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NASCAR Media Conference

American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

Stock Car Racing Topics:  NASCAR

NASCAR Media Conference

Kurt Busch
Dale Earnhardt, Jr.
Jeff Gordon
Jimmie Johnson
Mark Martin
November 19, 2004


MIKE JOY: Good morning, everybody. On behalf of NASCAR, Homestead-Miami Speedway, and NEXTEL, the proud sponsor of the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series, welcome to this morning's meeting with the five championship contenders, one of them who will take home that trophy, that Tiffany trophy, from New York in just a few short couple of weeks as the Chase for the NEXTEL Cup winds down to a conclusion that I think everybody hoped for and nobody anticipated. I want to start with Mark Martin, who comes in here fifth in the standings, his 14th Top 10 season in NASCAR, 602 starts, and this may be the biggest one. There are so many scenarios, there's a phone book full of scenarios on how this championship could be decided, but you have to finish in the Top 15 and then it's wherever anything else falls. So game plan, thoughts on -- any pressure on you or how do you approach this?

MARK MARTIN: Well, there's no pressure on us at all. We came here to win. We came down last week and did some testing and we really ran good. Our team has done a fabulous job. It's an honor and a privilege to be included in this group. You know, we've had our disappointments throughout this Chase. And everybody is faced with the possibility of that, and we may be, too. But no matter what, it's been an awesome year, 2004 has been incredible, especially considering what 2003 was like.

MIKE JOY: But you just look like you're thrilled to be here. You're the happiest, most fun-looking Mark Martin that anyone in this group I think has ever seen, and I mean that as a compliment.

MARK MARTIN: Comparatively speaking, I would say you're right (laughter). 2003 was a miserable year for me, and I was very, very concerned that that was -- that that was the note that I was going to end my Cup career on. I have a lot of encouragement and enthusiasm coming from the Viagra team, Pat Tryson and all the guys, a commitment that these guys are going to stay with me for 2005, and I really believe that there's a chance that we can do an even better job in 2005. So I have a lot to be, you know, excited about.

MIKE JOY: We're glad to have you here. Let's move on to Jeff Gordon, who as you know is chasing his fifth Cup championship and has to finish in the top 36 or any position in between depending on where everyone else ends up. Jeff, a lot of comparisons made in the print to 1992, a race that was I think your first Winston Cup start, and a race in which Alan Kawicki from the driver seat covered that phone book full of permutations, how many laps he had to wear, where he had to finish next to Bill Elliott. Now computers will do all that for us, NASCAR has every everything on computer, every point, every lap, every position. You're in the position right in the middle with the most experience in trying to win a championship, but having to look forward and back at the same time.

JEFF GORDON: Yeah, well, having Alan around was a lot like having a computer around. But I'm certainly nothing like that. We're not going to pay attention to the numbers. We'll let the crew chief and, you know, Robby and those guys up on the box handle that stuff. But, you know, I think that we're all, to me, in the same, similar situation where we all feel like we have to go out there and win and we just have to perform, you know, at our best and, you know, not really try to pay attention to where the other guys are at and just, you know, go after it as hard as we can, just like we did last week and just like we did the weekend before that. You know, I've never -- I've been a part of a championship battle where Mark and Dale Jarrett were involved where we came down to the final race, it was very tight, but I was in a different situation. You know, I was leading the points, and I remember being in that situation feeling a lot more pressure than I do now. You know, being in the lead is certainly the place that you want to be, but at the same time I feel like, you know, it was ours to lose, and we felt like, you know, we were just trying to protect. I think we had to finish like 20th or better, and we finished 17th or 16th, it was an awful day for us, but we got the result. So it was a tough one. This one here I feel like is exciting and fun and, you know, our team has momentum coming off two Top 3 finishes. And, you know, coming to a great track that we also had a good test at last week, and we're just going to go out there and do what we can to win.

MIKE JOY: Realistically, Jeff, are you racing 42 cars Sunday or are you racing four?

JEFF GORDON: I feel like, you know, we need to approach it like we're racing 42, and, you know, just get out there and go for a win. This is a track I haven't won at in the Cup Series. Won here in the Busch Series. And I feel like we've got momentum from the last couple weeks. And, you know, I think that if we're focused on our own program and we're focused on what we need to go out there and do to win the race instead of focused on Kurt and Jimmie, Junior and Mark, then I think we're going to do a better job throughout the race.

MIKE JOY: Talking about momentum leads us to Jimmie Johnson. With eight victories, he leads the league. He's 18 points out and could finish anywhere in the top 37 and win the championship depending on what else happens. You've led the points three times this season, you have eight wins, talk a little about momentum and what that's going to do here for you at Homestead.

JIMMIE JOHNSON: We all know momentum is an important thing. But I have to admit I think throughout this Chase For the Championship, everybody here on this panel has had a lot of momentum and it's really hard to weight it one way or another. We've been very lucky to be able to close the deal at the end of the race the last four out of five weeks. We've had a Top 3 car at all the racetracks, and great pit stops, you know, everybody just doing their job and things working out for us. So it's been very nice to capitalize on that. From my standpoint, I feel like after Kansas, I kind of let go of the championship. I felt that I was out of it and there was no way between the three drivers up front that they would have enough problems to let us be back in it. And then with the bad luck that they've been able to have and the hot streak that we went on, here we are 18 points out. So going into this race, I'm just really taking the mindset, as Mark has said, and also Jeff, where it's too close to worry, it's too close to points race, you just have to go out, run your own race, put in your best effort and take it from there. So I really have the mindset that if it's meant to be, it's meant to be. And, like I said, I feel I have that because I've already kind of thought that I was out of it and now I'm back in it.

MIKE JOY: Kurt Busch's lead for the NEXTEL Cup has looked like the presidential numbers. You've been as high as 96 points ahead, you've been as low as 12, now come in here with 18. The two fellows to your left have a better average finishes here at Homestead, but you've got one in the W column, you've got a win. Talk about this racetrack and it being a place to end this championship, and does that work to your strength?

KURT BUSCH: Well, this racetrack has gone over a facelift in the past 10 years that it's existed with the new format. Welcome, Dale. With the new format of the banking, providing for the gradual bank, and allowing the cars to race side by side and put on a great show, it's much different than when I had a chance to win here back in 2002. So a whole new face, just a whole new outlook on what to do to win this championship. And we've been in a great position all throughout this championship. To be able to go out and to try to lead laps, to finish solidly, and then to watch somebody put together a hot streak that is just surreal, it's unparalleled in what we've seen in NEXTEL Cup racing before. And to compete against that, to have this slim advantage, it's a look of zero to zero, we go into the final race to try to beat Jimmie Johnson, Dale, Jr., Mark Martin, Jeff Gordon for this championship.

MIKE JOY: Your scenario is certainly the simplest: win the race or finish second and lead a lap or finish third and lead the most laps, you're the champion. You don't have any number crunching to do.

KURT BUSCH: That's the problem. Maybe the card catalog or that phone book is too large as far as general scenarios. If we would have had a great run at Atlanta, maybe that would have been a bit smaller. It's just a matter of doing the job that your team is capable of, and we're capable of winning races. And if we can do that on Sunday, yes, the format will be very simple for our Sharpie Ford. But to be able to compete against these guys and to have the season we've had, we feel as if we've accomplished so much already. We are prepared to win on Sunday, we're prepared to lose as well, but it will be a much sweeter situation to bring that piece of hardware home on Monday morning.

MIKE JOY: Dale Earnhardt, Jr., is trying to be the 27th driver to win what's now the NEXTEL Cup championship. You have to finish 19th or better, depending on what else happens. How about your game plan for Sunday? And I'll ask you the same question I asked Jeff, are you racing 42 cars Sunday or are you racing four?

DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: I think we're just racing. You know, we're just out there doing what we can. I think me and Mark both are kind of on the backside of the deal. We can just kind of race as hard as we want. You know, there are so many things that have to happen with these three guys here that, you know, it will be a struggle, huge luck to win it. So just go out there and race as hard as we can. I really, you know, am more concerned I guess on how good a car I'm going have this weekend because we didn't run good here last weekend. So if we just get a good race car, run up front, run in the top five, I think we'd be pretty happy no matter how the points shook out.

MIKE JOY: We'll open the floor for questions.

Q. I'll make it tough on you guys. Green, white, checkered, all five of you in the Top 10, what is this turning into?

MIKE JOY: I heard "checker," I didn't hear "wrecker" in the question. I don't know if it's in the response.

MARK MARTIN: There usually is a wrecker in that scenario.

MIKE JOY: Well, is that any different than racing at length, a long green run to the checkered flag? Will that be really different?

KURT BUSCH: Well, it is a different mindset when you get to have a full fuel run and tire run till the end, knowing your position on the racetrack when that run began. But a green, white, checkered, that just throws all the cards up in the air, and hopefully the right cards turn out right side up with the 97 up on top.

MIKE JOY: Cars or cards?

KURT BUSCH: Both.

MARK MARTIN: I also will add to that, too. Under that scenario, you don't have the lapped cars up there, and that makes it a lot better. I mean, the really tough thing about these race starts is when there is a lot of pressure to get something done and you have all those lap cars up the inside. That's really when it gets pretty hairy out there. You don't have to deal with the lapped cars up front in that scenario, which is a lot better.

JEFF GORDON: But I think in that scenario, though, what you've got is not only do you have all five of us, because you're throwing -- since we're creating the scenario, you know, you're going to have other cars up there that are battling for a win, maybe, you know, they're wanting to end the season on a positive note, take some momentum to the next year. You've got a lot of guys that are driving extremely aggressive. And I don't think there's any intentional trying to, you know, okay, I'm going win the championship by taking this guy out or something like that. It's not necessarily about that. It's about very aggressive driving, trying to get the best finish or get those positions that creates the wrecker scenario, as well. And that's usually why that happens in the green, white, checkered, is because everybody's just so aggressive that accidents happen.

Q. Everybody is talking about this season finale being the best one since 1992. Jeff and Mark were involved this that. Could you tell me what your memories are of that?

MIKE JOY: I'm not sure if the question came across, but it was Mark and Jeff were involved in that 1992 finale with a tight championship battle. What do you remember of that day?

MARK MARTIN: Well, I remember being so impressed with Alan's calculation of how he was willing to give up the win if he could just stay out and lead those last few precious laps that gave him the five bonus points. He wasn't -- you know, that took a lot of willpower. It was pretty incredible. And he did what he had to do to lock up those five bonus points for leading the most laps before he made his final pit stop instead of worrying, you know, so much about winning that race.

MIKE JOY: Let me toss one more scenario on top of that. Early race caution. Do you pit with the lead lap cars? Do you stay out to lead a lap? What happens if three or four or five of you stay out to lead a lap?

MARK MARTIN: That's what happened if I tried to stay out and lead a lap, so I'm not going to do it because I'd be the last one in line waiting for it.

JIMMIE JOHNSON: We all take turns. I guess the next caution, the next guy will get it.

JEFF GORDON: I'll be honest. My involvement with the '92 was that I backed in the wall about halfway through the race, and I believe I was already on my way home. I mean, you know, for me it was a very cool experience because it was Richard Petty's last race. I'll never forget that drivers meeting. It was an amazing drivers meeting to be a part of. And, you know, then he went up in a ball of flames, I went and backed in the wall. And I remember, you know, the drama that was going on with the championship that year. But, you know, I never had run really for a championship or been a part of anything like that. But I just remember really the aftermath of that race, of how it was coming down. You know, I mean, it was closing laps of who was going to win that championship. I remember that excitement. But I was at home watching it on TV.

Q. Jeff, if I figured out correctly in the old system, you would be leading by a comfortable margin going into this last race. Is that frustrating at all? Have you even thought about it?

JEFF GORDON: No. I mean, I constantly get reminded about it, which makes it tough. But, you know, you race the points the way that they're structured. It doesn't matter if they change it again next year and the year after that and the year after that. You know, throwing in what could have happened or it may have been under a different points structure really isn't what's important. And I think that the old points system, we raced it that way. You know, if it paid consistency and average, your best average finish, then that's how you raced. And, you know, I think this is very exciting. This certainly has changed things a lot on how you race these last 10 races. I think it's impressed me more than I thought that it would. And, you know, it's certainly more intense for all the guys that are a part of it. And I will say that whoever wins this championship, I think it's probably one of the most difficult championships that I've ever been a part of because every week the points are changing. You really have to race for wins or top fives every single weekend you have a bad finish, you better bounce back and have something good happen. In the old scenarios, even when it was a tight points battle, you were still just trying to get your finishes and get your consistency in there. And this certainly isn't the case. You know, I'm really not looking back on what it could have been with the old system.

Q. Jeff, could you talk a little bit about how winning your first championship changed your life? Is it a life-changing experience and in what ways?

JEFF GORDON: It did. You know, I don't think anybody expected us to win that championship in 1995. I think they all expected us to crack under the pressure, including ourselves. I don't think we even knew what we were doing at the time. But we were just putting fast race cars out there on the track and putting the finishes together, and it was incredible. I just remember as the season went on, you know, things were just happening. And we just went with it week to week. We didn't think about what we were, you know, accomplishing until it was all over. Then we just shook or heads. Still to this day I shake my head that we won that championship against, you know, just such an amazing driver team and championship contender, which is Dale Earnhardt, Sr. You know, I remember when it all started to finally sink in, and I went through the banquet week in New York, and I was completely exhausted, overwhelmed and excited at the same time, that the next season, '96, was just a year that I was so drained, mentally, physically, that that's to me where it really gets to you, is you just don't understand the responsibility, all the things that come along with being the champion, that you just get tugged in so many different directions, and there's new opportunities, exciting opportunities, things that come up that are just fun, cool and hard work at the same time. You know, I knew that '96 was a tough year for me, but then we came back in '97. And it seems like each time I've won the championship, I've understood it a little bit better, and I knew what to expect a little bit better, and I was able to balance out the schedule and enjoy it that much more. And I think after I won the second one is what really helped me win the third and fourth one because the first one, after that, it was just so overwhelming that I didn't know if I was ever going to win another one again or if I even wanted to because I was just so drained.

Q. Jimmie, you talked last week, you said after the Kansas race that you and Chad just got together and said, "Hey, let's just go win races." Obviously, if it was that easy, everybody would do that. In the last few weeks, how have you improved? How has Chad improved? How has this team improved to make the comeback you had?

JIMMIE JOHNSON: It's tough to say that there's really been a difference physically, you know, the interaction with the car, the race strategy and things that we do. But it's more of a mental thing. You know, when we were leading the points, every time we hit the track, you know, we felt like we had a target on our backs. It's our own fault. We wanted to be the fastest in practice. And if we didn't, we were nervous. If we didn't qualify in the top five, we were nervous. If the race didn't start off just right, we were nervous. There's just something with leading the championship that, you know, gets inside your head. It's a tough thing. It's a burden of the. I made a reference to Lord the Rings with that little guy Frodo that runs around with the ring the whole time, it's a burden. It is, I swear (laughter). I don't think I resemble him too much, but it was the only thing that popped up in my head. It's just tough. It's really tough. After Kansas, that pressure, whatever that is in your mind that switches on and makes you think about that, went away for us. And it was about, "Okay, you know, practice. We're 15th, let's get to work." Qualified 10th, we're doing better. Start the race, didn't have the best car, don't flip out, just stay focused. By the time the other race came along, we had a Top 3 car, great pit stop, we're in Victory Lane. Just the flow of it went different. So, you know, it's more of that than anything that we did actually physically to the car, set the car up different, different strategy. It was all a mental thing.

MIKE JOY: Junior and Mark, running a 10-race season here after a 26-race season, are these final races, is the energy in the shop, the demands on the team and the feeling around the garage different than if we were at this point in just a regular 36-race season?

DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: Yeah, way different. You know, I mean, for me and my team, I see like a little more excitement in the shop, guys are -- I don't know, it's funner. I think the system is a lot more fun like this. You know, I don't know how I would feel being on the outside looking in. But, you know, that's just the difference I see in my team, is they enjoy the challenge of it. They enjoy kind of knowing where you stand and what the opposition is and how steep the hill is, you know, all the fun things that come along with, you know, winning. It seems like if you win a race in this, you know, 10-race post-season or whatever, it puts a lot more emphasis on it, the win is a lot more -- it's just a bigger win to win at that part of the season. So to have gotten a couple wins, you know, really meant a lot to the team, the confidence and the morale in the shop was higher than I'd ever seen it before. So it's just an excitement level. But, yeah, it was a real big difference from what it was the last year.

MARK MARTIN: For us, you know, the first 26 were enough to break anybody's back. We had mechanical failures in six of the first 12 races. There's just no way I saw that we were going to be able to make the Chase. We had to race against tremendous teams like, you know, the way Kasey Kahne and his guys were running, and Jeremy Mayfield, and Jamie McMurray, Dale. All these guys were tremendous. And it was a huge race to get in. We were battling from behind. We had to use -- you know, one of the biggest things is these guys knew they were in all along. We didn't. And we had to fight and scratch our way in. We used all our tests but two. And the racetracks that we got to test at I think are going to make a big difference. I think that we're going to really be strong here based on what we saw in the test, and certainly we were strong at Atlanta. I wished we would have been comfortably in and been able to be a little bit more prepared to do battle here in the Chase. But, you know, if we would have saved anything, we might not have made it in, and we desperately didn't want to be on the outside looking in. So, you know, I wouldn't trade what we've done this year for anything. But, you know, we could have been a little bit more prepared if we would have known that we were going to be able to make it in. We just had to throw everything we had at it to get in.

Q. This is for Jeff, Jimmie and Kurt. Even though a lot of people are saying we're racing just like any other race, what do you expect, because it's not just any other race, NASCAR's involvement to be if a couple of you were screaming for their help on the radio last week? Do you feel like you'd like to see some kind of announcement by them to the other drivers, extra attention on it, calling from help from NASCAR to help you down in the cars? How would you like them to officiate this?

JEFF GORDON: I mean, I don't expect any help. I don't know what the calling on the radio was. I mean, I think we want to have the same respect, you know, among our competitors as we do any weekend. You know, I don't think that any of us should be treated with any special treatment. You know, I think that we're -- you know, we're out there. That's the way the Chase is. We're battling with other guys that are out there trying to win races. But I call down every weekend, I mean, so, you know, asking for help whether I'm in the way or somebody else is. You get into the moment, the heat of the moment, the adrenaline's flowing, and especially when you're part of this championship, the intensity level is just at an all-time high. And we may ask for help from NASCAR all the time, but we don't really expect anything, you know, any special treatment or anything to be done any different, and you just deal with each scenario and situation the best that you can. We know that we're racing other guys besides just the five that are sitting up here.

JIMMIE JOHNSON: Yeah. The only thing I would hope for, I know NASCAR is not going to ask guys to let us pass or race a certain way. But when you have lap cars and people that may have a hurt race car, we had an incident at Richmond, going into the race at New Hampshire, there was something that took place that took out the points leaders, and, you know, I would be hopeful that something is said to remind everybody. I mean, obviously everybody knows. I think if anybody's been in this sport long enough, you know, they understand that respect, that if you don't give it, you're not going to get it. You know, I definitely hope something's said. And I certainly hope that we don't have tempers or grudges or, you know, somebody racing hard for, you know, three laps down that causes a wreck that takes anybody out in this chase for the championship. We want to decide it on the race tack, car to car, head to head.

KURT BUSCH: One thing I already see that's developed through this weekend is we have about 58 cars on the ground ready to qualify. And when you have that, you're going to have the 43 best cars in the field. And that gives a different perspective on what you see as a driver. Going back to last week, as drivers, we always complain about small, little things to try to help NASCAR see things from the driver's point of view, whether the sun was staring us in the eyes, whether there are some slower cars out on the track. We're just giving them the driver perspective on what we see. This weekend, I've been around for four years, and usually the last drivers meeting is one of the most powerful ones of all year, with Helton standing up or with Dennis stating that we've got a different group of guys in a circumstance that allows them to win the championship. I've always been on the outside looking in. This time around, I've got that opportunity to do so, and I hope that everybody yields to the leaders that are up front and keeps that in mind all throughout the race.

MIKE JOY: Jimmie Johnson, about the progress you made since you got off the off-road and onto the paved-road.

JIMMIE JOHNSON: Yeah, there's been a lot of learning since then. Howie, I think the world of Howie. I think Mark has had a chance to work with him in the past. He's just a great, great guy. I remember our first test session in Nashville at the old Nashville track. I had been on the asphalt three times the year before. I wasn't sure I would really know what loose or tight was. I'm out there making some laps. I wore him out the whole drive down from Milwaukie in the truck just trying to pick his brain. I came off the turn four backwards, not totally backwards, pretty crossed up, kind of glanced off the wall, gathered it back up. As I went into turn one, he got on the radio and said, "Jimmie, that's loose." In his own simple ways, he kept it fun, kept it real, and really taught me a lot. I didn't know anything about stock cars. I came off the dirt. We were worried about going in a straight line as fast as we could and over bumps. Now in a stock car, the straightaways really don't mean much, it's all about getting through the turn. I had to completely change everything that I knew and start over. And he had a lot of patience. I also remember going to the first race of the season in Peach State. I spun out five times and didn't hit anything. We ran out of tires, our allotment of tires, were borrowing used tires from people just so I could finish the race. I think I may have taken a few years off of his life, off of his crew chief life. I thank him for that. But he was a huge help. I enjoy seeing him every chance that I get and really showed me the way of going stock car racing.

Q. I'd like to ask everybody on the panel, obviously this is an emotion-filled weekend. How bad do you want it? Why do you want it that bad? To what length will you go to achieve your goal?

KURT BUSCH: I've seen some of those NASCAR commercials: How bad have you got it? It's to the point now where five guys have an opportunity to add something to their resume that we've all dreamed about at kids. Gordon has the championships out of this group, but there's an opportunity for Jimmie, for Junior, for Mark. As many years as Mark has been running, I'm the one rooting for him to do it. I'm sure as a teammate, he's the one rooting for me to do it in this position. It's something to where a lot of things have to fall into place and things have to help you throughout the race that you don't know of, and of course you have to do the best job that you possibly can in the race car and not stretch beyond the reasonable control of your car and your team to chance something. That's one thing that you don't want to have to live with as a burden, is something that was a mistake, a forced error. You don't want to have that on Sunday. So this is a wonderful opportunity for our team to come to a level that we've never seen before. Whether the outcome is positive or negative, we have definitely made a stance for the 97 team to be competitive and one that can compete for a championship.

JIMMIE JOHNSON: A championship at that level is all that I've ever wanted since I was a kid. Growing up in Southern California, racing in the deserts, all I would do is watch, and at the time it was Jeff winning his championships. And I thought, "How in the world am I going to get there? I'm out here in the Nevada desert, it's 120 degrees, beating around in an off-road truck. That's where I want to be. How do I get there?" I've worked and sacrificed a lot like everyone else, given everything that I've ever had for it. And I want to be a champion. I certainly hope it's this year. There's many more years I feel in my career to hopefully achieve that. But since I was a kid, this is everything that I wanted to do, is to be a champion in the Cup level.

JEFF GORDON: Well, I'm a true believer in what's meant to be is going to happen. You know, everyone's going to be working hard. Everyone is dedicated. Everyone is putting their best race car, their best effort out there. You know, we're just going to have to wait and see what those results are and be content with whatever the results are. I guess the difference for me, for these other guys, is that, you know, they're going for their first championship, and it's kind got to have it, need that championship. For me, you know, I've accomplished more than I ever dreamed I would ever accomplish in this series or in racing, in general. Having those championships, I'm not in a need-to-win or need-to-win-a-championship situation. I'm in a pure desire, want, you know, and that's what is driving me. I've experienced what it's like to win championships. I know how awesome it is. I know how special it is. This team has worked really hard to get back to this point and we're going to work extremely hard all day on Sunday to try to get number five. It's been about the drive for five for us this year. You can't say any of us want it any more because we all want it really bad. I know for me it is just about, you know, desire for this team, it's just about desire to try to get another one.

DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: Well, I feel like I'm pretty fortunate to just have made it this far. Being a son of Dale Earnhardt, I just tried everything I could not to embarrass him in my career, just trying to make the right moves and do the right things. So to have gotten to where I am, just to be able to compete against Jeff and Mark and guys like Kurt and Jimmie, you know, feels great, feels really, really good. I don't know who up here wants it more. I think we all would say each one of us probably does. But, you know, it's the biggest goal, it's the one we all try to achieve. It's the reason we're all here. So, you know, like I said earlier, we're kind of a longshot, but we're going to go out there. I don't think the take will be any more, but the give will be a lot less on Sunday. That will be how I'll be racing (laughter).

MARK MARTIN: Well, this is my next to the last chance. I think everybody in this sport knows how hard I'm willing to work for this and how hard I have worked for this. At the same time I'm not desperate. I've won a lot of championships, just not one of these cups. I've had a great career. I'm not done yet. I'm not done with 2004 until this thing's over with. I will be fierce in 2005. I will have a great team. I believe that I might have another chance at it if things will go our way. I will be interested, I will be watching, and I'll be interested to see in 15 or 20 years if these guys are sitting up here. It's truly an honor for me to race with these guys and to be a contender, and certainly like to beat 'em, but I will be watching. I'm a big fan, and I know you, you guys don't know, but I know the rate of difficulty to continue to do this for that amount of time, and I will be watching (laughter).

MIKE JOY: NEXTEL thanks all of you for welcoming them into this sport. They have truly enjoyed their first year. This NEXTEL Cup will go to one of these five drivers who will win it Sunday. Gentlemen, good luck to all of you on Sunday and thanks for joining us.



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