WHEN DID YOU START TALKING STRATEGY? "Eleven to go, 12 to go. The 57 stopped with 20 to go, and I said to Randy, 'Let's not let them short-pit us.' They could short pit us and then they could run faster lap times than we will, and then when we...
WHEN DID YOU START TALKING STRATEGY?
"Eleven to go, 12 to go. The 57 stopped with 20 to go, and I said to Randy, 'Let's not let them short-pit us.' They could short pit us and then they could run faster lap times than we will, and then when we pit, they'll already be going three-tenths of a second a lap faster than us for eight, ten laps and that's a lot of distance that they could make up. I was telling him, I think they were really calculating hard numbers in there because I was asking them to tell me how to drive this thing. I knew that Skinner was coming, or that Skinner was back there, so finally I just backed off the throttle, just maintaining a pace that Skinner would catch me by 10 or 20 carlengths when I took the checkered flag. I was going to run only as hard as I had to, let off the gas early, didn't get back in it, easy back in the throttle. And then it put me in the mix with all the lapped cars, but I felt I was in pretty decent shape running with them. I wasn't worried about wrecking or anything like that, and I just stayed and ran with those guys. We had a pretty good car. We were catching the 57, and I moved over to let him go down the frontstretch because I could tell I was holding him up a little bit, and see if he could catch the 2. He just got to the 2 when they started doing pit stops. Really, we had a third-place car today, maybe second, but we won on fuel mileage. We had the dominant car at California Speedway and led almost every lap and should have won, but we ended up sixth there and got beat on fuel mileage. We know what it's like being on both ends of the fence." DO
YOU LIKE THESE KINDS OF RACES?
"I like them right now, but I didn't like them in California, let's put it that way. I've won one now and lost one, but you're going to lose more than you're going to win by gambling. Today we gambled, not by design, but today we really gambled because we were close. I never know how close of a gamble it is. They told me just to watch the fuel pressure and three to go, two to go, last lap. It started going down on the white-flag lap. It started losing fuel pressure."
IS THAT NERVE-WRACKING?
"Yeah, because then my role is changed as a driver. I'm just on autopilot. I'm not going fast, I'm really just out there driving around to see if it has enough gas. You have to maintain some speed to it, but you're just trying to make it to the end. We were tight all day, so I wasn't putting the throttle down like the 57 or the 2 was. I wasn't able to get the throttle down as early as they were, so obviously they got worse mileage than we did because I had to wait so long to get back in throttle and would coast into the corner a little bit further, which doesn't take any gas. My car handling a little it different probably gave me that half-gallon edge to make it to the end."
WHAT WAS WRONG WITH THE CAR?
"It was too tight. When I started out I almost wrecked on lap 2 going into Turn 1. Maybe the tires weren't hot yet, but we really didn't do much to the car over that course of time and it just got really tight at the end. Maybe the tires weren't up to temperature yet, but we were off just a little bit today. We had a third to fourth-place car, which is respectable in the field that we were racing in."
WE HAD COOLER TEMPERATURES TODAY THAN WE HAD THE PAST TWO DAYS. DID THAT SCREW WITH THE SETUPS?
"I'm sure it influenced a lot of the teams. It made the 10 better. The 10, in our practice times and in Happy Hour, the 10 wasn't really in contention. He was three to four-tenths off of running with myself, the 2 and the 57. Obviously, their car got a whole lot better. They worked on it and maybe the temperature played into their hands and played out of myself and the 2's hands. He was fast at the beginning, but I see he slowed up at the end. Our car wasn't nearly as good as it was in Happy Hour. I could do 30-flats easy in Happy Hour. I did a string of 25 laps in a row and never went slower than a 30.2 (seconds), and today the fastest I could do was a 30.2 or 30.4, most of the time. Being cooler temperatures, we should run faster but I was a lot slower."
DO YOU HAVE AN IDEA HOW GAS WAS LEFT?
"Probably not much. The fuel pressure started dropping on the white-flag lap, and I wasn't sure if I was going to run out doing donuts. Usually what happens is the fuel, when you're going around the corner, sloshes over and the fuel pickup is on that side, but you start going down the straightaway and it starts running away from the pickup. It started dropping down the backstretch, but when I went down in the corner, the fuel pressure jumped right back to seven pounds and I didn't look at it going down the frontstretch because it really didn't matter."
DID THE ENGINE EVER MISS?
"It never missed. It needed to get down to two pounds of fuel pressure before it started missing."
DID YOU CLICK ON THE RADIO GOING INTO TURN THREE SAYING THAT YOU WERE OUT?
"Yeah, if the fuel pressure dropped down to three pounds, but it still has the carburetor full of gas, so it's hard to say if it would have made another lap or not. The straightaway is pretty long to have to accelerate down, but doing some cookies there and driving back doesn't take much gas. The flow holes being full and the carburetor would do that."
YOU TOOK A BIGGER CHANCE WHEN IT COMES TO THE POINTS RACE. YOU WOULD LOSE A LOT OF POINTS BY RUNNING OUT OF GAS.
"I wanted to win bad. I just want to win. It was worth it to me. Even if we ran out of gas on the white-flag lap, I would have finished the first car one lap down, which would have been, maybe 15th. I think Skinner ran out with two to go, so I think he got hurt more than I was going to get hurt. Once we got to the white-flag lap, I knew were we home free even if we ran out because I knew we would get 15th. That would be a hit in the points, but it was worth the gamble."
DO YOU DO THINGS TO CHECK THE FUEL MILEAGE?
"We'll fill up the cell and run it dry to see how much the cell will pick up and then we'll check the fuel mileage every practice run we make except qualifying. We'll go out and run 25 laps or 30 laps and go straight to the pumps and fill it up. We'll know to the tenth how much gas it took to run those 25 laps. And then during the race, our fuel guy will have a sheet that he keeps track of how many yellow-flag laps and how many green-flag laps and then how much fuel it took. He'll calculate our fuel mileage from that. So, the guys in the pits knew that we would make it. They knew it would be close, and things can change. When you're dealing with that much gas, that can change a little bit with a splash on the ground. When you're warming up tires after a pit stop, it's running out the overflow. I'm watching the 26 and it was a steady stream out the back. All of those things will make a difference on the last lap, but they can tell me within one-and-a-half laps what lap I'm going to run out of gas."
YOU HAVE A PRETTY GOOD RECORD HERE?
"We've got a third, a second, a pole and a ninth the first time I raced here, which probably would have been a top five but I got caught outside of a guy."
YOU MADE 104 LAPS UNDER GREEN ON A FULL TANK OF GAS. WHAT DOES THE BOOK SAY YOU CAN MAKE UNDER GREEN?
"104. I knew that before we started the race. I think he knew we would make it to the end if it went that far. Randy knew more than it appeared to be. I think he had that planned. I'm going to have to beat him and talk to him about it. We sit down and talk about it every week. I never thought a race like this would come down to fuel mileage. We'll be a half-mile or three-quarter mile track, he'll tell me how many laps I can go on gas. He would say we could go 170 laps and I'll tell him that we can't go 170 laps because the tires will pop. But, he has it figured out for simple reason to have it figured out, and he said we could go 104."
HOW WAS TIRE WEAR? DID THE COOLER DAY HELP?
"Tire wear was definitely a factor and we were pretty slow at the end, but like I said, I slowed up some, too. We knew that tire wear would be a factor and I could tell on the last 10 laps that it was on its edge of running out of tire. The tires are just flat done after 104 laps. I'm just glad we could make it on gas today."
YOU AND JEFF BURTON ARE THE ONLY ROUSH DRIVERS WITH WINS THIS YEAR.
"It was a little bit like that last year as well. We won five times and the championship in the truck series, and I think it's just that Randy Goss and I are so dedicated to winning races. We're willing to do whatever it takes to figure it out. The other guys, Jeff, Mark, Matt and Kurt are working hard to get their programs to where they need to be. They're getting closer every week. The last few weeks, I've been watching and they are all in the top 10 at one point in the race. That's a big achievement over where they've been running and that was exciting to see. I think their programs are turning around and just because they aren't winning races yet, they're producing finishes right now. I'll be curious to see how they do in Daytona. That's a tough place to go. Restrictor-plate racing is always tough. I think they're going to get it figure out. Mark Martin doesn't give up and I think he'll figure out what it takes to win and he'll be back in in Victory Lane."
WHAT ABOUT THE TRUCK TEAMS?
"I raced the trucks in Memphis and I had a great second-place run going there for a while, but I flat-spotted the left-front tire pretty bad and had to drag her to the end. Kurt (Busch) drove yesterday. He didn't run as well as I thought he'd run. There's probably a little bit there. Every program needs improving. We can pick apart Harvick's program or ours or Joe Gibbs' deal. Bobby Labonte was gone for the first eight races. The truck teams need some improvement. There are some areas to improve over there. Not having any experience to pull from is difficult. They don't have any key person to lean on right now, they're all learning together and that learning curve is sometimes real long and takes years to figure it out. They'll get it figured out."