NASCAR Media Conference
August 11, 2009
HERB BRANHAM: Thank you, and good afternoon, everyone. Welcome to today's NASCAR Cam video teleconference. It's coming to you from the NASCAR Research and Development Center in Concord, North Carolina. We have some very special guests, courtesy of ESPN, Rusty Wallace and Ray Evernham. To handle the introductions of our guests and outline the focus of today's call, I'm going to welcome Andy Hall, who's the manager of media relations for ESPN. Andy, it's all yours.
ANDY HALL: Thank you, Herb, and thanks to all of you at NASCAR for this opportunity to be on your video conference call today. Some of you may have heard, we made the announcement in Indianapolis a few weeks ago that for the NASCAR Nationwide Series race at Michigan this coming weekend, we were going to do a little something different with our telecast of the race. Instead of having a traditional play-by-play announcer and analyst, we're going to go the race without a play-by-play announcer, and we're going to utilize our five NASCAR champions in a little bit different role in that Tim Brewer is going to continue to report from the Craftsman Tech garage, but up in the booth we're going to have Dale Jarrett, Andy Petree, Rusty Wallace and Ray Evernham actually calling the race and entertaining the viewers with stories.
And this whole idea came about from our vice president of motorsports, Rich Feinberg, and his experience going to dinner with these guys over the last few years and just listening to the stories that they could tell and knowledge and experience that they have in NASCAR racing.
So the idea was born of doing what we're calling "backseat drivers" and just having these four guys in the booth commenting on what's going on with the racing and sharing their knowledge of the sport. So that's what we're going to do for the coverage of the CARFAX 250 at Michigan International Speedway this Saturday at 3:00 o'clock on ESPN.
And as Herb said, we have two of our five champion analysts on the call today, Rusty Wallace and Ray Evernham, and Rusty, we'll start with you. You've been a part of TV now since you retired from driving. What do you think of this idea, and is this something you're looking forward to?
RUSTY WALLACE: Well, I'm looking forward to the idea. It's a pretty cool idea that Rich Feinberg has come up with. Myself and Ray and Andy and DJ, we've probably got a lot to talk about, that's for sure. We've all won at Michigan before and we've all got stories to tell.
I guess my biggest concern is that I don't step over the top of each other and we don't keep interrupting each other and stuff like that. I think once we get about ten minutes into the broadcast we'll find our home and understand where we're at. It's going to be a different process for sure; instead of saying here they go, here they come, this guy is passing this guy or whatever, we're going to be able to comment on how the race is going and from our past experience what we thing we should do to do win is race or what I would have done or what Ray might do.
It's going to be a different type of broadcast. I feel comfortable with it, I'm excited about it, and when it's all said and done, it's either going to work or won't work and we'll see what happens.
ANDY HALL: That's a good point. This is just something we're trying one time. It's not something we're planning on doing on a regular basis. We'll continue to have Dr. Jerry Punch in the booth for the NASCAR Sprint Cup races and Marty Reid will be calling most of the Nationwide races for the rest of the year.
Ray, one of the things that myself as a viewer has enjoyed is a lot of the -- sometimes we've had to do rain fill, and we've had to do a lot of that recently unfortunately, but where you guys actually start picking at each other and having fun. Do you anticipate a lot of that in the telecast on Saturday?
RAY EVERNHAM: Yeah, that's certainly what it's about. I really enjoy the role on ESPN. After racing for years with DJ and Andy and Rusty, it's like we're all kind of doing the same thing still, so I get to see the guys. But as much as we've done together, we still have different opinions on things, and it's great to be able to spar back and forth, and you've got DJ and Andy in the booth, and they're kind of -- you know, they're one way, more conservative, type of approach, and then you've got Rusty and I, we're wide open, do, whatever, gamble, two tires, no tires. So I think it's going to be a great deal and I'm really looking forward to it.
Unlike Rusty, I really believe that we're going to be talking over one another and stopping and saying, no, man, that's not the way it is. But I think that's what ESPN wants, and I think that's what the fans are really going to enjoy.
ANDY HALL: Now we'll go to media questions for Rusty and Ray, and I'll give it back to Herb.
HERB BRANHAM: We'll indeed go to media questions now. The operator will give the queue instructions right now.
Q. I have the same question for both but I'll ask Rusty first. This is probably a topic that will come up this weekend. What's your take on driver development programs? You had some experience with Chase Austin. Is financing the big issue, and how critical are driver development programs to the future health of the sport?
RUSTY WALLACE: Well, it's a great question. I really think that driver development programs are definitely crucial. We've got to get these drivers from somewhere, although I will tell you NASCAR has got a pretty good amount of pretty good drivers right now.
Back to your question about Chase Austin, Chase Austin is a fantastic little driver. In fact, he was in my office yesterday at the race shop, just came by to say hello, and Chase would have definitely been in one of my Nationwide cars if we had the funding. Unfortunately what we thought we could put together for him just went away. Atreus Homes Company, a fellow by the name of John Bean out of Atlanta who was funding that program, as everybody knows the home industry just went into shambles and the finances went away and unfortunately we couldn't continue on with Chase.
But there's a lot of great young drivers out there. I tell people, yeah, we need to get these guys going, but I've got something in my head that tells me in order for one of these guys to be real successful, to get in the sport, to get a good firm foundation, a good footing, it takes three years. I've watched many times, and it's not one, it's not two, it's three. And if it's two, you're an extra special driver to be able to catch on that quick.
I look at Juan Pablo Montoya, who's been in his third full year right now, and we're finally starting to see Montoya lay some good steady, good performances now. Look what he did at Indy, look what he did at Pocono. He always runs good here of late. And I think three years is the key. In order to bring up the young guys and keep them going, they've got to be funded. But you've got to be able to fund them for a solid three years, and that's the tough part.
Q. You've got an up-and-coming young kid in your group, but in your opinion who's a couple of the best young developing drivers right now, whether it's Nationwide, Truck or Sprint Cup Series?
RUSTY WALLACE: Well, I think Steven Leicht, he's got a lot of talent. I think he's a kid who if Richard Childress Racing can keep developing him, he'll be a good one. My own son, Steven, has just really been doing really good this year, and he's -- he'll be in his third full-time year. Another three-time story. This is three years with Steven now, and got a lot of people saying, hey, he's finally looking really good, and maybe he's ready for a win right now.
You look at Steven, you look at Steven Leicht, you look at -- I had some high hopes for Brad Coleman. He's been having some struggles of late. I think I'm going to come back to you with my third choice after you talk to Ray a little bit. I've got to think on that one a little bit.
Q. I guess this concept for this weekend is a little foreign, and I'm not sure if the viewers are going to quite understand it. My question is who's going to be leading the show here? You guys all have great personalities, you guys are going to be mixing it up I'm sure, but at the end of the day someone needs to be running the broadcast, I guess, so to speak. I guess I'll give it to Ray first.
RAY EVERNHAM: As far as I know, when we drop the green flag we're all headed towards the first corner together, so you know this group, someone is going to be trying to lead. I think I'm going to rely on DJ a little bit to help in and out and Alan Bestwick will really be traffic cop, but it's going to be up to us. We've all been able to take tosses from the director, from Neil Goldberg, on when to pass to the pit reporters or when to go to break, so we can all kind of do that. It will be a bit of a different show.
It's not really going to be a free-for-all because we really do have a conversation flow. I don't know if you got to see the roundtable discussion that we did from the boxing ring for ESPN, but it'll be a little bit of stepping over. But I think clearly ESPN doesn't want a direction, they don't want somebody in the lead. They want us, they want our personalities, they want us to be just like we're sitting around a table at somebody's house watching the race on television talking about it.
RUSTY WALLACE: I totally agree, I think DJ has been in the booth a lot the last couple years, and I think when it comes down to maybe trying to end a conversation or take it to a break or to commercial, Neil Goldberg our producer will tell him that, but we'll be all hearing the same thing. This isn't something that's real hard. We've been doing this for a long time.
But one thing I think you'll see that will be different, I don't think you'll hear a lot of numbers. You won't be hearing a lot of statistical information. You'll hear a lot of talk about what we've done in the past and what we would do or what we wouldn't do and more of kind of an open-table conversation. We won't be talking about what city the guy grew up in, how many top 10 finishes he's had, how many top 5s he's had, all the number stuff that to me is really boring. I think we're going to talk racing and try to call what's on the track, and like Ray said, DJ will be a little bit of a traffic cop in there.
RAY EVERNHAM: You'll probably hear some of, "Don't tell me, I beat you in 2000," or "Don't tell me, I beat you in 2001," and "you should have done this." It'll be a lot like that.
Q. I wanted to talk to either Ray or Rusty, get either of their thoughts on the Chase. There's four races to go and there's some big names kind of teetering on the brink of not making it like Kenseth, Mark Martin, Kyle Busch. A couple weeks ago Kyle Busch said that if you don't make the Chase, it basically means you're running for nothing the final ten races of the season. I wanted to get you guys' thoughts on that, is there much at stake, and who do you guys think is in trouble or in good position to make it?
RUSTY WALLACE: First off I'll say it's an awful, awful tight Chase right now. Between 7th and 13th there's only 154 points separating all these guys. And Kyle Busch, I'm actually one of the guys that said, I don't think he's going to make it because he's so aggressive and he's been having all these problems and now he's only 58 points out of 12th.
The Chase is definitely open for 7th through 13th, that's for sure. I think the guys in the top 6 are pretty well locked in. I think 7th through 13th are obviously in trouble. Kyle Busch is going to be driving with a lot of aggression, Clint Boyer, guys like that, trying to get in. The guy I'm a little concerned about right now is actually Matt Kenseth because Matt has got to be looking in his rear-view mirror the whole time. He can't really just drive flat out. He's got to be protecting that 12th spot he's in right now.
So there's different agendas, that's for sure. And that's my opinion. Ray, what do you think?
RAY EVERNHAM: I think Kyle is going to race his way in. They've got four races to get settled down. He's a guy that I picked early to win this title. Now, Tony Stewart has certainly come a long way, but I still believe Kyle can get his team and his act together. He seems to be maturing, focusing on the right thing. They've got a points race a little bit over here in the next four, but 58 points out, he's not that far out. He runs awful good at some of these tracks coming up, and I still believe Kyle will be a factor in the Chase.
RUSTY WALLACE: Ray, this year has been awfully competitive, too. We've had 12 different winners already this year. From what I remember, that already equals last year's best for the whole year.
Q. To follow up on what Rusty was saying on about it being so tight, 9th through 15th is separated by 141 points, and that's the tightest margin 9th through 15th with four races to go until the Chase since the Chase was started. Why do you guys think it has been so tight? Is there anything in particular that's causing it to bunch up there toward the back?
RAY EVERNHAM: I think it just says how incredibly competitive this sport is. I think that the COT has done a lot of what it was asked to do. Certainly driver safety with that thing has just been fantastic. They get an A+ for driver safety, again, based on some of the things we saw yesterday.
But more so the competition in NASCAR. The cars are equal. The teams are equal, and from 1st to 15th it's just an incredibly, incredibly competitive sport. I think that that goes to show on how they've tightened up the rules and regulations.
There's a lot of talent now spread through the garage area. You look through the top teams, I think there's seven different organizations represented in that top 12, and it's just an amazing competitive sport.
We went from 10 cars to 12 cars because all of a sudden you've got 15 Top 10 cars, and I'm going to tell you pretty soon it won't be long, you're going to have 20 Top 10 cars, and it's going to get tighter and tighter to make that Chase or not.
Q. I'll direct this to Ray. Could you talk about your experience with driver development programs both at Hendrick Motorsports and then with your own team, how critical you feel they are to the future health of the sport, and in your opinion who's a couple of the best up-and-coming young talents these days?
RAY EVERNHAM: Well, I do feel like driver development is incredibly important, no different than if you look at all the major league sports. They've got leagues -- you can start playing football, pop warner, baseball, little league on up through high school, college, different things you can do, and racing is not really like that. I think that's why from the grass-roots side of things that's some things I'm working on, some spec series that we can keep these kids in cars without having to spend a lot of money and have some crazy engineering knowledge so they can get up here.
And NASCAR has done a good job of that with the Camping World Series with the spec motor and spec tire and the amount of people to keep those costs down. As Rusty said, the biggest thing that stops driver development is the funding that it takes to run a guy or a girl in a Cup or Truck or Busch, even ARCA. It's very, very expensive. So I think from focusing on a spec short track series so you can really get to know if somebody is talented or not, and then being able to get a sponsor or a partner to be able to fund that, again, like Rusty said, for two or three years.
You've got a lot of great kids that have come in and not been able to get a full shot at it because sponsors or owners or people just couldn't be patient enough while they learned.
So we have to continue to develop the young people in this sport. Now, with that said, I think it's a great time, we've got some extremely talented young guys. Rusty and I did that race in Milwaukee. And you look at Ricky Stenhouse and Steven Leicht like he talked about, the Darnell kid, there's five or six guys. I think Steven Wallace has come a long way in what he's done. He's on the verge of winning a race now with his new crew chief Trip Bruce.
So there's a lot of talent there. But I really think it's our responsibility to make sure we all get together on some kind of a true step spec racing for kids to keep them stepping at a goal towards getting to NASCAR.
Q. This is for both of you. We talked a little bit about who might make the Chase and who might not, but I just want to get your feeling on once the Chase comes, do you feel that Tony Stewart is the favorite, or who do you think will win the title?
RUSTY WALLACE: Great question, that's a one tough, too. Right now it looks like Stewart has got so much momentum going on, it's hard to bet against Tony. I'd have to say Tony. But I will tell you, at the beginning of the year, I said, Johnson is going to do it again. I'm not going to bet against him. If I have two to choose from, I'd definitely pick Johnson or Stewart because of their sheer momentum and their consistency. They're so consistent, it's unreal.
You want me to pick one, I'll pick one. I think Johnson is still going to do it. He's won three, knows how to do it. He's a second-half team, he's always been a second-half team. I still think it's going to come out of the Hendrick camp, which that could be Stewart, too, I guess.
RAY EVERNHAM: It's tough, Tony has consistently out-pointed everybody over the past several weeks, and that's what you're going to have to do to win the championship. In the Chase certainly you're going to have to go after wins, and Jimmie Johnson and Chad Knaus I still say are the best sandbaggers in the business. I don't think that they don't show everything they've got until it really comes time. I know they've missed a little bit here and there. Certainly I don't expect a change out of Tony's camp, so I do believe they'll be strong. I expect the 48 car to be their stiffest competition.
Again, I've just got to believe that the Gibbs team with Kyle Busch is going to factor in there.
Q. Ray, you talked about your role at ESPN, and are you missing having a more active role in the competition side of things as you've had the last couple years and more?
RAY EVERNHAM: I think you miss certainly certain aspects of it. I mean, I love cars, I love to work on them and I love to be in the race. But I don't miss the 36 or 40 weekends a year and all the stress that went along with it.
I had a good career, and I'm happy with that. I don't really feel like I'll be looking to do something full-time in Cup. I love to be involved, consult. As I said, I love the sport. I don't ever plan on walking away from it, but I don't really ever plan to get back up on the box full-time, either.
I do enjoy my role with ESPN. I'm a very team-oriented person, and I love to go to the racetrack with these guys. When you get there it's a team atmosphere. You're around a bunch of racing people in a relaxed mode. As I said, Rusty and DJ and Andy and I have all become good friends because we don't have to compete against each other every week. Heck, there was a time you couldn't keep Rusty and I from wanting to fist fight and now we travel around together. I do enjoy the ESPN role a lot.
I do see myself somehow being involved either in NASCAR or from the mechanical side in the future but certainly not on a full-time basis.
Q. I was going to ask Ray what life is like not being involved full-time as a team owner, but let me focus more on how things are going at the East Lincoln Speedway. Are you enjoying that? What kind of shows do they have there at the track?
RAY EVERNHAM: I am enjoying it. It's something that I get to do. I don't get there every Saturday night, I get there about twice a month. We keep improving the facility. Our attendance keeps going up. We've got a car count that's going up, and we're doing what we want, and we're doing something good for the community. It's like going to a Friday night high school football game in Texas. It's the same people over and over again; they cheer for their heroes. We're giving kids a place to start and learn about racing.
I've had a lot of good people come through there and talk to them about safety and professionalism. I feel like we put on a good show. We're going to continue to do that, and I feel good about it. We're working on a spec series right now to try and do some of the things that I talked about, giving people an opportunity.
We're reaching some new fans. We probably get -- we do these little coupons and we experiment in different markets, people that hang out at the lake and do the golf thing and kind of lake people, and we're getting 25 to 50 of those people averaging rotating throughout the week. So we're introducing a lot of new fans to the sport, and I feel good about that.
A lot of my buddies have been stopping over on Saturday nights, and Dick Trickle has been there and Doug Herbert the drag racer several times, and I'm going to get this guy and Steven over there for a little match race one night. It's great because we're doing something good, and the fans are over there enjoying it, and I think that they're the same people that turn their TVs on on Sunday to make sure that they watch their NASCAR races.
Q. Rusty, I just want to get your thoughts on the Nationwide Series debut at Iowa Speedway, and what do you think, if anything, that you guys need to do at that track to get a Cup Series event there?
RUSTY WALLACE: Well, first of all, we were really excited about the turnout at Iowa Speedway. It was a historical day for the state of Iowa. It was one of the biggest races I think that the NASCAR Nationwide Series had ever experienced. We had over 60,000 people there. The people were so excited.
It was five laps to go, I looked in the grandstands, I didn't see hardly anybody leave at all. The highway was vacant around the track. With five laps to go they all stayed until the very end. It was just one of those really, really cool weekends. We had great weather, great competition, two and three wide racing and I was really proud of the track.
It's no secret that that was the first track I ever designed, and it's one of the first tracks with multiple groove banking. That track has got 12 degrees on the bottom, 13 in the middle and 14 up top, and the reason we did that was trying to create side-by-side racing because we heard so much problem about aero tight. These cars get behind cars and they lose their downforce and it's hard to pass. We made a decision, let's try to get them so they can change lanes, just simply get out from behind each other, and that's where the multi-groove banking angles came from.
So the track raced good, and when all was said and done we looked at each other and said, wow, what do we do now to get it better. One guy said, well go down in the garage and look what they wrote on the wall. They said, great track, Rusty, but we need more bathrooms. So I think that's the thing we're going to work on next.
Q. I had a couple questions. I wanted to ask both of you guys first off, how do you look at those in the Cup and in the Nationwide Series at the back who are essentially kind of the start-and-parkers? Do you look at those as guys who are somewhat in a sense smart business people? There are a couple teams that have already earned close to $2 million doing it this year. Or is this something that's kind of a drag on the sport in the sense of it's not in the true sense of maybe what a competitor should be doing on the racetrack?
RAY EVERNHAM: I can give you my opinion. If you've got a guy that's running the whole series and he's racing sometimes and he's got a week that he just can't afford it and he has to do a start-and-park, but 75, 80 percent of the time he's racing, you can deal with that. But I don't really care for the guys that come in there and they plan to do a start-and-park. I think those people are taking out of the sport rather than giving to it, and I just don't like it.
RUSTY WALLACE: I agree with you totally. I'm a little vocal about this. Again, if the guy has got plans to compete in this series and puts some good racing on for the fans and help build the great name of NASCAR by racing, that's one thing. But if they're going to come in like Ray just said and just go find a car and just get in and as soon as they make one lap just pull out, grab the money and go home, yeah, it's a business, it sure is, but for the guys that are out there competing every single week and working like crazy to find sponsors like all of us are and have that happen, I don't like it.
I know this is probably going to start a firestorm, but I'm not big on it. I totally agree with what you said, Ray. If his intention is to run and he's running and all of a sudden he has four or five bad weeks where he's kind of down on his luck, he doesn't have the money and he's got to do a start-and-park, so be it. But to start out from the getgo and plan, I'm going to work this system and just do a start-and-park and just take the money and run and not invest it putting a show on, I've got a problem with that.
Q. Can you further just explain that, because some of these people would say that they're trying to do that to kind of get started and try to make the money that they can get into an organization kind of like yours, Rusty, or what you had, Ray. Can you further explain, is it just the spirit of the competition, or why is it so bad because somebody would say, look, on the Cup side there's only 45, 46 cars showing up at some of these races, are they really taking away a spot from anybody.
RAY EVERNHAM: Again, from my standpoint, I think it is. If you want to race, if you're really trying to make it in the sport and get a sponsor, running one or two laps and pulling in is not going to get it for you. I'd be fighting for everything I was worth, I'd be asking guys to give me tires off their car, or beg, borrow and steal to try and run a whole race. That's how you get a sponsor.
There are a lot of people that come in and they look at a business plan and they figure at the end of the year they can take away a couple hundred thousand bucks and put it in their pocket. They look at it as a purely business. It's just not that to me. I've grown up in the sport, I've been around, I've seen tons and tons of people sacrifice their lives and families and things like that to be in it, so I take it as a little bit of a slap in the face when a guy wants to come in and just take money out of the sport without putting something in it.
If you want to be in it, that's great. There's enough people there that will help you. There's tons of guys helping people like Morgan Shepherd and people like that. You can always get a used tire or a used part. There's some great guys, Rick Hendrick, Richard Childress, myself, Rusty, that have given plenty of parts to people who really wanted to race so they can keep racing. I don't think there's an excuse for having a business plan and saying, okay, we're going to make 50 grand this week and taking that check and going home. I have a tough time stomaching it.
RUSTY WALLACE: Well said. Another guy you just said, Morgan Shepherd, there's a guy right there who doesn't have a sponsor on his car, and talk to some people, and people do help him. Morgan goes out to put a show on. If you look at some of the last races he's had, he's run the whole race. He's run all the laps. We've talked about him a lot on television, and if you just go out there, run one lap and get off the track, we're not going to talk about you because you're not there.
I've really got a problem with what I call working the system, just run a lap, just plan to run a lap. In fact, I even had one of those guys say to me one time, what is it you don't understand about start-and-park. That means start the race and park it right now. I'm like, wow, that's not the way I was brought up.
Q. This is for Rusty. I recently was talking to Kurt Busch about the lineage and just the history of the drivers who have driven the No. 2 car in NASCAR competition and was just curious, when you drove the 2, were you real familiar with the history of the 2, and did it mean something to you to look back and see names of guys who drove it before you, and what does that number mean to a driver?
RUSTY WALLACE: That number is important to a lot of different people. It was important to me. I was well aware that Roger Penske had No. 2. In fact, it was 02 but I still called it 2 as an owner, and that was the reason we went and hunted for the No. 2. D.K. Ulrich had that No. 2, he was racing and he was only running part-time, and he decided he was not going to run the next year, so I asked to get it from him. We put a program together where we could get the number. We could have asked for a different number, but we wanted 2 because of Mr. Penske's 02.
We also wanted a single digit number. I thought that the single digit number gave more room on the car to make the car look cleaner, had more sponsor visibility on there. So I'm a big fan of single digit numbers. Although I like the number I've got with my own son's car, 66, because that's the number I grew up with when I won my championship back in American Speed Association. So it has some historical significance.
But I believe that Dale Earnhardt, Sr., drove the No. 2, I think, a little bit. But other than that, my personal experience with the 2 was mainly because of Penske.
Q. I'm just kind of directing back to the telecast for this weekend. Given that this is a new experiment for increasing the fan viewership, do you foresee in the future maybe adding additional input, maybe even next weekend going to live internet sources such as Twitter to keep up with the running feedback of fans watching the telecast but maybe participating in the background among other fans to talk amongst themselves about how the race is going? Can y'all pull that into the feed or the broadcast somehow?
RAY EVERNHAM: I think Rusty is looking at me because he knows neither one of us are computer literate. We don't Facebook, we don't Twitter. We pick up the phone and call one another when we want each other. Andy Hall may be able to answer what ESPN's programs are. I know there's a lot of interest and things going on on the internet, but as far as getting feedback back from the fans immediately, I don't know how ESPN goes about that.
Like I said, we're kind of old school. We still pass notes back and forth and still pick up the phone and call one another.
RUSTY WALLACE: I use a flip phone and a notepad and I get my emails. That's about it. I don't do that. My kids all do that stuff. I don't do any Twitter, Facebook, none of that type of stuff.
RAY EVERNHAM: I texted you a week ago and you still haven't texted me back.
RUSTY WALLACE: I don't know how to type. It takes a long time -- plus I've got to put my glasses on. You've got to put your glasses on, you've go to open it up, look at little letters. It's a pain; I'd rather pick up the phone and say hello. I think that's a lot of what's screwing the country up, a lot of it. I've got opinions on that.
Long story short, I hate all that stuff.
Q. Rusty, I wanted to ask you about your Nationwide team. You've had it for two, three years now. Have you been surprised at how difficult it's been, and would you have ever thought you would have gone this far without winning with that team yet?
RUSTY WALLACE: Yeah, it is very, very difficult. But you've got to understand one thing; I did it back in 2004 because I had a sponsor available. I decided I was only going to run part-time, and I started out with a new kid, Billy Parker, and Billy did a great job for me. But then it just turned into needing a lot of experience to compete with those guys and we weren't getting the job done. I put Jamie McMurray in the car, and the very first race we stood on the pole; the very next race we went to Darlington and won the race, and that's been my very last win.
After that I started developing my own son and different people, and basically turned my team into a development team for my own family. Right now we're getting some strides. We're doing well. The car is running good, and I think we're right there before we win like Ray just said.
But the Nationwide Series is a tough, tough series, and it's very, very competitive. It costs a lot of money, and unfortunately it's very hard to get the sponsors because most of the sponsors want to go Cup racing.
I would like to take my Nationwide team Cup racing one of these days, and I really thought that next year might be the year. But it's still too tight on the finances to take that next big step.
And I really think that Steven needs another year yet. He's doing so good right now, and I've had Carl Edwards come up to me last week, and he said, Rusty, I've got to talk to you, what I've seen Steven doing is really cool about how he's been maturing, and I've had many drivers come up and say the same thing. And as a dad, it really makes me feel good because I'm seeing that myself.
But it took a lot of investment years, but I think that if we run him one more year in this series, then he's got a really good firm foundation. I know I'm going past my three-year program, but I would take that big step and go and throw him in the Cup next year if the finances were there, but they're not there yet.
Q. How is the relationship with KHI helped out? Is that still something that you're going to pursue going forward now?
RUSTY WALLACE: Yeah, absolutely. That's something, too. Kevin Harvick has been fantastic to our team. We email our setups back and forth every single week. I know exactly what he's going to have in his car for Michigan, I know exactly what he had for Watkins Glen, and in fact, I got into a little bit of a heated conversation with some of my team guys this week, in fact, yesterday at our team meeting. I said, why didn't you use all of this information that was right there. I said, the guys blew your doors off. He sat on the pole, he led a ton of laps, on and on and on.
But it gets back to this partnership, it takes a little while to get everybody on the same page. You just can't say, okay, do exactly what Kevin is doing because our cars aren't exactly the same yet. But we're working to that direction to work back and forth.
Now, we went to Iowa Speedway exactly the same, and both cars handled exactly the same, and that was bad. On Thursday Kevin changed his car over, we changed our car over, got them both running good and they both ran good in the race. But the situation is going to work, and we're trading dollars back and forth right now, and we are a partnership, so to speak, on technology.
I love Kevin, he's a great guy, he's aggressive. And the one thing that's cool about him right now, he's in his own car a lot. He doesn't have multiple drivers in it now, so he's able to get some really good feedback because he's the one driving it, and that's helping everybody right now.
Q. This question is for both Rusty and Ray. There's a ton of expertise on your five-panel board on this broadcast coming up. Rusty, you were a driver and now you're a team owner; Ray, you've been a driver in a series in racing and you also were Jeff Gordon's crew chief. On this broadcast how are you going to keep yourselves from second-guessing the teams, or can you, or do you plan to as the race progresses?
RAY EVERNHAM: We're not. That's the whole reason for the broadcast. We're going to second-guess the teams, we're going to second-guess one another, we're going to talk about stuff that we did, we're going to say what's good and what we think is wrong. I mean, we're going to have fun with it, and you go out on a limb sometimes when you're second-guessing some strategy and find that you get taught something by some of these new crew chiefs. So I'm looking forward to it. I guess that's the point is they're hoping that DJ and Rusty second-guess the drivers, and they're opening that Andy and I are second-guessing crew chiefs and that we're second-guessing Rusty and DJ and vice versa, no different than it really is on the radio between a crew chief and a driver. You're always going back and forth. There's going to be a lot of that going on from our side.
RUSTY WALLACE: I agree. We're going to say what we think. We're not going to go into the broadcast trying to say, okay, I'm going to disagree with you six or eight times just to try to spice the show up, none of that stuff. I'm going to say, look, when I won my four races at Michigan, this is how I did it and this is what happens in the race. You're going to qualify down low, you're going to race on the top of Turn 3 and 4, you're probably going to be on the bottom of 1 and 2. Yeah, it's a wide racetrack, it's one of the biggest racetracks out there. We're going to say it's in all the car companies' backyards so there's extra incentive to run.
You'll hear things like that. I don't think you'll hear a lot of emotional, he's passing low, he's passing high, like a play-by-play guy might do. Obviously we'll do some of that, but there should be a lot of information flowing back and forth.
Q. Ray, you mentioned earlier in one of the earlier callers about Alan Bestwick's involvement in this. Is he going to be in the booth, or is he going to be quarterbacking this thing, or what's his part going to be in this?
RAY EVERNHAM: Alan Bestwick will basically be in the pit studio. He'll be in the pit studio listening to all this, and Alan will reset everything. He'll be the one giving the highlights of what just happened.
But we'll be calling the race from up in the booth, and there will be probably many times that Alan will take it from us and then he'll take it on to break. But Alan will be down there, too, obviously, and plus Neil Goldberg and James Shiftan will be up in the production trailer, and they'll both be listening and talking and throwing ideas out, and I'm sure Ray will get a left earful and I'll get an left earful, because that's the ear the producer talks to us in. And obviously we'll have our earpieces on and we'll be hearing people talking all through our head throughout the entire broadcast trying to help.
Q. What's your feeling on as far as drivers avoiding the media? That's been a lot of that lately, especially post-race, and do you think that's something that's not good for the sport, or is there any justification for it?
RUSTY WALLACE: All I can tell you, as a past driver I never avoided the media. I'm not that type of guy. There's some guys that feel uncomfortable around the media. Some guys get really upset and don't want to talk to them. I was never that guy. I realized the media was my lifeline. I need the media. I don't like what the media says a lot of the times; I love what they say a lot of times, also. My whole career I've always been a guy that wanted to give good sound bytes, wanted to be accessible to the media. And I've had the media burn me many, many times, where I didn't think I deserved it. When it's all said and done, without you guys we'd be in trouble.
Somebody said came to me the other day and said, "Rusty, do you like signing all those autographs?" I said, "You know what, the day that stops is the day I'm in trouble." So I love signing autographs, I love working with the media, and any driver -- that's okay if they don't enjoy it, but if they simply avoid it on purpose, I'll guarantee their career is going to be short lived.
Q. Rusty, you've probably experienced just about everything in a race car. Is there a best way to share or to convey that feel behind the wheel with the fans on TV?
RUSTY WALLACE: With the fans on TV, the best way to convey that? That's something I'm going to have to just -- when Ray and I and DJ and Andy get into the race on Saturday and start trying -- when those situations happen and it's time for a driver as a past driver to convey something to the fan as a driver or a crew chief to convey something to the fans as a crew chief, we'll figure out how to do it. I'm not going to tell you there's a best way to do it, it's just got to happen and it's got to come off-the-cuff and it's got to happen naturally.
The question will be, I wonder why that guy is doing that. I might say, as a driver, when I drove the car, the reason I did it was because of this, because of that. Then there might be a question, why is the guy getting so mad. Ray might jump in and say when I had my driver doing that, I would tell him something different.
RAY EVERNHAM: When I made him mad he went faster, so I'd try to make him mad.
Emotionally you try to describe -- I think the key for us is just going to be to describe what we actually felt in our experiences, because until you're in that battle or until you're going around Michigan at 200 miles an hour or you have to make a split-second pit decision when the caution comes out, you really don't know what that's like, and I think the best thing we can do is just tell people how we felt and how we made the decisions we made.
Q. Rusty, in the spirit of the topic of today's teleconference, can you tell me where Pocono fits in NASCAR history, and along the lines of what you're going to be doing for this race on Saturday, give me a story or something that would relate to Pocono, something that you experienced either good or bad, please.
RUSTY WALLACE: Tough one, compare Pocono to Michigan. Your first question about the historical significance of Pocono and kind of where it ranks, I'll tell you, I've won Pocono many times and I love going to that place. There's a lot of places you go to where you just simply hate going. I'm not going to mention those race tracks, but every driver has got the track they don't enjoy. A lot of drivers got ones they do enjoy.
When I think of Pocono, I think of a really unique shaped racetrack, I think of the areas it's located in. I think the Pennsylvania fans are fantastic. When I retired, about 65 percent of my entire Rusty Wallace fan club came from Pennsylvania, the state of Pennsylvania, or up in the northeast area.
When I think of Pocono, I think of Parnelli Jones, A.J. Foyt, Mario Andretti, all these open-wheel guys that were able to experience that racetrack and race up there, and there's a lot of history.
Pocono in its own has a huge historical feel to it, much like, believe it or not, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. They both are two-and-a-half-mile tracks, they both are flat, and they both have had the Unsers, the Foyts, the Andrettis racing at them, so those are big names.
Q. What I actually meant was if you could give me a funny thing or a strange thing that happened to you at Pocono, not necessarily comparing it to Michigan, but something that happened to you there.
RUSTY WALLACE: Oh, what happened to me there at Pocono. Gosh, I guess one of the ones -- well, I got a chuckle out of it was I won a race there one time, one of my last wins, and I was running out of fuel, and Dale Earnhardt, Sr., was running second behind me. And when we refired, Dale actually wanted me to -- he couldn't catch me. I really had a fast car that day. But he wanted me to win so he could gain points on the guys behind him because he was going for the championship. So Dale pushed me all around the racetrack, kept pushing me and pushing me and pushing me with my engine off under caution. When they held up one lap to go, he backed off the bumper, I fired the engine up and went on and won the race. Earnhardt would tell you all the time that he caused me to win that race.
And then I got back, and we miscalculated the fuel really bad, and I ended up having like five gallons extra of gas than I thought I had, some crazy amount. But that was one of the only times I had Dale, Sr., shoving me around the racetrack numerous laps trying to help me win with the engine off. So that was a pretty cool experience.
Other than that, I've had some horrible experiences. I went down into Turn 1 one time, the left front tire blew out and I hit the wall head on at 200 miles an hour and they all thought I was dead. I came crawling out of there, and Earnhardt popped up and said, that's the reason his head is built out of rubber, man, he can survive those big crashes.
I can go on and on about Pocono. My favorite restaurant in all the United States is in Pocono, the Edelweiss, a German restaurant up there. I love going to that joint. That's all I've got on Pocono.
Q. I was wondering if both of you could comment on the wrecks coming out of Turn 9 at Watkins Glen, both the Leffler and then the Sam Hornish-Jeff Gordon accident. Do you feel like anything needs to be done as far as runoff area or the barrier system, or in that area is a tire barrier guardrail system kind of the best thing you can have?
RAY EVERNHAM: Well, that's a good question. The cars are just doing a tremendous job, and the seats, restraints, everything is doing a tremendous job. The one thing I would ask them to look at at Watkins Glen without having to rip up the guardrail and change their track, is there a better way of building a soft wall or something to absorb the impact other than the tires, because the tires seem to take that energy and then just store it and then throw the car back further than we've seen soft walls and other things do. So if there was something that they could do there to stop that, I mean, when you've got an inside and outside guardrail, it's difficult because you're going through a tunnel. But I believe that using a different material other than those tires would stop it from throwing the car out as far into traffic and giving the guys a little bit of an escape route. I believe that's something they maybe can look at without having to rip up the track or change the guardrail, maybe a little bit different soft wall design to help with the impact but not throw the cars back out onto the racetrack.
RUSTY WALLACE: I agree with you. The whole time you were saying that, what I was thinking was I've got all the confidence in the world that NASCAR will look at that situation. They're smart enough guys that they operate a lot of racetracks and they'll go right to it. It might be something as simple as taking the grass up, not having any grass at all where there's grass right now and maybe do some paving like they did down in Turn 1, which worked really nice. I know Mike Hill and all these guys and they're smart dudes, and they just won't do nothing, I'll tell you that. They'll do something, I think.
HERB BRANHAM: Thank you, and first of all, thanks to Rusty and Ray, best of luck with this new concept you guys are going to try out this weekend, sounds good, and have a good rest of the season. We'll see you down the road.
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