NASCAR Preseason Fan Festival
John Wes Townley
January 16, 2009
DAYTONA BEACH, FLORIDA
HERB BRANHAM: John Wes Townley, he's our only Nationwide driver that's with us this evening. He'll be competing for Rookie of the Year this year. And nearest to me, Reed Sorenson, he will be in the No. 43 Air Force Dodge. Reed, start with you. You're coming into the Daytona 500 and you're in the 43. Describe what that feels like.
REED SORENSON: I think it adds a little bit of pressure to everybody and excitement. It's a great number to have. I mean, it's got a ton of wins, and I think everybody on the team is pretty excited about representing that number and seeing what we can do with it.
HERB BRANHAM: John Wes Townley is with us. He's going to be in the ARCA Race at Daytona, currently not approved to drive in the Nationwide Series Race at Daytona but he'll start in the series at California. He's recovering from LASIK, so an admirable effort tonight. You come to Daytona, and it's going to be a big year for you. What's the outlook?
JOHN WES TOWNLEY: I've got a pretty good outlook on it. We're going to run the ARCA Race before anything else takes place with Nationwide, but I will kick the year off in California. I'm looking forward to that track just because at Michigan I did race the past year in the ARCA Series and really liked that track just because the way of it, the way it drives. I think it'll be a great season to kick off just because of how similar the track is.
Q. What's your feeling on the testing ban? Is that going to help? Is that going to hurt? Is it going to make Roush and Hendrick just that much better than everybody else? Greg Zipadelli says the way to get better is to test. Why can't we just test at the real tracks?
REED SORENSON: Well, it definitely hurts teams like us. I went to a new team, and it's definitely hurting us not to be able to have a day or days where we can work together and get a feel for what I feel in the car and what changes our crew chief makes and what it does. So it definitely hurts us a bunch. I think it helps a lot of the teams that have worked together for a while and obviously helps the teams that were fast all last year, helps them.
But it's one of those things you can't do anything about. We're still trying to test, like you said, anywhere. We tested Rockingham and are going to go back there again, but it's not the same as testing at the tracks you race at. It's a lot different. You can learn -- the good thing about it is my crew chief and I are learning communication between each other and the team is working together, and we've got kind of a new group of guys that are working with each other. So that's all getting better. But as far as going to the tracks that we race at and being able to get our cars better, it really hurts us a bunch.
But we just have to work extra hard those first ten races to try to figure out what we need in the cars.
Q. Reed, what can Richard Petty do to help you as you make this transition? It's been a long time since he drove, but what can he do to help you do good in that car?
REED SORENSON: Well, actually we've had two tests the past two weeks and he's been to both of them, which means a lot. I think a lot of the crew guys were not expecting to see the king of the track, and he showed up and stayed there with us the whole day. He has a lot of good advice. Obviously he hasn't been in a car in a while and never driven one of these new car especially, but he knows what he's talking about. I think he's going to be around all year long, and I think any time he speaks, I think everybody will listen up. He's been helping us out already. I think he plans on coming to most of the races and helping us out and being a part of the team, and I think he wants to help the drivers out, as well, so it's going to be across the board one of those deals where I think he'll help the entire team.
Q. Reed, what's the sponsorship situation for you guys? I see you have a Valvoline shirt on. What's going to be their role, and is Marathon going to have any role?
REED SORENSON: I don't know about Marathon. We have the Air Force, I know they announced that for sure, and then they have a whole group of sponsors coming up. I don't want to say how many races and which ones they're doing because I don't think I'm supposed to say it yet. I think we have like five sponsors total, and they're pretty good ones, so we're pretty excited. Valvoline is one of them. I think they're going to announce all that at a certain time when they're ready. It's a good situation, especially with the way the economy is and things like that. Three of our cars are fully funded for the year.
Q. Are you still looking for more? Do you have open races at all?
REED SORENSON: If we do, I don't think it's very many. I know we're fully funded, good to go for the year, but I think there's still maybe a few races open. I'm not 110 percent sure so I don't want to say one way or the other, but as of right now, three cars are running the full season. We all feel pretty fortunate about that. You know, the team owners are committed to doing everything we need to do to be fast, so that's a good thing to know we don't really have to cut back on the motor side or chassis development or anything like that. We're looking pretty good.
Q. For John Wes, what has impressed you the most going through the ranks and moving up? You've done a few truck races now. What has impressed you most, and what do you think you're going to learn the most from as you look forward?
JOHN WES TOWNLEY: Well, I think what's helped me to progress into this year is going to be -- I think the biggest influence would probably be ARCA just because of how many tracks that they let you run on, that NASCAR does run on. I think that's going to help me a lot progressing into next year. You get to run at Talladega, Kansas, Kentucky, Michigan.
Like I said earlier, there's just so many races, and I think this year it'll be a big learning curving for me. It's just going to be a matter of going out there and keeping our ears clear and just trying to learn as much as we can.
The other thing is we're going to try to run for the Raybestos Rookie of the Year, and hopefully that will work out for us.
Q. I have one for each, but John Wes first off, how broad is your schedule going to be this year? Besides Nationwide races what else are you going to compete in?
JOHN WES TOWNLEY: We're looking at running one or are two ARCA Races just to fill in some empty spaces, may run some late model races, just some gimme races every now and then, but we will be running all 34 races except Daytona.
Q. All things considered, is this a good year with the economic uncertainty and maybe fewer cars, is this a good year to be running for Raybestos Rookie of the Year?
JOHN WES TOWNLEY: I'm glad you brought that point up. I think we have a really good chance at it. That's something we're really going to strive for this year. That's one of my main goals, and I think a lot of it is just going to be just getting good, solid finishes and just making sure you're just ahead of the people you need to be. But that is something that we're really, really looking forward to.
Q. Reed, you'll be working with a new crew chief this year, so with the testing you've done, how is that process settling in, and how does it compare to guys you've worked with in the past?
REED SORENSON: It's going pretty good. I had actually started talking to Mike during December and things like that before we started testing, so -- and I've known him kind of towards the end of last year and just knowing him from Pit Road and talking to him at the track and stuff like that. We get along really well. He seems to have all the respect of the guys and all the guys on the team like him, so we've had two tests -- actually three tests, and we seem to communicate pretty easily. It would be nice to go to a track to see how we compare to everybody else. That would be something we could look at to see what we've got.
So far it seems like he really understands what I'm saying. The crew chiefs that I've had in the past have been good, as well. It's just everything has got to hit just right; you know that.
But I definitely like him a lot. He's dedicated to the job. I don't think there's one time where the crew guys are there and he's not, so he's definitely dedicated to the job. I think he's looking forward to this year more than any other year in racing from what I can tell, so he's pretty pumped up and so am I, so I think all the crew guys are going to be the same. I like him a lot, and by the time we get a few races in hopefully we can kind of know each other even better, and once we go to some tracks we're actually racing at, that will help.
Q. John, do you have to sort of temper your expectations this year because you're a rookie and haven't been to a lot of these tracks? Are you just going to approach this year as learn as much as you can?
JOHN WES TOWNLEY: Well, I think as I said earlier, in the ARCA series, which gave me a lot of chances to run on a lot of the tracks, I think that will help me out, given that the car is a lot different as far as the way it handles. But I also think that we do have a good chance, also, just because just the way the economy is. I mean, there are fewer rookies out there, and I think that's going to help us out a lot. But I think a lot of it is going to be being patient and trying to learn as much as we can. We're going to dig as hard as we can, also.
Q. And for Reed, can you just talk about what it means to drive the 43? Does that mean anything special to you, any kind of extra pressure or anything like that?
REED SORENSON: Definitely. I guess the pressure is to get it back in victory lane. I think that's going to be the biggest pressure point on that. But I think everybody on the team is excited about it. I mean, once everybody on our team found out that we were going to be the 43, you could kind of tell in their eyes that it was something different than most of the other numbers that we could have had.
I think it's going to be even better once everybody sees Richard being around and realizing that he's part of our team now, which is pretty cool, pretty awesome. I think everybody feels a little bit of pressure, but I think it's more excitement than pressure you could say. But it would be nice to get the 43 back in victory lane. I know that would make Richard happy and everybody else happy at the same time, so it would be good times out there.
Q. Reed, some people have said that Dodge has kind of gotten off track or been left behind in Sprint Cup. You've been in Dodges for a while. What do you see that makes you feel like that's not the case, and how competitive can the brand be in '09?
REED SORENSON: Well, personally I haven't seen anything one way or the other as far as it hurting or helping the team. I don't think it's hurt us. I mean, I've been in Dodges ever since I've been in NASCAR, and I think as long as we can get our cars running well, I don't see any reason why we can't run well. I guess Penske is really the only other Dodge team as of now.
We get tire tests throughout the whole year, and being only two teams now, I think it'll be every other tire test we'll get a tire test. You know, it's just a tough situation for Dodge Chrysler, and GM, as well, so we've got to show our support for them just as much as they show it for us and work with them the best we can. But that's more the team owners' type of things. I don't really get involved in that.
I think they're doing the best they can. I mean, it's just that simple. I mean, we've got to help them out and hopefully they'll support us as much as they can, and hopefully it's good for us.
HERB BRANHAM: Guys, thank you very much for joining us. Best of luck at Speedweeks.
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