Top-Five NASCAR Busch Series driver standings press conference. Sept. 4, 2003 Going into the Sept. 5 Funai 250, Scott Riggs (No. 10 Nestle NesQuik Ford) leads David Green (No. 37 Timber Wolf Pontiac) by 19 points; Brian Vickers (No. 5 GMAC ...
Top-Five NASCAR Busch Series driver standings press conference.
Sept. 4, 2003
Going into the Sept. 5 Funai 250, Scott Riggs (No. 10 Nestle NesQuik Ford) leads David Green (No. 37 Timber Wolf Pontiac) by 19 points; Brian Vickers (No. 5 GMAC Financial Services Chevrolet) is third in the standings, 67 points behind Riggs; Jason Keller (No. 57 Albertsons Ford) is fourth, trailing Riggs, his ppc Racing teammate, by 70 points; Ron Hornaday (No. 2 ACDelco Chevrolet) is fifth, 79 points behind Riggs. This is the smallest points spread between first and fifth in the history of the NASCAR Busch Series with nine races remaining in the season.
Q: What's it like to be in such a close points race at this point in the season?
Green: For me, it's kind of two-fold. Number one, it's a headache, times five ... or four, rather. On the other hand, I'm totally excited. A year ago, I was on the outside looking in, watching from the spotter's stand, actually helping Brian [Vickers] here a year ago. So it's totally exciting and a lot of fun. I try to use that as a positive, over the frustration and the mental stress.
Vickers It definitely makes it more interesting for the fans. That's what this is, it's entertainment. From a driver's standpoint, I wouldn't say it's more stressful, but it's definitely that many more cars you have to worry about. I'm in the fortunate spot right now, sitting in third, the GMAC team looks at it as if it's ours to gain and Scott's to lose.
It's exciting. It's five guys within 79 points of the lead. I mean, like, wow. These are the kind of championship battles that you grow up watching on TV, wanting to be in. Now, to have the opportunity to be in one, it's pretty exciting.
Hornaday I'm probably in the easiest spot, because I've got to gain four more spots to get to the top. Last week, we were third and we fell back down, having a decent run. But it wasn't a run you'd like. So each week, we're fighting each other, trying to make our cars better. We're gaining on it. I'm just happy to be here, talking to some of these younger kids.
(Riggs) Most of the time it's just two people that you're really looking at really close, fighting for the lead that are trying to be careful and race each other hard. This is five people that are pretty much virtually tied for the points lead. I think everybody is trying to not focus on each other, we're doing what we need to do and that's focus on our own cars and our own race.
As far as our standpoint, we're just taking one race at a time trying to get the best finish out of every race. I feel like we've been struggling here the last couple of weeks. I feel like we're getting our thing back on track and getting our program back together and our communication a little stronger. I'm just going to give it 100 percent and try not to look over our shoulder too much or look at how tight the points race is, and I think it will all fall out in the end.
Keller For me it's totally different from last year. I battled Biffle head to head pretty much for the championship. I could focus on one competitor or what I needed to do, but for this, it's really taking the focus off of just one driver. I just try to do the very best I possibly can with my car, and really not worry about the competitors because somebody in this group is going to run good each week.
Take last week for instance. Brian (Vickers) had a great week and jumped from fifth to third because the other four of us up here didn't have a great week. I can't focus on any of the four. It's made it a little bit easy for me in my mindset that I'm not racing somebody head to head. I know if I get my race car the very best I can possibly get, that's all I can worry about. Last year I had Biffle to worry about and I raced him head to head through the year. It's just a different mindset for me. I'm just glad to be a part of it. It's such an honor to be part of it and hopefully it all works out.
Q: David, you're the 1994 NASCAR Busch Series champion, and Ron, you're a two-time champion of the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series. Does that give you any kind of advantage in this title chase?
Green: The last [race] is the only one that counts. You can sure waste your time away and lose the thing right now, but at the same time, I don't think anybody can seal the deal right now. Mine was in 1994, and a lot of things have changed since then. There's a lot more people involved with your team. There's a lot more technology. The competition is somewhat tougher, especially with this group sitting right here. There's a few things I think that I can bank on that I've experienced.
Hornaday I think the hardest [championship] was with Dale [Earnhardt], the second one. He said, 'All right. We got you here. We got you this far. Now, it's all up to you.' That's when you really think about it. If you come to the last race and get 15 points away from the leader, anything can happen.
It goes back to the Southwest Tour days. Three of us were going for the championship. I was leading the championship going into the race, and an exhaust pipe went through my windshield. So I pitted, and burned the clutch up coming in and out, trying to tape the windshield back in. I go back out. Doug George was leading it, and he ended up crashing with 25 [laps] to go. That gave the [points lead] back to Rick Carelli. Coming down for the white-flag lap, Rick Carelli blew a tire, hit the wall and I won the championship by two points. So ... anything can happen. That's the championship I remember. Luck has gotta be on your side.
Q: Scott and Jason, you're teammates. We're at Homestead, and you've each got to finish ahead of the other to win the championship. How do you approach that scenario?
Keller To be honest with you, I'll try my best to beat him. I don't foresee racing Scott any different at that point than I race anybody. There's so many scenarios that can play out in this deal. David hit the nail on the head. I think you're looking at the '03 champion if you're looking up here. I think the champion is going to come from this group, but I don't think you can win it right now, but I think you can lose it right now. I was in that situation last year going into the late season and we lost our opportunity to win. With about five races to go we never could get it back. If Scott and I have to go head to head at the race in Homestead, I hope that's the scenario that it comes to, and we'll battle it out and settle it among ourselves. Whatever that scenario is, I just hope I'm a part of it and that I'm a big part of it.
(Riggs) I don't think that we'll race any different or drive any different because we're teammates. I think the way we race each other now is pretty hard but pretty clean, but I think all of us sitting here do that with each other no matter what. If me and Jason could battle it out for the championship down to the wire and finish one-two in the championship - none of us want to finish second - but mine and Jason's situation, if one of us finishes second to the other, I think that's the best we could ever expect of our race team. Me and Jason, I know we're the only two sitting here that share information as close as we do and try to help each other as much as we do.
I think coming down to the last race, we're all going to be fighting as hard as we can to go out in a blaze of glory and try to win this championship. I don't think being teammates is going to make us do anything different. I will probably bump David on the last lap to be able to win the championship, just like I'd probably bump any of these guys, just like we'd bump each other. When it comes down to the last lap and you have a little better car and somebody is holding you up, you'll probably go a little bit harder. You don't want to hurt anybody or spin anybody out, but you're going to try to beat him to that checkered flag for the championship for sure.
Q: Do you see competitors giving you any more room on the race track because of your standing in the championship race?
Keller I haven't noticed anybody giving us anything. If they have, you may ask these guys. Everybody is racing as hard as they can. Even if you're not one of these guys up here, there are guys racing to finish in the top 10 in points. There are guys racing for sponsors like we are. There are so many smaller battles in the series that I haven't noticed anybody giving us any slack, definitely not lately.
Green: I've had closer calls with teammates than I have most anybody else, and it continues. The only way that I think I could have a car out there that would look out for my best interests when I came along would probably be my brothers'.
I don't expect anybody to pull over for us. But there's certain parts of the race track where it's easy to either give a guy some room or really make it tough.
Hornaday It came down to a truck race one time, and they said, 'There's trucks out here, and they're all teammates. You've just started to become a teammate the last couple of races. So if you go to hit the guy that's running second or third, you'd better make sure you wreck the leader, too. So if somebody goes up there and wrecks one of us, they'd better make sure and wreck all five of us, because they will be in the blue trailer.
Q: Brian, you've announced plans to move to the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series in 2004. Is that going to change your focus this year?
Vickers I'm just sitting up here listening, because this is really my first battle for a championship in the Busch Series. This is my first full-time year ... I've been here three years. I'm just trying to learn, listen and take all this in as much as I can. These guys have been there, done it. They know how to win them.
It's going to be difficult. Nobody said it was going to be easy. But that's part of it. The pressure and the stress that comes along with the Cup Series, I'm going to try to cut all that out, all I can. I'm gonna try to make it as fun as possible. That's what I'm going to have to endure next year.
This weekend, right now, when I get to the race track, [the focus is on] Richmond. That applies not only to next year, but that applies to next week. It started being Richmond last night. It's going be Richmond today, and it's going to be Richmond tomorrow. Then, Sunday and Monday, we can talk about all that stuff. The week after, when we get to Dover, it's going to be Dover. I apply that to not only this year, but next year.
Q: You've all said you'll race each other conservatively. At what point do the rules change?
Hornaday They already have, if you go back to Bristol with me and Scott.
Riggs I don't think that the rules are going to change, but I don't think any of us sitting here expect just because the points situation is tight that we're going to start roughing each other up any more. We're getting roughed up enough by the lapped cars every single week. I think that if any one of us that sat up here and tried to rough one of these other guys up to make a position to try to gain points on somebody, I think they would lose respect. I think sitting here listening to all of us talk about all these questions you guys are asking, all of you realize how much respect all of us have for each other.
It's not because we want to see the other one beat us, but it's all because we all race each other hard and we're all here to try to achieve the same objective - to try to win the championship, to try to do the best we can this week, to try to win the race this week and go to the race next week and focus on every race one race at a time. I think it would be surprising to see anyone here start being disrespectful to each other because of the points situation.
Vickers I think what racing comes down to, especially this group up here, it comes down to respect. I have a lot of respect for all these guys, and the way we all race each other, it shows.
Green: I think what I see is controlled aggressiveness when we get around each other. I say it's controlled, because I think we all respect the abilities. We have a way of pushing each other's buttons, by the same token. I think it really brings out the best in you. It's like a sponge. You get squeezed for everything you have.
I will have to say the next time we go to the track and Brian wants a ride around the track, I'm not going to take him. We've went to track after track, and Brian's really calculated and he's started to wear on us on older guys a little bit. We're going to start roughing him up a little bit at the end of the year, coming to him for help.
Vickers I have come to all these guys for a lot of advice along the way, and they've all taken me out on the track at some point in time, or helped with restarts. I hope I can keep the advice coming, because I still need it. I can always learn more.
Q: There's been a lot of talk this year about the points system this year in the NASCAR Winston Cup Series, because of the advantage enjoyed by Matt Kenseth. On the other hand, that same system has provided for a great race between the five of you. Any comments?
Riggs I don't see how there can be an argument. You see both sides of the coin. You see one team that has been great and successful at being competitive every single week and being consistent, and he's got a good points margin. Then you see the exact same points system making for a very tight points battle in the Busch Series. I don't see how anyone could think that just changing the way the points system is is going to change the way the points race goes. In 2000, ppc and the No. 10 team won the championship by 600-some points. Nobody jumped up and wanted to change the Busch Series points because of that. It's the same points system you have today and you have five guys virtually tied for the lead. I don't see how the points system can change the way the competition races each other or how close the points system is."
Keller There have been so many good points battle with the way it is. Just because you have one driver and one team in the Winston Cup Series that has their act together, and if you look at it, they're the only driver-team to have the consistency in all of NASCAR, Winston Cup or Busch. You look and the second-place points guy in Winston Cup has about the same amount of points as we do. He would be comparable to our season as far as finishes.
Just because one guy has his act together and one team doesn't, that doesn't mean that you need to change everything. There have been great points battles all throughout the years. This is the best points battle in history in the Busch Series. We've never had a points battle that's only rewarded wins; it's always been on consistency. That's the way all of us have grown up, that's the way all of us have learned, so for them to say we need to change it to highly reward wins, that would change the whole realm of what we've grown with up and how we've learned to race.
Hornaday If we all ran like Kenseth, we'd have a point lead like he did. We just have one good race, then we have one bad one, one good one, one bad one. So we've never had a row of good runs, or we'd be out front like he is. So I think the point system's pretty good. You've just got to be consistent.
Green: I know in our particular case, we've failed to get as many bonus points. We've failed to lead laps, and lead the most laps and stuff like that, that gains some of those extra points. I think that's like an [incentive] that's dangling for your team, to keep your team on an upward team. If you looked at points right now, we can all say, 'If we'd done this or done that ...' I think it's right where it needs to be.
Vickers I agree with pretty much everything they said. I keep up with a lot of other series of racing. I keep up with Formula One, and their point system pretty much rewards winning. They're just now paying points back to eighth place. Look how boring a points system they've had. Look at the past five years of their championships, and it's been really boring.
I think there's nothing wrong with the points system. It works well in the Busch Series this year. It worked great in the Winston Cup Series last year. You know ... hooray to Matt Kenseth. They've got their stuff together, and they're driving off with the lead in the points, and they very well should be, because they're doing the right things.