVE MIGHT DRIVE A ROUSH VEHICLE NEXT YEAR? "The report came over and was translated from Italian, poorly. I didn't really understand what it said, but if it said that he was going to be in a Roush Racing Cup car, the answer is no, we're full up. If the question is whether he's poked around the garage looking for possible opportunities in NASCAR, the answer is yes. I also think it would be fun and exciting for a 35-year-old Formula 1 world champion to be here. But, we do not have a place in our Cup stable. We are constrained. We can only have five. If would could have six, the next announcement that they're about to make would be different."
HOW MANY TRUCK TEAMS WILL YOU HAVE NEXT YEAR? "We're going to have at least two. We'll be announcing our other sponsorship and other driver pretty soon."
Following the formal press conference, Jack Roush commented further on the departure of driver Mark Martin, driver of the No. 6 Ford Fusion, from Roush Racing following the 2006 NASCAR NEXTEL Cup season outside of media center at Talladega Superspeedway.
JACK ROUSH, Owner-Roush Racing
IS THERE ANY TRUTH TO THE RUMOR THAT JACQUES VILLENEUVE MIGHT DRIVE A ROUSH VEHICLE NEXT YEAR? "That's a possibility. I know we're in discussions. He came to see us in Detroit and he's been in Charlotte and had discussion around our program and what he can do and the rate of which he could get up to speed. If he's got the stomach for it and if we can find the sponsorship for it, that's certainly a possibility."
WHO WILL BECOME THE NEW LEADER OF ROUSH RACING? "Mark will be missed, but Greg Biffle is the heir apparent. He's the senior guy and he's been with us through the truck series and the Busch series and the Cup Series, and won championships in both of those on his way. This is first opportunity we'll have to see a driver win the championship in all three of NASCAR's top categories. He is an inspiration to the rookies and has helped them every way that he can. The same goes for Matt, and he's only marginally been here less a period of time than Greg. And, Carl Edwards is coming like a thunderstorm. He's anxious to help everybody him. He's very personable, and people likewise present depth in the management of our rookies and the direction of the programs as we go forward."
SO, THERE WON'T BE ONE DRIVER THAT CARRIES THE BANNER? "I think that's the case. I personally don't have the view that Roush Racing was all of Mark Martin, and Mark was all of Roush Racing. Certainly, all of the championships that have been won around Mark by the other guys have drawn a lot of attention and demonstrate the balance and ability and commitment on their part."
WASN'T MARK MARTIN KNOWN AS ROUSH RACING? "Mark Martin was Roush Racing for the early years, for sure. The simple fact is that things that were important for Mark that he said would be involved in the decision making to what he would do were complex beyond my capability to deal with in the timeframe that I had to deal with them and we were the losers. We weren't able to put forward for him a program that was attractive as the one he was able to get from MB2. I had never thought that I ever be in that kind of a competition for Mark's time, but here we are and we lost."
WHO IS GOING TO DRIVE THE NO. 6 CAR? "I'm not sure. There'll be driver. It will be a rookie driver. The AAA program was predicated on a development driver that would generate enthusiasm for them and their employees and their customers going forward. There's Todd Kluever, who is obviously a rookie that we had. If you asked me six months ago, I said it was Todd Kluever, and in the meantime David Ragan has done a nice job. I'm not sure that we're done looking at just the two of them. We've got seven races, and until we fill in the entry blanks at the end of January, I don't have to make a final decision. I don't owe you guys an answer today, nor any time in the foreseeable future. We'll make best decision we can for AAA and the 6 team and for Roush Racing as to who drives the car at the last possible moment."
WOULD YOU HAVE EVERY ENVISIONED RACING AGAINST MARK? "In the early years, certainly there was a question as to whether Mark wanted to stay with the program. At least twice when we had discussions around whether you stay or whether you go, and it was a very real possibility at that time. But, as we've moved into our middle ages together - Mark moved into middle age and I've moved out of it - I never really gave this consideration. He was so impassioned to get away from racing, or I felt that two years, that the idea of him making a deal that would be a growth program going forward with another organization was not something that I saw coming."
WHAT IS THIS LIKE FOR YOU PERSONALLY? "Well, it's finally over. I've been involved in a struggle for the last 18 to 24 months to present to Mark something was interesting and challenging and workable for him, and I don't have that challenge, so I'm some relieved of that."
ARE YOU SAD ON A PERSONAL LEVEL? "Well, I went to sleep last night and I slept all night. I didn't have any troubles staying awake knowing what I was going to be faced with today. There's a bit of personal disappointment, I guess, in the fact that we weren't able as an organization, and with Ford as a partner, to put together something for Mark that was as attractive as what Jay and the MB2 bunch were able to do. But, I'll move on from that. We've got seven races in front of us and we may win a championship. I don't know how he'll feel if we're able to win the championship for him and he's made a commitment to leave and go do something else. We'll get past all that, and there'll be 36 races plus a couple more next year that we'll have to face, and we'll go week to week dealing with whatever is in front of us at the time, and very quickly the challenges of the moment overshadow the disappoints of the past."
WHEN DID MARK TELL YOU OF HIS DECISION? "Last Saturday. A week ago from tomorrow."
DID YOU TRY TO GET HIM TO CHANGE HIS MIND? "The fight was out of me. He said, 'I've got an offer to go do 20 races in a Cup program with guys that I think I can help and with an expectation that is maybe not as great as it would be for what you've got for me.' He said, 'I'm able to pick which races I go to and really cherry-pick and make it suit me and the race tracks I want to be at.' He said, 'That gives me flexibility that there's never afforded by Jack or Roush Rating.' He's anxious to have that this point in his life."
-credit: ford racing