NASCAR Media Conference
January 31, 2008
THE MODERATOR: We'll get started with David Gilliland.
David, could you start off, give everybody an overview of how your first half day of testing has gone out here today.
DAVID GILLILAND: It's been real good. We unloaded, we definitely weren't where we needed to be. We made some good changes. I feel like here at the end of practice we're real close where we need to be. I'm very happy with the progress we made.
I think we had a great test at Vegas. Really excited about my opportunities this year with Yates Racing. Feel really good about our chances to be able to be much more competitive than we were last year. Real excited about that.
THE MODERATOR: We'll go ahead and open it up to questions.
Q. How deep is the relationship between Yates Racing and Roush Fenway? What exactly are you sharing, how much information?
DAVID GILLILAND: Yeah, you know, I'm not really a hundred percent sure on that to be honest with you. I know we're purchasing our cars from them, which has been a great improvement to Yates Racing and really helped our team, I feel like.
We've gone to Daytona and Vegas so far testing. I feel like we had two very good tests. The cars drove very, very well. I think we're getting some engineering help from them, which is something that was basically very, very, very minimal with Robert Yates Racing last year.
I tell people, it's funny, when you're in a situation, you know, my opportunity with RYR last year was better than anything I ever had. You always get in and try to do the best you can with whatever you have.
But being on the other side now, getting the engineering support we're getting, the help, really makes you realize what you were up against.
I think it's really going to help our program throughout the year. Last year we were kind of hit-and-miss. We'd go to some tracks and we were good; we'd go to some tracks and we were terrible. I think with the support, for the engineering support, the new cars we're getting, I to really feel like it's going to helped us be a contender week in and week out. It's worked out great so far.
Q. Kind of a complicated question. You got your ride in Cup kind of the old school way. Driver development program; you kind of earned your car. I asked Dale Earnhardt, Jr. earlier this week about his first impressions with Jeff Gordon. One of the things he said was seeing Gordon get to Cup at such an early age kind of motivated him to do it. Is it better to do it the way you did, or do you think the developmental driver programs and having the young drivers get into Cup quickly, is a better way to get into Cup?
DAVID GILLILAND: You know, I don't know. I mean, like you said, we did it the hard way, I guess. I never had money behind me to be able to go and put myself in an opportunity. I feel like I could have done it years ago. I felt like -- I always felt like all I needed was an opportunity, so I think you can go both ways.
I think the more -- like I talked to Jack Roush I think probably six years ago. What do I need to do? He just said, Go out and race as much as you can, win races, get used to doing that, racing.
I don't know. Like you said, I did it the old-fashioned way. We worked our way up throughout the NASCAR, their plan I guess they have laid out, late models, Grand National cars, Busch, then Cup. I think both ways can work. I think the younger you are, the more patient the teams are going to have to be, you know, when you get there.
Q. (No microphone.)
DAVID GILLILAND: I don't know. If you can stumble on that one guy that goes out there and hit a home run with them, it's worth it. There have been teams that have done that. That's why it's going in that direction.
Q. Right now you guys are unsponsored. I understand there's sponsorship in the air with the team.
DAVID GILLILAND: Yeah. You know, they've had some great leads since Yates Racing got started. They're continuing to work on those. We've been close for a while. Hopefully we can get something sewed up here shortly. I feel good about the leads they have, feel great about the marketing team that's working on it for us. I'm confident they'll definitely get something.
Q. What is the difference in driving last year's car as opposed to this year's car on this track?
DAVID GILLILAND: So far we've been fighting kind of tight. That's kind of what I've heard throughout the garage area. I think that's just a characteristic of this car. I think you're going to see that at every track we go to, just a little bit tight.
Like at Vegas, by the end of the test, the cars were driving very, very similar to the old style cars. Once people got time to work through them, have two days of working on it, I think the speeds reflected that also.
Q. Looking at the worst case, have there been discussions of what the team will do if no sponsors are signed?
DAVID GILLILAND: You know, I've asked that question. I ask it every week. They've told us we're going to race. We've just got to get out and perform. We got these first five races to get out and try to do the best we can. I feel really good about our chances.
Like I said, our testing has gone well. They have some great leads and they're very close on some stuff. As far as they've told me, we're racing both cars all year.
Q. You obviously learned a lot along the way to your Cup ride. What have you learned most from your seasons at the Cup level?
DAVID GILLILAND: Just, you know, the biggest thing at the Cup level is the races are, you know, two to sometimes three times longer than anything I've done. You got to learn, when you're racing, you have to take chances and push the envelope.
You just learn that sometimes taking that chance isn't worth it. Just patience is the biggest thing that I've learned and feel like that's going to help me the best this year.
Q. I think you told me before you guys, based on last year, had to take a step back before you can take a step forward. Do you feel this year like, is there any sort of desperation to succeed and do really well, or...
DAVID GILLILAND: No, definitely every year this sport is very difficult. There's a lot of people waiting in line to get here. I think at this level you have to perform.
One of the things definitely I think this year's probably the most critical year of my career. I'm not the 18-year-old guy here anymore. Just got to get it done.
So I feel good. Like I said earlier, with the engineering support we have, the cars, the chassis we've been able to get, I think the performance side of it will come. I feel very confident in that this year.
Q. Last year the two Yates cars were on the front row for the Daytona 500. You were in contention for the win late in the race. This year during the first couple rounds of testing the Fords, as a group, weren't particularly strong at testing. Is that a case of you not showing everything you had, or do you feel a lot of catching up to do with the Hendrick cars and now the Toyotas?
DAVID GILLILAND: I think -- don't think anybody shows all their cards at testing. Like you said, the Fords were kind of in a group. We feel real good about what we're going to be able to take back for the race.
The Toyotas were definitely strong. I know Doug in our engine shop has been working extra hard. I think they got the upper hand on horsepower right now. Doug and all the guys are working extra hard. We feel really good about what we're going to be able to bring back.
But like I said, you know, it goes both ways. I don't think everybody shows everything at testing.
Q. Some of the drivers have said California testing can prepare them for Michigan because the tracks are similar. Other drivers say there's no similarity. With this new Car of Tomorrow, is it going to help or isn't it going to help?
DAVID GILLILAND: I think it's going to help more with the Car of Tomorrow, say, than if we would have tested, you know, with the cars we had last year. I think the Car of Tomorrow, I think it's still new to everybody on these type of tracks, real very new to everybody on these type of tracks.
I think all the information you can gather from a place like this. Michigan is close enough to where you will learn stuff here that you can transfer over to Michigan. I think with this car it makes it even that much more important to gather that information because it is so new to everybody.
THE MODERATOR: David, thanks for coming in.
DAVID GILLILAND: Thank you.
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