WHAT IS YOUR OUTLOOK FOR THIS WEEKEND AS WE BEGIN RACE NUMBER TWO OF THE CHASE?
“We had a great run at Chicago very happy with the performance, but also pretty happy with the result. We know we could have gotten more had we not had the tire issue. The team was fired up this week. I went in the shop and you could just see a different attitude and a lot of smiles. A lot of guys are really excited to get here to New Hampshire. This is a great track for us. It’s been a great track for the No. 24 team for many years. We tested here a few weeks ago with all the Hendrick (Motorsports) cars and thought that if we make it in the Chase we have a great opportunity. I’m looking forward to trying to capitalize on that this weekend.”
AS YOU SAY A GREAT TRACK FOR YOU. COULD THIS AMOUNT TO A BREAK OUT RACE FOR YOU?
“It certainly can. I think what happens when you go to certain tracks that are good tracks and consistent tracks for you, then you have an opportunity. It’s about capitalizing on that opportunity and making the most out of it. That is the way I look at this track. I look at Martinsville very similar that it is also one of those tracks. It doesn’t guarantee anything, doesn’t make the job any less hard. We are going to have to fight and claw just like we have all year long to make it in the Chase and to get the results that we’ve had. What is nice is when you claw and you fight and all of a sudden you start to see your cars running better and your pit crew is putting good pit stops together and your restarts are better and the results are better. That is what we saw last week in Chicago and that is certainly what we hope to continue here.”
WHY DID IT COME TOGETHER LAST WEEK? BECAUSE YOU DIDN’T EXPECT YOU WERE IN THE CHASE AND THEN YOU WERE? WAS THERE A SORT OF EASY FEELING THAT THE PRESSURE WAS OFF OR THAT THERE IS KIND OF A FEELING THAT WELL WE WEREN’T GOING TO BE IN AND NOW WE ARE SO THERE IS KIND OF AN EASY FEELING ON THE TEAM WE’VE GOT THIS?
“No I think now the pressure is on. Now we are in it and we want to show everyone why we are in it and what we can do and what we are capable of doing. To me the question isn’t more why we stepped up and performed at Chicago. It’s why haven’t we leading up to Chicago. I think we had the last three races leading into Chicago. We were pretty good, but previously in the season we just have had our struggles. We have had missed opportunities and it’s hard to always put your finger on what exactly has caused those things. All I do know is that this team is ready to step up. They did at Chicago. I mentioned that we were probably going to surprise some people and I think we will. Coming out of Chicago with a solid finish was important to us. We had a great performance going there last year. We had the strange throttle issue. That changed our whole Chase for us. It was nice to know we had an issue, fought back from it and moved up in the points. Now we come in here to New Hampshire a great track.”
JUAN PABLO MONTOYA IS MOVING BACK TO INDYCAR. COULD YOU COMMENT A LITTLE ON THE SEVEN YEARS THAT HE HAS BEEN HERE, WHAT YOU HAVE SEEN HIM LEARN AND PROGRESS, HOW YOU ASSESS HIM AS A RACING DRIVER AND THE CHALLENGES THAT HE HAS FACED IN A TWO CAR TEAM VERSUS A FOUR CAR TEAM LIKE YOUR OWN:
“I’m certainly very anxious to watch IndyCar next year. I think it’s going to bring a lot of attention to it. I’m anxious in a way of being here in these types of cars and the struggles that you have in these types of cars with lack of grip, all the different tracks, how competitive it is among the cars and teams that are out there. How that experience is going to either enhance or hinder him going back to the IndyCar series. One thing has always been true and still is for Juan (Pablo Montoya) he is a fantastic race car driver. He is very aggressive and he pulls off great moves. I think that he has shown that here and he is going to certainly do that in IndyCar when he goes back there as well.
“I think the challenges have just been a question mark on how strong is Ganassi in the Cup Series. Is it Juan’s inexperience on ovals that have kept him from winning races on these ovals? He has run really well at times, but then it seems like it doesn’t always come together for that win. Is that lack of experience and just unique cars or is it the team? You don’t always know the answers to those things. You would certainly think a guy of his talent he would be able to adapt to it and so it makes you question some of those things. I have always applauded him for making that move because at that point in his career all the different kinds of cars that he had driven did not prepare him for NASCAR. That is a big step. Even though he didn’t win as many races as I think he would have liked to have it’s been a pleasure racing with him. I respect him tremendously.”
WHAT DO YOU BELIEVE WILL BE MORE OF A DETERRENT FOR TEAMS NOT TO REPEAT THE ACTIONS OF MICHAEL WALTRIP RACING A COUPLE OF WEEKS AGO THE NASCAR PENALTIES OR THE FACT THAT A SPONSOR HAS ACTUALLY LEFT A TEAM OVER IT?
“I think all of those things. I think that a sponsor leaving probably is certainly bigger than those penalties. That is hard to replace especially this point in the season. I think that was a very loud message that was sent to MWR as well as everyone in this sport. About what our expectations are and our actions what they can result in if they are negative actions. I mean that is unfortunate. You know you see a team go through some decisions that they went through and choices and you want a team to get penalized for those types of things no matter what team it is. But you never want to see it go to this level where they lose a sponsor. That is really unfortunate.”
AS PART OF A TEAM THAT HAS THE MOST DRIVERS IN THE CHASE ARE YOU STILL ABLE TO WORK WITHIN THE NEW RULES NOW TO HELP A TEAMMATE IF NEED BE ON THE TRACK? HOW ARE YOU ABLE TO STILL DO THAT WITHOUT THAT SITTING IN THE BACK OF YOUR HEAD AS ‘HEY IS THIS GOING TO BE INTERPRETED AS SOMETHING THAT IS A PENALTY’? DO YOU FEEL AS A DRIVER THAT IT PUTS YOU IN AN AWKWARD SITUATION WHEN YOU HAVE TO FEEL THE TEAM ORDER AND ARE YOU GLAD NOW THAT NASCAR HAS SAID THAT IS CROSSING THE LINE?
“Oh yeah absolutely. I think that we are all relieved in many ways that all we have to do is just go out there and race hard. I think that right there, that statement that I said gets misinterpreted maybe in some ways by people that might not understand this sport as well as that garage area and members of the media that follow this sport or diehard fans that follow this sport. Because you would think ‘oh well you just race as hard as you can all the time.’ Yeah we try to go out there and race to win every single weekend. But if you are having a bad day or you are not in a position to win the race or not in a position to win the championship you are going to be a team player. That is part of having teammates. So now it’s going to get challenging and difficult on those days. On the days where you are there competing for the win and a top-five and top-10 there is no questions. You just go and do your job what you love to do and what we enjoy doing every single weekend. I love that that is the position that we are in right now. We have all four cars in the Chase, all battling hard, racing hard for wins and to win the championship. We don’t have to worry about any kind of team order or anything because all four of us are in it.
“It will get challenging when we get further into the Chase if any of us are not in that battle and how we are going to manage racing as hard as we can as well as what is happening with our teammate for the championship. I think that we are not going to do anything that is going to manipulate the outcome of the race and we are going to do everything we can to race at 100 percent all the way to the checkered flag. There might be instances where it might look like we are helping our teammate and we are not. We are racing them hard, but they are faster than us or something like that. That is where it’s going to get challenging. That is where you guys are going to do your jobs very well and going to watch very closely of how business is being taken care of on the race track, radio communications and all those things. I think not having the digitals (radios) has been a little bit new for the team because they could talk to a spotter about our plan or talk to somebody else on another team about what we were going to do on the next pit stop things like that. That has changed things. I think that is also a good thing because we want the fans and the media and everybody to know what we are talking about and what is getting ready to happen at all times. I think it only makes a better experience for the fans as well.”
WHAT WAS IT LIKE LAST WEEK WITH THE NEW RESTART PROCEDURE? HOW DID IT WORK OUT? WILL THERE BE ANY ADDITIONAL CHALLENGES WITH THAT HERE JUST BECAUSE IT’S A TIGHTER SMALLER TRACK? WHAT MIGHT THE RESTARTS BE LIKE HERE?
“I liked it and I will tell you why I liked it. Because the thing that I didn’t anticipate was now that let’s say this weekend is more likely going to be the outside lane being the line that the second-place runner will be in. Before if that person took off and got a little bit too good of a start or the other car spun the tires then all of a sudden they are checking up to not beat them to the line and it’s just causing chaos five and 10 rows back. You start getting people running into one another and damaging their cars and causing wrecks. Now it seems like both lanes sort of flow evenly to turn one. I think that there is not as much of a disadvantage for the other lane. It just seems like if you are in that No. 2 car lane it might be a little bit less of a disadvantage than it used to be because it just seemed like the No. 1 car lane would always take off a little quicker and that momentum just continues to carry all the way to the first turn.”
DID YOU OR ALAN (GUSTAFSON, CREW CHIEF) SPEAK WITH THE ENGINE DEPARTMENT ABOUT DALE EARNHARDT, JR.’S PROBLEM LAST WEEK? DO YOU HAVE ANY FEELINGS IT MIGHT JUST BEEN A HEATING AND COOLING CYCLE THING?
“No, it wasn’t any of those things. We did speak at length about it and we feel like it’s something that we had an issue with a couple of years ago that we felt like we had solved. We had several engines that had no issues and one that did and sometimes those are just freak things. The material and the metal how it’s manufactured and sometimes there are just flaws. That is the only thing that I feel like at this point that we can come up with. We haven’t been able to duplicate it. That is one of the biggest challenges. I will say that I can’t believe any engine made it through that race. I will tell you why because I’ve never turned so many RPM’s and put so much load on an engine as we did there. The track was fast, the fall off was not huge, we were hitting the rev limiter, cool temperatures and just wide open in the middle of the corner so early. Just carrying that long wide open throttle all the way deep into the next corner for a long period of time, I was concerned about everybody’s engines. That was about as much demand as you can put on one.”
YOU SAID A MOMENT AGO THAT WHEN YOU GUYS HAD THE ISSUE IN CHICAGO LAST YEAR IT CHANGED YOUR WHOLE CHASE. THAT IS SORT OF THE SITUATION DALE (EARNHARDT, JR.) IS IN RIGHT NOW. HE BLOWS A MOTOR AND HE IS 53 POINTS OUT ALREADY. HOW DOES THAT CHANGE YOUR MINDSET? HOW DO YOU HAVE TO LOOK AT YOUR TASK DIFFERENTLY WHEN YOU ARE IN THAT POSITION?
“I think that in that position you have absolutely nothing to lose. You can instead of maybe having a game plan where you were going to try to fine tune a set-up you can just go completely outside the box and just go for broke and make very gutsy calls on pit road. You can be more aggressive as a driver. The engineers can be more aggressive in the set-up as well. It could benefit them greatly, it could benefit us as well, but it also could cause some challenges. I think that they are looking at it like ‘listen unless something miraculous happens we are not going to be back in this thing’ to the level that they would like to be. I think there is a part of you that just says ‘okay let’s just see how high up in points we can get and there is a part of you that says we go for broke and if we get on a heck of a role we can still do this’. You certainly never stop giving up hope.”