NASCAR Media Conference
March 26, 2002
ROBERT GOODMAN: Good morning, everyone. Welcome to the off-week NASCAR Winston Cup teleconference. Our guests today are Ken Schrader and Newt Moore, the driver and crew chief of the No. 36 M&Ms Pontiac Grand Prix. Just a couple of very brief notes before we get started. The NASCAR Winston Cup points standing, still see Sterling Marlin atop the standings with a 99-point lead over Matt Kenseth, third place is Rusty Wallace, followed by Jimmie Johnson, and this past weekend's dinner Kurt Busch. Kurt trails the points leader by 137 points in fifth place. This is an off week on the NASCAR Winston Cup circuit. Next weekend we will go to Fort Worth, Texas for the Samsung Radio Shack 500 at Texas Motor Speedway where Dale Jarrett is the defending champion. Our first guest today is Ken Schrader, native of Fenton, Missouri, currently lives in Concord, North Carolina. Kenny, this is an off week, but as we discussed a little while ago, you're not going to be off, are you?
KEN SCHRADER: Well, obviously, I could be if I wanted to. But I want to go play somewhere, so we're going to Joplin, Missouri, and run Friday night. It's a world of outlaw show. They run modifieds in companion with us. We're going to run a little modified. World of outlaws come to us in Missouri Saturday night. We're going to go there and run the modified there, be nervous, count people, hope we have enough people to pay the purse.
ROBERT GOODMAN: Change your hat a little bit.
KEN SCHRADER: Yes.
ROBERT GOODMAN: If you look at this NASCAR Winston Cup season, just barely started, but you guys are 32nd in points, but you have run so much better than that. Are you feeling actually pretty good about things?
KEN SCHRADER: Well, I mean, like you say, we're feeling absolutely terrible about 32nd in points. But the way the car's run, I've been very happy with it. The worst we have run was last week at Bristol, and other than that it's been decent everywhere. Atlanta, we were a little bit weak in Atlanta. But other than that, it's been real good. So we're still 32nd, so that's what we've got to dig out of.
ROBERT GOODMAN: Questions.
Q. You were mentioning the racetrack in Missouri. Do you get a better appreciation as someone who promotes races than you did before that as a driver?
KEN SCHRADER: Well, maybe from when I first started. But since I've been Winston Cup racing, I've run so many tracks and have become good friends with a bunch of promoters. I didn't go into the deal at St. Louis really thinking it was going to be a piece of cake. I pretty much knew what we were up against. It's been a struggle. Now, this is the start of our seventh year. The first two years were a little bit grim, and then it's just continued to really grow pretty quick since then. Kind of expected what I was going to be up against going in. But I really have enjoyed it.
Q. When you look at promoting a racetrack in this day and time, economics, I was listening to a tape the other day talking about racing, like a lot of sports, in some ways has forgotten the fan. Is it tough sometimes when you're looking at paving the parking lot, trying to do something for the fans, realizing how many thousands of dollars it's going to cost you?
KEN SCHRADER: Well, you know, that's what we think has been -- what's been really helping us at our little track there, we've been paving parking lots. We paved all the walkways in front of the grandstands. We've worked on the restrooms. Just a bunch of stuff for the fan comfort. I mean, it does, it costs a fortune. But every time we do something -- we've had good racing since we started the track, but every time we do something that's a little more fan-friendly, we really get the compliments on that. That's what we think has been our biggest gain.
Q. Local racers are a different breed than guys in national series. It seems like they can find every little thing in the world to gripe about. How hard is it to be the promoter, how hard is it to separate yourself from being a racer? What do you tell your local management in listening to the racers?
KEN SCHRADER: I don't see where the local racers are any different than the people inside the Winston Cup garage. They all came from there, have wound up in the Cup shop. You think there's not a lot of complaining going on in there, you should spend a little more time (laughter). I just don't really see where it's any different. If we're not winning every race, we're complaining. That stays the same throughout your career.
Q. Are you a firm believer in turnabout is fair play?
KEN SCHRADER: As far as things that happen on the racetrack?
KEN SCHRADER: I think everyone pretty much tends to keep a little bit of score and remember things. If somebody has been, you know, a little rough with you before, I think you tend to remember that, yes.
Q. Let's talk a little bit about Texas, if you don't mind. When that first opened up, there were a lot of people who were doing, as you had said in response to a previous question, making some pointed suggestions toward improvement of the place.
KEN SCHRADER: It was a lot better last year. Now they repaved it again. Usually you don't repave stuff because everything is wonderful. Usually there's a problem, and that causes to you repave it. I think you'll see most of us don't prefer new pavement because the new pavement tends to be pretty much one groove and kind of a follow-the-leader racing till the pavement gets some time on it and enough races that it gives up a little bit of traction so you can move around on the racetrack a little more. Like Atlanta when they first paved it, it was flat-out right around the bottom, and now you see excellent racing there, using all the racetrack. I think as far as the quality of the show, it might not be as good this year as it was last year, but it will just take a while and it will get back.
Q. You guys like the kind of seasoned, well-seasoned pavement. What about these new Goodyear tire on that well-seasoned pavement? How do you think they're going to do on those tracks that have been well-seasoned compared to a place like Texas, freshly sealed and repaved?
KEN SCHRADER: You know, we just came off the concrete at Bristol. They did excellent at Darlington and Rockingham, which is two of the places where the tires slow up, but they never give up. You can just keep running them. I mean, Goodyear brings a good tire for us every place. I mean, I think they're doing excellent, especially at the tracks that are more seasoned.
Q. Can you compare this year's rookie crop with the guys you have run against in the past?
KEN SCHRADER: Well, I don't know about comparing against guys in the past. But, boy, we got a strong -- some strong ones this year. I mean, Jimmie Johnson and Ryan Newman are both just doing excellent. Didn't really know what to expect out of Jimmie. In his Busch deal, he was good, but he didn't excel in the Busch Series. Tony Stewart didn't excel in the Busch Series. As soon as he got in the Cup car, he took off. Ryan Newman has been fast in everything he's ever driven. Knew he'd be solid coming in. Both with excellent teams. I mean, I really just enjoy watching them and racing with them.
Q. Are you surprised how quickly they have excelled?
KEN SCHRADER: No, not really, because when you come into Winston Cup now, someone like that, you're a rookie in name only. Jimmie had run the Busch Series a bunch. Ryan had a lot of laps on him, pretty extensive program with Penske and Busch racing. Even though you're "a rookie," they still have that experience now that maybe a lot of us didn't have when we came in years ago.
Q. The first six races have been an odd season. You see Dodge dominating. Chevy is struggling. Some named drivers are struggling, they're not as high in the standings as you think they would be. How do you analyze the season? How weird of a season do you think it has been so far?
KEN SCHRADER: I don't see where it's been any different than any other year. Someone always comes out of the box really strong. I mean, no reason to think that Sterling and Ganassi team wouldn't be good right off the bat. I just don't see where it really has been that much different than years past.
Q. You mentioned earlier you're in 32nd. Can you pinpoint a little more about what the struggles have been for your team?
KEN SCHRADER: Well, Daytona, one of our champions and super heroes run into one another and took out a bunch of us. At Rockingham, we qualified second, wasn't that good, but going to finish somewhere 10th to 12th, lost an engine with 15 laps to go. At Vegas, we run in Top 10, got run into, cut a left rear tire, pitted in the green. Darlington, big wreck, 11 of us. Then Atlanta and -- Atlanta, I pitted out of the box. Bristol, we were off. It was our first run. We finished 22nd. We had a stud fall out of the left rear hub which we had to get back in. Boys did a good job, but started us at the end of the longest line, and that's when we had our longest green flag run, got a lap down there.
Q. You're due for some good luck in Texas?
KEN SCHRADER: Nobody is ever due for good luck. Sometimes you bring the luck on yourself. We don't need good luck to do good. We'll just take the absence of bad luck.
Q. You talked about the rookies and how well they've done. To your defense, Rusty's defense, you didn't start out with a Hendrick and Penske in your early years. Can you talk about what kind of difference it makes for those guys to come onto such well-established and top-running organizations?
KEN SCHRADER: Well, it shortens your learning curve immensely when you already have the equipment. Before I went Winston Cup racing, I tested at Daytona. I hadn't been to those places. We used to go to Martinsville and qualify on Thursday, then Junie and the boys would go home. "We're not going to practice?" "You get 500 laps." You know, when you have those resources available to you, it helps a ton.
Q. Would your recommendation or advice to a young guy who is at that Ryan Newman level, he is just so talented, so well-seasoned coming in, as you said, but is it just so much better to come in with a team like that rather than sitting there and struggling like Andy Houston did, not having the best perhaps equipment given to him, that he could show what he's all about?
KEN SCHRADER: You don't get to pick the team you come in with. You know, hopefully you just have the opportunity. I mean, this goes back to your regular Saturday night track. You're just wanting to drive. You just try to pick the best stuff that's offered to you and available to you. But, you know, it's not like you get to stand up there and just pick which team you're going to drive for. Whatever you have, you make the best of it.
Q. Wanted to ask you about the little fireworks with Kevin Harvick post race with Dale Earnhardt, Jr., And Robby Gordon. You guys seemed kind of disappointed. Where is there a line drawn? Is there one drawn for a driver? You don't seem like a guy that loses your temper too often.
KEN SCHRADER: A line drawn as far as what NASCAR does? I think we have NASCAR's view. Do you think the punishment was correct? Where do you think there is a line where it may be too much or where it's okay when drivers battle after the fact? Well, I don't -- we just can't be doing it, period. The pit road stuff, especially the Cup race, I mean, we got a lot of people on pit road, especially after racing. When you're crashing cars on pit road, it's easy enough to get hurt in this sport anyway as a crew member, running across there with the cars coming down pit road. But after the race, to get hit by a car or something like that for something that's up called for, I mean, that needs to be addressed, like NASCAR did. The deal with Harvick Saturday, it was kind of exciting. We just kind of blew it off. You know, it's so loud there, it's hard to talk to somebody. He wanted to get up real close to him to make sure he heard what he said. There weren't any punches thrown or anything. It could have got real ugly real quick. NASCAR is going to take care of that however they see fit.
Q. Have you ever lost your temper? Has it been difficult for you to keep it contained? You seem to do it pretty well.
KEN SCHRADER: I try to. But, yes, I have lost it. I've been in the trailer. I think the most I ever had to spend was 10 grand. But I had my time in the trailer, too.
ROBERT GOODMAN: Thanks for your time this morning. We'll cut you loose, let you head out to Missouri for your weekend. We are now joined by Newt Moore, the crew chief for Ken Schrader's 36 M&M's Pontiac Grand Prix. Newt a native of Nashville, lives in Concord, North Carolina. This is his second season with Ken Schrader, but his first full season. He became crew chief on the 36 car for the first race at Atlanta last season, which was the fourth race of the 2001 NASCAR Winston Cup season. What are your plans for the off weekend? Are you going to be a bit more relaxed than your driver?
NEWT MOORE: Probably. He's going to get out, have some more fun, get to drive, which is more fun. We're probably going to play a little golf, party here and there on the lake, just try to relax a little bit, unwind, get ready for Texas.
ROBERT GOODMAN: We started with Kenny. You guys are 32nd in points. Have you run so much better than that. Are you frustrated with the finishes or are you looking at it positively, knowing you've run better than that?
NEWT MOORE: Well, we know we got speed in the car now. Kenny has done a great job driving. Our pit crew has stepped up. We've looked at all the areas to be better. It's showed. It's just our finishes. We've had three flat tires out of six races, had to pit on the green. You know, the deal at Daytona, we run so well there, had a flat, had to come back down pit road, lost track position. Rockingham, just go down the line with the problems. The cars have been fast. I think Bristol was probably not the best race we've had all year. I mean, we missed the setup a pretty good bit, was just there. Kind of also ran. We're not frustrated with the point situation because the points are going to come. We're just looking at trying to get Top 5s. That's our goal. Last year was Top 10, this year we feel we can try to get Top 5s. That's what our goals are. We're not really worried about the points, per se, right now. 32nd, 33rd, whatever that is, it's not terrible. So we're going to work. We know where we need to be.
ROBERT GOODMAN: Questions.
Q. Are you with him for all the races, all the different series, or just Cup?
NEWT MOORE: No, ma'am, I just do his Winston Cup deal. I'm going to probably go with him some and help here and there. We got enough going on. We're trying to make this deal a top rate thing. We're concentrating on that. He's got guys for his dirt deal, he's got guys for his Busch deal that handle that part of it. I don't want to interfere with it. They got their own program. No, I like the guy, we have fun together, but we spend a lot of that time together. We kind of split when that goes, you know.
Q. How many different kinds of cars does he run?
NEWT MOORE: He's got dirt cars, dirt models, trucks, probably got four or five different types. You go to his racetrack, he's going to run like an IMC modified type car. That's another dirt type of car. He's looking at six or seven different types of race cars he gets to play around with.
ROBERT GOODMAN: What about Texas? Ten days before we get down there. Your thoughts on that place.
NEWT MOORE: I'm looking at it being similar to Vegas. We're taking our Vegas car, doing some modifications to it. We were really fast at Vegas. Didn't qualify like we wanted to. Worked our way up into the Top 10, a hundred laps in, was running real good, got a flat tire again, talking about earlier. The track, it's going to be similar. It's smooth. It's going to be a one-lane deal. Vegas is probably a two-lane deal. Texas, looking forward to it. The type of car we ran should run good there. We're not going to go test. We tested California, Vegas, Daytona, we have some other tests coming up. Texas, looking forward to it. It's going to be smooth. The car we took there is very fast, so we're looking forward to be similar to Vegas.
Q. Do you buy into the Pontiac disadvantage from an aerodynamic standpoint? You guys are working on the 2003 model at this point. As far as what you have to contend with this year. Looks like it could be a struggle all the way around.
NEWT MOORE: The car, actually today we're changing our duct work around, our radiators, to get more down force in the front. Come up with something new, CNR radiator. I've seen all the wind tunnel notes like everybody has. I know the Dodges and Fords are almost a perfect race car. The car we have is an old race car. Newt Moore can't go into Mike and tell him We've got to kick that nose out. It's not going to do any good. We're basically taking what they're giving us. You're never going to have all the cars the same, it's never going to happen. It just happens to be Pontiac's third line. The Chevrolets are actually a little worse than we are, if you want to use worse as a word. The Chevrolets have a lot more to complain about than we do. Our car is a good race car. Our total down force numbers are off a little bit. But our balance is good. We've had to work with that for three or four years here. We got the most out of this car. We're looking to 2003 because it's going to be similar to a Dodge and similar to a Ford. You're going to see a lot better performance out of the Pontiac with that. Our cars, they're not terrible, they're not the best, and we're going to do the best we can with them.
Q. How much help do you get from the Hendrick organization?
NEWT MOORE: Basically gears and motors. I'm going to tell you, out of the rental program, we ran our engines, lease an engine deal, we don't build our own. It's the best motor deal you can get, other than if you had a Ford, you would have a Yates. That would be the best. We get gears. I know what Jeff Gordon runs in his gears, I know what Jerry Nadeau runs. We all kind of talk about gears and talk about a little transmission work. That's about it. We have a couple Hendrick cars that we run from time to time, and they're good race cars. We're trying to get both of our teams running the same type of cars now. That's about all the help we get.
Q. Are you doing in-house chassis then?
NEWT MOORE: No, ma'am. We get Ronnie Hopkins chassis, does a great job. Does a lot of cars out there. We can call Ronnie and have a car in a week and a half. That was actually faster than you can if you had your own deal. It would take you longer to get a chassis if you built your own than calling Ronnie. He does a real good job for us.
ROBERT GOODMAN: Newt, good to let you go today. Thanks for calling and hit them well this weekend.
NEWT MOORE: Appreciate it. Thank you.
ROBERT GOODMAN: That wraps up the NASCAR Winston Cup teleconference. Join us one week from today when our guests will be the cart No. 17, DeWalt Ford, Matt Kenseth and his crew chief Robbie Reiser.
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