NASCAR Media Conference
July 5, 2005
DANIEL PASSE: Welcome, hope everybody had a great Fourth. Let me just start with a couple housekeeping notes as we head into Chicago. On Thursday the 7th, Rusty Wallace will be paying a visit to the Children's Memorial Hospital, which is Illinois' only freestanding hospital exclusively for kids. If you are interested in that, please contact either myself or Becky Cox at Nextel for more information. Also this week's Nextel Wake Up Call will take place on Friday, July 8th at 10:30 a.m. in the media center at Chicagoland Speedway, and the guest will be the Dodge/Save Mart 350 and Pepsi 400 winner Tony Stewart. Today we are joined by Jeremy Mayfield driver of the #19 Dodge Dealers/UAW Dodge driving for Evernham Motorsports Dodge Charger. After finishing 12th in the very late-ending Pepsi 400 this past weekend, he's now 11th in the 2005 NASCAR NEXTEL Cup points standings, well within 400 points of the leader; therefore in the Chase. Now a little history on Jeremy. This is his 11th full-time season in the NEXTEL Cup Series. In more than 350 races, he has four NEXTEL Cup victories and nine poles. As you know, Jeremy was in the first Chase for the NEXTEL Cup in 2004 finishing the 2004 season in a respectable tenth place. Now in his four previous races in Chicago, Jeremy has scored a top-five and two Top-10s on the 1.5 mile oval. He'll also be running the #64 Miller High Life Dodge for Rusty Wallace this weekend at Chicago. Now Jeremy, you made the inaugural chase for the NEXTEL Cup last year with a stunning victory in Richmond. Now you're points-wise in the Chase for 2005, with only nine races to go before the Chase begins, how are you and the #19 team preparing?
JEREMY MAYFIELD: Well, you know, we learned a lot last year about things that we needed to do better, and we've done that so far this year. I feel like it's helped us get to the point where we are now, so we're not going to change anything. We're just going to continue going on week-to-week and take it one race at a time and just do the best we can. You know, we've really overcome a lot of things this year as far as you know, not just the rule changes and all, but things that's happened to us in the race that we've overcame; and be able to come back and get a top-15 finish and that's helped us more than anything. We've got to continue doing that and not change anything we're doing and try to get better week-in and week-out and score all of the points week.
DANIEL PASSE: I have another question for you, it's regarding the Busch Series. Now you're running a bunch of races this year, how do you feel that running the Busch Series helps you with your NEXTEL Cup?
JEREMY MAYFIELD: I feel like any time you get time on the track before the race on Sunday, or Saturday night, whichever we run, it's got to help. You know, it just helps me just being able to be on the racetrack a lot earlier even though Thursday or Friday before the Cup cars get on the track. So I kind of know what the track is going to do, and we kind of understand the changes that we do throughout the race in the Busch car works usually the same way on the Cup car. We try to learn as much as we can, but yet it's -- you know this is what you're going to do, and this is how it's going to work on a Busch car, will work on a Cup car, because it doesn't, but you can learn a lot from a drivers' point of view.
DANIEL PASSE: I can only imagine. So with last week's race ending obviously in the middle of night, we had spoken a little off-line about this, you had said -- let's jump back to the Pepsi 400. You had said that you didn't realize what time it was; how did it feel when that long two-and-a-half-hour rain delay.
JEREMY MAYFIELD: Well, that's always something that's hard on the drivers. You are ready to go and you are ready to race. And it would be like getting ready to start the Kentucky Derby and you know how the horses are all ready to go and they get in the gate and they say, "Oh, no, we'll wait a couple of hours." That's how we are. Anytime you have a situation like that where there's a rain delay, you always, you're built up, your hype is built up and it's a big letdown. So then you have to get back in your mode again and get your game face back on. When it rains, you don't know when that's going to happen. You just have to stay prepared for it and be ready for when the track dries, and that's where we were the other night. It is certainly tough on you. I think it's harder when you sit there all day long, especially a night race like it was, you know, all day long, ready to race, ready to race, and all of a sudden it rains again and you have to wait even longer. It takes a toll on you.
DANIEL PASSE: What was the track like when you finally got out there with all of the rain coming down over the weekend?
JEREMY MAYFIELD: The track was really good. I thought track, it was in great shape. I felt like it was drying up. The rubber was off of it, but yet there was nothing wrong with it. It was in really great racing conditions really.
DANIEL PASSE: I also know that you had an unscheduled pit stop very early in the race. Can you tell us a little bit about that?
JEREMY MAYFIELD: Yeah, we had a slight vibration. We had a wheel way come off our right front wheels to start with and we changed that and I had another small vibration, couldn't figure out what it was the rest of the night. I think we bottomed out on the racetrack, our cars, we're running these cars so low any more that you have to raise the engines up and raise all the stuff underneath the cars up to get them even lower. Evidently I guess with it being night time and the race pace being a lot faster than what it was in practice and stuff. We bottomed out the car on the racetrack, which was either the file wheel (ph) or the bell heading (ph) or something hit, which hit and created a misalignment in the transmission and stuff and made it vibrate.
DANIEL PASSE: So were there points during the race where it was worse than other times?
JEREMY MAYFIELD: Well, the first, going into green flag it was vibrating, so we automatically knew there was a problem but we weren't sure what it was. So we went in and pitted and went a lap down, and everybody just remained calm and nobody got excited and we knew what we had to do then. Nobody got mad and we just rode around until the caution flew, and then we were not the lucky dogs the first time, but we were the second time and able to get our lap back at that time and start moving our way forward. Good thing about the other night was there again was a great point night for us which could have been a terrible point night if we'd have panicked and not finished where we did, or even not handle the situation very well and stay in the back all night or whatever. But we even fought our way through the first vibration, and the second vibration was, okay, this is what we've got and we've got to race with it. So we didn't even pay any more attention to it and just kept racing all night and kept our heads.
Q. Last year, can you talk about how nerve-wracking it was going down to the last race before the Chase trying to make it?
JEREMY MAYFIELD: Man, it was pretty nerve-wracking, but I'm not going to tell you that it's not going to be any more this year than it was last year or vice versa, because, yeah, we are in it right now at this point, but we've got a long way to go yet. The last year was just, you know, obviously came right up to the last race and the last minute the last lap pretty much and we were able to pull through that. We feel like right now we are better shape than we were last year, but we still have to build ourselves a cushion to where we don't have to go through what we did.
Q. Talk about the urgency of trying to keep something like that from happening again where you can have yourself more secure before going into the Race Before the Chase?
JEREMY MAYFIELD: That's all you can pretty much do is all you can do every week and be smart about what you do, and that's what we've done this year and I feel like it's gotten us in a better situation than we were last. But yeah, anything could happen. We could go this week and win, win the next three in a row and be solidly in, or you might run into a streak of bad luck and it might run into the last week. But we're just going to be smart about it and do the best we can. And when we're having our bad days just get all we can out of them, and when we have our good days, get all we can out of those. So it's pretty much the same story for everybody. I think you've got to run hard and you can't be conservative and you can't be not taking chances. You have to take chances and gamble a little bit; that's what we've done and that's what we're going to have to continue to do when we get there. Yeah, it is going to be nerve-wracking and I'm sure we're going to be able to put a good show on for the fans for the few weeks before the Chase cutoff there.
DANIEL PASSE: On NASCAR.com we see every week that you write reviews, you and your wife, Shana, write reviews and talk about your experiences at the tracks. Now with Chicago tell us a little bit about how you feel about this track and what's cool around it and do you how like the town?
JEREMY MAYFIELD: Man, you're going to get me in trouble, just before we rate it on NASCAR.com. But we do it every week and we enjoy doing it and it's been a lot of fun. They wanted something more to let fans know what's real around the racetrack and what we do and what we see and all that stuff. Chicago you see all kinds of cool stuff. You can obviously go downtown and really see the cool stuff, or you can hang out where we are which is by the racetrack, which is cool, too. We enjoy doing that and we think it's a lot of fun and hopefully the fans are enjoying it. We just try to keep it real, and whatever questions are asked, we answer honestly and try to relate to the fans more than what, you know, they would hear about the technical part of the race. We're trying to give them more of the fans' side or fans' view of what we do.
DANIEL PASSE: Okay. Well, we'll go to NASCAR.com and see what you have to say this week. Now, I'm going to ask you this question, I know you've gotten it before, but we might as well get it out there, all people have been talking about this season it seems is the powerhouse of Hendrick versus Roush. Now Kasey Evernham did win, how do you feel that your program is comparing to the larger teams like a Hendrick or a Roush?
JEREMY MAYFIELD: Well, we're obviously right on that edge of knocking on that door. We are knocking on the door actually and I feel like they know that and they realize that. We've just got to get stronger as our teams progress and grow. I feel like this year, it wasn't really a fair assessment of what teams are the powerhouses and what are not. I know that those two teams, yeah, they are running great and dominating all the races, but we've taken on a lot of things, too, that's gone our way that hasn't shown up yet. Meaning that we have had a complete new body change. We've had to deal with the spoiler, which they did, too, but it would be different if it's all we had to do was cut an inch off our spoiler and go racing; I think it would be a different story this year than what it is now. I know we've got a lot of good people. We have great people working on our teams and we know the direction we are headed in, some day, hopefully, sooner or later we'll be ahead of their powerhouse team. We're gaining on it. I know that Ray knows what direction we're going in. We all know what direction we're going in and it's just a matter of time. That's the way we're looking at it. Yeah they are winning races and doing everything right right now, but our time is coming.
DANIEL PASSE: How do you feel the charger is doing this year with the new body style and even the new name this year?
JEREMY MAYFIELD: Well, it's obviously, you know you want to be better, but it's just taken us time, or it's taken a lot of time really for us to figure out with a kind of balance numbers we need and what the new charger responds to as far as body changes. It would be different if we just made a small change and it was still, everything was working the way it was with the old body style. But the new charger was a complete new body. So we've had to pretty much learn the whole car over and learn what thinners do when you pull them out and learn what the nose does when you move it more to the left or right or vice versa. That's been a tough challenge but we are starting to get ahold of that now.
DANIEL PASSE: It seems like moons ago that you were a top dog back there in ARCA, now what did you learn in ARCA that really, I don't know, translated well into the NEXTEL Cup series? Were there still things that you learned back then that's worked today?
JEREMY MAYFIELD: Yeah, pretty much ARCA is totally different these days and times. The thing I learned then was just learn the ropes of the racetracks: The Talladegas, Daytonas, Atlanta, all the different racetracks you go to, Pocono, and just get valuable driving experience is what helped me more than anything. Today you see that a little bit different, a lot of new drivers come in and run right up front in the series and this, that and the other, and it certainly helped me to be able to learn the racetracks before I got here.
DANIEL PASSE: Now do you feel that today they are bringing up the younger generation of drivers too quickly?
JEREMY MAYFIELD: Well, I don't know. You know, I mean, Kyle Busch has obviously done a good job. Kasey has done a great job as far as the Cup series or NEXTEL Cup series. I'm not sure I can't really say that. The guys that can make it are going to make it are going to make it and the guys that usually don't. You see a lot of the other young drivers come up in our sport haven't made it, and it's not that you just have got to be a young driver to make it. You've got to be good at what you do to be here, and obviously they are good or they wouldn't still be here. I'm thinking that, yeah, young generation is always going to be rolling through. I was part of that at one time, but the good make it and the bad don't, and there's just as many that don't make it that do make it.
DANIEL PASSE: How does it feel out there, though? At this point I guess you are one of the almost elder statesmen in the sport.
JEREMY MAYFIELD: Yeah, you can go ahead and say it.
DANIEL PASSE: Sorry, I have to say it. You are almost an elder statesman in the sport. You see Mark Martin leave and Rusty Wallace leave; that elevates you to even more of that position. How does that feel?
JEREMY MAYFIELD: You know, it's something that I'm proud of; that I have been here this long and seen a lot of changes in the sport. I've seen -- I feel like I'm young. I've seen a lot of stuff and I still feel like I've got a long way to go yet, and that's a great feeling for me, knowing that I have been a part of the sport this long and I've done a lot. Yeah, I want to do more as far as the driving goes and I want to accomplish more, but yet I love the experience I've had here. It's been great and I want to continue on, and hopefully myself and the Jeff Burtons and Jeff Gordons are right there now, too; he's getting older. Hopefully we can all step into those guys' shoes and represent the sport well, and I'm hoping we all can do that.
Q. Talk about the Chicago track, what do you like about that and how does that play to your driving style?
JEREMY MAYFIELD: Well, that's a good question, too, because I love that place, because I love going there. It's a great racetrack. A lot of people call it, critics call it a cookie cutter racetrack or whatever, but it's definitely one of my favorite places. I like, I don't know, I just like it there. It just seems like it's probably because it's like home, there's corn fields around there, too. There's a lot of farming going on. I just like it. I'm not sure what it is. It's smooth, it's fast. I think it puts on a great race for the fans. Everybody there is real receptive of us when we come into town and really feel good about it. Just love going there, one of my favorites.
Q. And this was touched on a little bit earlier, talk about what the Dodge program had to do to catch up to Ford and Chevy?
JEREMY MAYFIELD: That's pretty much what we were saying earlier. We just have to continue on working hard at what we have going on. It's been tough. I'm not going to sit here and tell you it hasn't been. But we feel like if anybody can achieve it, we can and the Dodge camp, and we know that we're heading in the right direction. We have found a lot of things that's helped us in the last few weeks that we hope will pay off at Chicago and from here on out. You know, yeah, it has not been an easy road, but yet it's going to make us better when we do get it figured out. That's the way we look at everything. If it's a negative, we've got to figure out some way to make a positive out of it and that's what we're doing. Nothing was ever negative; it was just a matter of a learning curve for us in what was different and what we've experienced in the past. I don't see that it's going to be too much longer hopefully. I'm hoping in the next few weeks you'll see a big difference in the Dodge camp.
Q. What's the big hump that's keeping you all?
JEREMY MAYFIELD: It's pretty much the aero balance and what the car is responding to. It's a little bit different than what it was last year. You know, the thing that you would do in the past that would help a car turn better or maybe a little bit tighter or whatever you need, are just a little bit different now. The car doesn't respond, or it responds too much to some of the changes that we were doing in the past, and that all of a sudden throws you a curveball which it takes you awhile to figure out what you've got to have and figure out what's going on to make it better. We're not the only ones that have experienced that; in the past, Chevrolet went through that for a while; Ford, I remember I was over there and went through it for a while. It's just the normal deal. You just have to pretty much throw your notes away, some of them, and start fresh and start over. But when you're doing it, your competition keeps going with what they have had, so you're taking a different change of direction to try to get to where you need to be.
DANIEL PASSE: Really appreciate you being a sport here, a tough one right after a holiday weekend and wish you the best of luck. We'll see you there in Chicago.
JEREMY MAYFIELD: Sounds good. Thank you very much.
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