NASCAR Preseason Thunder Fan Fest
January 16, 2010
DAYTONA BEACH, FLORIDA
DENISE MALOOF: Mike, as a lot of you know, is a NASCAR Camping World Truck Series champion, former champion, and Max is obviously an entertainment component, but very seriously, he's becoming a very regular face in NASCAR circles and we're happy to have him. Gentlemen, 2010, just each of you give us a little nugget on your outlook going in. Max?
MAX PAPIS: For 2010, I'm going to drive the Geico Toyota. We're going to run 18 races in the Sprint Cup Series. We're going to run the Geico Tundra, as well, for about eight races in the Truck Series, and I like it because I'm going to be battling with this guy.
MIKE SKINNER: We have so much fun.
MAX PAPIS: It looks like you guys are going to see me in Daytona as well trying to qualify for the Daytona 500, and I'm looking forward to -- I think there is a chance for us to run more than 18 races for the Geico team in the Sprint Cup Series, and I'm looking forward to see if we can be in that from the beginning of the season. That's what I mean by 2010 plan, and I'm actually racing my go-karts here in Orlando right now.
MIKE SKINNER: Our plans for 2010 is to continue -- I'm going to be driving for Randy Moss Motorsports again. We've got a new crew chief this year, Gene Nead, which Gene and I attempted to work together a year before. Everything kind of got messed up and it didn't happen. We had a great year last year, but I think that this year we have more sponsors. We have a little more funding, and a good program. We're back with Toyota in our Tundra again, and I'm looking forward to it.
I was excited when Max said he was going to run some truck races because this guy is awesome, and he's just very, very, very talented. They threw his butt in a whole darn tankful of sharks out there. He needs to go run some of these races because he can get it done. I'm looking forward to doing some truck races with Max this year. It's going to be a lot of fun. It will be in a Toyota Tundra, right?
MAX PAPIS: Absolutely. Just in a Toyota. We don't go anywhere else.
Q. Mike, Harvick was in here earlier, and he said that Hornaday and Bodine are in the gym together. Do you do that, as well? And have you seen those two in the gym?
MIKE SKINNER: (Laughing) well, yeah, we're putting ourselves in as good a physical condition as we can, as well as mental condition this year. Seeing Hornaday and Bodine in the gym together is just not something that I want to picture in my mind, actually. I hope it's a smoking facility.
But anyway, no, we actually have -- I have a work out room at my house, and my wife drug me to the Statesville gym and had me do an hour of yoga. That's the hardest thing I think I've ever done. People that laugh at people that do yoga, don't laugh, it's tough. It's really hard on an old man with a lot of shoulder injuries. Of course, I wouldn't back the program down, I tried to do everything that the instructor was doing. That was really dumb. That was not very smart.
I'm backing it down a little bit and doing the things, working around my injuries that I've had over the years to build muscle around those injuries. But the most important thing is putting a lot of air, getting your heart in good shape, getting your legs in good shape, getting your stamina good. It's hard. These things, it's 140, 150 degrees inside the cock pits of these race cars and trucks, and the whole thing is to not be able to lose your focus. And if you've got a lot of air and you can maintain your focus around that heat and all that environment and not fall out of the seat, what we say in racing, I think that's more important than going to the gym with Bodine.
MAX PAPIS: May I add something? I'm really glad to hear that more and more NASCAR drivers are dedicating themselves to fitness and they think more like athletes. That has been something that has always been a big part of my life, and that really helped me through basically everything I've done.
At the end of December, I joined Carmichael Training Facility through Lance Armstrong. I showed up in Colorado, did a test for them, with them, and have been going through very strict training program, more than even what I've done before. And I can tell you that I believe that one of the strengths that helped me through the different wrecks and crashes and situations that I've had in my life has been my physical fitness. That's what Mike was saying, that it's really important -- especially nowadays that I'm not 20 years old anymore. I really feel all the benefit.
But being a Todd Bodine teammate, I see the gym but it's not him inside.
MIKE SKINNER: Todd is a tough guy and Todd is a really, really good race car driver. What's hard for me, I was in there trying to do liners while people were doing interviews out here, that was harder for me than being five wide at Daytona. That's weird. You train yourself to focus in your environment of what you do. And I don't care if -- obviously you need to be in good shape, and it's very, very important to be in good shape. Max hit on it; being in good shape to drive the race car, yeah, the truck races are about half as long as the Cup races; you probably don't physically have to be quite as tough -- well, I know you don't because I've done both. But that mental strength is real, real big. And if you do crash and you're not in good shape, you've got a lot bigger chance of being hurt.
Q. Mike, the test at New Smyrna, did you get to work with your new teammate, and how do you see that whole relationship building as the season goes on?
MIKE SKINNER: Well, we're working really, really good together, and for those that don't know, we're attempting really, really hard to get David Starr locked in to drive our 81 truck at Randy Moss Motorsports this year. I think it's essential to the team to have two trucks. I think we can learn off each other. Although Taylor did a good job as a young rookie, having a veteran teammate I think will bring more depth to the race team in the long run.
One thing that we used to do at Bill Davis Racing is Johnny Benson and I were teammates, and any time we went and tested it was mandatory before that test was over that I got in his truck and he got in mine, and David and I did this this past week. It's definitely good for the crew chiefs to get that feedback and for the engineers to be able to look at the data and say this is what David does getting in the corner and we can overlay it on Mike's or this is what Mike did. And you see things that each one of you've done that's really, really good and you see some bad habits there. It gives you a chance to go back and look at all of it and go here it is, guys, here's your lap times, here's what you did. I'm really, really excited and I think it will work well.
Q. If that's not done yet what's the hangup to completing that deal?
KURT BUSCH: It's no problem, it's sponsorship. The 5 team is fully funded this year. We'll be making the announcement on the main sponsor, I know Exide is coming back, PC*Miler Navigator is coming back. We have a great new sponsor that they wanted to wait for Daytona to announce.
Getting the funding to run the second truck properly is the whole deal, and nobody wants to -- we've got enough funding to run 15 races very, very competitively, but the series is 25 races.
We got away with one last year with the 5 team. We had the funding to run ten races, maybe, and we ran all the races and we won three and finished well in the points. Now, if you're David Dollar, you're over there going, we can do it again, we can do it again. So it's pretty easy to over-commit, which usually means under-deliver. So we're all working really, really hard to get the sponsorship up with that second team. And I'm really looking forward to it, and I think David Starr will do a good job. He's a veteran. I think where some of my weaknesses, David can help me with, and I my some of David's weaknesses, I can help him with. When the truck is good no one is going to drive it any better than David Starr. We've struggled with getting the truck good a few times, and I think any driver in the sport -- I can't say that I can go out and do Jimmie Johnson's job, but probably run pretty good in that ole 48 car.
Q. I guess your engineer became a crew chief.
MAX PAPIS: My old engineer. You're talking about Ryan in the 78?
MAX PAPIS: Yes.
Q. What are your crew chiefs that you're going to work with in the truck and the Cup car in '10?
MAX PAPIS: I'm glad you asked me this question because it's really important for me. As Mike said, actually I'm really glad that Mike pointed out what I did before that last year was a tough beginning for me. I got thrown into the walls, and that was the situation I had, too. I raced -- I had the chance to race Cup, of course, was too much, a lot to learn, and we had a couple different crew chiefs, the team changing, I had to learn, the crew had to learn, I had to learn the tracks, as well. I knew it was going to be a steep learning curve, but it was actually like 90-degree, like to climb up the walls. But I felt like I did pretty decent and I got the respect from the people like him, to me, that's the most important things.
On the racing side, I am extremely excited this year because Billy Barker is going to continue to be my crew chief. That means the world to me because we have support from MWR, some support from them. We're going to have some shock guy engineers from MWR. We buy the cars and we get help from them. It's really important for two reasons, first because MWR is an upcoming team, prove to everybody how good they became in a couple of years, and working with Michael that it's definitely going to be more available and less of a driver, and as well, having Mr. Cal Wells as the general manager there or director or whatever you want to call him. He's been a big part of me being here in America. He gave me my first-ever IndyCar ride, and he definitely wants to see me successful.
I'm looking forward a lot. I'm going to be in New Smyrna testing the Geico Toyota next week, and hopefully it's going to be the first time -- I never had the chance to actually test the Cup car last year except one time in the beginning of the season on an oval. This is going to be my first time with more experience, same people, so I really want to see an improvement, and there is nobody who can put more pressure on me than me. I'm not here to come here and stay and go like other open-wheel guys or other known NASCAR people did. I'm here to be respected, and I've been working all winter long as hard as I could, physically, mentally. I've been training for two months like crazy because I know I need to cover a big gap that I have with people that have been doing it like Mike for all their lives, and I hope that -- I want this year to be the year where I can get close to them and sometimes race hard, and race hard especially on ovals, because on the road course we had pretty good success, but everyone knows that that's my background. But the oval has been the part where I really want to see the Geico Toyota, myself, running consistently. I feel like I have definitely a better platform this year for sure.
Q. You guys get to do the double file restarts this year. Are you looking forward to that, and are you just as happy not to have to make two pit stops to get gas and tires?
MIKE SKINNER: I think you already know the answer to that when it comes to me. I think that first of all, I have to applaud NASCAR for trying to do what they've been successful at doing since 1995, which is making the Truck Series as exciting an event, as exciting an event you could ever ask a second or third tier series do. There's only one NFL and there's only one Sprint Cup Series, and then you have the Nationwide and the camping world Truck Series, which are kind of parallel. I think the Nationwide Series would probably be the second tier because you have so many Sprint Cup drivers in the Nationwide Series and its cars.
What happened last year was a big mistake. It was a black eye, and I have to just thank NASCAR for looking at that and realizing that and going, hey, we need to undo this. We're not going to admit we were wrong, which that's fine, but we're going to fix it. And they have, and it's kind of yet to be seen how this fuel thing is going to work. But hey, man, my hat is off. The double-file restart has been very exciting.
I don't know about taking out of bounds out at Daytona and Talladega. That could be really, really fun. I know that I've got arrested several times in the Sprint Cup Series over the years of pushing the envelope to that line a couple times, especially in the last few laps to go. But it ought to be interesting. I'm looking forward to it. And yes, I am a big fan of getting ready of the rules that we had last year.
MAX PAPIS: I can tell you that last year driving the Cup car and the Toyota Tundra in the same races, it was pretty confusing to have to do double-file restart. And I definitely felt that the single file restart was taking away a lot of chances from people being in the back. You couldn't really make up anything. And as you said, let me tell you something, I've been around and I've done everything in my career from Formula 1 to IndyCar to sports car, and it takes a lot for a series like NASCAR to recognize, hey, this is not right, let's change it. And I think that talks tons for the level of the quality of the people that they have because it's a lot of ego involved when you make decisions to go and change stuff, and I think that shows the quality and the things that I appreciate the most being around here in NASCAR.
The number one thing is putting up a good show. If you need to erase it in reverse to put up a good show, it's okay, and I'm impressed about that, really.
Q. In other series that you've participated, Max, have you seen sanctioning bodies step up the way that NASCAR has of late to try to write what had been off in the past?
MAX PAPIS: I saw sanctioning bodies stepping on themselves, I can tell you, and there is a pretty big list of it. Basically based on egos. As I told you before, I am -- I was really impressed last year when -- I don't remember exactly when there were some issues about -- yeah, the new car or whatever, NASCAR came in and said, we want all the drivers and the crew chiefs, team owners to sit down and tell us what you think, whether you like it, don't like it, whatever. I was like, wow, they really want to hear, even someone like me who was a rookie? They really wanted to listen. I think that shows that dictate tore ship is good, but it's dictatorship with ears, you know what I mean? I'm pretty impressed about that.
DENISE MALOOF: Gentlemen, thank you so much. Max, we're glad you stopped by. We'll see you guys very soon.
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