This morning after the NMPA Myers Brothers Luncheon all 12 Chase Drivers had a media availability. I didn’t have a chance to make around the entire room and talk to everyone… but here are some of the quotes: for the record I did not ask all of these questions… there was a gaggle gathered around each driver. I grabbed a few pics as well
Question: Other team owner has said it takes about 6 months to find a rhythm with a new crew chief… any prediction on how long it will take you to find that?
Harvick: “I expect to go to Daytona and have a chance to win… that’s my expectation. I worked with Shane before in 2006 and 2007 and he’s been at the shop – so it’s not like we are brining in someone that was totally out of our system it might take a while – but for us I expect to have results right off the bat. We didn’t do this to waste six months.”
Question: Did the deal with Gil Martin just run its course?
Harvick: “I went in and asked the question, do we need to do something different. Gil has been a great leader for our team but it was time to evaluate. We had two good seasons but in the end we want to win a Championship –so it was time to evaluate. We are looking at everyone on the team and seeing who’s doing good and who’s doing bad. I don’t think anyone was doing a bad job, but we want to win a Championship. It wasn’t all about the #29, it was about RCR and what we need to do to make all three teams better as an organization. That makes my team better, Jeff’s team better and Paul’s team better – and we all need to pull together – what do we need to do (as a team) to take that next step. We also brought in Drew from Roush – they had a lot of speed in their cars and it brining kind of an outside thought process in can open up a lot of minds and new directions. It wasn’t that Gill did anything wrong or we had a fight – this is what we think is going to take in a direction to get better. This is the first big decision we have all made together.”
On xmas as a father. “I definitely look at a lot different now and I think that’s what makes me and my wife such a good combination for parents. She wants to see all the excitement that Christmas brings and I sit there wanting to make sure they (the kids) don’t get too spoiled and that they understand the meaning of Christmas…. That it is more than ‘I want that’ and it seems that what it (Christmas) has become. My son is getting old enough to get more of an understanding but at this point my daughter only seems to know “Elf on the Shelf” – we have used the heck out that Elf on the Shelf for parenting.
On his Best moment of 2011 – the 85th win in Atlanta and his Worst moment…. Gordon said, “Toss up between the Brickyard and New Hampshire. New Hampshire was in the Chase and it was important for us to get that win and I think by not getting that win it shifted some momentum for us in the Chase. But at the Brickyard we were so awesome, so fast and to not win it was a big disappointment.”
Question: Where is the 85th win poster hanging – at home or in the shop?
Gordon: “It’s in my office. Most of my trophies are at the office…. I haven’t had trophies at home for years because I was homeless for a while. But when we built the new house we put in a trophy case and I have the four Championship Trophies, three Daytona 500 trophies and four Brickyard 400 trophies, two Goodyear trophies and some helmets from over the years that are significant to me…..but everything else is at the shop in my Office.
Jimmie Johnson –
Question: What the #1 thing you need to do to get back on top next year?
Johnson: “I think we worked hard last year to get speed in our cars and on work on our pit stops – and we got that in time for the Chase – we had the speed in both areas and then we had some mistakes – I made some mistakes, we had some wrecks. We made our mistakes in The Chase and took ourselves out of it. Next we have Kenny Francis coming in with some new ideas and I feel that in ’11 we made our race team stronger – so we have the tools to win another Championship.
Question: With all the crew chiefs moving around, can you talk about your long relationship with Chad – what the length of that relationship means to you?
Johnson: “It hasn’t always been rosy for the ten years we’ve been together – but one thing we have always promised each other is that we will always be 100% honest with each other. I mean he says things that piss me off and I am sure I do the same thing to him but through all of that have developed a great relationship that’s built on the right things. We have been through some tough times but we never decided to bail on each other. At the end of the day, I am a loyal person, I am not going to give up on him and I know he’s not going to give up on me.”
Hot Carl Edwards
Question: Looking back to the time this season when your future contract was still up in the air – was it as distracting as some in the media suggested?
Edwards: “I wasn’t distracted – We were actually running really well at that time but it did take a lot of my time….it was a lot of work but it did show me that I can compartmentalize things and maybe almost help me with the racing because once got to the track I was so excited to get in the race car and not have to think about that (contact talks.) The odd thing is that it doesn’t even feel like that happened this year… it seems long ago… once it was done, it was done and I didn’t have to think about it. I was glad to have that out of the way.”
Question: Do you consider yourself the favorite to win the Chase next year?
Edwards: “Of course.”
Question: You finished 5th this year, what do you have to do in 2012 to improve?
Brad: “There certainly is a long list, and I know what is on the list, but I’m not sharing.”
There was also a funny exchange between NMPA President Rea White and Brad. Her name is pronounced “reee” but Brad pronounced it “ree-ah.” He apologized; they laughed and exchanged stories about people miss-pronouncing their names. Neither Brad or Rea correct people when they get it wrong.
Question: What do you do better than Kurt and what does Kurt do better than you?
Kyle Busch: “I don’t think we both do anything very well, you know what… we both have a lot of work to do.
Question: Have you been testing and do you have plans to test the TRD engines over the off-season?
Kyle Busch: “I have not been testing. We ran it at Homestead and things felt good on it…not too much different than what we had at Joe Gibbs Racing. It’s certainly a change, hopefully for the better. Some guys are doing some testing, I think Logano mostly over the next couple of weeks.
I asked Andy to expand on a point he made in his speech when he accepted the Sunoco Rookie of the Year Award. He was the only guy in the hunt for that award this year… but he said that put even more pressure on him… he wanted people (other drivers) to think he earned it and didn’t win it because he was the only guy eligible.
Lally: “It was a really tough year in regard to the Rookie Chase because there really wasn’t a rookie chase. I would have much preferred another three or four guys to race against and go through that experience with. With the recent lack of rookies coming forward there’s obvious criticism coming from everywhere and I read it all. I listen to it all but it doesn’t really affect me. I register it in my brain and put it in the back of my mind but it still sits there a little bit. But I wanted to figure out how I could make an impression on these people (other drivers) and that’s a tricky thing when there’s a lot of criticism coming from everywhere like: ‘where did this guy come from’ or ‘this guy doesn’t deserve to be here’….stuff like that. Everybody out there needs to know that I worked my ass off to get here and it was not through the traditional ladder that NASCAR drivers typically arrive from but I have had a long career and I’ve paid my dues to get to this point. I would have loved a better performance and to get more Top-Tens but it was still an amazingly magical and frustrating year to battle with these guys that have been here for years and that I have the utmost respect for.
Question: My friends that like NASCAR hate road racing and my friends that like road racing hate NASCAR….. What’s up with that?
Lally: You can find this cross-section of people in all aspect of life. All it is… the people that hate on the other side… its ignorance. They haven’t taken the time to see what it really takes to run in the front of either one of those series. It is just like any other sport… a football player doesn’t respect a guy that stands at a plate and swings a stick at a ball. When it comes down to it, we are all trying to do our best at our own particular job and they guys that make it to the top of any of those sports are amazing athletes and you have to be open minded to have an appreciation for all types of talent. There are fans of both that can sorta cross-pollinate each other… and can appreciate the aspects of what each other do. Having done both… even before I did both I just knew the guys out front are extremely talented.