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NASCAR MEDIA CONFERENCE
January 30, 2007
THE MODERATOR: We have Juan Pablo Montoya in the media center. Juan, welcome to Las Vegas Motor Speedway. First time you've been back in I think about seven years since an IRL test here.
JUAN PABLO MONTOYA: Yeah, my first time in my IRL car was here before going to Indy. We did a day here. I remember it was really windy. Did about half a day. That was it. It's a different course to that course, to be honest, faster.
THE MODERATOR: Questions.
Q. You drove for Toyota. Can you talk about how involved Toyota was then and their commitment to the series, what you expect them to do this year?
JUAN PABLO MONTOYA: Hard to know what they're going to do. I think a manufacturer that size, or any manufacturer that is going to come into NASCAR, they need to come in with non-stops. You cannot say there's got to be this here and this there. If they want to do well, they got to come in a hundred percent.
When we were in CART, they were there for a few years. They were never really that committed to it. When they came with Chip they had no stops to it, and the program really worked. We had a lot of failures and stuff, but they were a hundred percent to it.
You wonder if they did it well. Yeah, I think it's good for the sport, another manufacturer doing well, but I'd rather see (indiscernible).
Q. Going from Formula One to NASCAR, how does this rank with anything else you've done?
JUAN PABLO MONTOYA: For me it's harder, a stock car, an open-wheel. A stock car guy, probably open-wheel is harder because everything happens faster, the level of grip is different. It's completely different cars. Here it's hard. It's a hard race car. It's all about confidence. I think the oval is all about the feedback you get out of the car.
For me, being so new to this, a mile and a half track are the hardest there are. You go in, you get out of the gas, get back on it, the car twitches. I'm out of the gas straightaway. I'm not taking any risks. At the same time you want to run fast. As soon as you get a little bit comfortable, you start attacking and attacking and attacking. You start getting a little bit faster.
Q. We have redone the track here at Las Vegas so the banks are better. Talk about your feelings about that in NASCAR.
JUAN PABLO MONTOYA: I wasn't here before so I really couldn't tell you the difference. It's a pretty fast racetrack. I'm amazed how fast it is. I thought Homestead was fast, but this place, you know, you got to get back on the gas so fast, you are not even completely off the gas ever. I'm not even touching the brakes all the way around. I'm 4/10ths off or something, maybe 2 or 3/10ths off a top car in race trim. We're getting there, but still a long way to go.
Q. Juan, do you see yourself, a driver of your stature coming in, I've heard Castroneves, Hornish, can you see you leading the way, especially if you have some success?
JUAN PABLO MONTOYA: I hope I have some success. I'm committed for this for the long-term. Is it going to happen this year? I don't know. Probably on the road course I can do a good job, get some results. I think the smaller oval be good. I think Homestead was pretty decent for being my first race.
It's hard to say you're going to be good here and bad there. It's all about getting comfortable. When I went to the Homestead test I was nowhere. I was probably easily half a second, 6/10ths off my teammates. When I got to the race, I was the fastest car of the Ganassis. It's all relative. We'll see.
For me, it's just hard to say, Yeah, I'm going to go out there, I'm going to kick everybody's ass. Do I want to do that? Yeah, of course I want to do that. You got to be a bit realistic. I never put myself to set some goals and say, I need to do this and that. You just got to go out there and do the best you can. It's that simple.
One day the car works good. You look like a hero. Next day the car handles bad and the transition is hard.
Q. Can you talk about when your interest in NASCAR first started? Is it something you thought about long before you made the deal?
JUAN PABLO MONTOYA: Being realistic, NASCAR is the biggest motorsport in the states. Open-wheel, yes, I've been there, done that kind of thing. I thought it would be a great challenge for myself, come and do stock cars. I'll be honest with you, when I drove Jeff's car I was really comfortable in it. That's one of the reasons, when I was talking to Chip about it, it really motivated me to do the deal. I got in it. Within three laps in a road course, I was up to speed. I thought, This feels good.
To get that feeling in something completely different, it's hard. You don't get that every day. I'll guarantee you, in an open-wheel car, oval right now, I would probably suck as well. It's a completely different thing. I had some basics when I drove the open-wheels, but I hadn't driven an oval for six years or seven years.
Get back into the oval thing, you know the race lines, learn what the car is trying to tell you, how far you can really push it, all that. It's all about learning how far you can go with the car and do things.
Q. What was it like driving a 24-hour race and having to fly cross-country here, testing, doing something that is totally different?
JUAN PABLO MONTOYA: It was okay. It wasn't so bad. I finished the race. We did a press conference, went to my motorhome, made something, got on the plane, came here. Yesterday afternoon I was really tired. 5:00, every time we stopped in the car, I was nearly falling asleep. It was okay. It was a great experience actually to get back in the car.
We did a little bit of Car of Tomorrow testing in December. Since then, we done Daytona, but anybody can drive Daytona by themselves. The key of Daytona is how you draft. It's how the car handles with everybody around. Yes, it's important to drive the qualifying well, be awesome to put it on pole and everything. Being realistic, Daytona, it doesn't matter where you qualify, it's how you race. It was exciting to come here because it's a lot of hard work.
Q. You won the Indianapolis 500 on your first shot. Does that give you confidence you can do the same thing at Daytona?
JUAN PABLO MONTOYA: No.
Q. From what you've seen so far in testing, what do you think is the toughest race to win?
JUAN PABLO MONTOYA: It's like everything. You take a stock car guy to the 500, say, which one is harder to win? The guy will say the Indy 500 because he doesn't understand how everything works. I'm new to this. I haven't even raced it.
Is it going to be really hard? Yes, it's going to be really hard. Am I aiming to win? I'm more aiming to get the car to the end of the race to be realistic. Do we have a shot at it? Am I going to try to win it? Yes. I would be really happy if we can get a top 20, top 15 out of that race.
The key thing out of the first year races is to score good points. If you can keep scoring good points, then you can start worrying about the rest.
It's a shame you start the Daytona 500 for me as a rookie because I have no experience drafting, very little. It was a bit of a surprise when I tested, five laps in, didn't do any damage, but I touched the wall coming out of four. Got so tight, I couldn't believe it. They told me it was going to get a little tight. It wasn't a little tight. It was like, my arms were down here, I went straight into the wall.
It's all about learning. I think as the race would go on, you going to get more comfortable. You going to understand what you want out of the car. If you got enough cautions and stuff, you can actually make your car better. I think the Texaco car has been really good there. Last few years, always been up there. It will be good if we can get a good result.
Q. How hard was it to come into NASCAR? What are your goals?
JUAN PABLO MONTOYA: The goal is to win some races and the championship if you can. I've been welcomed by everybody. It's been awesome.
THE MODERATOR: We have Kyle Busch in the room. Thanks, Juan Pablo. Kyle, come on up.
Kyle, you've actually gotten a little more experience on this racetrack than anybody else. You did a two-day Goodyear Tire test, busted up your thumb. Talk about your test so far.
KYLE BUSCH: Been going pretty well. Strictly racing on race trim runs, things like that. A lot of guys for some reasons are busting off some really quick lap times. We're not finding the speed out of our time, but we're finding the longevity. To me it feels pretty good out there. It's definitely fast.
Mainly everybody is fighting the tight condition because we're on coil bind here. That right front spring and left front spring, if you're on both of them, it's an Infiniti rate. There is no rate to it. It's just solid. So it's pretty hard to make a car turn that way. Any time you try to loosen it up, then you're too loose and out of control, sliding all over the place. It's real tough to try to find a balance.
THE MODERATOR: Questions for Kyle.
Q. What happened to your thumb?
KYLE BUSCH: I was messing around out at the sand dunes this past week, pulled a Denny Hamlin, hit it on the back of a motorhome bumper.
Q. Is it okay?
KYLE BUSCH: It's been fine with driving. I did my pinky here today. I'm not doing too great (laughter).
Q. Are you planning on coming back here to run some stuff at the bull ring in late models?
KYLE BUSCH: There's been some talk about it. I definitely tried putting something together. Nothing is set in stone yet. I have a car that's being built right now to run a few races back east. We actually might go up to Wisconsin later this year. Plan is to try to run three races out here if I can get it all together, get a motor and everything.
Q. Kyle, Jimmie Johnson comes across as such a pretty humble and soft-spoken guy. He's had a lot of success. What is he like personality-wise to be around him on a day-to-day basis? Do you ever see a different side of him? Is that really how he is around you guys, too?
KYLE BUSCH: He's pretty laid back. He's definitely a great competitor and a cool friend and a guy that you'd like to hang around definitely. He's pretty easygoing. I like being able to spend time with him, when we can, things like that, being able to be around him at the racetrack a little bit, be around him at some Hendrick get-togethers.
I get along with him probably better than I do Jeff or Kasey at the moment. I'm not that used to Kasey yet, and Jeff is always off doing his own thing. And now being married and having a kid on the way, it's going to be tough to try to get to him.
Jimmie and I, we're pretty close in relative to how we drive our race cars as well, too. We are able to talk and communicate a little more that way.
Q. I think we know who Kurt likes in Sunday's game. Who do you like in the Super Bowl?
KYLE BUSCH: I don't know. It's tough to not go with the Bears, to have that family feeling. Of course, mom and dad are from Chicago. Kurt, he likes the Bears, the Cubs, everybody. I'll pull for the Bears. That will be pretty cool to see them do it. Last time they did it was the year I was born. Let's give it to them now.
Q. Kyle, any updates with local young driver Alex? Still working with you this year?
KYLE BUSCH: He's going to be working with me this year. We're actually working on trying to finalize a NASCAR Grand National, whatever they're called, west series ride. We're trying to finalize some plans in order to put him into one of those cars this year.
Q. For the whole season?
KYLE BUSCH: Yes, for the whole season.
Q. Are you bigger in the shoulders? Are you still working out a lot?
KYLE BUSCH: Yeah, actually I am. Every single day I'm home, I'm doing 30 minutes of cardio, an hour and a half of training physically, stuff like that. It's been going along pretty well. This year I think it started when I got home from my vacation in December I really hit it hard. We've been working hard.
Q. Do you feel a difference in the car?
KYLE BUSCH: Yeah. The seat's way tighter. I'm going to have to start pushing the seat out to fit in it. I think overall we'll be able to make sure that we get everything situated and comfortable so I can continue I guess if I keep growing. We'll be all right.
Q. Can you talk about what fans can expect in March different maybe from last year?
KYLE BUSCH: Well, right now I'm pretty glad to say it seems like it's going to be a two-groove racetrack. I'm already working on the outside. That is where my car seems to run better. You run the first couple on the bottom, then move it up to the top. The side-by-side and the closing in on somebody, that's been tough so far.
With the tire that Goodyear brought, it's a really, really, really hard compound tire. You're so dependent on your aero, that any time you get behind somebody, it just makes the cars so tight and you can't turn whatsoever. Any time you get in behind somebody, it's going to be really hard to catch 'em. I've been running times 3, 4/10ths quicker than somebody in front of me. As soon as I get within five car lengths of them, I stall out. I can't catch them anymore. So I hope that's not what we're going to see, but that's probably what's going to happen.
Q. Talk about the improvement of the raceway here at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, and also some of the improvements made technically with the cars.
KYLE BUSCH: Well, the racetrack is real nice. A lot of guys have said that it might be a little too fast, which it very easily could be. Atlanta was fast when it got redone, too. The times of today, though, we're so maxed out on our cars, the way everything is set up, we go so fast around any racetrack for that matter.
Charlotte, Lowe's Motor Speedway, we haul butt around there, too. We can go faster there than we can here. It's all about what kind of tire Goodyear brings. They brought the hardest one to try to slow us down, we're still running 20, 19. It's blistering out there.
Overall, wherever you go, you're going to have that. Like I said, the cars are so maxed out, the technology, engineering that's in them today, it makes it hard to keep us slowed down.
Q. Is your team still paired with the 25 team? What has Kasey brought to the organization at Hendrick?
KYLE BUSCH: Yes, we are. It's the 525 Building now along with the No. 5 Busch car in the shop. The 44 team, Terry Labonte's team, they're now my Busch Series team. We're all together. As far as Casey, what he's brought to the team, he's brought his friendship that he's had with Jeff and Jimmie over the years. Of course, it will just continue to grow with myself, I'm sure.
Overall, we've only been together for two tests now. Hopefully later on down the road he might be able to bring a little more insight. As far as what exactly he's brought to the team from Ganassi Racing, I can't answer that because I don't really know. Maybe Lance would know a little bit more than I would or maybe Allen would a little more than I would. I haven't been able to do the car aspect of it enough talking to him.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you, Kyle.
KYLE BUSCH: Thanks, everybody.
THE MODERATOR: We have Kurt Busch, the second of the Las Vegas driving Busch brothers. You were the first guy to get on the track after it got repaved, but now you're getting to run it at a little more speed. Talk about your impressions of the racetrack.
KURT BUSCH: It was a true honor the Las Vegas Motor Speedway gave me to be able to race the first few laps, drive the first few laps, to get a taste of the action of what is the future of Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
Obviously with all the construction going on, all of the newness around it, it fits the general motif of Vegas in general, just a constant state of construction.
It's looking good. The track is definitely different, fast. All the drivers have commented how fast it is. Goodyear has brought a tire that is able to withstand the speeds. It's very similar in many ways to Charlotte Motor Speedway. That's the hub of stock car country. Las Vegas has always prided themselves on being the racing capital of the west. It's fitting.
Everything's going good for us with our Miller Lite Dodge. One was completely on the tight side, one was completely on the loose side. I think that's good for us to understand what parameters to build cars within. We've got two unique setups in the race cars to help us maintain speed with both cars.
We've gone through most of our lists, our checklists of how to I guess calculate where we need to be for this new style racetrack. So this afternoon is when we'll really start going for some speed. We'll do some long runs, as well. We should start bumping up the speed charts this afternoon.
THE MODERATOR: Questions.
Q. You're a Cubs fan. How big of a Bears fan are you?
KURT BUSCH: Just as big. I couldn't find my hat this morning so I guess I'm not that big. I've actually got a unique trip set up. I have Miller Lite appearances here Saturday night. That's a big weekend for Miller obviously around the Super Bowl here in Las Vegas. It's their No. 1 distribution point during the week of the Super Bowl. We're here Saturday night. Going to have my own redeye to the game on Sunday, do the game Sunday, fly back Sunday night after they finally release all the air traffic, test the Busch car Monday morning. I don't plan on seeing any of you Monday morning (laughter). A rough one.
Q. When the Bears win, do you plan on having to put off your celebration or partying if you have to come out here and test?
KURT BUSCH: I'll definitely have a couple beers at the game. We've got work to do, speed to gain with our Cup cars and our Busch Grand National. I did put some money down on the game. I didn't buy the points, though. I bought it heads up. If my Bears lose, I'm going to lose with them. I actually triple my money if the Bears do win. Hopefully they do. I'm excited about it. They do have a great shot.
Q. Couple big changes this year with the Car of Tomorrow and Toyota coming in. Do you have any thoughts on how that will affect the sport both this year and in the future?
KURT BUSCH: Our sport just continues to grow and go through many changes. The way that Toyota will be embraced in our sport, you have to be known, but they've done their homework with finding good teams, good drivers. That's where you have to start. You have to go through the growing pains, teething process, whether it's on the racetrack, with the fans, just the acceptance of it, so to speak.
Car of Tomorrow, it's going through the same thing: being accepted by everybody. It's going to have to go through its races, trials, and tribulations to see where it shakes out. It's positive for the sport as well. No matter what direction Brian France takes us, Mike Helton, France Sr., all those guys have built this sport to what it is today, and we continue to grow. I've been around for seven years now and it's incredible just the time I've been around, the change.
Q. Give us an analysis from where you were when you and Ryan started out here a year ago, pretty nice out in the garage, to where you came, took you a while to give up on the Intrepid, move forward with the Charger, new nose? Where are events?
KURT BUSCH: We've come a long way in one year with setups in general, the team's philosophy to set a race car up. That was somewhat outdated with Rusty's setups, with Ryan's success back in 2003. It made it interesting when I first showed up. I couldn't tell them that we needed to change everything. We needed to work on it bit by bit. We've come a long way in just one season to be up to speed. To have a new nose now, to have the future of the Car of Tomorrow lingering above everybody, that's been a big focal point for us.
So the communication's gone well with Ryan Newman and myself, his progress, because he admitted halfway through last year that he was behind in where he needed to be with setups. It was great for us, too, to be in the position we were last year, to use those last 10 races to work towards a more positive 2007.
Q. Juan Pablo Montoya, what has been your impressions of his ability in a stock car? What do you think the biggest adjustment overall will be for him?
KURT BUSCH: I'm impressed with Juan. I met him at the Detroit Auto Show when Dodge had us up there together unveiling some new cars. Very grounded, approachable, humoristic, as well. To see all the walks of life he's been through, to be here in NASCAR, whether it's a step forward for him or a step backwards, that's yet to be determined. I'm sure he knows this is a step forward, and these cars will be very challenging.
It's unique on how much talent he has, how much experience and wisdom he has with open-wheel cars. Yet the inexperience he has with a stock car, how do you match that? How do you create success around it? That's a challenge for the Ganassi organization, for himself, for everybody involved. It's going to be unique to watch his maturation process, how he moves forward.
I wish him the best of luck. It will be great to race with such a legendary driver. The guy came over here and won the 24-hour race right off the bat. He shows he can drive. He's in distorted world so to speak right now. But when you throw him in a race car he's just like everyone else: He wants to win and he wants to be the best.
Q. As a former champion, not making the Chase last year, how much did that eat at you during the off-season? Does it put any additional pressure to get off to a faster start at Daytona?
KURT BUSCH: It was a chance for us to get our team really up to speed. Starting fresh last year, a new team, new crew chief, we have a unique position. Are we going to come out of the box like four or five starting freshmen and win some races, win some games? We did. We won Bristol. We ran strong at Daytona. That adrenaline carried us for a while. Then reality began to set in. So we went through stages of updating our setups, getting the crew chief more experience.
It was disappointing, yes. But for me more of a challenge to be able to look at the long-term effects of what I can realize and what Penske can realize can happen at Penske Racing driving the Miller Lite Dodge.
Nice rebuilding year, and now it's back to work again. We have been all off-season. We have come a long ways in just the two months we've been off the racetrack. That's why we need to come back and do our testing so we can update our ideas.
Q. Did you do anything during the off-season to recharge your batteries? What were the highlights of your break?
KURT BUSCH: It's been interesting. The last few off-seasons, with winning the champion a couple years ago, switching teams last year. And then this year getting married, settling in. I did the romantic thing after we got back from the honeymoon and said, Let's get a new house. That was probably the stupidest idea I've come up with.
We finally moved in two days before we came out here to Vegas for testing. Getting settled in there and actually working on getting a new shop. The guy always has to have more garage space than he does house square footage. So I'm working on that. The shop should be done by the time we go to Daytona in a couple weeks. We'll get moved in before we head to California.
So everything will be settled in right around Daytona, the start of the season. That's been a great chapter in my life, as well. Love her to death. It's been more about us this off-season than anything.
Q. Even though you and your brother are on different teams, different manufacturers, how much do you talk shop during the off-season, particularly about the changes here at Vegas?
KURT BUSCH: It was interesting. Yesterday he called me after we jumped up on top of the speed charts for a little bit. Hey, what did you do? What did you change? Yet we share a unique bond together. Being seven years apart, I look like I'm 12, he's 11 and a half, but we don't really spend much time together. We do care for each other and we love each other to death, but yet we want to beat each other into the ground at the racetrack, seeing who is going to come out on top.
We share information on different philosophies, different types of things we saw at racetracks, or we did, how we passed guys, how this guy raced him, how this guy raced me. But we never really share setup numbers. I think that's what keeps our relationship strong. There's always that fibbing that can go on if you start sharing numbers. We've never really done that with one another. We just keep a straightforward angle on what we can do outside the race car together to make each other better.
Q. The Busch Series used to be the minor leagues of NASCAR, up-and-comers. Do you like the way the Busch Series has evolved?
KURT BUSCH: The Busch Series has taken on a role of research and development for Cup programs. That's the bottom line. That's what's happened. It's good for NASCAR in one aspect because they have more cars out on the racetrack in the Busch Series events.
Every race this year is going to be on ESPN-2, ESPN. A TV company such as that purchasing into the Busch Series is incredible. You don't have that for a lot of primary series around this country. It works in both ways. It works in other ways.
For us at Penske Racing, we like to develop crew members out of this program. We like to develop our setups that we will try to help our Cup cars do better. I think we reached quite good success. We reached good success this year with our Busch program, winning two races. The setups we did win, they translated great over to the Cup car.
We almost had the road course sweep at Watkins Glen with both poles and both wins. That's what we look forward to with the Grand National series. I'm only running five races this next year to make way - from what I know I think the announcement has been made, but we'll keep it quiet. But Ryan is going to run some races and another guy is going to run some more races for us at Penske. It just opens up the opportunity for crew chiefs to develop, car chiefs to develop shop guys. Any time we have a change in our Cup program, we like to bump up and promote from within.
Q. Curious on your comments about this track being too fast.
KURT BUSCH: We're all race car drivers. It's like the limbo bar is out there in the infield somewhere. Somebody keeps lowering it, lowering it, lowering it. Who is going to go lowest? That's what's happening with the speeds. The speeds get quicker and quicker. Lap times get lower and lower.
Where is going to be the point of point break with the tires, with the engines? Aerodynamically, the cars are ready to go. The way that the chassis feel on the racetrack these days, they're bouncing real rough against the racetrack. There's a unique aspect of racing cars, going fast, and trying to be safe at the same time.
We challenge ourselves most of the time, whether it's a new track, like Charlotte last year or Texas when it was first built, Atlanta, that still holds the ultimate record for speed at 197 on a downforce-type car. We're always going fast. We're still going to continue to go fast. There always is going to be that question of are we going too fast.
Q. Now that Roger Penske has moved his open-wheel division to North Carolina, is there much crossover? Have you talked to Sam Hornish or Helio Castroneves at all?
KURT BUSCH: Absolutely. It's great to have everybody in one building, all the extra people at our Christmas party to intermingle, talk, to see the programs and how successful they were last year with the IRL program. The Porsche program won in ALMS. To see those guys, how they operate, I can't wait for the opportunity when the programs can cross-pollinate and everybody can help each other work together.
Right now it's a matter of getting settled in for those guys. Some of those guys have actually helped with extra hands around the racetrack, whether it's a semi-truck driver driving to one our tests, whether it's Tom German, the guy that actually makes the calls for Sam on the pit box, Tim Cindric, general manager and president of Penske Racing. He now has his hands on the Cup and Busch program. He's the guy that makes the calls for Helio Castroneves in the pit box. We're starting to see all of that intertwine, how it can produce results.
Each day is something new within our program. It's exciting, as well.
Q. Sam Hornish obviously coming over here, going to run some Busch races this year. Last week Helio Castroneves said he's interested in coming over to NASCAR. Any thoughts in your mind of ever racing an open-wheel car?
KURT BUSCH: All of our guys love to drive. That's why Roger chose Sam and Helio, Ryan and myself. I'd love the chance to have Sam repay the turn on teaching me in an IRL car, as much time as we spent together in that Busch car getting him up to speed. Just some nice test sessions here and there. I look forward to the future of possibly running some road racing events after I retire, but that's 20 years down the road. Nothing on the forefront. Nothing that I'm excited about deviating a certain amount of attention away from. I have a good home with the NASCAR program, working with Miller and Dodge to make our No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge go faster.
THE MODERATOR: Kurt, thanks for coming in.
KURT BUSCH: Appreciate it.
THE MODERATOR: We have Michael Waltrip and Dale Jarrett joining us in the media center. Why don't you guys talk about the racetrack, first time both of you have been on it since it was redone.
MICHAEL WALTRIP: I like it a lot. The thing I like most about it is the fact that here we are at our first test prior to racing here for the first time on it, and I've already been able to run up high out of the -- right off the bottom. Every track that they built in the '90s there, around 2000, Chicago, whenever these tracks came online, they got a bad rap for being not such good racing and all being alike.
Well, this track is a whole lot like those tracks, with the exception of the banking is such that right off the bat we're able to run in two or three different lines. That will make for good racing. It's really fast obviously, but I don't know what you think we're going to do about that. I don't know why people complain bit. We're race car drivers for gosh sake, so the cars just go fast. It's not the track's fault. The cars would be easiest to slow down than build a track that isn't fun for the fans to watch. That's my take.
DALE JARRETT: Yeah, everything is good. There were a few bumps here and there. That's just what you learn about the racetrack. You learn to either negotiate around those or work on your car to maneuver over them. It is extremely fast. As Michael said, we've already got multiple grooves out there. That's a really good thing. Should be very beneficial to good racing when we come back.
Q. Michael, could you talk a little bit about how difficult it's been on you getting ready for the season with the new team?
MICHAEL WALTRIP: It's been challenging, but it's been really fun and at times rewarding with all the different hurdles we've cleared. The on-track testing that we've conducted so far, very positive. Obviously getting Dale and UPS and Domino's and NAPA and everybody signed up to go, it just made you smile, that those people trusted their marketing dollars with our organization to say, We think you can go race with those guys. That meant the world to me.
We've hired a lot of smart people. I really wish y'all would come over there and look. I got more engineers than I've ever seen anybody have. This is my team. That's funny.
Everything is going well. Toyota has been a huge support obviously. I think that the media and people in general just missed the whole key to what Toyota did for me. They brought me credibility. They allowed me to go to NAPA, say, Toyota is going to be my manufacturer. They're going to provide me with technology and equipment that will allow me to go race these other guys. It's never been and it will never be about money. We needed their support to be able to do it, not their money.
Q. How many new engineers and employees have you added?
MICHAEL WALTRIP: We have close to 200 employees on our team. TRD has probably 20 or so dedicated to the teams at the track. Four or five of those are dedicated to our cars. There's a bunch of us. As they say in Stewart, Virginia, It's a bunch mob.
Q. Dale, did you bet on the Colts while you were in town?
DALE JARRETT: Haven't yet.
Q. Planning to? Think you might?
DALE JARRETT: I may make a small wager, yes.
Q. On a more serious note, have you had much reaction from your long-time fans about changing manufacturers?
DALE JARRETT: You know, I can't answer that really well because, I mean, I don't pay attention to that much. I have people that look at stuff like that, I guess. They let me know if it's a concern. If I was concerned about it, I wouldn't have made the move.
Obviously you're not going to make everybody happy all the time with things that you do. This was an opportunity that I had to look at that was best for getting to the end of my career, what was best for me and for my family for me to finish this up.
We have a lot of support. Then you're going to have those detractors. That's fine, too. That's what makes the world go round, you know. It's what we have to do.
Q. Dale, have fans come up to you one-on-one and had any sort of response that you see with your own eyes?
DALE JARRETT: Let's put it like this: The ones that come up to you face to face are going to be your supporters. The ones that don't are the ones that find it easy to get on the Internet and write something whenever they don't have to look at you eye to eye. That's the only way you're going to hear the negative side from the majority. Again, that's okay. That's fine.
It honestly hasn't been a whole lot. There's a whole lot being made of this story than what's actually here. This is a manufacturer that wants to be involved in Nextel Cup racing. NASCAR allowed that. They're here. They're going to make their mark in this sport ever how long it takes to do that. They're going to be a huge supporter of our sport. It's going to be good for our sport as a whole for everybody involved.
MICHAEL WALTRIP: I'd like to add, more eyeballs are going to be looking at the Fords, Dodges and Chevy's on the racetrack because Toyotas are going to be out there. People are going to tune into the TV to see how Toyota does against the good ol' boys basically. It's silly for anyone to have a problem with them being here. They're just showing up to race.
NASCAR will be more popular because they're here. NASCAR is going to be more popular because Juan Pablo is here. What I don't understand, Jack Roush doesn't have a problem with Juan Pablo coming, why is he so mad about Toyota showing up? You can't handpick who comes in your door. This is a global society. Toyota is certainly welcomed here. I haven't talked to one driver that doesn't say it won't be good for the sport.
DALE JARRETT: No.
Q. You might be known as the best salesman in NASCAR. Has this been an easy sell to your fans?
MICHAEL WALTRIP: I don't have that many.
Q. Michael, do you think as far as winning public opinion over with the fans it will just be a gradual process for all the Toyota teams? How long do you think that will take?
MICHAEL WALTRIP: Like Dale said earlier, I don't have a problem with where we are today. The process to me is going fine. Any time something is new or different, it's got to be bad. That's pretty much what people think. I'm sure back in the '60s, whenever it was, when they stopped racing on dirt, everybody thought that would be the end of NASCAR. Then when the Chase for the championship came along, that had to be the worst thing ever. It's been the greatest thing ever.
Toyota got fortunate. They came out along about the same time they announced Toyota was going to race in Cup, they brought out the Car of Tomorrow, and everybody hates it. So now people spend more time griping about it. Changed their target. They have to have something to gripe about. They move from the Toyota to the ugly car. I happen to love that, too. I'm sorry.
Q. Dale, you mentioned how the move to Toyota would be good for the tail end of your career, family. What are the specific lures that got you to come over there?
DALE JARRETT: I think the challenge that this presents, helping my friend get his race team started, helping Toyota as a new manufacturer come in and kind of understand some of the ropes, some of the hoops they're going to have to jump through, trying to go off of some of the knowledge that I've gained over these last what seems like a hundred years in this sport, however long it's been. It's just a new challenge, something I haven't done in a while.
Since I joined Joe Gibbs back in 1992, that was a start-up team. Everything since then has been an established race team. I look to this as something fun and new. Hopefully it will be fun, new, exciting, and very good for us in the way that when we get to Victory Lane that we will all feel very good about that because of all the hard work and effort we put forth.
Q. Dale, another new experience, opportunity for you this year. Joining us in the broadcast booth for some of the Busch races. Your thoughts on being a broadcaster, following you're dad's footsteps?
DALE JARRETT: I was kind of hoping I might put that off till the end of my career. But I thought I better go on and get started at this. I am looking forward to it. Certainly doing it with ESPN is the perfect opportunity for me. I've done a couple races here and there, but this is would be at least ten races. I think my first one doesn't actually start till Texas.
You know, I've enjoyed that. It's something that's totally different, a different perspective of looking at the races and what goes on. I think there's something to be said, too, for watching on Saturday and really paying close attention to what's going on for Sunday. There's some things you can learn. You don't necessarily have to be in the seat to learn some things for that. I'm really looking forward to that.
As much as anything, it brings Jerry Punch and Andy Petri and myself back together. You'll hear stories about things that we did back when I first started racing that were really crazy things. Here was Dr. Jerry Punch on a Friday night as we had a new engine trying to get it down through the middle of little Newton, North Carolina. I was driving the truck and Jerry and Andy were in the back holding the engine because we didn't have a crate or anything to put it in. This was at 2:00 in the morning. This is Dr. Jerry Punch at that time. He still is. That's what he did for a living. But he was helping us get our race car to the racetrack. Really looking forward to that.
We have a great group of people, including yourself. Looking forward to that.
Q. Both of you, with Tony saying the track is so fast, then discussion always gets to what is fast and racers are supposed to want to go fast, and then Jeff Burton said yesterday fast doesn't always mean good racing. Where is the line there between when you slow the cars down and it's better racing or a fast racetrack?
MICHAEL WALTRIP: Well, I mean, obviously the sport that we have wasn't totally built on speed. There are other forms of motorsports that that's what they're about, is the speed. Ours is built on competition. I think that's where the guys are coming from in talking about that. We don't necessarily have to run 205 miles an hour down these straightaways and slow down very little in the corners when you're out of the gas because that makes it difficult to pass and race side by side to do that.
But this is what we have. I mean, there's no reason in really complaining about it. It's what this racetrack is. They felt like this was what was best to keep the fans interested. But we can't lose sight. What we're here for is to have really good competition and close racing. That's what this sport was built on, and we have to continue with that.
I'm sure that whether it's this tire or another tire that Goodyear brings back, we'll get all of that right and we'll end up with some really good racing.
There's no reason with what I see here with the racetrack that we can't have a good race when we come back here in March.
DALE JARRETT: I just think that technology is to a point where your hands are tied. The only way to make the speed slower is to make the track smaller. You can make the banks slower, but that doesn't provide good racing for our cars. Our cars are heavy and they need to be racing on banked turns.
When you have a track that's a mile and a half long and you put banked turns at the end, it's going to be fast. There's no way around it. You can put smaller engines in our cars, we would run wide open around here. That might be fun, too. I wouldn't mind trying something someday. Can't wait to see what the Car of Tomorrow does. It will knock a couple seconds off the speed overall. That's a lot. That's a difference between racing on a flat track we had here before and the banks we have now.
I think everybody ought to anxiously be looking forward to the hope that maybe the Car of Tomorrow will provide little bit slower speeds and a little bit better racing.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you for coming in.
End of FastScripts