TALK ABOUT TRAVELING TO NEW YORK CITY YESTERDAY AND COMING HERE TO THE BRICKYARD:
“Yeah, this place does have a lot of history. It is a fun race track to drive on just because of the history and everything that has happened here and all the races that you’ve watched growing up. We did go to New York yesterday for NASCAR did a little bit of media and that was pretty fun. It’s always interesting going up there. We had a weekend off and just ready to get back to work. Everybody is recharged, I think Steve (Letarte, crew chief) went over to Europe with the family and had a good time. Now we are back and ready to get back to work and focused on what we love to do. We’ve got a practice coming up here in a few minutes and hopefully the car has got some pretty good speed in it. Hopefully, everything works out.”
CAN YOU TALK ABOUT WHAT IT’S LIKE TO RACE HERE AND WHAT IT WAS LIKE THE FIRST TIME YOU CAME TO THIS RACE TRACK?
“The first time I came here I ran an IROC (International Race of Champions) and just got destroyed by everybody out there. It was just such a different track and really big place. The shape of the track is unique compared to anything else we race on. It’s a real technical track and if you are just looking at the race track you would assume that all the corners look relatively similar. The car must go through each corner pretty much the same and what you might be fighting in one corner you would probably assume you would fight in all of them. But to be honest all the corners are really different and as odd as it is they are extremely different from each other. Turn one is really tight and feels and appears as indication to how the car drives that it’s a much tighter and shorter radius corner and each corner after that appears to be less so. With turn four being the larger corner without a better way to describe it, when you look at them they all look the same. The car certainly doesn’t drive the same through them characteristically year after year. It’s a technical track that makes it a technical track the fact that the car drives differently in each corner and you have to start adjusting on the car and trying to improve on something at one end of the track and not ruin something at the other end of the track and make problems for yourself at the other end. That makes it a bit of a challenge, a good challenge, trying to get a car that goes fast and a car that doesn’t have trouble at one end of the track and make things difficult.”
IN TERMS OF PRESTIGE AND COVETED TROPHIES WHERE DOES THIS PLACE RANK?
“It’s in the top-five or three. I would never place anything above the Daytona 500. Being that is our biggest event, our marquee event. It’s second or third. I don’t know that you can place importance on races specifically so much so that you can put them in order. I think that it’s an important race, anybody who wins here gets to put their name along a list of names of legends and not only in the stock car racing realm, but also in open wheel and all kinds of other different series. It’s a pretty big deal and there is a good amount of envy to the guys that have won this race before, more so than I feel at other race tracks that I haven’t won at. I would say it’s a pretty important race, it ranks right up there.”
FANS AND PEOPLE IN THE INDUSTRY SEEM VERY CONCERNED THAT YOU HAVEN’T ANNOUNCED ANY SORT OF SPONSORSHIP FOR THE RACES THAT ARE STILL OPEN. ARE YOU CONCERNED AT ALL? ALSO, IN THAT VEIN GREAT CLIPS ANNOUNCED THAT THEY ARE DOING 10 NASCAR SPRINT CUP SERIES RACES WITH KASEY KAHNE. DOES THAT IMPACT JR MOTORSPORTS AND HOW MANY RACES THEY WILL DO WITH YOU?
“Yeah, I think that we have had a lot of good conversations with a few potential partners about what we can do in 2014 and beyond. Anybody who has got any sense about how the corporate world works knows that it’s too late into the season, too late in the year to expect to put together a package for the rest of the season that is going to turn into a multi-year deal. It’s just all the dollars and cents are accounted for at this point in the year. That doesn’t mean we can’t put some things together and do some creative stuff with some people and some partners that we already have or whatever. I don’t think it should be a cause for concern. We are in really good shape regardless with our partner National Guard and the races that Diet Mountain Dew has on the schedule. We are in pretty good shape there. It is important to try to fill out what we have this season and we will. I don’t have any doubt at all that we will get that done. I think we almost have to look forward beyond that to try to find out who is going to be the partner that we can put a long term deal together that matches up with what we want to do in the future.
“As far as JR Motorsports and Great Clips, the Great Clips people have been really, really good. It’s been a great relationship and its real new relationship with JR Motorsports. We hope to be able to continue that relationship. I think it’s awesome that they are getting more involved in Kasey’s (Kahne) program on the Cup side and that’s got to be exciting for them. I’m happy about that for Great Clips. I don’t know that it affects our program.
“We have a lot of good things at JR Motorsports, as well, that are in the works that aren’t ready to come out of the oven just yet. But we have some potential to have some really interesting things announced down the road with that. Due to how well we’ve run this year and how we’ve been able to turn that program around, we definitely caught the eyes of a few sponsors and potential partners. So, we’re looking a lot better on that front, too. I think everything is going to be fine. I don’t believe anybody needs to be too concerned at this point. When we can start announcing some things, we’ll definitely do that.”
DID YOU SEE ANY OF THE ELDORA COVERAGE? WOULD YOU EVER THINK ABOUT RACING THERE IN NASCAR SPRINT CUP SERIES AT SOME POINT ON DIRT?
“Well, it looked like that was a lot of fun. I had it recorded on my TV and it recorded an hour and a half of it, so I didn’t get to see the last segment. It was some kind of communication error. But, that was disappointing to say the last because I had pretty much cut off all contact with anyone who might ruin the outcome for me.”
YOU DON’T THINK IT WAS USER ERROR, DO YOU?
“No, of course not (laughter). I really thought that was extraordinary for the race track, the series, the sport; what a risky and gutsy call to go do that. I thought it was just extraordinary that NASCAR was willing to make the leap and then Tony (Stewart) was there at the right place and the right time with a perfect race track and an historic place to run it. It’s awesome that it all came together so well; and I thought the race was fun to watch. I really enjoyed what I saw. I think it would be fun to go run there if they ever did exhibition or something. I don’t know about a full-on event. But, yeah, maybe we’ll end up doing that one day. What I saw was entertaining and exciting and something that was something that I hope I see more of, just from a viewer’s standpoint.”
YOUR DAD WAS ONE OF THE FEW GUYS WHO WERE INVITED HERE TO DO A TIRE TEST. DID YOU EVER HAVE ANY CONVERSATIONS WITH HIM ABOUT WHAT IT WAS LIKE THAT FIRST TIME ON INDIANAPOLIS MOTOR SPEEDWAY?
“Yeah I remember I never really had any direct conversations with him, but I remember how excited he was and everybody else was about that specific tire test. And I remember the mental and literal race to be the first guy on the race track once they got here. My dad and Rusty (Wallace) sort of were elbow-to-elbow trying to be the first guy to be on the track. For my father, for some reason, that was historic in its own right.
“I remember as young as I was, thinking about how big a deal it was for the sport that we were going to have a race here. I guess the first thing that raced through my mind was what would the racing be like? What kind of race would we see? What kind of style of racing would we see when the cars went around such a big track with no banking and all the corners being 90 degrees, what would the cars do and how would the drivers be able to compete with each other? But it turned out to be quite a thrill and a lot of fun to watch the first race. But it was just really overwhelming because it was just a kid, so wasn’t an expert on the thing. But I felt like the door was always closed to stock cars racing here. I felt like that was just one thing that would never happen; that IndyCars and Open Wheel would be too protective or that the history and tradition of this place would never be broke. But it was awesome that we got the opportunity to come here.”
GIVEN THE TRADITIONAL WINNERS AT THIS PLACE, DO YOU THINK EVERYBODY IS GOING TO BE CHASING JIMMIE JOHNSON?
“I think he will be fast, as usual. I’ll be surprised if they’re not one of the more competitive teams. It always seems like there’s somebody else that ends up running well. Greg Biffle runs well here. You’ve got to expect Kyle (Busch) to be competitive. Kasey (Kahne) will probably be quick. The usual players, but definitely we’ll be watching Jimmie and what they’re doing technically with their car and trying to keep that information understood and see what all our teammates are doing, really; to try to help ourselves be as competitive as we can this weekend.”
AS A NATIONWIDE SERIES TEAM OWNER, HOW WOULD YOU FEEL ABOUT THE NATIONWIDE CARS GOING TO ELDORA?
“I think it would be fun. I think it would be good for them and for the series as well. The Trucks are such a neat choice because of the side force that they create with the way the bodies are on the Trucks. I’m not sure how the Nationwide cars or even the Cup cars would run there. But I think it would be fun for the series to have a couple of dirt races, to be honest. Eldora is the perfect place to have this all tested out and obviously it seems to be really awesome for the fans and something they really enjoyed, so I expect that it’s something we could see more of. We’ll just have to see what NASCAR wants to do.”