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NASCAR Nextel Cup Series: Brickyard 400

American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

Stock Car Racing Topics:  Brickyard 400

NASCAR Nextel Cup Series: Daytona 500

Dale Jarrett
Kasey Kahne
Elliott Sadler
August 8, 2004


INDIANAPOLIS, INDIANA

THE MODERATOR: We're joined in the trackside conference room by Elliott Sadler, driver of the No. 38 M&M's, and we're also joined by Dale Jarrett, driver of the #88 Ford. Give us an idea of your race from the driver's seat, what it was like for you both today. Racing against a teammate is something than just racing against another competitor.

ELLIOTT SADLER: I had a great race car all day long. Probably the most fun I've ever had for 400 miles. I think the worse we ran all day was fifth. I got a little loose on one set of tires, kind of lost some track position, then we come on back up through the front there at the end. Just a little bit tight behind my teammate here. As far as the day goes for points and for a team effort in the shop, that shows you how hard Robert Yates Racing has been working. We only got beat by one little car today. I do congratulate Jeff Gordon on his fourth Brickyard. For us two to run as good as we did, to be able to compete like that for second and third, we've come a long way in the last 12 months, you could say. Our race teams are poised. Both of us want to be in the Top 10. I think this is a great way to start going in that direction.

DALE JARRETT: Yeah, our day was good from the start, too. We actually -- my car started off a little bit loose. It actually was probably working to our advantage as the track tightened up a little bit. But we probably didn't -- we kept adjusting, but seemed that after we'd run 20, 25 laps, I started losing a little bit of time through the center of the corner. I wasn't as good on restarts. My car just wouldn't hook up the front tires. I was probably holding Elliott up. I know I was holding him up there at the end. He could have probably given Jeff a little better run on fresher tires. But I was hoping we wouldn't have that last caution because it seemed that after we ran about two laps, I started going back towards Jeff a little bit. I was really getting off of two and four, and it looked like I could gain on him a little. But getting to him and past him would have been something totally different. He had the best car looked like all day. Very proud of what Robert Yates Racing has done here today. These are the type days we've been working extremely hard for. A good points day for us. I have no idea where anybody else finished, but I know they didn't finish in front of us, other than that one car, so I know we had to gain some points. I know it was a good day.

THE MODERATOR: Dale, for you to finish second, Elliott to finish third, the level of intensity that you drive against each other, is that the same as if you were driving against Jeff Gordon or Ryan Newman? Do you guys race as hard with each other or against each other?

DALE JARRETT: Yeah, I raced him pretty hard. He was probably kind to me there at the end. He had a couple of shots that past me and I blocked him, just trying to go. But, you know, I think we race each other hard, and that's what Robert has always told us, since I've been here, since 1995. We race each other hard, but certainly we're not going to do anything crazy. But, you know, we also have an understanding, you know, during the race, I think you seen that at times, different places, not necessarily here today, but if we catch one another, we let the guy go that's the faster one. So we work together. We share our notes. We talk, we have fun together. So to me it couldn't be in a better situation, especially whenever we have good days like this.

ELLIOTT SADLER: Yeah, I echo what he says. I love racing against him. There comes a time and place, sometimes do you let each other go. I remember in Michigan we both let each other go at different times in the race to try to win the race. But today was fun. I had a little bit better car there at the end but just couldn't get the momentum I needed to get up beside him. Of course, I'm not going to do anything stupid to take out two great race cars. I know that's one of his favorite cars he was driving today and it was one of my favorite I was driving. I wouldn't dare do anything like that. I knew second would do DJ a lot of good in the points, and third would do me a lot of good in the points. It's great to race. We do have a lot of fun together on the racetrack and off the racetrack. I'm just as happy for his team and my team. I know when we go into the shop on Monday, those guys are going to be smiling ear to ear. That's what makes us feel the best.

Q. Dale, you and Jeff have won over half the Brickyard 400s, never been contested. What is it about this race that brings out the best in the two of you?

DALE JARRETT: I'm not sure. I don't know. I mean, I think once you win here, you certainly get an idea of what your car needs to do and a feel for the racetrack. You know how to win then here. You know what it takes, what you're looking for in your car. So it's easier to adjust towards that. If you haven't, then you're still searching a little bit for that. It's just a racetrack that I enjoy racing, the challenge that it presents with the four different corners. You know, Jeff obviously, I mean, you could put him with anybody else and they about won half of them, so I appreciate you putting my name in there (laughter). We have had a lot of success here. We've been fast a lot of times. And certainly it hasn't hurt that the majority of the races I've been in here have been in Robert Yates cars. Horsepower plays a big part. We had great engines today as we have every time I've been here.

Q. Dale, when I talked to your crew chief, he was saying that was it for you guys, your car was maxed out, that he really doesn't think there's anything you guys could have done different. What do you do when you go back to the shop and say, "How do we make that better?" Where do you see you would need improvement after a day like today?

DALE JARRETT: Yeah, I think what I saw mostly was Jeff's car, it didn't seem to fall off. You know, it wasn't like he had to start his car sideways, like a lot of people were at the beginning of a run, not to be just pushing a lot at the end. He could start off fast and didn't seem to fall off from there. So we have some work to do in that area to where I think we're abusing the left front tire a little too much. You know, it works good for early parts of the race. We're going to have to go back and see early parts of a run, we're going to have to go back and see what we can do to keep that from happening. I think it's been something we've been fighting. We've come a long way with that, with our cars, but there's some areas there we have to continue to work in, and we'll do that. We're a lot closer now. It's not that we've got to go make big steps now. We can just do some small things to help us.

Q. Seems that when the 48 isn't dominating, the 24 is. Have you guys talked among yourselves and wondered how they got the field covered the way they do?

DALE JARRETT: Kind of pisses us off, one of the two of them. If it's ain't one, it's the other one. I think you have to look right now, and I'll be short so Elliott can talk, maybe he has a better answer, but it looks like that group has the total package right now. As good of engines as we have, they are out-horsepowering us a little bit. Aero-wise, they are probably a little bit better than we are, and maybe even chassis-wise they're just a little. So it's just a little bit in each area that allows them. Apparently the two teams, I don't know if they share a lot of notes or what, but it's one or the other of both up there.

ELLIOTT SADLER: I echo his words. A couple times today when I was running second to Jeff, I didn't make any adjustments on the car. I told Todd my car is good, I don't know what else I can do to really run the speed the 24 is running for that long. I can run with him six or seven laps. Like DJ said, his car wouldn't fall off as much as ours. We just got to tweak on little things. I was definitely giving feedback to Todd, Robert and everybody, what I though the 24 car was doing, and how he was carrying his speed, areas we need to work on. We'll go back and crunch all the numbers and massage them a little bit, go from there. As far as chassis-wise, spring, shocks, bars, stuff like, that my car was maxed out, too. That was as good as I could get my race car for 400 miles to run this racetrack. We got to be able to carry a little bit more speed through the center of the corner. That's where Jeff was really I think getting us the most and really could stay on the gas. He didn't really have to start off sideways at all like we did on restarts. We just got to keep working at it. They definitely have raised of the bar every week. If it's not one, it's the other one.

Q. Dale, has your view on the championship system changed now that it may benefit you?

DALE JARRETT: Oh, yeah, sure. I'd be crazy to say no. I mean, it changed a long time ago because after I was explained what the reason was behind it, and what we were looking to do, and I never really viewed it that much. Now, I just assumed because that's the way that it had been for so many years, we race for a season-long champion. You know, we still are to a certain extent. But those last 10 weeks, of course the battle tightened up quite a bit today with the 48 having problems, I guess. But, you know, it's still going to be 10 teams there that you're going to have vying for a championship. So I think it has a lot of potential to be very, very exciting. Does there need to be something put beside the champion this year if it's somebody other than who is leading after 26? No. I mean, the championship wasn't the same when my dad won his championships in '61 and '65, and Richard Petty won his in the '60s, what he won in the '70s. I don't know if he won in the '80s or not. But things changed there. They used to do it totally different. There's always going to be change. I think it has the potential to be very exciting. Whether we make the Top 10 or not, I think we need to give this a shot and see what happens with it. As I said all along, if it's not exactly right, NASCAR doesn't seem to have a problem in making a change.

Q. Elliott, you made it clear yesterday it was all or nothing, you were going for the win. Third is by far your best finish here. Do you feel maybe a little bit hollow feeling?

ELLIOTT SADLER: Yeah, I mean, when I walked up and congratulated Jeff, see all the excitement they're going through, to go kiss the bricks and all, I feel bad. I told my guys on the radio, when we have 12 or 13 laps to go, we had a restart, I said, "Guys, no matter what happened, you have given me a car good enough to win this race. You've done everything you can do. I just lost a little track position. I'm going to try to get by the 88 and have a shot at 24. You have done everything y'all can do to get me in a position to win this race." I mean, yeah, I want to be up there celebrating a win. But this is by far the best I've ever ran here. I've had more fun today in a race car than I've ever had in my entire life. Gives me something to look forward to. This was a new style of race car that we're building now in-house. We're building a couple more for these final 10 races. If we can run this every week, doggone it, y'all are going to have to talk about us by the time the end of the year is over. I hope we're going to give these guys something to worry about when we show up at the racetrack from now on. Today was nothing about points. Doug Yates gave us unbelievable motors. We weren't worried about whether they were lasting. He gave us the most horsepower we could have. The gears and stuff we pulled. Points did not come into play on either one of our race teams, and I think you can tell by the way you ran.

Q. Kasey, you spent a lot of time racing in this area. Give us your thoughts about being able to run at the Speedway.

KASEY KAHNE: It was very neat, very cool to finally be here. I lived here for three years. You know, to come to these races and watch, now be part of it, go through the qualifying, go through the race day, it's unbelievable. I mean, there's still more fans out there right now than there are at most racetracks. It's just pretty neat to be part of this race. To finish top five our first time here, it's a really good feeling.

Q. Dale and Elliott, this is NASCAR's first attempt at a green/white checkered. It still went checkered and yellow. What were your thoughts on how that went?

DALE JARRETT: It seemed to go okay. It didn't affect the outcome of the race. I don't know what happened back in the back, if they had an accident or what. I don't know exactly what the caution was for as we were coming to the line. Yeah, I mean, we'll find some places that it will make a difference. We'll have probably a lot to talk about. Today there's not much to talk about as far as the way it affected the race. Everything was fine.

ELLIOTT SADLER: Same way. I think NASCAR should be happy. Had a green/white checkered, one of the biggest races of the year, the leader didn't change hands. Didn't really affect the front guys, the way we were running I don't think. All in all, it was a good day for that.

Q. Did any of you have any problems with that chunk of debris that Gordon or Kenseth hit or did they knock it out of the way?

DALE JARRETT: I saw Matt hit it. I didn't realize Jeff hit it. He obviously didn't hit it quite hard enough (laughter). I thought Matt got a right front tire down. I didn't actually see it until it came out from under his car. I think that -- I know it messed up his dayy. He had a really good car. It looked more like a piece of lead to me. Somebody said something about a brake rotor. It looked more like a piece of lead. I'm not sure exactly what it was. I obviously didn't see it until Matt hit it.

Q. The other question is, it took like 60 years for the Indianapolis 500 to have a four-time winner. Got one here in 11 years in the Brickyard. Should there be any comparison? Does anything translate there?

DALE JARRETT: Yeah, he's probably as good as a driver as ever been here. I don't care how many years they have been racing. He'll win a lot more than four. I think it just shows what a great talent Jeff Gordon is. He's beat the very best here because everybody brings their best stuff. Aside from Daytona, we prepare for this race as much as any that we do. And for that guy to come here and win a little over a third of them is pretty incredible. It shows they have a great team, but they have a great driver right there, too. You have to consider him one of the best drivers of any kind that's ever been here.

Q. Dale, how far does this go in quelling some of the frustrations you've had in recent months, times? Elliott, address it from the standpoint of it was a challenge, you had some challenges when you first joined this series, but just as a year where you're proving yourself, just address it from that viewpoint, if you would.

DALE JARRETT: From our standpoint, yeah, I mean, the last two months have been really good for us. This year's been much better. We've been much more competitive. But, you know, we've gone now from what the beginning of the year was, just kind of an average team, you know, from 12th to 20th basically was where we were running. Now we're a solid top 10 team week in and week out. We're able to compete. A day like today, to do this in one of our biggest races means a lot to us, gives us a lot of confidence. Even going to Watkins Glen next week where I'm not considered one of the better road racers, we finished in the top five there a number of times, in the top 10 quite a few times. That's kind of what we needed. Our team is headed in the right direction. A lot of that credit goes to Elliott and his team because there's a lot of things that they have done that have helped us tremendously. You know, this is a solid team effort, making this happen. A lot of gratification to come to a place like this and finish well.

ELLIOTT SADLER: Yeah, as far as when I got started, I think the biggest challenges I faced is being with a single-car team. I never really had notes to compare with anybody else. A lot of places I go, I just try to go off the wind, try to feel it out. Didn't always know what my car needed to feel like on Saturday to be good on Sunday. I became teammates with DJ. I've learned more in the last year and a half about racing than I've learned in 17, 18 years. The reason because of that is we both had terrible seasons last year, but his attitude didn't change towards his guys, his determination, things he wanted in his race car never changed. Man, I learned so much from him on that and places that we go, I get ideas from him on Saturday, can go talk to him. I love having a teammate. I can't imagine now going back to a single-car team after having a teammate that likes the same things I do, we like our cars pretty similar, our cars are pretty close today, as you can tell. I've learned more, a lot from him, and I drive for the best car owner in the business, Robert Yates, whose willing to take time any day of the week to sit down, explain things to you about what's going on on and off the racetrack. A lot of teams, people wouldn't really take that time to mess with you about it. I'm in a perfect situation. I'm living the time of my life. I feel like I am with the best team I have ever been with. We get along better than any team I've ever been around. Hopefully be around a long time.

Q. Kasey, would you consider today frustrating considering you were powerful early on, had a slight incident, rallied back to finish fourth?

KASEY KAHNE: Yeah. I think we had a great race car early on, blew a left front, hit the wall, and came back to fourth. So, you know, I think that was a good job by the pit crew. They really did a good job all day to get me in and out of the pits quick, make the changes, fix the fenders. Everything they did, Tommy made a lot of good calls, they got me back on the track. They got the track position for me. Our team did a good job.

Q. Elliott, middle part of the race, you were running second to Jeff the whole time. All of a sudden one lap there you slipped back to fifth or sixth. What happened there?

ELLIOTT SADLER: We just got loose. We put two tires on. My car is a lot looser on two tires than four. When the 17 got to me, really made me loose. By the time I got it up to me, the 31 got up and made my loose again. I about wrecked both those corners. I figured I'd let the 31 and 88 go by and settle in in line behind them and heat my front tires up as much as I could to tighten the car back up. I just lost a little track position there. But that was probably -- probably ended up being the turning the point of our race, why we probably didn't have a shot at the win. I wanted to make sure the car was in one piece at the end of the race. I could have tried to stay in front of them, but I also could be windshield deep right now and finish 30th. I didn't want to do that either. I was on the edge of my talent level. I was about to run out of talent there.

Q. DJ, I don't recall whether you had any particular setbacks in '99 when you started to build your points up to several hundred points. How nice would it be to be in Jimmie Johnson's seat as the points leader and come out and try new things and blow up a motor and it really not matter all that much?

DALE JARRETT: Yeah, it would probably be a different situation in looking because, I mean, he knows that he's definitely in the Top 10 here. You know, he's sitting in a very good position to where they can experiment a little bit. But I'm sure still on the other side of it, they want to be carrying momentum into that 10-race deal, too. So I would look for them to get back to some things that have worked for them. They'll leave the experimenting to test days and things like that. But they're a very good team, and you can't look and say that today was anything other than I would assume a parts failure there somewhere. So they were still -- they have a great race team. But that would be kind of neat. You know, when we left here in '99, I'm not sure, we had a pretty good-sized lead. We still had to race because we were racing right till the end. There was a lot of racing yet to do.

Q. Dale, on those restarts where you were in second place, was there any one of them that you might have had a shot to get him?

DALE JARRETT: No. He could get away in turn one. As I would get down there, the harder I tried, the front of my car just would not stick there. I would lose time getting back to the gas. I tried backing out a little bit early. He could just stay in the gas through turn one. Elliott was a lot the same way. I knew from previous restarts when I was behind them that those two cars were just quicker than I was on the restart. Turns one and two and basically three, I could start getting a little bit of feel by turn four of that first lap. They could just get away from me too much. You know, I was on his bumper. He was doing different things as we came to the green, slowing us down, getting me right to his bumper. But I was able to get in the gas with him. But once we got to turn one, he was pretty much gone.

Q. Kasey, this has been a season of almost and what ifs, oil, different issues. How did you manage to keep your composure running well early, then you had the tire problem? Crew chief have a lot to do with saying, "It will be okay, stay calm," or did you think, "Oh, no, not again"?

KASEY KAHNE: Tommy has done a good job all year of keeping me calm. Even last week at Pocono when I run into Stewart, bent the front of the car up, I thought the race was over, too, we came back to third. I think just listening to Tommy, he always gives me lap times, tells me we're still in the race. Says a lot of things that just keep me calm. I'll race as hard as I can till it's over.

Q. Dale, does this race kind of showcase driver ability more so than the Daytona 500, where so much -- is so dependent being in the right place, right time, drafting?

DALE JARRETT: Absolutely, no doubt (laughter). I think we got two, three, four sitting in here. This is no doubt this is a driver's racetrack. Car makes a little difference, but the driver really... No, seriously, it is. Probably more so for a lot of reasons. I mean, the driver, there's a lot of different things that you can do as a driver here. But first and foremost, your job is to relate to your crew chief through practice time and your testing here, what your car is doing, try to explain that. But as you get into the race, there are different things you can do. So you do really make a difference here, whereas Daytona, you know, your car -- if you don't have the car, it doesn't really matter how good a driver you are at times. So you still have to do the job, and it's not taking away from anybody that's had success at Daytona, but, I mean, it's easy to sit here and say that now, but it is a lot of driver ability here because I think that's why I put Jeff Gordon up there with the best drivers that have ever been in this sport. I think that's why you see him having a lot of success here.

THE MODERATOR: Thank you very much, congratulations, gentlemen. We have a couple more questions for Kasey. I think Kasey jumped to 11th in the point standings ahead of Jeremy, only about 31 points out of 10th place.

Q. They're talking about teammates. I just wondered how much having Jeremy and also having Bill Elliott as the former winner here, if they helped out for the fourth place finish today as well as all season up to now?

KASEY KAHNE: Yeah, I think it's really helped out the first half of this season a lot to have a teammate like Jeremy. Jeremy, every week, we talk, kind of talk about engine stuff or the way the car's handling, just different characteristics of the car. Bill, he helped me early in the season a lot. He was always around. To have him back here this weekend racing, I made my way over to his garage stall a couple times this week just to talk to him about different things. You can always learn a lot from Bill, especially from Bill and Jeremy all the time, too. Just two good guys to talk to.

Q. On the track, are you aware of like the guys that you're racing in the chase, the guys that you have to be ahead of? Do you know where Harvick is? Are they telling you that kind of thing?

KASEY KAHNE: You know, I really don't. Today would have been the best day to try to figure that out with that big board on the front straightaway, gives all the spots. But, no, I never really look. The only time I look on that board is to see who's in front of me, how many laps we're down, just trying to get more position, see where we're at on the track. Other than that, I obviously care where everybody is at the end of the race, but throughout the race, we're just trying to do as good as we can. When it's over, we see where everybody's at, see if they gained some points.

Q. I'm sure there's a lot of people in this town that would love to see you run here sometime in May. Your upbringing in USAC, how much do you hear that, hear people try to influence you someday to maybe give it another shot?

KASEY KAHNE: I don't really hear it a whole lot. I hear it once in a while, you have people ask you about that. But I kind of bring it up with myself a lot, wonder if I'll get that chance or if I can ever kind of find an opportunity to make that chance. I definitely, you know, would love to race here twice a year instead of just once.

Q. You did gain a position in the green/white checkered. Has your opinion changed of that?

KASEY KAHNE: My opinion's been the same all year. You know, with seven laps to go, it's the same situation as you're in with two laps to go on the green/white checkered. I feel everybody goes for it late in the race. I was saying all along, I think give us one chance at a green/white checkered. If it doesn't work, it doesn't work. If there is wrecks and we're in it, then that's a bad thing. But I think there's also times we're going to pass a car or win the race or gain a couple positions because of that, too. I think it all evens out. The fans get a green/white checkered, they get a race that finishes on the green.

THE MODERATOR: Congratulations.

KASEY KAHNE: Thank you.

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