Thursday, February 16, 2012

Driver Quotes from Thurday's Daytona Media Day

Dale Jr is 10/1 to win the Bud Shootout (Getty)
SO ARE YOU GOING TO WIN THE 500? “Man we are going to try.”

IS IT TO THE POINT NOW WHERE’S IT’S A LEGITIMATE ONE IN 43 SHOT FOR EVERYBODY? “Oh yeah. Everybody I think. At least 35 have a good shot at it.”

AFTER TREVOR (BAYNE) WON IT DID THAT CHANGE THE THOUGHT PROCESS THAT IT REALLY WAS AN OPEN FIELD? “No, I kind of knew it was a lottery for a while. Take nothing against Trevor I mean he did what he had to do to win the race. He made some great moves and won that race on his own. He was very smart about how he drove his car. You just don’t know who is going to come off of turn four battling for this thing anymore like before. When Dale Jarrett was in the No. 88, you knew they were going to be strong. You can guess this that and the other and make some predictions that would always come true but now not so much.”

YOU WERE PRETTY FRUSTRATED WHEN YOU LEFT HERE IN JULY WITH THE RACING, ARE YOU ENCOURAGED WITH THE THOUGHT IT COULD BE LESS TANDEM? “I’m encouraged with the work we tried. I don’t mind failing but I was happy that we tried and made a lot of changes to try to fix it and try to change it and try to get some things back in the driver’s hands.”

DO YOU THINK IT WILL WORK THOUGH? “Well I won’t know until this weekend is over with or I won’t know until the Daytona 500 is over with if we worked hard enough.”

WILL IT BE A BIGGER WIN FOR YOU IN THE 500 OR DANICA? “Me, me! She don’t driver for me in the 500 so it wouldn’t matter to me if she won it. If I win it, it would be a big deal for me! As far as what everybody else thinks, everybody is going to have a different opinion about that.”


THERE SEEMS TO BE A LOT OF PEOPLE THAT HAVE A LOT OF RESPECT FOR HER AS DRIVER AS OPPOSED TO LETTING HER HERE BECAUSE IT’S A GREAT MARKETING BONANZA FOR THE SPORT. “I think she does great driving. I’ve watched her in the Nationwide Series and thinks she does a great job. People may need to watch more Nationwide races. People comment without having any knowledge. They can make ignorant statement just based on what they want to believe. What they want to accept and not accept. I’ve watched her race and I think she does great and I’ve enjoyed watching her race. She made my team better and I didn’t even think about that. We’ve been asking the question for so many months of what she would do for this sport and what has she done for the sport but one of the things I didn’t anticipate was how she made my team better. As a person she’s good to be around. She’s engaging and fun for Tony (Eury) Jr. and the team to be around. They enjoy going to the track with her and working with her. So my company improved working with her. We didn’t take a step back. As the year went on our company progressed. So that was great. I was real happy about that because I own the thing.”

WHAT DID YOU LEARN ABOUT HER BEHIND THE SCENES THAT OTHER PEOPLE MIGHT NOT KNOW OR THAT YOU FIND PERHAPS SURPRISING? “I don’t have anything. She goes to the race track and races. I don’t really dig into her personal life. Nothing about her was an ‘oh shit’ moment for me, it was just she’s seems normal, she works hard, she shows up to race, there’s nothing about her that’s quirky or weird, different or surprising to me. I kind of knew her a little bit before and its basically what I imagined it was as far as being around her more often once I got to be around her a little more and what was she really like as a driver and how dedicated and focused she was. She’s pretty intense.”

HOW DO YOU FEEL COMING INTO THIS SEASON? “I feel pretty good. I’m frustrated that we didn’t win last year, we came close. I’m ready to get back to that. I’m ready to get chances again. I want to win a race pretty bad but I can’t do that without racing and we haven’t been doing any so it’s been a little frustrating. Daytona, this is probably the worst odds for me all year because of the way the racing is here. This is going to be a fun experience but I’m looking forward to getting to Phoenix and the rest of the tracks to start really getting control of my destiny and trying to make some things happen for me and win some races.”

ANY CHANCES THIS CAN BE A SINGLE-FILE RACE? “No.” WHY NOT? “Because everybody is going to be on top of each other. It just won’t happen. The track, it just won’t happen no way. I will be so, so, so surprised if that is what ends up happening.”

DO YOU THINK IT WILL BE TWO-CAR DRAFT? “No, I don’t know. I don’t know if tandem is going to work or not. I know we tested; tandem’s was hard to do. It was doable but it was hard to do and you run hot. Guys went home and studied. I’m sure people did their homework and some people figured some things out. So some people will probably get the tandem to work again and it will be lights out and they will be gone.”

Kurt Busch is 25/1 to win the Bud Shootout (Getty)
WHAT WOULD IT MEAN TO YOU PERSONALLY TO WIN THE DAYTONA 500?: “It’s really the race that can define a driver’s career. It is a big priority, the prestigious value of winning at Daytona what it does for a driver’s career long term, what it can do for the immediate impact. This race is our spectacle. It is the most important stock car race of the year.”

DOES IT BOTHER YOU EVER THAT YOU HAVE BEEN SO CLOSE BUT HAVE NOT BEEN ABLE TO COLLECT A WIN?: “A little bit. I have finished second three times. I’ve pushed a teammate to win, Ryan Newman back in 2008. I remember back in 2005, when I had a move to make on Jeff Gordon on the outside going into turn three and I looked in the mirror and saw everybody cutting to the inside to go by me in the draft. I’m like man I just got to block to the inside and take this second-place finish. It kind of eats at me a little bit that I should have taken that risk to go to the high side and see what could have happened off turn-four.”

YOU SAID THREE SECONDS, THEN A KID LIKE BAYNE COMES OUT AND WINS IN HIS FIRST RACE EVER. IS THAT JUST THE WAY RACING IS?: “That’s the Daytona 500 you have to be there at the end and every year you have to build the best car that you can. As an experienced driver you have to block out the past as far as finishes, but you have to use your experience to get to that last part of the race to be in position to win.

DID YOU KNOW YOU WERE ON THE FORBES LIST OF DISLIKED ATHELES? DID YOU SEE IT? DO YOU CARE ABOUT IT?: “ Yeah I actually went from third to tenth so I actually think I improved. I made the top ten list of something. Two years in a row finishing 11th in points, then standing there trying to do an interview with Dr. Punch, having learned that my part went through Tony Stewarts grill and took away his championship hopes, that is what I was so upset about and of course it gets caught on You Tube, then they submit it to and then you are on a top ten list. It is what it is. Do you guys believe it?”

OBVIOUSLY ITS VERY HARD AT THIS LEVEL, WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT DANICA’S CHANCES AT BEING RESPECTABLE?: “She brings a lot to our sport. Just the sex appeal, the talent in the open wheel side, the ability to drive a car at this level competitively as a female it’s awesome. We will see how she does with everything. There is a lot of pressure she has to adapt to when you get into stock cars.”

DO YOU HAVE ANYONE THAT YOU HAVE PICKED TO WORK WITH IF YOU CAN?: “Anybody and everybody, but my primary guy is Regan Smith. I worked with Mark Martin during testing. A buddy of mine from 2008, Ryan Newman, he knows that we want to work together and there is the Hendrick crowd. They have four cars, I would be the fifth, but then there are the two Stewart-Haas cars and then they have Danica. There are plenty of opportunities to get out there with a Chevrolet.”

Carl Edwards is 12/1 to win Bud Shootout and 5/1 to win 2012 Title (Getty)
WHAT DOES IT MEAN IF A DRIVER DOESN’T WIN THE DAYTONA 500? A LOT OF GREAT DRIVERS HAVE NOT. “I don’t know. I feel that Daytona is one of those races you go to and you do everything you can. You can one shot at it a year and, for me personally, last year was really close. I learned a lot. I feel like I’m getting better at these restrictor plate races and understanding how to maximize my chances of winning because at the end of the day these races still have a lot of chance involved. I think that’s what makes this a special race because you only have one shot at it a year. It’s a race that anything can happen. Look at David Ragan last year. You just never know what’s gonna happen.”

TONY HASN’T WON OR MARK MARTIN. HOW DO YOU FEEL WHEN YOU LOOK AT GUYS LIKE THAT WHO HAVEN’T WON A 500? “I think Mark Martin is a champion of the sport, whether he’s got the trophy or not. He gives his best every week and that’s all you can do. The fun part about this sport is just going out and doing the very best you can. If you win, it’s a great feeling. I was close enough to know to at least get a taste of how great this race would feel to win and be able to be right there and have a shot at it and then get to talk to Trevor a lot about it, it would be an amazing race to win.”

DO YOU HAVE ANY IDEA HOW MUCH WILL BE A BIG PACK RACE AND THEN THE TWO-CAR DRAFT? “Unless they make a rule that says you cannot touch another car, the race will be won by somebody who utilizes the two-car tandem. That’s it. Two cars are that much faster, but I gave up on trying to figure out a strategy here because I have no clue what the rules are gonna be. I don’t think anyone is gonna know until the driver’s meeting.”

THEY WANT TO GET THE ENGINES TO OVERHEAT SO THE GUYS WILL UNLOCK. “I don’t even know what the rules are right now. In testing we went through all those things, so I don’t know what specific package we’re gonna end up with and I don’t want to head down a path thinking of how I’m gonna do this until I know that. NASCAR is in a tough spot. They’re trying to keep this type of racing as safe as they can, keep it entertaining and keep it fair and I don’t know how you do all that at this place.”

New Draft Partners: Kahne is 12/1 t win Bud Shootout and Gordon is 10/1
IN THE DAYTONA 500, HOW MUCH OF IT IS SKILL AND HOW MUCH OF IT IS LUCK? “You know every year is different. Every year I’ve been here grip level, cars, track conditions; it varies so there are some years where I feel like luck plays a bigger role other years where skill plays out. I don’t think there is a single Daytona 500 that I’ve won here that I didn’t have some help getting there. Maybe I got myself in position but when I made a move to try to win a race somebody was there. Whether it was for their own benefit or mine whatever it was without somebody pushing me, you can say that’s luck or whatever you want to call it; it took that to win the race. So I think that’s always going to continue to take that but I think there is a lot of skill that’s involved with being patient and putting yourself in that position. Certainly a lot of the skill on the team is having a fast race car. I think that this year is an unknown. Different rules and package than we had here last year and I think the Shootout is going to tell us a lot about how strategy, patience, aggressiveness all that’s going to work together in order to get you the victory.”

YOU’VE WON DAYTONA’S, YOU’VE WON BRICKYARDS, YOU’VE WON CHAMPIONSHIPS, THERE ARE SOME BIG NAME DRIVERS THAT HAVEN’T WONT HE DAYTONA 500, HOW MUCH IS A NASCAR CAREER NOT NECESSARILY COMPLETE WITHOUT A VICTORY IN THE DAYTONA 500? “I think for drivers that really feel like they’re one of the top drivers from a talent standpoint they’re not going to look at a restrictor-plate race and a victory there the same because they’re going to say it’s harder to win at Martinsville, it’s harder to win at Bristol, it’s harder to win at Kansas or something like that and they’re going to say I rather have victories at those places and maybe a Brickyard. But I think there isn’t anybody that doesn’t want to win the Daytona 500. I think that’s the difference. It doesn’t matter whether its restrictor-plate race or not or how much skill or luck goes into it, you want to win it. The longer you go without winning it the more challenging it becomes and the harder you think it is and when you do accomplish it, I think there is that much more meaning behind it not to mention just the fact that this race means the world to a race car driver.”

WHEN YOU TALK ABOUT PEOPLE NOT WINNING THE DAYTONA 500 DO YOU THINK MAYBE TONY STEWART HAS GOTTEN MORE IN THE DALE SR MODE OF WHEN ARE YOU GOING TO WIN THE DAYTONA 500? “Yeah, I would definitely say that. When you look at talent level, accomplishments, then you look at the stats and his accomplishments on restrictor-plate tracks, he’s won quite a few of them too, and to me he’s starting to get in that category. He’s got a few more years and I know Tony hopes he doesn’t get all the way into that category but Dale went for a long time without getting that victory and Tony is building on that. But yeah I think he’s definitely I would put in a category like that if you look at guys who haven’t won the 500.”

WILL YOU SEE PACKS AGAIN OR LINES? “Well, that’s what’s undetermined. That’s what we won’t know until the Bud Shootout. I think you are going to see some packs and then we’re going to see if we can race three wide in packs lap after lap. Cars have less down force and a little more power. At night it might be okay but during the day time for the 150’s and the 500 might be a little different. To me I’m looking at whatever strategies is going to get me to Victory Lane and if that’s get up front and you can stay there then I’m all for that. If that means you’ve got to kind of ride and be patient, we’ll play the strategy that works best but none of want to do that. We want to get up there and race hard the entire race. But one thing I know you are taking more risks now doing the two-car draft than we ever have before from an engine standpoint and throwing in the lack of radio communication. It’s making it more risky to do and I think unless it’s the final lap of the race, I don’t know if it’s worth it.”

TALK A LITTLE BIT ABOUT WHAT YOU FEEL DANICA BRINGS TO THIS RACE BEYOND THE MARKETING ASPECT. “I think she’s a competitive driver. I think that her lack of experience in the Cup cars and for anybody it doesn’t matter who it is, is still there. But I think as far as her talent she’s raced her whole life and she earned her way to Indy Cars and she’s earned her way to here. The marketability certainly has helped and I think that she’s done a great job utilizing that as well as NASCAR. It’s great for the sport. Who doesn’t want to see a female driver come in here and be able to race with the guys and do well and be marketable? It’s great for the sport. It’s not going to happen overnight, it’s going to take some time. She might do really well with Daytona being a restrictor-plate track but we all come into this series and have to go through the learning curve. It’s not going to be any different for her.”

Tony Stewart is 12/1 to win Bud Shootout (Getty)
JIMMIE JOHNSON SAID OVER THE OFF SEASON HE HAD A CHANCE TO TAKE AN ENTIRE MONTH OFF AND REFELCT. IN THAT TIME HE SAID HE FELT LIKE OVER HIS FIVE CHAMPIONSHIP SEASONS HE HAD GOTTEN COMPLACENT. DO YOU THINK THERE WILL EVER BE THAT FEELING OF COMPLACENCY WITH YOU? “I don’t think so. My deal is a little different than all these other guys. A lot of them are married; most of them are married and have families and children. I have a dog and two cats so they don’t care if I go race seven days a week as long as they get fed they are happy. That is just my deal that is just where my lifestyle is a little different. I looked for every race that I could run through the off season. That is what I wanted to do. It sounds like you would wear yourself out doing it but that is my workout plan. I don’t go to the gym. I go to the race track and race. I’m just much happier when I can be racing.”

WHERE ON THE TONY STEWART BUCKET LIST IS WINNING THE DAYTONA 500?: “Very high on it. Especially these next two weeks, it is the highest thing on it.”

CAN YOU TALK ABOUT THE DYNAMICS OF YOUR RELATIONSHIP WITH DANICA? “We haven’t had a chance to work a lot with each other at the race track yet, just at Daytona so far. The great thing is that in the short amount of time that we did get to work with her here, she processes information so fast, it’s much quicker than any other rookie that I have seen. Her feedback is really good and detailed. You can’t teach that, that is a talent that you have to have. Nobody can teach you to have that amount of feedback and feel for a car. There is no doubt in my mind that she is going to be good in these, it is just a matter of how long is it going to take for her to really get super comfortable in these cars.”

WHAT ABOUT THE PERSONALITIES BETWEEN YOU AND HER?: “Perfect, her and Ryan and I together, it’s comical if you get the three of us to where we know that there is no cameras and reporters going on it’s a pretty funny conversation. She is pretty sarcastic like Ryan and I both.”

ARE YOU GOING TO DRINK SOME WINE MAYBE?: “I have never drank wine in my life. Somebody tell this man what I drink.”

CAN SHE WIN THE DAYTONA 500? “Did anybody think Trevor Bayne could win the race last year on this day? Anything can happen here it is anybody’s ballgame. She did a really good job in July last year in the Nationwide race when I ran with her. I was really impressed at how smooth she was and how good a job she did in the two car deal. Talent, there is no doubt in my mind she has the talent to do it.”

Johnson is 9/2 favorite to win 2012 title
WHEN DID YOU REALIZE YOUR CHAMPIONSHIP RUN WAS OVER LAST YEAR? “The Charlotte crash really started the thought process. Then Talladega, it was evident that window was closing and that I needed a lot of things to happen to the No. 14 and No. 99. Then we left Phoenix and I still had that fire and hope that I wouldn’t be out of it that there might be a mistake and I wanted to be ready for it. But when I left Phoenix it was crazy just feeling the pressure kind of leave. I didn’t realize what was on me and the high standard I had hoped for myself or the pressure I was carrying and when it left it was kind of like, ok there it goes, now it’s time to enjoy Homestead. I went down there and had a really great time, I think we had a really fast car, but it was a wild experience to feel the pressure leave from Phoenix until I saw all the tweets about the champion’s lunch taking place on the Wednesday. Then that championship mind set hit me again and I became really disappointed that I wasn’t there at that luncheon and apart of all of it.”

WHAT SPECIFICALLY DO YOU THINK YOU COULD HAVE DONE BETTER LOOKING BACK AT LAST SEASON?: “ I didn’t realize that over the five years or six years that we didn’t change as much maybe as we needed to and evolve. It’s tough to leave a successful road map and Chad and the team and I have been good at reinventing ourselves each year. But until the streak was broken looking back at this off season what we have been through and trying to rebuild the team and make sure we are looking at everything we can, we have a different depth. I’m focusing on my interaction with the team, how I provide information with the team, what information I’m looking at, there are a lot of things I haven’t done in the past and I felt like I was one of the most in depth drivers out there. I’m trying to even take that steps further now, so because of the loss we have been able to dig deeper and get away from the road map we’ve built and challenge ourselves more. At the same time the garage area has been extremely focused on everything the No. 48 car has done over the last six years, so maybe years three or four a lot of guys came out direction and really paid attention to what we were doing and they caught us and we got beat. We have to reinvent ourselves in some ways this year and we are ready for it.”

YOU’VE HAD TO DEAL WITH THE PHENOMENA THAT IS DALE JR., NOW DANICA IS COMING OVER, WHAT DO YOU KNOW ABOUT HER PERSONALLY? HAVE YOU SPENT TIME WITH HER? HOW DO YOU THINK SHE WILL AFFECT THE SPORT IN GENERAL? “I think she is great for our sport. We need people tuned in and watching and certainly new fans are important to all of us. I think she brings in a lot of new fans, she has a big following. She is been able to get our sport onto a different platform, with mainstream media and things that she is involved with outside of racing. I’m excited for it. I think it is going to be great. I’ve gotten to know her a little bit over the last year or so. She is very committed to the sport, very committed to being a racer, which is great to see and shows with what she has been able to accomplish on track. The thing she is going to have to fight through this year is with that big spotlight burning on her, some she has created because she has a brand she is promoting and building, and a very successful brand, there is an intense spotlight on her, every move she makes is going to be criticized good and bad. Her performance, there is a big hurdle there for her to accomplish on track and it’s going to be a challenge for her.

“She has my support. I know she has our sports support, she is with Tony and Ryan and they will be able to help her out tremendously. Obviously on the Nationwide side she has a lot of good people to pull from there as well. If she is patient with her development and her fan base is, I think she is going to be here for a long time and be very successful.”

CAN YOU REPEAT? “That’s the plan. We wouldn’t have come if we didn’t think we could win. There’s a little bit more pressure this year. We’re not exactly flying under the radar, but I think we can go for it, that’s for sure.

Do you think you started competing in the Sprint Cup Series too early? “Looking at it now — probably yeah. There’s a lot more to it than I thought. I was 18 years old, I had the opportunity to jump in the Home Depot car and I probably would do it again. Who wouldn’t? It was definitely the right thing to do, but once you get in there and realize how much more stuff actually comes along with that. It’s the off the track stuff and dealing with people and how to deal with certain situations — how to keep a team motivated and be a leader. It was all stuff that when you’re 18 years old — you don’t really know how to do that. You just go out there and race all the time. Some of that came really easy to me — even Nationwide came really quick. It was a lot bigger jump than I thought just because of all the off track stuff.”

Keselowski is 20/1 to win 2012 NASCAR Championship
DO YOU LET YOURSELF DAYDREAM ABOUT WINNING THE DAYTONA 500? “Yes. Absolutely.” WHAT WOULD THAT BE LIKE? “I think about a moment. To me, when I look at a win, I always think of a moment that created the win. Do you allow yourself to win the 500? Yes. I think about the pass for the win or whatever moment it takes to get the win. That’s the moment that I think about. The wins that I have been fortunate to have, the memories that I have from them are those moments; the moment that you take the lead. Those are the moments that I dream of.”

DO YOU FEEL MORE PRESSURE ON YOU THIS YEAR TO BE THE TEAM LEADER? “I’m sure there will be more media pressure. I feel like I’m my own worse critic. I think that you guys can write some really mean stuff about me that wouldn’t be in comparison to what I’d say about myself. I’m happy to have the role. I think pressure is good. I think pressure keeps you honest. I think that it’s the next step for me to accomplish the goal that I have of winning a Sprint Cup championship and I think that you have to be a leader to do that. I’m now in a position to do that and I’m very proud of that. I’m ready for that pressure.”

CAN YOU REFLECT ON THE DEPARTURE OF KURT (BUSCH) AND WHAT HAS HAPPENED TO HIM AS A CAUTIONARY TALE FOR YOURSELF? “When I look at Kurt, I think about a guy who was an excellent teammate to me. He didn’t get a lot of credit for that. The events of the last few months have not been easy for him or anyone else. I have a lot of respect for him and his talent and his commitment of being a good teammate to me. It’s with those thoughts that I feel like I would be a real jerk if I kicked him when he was down. I don’t want to be that guy. I think there is always something to be learned, whether in success or failure. As to what that is for Kurt, we won’t know for a few more years. It could have been the break that he needed. Who knows? It just depends on what outlook he has and where it goes from here.”

Montoya is 30/1 to win Daytona 500 (Getty)
“Well there have been a lot of changes; it has been a very interesting off season for us. I think the road crew changed like 90% of, engineering, back in the shop changed, there are a lot of really good changes. I don’t want to go out and say “Oh” but they have done a great job with the car. The car seems to be pretty fast, pace has been ok. I don’t know, have to wait and see. I think Daytona will not tell us much, it never does. We have done a good amount of testing, I think we have prepared ourselves the best we could and see what happens. We go to Phoenix and start seeing how good and how much we have evolved over the winter, I know we have made some numbers and things. We have evolved a lot and I think we are going to be way more competitive, but we will wait and see, we need to be.”

“No, I think in the first three years I did expect not to be that great at it because it was going to be so different, the three years actually came out really good, the third year we made the Chase, fought for the title and everything was good. The year after it was an average year, we took a win and a lot of poles and things, but it was not a great year for us and last year should have been a really good year for us and we really struggled. You look at Jamie (McMurray) the year before won four races and last year, I mean it was a struggle.”

“I don’t care. Do I want to win on an oval? Yea I want to win on an oval. Do I want to win championships? Yea I want to win championships; we are here to get a job done. It doesn’t really matter where it is one thing or the other; you just really want to try to get the job done.”

“That is a good question, I don’t know. She is in a really good car, I think that, in a way should help her but in a way it will put a lot more pressure on her. If you think about it, you are in a Stewart-Haas car, a car that just won the championship; you are going to be expected to run well. Weather she was there or on the smallest team, everyone wants to see what happens. I think she might surprise some people.”

“She has been doing Nationwide for a year, and she has been getting better at it. I think this year she is going to get it. I think the question this year is how she transforms from Nationwide to the Cup car. The nationwide, you do not brake, they hardly ever lift, and it is very different. In the Cup cars we have to brake and there is a lot more power so you will be sliding around more, it is going to be interesting.”

Danica Patrick is 50/1 to win Daytona 500 (Getty)
TREVOR BAYNE PROVED LAST YEAR THAT A NEWCOMER CAN WIN THIS RACE. WHAT WOULD IT TAKE FOR YOU TO WIN THIS RACE? “Luck. I have a fast car so I think that’s taken care of but I think it’s going to take some good breaks and a patient race, staying out of trouble. You know it would be nice to kind of keep toward the front. I’ve found that when you are up near the front away from the thick of things you’re much less likely to be caught in an accident that smoke is filled the air to and you can’t miss or you can’t see. But I think luck is going to play a big factor.”

AND ITS GOING TO BE MORE OF A PACK RACE THAN A TANDUM RACE SO HOW MUCH OF THAT IS GOING TO COME INTO PLAY FOR YOU? “I don’t pack racing. You’re going to have to make sure you stay in touch with the pack. If you lose the pack you are in trouble. But then I think you’re still going to be able to do some tandem to catch back up if that’s the case and at the end of the day I believe what is going to win the race is something tandem. The accidents might be bigger again just because everybody is closer but hopefully it’s exciting for the fans. I know they have asked for pack racing back and I know it looks visually much more interesting and it’s fine. We did some pack racing in testing a few weeks ago and I think everybody enjoyed it.”

WILL TONY (STEWART) BE YOUR TANDUM PARTNER, HAVE YOU FIGURED THAT OUT YET? “I don’t know you should ask Tony that. I think partly it just depends on where you are at on the track and are you near each other to make that tandem happen. I would love to run with Tony I know that much. I have no problem running with Ryan (Newman) either but Tony and I ran really well in the summer race. I’m sure that given all situations I could learn a lot from him.”

BUT THEY’RE NOT YOUR TEAMMATES. “They’re essentially not my teammates but they are my teammates for the big picture and that’s the reason why they are kind of not my teammates right now is for the big picture.”

DOES EVERYBODY HAVE AN IDEA YET OF WHAT THE PERCENTAGE MIGHT BE, PACK-RACING VERSES TANDEM? “I don’t know what changes they’ve made since the test we did a few weeks ago but there was a lot of tandem running being done so I don’t know. I think you will find a lot of drivers and especially you’ll find a lot of veterans that want to do pack racing and they are going to hang out like that and there will probably be a lot of running like that. But you will also find some people and you might even find a couple of groups of people that hook up and get away and then do their own pack running for a while just to make the group smaller. I think that it just depends on who is where, yellow flags and things like that or long green-flag runs. I think there is probably going to be more than two percent tandem racing but we’ll see.”

- from team press releases

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