NASCAR Media Conference
June 10, 2009
HERB BRANHAM: Good afternoon, everyone. Welcome to today's teleconference as we're looking ahead to this weekend's NASCAR Sprint Cup and NASCAR Nationwide Series events at Michigan International Speedway and Kentucky Speedway accordingly. We have two drivers on the call today, Carl Edwards. He's going to drive in both events. And Jason Leffler, one of the top regulars in the NASCAR Nationwide Series. He'll be racing at Kentucky.
We'll start off with Carl Edwards, driver of the No. 99 Aflac Ford and the No. 60 Save-A-Lot Ford in the Nationwide Series. Carl comes into Sunday's race having won the last previous Sprint Cup race there last summer. He's sixth in the Sprint Cup points. Comes off a runner-up finish at Pocono.
Carl, you're still looking for the first Cup win this year, but you're in pretty good shape in the points. Then after the Pocono run, what is the feeling for your team coming into Michigan where you usually do pretty well?
CARL EDWARDS: Yeah, we haven't won a race yet. But I feel like our team has grown a lot over the last month or so. Our pit stops have been a lot better. Our cars have been faster. And Sunday was exactly almost what we needed. I mean, we led the most laps. We had good pit stops. We almost won the race. The most important thing that came out of Sunday was jumping up in the points because the reality of this series is that you can win all the races you want, but it really matters what you do in those last 10 races and you have to be in the Chase.
You know, it's no fun being on the outside of those 12 cars, you know, looking in. Our mission right now is just to go get all the points we can so that we have a chance to run for that championship.
So I feel good about it. Our Nationwide car ran really well at Nashville. It's the best we've run relative to the 18 car, who's been unbelievably fast. You know, if we can just kind of keep this going, work through the summer here, be really strong at the end of the year, I think we're going to be in great shape.
HERB BRANHAM: Thanks for that opener. We'll now take media questions for Carl Edwards.
Q. Carl, I have a Nationwide question for you. How would you describe the driving characteristics of the current Nationwide car with the tapered spacer compared to the car you first ran in the Busch Series and then into the Nationwide? What is the current car like comparatively driving-wise?
CARL EDWARDS: At the short tracks the current Nationwide car is great. It's fairly similar to, you know, what we ran before. You know, I started running the Nationwide Series in 2005. But the difference is now we have, I would assume we have more downforce based on the evolution of the bodies and things, and we have much less power.
So at the big tracks, the Nationwide cars become completely different. If you go to a place like Texas, you know, or Chicago or something like that, you kind of lose a variable as a driver with the loss of horsepower because you're almost wide open around the racetrack. So it becomes very, very touchy with the setups and makes it extremely important to have your crew chief and your engineers and all those guys, you know, having those cars perfect. With a little more horsepower, kind of like the Cup car, you can make some things happen.
So it's a different style of racing. It can be very frustrating when you can't get your car to do what you want, but it's good when you're fast, just like anything.
Q. Carl, you talked about being sixth in points. That's the bottom line, being in that Chase. Has it been more encouraging or more frustrating, these last three weeks, where you've had top-10 finishes, but for whatever reason haven't been able to snap this streak?
CARL EDWARDS: Well, I wouldn't call it a streak yet. Because, I mean, this sport's tough. If you look at the guy that won Sunday, you know, Tony, leading the points, he's had great runs. Look how long it took them, even the way they're performing, you look at how long it took them to win a race.
You have to perform like we did on Sunday, you know, for three or four races before you're gonna win one of 'em, just based on the way racing works. So, trust me, I want to win so badly. And even though it's only been 13 or 14 races, it feels like forever. But I think if we just keep our heads down, I think we'll get what we deserve. And definitely the points feel good. I told everybody after the race, I said, I hope I feel a little better tomorrow, because I was not very happy with second. But I can tell you, you know, on Monday morning when I got up, I went and looked at the points, that felt pretty good.
So we're all right.
Q. With Sonoma coming up in a couple weeks, ticket sales have been really strong for the race. They're not down from previous years. They've held firm for the upcoming race. I know attendance and TV ratings have been down at other racing this year. From your perspective, how much does that concern you or if it's a concern at all if maybe NASCAR's rampant popularity might be on the wane a little bit?
CARL EDWARDS: I mean, if you look at the whole economy, I guess the stock market's down, what, 35% from October of 2007 or something like that. You know, if you look at the whole economy and the percentage that it's down, I feel like NASCAR's doing relatively well.
I mean, we provide a sport, you know, and entertainment to fans, and our ticket sales and all that stuff are just based on people's discretionary income, and their willingness to spend it to come enjoy our sport.
So considering that we don't, you know, that it's just fun and it's just sport, and we're only down whatever small amount we are, I think we're doing really well. And I think at the town hall style meeting we had the other day, where we talked about all being in this together and providing the best thing we can for the fans, I think if we can keep that attitude and make this sport the best it can be, when the economy comes back up, I feel like, you know, we'll literally be stronger and have more fans.
So I'm positive about it. I've gone to, you know, local dirt tracks and seen nobody making any money, and a hundred people in the stands. And I'm telling you, I think we've still got a great thing going here. Until it gets to that, you won't hear me complain.
Q. Did some concrete, constructive ideas come out of the town hall meeting?
CARL EDWARDS: There were opinions discussed. You know what I mean? And there were ideas thrown around. The thing that came out of it, you know, the one thing that came out of it so far is the double-file restarts, which everyone pretty much agreed that's good.
But I think the came out that's most positive is the idea that, hey, it's not NASCAR versus the drivers, NASCAR versus the car owners, we're all in this together. That's the first time I've heard that kind of message, you know, come straight from Brian France and Mike Helton and all those folks. And they really just said, Hey, lay it on us, what do you guys think?
It was just one hour. I think as we go forward, that kind of relationship will be good for the sport. I think that's the good thing that came out of it.
Q. I want to look ahead to next weekend's Nationwide Series here in Milwaukee. The results you've had this year are very similar to where you were at this point last year. Close, but still looking for that first win. Does the start of this season have that same feel to it?
CARL EDWARDS: You know, I'd have to actually look at the numbers. Do you know our average finish to date versus last year's to this date?
Q. Off the top of my head, no, I don't.
CARL EDWARDS: I think we're a lot better. And I say that because the worst race I've ever had in the Nationwide Series was at Kentucky last year. We got lapped twice under green by Joey Logano. That is the worst we've ever run, that I've ever run, in a NASCAR race. And, I mean, we were in trouble. I mean, we were just not fast enough. I think we ran 15th or something like that at Nashville and struggled. I mean, that was how slow we were.
So I think we're a lot better. I mean, we're only 65 points out of the lead and we're chasing a guy who is extremely fast right now. So I think we're in a lot better shape. I think last year we were in a little bit of a panic at this time. And this year we're getting stronger and stronger. I feel like we're just as fast as Kyle at Nashville, and that's the first time that happened. So I'd say we're better.
Q. The answer to your question was 7.8 to this point this year and 9.5 at the end of the season after you rattled off all those wins that started here.
CARL EDWARDS: Right. I think we're way better. I think we're about a 12th or 13th average. Dan Stillman and I went testing yesterday and we talked about it. You know, the complexion of the season can change so quickly, just like it did last year had we rattled off seven wins at the end of the season and almost caught Clint. I think we're doing all right, considering how head and shoulders far above that 18 car is right now.
Q. So you're very comfortable with Dan at this point?
CARL EDWARDS: Yeah, I am. It's taken us, you know, a little while to kind of get in our groove, but I'd say we're doing really well. I really feel like it's going to be good. I was a little worried there at first just because things, you know, we weren't winning races, but I'm kind of starting to realize that he is the guy to do the job. I think it's gonna be good.
Q. About your team having picked up recently, do you believe that momentum is kind of like a potent team possession, you think that momentum is as hard to retrieve as it is to achieve?
CARL EDWARDS: I know what you're asking. But I just don't think there's any such thing as momentum in racing. I mean, it just basically comes down to will your car go fast enough and how does your luck go, you know. There's a little bit to be said, I think, for a good, positive attitude. I mean, if you go into the race and you're coming off a win and you feel good, you know, you won't be as self-destructive throughout the weekend, you won't let things go bad as easily.
But for me, it's about how fast is my racecar when we start that race. And if it's a fast racecar, everything seems to go really easy. If it's not, there's no amount of previous wins that can make up for it. You know, sometimes things go well and sometimes they don't. But usually fast racecars make everything work well.
Q. I got a Father's Day question for you. Can you give me a favorite memory or two memories about spending time with your father growing up at the racetracks, and how important are those memories to you?
CARL EDWARDS: Boy, my dad and I became very close when we started racing together. He owns a Volkswagen repair shop, and we raced these little Volkswagen-powered racecars. He raced these Volkswagen cars. When I started racing, we went and bought this car. He bought it. I think he paid 1100 bucks for it. And we worked on it pretty much together for six or eight months and got it ready to go. And he lengthened the trailer. He had a trailer that was just a little longer than the little racecar, so he made it a little longer and we put two racecars on it. And every Friday, Saturday and Sunday, we'd go all around eastern Missouri. We'd go to Joffrey, Illinois, St. Charles, Missouri, and we'd race these little Volkswagen cars together. It was usually just my dad and me in his van, pulling, you know, stretched out trailer with two racecars on it. And we had a blast.
I really enjoyed that. That was a very, very good time in my life. I'd say that racing really brought us together.
Q. Just wanted to ask about Mark Martin. He's going to be coming back to Sonoma for the first time in two or three years next week. Obviously he's had as much experience there as anybody. Is it still a bit of an adjustment with regards to the COT, not having driven the COT on that course before?
CARL EDWARDS: I can't speak for Mark, but I'm certainly he's gone and tested. The way he's been running and the amount of talent he has, I mean, I bet he's going there for a win. So, you know, I would not be surprised to see Mark Martin up there, you know, racing in the front of the pack.
I bet he's going to be one of the guys you have to beat, you know, to win this thing. He'll be up there in contention. So the other thing that I think he has going for him is his physical conditioning. You know, that's a tough race out there. And there's nobody in better shape than Mark. I try to be in as good a shape as him. I went and worked out with him once, and that guy's tough. I think he'll be fine.
Q. I think you said at one point that the guitar in Nashville was probably the coolest trophy that you guys get all year. Saying that, were you a bit surprised what happened with what Kyle did after the race last week?
CARL EDWARDS: Yeah, really I don't even want to talk about that. It doesn't affect me. I think that's just the way in general. You know, I don't really have anything to say about that.
Q. Carl, I wanted to asking something. With the attorneys saying that Mayfield was on an illegal, dangerous drug when he was on the track, now we know it's meth, how does that impact you as a driver, knowing you are driving against somebody on the track with an illegal drug in him?
CARL EDWARDS: Is it certain that he was on meth?
Q. I mean, that's what the drug test said. That's what the attorneys are saying that's what the drug test said. All I got to go on now.
CARL EDWARDS: Here's my take on that. Either one of two things has happened. Either he was using meth or he wasn't using meth. If he was, then he's already out of the sport, he's not in a racecar, and he's got bigger problems than racing, and we should try to help him out with that, because he's a good guy.
Number two, he's not on meth, and he didn't use any meth, and we sure as hell should not be talking about it because that's extremely destructive to someone's life and their public image.
So I don't think, I just don't have anything to say about it. I don't think it's right that there's all this speculation going around. I think either way, whether it's case one or case two, Jeremy Mayfield has always been a really good guy to me and I hope he gets through this and comes out of it with a positive life.
Q. But do you worry? The fact before this year somebody could have been on that and they wouldn't have been caught, you never had reason to suspect him, I guess.
CARL EDWARDS: Yeah, let me put it to you this way. In the Cup Series especially, I've never felt like I've been racing against people that are incapable of racing at this level. Most of the time I feel like I'm the idiot out there. I feel like I'm in somebody else's way or I'm screwing up. I always look up to these guys I've raced against, Jeremy included, for their level of talent and how good people have been on the racetrack.
Man, I mean, you know, I guess what I'm saying is I never got out of the car and said, Man, that guy is dangerous or I feel like something is crazy here. I do believe what NASCAR is trying to do with their drug policy is good. I think that nobody would say it's all right to race on the racetrack with somebody that's impaired. And I think NASCAR's trying to do their best. You know, I feel good about it.
I don't know if I'm answering your question. Is that kind of what you're thinking, or...
Q. Just a whole thought on what it's like to know that there could be something with an illegal drug in their system, and you don't have to be specific to Jeremy.
CARL EDWARDS: I mean, you go through life. I mean, you don't know when you go in for surgery, you don't know if the doctor that's cutting you open has some sort of personal problem. I mean, you don't know. I mean, that's life. All you can do is do the best you can.
But I do not want this to be taken out of context. I don't know what Jeremy did. I have no clue. I definitely don't want to be in the boat with all the folks that are, you know, saying he is definitely using a certain drug, because I don't know how they test for it, I don't know what goes on. I'd rather wait and see what happens.
Q. Jeff Gordon mentioned the other day there's a difference between Kyle Busch fans and Dale Jr. fans. How would you characterize the difference?
CARL EDWARDS: Man, I don't know. That's a good question (laughter).
I don't know. You've probably seen more of them. You know, I've signed autographs for people wearing Dale Jr. hats and shirts, and I've signed autographs for people wearing Kyle Busch hats and shirts. They all seem like pretty nice people to me.
I think in a way, not in a way, it is definitely good for the sport to have people that are polarized on things. You know, I think that's what you've got right now there. You've got some people that you're going to have to put up those fences like the soccer stadium, some fans sitting on one side and some fans sitting on the other. That's good for the sport to have people passionate about it. As far as the fans, they pick their allegiance and they stick with it, and that's pretty cool.
Q. Are you still planning on competing in St. Louis at Gateway?
CARL EDWARDS: Yeah, for sure. I'm planning on winning.
Q. You said the 18 car in the Nationwide Series has been unbelievably fast. He's even got a more demanding schedule than you in terms of competition. Do you think that might catch up to him by the end of the year?
CARL EDWARDS: I sure hope so (laughter). I can use all the help I can get. You know, really, though, you're talking about how demanding the schedule is, whatever. But once you get to the track, once you're racing, it's not tough. I mean, that's the part that all of us love to do. It's all of the peripheral stuff. You know, if you're coming out of an appearance somewhere or a production day that goes late or something, and then you got to travel before a race, if you're tired when you already show up to the track, that's when they start to become demanding. But once you're at the track, I mean, it's good.
So, you know, when you look at people's schedules, you could say, Hey, Carl Edwards has got a tough schedule. But, you know, there's guys out there that do more appearances and have more going on at home and are probably putting out more energy than I am, just not at the racetrack.
Q. We're looking forward to having you back to Montréal. I wanted to ask you, one of the greatest pieces of footage out there on YouTube is of you, talking about banned substances in people, driving down this backstretch in Montréal with your arm out the window with a mop, trying to clean your windshield.
CARL EDWARDS: Wait a second. What is your connection here (laughter)?
Q. We're wondering what you were on driving in the rain in Montréal. I wanted to ask you about this mop. Number one, that's a sponsorship opportunity that has to be explored by someone on your team.
CARL EDWARDS: I'm sure they have. I don't know, though.
Q. Was that mop given to you? I understand it was given to you to defog the windows inside in the event the rains came.
CARL EDWARDS: Yes.
Q. Further, will you have a wiper installed for this summer just in case?
CARL EDWARDS: Yeah, I think Jack was a little bit disgusted with the fact that I was trying to clean the grime off the windshield with that little thing that I had, that mop. So, yeah, he's made sure that windshields are mandatory in racecars at the road course races.
That was a really fun event. That was supposed to be something to use to wipe the fog off the inside of the windshield. As the race went on, the outside of the windshield got this layer of grime and kind of, you know, like dirt and, you know, oil and whatever on it. Man, that thing worked great. It wiped it right off. It was good.
My wife and I were just talking this morning, I can't wait to come to Montréal. It's one of the most beautiful facilities we go to. And the people there are great. The city is great. We don't have a tough race that weekend so I'll have more time to go out and see things. I can't wait to come.
Q. That was the first points race that NASCAR has run in the rain. It was practically a monsoon. How difficult was it? You literally were working blind out there, weren't you?
CARL EDWARDS: Yeah, but when they dropped the green, I remember telling my spotter, I'm going to lay back, tell me where they're wrecking here in turn one and I'll do my best to avoid it. We ended up running this race. Everybody did a great job. It was unreal how well it went.
I thought it was good. I didn't have any issue with it. I wish we did it more often. It was something that was different and fun. I think if we did it enough, we'd all have systems in place so we could see a little better. That was pretty wild.
Q. Carl, fans I think really want to talk about not smashing guitars and not Jeremy Mayfield, they want to talk about the racing this weekend. I think sometimes we get so tied up talking about all the things that surround our sport, we kind of miss talking about what it's like going to Michigan to race. It's such a wide track. I wonder if you could talk about how you think the double-file restarts will apply there and how you look at that racetrack.
CARL EDWARDS: The double-file restarts, that's going to be interesting there. I hadn't thought about that. I hadn't really thought about that. Michigan is, for the drivers, one of the most fun ovals we go to. It's a lot like Atlanta. Even though it's shaped like California, it's different. You know, you can run all the way across its surface, you know, from the white line up to the wall and be fast. And I think that, you know, the speeds there, the different grooves and all that make it, you know, one of the most exciting tracks you can drive at.
As far as the double-file restarts, I don't know which lane I'd pick at Michigan because you have such a long straightaway. You've got a quarter mile or whatever before you get to turn one. And I have a feeling it's going to look like Talladega. You know, once everybody gets past that start/finish line, there's going to be drafting partners spreading out, you know, all the way down the apron, all sorts of craziness.
If we were to have a restart with 10 laps to go, that is probably going to be one of the most exciting finishes, at least one of the most exciting starts, I don't know if you actually finish the race, but one of the most exciting starts we could have. I think it's going to be cool.
Q. I've seen you over the last couple weeks and you seem so calm, even though you're working hard at getting a win and you're traveling back and forth. How do you do that, not seem stressed at all as you look at the logistics of the travel?
CARL EDWARDS: The travel has become a lot easier. This is my fifth year of doing it. We've got pretty good systems in place. You know, last week I let Jack, I didn't let him, he offered, and he was nice enough to fly me back and forth. That made it a lot easier. I didn't have to flight plan, worry about fuel, all this stuff.
I've just got good folks around me. And really, you know, even though we haven't got off to a blazing start, I have this inner confidence right now that our team on the Nationwide side and the Cup side are really going in the right direction and I feel pretty good about it. I'm just having fun. This summer stretch, this is the best part of the year. It's the one I enjoy the most. I mean, doing the stuff like Michigan to Kentucky, Sonoma to Milwaukee, you know, having fast racecars, that's what this is all about, kind of the adventure of it. This is the most fun part of the season really.
Q. And Kurt Busch said he relishes this part of the season because you got to be in shape and it shows who's not wore out. Maybe you have an advantage.
CARL EDWARDS: Yeah, that's a good point. You know, we were testing yesterday in Virginia. The thermometer said it was a hundred degrees in the pits where we were working on the car. We talked about that a little bit. It's gonna be a hot summer. These cars, they're as competitive as ever and it's a challenge. You know, I have to agree with Kurt there. This is kind of what it's all about. It adds another dimension to the competition and I think that's good.
Q. Who do you think is the driver to beat this week, especially with Tony Stewart running so well?
CARL EDWARDS: That's a good question. Michigan has this, you know, ability, you know, there's the chance at Michigan that there could be a real surprise, you know, because the track is so big and so fast that if a driver and a crew chief can hit on something that really works, you know, they could go out and dominate. I mean, you look at some guys who have been real fast at these big tracks and haven't got a win, guys like Brian Vickers, Juan Montoya, David Reutimann, guys that have been kind of right there at all these big tracks, it's hard to say.
I guess my answer is I don't know. I don't know what's going to happen. You know, it wouldn't surprise me if we saw a first-time winner or someone who hasn't won yet this year. I hope it's a Ford, because that's a fun place to win if you're a manufacturer.
HERB BRANHAM: Carl Edwards, we appreciate it, pal, you spending some time with us today. Best of luck this weekend at both Michigan and Kentucky.
CARL EDWARDS: Thanks a lot, Herb. Thank you, guys, very much. Have fun with Leffler.
HERB BRANHAM: I'd like to turn it over to our senior manager of communications for the Nationwide Series, Tracey Judd.
TRACEY JUDD: Thank you, Herb.
We're now joined by Jason Leffler, who drives the No. 38 Great Clips Toyota in the NASCAR Nationwide Series. Jason and Carl will both be racing in the Meijer 300 Saturday night at Kentucky Speedway. Carl and Jason are currently running second and third in the series standings behind our points leader, Kyle Busch. And Saturday night's race is part of this season's Dash For Cash Program, which of course is instituted by our series sponsor Nationwide Insurance, a $50,000 bonus will be awarded to the race winner, provided he's a series regular, and that means both Jason and Carl are eligible, and both are pretty serious threats to take home that bonus.
Jason, thanks for joining us today. I know the outlook for your team coming into Kentucky is pretty good. But in terms of taking home that bonus money and cutting into Kyle's points lead, how do things look for you guys this weekend?
JASON LEFFLER: Well, first of all, thanks for having me on. I appreciate it. I think our outlook's really good. We're taking a different car. We're gaining on those guys a tiny bit week after week, and we feel like we've maybe taken another step this week with our racecar. You know, obviously you won't know until you show up at the racetrack. But everybody is working really hard to get to Victory Lane and to catch Carl and Kyle. I think we're gonna do it here soon. Doing it on a consistent basis is one thing.
But I think that going to Kentucky, we'll have a good car. We got the $50,000 bonus that you mentioned that is another prize out there to reach for. And I think our outlook is looking pretty good.
TRACEY JUDD: You talked a little bit about consistency. That's something I'd like to point out. This has probably been arguably your most consistent season in this series after starting off at Daytona a little rough. You are riding a streak of eight straight top 10s with three top fives in there, as well. I think your team has been pretty consistent, yeah?
JASON LEFFLER: For sure. My cars have been real consistent. Of course, I'm knocking on wood right now, make sure we keep that streak going (laughter).
But Scott Zipadelli came on over the winter. He's just done a tremendous job. We've had bright points at Braun, the 38 team, the last few years, but the consistency wasn't there. Scott has really brought that to the team. Between him and Trent Owens working really well together, both teams at Braun on the whole are doing really good. Yeah, my team is a lot more consistent. My cars drive more consistent. They've been really mechanically sound. And another thing is our pit road, the guys on pit road, have done a great job for us all year long. So all those things coming together, it's showed up on the racetrack and in our finishes.
TRACEY JUDD: All right. Let's now go to media questions for Jason Leffler, please.
Q. A lot of folks wonder about this. Can you explain to the fans why is it that one track, pick any track, a driver runs so well and dominates that track? What happens? Some guys pick the one track and there it is, they're winning all the time.
JASON LEFFLER: Yeah, that's a great question. It could be a number of things. For one, it could be the driver particularly likes that style of track or that place and he comes in with a lot of confidence. Maybe he's got a lot more laps there than the other drivers. Equipment-wise, maybe just the way your car is set up and your crew chief, they might have a good feel for that racetrack. It just could be a number of different things.
I mean, you know, as racecar drivers, we're always confident we can win going into every race. I know I am. But sometimes you'll come across places where I don't know if you just remember 'em maybe better than the other racetracks or you just got a feel for 'em or you figured things out, a line that the other guys haven't figured out. And I think that's what some of the discrepancy is. You know, some guys just have a feel for certain places, you know, whether it suits their style of driving or they've just figured it out on their own.
Q. You mentioned a little bit ago you feel like maybe you're catching up a little bit to sort of the double-duty guys. As you look at the series on a whole, is that just you guys or are the Nationwide-only guys in general making a little progress there? The second half of that is, is it possible for a non-Cup affiliated team realistically to run consistently every week with those guys?
JASON LEFFLER: Well, to answer your first question there, I think as a whole maybe some of the top Nationwide-only teams are catching the big Cup teams, just for the fact, you know, they're concentrating on the COT car and we're concentrating on our Nationwide car, and they're totally different now. Maybe some of the technology, you know, it's spread apart, some of the things don't apply. Some things do, though, too.
I think if you look at Braun as a whole, we've always done a really good job at competing against the Cup teams - maybe not on a consistent basis like we have this year. But if you look at the 32 car with Trent Owens, and then you look at us in the 38 car, we've had bright spots, you know, maybe once or twice a month we've been able to run up in the top five or top 10 and run with those guys.
But I do realistically think a Nationwide-only team can compete on a consistent basis. I mean, we're doing it every week. If we could just get those five laps back from Daytona, we would be a little closer in the points. But, you know, I think we've completed every lap and run in the top 10, got a pretty good streak of top-10 finishes here, and top fives.
But it's tough to win a race in any series. Everything has to go your way. We've been close this year at winning some races. Hopefully we can win a few through the summer here and validate the Nationwide-only teams, show everybody we're here for real, you know.
Q. You know how demanding it is to compete in just one series. Do you somewhat marvel at the fact that Kyle Busch is competing in three series?
JASON LEFFLER: Yeah, I mean, I think it's great. I think any racecar driver, I mean, I love to race. I'd race any day of the week. But realistically, when it comes down to it, it takes a lot of effort to do that. I mean, he's certainly got a big schedule, especially through the summer here, and he's doing a great job at it.
You know, I'm jealous in the fact that he gets to run all three series in competitive cars. But at the same time I know it's a lot of work for him. You know, maybe through the hot summer months here, might have a little hope that it might catch up to him and we'll be able to take advantage of that in the Nationwide race.
But, yeah, it's pretty cool he can do that, and he does it on a successful basis.
Q. Just wondering if you could give us like a career assessment as to where you're at right now and maybe a look at what your goals are here for the season and for the future.
JASON LEFFLER: Okay. Well, I mean, a career assessment. Half of me is really proud to be where I'm at in the Nationwide Series and with a competitive team. I've been up and down through the three NASCAR series probably about eight or nine years now. Obviously, I'd like to be racing on Sunday full-time with a lot of those guys. But at the same time I got a lot of friends that I raced against in USAC with Sprint cars and dirt track racing, midgets and Silver Crown, that never got the opportunity to move on. So I'm really happy and content where I am in the Nationwide Series. I think if you look at the numbers and, you know, the attendance and the TV numbers and the exposure you get, it could arguably be the second biggest series in the United States. So, you know, it's a great competitive series to be in.
So I'm pretty happy where I'm at. I've been to the Cup level a couple of times and haven't had near the success I would like to have. If I can end my career and say I've won a Sprint Cup race and multiple Nationwide races, I would consider it a huge success.
Right now, though, we're concentrating on the Nationwide championship and we're really concentrating on trying to win a race, trying to win that $50,000 bonus this weekend that Nationwide is putting up at Kentucky. I feel like once we get the first win of the year for our team, we can get a couple more and just keep, you know, chiselling away at a run for the championship.
Q. From your perspective, could you compare the drivability of the current generation of Nationwide cars with the tapered spacer to the Busch cars and the Nationwide cars you previously drove, and which do you prefer?
JASON LEFFLER: That's a great question. As a racecar driver, I prefer a lot of horsepower. It's a debate. We've got these tapered spacers on here to try to cut costs in the engine department. I don't think it really shows up in the cost-cutting measure. The drivability of them, horsepower wise, when you come up out of the corner you're just back wide open and you don't have a forward bite issue or guys sliding around.
I think if we put a lot of horsepower in these things, opened that tapered spacer up, gave us some more gear back, personally I think the racing would even be better than it is now, 'cause the more horsepower you give a driver, the more mistakes he's gonna make and the harder it's going to be for him to run consistent. You know, obviously if the guy in front of you is making a mistake, you can pass him easier, and vice versa.
But, you know, the cars, they go through the center of the corners so much faster. And given the fact that we've put this tapered spacer on and we're lacking horsepower, now it's kind of opened up some more costs on the bodies because, you know, for years we just built as much downforce as we could in these racecars - in the Nationwide Series I'm talking - and now we're starting to think maybe we need to take some of the downforce, drag out of them to help them go down the straightaway faster. Obviously, that's costing some money to do that in the research and development and the wind tunnel.
But whatever rules they throw at us as a racecar driver, you adapt to them, try to put the best show on you can. I feel like we're putting, you know, great races on on Saturday. But, you know, pretty much if I had my way, it would be a lot of gear and no tapered spacer and a lot of horsepower (laughter).
Q. On a totally different subject, in the past, Braun has talked about possibly doing a Cup race here or there. Does the switch or the divergence with the new car, does that make that less likely to happen? Is there any talk of Braun doing any Cup races?
JASON LEFFLER: I mean, I think Todd would like to maybe do some Cup races, aside from the Nationwide Series. He's very committed to the Nationwide Series. He enjoys it. We all enjoy it. It is our main series. But I wouldn't be surprised if down the road we try to maybe run some Cup races. But nothing's been set in stone and really that's probably a better question for Todd himself. But I know we're all committed to the Nationwide Series. We enjoy it. It's our home. And the fact that we run competitive week in and week out makes us even more excited just to keep going.
Q. You probably have raced a lot of champions and veterans in your career. Can you remember when you were watching a veteran when you were first coming up, watching the moves on a track, that gave you an eye-opening lesson, when something just kind of clicked for you when you watched somebody else?
JASON LEFFLER: Yeah, that's a great question, too. You know, I think early on in my Nationwide career, racing with Mark Martin, it was actually in the Winn-Dixie car. He was just so fast. I remember we had early practices. Early for me is 9 a.m. Still to this day it feeling early (laughter). I remember just buckling in my car and Mark would go out there and just rip off an incredible lap. He would just park the rest of practice. I'd be out there running laps and laps, trying to get anywhere close to that lap time and couldn't do it.
But just racing around him and seeing how he did things, and that helped early on in my career. You know, things are still clicking nine years later when you run around guys and see how they're running, whether you're racing with Kyle Busch or Carl Edwards or someone like that, any of the good guys, Tony Stewart. But I just remember Mark Martin early on.
Q. You mentioned feel, how important that is for your crew chief about a racetrack and a car. Can you describe for a fan what senses you use to be able to feel a good racecar to a top-10 finish?
JASON LEFFLER: Yeah, I mean, it's not just a matter of turning the steering wheel. You feel everything all through your back and in your butt. You know, just when you get that car to turn like you want it to turn but not get loose and not push. I've never had a perfect racecar. I think if you talk to a lot of racecar drivers, they say they probably never really had a perfect racecar, but I've had some good ones, and you kind of keep that feel in the back of your mind, and you keep working for that in practice.
TRACEY JUDD: Jason, appreciate the time you spent with us today. I understand you're over in Indy getting that midget car ready to run in the race ahead of ORP out there when we do visit in a few weeks. Have fun with that. Thanks for the time. We will see you in Kentucky this weekend.
JASON LEFFLER: Thank you. Thanks for having me on. I appreciate it. Hopefully we'll get to Victory Lane and have some more things to talk about next time. Thank you.
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