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Daytona 500 - Dodge Media Day Quotes

BILL ELLIOTT (No. 39 Coors Dodge Charger)

HOW DID YOU GET THE RIDE WITH GANASSI FOR BUDWEISER SHOOTOUT? “It was just a casual conversation. I asked Ray if he cared if I drove anything else. My brother Ernie and I talked about it and he got me with Ganassi. It turned out to be the 20th anniversary of the 1985 stuff (11 wins, 11 poles), and it turned out to be a good deal. It helped Coors out from their marketing standpoint. We’ve got good equipment, and I think we’ve got a good chance in the race.”

IS IT WEIRD TO DRIVE FOR SOMEONE OTHER THAN RAY EVERNHAM? “Not really because all the cars are kinda the same any more. If you go look at tech, it’s like “Holly Molly, I don’t know if I could go through all this anymore.’

COMMENT ON NEW QUALIFYING PROCEDURES “I really don’t know how to comment on that. I understand California is just going to be a lineup race. We’re going to qualify and they’re going to let you do a few things to the car and then line it up. That’s my understanding at this point. I guess the next question is what are they going to let you do?”

COMMENT ON BUDWEISER SHOOTOUT “We’ll see how things have progressed in these cars. It’ll give Ganassi a chance to learn more about the car before the Daytona 500. From the Coors standpoint, they were very instrumental in what I started doing in the early 80s. My relationship with all the Coors family was special through the whole deal. We all grew together. It was such a unique time. They came in the first year and I think the sponsorship was like $400,000 and it was wild. Now it’s grown in to what it is today.”

COMMENT ON KASEY KAHNE’S PROGRESS LAST YEAR “He was an easy study. He did well. I think he was an exception to the rule. He came in, picked the ball up and carried it way beyond my expectations. He got in good equipment, but on the flip side of that, he carried it. I’m very proud of him. He’s a good kid, and he’s got a great future in this sport. I compare him to Jeff Gordon or any of those guys.”

IF YOU COULD CHANGE THE LENGTH OF ANY RACE WHICH ONE WOULD YOU CHANGE? “Pocono. It does not need to be 500 miles. If it was a 400-mile race it would be plenty. It’s a two and a half mile racetrack, but they run a minute around the track and they run 200 laps. It’s an all-afternoon deal. At my age, no race is too short.”

COMMENT ON THE CALIFORNIA TEST “I didn’t think we were too bad. It’s still going to come down to how they’re going to do their rules.”

DO YOU STILL ENJOY COMING TO DAYTONA IN FEBRUARY? “I enjoy coming down here. It’s a fun event. I’m not running the 500 and that’s part of it, but I enjoy seeing all the people and I’ve still got a lot of good friends in this sport, and I still enjoy seeing a lot of the crew guys around the garage. We’ve all kind of grown up together. When I was in there looking at Ganassi’s car in the garage, I ran into Tony Glover and we were talking about old times. I was laughing about all the inspectors in there. I’d never seen so many inspectors.”

WILL THE NEW QUALIYING PROCEDURE DECREASE THE IMPORTANCE OF GOING FOR THE POLE? “I think there’s always going to be an importance for going for the pole, but I think they’re going to have different views when they get there. Until we get everything laid out and go through it two or three times, I don’t know how to answer the question. They’ll have to qualify in race trim, especially the guys that are guaranteed a start.”

DID YOU CONCENTRATE ON POLES IN 1985? “No, we went after every event as hard as we could go. That’s what you’ve got to do. If you unload and you’re 45th out of 50 cars, what are your chances of winning the pole? You’re going to work for the goal, don’t get me wrong, but sometimes the odds for that particular day are totally against you. Whenever you unload winning the pole is your first goal and then your next goal is winning the race. I’m going to work to the race setup and then make it be as fast as I can to run a fast lap for qualifying.”

THROUGH ALL YOUR SUCCESS YOU’VE ALWAYS REMAINED A HUMBLE PERSON. HOW’D YOU MANAGE TO DO THAT? “I’d rather be seen and not heard. That’s just the way I grew up. In the era we did what we did, we worked 24/7. You tell me how cocky you can get working 24 hours a day, seven days a week. There were 13 of us in that shop, and I was no different. I was the guy that came in, worked on the car, swept the floor, changed the springs, put the motor in, did body work, did paint work and everything else. How cocky can you get doing that?”

CAN A DRIVER/OWNER BE SUCCESSFUL TODAY? “I don’t say it can’t be done, but I’m saying the odds are way out there. We didn’t have nothing. We just went in and did it, and there again, you can’t be cocky if you’re the only one there and you do everything you’ve got to do. That’s what I was telling Kasey. At his age, I was in there welding pieces on and doing this and doing that, trying to get to the next level. In the early 80s it was unheard of that a rookie came in and got in a good race car. Probably Earnhardt was the only one that ever did that, and it took him a few years to do it, but he didn’t come from another series and step in to a winning race car.”

DID YOU TAKE TIME TO CELEBRATE AFTER THE 1985 SEASON? “No, we worked. We worked Christmas, New Year’s, all the time. That’s the way we were. We did what we had to do, and there was always something that had to be done.”

WILL THERE BE PRESSURE TO WIN THE SHOOTOUT? “I think the pressure is off now. Since you’ve won the event, I think the pressure is on the guy who hasn’t won it. With the way the racing is today in a restrictor-plate environment, it’s a lot different than when I won the event. That’s the things I look at. I ran good here in 2001 and I ran good here in 1997. The stuff is just so different. Unless you’ve got someone who can help you, you’re just kinda riding around out there.”

WHAT’S THE STRATEGY FOR THE SHOOTOUT? “Get in the right place at the right time. If you’ve got a decent car and get in the right place at the right time, that’s what it’s going to be all about.”

COMMENTS ON FRIDAY BEFORE FIRST SHOOTOUT PRACTICE

DO YOU LIKE THE PART-TIME SCHEDULE? “I think I like where I’m at real well right now. Everything is going real well. Somebody asked if I’d double my races. I said really my ideal situation was to run 10 or 12 last year. The way everything turned out, it really didn’t work out. For me to be able to come in and pick and choose… When I was walking over here I said to myself that I’m really fortunate to be where I’m at. To come in and get in a Ganassi car for the Bud Shootout. Then when I leave here, I’ll be able to go to California for that race with Stanley Tools and Evernham Motorsports. We’ve got a lot of good things going on even though I am backing up and doing it on a part-time basis.”

IT LOOKS LIKE YOU’VE STARTED A TREND “All good things have got to come to an end. After running this long as I have in this sport and given as much as I have, it’s time to go around and enjoy life. Like I said several other times, I feel like I could probably race several more years, but you look at it and say why put yourself through it each and every week. I think that’s the biggest thing when I walked away from this stuff, being able to drop the pressure of competing each and every week on a have to basis because that’s the hardest part of this sport.”

DID MARKETING OBLIGATIONS OUTSIDE THE CAR SPREAD YOU TOO THIN? “That plays a role of where you end up. To take care of the sponsorship, plus running 38 weekends a year, plus doing all the other stuff involved, just between the racing and testing is the hardest part of the whole deal. Then you add on the sponsorship, car owner and everybody else’s commitment and you try to put in a home life somewhere in the middle of all that mess, it does make it difficult. For the younger guys that are not really tied to anything, it makes it easy. Plus, at no point in time in their careers these kids didn’t have to work on their cars like I did early on in my career.”

DO YOU THINK NASCAR LEADERSHIP IS DOING THE RIGHT THING? “I don’t know how to answer that. There are things I see as positive and things I see as negative. It’s hard for me to judge not being able to see it every day from the other side. I just see it from this side of the fence. I can’t sit here and be a judge and say this is right and this is wrong.”

WHAT’S IMPORTANT ABOUT THE EARLY PART OF YOUR CAREER? “That’s what launched everything. That was the most important part of my career. That’s what put everything together. You look at that era and how it changed racing and NASCAR and everything else, me and everybody involved. That was a definite change of era for NASCAR.”

WHAT TOOK YOU FROM AN UNDERDOG TO A SUPERSTAR? “A lot of hard work and probably Harry Melling.”

WHAT WILL YOU WORK ON IN PRACTICE TODAY? “Drafting. That’s what it’s going to be all about. It’s supposed to be cold for the race tomorrow night, and that will just make the cars handle a little longer and stay under you a little better. It’s a 70-lap race, and I need to sit down and figure out the format because I haven’t checked it out yet. I’ll figure it out tomorrow night. They’ll tell me. I’m on a need to know basis.”

DOES THE NEW CHARGER SEEM DIFFERENT THAN THE INTREPID? “You’ve got so many other changes involved with NASCAR and the templates and cutting off the rear spoiler at other tracks. I’ll know more after I race it in California and get a good feel. California will be the first open race and that will be good for me.”

DO YOU MISS THE DAYS WHEN CARS WERE MORE DIFFERENT? “Yes, because I like to hear all the car manufacturers grumble about who had the edge. You’ve kinda lost that a little bit. I like the nostalgia of having the different cars and the appeal from that side of it, especially when they had the T-Bird and Pontiacs and all that stuff. It’s gone to a different generation and they’re looking at different things.”

WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT THE DAYTONA INFIELD WITH JUGGLERS AND GUYS ON STILTS? “I’ve said if the team guys can keep their composure this week and a half, my hat’s off to ‘em because they go through a lot. They’re really going to be under a magnifying glass. The biggest thing is as the pressure cooker builds toward the 500 next weekend, it’ll be very interesting.”

DID YOU MISS RACING AT ANY POINT LAST SEASON? “At some points yes, but I realize it’s a different evolution and you’ve got to lay it down sometimes. It’s sooner or later and later might not be the way you want to do it. I feel like now I’ve done it kinda the way I want to do it, and it’s worked out well for me. To be able to do the races I want to do and still compete and still get in good equipment, that’s very important for me this point in time.”

RYAN NEWMAN (No. 12 ALLTEL Dodge Charger)

COMMENT ON NEW QUALIFYING SYSTEM “We haven’t done it yet, but from a competitive standpoint we’re still there to win the poles and get good pit selections and get bonus points for leading laps. That’s still the big picture from our viewpoint. I’ve said before if there’s a trophy there to win, we’re there to try to win it. The Bud Pole Award is one of the bigger trophies of the season from my standpoint. From a physical standpoint, qualifying is going to be different because there are only so many things we can adjust on the car now. That will be the determining factor on how we’re able to qualify well and race well at the same time. Maybe I’m old school, but I grew up where you either had to race your way in or qualify your way in. To me, that’s the way it should be. You can’t qualify without a driver and you can’t qualify without a racecar, so I guess it’s about 50-50. You’re limited with what you can adjust on the car. Those things might be able to make the car qualify good and race good and they may not. I think we can approach it the same way we always have.”

COMMENT ON AERODYNAMIC CHANGES FOR 2005 “It’s actually a pretty big change for us this year because the new Dodge nose is a cross between a truck and a car nose. That’s a big change from what we used to have. With all the templates we have, there’s still a good bit of room for change and the change is in the nose itself. That nose is a distinct change from last year. We don’t have the same rules to compare apples to apples, but we can go back and try to figure out how close it actually is. If you look at how the templates have changed in the last two years, I think right now you have a lot more templates on the car and a lot less room to make changes. Go back to 1998 and it was pretty easy to make body location changes and things like that. Now you’re locked into a lot of things.”

DO THE OVERALL CHANGES HELP THE DODGE TEAMS? “The Dodge teams have more changes to adjust to, but I think the ultimate thing was when NASCAR took an inch off the rear spoiler they took the rear downforce off the car and total downforce at the same time. If you look at it three weeks from now, I don’t think it’ll make that big a difference, but there’s still plenty of room for our teams to adjust. I think you’ll see the strong teams still be the top teams and be in the top 10s this year.”

WILL CARS BE ABLE TO RACE SIDE BY SIDE? “Let me give you a general rule of thumb. If cars had no downforce on ‘em, then they could race side by side with no problem because they’re not affected by the downforce. The less downforce the cars have the more they’re capable of doing that. The car creating 5,000 pounds of downforce racing side by side is going to have more effect with one car next to the other. NASCAR has the numbers from the mid 80s when stock cars where cars were making less downforce in front and the front tires wouldn’t grip as well. When they got in the draft, they actually made downforce because they wouldn’t lift and that’s why you could race better. That’s why you used to see races at Pocono where they were lined up single file all the way down the straightaway. I think in the long run if we could have cars that were creating zero downforce in clean air you’d see a lot better racing.”

COMMENT ON LAST SEASON “We didn’t have good consistency last year, and we didn’t have great performance. Those two kind of go hand in hand. Overall we struggled through the first two thirds of last year and the last 10 races we had the dominant racecar without dominant finishes. We led the most laps in the last 10 races and that kinda opened our eyes for 2005, but 2005 starts off different and we have different things to adjust to. We’ll just have to go from there.”

COMMENT ON RACING AT DAYTONA “I think it’s definitely a handling racetrack and a speed racetrack. It’s difficult to go fast here and handle at the same time. We’ll see what happens. I think we’ve learned a lot in the past three years and we’ll have to see if we can put that learning to use.”

WHAT DO YOU NEED TO DO TO MAKE THE NEXT STEP? “We struggled a lot last year. We had a lot of DNFs. Some of them were our fault and some of them were not our fault. If we can end the season with zero DNFs, we’ll have a heck of a lot better shot at the championship and the top 10. There are so many variables. Pit stops have grown to be so important. Pit stops are going to be more critical than they have been in the past this season. So many things come into play to make victory lane happen, let alone making the championship happen. I don’t think I have to adjust my personal style. It’s just everybody on the team working together and communicating well and having the performance there.”

COMMENT ON NEW TIRES “I think it puts more pressure on the crew and the crew chiefs. I’m going to be out there driving the racecar and going as fast as I can, but I have to compete against the competition. If they’re going faster than me, and I have a car capable of going faster, then I have to go fast enough not to get lapped. I don’t think you’re going to see a tire that’s way softer and you’re going to have to come in and pit before we need fuel. I will say I’m not a big fan of softer tires. The technology is out there to create a tire that will last 500 miles in these racecars, and we should be doing that. Goodyear has got a good strategy as far as selling more tires, but as from the safety perspective in the long run I think a tire that will last long will be better. We’d still have to come in and put fuel in the car. I don’t think it would take the pit crew out of it. They’d still have an important function. I don’t see a necessary need to have softer tires to make the racing better. I don’t think it does make the racing better. I think we just go through more tires.”

COMMENT ON THE CHASE “I still think the point system isn’t fair to the competitors. It might be a good marketing strategy in the long run to create more following for NASCAR. NASCAR is eliminating competition going into the last 10 races. If I had been 11th last year instead of 10th, I would have been a pretty upset fellow. If I had missed it by one point or whatever. As I said last year at this time, it’s the same for everybody. We have adjusted to it, but my final answer is I don’t think it’s a perfect points system.”

COMMENT ON PROGRESS OF THE CHARGER “You can get the balance back pretty easy, but you don’t want to give up speed to do it. You don’t want to give up downforce, you don’t want to give up certain things that give you a big advantage speed wise. You can make a balanced racecar out of the package, but it’s a matter of who does it the best with the most speed. I think we’ve learned a lot about it, maybe 70 percent of what we need to learn about it. I think the other 30 percent is how it’s going to work in race conditions, and no one knows that yet. We’ll have to see how it works.”

IF YOU COULD CHANGE THE LENGTH OF ANY RACE ON THE CIRCUIT, WHICH ONE WOULD YOU CHANGE? “I don’t think Martinsville should be 500 laps. I think you’ve got it sorted out after about 250. We’ve seen tracks like Atlanta and Charlotte have great races from lap one until the last lap. It could be a thousand-mile race. It just all depends.”

DID YOU GET TRUE TESTS AT LAS VEGAS AND CALIFORNIA BECAUSE OF THE WIND? “It was really windy at California, and it was windy for the most part at Las Vegas. Everybody had to work with that, and I felt that we were a top five car at the end of both tests. It has the potential to be a great car. Whoever works with it the best, particularly with the new aero rules, is going to be the best for the first part of the season.”

COMMENT ON YOUR CREW CHIEF AT LAS VEGAS “He was stressed out about me playing cards and him not. There have been times when he’s out playing cards and I’m out doing appearances. It all works out. It’s cool to have a great relationship with a crew chief. Matt and I have had that the past four years. I think he is the best in the business. He’s low key at times, and he’s high key at others when he needs to be, and I think that’s what makes a great crew chief. There are times he settles me down and there are times I settled him down. When you get along with somebody you can do that pretty easily.”

WHAT’S YOUR APPROACH TO SPEEDWEEKS THIS SEASON? “We’re here to win. We’re still focused on doing that, but the ultimate goal is to get out of here in one piece. That’s been a challenge at times.”

COMMENT ON RACING IN BUDWEISER SHOOTOUT “We’re going to go at it and have fun. We’re going to be in the race to win. We’re not going to take any stuff off anyone. I know it’s a pretty tough race, and it’s going to be a pretty cool night, so I think the cars are going to stick well. It’s going to be all about speed.”

YOU’VE WON THE MOST POLES ON THE CIRCUIT THE PAST THREE SEASONS, SO YOU SHOULD WIN THE RACE. “Well, it’s not a one-lap race. We’ll have to see. We’ve never got a pole on restrictor-plate tracks. Maybe if they held it somewhere else other than here or Talladega we’d be the favorite.”

KASEY KAHNE (No. 9 Dodge Dealers/UAW Dodge Charger)

WHAT’S YOUR STRATEGY FOR THE BUDWEISER SHOOTOUT? “We’re going to go for it. Our Dodge Charger is going to be better. I’m looking forward to it. I think we have a great car that will be good in the Shootout and the 150s and the 500. It’s going to be a fun week. I’m real excited to be back at Daytona. I’m ready to go. We’re going to do whatever it takes to get to the front in the Shootout. We’ll be running our 500 backup car in the Shootout. We’ll definitely do whatever we need to to get to the front.”

YOU HAD THREE MAJOR PRESEASON TESTS AT DAYTONA, LAS VEGAS AND CALIFORNIA. ARE YOU SATISFIED WITH THE PROGRESS? “We thought Daytona was by far better than what we had last year, so we’re excited about that. I guess we were up and down at the Las Vegas test, and at California we were down most of the time. It got a little better the final three hours of the final day, so that was a bonus. It’s been difficult to figure out the new Goodyear tire and to also figure out our new Dodge Charger.”

TALK ABOUT WHAT SAMMY JOHNS HAS MEANT TO YOUR TEAM “Sammy is real aggressive at what he needs to do and to get information from both teams from Bill’s team, just to trade information and to get the groups together and work hard to figure out what’s going on. He does a real good job at what he does, and he’s also a real good guy to be with. I enjoy Sammy doing the position he runs there.”

BILL ELLIOTT SAYS YOU RUN FLAT OUT ALL THE TIME. WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT THAT? “He’s probably right. I always try to go as fast as I can whether the car is loose or tight or whatever. You try to drive it as hard as it will go. It catches up with you once in a while, but you go fast a lot, too. Hopefully I’ll be able to hang on to it and have a lot of good races doing that.”

WHAT WAS YOUR BIGGEST LEARNING EXPERIENCE FROM LAST SEASON? “I think I learned the most in practices. When you’re practicing you need to relay the right information to the crew chief and engineer when they’re looking at their data to get a good setup for Sunday because you can only do so much to a car in six or seven pit stops on Sunday. The better you start the race the better your day is going to go.”

WHAT WERE THE BIGGEST CHANGES YOU MADE OVER THE WINTER? “The new Dodge Charger is going to be a great racecar for us. That will be a good change. We stuck with the main group we had last year. We’ve got a great crew chief. Tommy Baldwin and I really get along well. We work together well, and the engineers are great, too. Ray (Evernham) made some changes around the shop area that will benefit all the teams. I think a lot of it is mainly the people we brought in and the team sticking together.”

TALK ABOUT YOUR RELATIONSHIP WITH TOMMY BALDWIN “I think our personalities and just what we want to do have clicked. Tommy is a real smart guy. It’s easy for me to pry into him and get information from him and be able to work with him. He will go after what he wants. I like that in someone and Tommy feels the same way about me with my driving. I’ll do whatever it takes to get up as close to the front as I can. Our personalities go well together.”

COMMENT ON NEW QUALIFYING PROCEDURES “It’s kinda like wait and see, but we made one run at California similar to what you can do to the car. There’s a few more things you can do before qualifying and change back. It wasn’t too bad. You’re not going to be able to run that lap with the nose weight and be able to get the car down like you want to. You’re going to have to be careful with the tire and valance. There are things you’re going to have to think about, but we’ll still be able to go for poles.”

DO YOU HAVE A SHOT AT THE DAYTONA 500 POLE? “I don’t know. I don’t imagine we do. The guys pull together and always seem to get a little more out of the car than when we tested. Hopefully we’ll get in the top 15 or so, but I’m looking forward to the race. I’m looking forward to drafting and the new Charger is going to be a good, fun car to run all 500 miles in and be there at the end.”

HOW WILL YOUR SOPHOMORE SEASON BE FOR YOU PERSONALLY? “I’ll just know more about what this week is about, what happens through the week. What happens throughout the week and the races that lead up to it. All the craziness of the week is exciting. It’s a fun week of racing. It’s a good time, and I’ll have a lot more experience and be more prepared for this weekend.”

HAS THE CHARGER BEEN QUICKER THAN YOU INITIALLY THOUGHT? “I think it was quicker at Daytona than I thought it would be. We’ve been testing since before last season was over, so that helped a lot. We’re definitely ready. We’re excited for the season to start. Everybody had to change with the spoiler change, so we’re definitely ready. That’s not going to put any team ahead of another. We should be ready when the season starts. We’re testing Monday at Lakeland, Fla. We’ll do a short track test to get ready, and we won’t have to come back down here later in the season.”

ARE YOU READY FOR SPEEDWEEKS? “I’m ready. I’m excited to get back in a racecar. That’s the only reason I know. You’re jumping at it. You want to get in and get back to racing.”

IS THERE ANY EXTRA MOTIVATION BECAUSE YOU DIDN’T DO WELL HERE LAST YEAR? “It’s the Daytona 500. There’s a lot of motivation and excitement. You want to race good. Everybody wants to win the Daytona 500. It’s an awesome week. Last year’s race didn’t go well at all, so we need to make up for that, have a good one and get to California.”

WHAT’S THE FIRST DAYTONA 500 YOU REMEMBER WATCHING? “The biggest one I remember is watching Dale Earnhardt win his first one. For a lot of people that was probably the biggest. I remember Derrike Cope winning when Earnhardt had a flat tire. That was a long time ago.”

ARE THE FANS DIFFERENT AT DAYTONA? “There are a lot of fans here. So many people are here over the week and a half time period. It’s crazy how many people you run into. You can go anywhere and run into race fans. People come from all over the United States to this race. Everybody wants to get rolling. You’ve had three months off and everybody is jumping at it to watch a race.”

HAVE YOU HAD ANY STRANGE EXPERIENCES WITH FANS? “The fans will run up on you at places you don’t expect them. It’s tough to get to the trailer anymore. Fans will jump the fences at night and come knocking at your door. I actually let a couple in one time. I was watching the Final Four and these guys came up and were into it. I have no clue why I let ‘em in. We watched the game and then they took off. It was pretty cool, but fans will do anything.”

 

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