NASCAR Busch Series veterans David Green and Kenny Wallace are among the 46 teams and drivers participating in a three-day test session at Daytona International Speedway in preparation for next month's Hershey's Kissables 300. Green, who captured...
NASCAR Busch Series veterans David Green and Kenny Wallace are among the 46 teams and drivers participating in a three-day test session at Daytona International Speedway in preparation for next month's Hershey's Kissables 300. Green, who captured one victory last season at Pikes Peak International Raceway, is entering his third season driving for Brewco Motorsports, while Wallace is entering his second season with ppc Racing. Both drivers shared their thoughts on the upcoming season during a Q & A session inside the infield media center following the morning practice session.
DAVID GREEN-27-Kleenex Ford Fusion
DISCUSS YOUR OBJECTIVES FOR THE NEXT THREE DAYS OF TESTING, AND YOUR GOALS FOR THE 2006 SEASON. "Any time you go test after a course of a couple of months of being off is good for the whole team. I know my team has worked very, very hard. You hear that from everybody, but I can attest that my team has done equally as hard work. It's almost like it's good to get out of the shop and come to the track, and get away and get off work at five o'clock. When they're back there working at the shop, they're running past that. They've done a good job of getting our fleet of Fords turned over to the Fusion and spending time in the wind tunnel, just like any other team. Probably what's most important here with the new impound rule we started last year and that we have now, as we saw this morning the track can get very crowded, so this afternoon will be a lot of fun to just go out there and run with other cars or choose to go by yourself. I don't care how good your car is or how slow it is, we as a team, and right now we're not on the chart where we want to be, you still have try to make your car as good as it can be by itself because it's almost a given that in the draft all of cars will become a little more equal. Our main focus is to make our car drive good, number one, and that's the first task at hand, and then after that, be as fast as we can possibly can. That just helps you when things get in the draft. We're pretty excited here for the February race to have Huggies Clean Team on our car. It's a big promotion that Kimberly-Clark is starting February 5th, and I saw some literature on it and I did see a picture of the driving uniform that I'm going to have to wear, and it's quite a sight. Anyway, it's going to be fun, and this is the first time ever in my career, even with all of the great sponsors that I've had, that they've been able to change up their paint scheme and do some special stuff. I'm pretty excited to be able to come to Daytona here in a couple of weeks with our Huggies Clean Team Fusion. And, the suit is very cool. The whole promotion is centered around kids and mothers, and to help them learn how all of the Kimberly-Clark products can be used in healthy baths and shampoos. It's going to be a cool deal, and please don't snicker at my uniform, but it's going to be fun to have something cool looking, and I know that whole promotion is going to be great. To be able to have something special here at Daytona with Huggies, and I think Walgreens will be on our car as well, it's going to be kind of cool. We're celebrating 25 years with Anheuser-Busch this year, and along with that we're pushing 13 years for Kimberly-Clark to be in the Busch Series. And, I can chalk up another year in my career as well, so it's all exciting times."
TALK ABOUT THE IMPORTANCE AND THE PRESTIGE OF THE SEASON-OPENING EVENT IN DAYTONA. "I think if we were to go any race track, wherever it might be for the first race of the season, it will always have a special feel to it. This is the Super Bowl of our season, but along with that comes all of the heavy hitters, you might say. I know that subject will come up sooner than later, but the field is going to be full of Cup guys. That's something over the years that I've been getting a little more aggravated with. And, with the lack of testing this year for Cup and Busch, I really think they're trying to make it better on us to cut down testing because testing costs money, but at the same time if you look into it, we're just going have the flood gates open again with the Cup guys. Neither here nor there, it's still a special race to come to because it's the first one, and to kick it off here is always fun after being cooped at home all winter, so it's fun to get started. We'd almost like to have this race toward the end of the year after we've got our feet on the ground and running really good. It's very difficult for the Busch Series teams, going up against who we have to go up against now, to come right out of the gate and start hitting on all eight cylinders, even though we try our darndest to do that."
THE TREND OF LATE IS FOR OLDER DRIVERS TO MOVE TO THE TRUCK SERIES BEFORE RETIRING. ARE YOU SURPRISED TO SEE THE VETERANS END UP IN THAT SERIES? "I don't think there are any Busch Series drivers that left the Busch Series to go truck racing. The trend that I've seen is the guys in Cup, that for whatever reason don't have a ride or have lost a ride or decided to back up and do something different, the truck series has been a good safety net for them . I think that if you can't be a part of the Busch Series then that's an option to do. I like what's going on here and I'm really thankful to have been around long enough here to see the 25 years of Anheuser-Busch's involvement. Like Jason (Keller) said, we kind of grew up on the short tracks and we're lucky enough that our career paths took us this way, so it's kind of cool that we've found a home here. This is the home that I want to have until I hang up my helmet."
WHAT ARE YOUR INITIAL THOUGHTS OF THIS YEAR'S ROOKIE CLASS? "I think that the interesting thing is that guys like Todd Kluever that were in the truck series and now progressing up, to me, he has a lot of experience and it's very tough because I'm going to do the rookie meetings again this year. It's always interesting, especially last year to sit in there and talk and seeing Carl Edwards over here and then you see Reed Sorenson and guys who are winning races, and I'm up here talking and I haven't won yet. It's very odd to be able to do all of that. It just shows you how talented these guys are. There are hundreds of other drivers across the country that can do the same thing we're up here doing today, but they're very talented. I haven't seen a rookie crop here in the past three or four years that's nothing short of phenomenal, so it's going to be fun."
WHAT KIND OF WISDOM DO YOU TRY TO INSTILL IN THE ROOKIES DURING THE WEEKLY ROOKIE MEETING? "Just some of the things that I was told early on. I don't know if I learned them quick enough, but some of the things that sometimes can go wrong. It's usually all of the bad stuff, and not necessarily the good stuff. We all know what's good, but all of the bad stuff is what I try to talk about. I can remember one little tidbit about here driving around the track with Terry Labonte. He was like, 'Hey, when go into turn three and you come into the pits, you have to slow down and get on the apron because if not it's going to get ugly if you try to straddle it.' Some of the simplest things that we might look at now and say that's really simple, why was it brought up? Yet, to bring it up to those guys, and the mindset years ago when Rusty did the rookie meetings in 1991 when I was a rookie, more times than not they would almost put the fear of God in you when you left the rookie meeting thinking, 'Oh my gosh, it's going to be terrible out there.' Really, I think that's been something that's stuck in my mind each and every year. Even though I come here, and I've been coming here for 12 or 13 years, you still look at it as a brand new race track and you look at it like anything can bite you. That's the thing that I like to do. Like Rusty told us back then, if he can help us be a better driver, a more courteous, and a more efficient driver on the race track, it will keep him out of trouble and us out of trouble. That's kind of the thing I try to do, but the tough part about it is most of the time those guys are beating us. They're that good, the rookie crop is that good."
KIMBERLY-CLARK ANNOUNCED A TWO-YEAR EXTENSION LAST YEAR. DO YOU PLAN ON ASSESSING YOUR DRIVING CAREER WHEN THAT CONTRACT EXPIRES? "That stuff kind of drummed up last year in the midst of sponsor negotiations for this year and beyond. Sometimes the most nerve-wracking part of our job is: Do we have a deal for next year? It used to start in October and now it starts sometimes in May, June or July. I kind of started looking a little bit ahead, not that I ever looked ahead before, and we can't do it without sponsors. I know when Kimberly-Clark stepped up to do a two-year extension it kind looked fitting for me to paint that kind of picture. Just like Mark Martin did this past year, he had such a great year and I know circumstances brought him back again, you want to end up your career on a good note. We all feel good the first race of the year, but momentum means a lot, and just being able to walk away from either the last race last year and getting in a good mood for the wintertime and ultimately walking away from your last race having a good feeling about it is what I want to do. That's kind of my picture right now thanks to Kimberly-Clark, and those folks are going to stick with us for a couple of years. My other part of the equation is: Will my team keep me another year? I have that obstacle to overcome here a little bit, but helpfully everything will work out."
TODAY MARKS THE BUSCH SERIES DEBUT OF THE FORD FUSION. TALK ABOUT THE LOGISTICS OF CHANGING OVER YOUR FLEET OF CARS, AND YOUR ON-TRACK EXPECTATIONS. "I was pretty stoked about the Fusion with as good as they were in the Cup testing. I've said it all along that with the package that we have in the car it's just a whole different animal. It puts more strain on the engine and on down the line, and everybody is in the same boat. The cutting tail will be how it is in the draft. I know we have a brand new Fusion and our best Ford from last year, and we're going to see what happens. It might be as simple as the Taurus shape might be better and we'll put the Fusion nose and tail on it, which I think a lot of teams have done for the ease of that transition. If I know in the end results, the way this package is, it's nice to sit on the pole and be up front, but it's not a necessity."
NASCAR IS EXPECTED TO ANNOUNCE THAT STARTING IN 2008 ALL THREE MAJOR TOURING SERIES WILL SWITCH FROM LEADED TO UNLEADED FUEL. AS A DRIVER, DID YOU EVER HAVE ANY HEALTH CONCERNS WITH BEING EXPOSED TO LEADED FUEL? "That's not something that as I driver I ever really thought about. I know that when I pull up to the gas pump that I have to put unleaded in my Navigator, and after that, that's the end of it. I really don't have any background on that subject, but being in the car for 300 miles I'm concerned with carbon monoxide. I do know that carbon monoxide; over the years we've seen Rick Mast get sidelined by it. As I become older, I feel years ago I should have worn earplugs more often and maybe I should have had my car sealed up better because now it seems like carbon monoxide is a concern. But any time we have changes in the sport, it's almost like everybody steps up to the plate to make it all happen, but other than that, I don't know a whole lot about it."
KENNY WALLACE-22-AutoZone Ford Fusion
YOU FINISHED SEVENTH IN THE FINAL STANDINGS LAST YEAR, AMID SOME SPONSOR UNCERTAINTIES MIDWAY THROUGH THE SEASON. "We started off last year with a great sponsor, which was Stacker 2. We were so lucky last year to have a sponsor the very next week. We lost our sponsor due to them filing Chapter 7 over the ephedrine ban, so there are a couple of ways to look at it. The bottom line is you lost it. We didn't lose the sponsor because of performance or anything like that. We were performing good, but I think what was more telling of our team, we lose a sponsor and the next week we go out to Pikes Peak and we had Freedom Roads RV, and then that Monday we had a meeting with AutoZone. I guess I'm going to pat my team on the back. I think it's more of a story that we had a sponsor a week later of this magnitude. This is one of the top sponsors in this series. We got the money we wanted, and then the other sponsor, Freedom Roads RV, ends up on my teammate's car, John Andretti. It was a little nerve-wracking there for a little bit because you never think the best. Like Rusty says: Hope for the best, but prepare for the worst. So, here we are. They signed a one-year deal. They're the largest auto parts store in the United States and they got that way by being aggressive with their marketing, but not tying themselves down for too long. I think they're going to take a look at NASCAR and see how it works for them, and then we'll do the same thing everybody else does. We'll renegotiate when it comes time, but right now we'll enjoy the first four or fives events of this year."
WHAT ARE YOUR EXPECTATIONS FOR THE 2006 SEASON? "It's a new era, and I've used that quote and I seen that quote, but it's true. This is a new era for all of us. We have come down here and I know everybody understands it, but it is different to me to know that this is the new mini-Nextel Cup Series. I'm thankful for the NASCAR Busch Series and I'm thankful for Anheuser-Busch out of St. Louis, Mo., but it is a new beginning. We see all of the Cup drivers here now, and all of the Cup teams. It's strange to see Junior a second quicker than maybe the 10th-place car, but it is what it is, the new era of cars like that. Our cars owners have stuck with the series and have done a great job. It's going to be interesting to see how we compete against those guys. I tell everybody that I have 300 Cup starts. I've got about three or four second-place finishes in the Cup series, so these guys are very good race car drivers - David Green and Jason Keller are winning race car drivers - but it's the teams and the caliber of the teams that will be interesting this year. Will it be a sweep with Cup drivers winning them all? Maybe, because they're still going to come run all of the standalone events. There are no more standalone events. Standalone events usually means Busch and Cup aren't together, but now you have all of the Cup drivers flying back and forth in their jets, the traveling is already set up, coming from Pocono to Kentucky, from Milwaukee to Sears Point. It's a new era and I'm excited about it because it is going grow and we'll just see how it works out."