NASCAR Nextel Cup Series: Daytona 500
Topics: Daytona 500
February 19, 2006
DAYTONA BEACH, FLORIDA
THE MODERATOR: Joined by our top-finishing rookie, Clint Bowyer, 07 Jack Daniel's Chevrolet. Tell us about this run.
CLINT BOWYER: You know, we started out tight. The car started out tight. I think everybody was fighting tight. You know, what a great effort for Jack Daniels Chevrolet, all the guys, the pit stops were awesome, Gil made good calls on the box, getting the car to handle good.
For whatever reason, it just wouldn't run down on the bottom. If we kept it wound up on the high side, she'd go. Late in the race, Junior got up on the outside. That was the time to go. So I tried to get up there and help him. We just had a lot of momentum up there, passed a lot of cars.
It wasn't quite as exciting as that Busch race, but it was a heck of a Daytona 500.
THE MODERATOR: Questions for Clint Bowyer.
Q. Clint, did the fog ever become a problem throughout the day? It looked sometimes like it seemed a little slick.
CLINT BOWYER: Not for me. Being the rookie that I am, I had a dark visor on my helmet. It was starting to get dark with the mist, the fog, the dark. Everything was setting in. It was starting to get a little bit dark out there.
You know, it was just kind of holding on. Didn't really want to see that 'green-white-checkered' at the end. I think we had some momentum going. I think we could have got maybe a couple more of them.
You know, good way to start out the season. We'll go on to California.
THE MODERATOR: We're joined by Casey Mears. The results are unofficial right now. We have him as the third-place finisher, driver of the No. 42 Texaco/Havoline Dodge. Casey, tell us about the run.
CASEY MEARS: It was good. I mean, what a great day for the Texaco/Havoline Dodge. We just started off with a pretty decent run right there out of the gate. Right after the second pit stop, we had a wheel weight that came off the right front. Had a bad vibration. The car got real tight.
The next stop, we didn't make as big of an adjustment to free the car up as we should have 'cause we thought that out of balance wheel was maybe the biggest problem.
Fought a really tight car throughout the middle of race. Kind of got caught in the back, there were a lot of guys just kind of riding. It was hard to move forward. You'd try to give the guy a shove, try to work with somebody, they were just content to ride in the back. So it was hard to break that first wave of guys in the back row. Once you get beyond those guys, you could start making some progress.
A great day for us. Right there at the end, got to thank Elliott Sadler for giving me a heck of a shove. Thought about going with Newman there for a little bit. As soon as he pulled out, the 38 had a big run on me, I had to stay at the bottom. Gave me a good shove to cross the start/finish line.
THE MODERATOR: Questions, please.
Q. Casey, describe if your car was variable during the day or did you feel like you had as good a car throughout the 500 as you did at the end?
CASEY MEARS: No, I had a better car at the end. Donnie did an excellent job tuning the car. We made some pretty drastic changes to free the car up. It was really, really tight towards the middle. I could get through three and four really good. But one and two, it was really slick.
I think a lot of the reason for that was the wind was blowing down the frontstretch from turns three and four towards one and two. That mist was in the air the whole time. I think the mist was catching on the banking over there in one and two. It wasn't in three and four. The car worked great in three and four. I would go into one and two, it would be so tight, I couldn't get through the corners.
Kind of the fought that. That was something that everybody had to fight. You know, what a good day for us. I don't even know what to say. This is my career-best finish. Just couldn't be happier with the way we started this year off.
Q. Clint, you're the top finishing rookie, but also the top finishing guy from Richard Childress Racing. That says a lot here at Daytona.
CLINT BOWYER: Yeah, it's going to be a strong rookie class. It's going to be a fight all the way to the end in that thing. You know, as far as RCR goes, never could really find each other. I tried to help Burton for a little bit. They were both running, they were content on the bottom. I was just too tight, or for whatever reason, my car wouldn't go down there. I had to keep it up high.
You know, Kevin tried to get up there and go with me, but his car just wasn't working the best up there. Proud to be the top car at RCR. I think we got some strong runs ahead of us - all of us.
Q. Casey, with two laps to go, the way Jimmie was running this thing at the end, that was just not enough time, right?
CASEY MEARS: Yeah, I mean, Jimmie has been really fast the whole few weeks here. Obviously, had a little bit of controversy.
RYAN NEWMAN: This guy cost me a million dollars.
CASEY MEARS: Shoot, you got me the race before (laughter).
It would have been tough to catch him. He would have needed one more lap. 38 had such a big run on me coming off of four, like I was going to go with Ryan, thought about moving to the top, the 38 had such a big run, I had to block down low.
Did you like that? That work for you?
RYAN NEWMAN: Yeah (smiling).
CASEY MEARS: Heck, I don't even know what to say, man. I'm happy. This is a good finish for me. I don't even know if I answered your question (laughter).
THE MODERATOR: We're joined by our second-place finisher, Ryan Newman, No. 12 ALLTEL Dodge.
RYAN NEWMAN: We're still trying to figure out who finished second.
THE MODERATOR: Give us a quick overview of the run today.
RYAN NEWMAN: Well, first of all, we had a great two-car team ever with Penske Racing. Kurt and I were working together. Not that that's the biggest thing of the day. But that helped keep us up front for a while there and stay out of a couple of the wrecks.
Just Matt Borland, everybody at Penske Racing, Roger Penske did an excellent job in the offseason. Put a great ALLTEL Dodge underneath me. Just being in the right place at the right time. I was pretty confident, as I think everybody else was, there was going to be another yellow before the checkered flag fell. That was with two to go. It was just a matter of being at the right place at the right time, like I said.
We had a good run. I told the guys over the radio afterwards, if I had that run, didn't take it, you know, I would have had a hard time sleeping tonight, probably for the next 10, 15 years maybe. You never know.
I'm glad I took it. Whether we finished second or third, that's beside the point. We had a great effort. It was a pretty typical Daytona 500 in my eyes, at least for racing, you know, the whole bump-drafting deal, all that stuff, blown out of proportion.
Q. Casey, the other day we talked about a little extra incentive you had if you won the race. You only fell a spot or two short of doing it. Just talk a little about being that close to getting some extra duty in May?
CASEY MEARS: Yeah, I mean, it definitely crossed my mind when that last caution came out. Obviously, we would have liked to have won. It would have forced Chip and Felix to put me in the Indy 500, which would have been a lot of fun.
The best thing about it is we got to shave Felix's head. I was enjoying that. I was getting ready to call dad and tell him to go get the clippers and a long drop cord so we could shave his head in Victory Lane. At the end of the day, it was a good finish for us. I'd love to go to the Indy 500 sometime, always been a dream and goal of mine. Right now we're at the Daytona 500, we had an excellent day and couldn't be happier - unless we won or got second (smiling).
Q. Clint, not a lot of emotion in your voice. Are you happy where you finished or just kind of bummed you didn't win?
CLINT BOWYER: No, I'm happy (smiling). Yeah, just we were riding there. I just didn't want to see that 'green-white-checkered' at the end. I really thought that Junior was wanting to move. We had a pretty good car right there at the end. I was going to go with him, whichever way. I think Elliott was the same way.
I knew as soon as the caution came out, we was in trouble.
Q. Can y'all just comment a little bit on what kind of a race this was? Everybody was worried about whether it was going to get crazy out there. It did at times, but overall what kind of a race was it?
CASEY MEARS: I felt for the most part it was fairly clean. I mean, obviously there were some wrecks and some accidents. I mean, we've had wrecks and accidents at these races for the last 10 years. I know I've only been here for three.
I felt like everybody was pretty considerate, you know, bump-drafting on the straightaways, really wasn't any bump-drafting in the corners. I agree with Ryan, when the whole bump-drafting thing has been kind of blown out of proportion a little bit. It's something that really makes these races fun, I think. Before bump-drafting got started, you know, you just rode in the line, and waited if your line moved, that's where you finished. Now you can dictate a little more as a driver to make your line move.
I think that everybody did a pretty good job. I think that NASCAR has done an excellent job with reiterating in the meetings what they're going to do, they're going to penalize people if they're too aggressive, which is good. I think it was a fairly clean race other than obviously there were a couple big ones, which always happen.
Q. Ryan and Casey, did either of you guys have anything to say about the fact that the car that everybody talked about all week, about the crew chief going home, all that stuff, that that car wound up winning this race and you didn't? Anything to that?
RYAN NEWMAN: Was he really home? Do we all know that or not (smiling)?
Q. All right, he wasn't on the pit box, Ryan. You get the point.
RYAN NEWMAN: Hey, you know, this could still be the first opportunity for NASCAR to pull away a victory if the thing is still illegal. We'll see what comes of it (smiling).
You know, it's just disappointing. I mean, I think a lot of Jimmie Johnson and his talent and stuff, but I'm pretty sure at least three out of his last four, if not three out of his last three wins have had conflictions (sic) with the cars being illegal. You know, it's not necessarily good for the sport.
But nevertheless, their team did a good job of putting Jimmie in position to win the race. Everything else aside, Jimmie did drive a smart and somewhat overaggressive race.
Q. Ryan, what exactly happened coming out of the pit there? How fortunate were you to avoid coming out of the pit Schrader almost hit you?
RYAN NEWMAN: Yeah, that was really close with Schrader there. I mean, Kenny definitely was awake. I didn't know that he was coming. I couldn't see him. Matt warned me at the last second as I was pulling out. It was just, you know, a good effort on both parts for me to stay tight, him to not cut in. I think he did pass his box. Got to thank him for not tearing our race cars up just trying to get to his stall, and more importantly using his head to keep anybody from being injured on pit road.
Q. Casey, is there any taint on this because of what happened to the 48?
CASEY MEARS: I'm not quite following what you're wanting me to say here.
Q. Whatever you want to say. What I'm asking is, does the fact that a car that had been in question because of rules violations all week won the race have any effect on how this race will be perceived by you or your team or the fans, in your opinion?
CASEY MEARS: I don't think so. I mean, in my mind, you know, the fact that they got caught earlier in the week took every doubt out of my mind that they actually would do anything, you know, to possibly cheat in this race. I think it was a well-earned victory, obviously.
You know, I mean, I agree with Ryan that, you know, it's disappointing that it has to happen in our sport. But I guess, you know, I don't even know what to say. I don't know. Good job. They did a good job today (laughter). Have to let NASCAR think about it.
Q. Ryan, there were two or three aggressive driving penalties today. The first was to the guy who really asked for something to change. What were your thoughts about that and do you think it will work as we go forward?
RYAN NEWMAN: I mean, I was way back in the pack. I didn't see what happened between the 20 and the 17, so I'm going to decline to comment on the actual situation and circumstances.
Whether that was coincidental with it being Tony, Tony's comment, or whatever that's beside the point. I hope in the future, the drivers can work this situation out as far as the bump-drafting or any other situation that we have before NASCAR has to intervene. I think, you know, the days are gone where we can't take each other out back and have a little discussion, get some things done. I'm saying that because of the fact that cameras follow us everywhere and we don't want to be given the image of a "bad boy".
I think in the end, the bump-drafting rule is not ideal, but it was something that helped get through the races a little bit cleaner, I think, because of the way it was implemented. Let me correct myself and say it wasn't necessarily a bump-drafting rule, what was it called?
CASEY MEARS: Aggressive driving.
RYAN NEWMAN: Aggressive driving rule.
Q. Ryan and Casey, do you think after this week, next week at California, this bump-drafting and aggressive driving thing will kind of be an afterthought as far as NASCAR keeping such a close eye on everybody, what they're doing on the track?
RYAN NEWMAN: I think it all depends on how much you guys make of it. It's part of racing. Just like Casey said, it's the way we pass now. If it's fun for the fans for us to be out there side by side, four deep, you know, four-wide, four deep, not touch each other, NASCAR has to make some conclusions. Man, I'm stuttering all over myself. Say it, Casey.
CASEY MEARS: I think the rules are fine. I think the racing is fun. As long as NASCAR stays on top of it a little bit, and makes sure that the guys don't get too out of hand, it's fun racing. I enjoy it.
RYAN NEWMAN: We don't like being on the receiving end of a judgment call is the bottom line.
THE MODERATOR: We just got the final results. The 42 car is second, the 12 car is third.
RYAN NEWMAN: Kind of knew that, but I didn't want to say anything (laughter).
CASEY MEARS: I watched my picture go across the screen in second on the TV, and I thought maybe that was a chance.
RYAN NEWMAN: Are you certified to say that? Maybe you're just pulling my leg or something (smiling)?
CASEY MEARS: I think he's pretty certified.
Q. Is it a fair statement from your perspective that if a crew chief is suspended, maybe the driver should be suspended as well in a race?
CASEY MEARS: I don't agree with that 'cause I know that -- it depends. You got different levels of drivers that have different levels of involvement with their team. You got some drivers that really don't have any influence other than saying the car is tight or loose on what actually goes on the car. Sometimes they know, sometimes they don't know.
I would hate personally to get penalized for something that my crew chief did that I don't even know about. So I don't know. I mean, he might have a different opinion. That's the way I look at it.
RYAN NEWMAN: Some drivers know what's going on with the car as far as what the crew chief's initiatives are. Some drivers don't have a clue. I totally agree with what Casey is saying.
I think the point that should be driven home is if we have repeat offenders or the situation happens time and time again with a certain individual, there's something more that should be done other than suspension. You know, that's I think important to the sport.
Q. Even though you're disappointed with the third-place finish, Ryan, still your best finish here in the 500. Talk about how this jump-starts your year. How big would it have been to get one for Roger here at Daytona?
RYAN NEWMAN: As I said earlier, it's a great run for the Alltel Dodge. It's a definite booster for the start of the season. Just as we went into the 500 at ground zero, it was another situation going into California where, you know, just because we're third now, we can come out of California 33rd in points. I mean, it's just a situation where you try to make the best of it. As soon as I walk out of this media center, the uniform and everything else comes off, we're already focusing on California.
It's a great way to start the season, no doubt. Thankful for the effort that Roger Penske and everybody at Penske Racing has put forth. We got to continue that, keep striving.
Q. How much momentum did you have after winning the Rolex 24, coming in here? Was that a huge boost to your confidence?
CASEY MEARS: Well, I mean, it was a lot of fun, and it was awesome to win that race. I feel privileged to be a part of it.
But I think really if we had any momentum, it was gained from the pre-season testing we did in the Cup car, the adjustment to the 42. I mean, we had a test at Nashville that went absolutely awesome. We had a test at Vegas that I thought went really well. We knew that our car was going to be pretty good in the draft here. We didn't have overall speed that we wanted, but we knew it was going to handle pretty good.
If there's any momentum coming out of this, I would say the majority of it's coming from the running that we've done with the Cup team. But as an added bonus and for the guys to hold their heads a little bit higher in the shop, to win a race at the beginning of the year for Ganassi as a whole was a big positive feel in the shop that really helped everybody, I think.
Q. There was a lot of talk earlier in the week maybe they would take Jimmie's primary car from him. If they had done that, would there have been enough time during the week, with the practice, that that backup car could have been as strong as his car today?
RYAN NEWMAN: That's totally "could have, would have, should have" from our standpoint. Totally too hypothetical for us to even say.
I don't think anybody on the 48 team could have even answered that one.
Q. Ryan, you just said that if a situation happens time and time again with a certain individual, something ought to be done besides suspension. Can you be more specific? What do you think should be done?
RYAN NEWMAN: You know, there's been suspensions for more than one race by certain crew chiefs. You know, NASCAR is the governing body. We can call them the government. The government makes the rules. It's up to them to enforce them.
You know, to see the repetitive situations of question ability or legality of certain crew chief's work, or his team's work, I should say, that just brings up a lot of questions. You know, like Casey said, it's not good for the sport, it's not good for any of us to have that question mark out there.
You know, I don't have a specific example of what could or should be done other than something a little more strict than a suspension 'cause, you know, that didn't seem to slow him down too much.
Q. Do either of you believe that Chad had nothing to do with the racing here today or yesterday?
RYAN NEWMAN: Go ahead, plead the fifth (laughter).
The crew chief assumes the role of the parent of the team. That's the bottom line. Whether it was Chad's fault or not, Chad is responsible for what goes on with that race car. That's what the crew chief's role is, at least with our team. That's why I say it that way.
Q. I meant, do you think he was in communication with his team today?
RYAN NEWMAN: Hell, I don't know. I got an Alltel phone, he's got a Nextel. We can't even communicate.
Q. Is this race going to go down in history as the race that was won with an asterisk behind Jimmie Johnson's name?
CASEY MEARS: Jimmie is going to be here in a little bit. You can ask him all kinds of questions. Honestly, I mean, I'm happy I got second. If you want to ask me something about that, I'll answer it.
I mean, all this stuff is so hypothetical, just like grasping at air.
RYAN NEWMAN: Ask us questions we can answer. Ask the hypothetical questions for anybody else.
CASEY MEARS: Don't mean to be rude.
RYAN NEWMAN: We'd like to go home, too.
Q. Are you upset this could have been taken away from you, the win?
RYAN NEWMAN: How?
CASEY MEARS: That, I don't know.
RYAN NEWMAN: The rules are the way the rules are. Jimmie was put to the back of the Gatorade Duel. I mean, he finished -- his car passed inspection from that point on. There's no questionability as far as that.
Q. Casey, there was a lot of talk leading into the season, people expecting you to have a breakout season this year. You won in the Rolex race. You finished second/third here. Can you talk about the momentum that builds and explain you're not driving the same car next week, a completely different kind of track, are you confident you guys will be good on the intermediate tracks, too?
CASEY MEARS: What's exciting about that is those are the places we were most competitive at last year, the intermediate tracks. The test that we had in Vegas, if it's indicative -- if the California track is anything like the Vegas track, which it's very similar, I feel pretty good about going into it.
You know, we'll just have to wait and see. The California race is totally different than what we just got done doing. It was great to win the 24 hours, it was great to have a good finish here. I'm very confident that we can have a good finish at California. We just got to put all the pieces of the puzzle together and do it right.
Q. With the bump-drafting being such an issue all week, what were your thoughts today with the zones and everything that has been going on?
RYAN NEWMAN: I'll take this one.
Just to reword your question a little bit, I don't think it was necessarily an issue as it was more of a question, you know, as far as how it was going to be enforced, the questionability of the judgment call.
All in all, obviously there was a couple, at least one that I know of, penalties throughout the race. There was definitely aggressive driving up towards the front in order to stay up front. That's part of this package.
You know, I thought that - all in all I've been through I think five of these now - it was pretty much the Daytona 500 that I've seen in the past.
THE MODERATOR: Gentlemen, thanks a lot.
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