Continued from part 1 Q: What is the pull for you to get back in the car and the difficulty of getting out of the car to be finally done (retired) and not drive the car again? D.W.: You have to keep going until you realize you can't do...
Continued from part 1
Q: What is the pull for you to get back in the car and the difficulty of getting out of the car to be finally done (retired) and not drive the car again?
D.W.: You have to keep going until you realize you can't do it anymore. There's going to be a time where I physically say I can't do this anymore. I mentally don't feel like doing it and I'm not capable of getting in the car and racing. I think that's when you say I just can't do it anymore. As long as you still feel like you've got that competitive fire burning inside, and you are still physically able and sharp, then you can do it. With the test yesterday, I was just as fast as anybody. I get around the track just as good as anybody else. I mean I've still got my skills. When you've still got the skill, in my mind, I'm convinced that I can go to Martinsville on Saturday and win that race. I'm convinced if I get the car right and the pit stops are good, strategy is good, I'm going to outrun Kevin Harvick, Denny Hamlin, Greg Biffle and that whole crowd if everything goes good. I can do it. I still have the confidence. I'm not going up there just for fun. I'm going to race. I've got a new car. These guys have done a great job. Ray Evernham has built me a great engine. I'm going up there to race. I'm not going up there to ride around. If I'm up there and I'm not competitive, it wasn't because I wasn't trying. It's because we didn't get things right. I'm going there to be as serious as the first time I showed up there in 1975.
Q: One of the drivers on the entry list this week is Kevin Grubb. He's coming back from his violation of the substance abuse policy. What does a guy like him face trying to come back in the Series and trying to prove himself to fellow competitors and to the sport in general?
D.W.: I think NASCAR is the perfect example of giving you a second chance. They will give you a break and we see it all the time. NASCAR is a sport that rallies around their people when they are hurt or when they are down. Guys make mistakes. These young guys have opportunities to do so many things and sometimes they get distracted and go in the wrong direction. NASCAR realizes that. They can't control and police everything all the time, but I do believe that they've done a great job of enforcing the drug policy. I think it's kept our sport pretty clean. When they have somebody that gets outside the box, they have a program for them in place. If you adhere to that and get yourself to test clean and you are good to go, NASCAR is willing to give you a second chance. Now, a third chance, that's a different story. They are the best in the world at giving a second chance. Most guys take advantage of it. All he has to do is keep himself clean and be a good citizen and go out on the track and race hard and people will be glad to have him in the sport.
Q: There are seven races to go until the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series championship chase. What are your thoughts of what we've seen so far? What's your take on the chase and what might we see?
D.W.: I think there are two guys somewhere between fifth and twelfth that aren't going to make it. The question is what two guys is it. Is it going to be Jeff Gordon and Dale Earnhardt Jr. again this year? Is it going to be Greg Biffle? There's some guys right there that are on the bubble. I think it's a twelve man race right now and two cats aren't going to make it. Tony Stewart's got to be smart and race smart and so does Jeff Gordon and Dale Jr.'s got to be careful. There a few weeks ago you would have said that Tony Stewart was a shoe for The Chase. We can see how quickly it can turn around. With the stars of the sport that are involved, it's making the chase a little more interesting than I think it has been in the past. We really don't know who is going to make it in. I've got no crystal ball. I can't look into it and see. If you look at the records and where they've got to go and what they've got to do, Jeff can't have any problems nor can Tony or Jr. That's three guys that are on the bubble that are big stars that need to be in The Chase. The reason they are talking about tweaking The Chase next year is because of what happened last year. If that happens again this year, there is going to be some pandemonium and that's worse than panic you know.
Q: Do you have a starting spot Saturday?
D.W.: I'm good. Michael is 16th in the points or the car is. So, we don't have to go there with the pressure of cutting that one good lap. It's an impound race and all the Busch races are. You qualify on your race setup. The car hasn't qualified that great. I think David's (Reutimann) had the best qualifying effort in it -- somewhere around 12th or 15th. The car has been a little slow qualifying, but it has raced really well. David had three top-10s in it and Michael was 12th or so recently. I'm not worried about qualifying. We're going to work really hard on race setup and if the car is consistent we'll go to the front.
Q: What do think about the way the sport is going? Why is there change as far as it's becoming more global?
D.W.: I think that everybody is doing a good job of marketing our sport. The good thing about our sport is that we have 75 million fans and we've got 7 or 8 million folks tuning in every week watching the races on TV. Everybody knows whether it's in the music business or movie business or whatever business it is, everybody knows that this is a sport that has loyal fans. They love their racing and the people that are involved. That's why you see all these movie stars show up at races. That's why politicians show up at races. That's why they are making movies about our sport. That's because they know there's a huge audience out there that is growing everyday. It's a great marketing effort on everybody's part. The diversity program is starting to work. It's taking some time, but we knew it would. The people in the sport like Jimmie Johnson and Jeff Gordon, they are living in New York and working that market. You've got Greg Biffle and Kasey Kahne from out around Seattle and so they work that market. You've got your core guys here in the Southeast. We've got a lot of great sponsors and we are all promoting the sport. I think it's a great effort on everybody's part to grow the sport in every direction that we can. I've got to give Toyota some credit for attracting the drivers from other Series. Toyota has relationships with drivers from other Series. I think drivers from other Series are starting to look at NASCAR. Toyota is going to be there and that's a new manufacturer. They are going to need drivers and there is opportunity there. I think that appeals to the other drivers. As far as the movies go, there are a lot of gear heads in this country and they love their cars. It's a global market. Toyotas are built in the United States and all these manufacturers are trying to capitalize on the fan base we have. It's all naturally tied together. I don't think it's any big mystery. It works.
Q: There were some drivers complaining about blocking and not being raced the way they want to be raced. Has the way drivers race during an event changed or are they just complaining about it a little more?
D.W.: I think it's a number of things. I look at the season, which now is looked at as a 26 race season instead of 36. Drivers are being pressured more to do more and get the job done on a little bit of a shorter schedule with The Chase in effect now. I think that puts pressure on teams and drivers. Sponsors are spending incredible amounts of money to sponsor these teams to be competitive and run up front. If they are not running up front, they want to know why. The drivers are under a lot of pressure to perform. Then there's the competition and the cars are all so equal. I hate parody and that's the worse thing for this sport. Parody controls competition and that's what parody is, a form of control. When you give everybody the same car, the same gear, the same engine, then the only other option you have to get by somebody is run over them. That's why we see more and more drivers being aggressive and angry at each other. The only opportunity to get around a guy is to knock him out of the way and continue on.
Q: Has the expectation of how a young guy is supposed to act in the Series changed?
D.W.: I think there is a little bit of the who does he think he is attitude. He hasn't paid his dues. That's kind of old school and a thing of the past. You don't know from one week to the next which one of these young guys are going to step up and win. We know they all have talent and they are all in good cars. I think that's another perfect example of the parody I'm talking about. You can almost take any drive and put him in one of these good race cars and he's going to be competitive. When you're young, what you don't know, you don't know. When you go in the corner on a guy, all you know is that I'm on the inside and I've got to get by him. Gosh, I didn't know that thing was going to get loose like that. The young drivers don't make any more mistakes than the older drivers do. I think it's 50/50. The old guys seem to complain about it the most. The young drivers have a little respect for what the older ones might say, but they don't have as much respect for what they might do.
Q: Do you remember anybody like Kyle Bush that came in the sport with that amount of talent that young and tick people off?
D.W.: There was a guy from Tennessee that came in with an attitude like that and ticked a lot of people off. Then there was a guy from Kannapolis that came in and he ticked a lot of people off. Then there was a guy from St. Louis that came in and ticked a lot of people off. Then there was some guy from Dawsonville, man, I don't know. There's maybe a couple. Look at the geography and do the math.
Q: How long has the ad campaign been going on with Aaron's? What's next if you win the race?
D.W.: It's been going on for about three years now. I've had to clean windows, caddy, mow yards and deliver furniture. I've pretty much been abused any way my brother can think of. Finally the pay off is that I get to drive the car at Martinsville Speedway. Once I run the car at Martinsville, win, lose or draw, I've got a feeling it will create some more commercials of some nature. If my car's all waded up, then there will be a commercial as to why I never get to drive it or something. We'll continue to have fun with that.
Q: Something tells me if you won this race, this will be right up there with your icky shuffle. Wouldn't it?
D.W.: We've already talked about what kind of celebration we would have. I'm a little behind on burnouts and back flips. There are a lot of things that are optional that I might try to do. I'm going to try to do every one of them. If I win this race on Saturday, the party will continue well into Sunday. I've never done a Polish victory lap. There are a lot of things I've never done. I'm going to do them all.
Q: I was thinking back to your interview with Eli Gold Tuesday night. You were talking to him about how hard this year has been on Michael. Have you been giving him any advice about running three NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series teams?
D.W.: This is a huge undertaking. I tell him all the time that you can get sponsors. Toyota has created an incredible amount of excitement and sponsors are excited about having a company the size of Toyota coming into the sport especially with their past success. They like being a part of what we all think will be a huge promotion and a huge success. So, that's made it a little easier for Michael than it did for me as an owner. I had a little help from Chevrolet and that was about it. He's got the manufacturer there that's certainly a good partner. It's almost like it's too much. I'm a little concerned about the number of people, the logistics and being prepared. I try to give him advice when I can. He seems to think I'm pretty much old school and the way I did it didn't really matter. It's kind of like he's got his own ideas and I respect that because he's done a great job of putting everything together. It's come down to one thing and I harp on him all the time about it. That's what he is experiencing this year and that's performance. If you don't perform, the sponsors are going to end up being mad at you. You've got to be sure that you get the people, the parts, the pieces and everything it takes to go out on Sunday and perform. If you perform, everybody is going to be happy. If you don't, it can be a nightmare.