As Busch Series testing wrapped up at Daytona International Speedway for next month's Hershey's Take 5 300, ppc racing teammates Kenny Wallace and Michel Jourdain, Jr., and ST Motorsports' Jon Wood commented on the test session and the ...
As Busch Series testing wrapped up at Daytona International Speedway for next month's Hershey's Take 5 300, ppc racing teammates Kenny Wallace and Michel Jourdain, Jr., and ST Motorsports' Jon Wood commented on the test session and the upcoming season. David Green, who suffered from a kidney stone attack early Saturday morning and wasn't able to test until yesterday afternoon, talked about his health and the progress his team made with Aaron Fike behind the wheel of his Brewco Ford.
JON WOOD -47-Clorox/Wisk Ford Taurus
THERE IS A LARGE ROOKIE CLASS THIS YEAR IN THE BUSCH SERIES. IS THERE A GREATER EMPHASIS ON THE ROOKIE-OF-THE-YEAR TITLE THIS YEAR BECAUSE OF THE COMPETITION?
"A lot of times you say that you were rookie of the year in a certain year, but there are some years that that means more than others. This year I think is one of the best rookie fields that this series has seen in a while. It would be a huge accomplishment, but it's definitely far-fetched from right now; we haven't even ran our first race, so we'll see."
DO YOU FEEL THAT YOUR ST MOTORSPORTS TEAM HAS BEGUN TO JELL?
"This was the first real 'pressuristic' weekend, I guess you would call it. Being in the shop is one thing, but actually seeing these guys under pressure is another deal. They're a really good bunch of guys, and they just needed a little more direction and I think they've got that now. I'm really excited about working with Jay Guy (crew chief, No. 47) and Chris and Rice on the 59 car, so we'll just take it one race at a time."
WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHTS ON THE INFIELD IMPROVEMENTS?
"It's really nice. The infield is just spectacular here. It's now as nice or nicer than the brand new tracks like Kansas and Kentucky."
WHAT ARE YOUR GOALS AND EXPECTATIONS WITH THIS TEAM?
"Just to be able to walk away form every race and say that we did everything that we could do. Lots of people put all of these high expectations on themselves, and if you just ultimately give it your best then you're going to get the best, and that's all I really hope for. It's overwhelming to know that there are so many race car drivers out there and people with all of these dreams that everyone in this garage also shares, but it's another to be able to do it, and to know that I'm one of roughly 35 fulltime teams, and I'm one of 35 drivers that every week will be in a race car out of 10,000 is a huge feeling to have, and it kinda makes you appreciate what you do."
WITH THE NUMBER OF CUP DRIVERS RETIRING AFTER 2005, DOES THAT PUT MORE PRESSURE ON YOU TO PERFORM THIS YEAR SO THAT YOU CAN BE CONSIDERED FOR ONE OF THOSE RIDES?
"I think if we just do what we're supposed to do this year, all of that will come. I'm not in any big rush, and I've seen what it has done to some of the drivers that were sped along too fast. The more experience that you can gain, and still be able to obtain your ultimate goal, that's all the better you're going to be out of the box. Ryan Newman and Matt Kenseth were examples of that. They were ready for Cup racing and it showed."
WHAT WILL YOU GAIN RUNNING IN THE BUSCH SERIES THIS YEAR THAT YOU WOULDN'T GET FROM THE TRUCK SERIES?
"Well, the longer races and the amount of time that you're actually racing is substantially more. We go to just about every race track that the Cup guys do. The trucks, it took what seemed to be three or four months to really get into the groove of things. You would race once in February and once in March and once in April, and then bang, every week. One thing I'm really not all that looking forward to is road racing. I've never really done much of that, so I think they incorporated a pretty big part of the budget into the two road races for my deal to try to replace stuff (laughing)."
WHAT DOES IT TAKE TO BE A RACE CAR DRIVER?
"It takes a special somebody to not really get rattled at some of the speeds that we can go. But beyond that, it's just more or less when you get the right opportunity. It's all about opportunity these days. There are so many drivers out there that just have an unbelievable amount of talent but they never get a chance to showcase it. Racing is not just a hobby, it's a passion. A lot of times fans get caught up and they have their favorite drivers and drivers that they hate, but we're all out there trying to do the same thing, and it's something we take very seriously. They're workweek is Monday through Friday and then they're having fun watching us work Saturday and Sunday."
GROWING UP IN A RACING FAMILY, DID YOU FOLLOW ALL OF THE DIFFERENT SERIES IN THE SPORT?
"I've followed this sport a lot growing up in it, more so the Cup side than anything. All three series these days, by listening to them and if you're at a race track and have your eyes closed you don't know if it's a Cup race or a truck race, and that just goes to show how much this sport has grown."
THE PAST FEW BUSCH SERIES CHAMPIONS HAVE BEEN YOUNGER DRIVERS WHERE THE VETERANS WERE WINNING MOST OF THE CHAMPIONSHIPS 10 YEARS AGO. WHAT IS YOUR TAKE ON THE EVOLUTION OF THE SERIES?
"A long time ago there was a lot more on the driver's shoulders as far as experience level and a lot of the backbone of the team. Now you have all of the engineering support and the manufacturer support, and all of that makes up the deficit the younger guys have, so all they have to do is show up and drive. I think that really shows how this sport has grown. Nobody would have ever heard of an engineer 10 years ago, so it's really taken off. Right as I started racing is when all of the Pi Systems and data acquisition all really started, so I didn't see it when it was put-the-car-together-and-hope-that-it-runs standpoint. It's just changed so much from then and I kind of grew up right as the transition started."
YOUR FORMER TRUCK SERIES TEAMMATE CARL EDWARDS IS ALSO RUNNING THE FULL BUSCH SERIES SEASON. WILL WE SEE A FRIENDLY RIVALRY BETWEEN THE TWO OF YOU?
"No. I was actually surprised yesterday because I was drafting with him and I saw a little hand gesture out of his left-side window. It was kinda of an unfriendly one, but it was friendly at the same time knowing that it was Carl and he doesn't mean anything by it. He's a great guy and he's still someone I'll work closely with. Still being in the Ford camp we all kind of rally together and try to help one another, and I think he's exactly like that."
YOU ARE NOT TESTING WITH THE NEW FORD D3 CYLINDER HEADS. DOES THAT CHANGE THE WAY YOU APPROACH TESTING?
"Not really. It would be different if we were at a place like Bristol, somewhere where a big horsepower gain will affect the handling characteristics of a car. I don't think it's going to do so much here or at California; that place is one notch down from Daytona. It will be good to do the rest of the tests throughout the season with the new cylinder head, but I think we will be able to get by."