YOUR THOUGHTS ON MAKING THE CHASE AS THE NO. 4 SEED? “If you take tonight out of the equation, tonight was a disaster, but I feel like we have been pretty good lately. If you look at the three weeks before that we have been qualifying really well and running up front and running up in the top-five most of the day. We didn’t finish all those races up there but they are three different tracks and I felt like we had a top three or four car at all three tracks. I knew we needed to do a little better than that but I feel good going to Chicago and it has been a good track for us in the past and hopefully we can start off on the right foot.”
THERE WAS A LOT OF STUFF THAT WENT ON TONIGHT BUT YOU ARE PROBABLY THE ONLY GUY THAT CHANGED A TACHOMETER IN THE CAR. HAVE YOU EVER HAD TO DO THAT BEFORE? “No, and I felt kinda dumb because I said I should pay more attention at the shop. It was actually kind of fun. That was the highlight of my night, to be able to change that. It was a rough night. It was a rough weekend for us, right from the first lap on the track yesterday, we were just awful. The best lap we had all weekend was our qualifying lap really and that was 25th. We really struggled I don’t really know why. But we were way off all weekend, and then I caused that wreck which I feel real dumb about and feel bad for I guess the 27 got wrecked in that and I spun out the 78 so I had a problem locking up the left front and I haven’t had that here for years. I have no idea why it happened or how it happened, but I locked the left front up and missed the corner down there and wiped out the 78 and the 27, as well. I feel bad about that, besides running bad.
YOU MIGHT HAVE JUST ANSWERED THAT, BUT I WAS GOING TO ASK YOU HOW BADLY YOUR CAR WAS MESSED UP WHEN YOU GOT RUN OVER IN THAT FIRST ACCIDENT DOWN IN 3 AND 4. “It was more messed up than I thought. That first accident, I don’t really know what happened and they called a caution real late or whatever because some people were stopping and some were running wide. I don’t know how that works as far as here’s a caution , I don’t know how that works. I actually heard it kind of late and I actually ran into the back of I think it was the 78, but not very hard, and I was stopped and it was a few seconds and I don’t know who it was but somebody just drilled me, and it messed the right rear quarter panel real bad, and I think Richmond is a short track but we’re still doing 140 miles an hour, and pretty much lost all our side force back there, so I think that was part of our handling issue all night. That definitely didn’t help us.”
BEFORE TONIGHT, YOU’D RUN FIFTH, SIXTEENTH, FOURTEENTH, TENTH, SIXTH AND NINTH. IF YOU LOOK AT GOING INTO THE CHASE, DO YOU FEEL LIKE THOSE RESULTS ARE ENOUGH OR COULD BE ENOUGH? “No, that’s not good enough to win a championship. I feel like if you take out tonight, and I think back three weeks and it’s amazing I can remember three weeks ago. But most tracks I felt like our performance was good enough to be a contender. Our finishes weren’t but I thought our performance was pretty good. We qualified good, maybe led a few laps here and there, ran toward the front but just didn’t finish the races off. We didn’t get the finishes where we ran. You’ve got to do better than that. I think one thing our team used to be really, really good at it, it seems like we always over achieve. Part of that is because we didn’t qualify well but it seemed like where we ran the last lap of the race was generally the highest we ran. That’s always important when you’re having a bad day and you’ve got a 16th place car and you figure out how to finish 11th with it or you have one of the dominant cars you need to figure out how to win with it. I think those results aren’t good enough to win a championship but I feel like our performance in some of those races and how fast our cars were and the speed in our cars and the pit stops and stuff, I feel like that’s good enough. I feel like we have everything, but we’ve got to get the finishes and we’ve got to do the right things every week.”
“For some reason, I’m not sure why, last week was a little bit better, but my restarts have not been very good, and if you get a short run toward the end, especially at some of these slick racetracks it’s very important. There’s a lot more going on in the restarts. Seems like the third place guy starts hanging back and gets the first place guy three wide early. There’s a lot going on in the restarts that make it difficult as the weeks go on, especially when you’re running second and starting in the front row it seems like. That needed to get better. Just keeping up on the racetrack, my information I give Jimmy and adjustments we make to make sure we have the car right at the end of the race with our best set of tires on the car and our best adjustments and having the car right for the end of the race, I think those are the biggest things here if I take tonight out of it is our restarts were hurting us a little bit and our car adjustments, having the best tires on at the end of the race with all the adjustments and having the car handling the best that we can make it handle for that last run.”
CAN YOU EXPLAIN TRADING OUT THE TACHOMETER AND WHAT WAS INVOLVED IN THAT AND HOW DIFFICULT IT WAS FOR YOU TO DO THAT DURING THE CAUTION? “It wasn’t really that hard. We have it right on our steering column and they’re electric now so it’s just a plug that goes in the back and there’s just a nut on the back of it. I was kind of surprised I got it done but I got my gloves off under that caution and as clumsy as I was tonight, glad I didn’t hit anything when I was looking down on it and got it changed. The bad thing about not having a tach is pit road speed. You have no idea what pit road speed is unless you’re following someone else. You’re always going to err to the slow side, so I was concerned when we went out that early we wanted to try to get it fixed.”
YOU’RE MAKING FUN OF ALL THIS STUFF, BUT ACTUALLY WE’VE SEEN KURT AND WE SAW TONY AND WE KNOW JIMMIE, AND HALF THE RIVALS THAT YOU HAVE IN THIS CHAMPIONSHIP HAVE HAD PROBLEMS RIGHT NOW. I DON’T KNOW HOW TO DESCRIBE IT, BUT THEY’RE NOT ON THEIR HEAD GAME RIGHT NOW, AND YOU’RE LOOSE AND COOL AND ALL THAT. DOES THAT GIVE YOU SOME KIND OF PSYCHOLOGICAL ADVANTAGE? IN THIS GAME, WHAT’S UPSTAIRS IS PROBABLY MORE THAN WHAT’S IN YOUR HANDS IN THE STEERING WHEEL HALF THE TIME. “I don’t know about that. I mean, the start of it all is having fast race cars. If we can show up at the racetrack and our cars can be fast when we get them on the racetrack, that’s the start. If you don’t have that, you’re not going to have a chance. I don’t care how good your pit stops are, I don’t care how smart you are, what kind of good moves you make, how you call the race. If your car is slow, you’re not going to have a good day unless it’s a fluke and you’re the one that can make it on fuel and you’re shutting engines off and running half throttle and don’t have to pit an extra time. But other than that, you just don’t have a chance. So I think that you have to have fast race cars and then just do the best you can and not worry about that stuff. I don’t think there’s any kind of advantage, but I will tell you, it’s nice to not be in any of that stuff. I love watching it. It’s great, great entertainment, seeing what’s all going on. Everybody likes conflict, I guess, to a point. Most people don’t like to be a part of it, but it’s fun to watch. It always makes you feel bad when, like tonight causing that wreck, I feel terrible about that. You know, some of these guys up here had their problems with each other. Certainly you never know what’s going to happen down the stretch, but I like not being involved in it when I can be.”
THERE’S BEEN NO TEST YET OF THIS NEW POINTS SYSTEM. HAVE YOU EVEN TRIED TO FIGURE OUT WITH THIS POINTS SYSTEM WHETHER THE CHASE WOULD BE ANY DIFFERENT? DO YOU HAVE ANY FEEL OF WHAT MIGHT IMPACT THINGS MORE WITH THIS POINTS SYSTEM THAN IN THE PAST? “Well, there’s a couple things that I think of there. The guy who finishes the highest every week still gets the most points. The strategy and all that stuff is the same. It pays the most to win and lead the most laps, and second most for second and so on. You’re still going to want to finish as high as you can. But the couple things I guess that come to mind are if you have a bad day and you get four points one day, I think that’s going to be pretty tough to come back from unless you can get on a roll and win three or four races. The other thing I remember, I honestly don’t pay that close of attention to the points because as long as you finish as high as you can every week there’s nothing you can do about it. But I did notice a few times this year there’s been ties and I don’t know why but I keep thinking there could be a tie for the championship or for third or fifth or whatever and I’m not sure how that’s going to work, but certainly with this low number of points, it seems like that’s pretty possible.
JEFF GORDON WAS IN HERE A MINUTE AGO AND HE SORT OF HINTED OR INFERRED OR SUGGESTED THAT MAYBE THERE WAS SOME TEAMWORK INVOLVED WITH THE LAST CAUTION, THAT MENARD WHO WAS 81 LAPS DOWN CAUSED THE CAUTION TO GIVE HARVICK A SHOT. YOU’VE GOT TEAMMATES. IS THAT SOMETHING WE SHOULD BE CONCERNED ABOUT, OR IS GORDON JUST VENTING? “Well, I didn’t see any of it, so I don’t really have any idea. I was kind of confused because wasn’t Harvick leading before the caution? I don’t know, I was so far behind, they were passing so fast, I was working hard to stay out of the way, so I can’t really comment on that one. They all stay locked in their motor coaches. There’s no talk. No, there’s really not. I don’t know of any time where anything has happened. Maybe it has, but I’ve never really noticed or paid much attention to that or really thought about it.”