NASCAR Media Conference
March 2, 2010
HERB BRANHAM: Good afternoon, everyone. Today's teleconference is in advance of this weekend's race at Atlanta Motor Speedway for the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series and the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. Our guest today, Ricky Carmichael, driver of the No. 4 Monster Energy Chevrolet in the Truck Series. Ricky was last year's most popular driver in the Truck Series in his first full-time season at that level of competition. This year's season-opening race at Daytona, he finished 29th.
This week is a really a big one for Ricky. In addition to racing at Atlanta, he plans on being in Daytona Beach Saturday night for the annual Daytona Supercross by Honda motorcross event to do television commentary.
Ricky, many consider the greatest supercross/motorcross rider of all time won the Daytona event a record five times during what you could call his first motorsports career.
Ricky, you're getting into the thick of your second motorsports career. What is the outlook for Saturday's truck race at Atlanta?
RICKY CARMICHAEL: I'm really looking forward to it. I love Atlanta. I have had a lot of success there in Supercross racing at the dome. My fan base is really good there, as well. Man, I just am looking forward to it.
I had a great run going there last year. We qualified, I don't know, 15th, worked our way up. I think we were running sixth and I got spun out by the 6 truck there.
I'm excited. I can't wait to get back in front of the fans and make this happen. I feel really, really good in the truck, despite obviously our finish at Daytona.
HERB BRANHAM: Have you brought a lot of motorcycle, motorcross, supercross fans over to NASCAR, do you think?
RICKY CARMICHAEL: Well, I hope so. Without a doubt, when I do autograph signings or whatever, whether at motorcross or NASCAR signings at the racetrack, they're always saying, Hey, we watched you in motorcross, now we watch you here, or when I'm at a motorcycle signings, they say, We never watched NASCAR but we're NASCAR fans now that you're in it.
Yeah, I do get some crossover stuff which is good for me and my sponsors and NASCAR. NASCAR has so many fans, but for sure I believe we get some good crossover fans.
HERB BRANHAM: Thank you, Ricky. We'll go to the media for today's guest, Ricky Carmichael.
Q. Did you do the Daytona track again this year? In your opinion, what is going to be the gnarliest aspect of that? On the supercross front, is this the strangest season you've ever seen with the two best guys having injuries? Is that great for the sport or is it better for the guys for guys getting some light and contend for that championship?
RICKY CARMICHAEL: Well, the first question, definitely, yeah, I did do the supercross track. For sure this is the third time I've done it. I try to make it as rough as I can. That's what Daytona supercross is all about. There's no doubt about it. Only the strong survive there. That's known as one of the hardest races of the year and one of the most prestigious races. If you can't win a title, you definitely want to win the Daytona supercross. It's huge bragging rights for the manufacturer, as well.
It's going to be tough, just the track in general. My style, always liked rough tracks. I try to make it fun, but rough as well and good for the fans.
As far as the supercross season goes, I think it's great for the sport. We're still getting close to sell-out crowds with the top two guys out there, out of the series. Also before the top two guys got hurt, we had Ryan Dungy in the points lead winning the points. So that just goes to show you that it was actually ending up working out. Seems like supercross has a new hero.
I think the sport in general is healthy, considering all the tough times that everyone's facing. I think everything's okay.
Q. You enjoyed a lot of success across town at the Georgia Dome, several wins in supercross. Different venue and everything. But what are the feelings when you come back to Atlanta?
RICKY CARMICHAEL: Oh, man, there's only a couple places you just get this feeling. Man, I don't know what it is. But even the week like now, I can't wait to get there. I love everything about it. Even though I raced at the dome, this is totally somewhere different, it's still in the area and I have a lot of history there.
I wish I could tell you what it is, I really do wish I could tell you what it is. But it's everything, man. Just, you know, the location, the fans. It's just got this atmosphere about it that I love, man. I mean, the smell, everything. I can never wait to get there and race, man. I'm just so excited.
Q. Is part of that because you're from north Florida, so it's not too far away from your home?
RICKY CARMICHAEL: Absolutely. With Daytona, it being somewhat my home event, this would also be a home event for me. They're both within the same distance driving-wise. So, yeah, I always considered it a home race for me.
Q. Was there a point early in your career when you felt you had special talents? What do you think those talents are going to do for you in the next five years or so?
RICKY CARMICHAEL: Well, I didn't have a lot of talent as far as some of the other riders out there, meaning there were other guys that could go out and do something way quicker than I could. But with that being said, that really helped me out. That's what gave me the work ethic that I have. I had to really, really work for it.
So with that being said, I believe that that's really going to help me with years to come, you know, in NASCAR racing because I believe that it is hard for me. You know, it's definitely not gonna be a gimme. I'm not scared to work hard at it. Whatever I need to do, I'm going to do. That's the hardest thing for somebody, is everyone wants to give up when it gets hard, and I'm definitely not going to do that. That's where I think my hard work ethic's going to kick in.
Q. Do you think that work ethic is common with drivers who make it to Cup and become champions?
RICKY CARMICHAEL: Yeah, definitely with the ones that become champions, there's no doubt about it. I mean, you got to have talent, but at the end of the day you got to be able to work harder than the other guys that you're competing against and racing against.
So, you know, these people don't become champions overnight and because it just gets handed to them. They're obviously doing their work away from everybody.
Q. Outside of the obvious differences between supercross and the Truck Series, one having two wheels and one having four, outside of that, what are the biggest differences that you see between the two sports as far as either the fan base, the media coverage, facilities? Also, what is your favorite part about being in the Truck Series?
RICKY CARMICHAEL: Well, the first part of the question, definitely what I notice is the fans are so much more loyal. I mean, not that we don't have loyal fans in motorcross and supercross. But the NASCAR fans, if you're an RC fan, Ricky Carmichael fan, Jimmie Johnson fan, Jeff Gordon fan, you're their fan to the end no matter what, good times, bad times, through the thick and thin basically. That's what's cool.
Obviously the TV time, the media time, you know, it's unbelievable. We got so much of it and it's all great. Sometimes I feel bad for the motorcross guys because they really deserve it sometimes. But that's what makes NASCAR, you know, so great. Man, it's just amazing how much more media and coverage you get.
Q. What is your favorite part about the Truck Series now that you're in your second full season?
RICKY CARMICHAEL: You know, I think the neatest thing for me is just how much competition there is, how established the guys are in that series that are racing. I mean, from Ron Hornaday to Skinner to Bodine. The field is pretty deep and they've been doing it for a long time. That's what's cool.
It's hardcore racing. The races are shorter than the Nationwide and the Cup racing. You know, they have splitters. I believe it's really grooming us younger drivers in the future for driving these cars.
Q. I'm thinking if you are watching the NASCAR races, you check out the Sprint Cup Series races as well as truck races. Are you keeping track of what's going on, watching the other series as they race?
RICKY CARMICHAEL: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, that's my only way to learn. Seeing that NASCAR doesn't really let us test at these big tracks that we're going to, that's what I have to do. I got to get every little bit that I can and try to use everything to my advantage.
What's great watching the Sprint Cup Series is those cars are so aero sensitive, exactly like the trucks. The TV is amazing, in-car cameras, the commentators do a great job of explaining things, how it works. I'm not kidding, you can really translate it and put it on the track when you go out there and drive.
Q. With your background, having now studied that, having been in a truck, are you in awe what they're able to do at that level?
RICKY CARMICHAEL: Absolutely. Especially the guys that can really work the air on those mile-and-a-half's and stuff where it's so important. It amazes me. It's like the dirty air don't even faze 'em. You look at Jimmie Johnson, the guy is so good in dirty air. The Truck Series, Ron Hornaday, they work it so good, and it doesn't let it slow 'em down, where that's been my biggest learning curve, is learning how to come through dirty air.
Q. Did you ever shave your head with the Kevin Harvick bet?
RICKY CARMICHAEL: You got me there (laughter). I got it shaved pretty thin, but not all the way. He let me off the hook. The bet I made, he didn't make a fair bet with me, I don't think.
Q. Could you talk about the general aspect of being with KHI last year, now with Turner Motorsports. What do you see as the biggest differences there? As far as working with a crew chief, seems like you hit it off pretty well with your former crew chief, and how is the integration going with Mike Fritts?
RICKY CARMICHAEL: Yeah, y'all don't understand how happy I am have to have him as my crew chief. Definitely doesn't have the experience in the Truck Series and stuff like that. But the guy's attention to detail is amazing. Obviously, Florida short tracks, the guy is a legend down there, was, still is. He's got track records at all kinds of places, New Smyrna being one of them. We did really good in the East Series first year out, not having much experience in that deal.
I just know that when we take that truck from the shop with the team we have and him overlooking everything, I know it's going to be the best that it can be. It has given me a level of confidence that I really need to take it to that next level.
Obviously, you know, we got a couple guys from KHI last year that are able to bridge of gap of communication, so it's awesome.
Q. I know that tracks like Atlanta, they say you can really feel the speed at the mile-and-a-half tracks maybe even more so than Daytona where you may be going a little bit faster. From your experience on these mile-and-a-half tracks, how do you relate that thrill or that feeling with what you feel when you're competing in supercross?
RICKY CARMICHAEL: Well, I think, you know, the mile-and-a-half's, definitely Atlanta is fast. But, yeah, I mean, you're going fast, the same as if I was on a motorcross bike and there was a jump that I was really nervous to do or trying to really go fast where you almost kind of are holding your breath in areas because you're getting all that you can get.
That's exactly what it's like, whether it's a really physically demanding track and you need to go really fast and you're taking chances. That's kind of what it's like when you're in a heated battle in a truck in Atlanta on these mile-and-a-half's or before qualifying.
I always notice it before qualifying. When I'm sitting in my seat before I'm ready to go, before NASCAR sends you out for your two laps, I feel my adrenaline going, my heart is beating, because you know you have to lay it on the line and get all you can get.
Q. There's been a lot of talk about the open-wheel drivers coming over to NASCAR. Seems like they're saying it takes three years to make that transition from open-wheel to NASCAR. In your situation, do you have any kind of timeline? Are you looking at something similar to make a successful transition from the bikes to NASCAR?
RICKY CARMICHAEL: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, I think in some ways for the little bit of seat time I've had, I've been somewhat successful. I've had some great qualifying runs and great finishes for the lack of seat time I have in four wheel just in general.
It takes years of every single weekend racing a full schedule. I mean, you can't do it part-time for three years. That's not gonna cut it these days, especially when you got guys that are racing the Truck Series, then racing the Nationwide Series on the side, and then some Cup races, as well.
So, you know, you have to have that, for sure. Three years of full-time series racing will be key. I think by that point you know if things are clicking and if you're going to make it to Sprint Cup level or not.
Q. Ricky, as far as the details that you give your crew chief, which are very important obviously, was that the same for you with the bikes? Did you have a crew chief? Is that a bigger learning curve for you? Do you think articulate guys like you make better drivers because you give the details better?
RICKY CARMICHAEL: Absolutely. If you listen to Jimmie Johnson on the radio, you know, he really, really breaks it down a lot more than other drivers. I think that helps.
Absolutely, when I was racing motorcross, as I got towards the tail end of my career, I don't know, say the last five or six years, yeah, I could pull over, we called them our mechanics, not crew chiefs, I could talk to my mechanic and say I need this and this on the suspension, as far as jetting on the carburetor, this on the engine, I could tell him exactly what I wanted, instead of saying, It's doing this, can you help me?
I'm getting past the stage of that on the car side of things, you know. I still have a lot to learn. But that's the great thing about working with my crew chief, Mike Fritts. You know, he's worked with me longer than anybody else has, so he kind of knows my lingo. It's going to come in time. If it's tight in the center, why is it tight in the center? If it's loose getting in, why is it loose getting in? Is it track bars, the front end is too positive? Those are the little things you have to work out.
You have two more wheels and a lot more things working than you do in a motorcycle. I think I won a lot of races at the tail end of my motorcross career because I was more savvy at setting my bike up than the next guy.
HERB BRANHAM: Thanks to Ricky Carmichael for joining us today. Best of luck at Atlanta on Saturday as the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series season resumes. Best of luck the rest of the season.
RICKY CARMICHAEL: Thank you very much. I'd like to say thank you to everybody, all the guys from the press. First and foremost, I'd like to apologize for being late. Had a little glitch there in the system. Didn't have the number to call, so I was calling my manager and PR gal to get it done. Just line of communication was bogged up. So I appreciate everybody for sticking with me. If you ever need anything from me, questions or anything, please feel free to call me or swing by the rig.
HERB BRANHAM: Ricky, thank you very much.
Thanks to the media who participated today. As always, we appreciate the coverage.
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