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NASCAR MEDIA CONFERENCE
July 24, 2007
HERB BRANHAM: Thank you to all the media for joining us today. This is our weekly NASCAR teleconference. This week it's in advance of Sunday's Allstate 400 at the Brickyard at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Today's guest appropriately is an Indiana native, South Bend's David Stremme. Unfortunately, Ryan Newman, who was supposed to also join us, also a South Bend native, will not be able to do so. We apologize for that. But we really appreciate David coming on to talk about the Allstate 400 at the Brickyard.
I want to remind everybody about today's 2 p.m. teleconference hosted by ESPN. ESPN will televise Sunday's race that kicks off the return of ESPN and ABC to the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup broadcasts. To participate in the ESPN call, the number is 800-289-0544. The conference ID is 6351843. The guests are going to be Norby Williamson, executive VP for studio and remote production for ESPN, Dr. Jerry Punch, Rusty Wallace and Andy Petrie. That's at 2 p.m.
David comes into Indianapolis 25th in the series points. David, you're from South Bend, an Indiana native. Have to imagine getting the opportunity to race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway must mean a lot. What's it like to have that chance?
DAVID STREMME: Well, it was pretty neat last year. Everybody's always, you know, talking about going to Indianapolis and watching the 500 or watching the Brickyard. I was never able to really participate in a lot of that because I was doing a lot of local races and stuff. Any time I got to the Indianapolis area, I'd go by the track. Being right in the town, there's so much history there, it's just cool.
But probably a neat thing for me was last year during the driver introductions, we're riding around in the vehicles, I seen a lot of people that I had raced with growing up or people had watched me growing up, and it was pretty emotional. It was cool.
It's definitely a place that, you know, I look forward to every year. I even make sure my team knows I put a lot of emphasis on this race just because it's close to home. Again, you know, the history that's at Indianapolis.
HERB BRANHAM: Thanks, David.
We're ready to go to the media for questions for David Stremme.
Q. Could you elaborate on the emotions you felt a year ago when you got to the track and you were going to be participating in that event, what that meant.
DAVID STREMME: Well, you know, my parents or nobody had came down, I was kind of there just by myself. When you're in the garage area and you got so much going on, at that time we had to qualify for the race, we were outside top 35 in points, it was pretty stressful. But we made it in on time, actually had a pretty good race all day.
Before the race, we were riding around. It was just different, you know, seeing faces in the crowd that were familiar to me, again, I've known for quite a while. It was really cool. Kind of got me a little more pumped up. Again, I think any time anybody goes close to their hometown, there's always a little extra boost in your step and that.
You know, it's just fun. I mean, I've raced at IRP a lot, or ORP, won out there. It would be cool, you know, to watch and try to win at the Brickyard. I think when I was watching Tony, and he won there, it was neat because obviously he didn't grow up too far from there.
Just the history part of it. When I go there, I think about when they built that track, how long it took to get around in the cars back in the early 1900s there. Now we're flying around there at around 200, not like IndyCars, but still for stock cars, it's really fast.
Q. What was it like making your first lap on that track, given the historic nature of it?
DAVID STREMME: Well, it's kind of funny because when we went and tested there, it was after the Chicago race last year. You know, I really enjoyed the first couple laps, but then I found out how much the tires fall off and I ended up right-siding the car in one of the short chutes there in the corner. It was kind of an adventurous first time on the track.
You know, we went back there last year and, like I said, we were real competitive in the race, so I'm looking forward to going there this year.
Q. Ever since you left Talladega, you have struggled a little bit. You were up to 14th in the standings when you left Talladega. What is it going to take to get things turned around for your team?
DAVID STREMME: A lot of it was the COT car was a big struggle for us. The organization wasn't ready. I shouldn't say they weren't ready. They were ready, but we weren't as prepared as we should have been. It was pretty plain and simple.
On the other hand, we had some bad luck. We had a good run going at Richmond; we got wrecked there. You know, we've had some engine problems here this year for whatever reason. We don't know. Our engine program has been pretty good. It's just been tough.
The last five races, especially, we've had really good cars at least at four of 'em, and we haven't been able to get the results that we need out of it. Had a couple engine problems. Again, they're assessing them.
Some of it's luck, I think. For the most part, you know, since Talladega, when we hit some of the COT races, we weren't as prepared. But the company's really stepped up. They got the cars working better. At Loudon we had a really good car. That was one of them deals, we had an alternator go bad right at the beginning of the race, we had to change a battery late in the race, put us pretty far back in the pack and we ended up getting wrecked. Again, the last five races haven't been like we wanted.
Q. With Juan getting a win a few weeks ago in California, then Reed getting a win the other night at Gateway, have you noticed a change in the atmosphere around the Ganassi shop lately?
DAVID STREMME: I mean, you know, there's a little change. When Juan had won out there, everybody was pretty excited. But, you know, that only lasts for a week, then the next week you run again... That's the thing in this sport: you got to keep everything going every week.
Again, I think the win that Reed had this weekend is a good step for us because the Busch program struggled quite a bit this year. They've really turned around the short-track program here with them.
I mean, the main deal is the Cup deal. We know where we need to improve on things. I think they're doing a good job at that.
Q. David, due to the unique nature of the Indianapolis Speedway track, it's kind of rectangular in nature, the grandstands on either side on the frontstretch, can you take us through a quick lap around the track.
DAVID STREMME: Well, it's definitely -- I tell everybody all year, I mean, if they're going to go to a race, they need to go to Indianapolis. I mean, I'm sitting here in the infield of Bristol. I know a lot of people like to come here. It's a pretty cool place. But Indianapolis is really unique, too, with how the grandstands are structured. You've got the big pagoda on the infield. Just the people that show up for that. I mean, the night before the race, they shut down the streets, they have a party, do a lot of things there. You know, I mean, the city is so involved with the race going on.
I think one of the cool things is, too, when I was able to go out to Wrigley Field here not too long ago, and the suite boxes, how they hang over the grandstands, you can kind of walk out the back, it's the same way at Indianapolis. Both facilities have been around for quite a while.
It's just neat, you know, being able to go there. Again, the history and the heritage has been kept. You know, I always advise fans to go out.
Q. What do you think your best chance to win this year probably would be?
DAVID STREMME: The best chance to win? God, I don't even know. I would probably say an intermediate track. I think you just got to get yourself in position each week. You never know, it might be this weekend. But it's something where our intermediate program has been pretty strong. We just need a little luck on our side.
You know, every week there's probably 20 to 25 guys could win a race. I know on TV it don't look like that. I mean, it's just tough, you get running up there. I know at Texas we were running fifth coming in for the last pit stop. We do one adjustment, air pressure, went from fifth to 10th. It's just really close and tight. But that's what makes it fun.
I can't really pinpoint what race I would, you know, be able to say I'm going to win.
Q. What can fans expect at Bristol here coming up before long?
DAVID STREMME: Well, I come in here this morning, and it's pretty neat, you know, what they've done to the place. It's still high-banked, it's still a normal Bristol, but it looks bigger for some reason. The track looks wider. I know they've taken the concrete down like three feet in the corners and pulled a little banking out.
We haven't been on track yet. It's raining here a little bit. It's going to be fun. I mean, I think, especially when we get running, there's going to be definitely two, three lanes here. It's not going to be your typical Bristol as far as, you know, follow the leader, bump a guy away to try to get underneath him. I think you'll still have some of that, but I do think there will be room here to pass. We'll see when we get going. I think they've done a really phenomenal job here.
Q. You got off to such a good start, kind of have run into some rough times in the last few weeks. Can you talk about your season so far, sort of the up-and-down aspect of it.
DAVID STREMME: Well, I think, you know, it was a pretty good start to the year. We had to have that, the way I started last year. You know, the team has rallied around each other. Everybody's doing a good job. But as you go on, like I said, when we ended up starting out the COT program, it was not very good at all. Just real proud of everybody there. They've improved that. We still need to keep improving. Obviously next year we got to run it full-time.
It's just tough in this sport. One thing you look at is anybody can go to owner points and look and see pretty much all organizations that their teammates are around each other. You don't really see -- I'll give you an example, like the Evernham group, they're all right around each other. They are not running like they would like to.
I think, considering a lot of stuff that's happened to us, we've had good runs, but yet we've had some bad luck, too. As an organization, we keep getting better and better. You know, that's the only thing we can do, is everybody give a hundred percent.
Q. We hear all the time the competition keeps getting tougher and tougher. Can you even compare this season to last season? Is it that much more tough this season compared to last season?
DAVID STREMME: I mean, I definitely think it is tougher this year. I mean, the stats that NASCAR send out speak for themselves. You look at how many cars are finishing on lead lap. I know at Phoenix I got caught up in a wreck early. We said, yeah, we're going to go out and ride around. We rode around and didn't pick nothing up. I mean, we rode around in the same spot the whole time. Normally guys will blow up or do something.
It's something where it's getting tougher each year. That's what makes it the top sport. That's what makes it fun to go out and try to achieve a win and get the best finish you can that day.
Q. Could you talk about what it takes to get here, what it takes to stay here at this level?
DAVID STREMME: Well, it's kind of funny you say that because I spent the weekend off with my late model team with one of our development drivers, Brian Clausen (ph). It was cool. You always get people, How can I get there? How can you do this? You just got to work hard. I mean, when I talk to different people and you start talking about your life, like, Hey, so-and-so went to prom, all this. I never went to prom. I didn't do none of that. I was racing the whole time. I think that's stuff you just got to give over a hundred percent each day to try to get to this level. Then there's people that won't ever make it to here.
One of the things I try to do, you know, again, I'm very thankful for getting to go out and compete and put on a show for fans. But, you know, I have my own team to where it kind of reminds me of how hard I've worked to get here. I go over there, mess around with stuff. I've got guys that have helped me throughout my career working for me on that team. It's just something where, you know, you got to kind of keep in perspective because each week's a grind here. Last weekend was my only weekend off since March, and it was tough. But you get in the swing of things, you just keep digging the whole time.
Again, you know, it's something where you got to try to keep it in perspective and just keep digging.
Q. Is your energy level as high at the beginning of the season as opposed to like right now, going into the Chase?
DAVID STREMME: Well, for me going into Indianapolis, I'm pretty pumped because, again, it's close to home. I'm so looking forward to going there. Especially having a week off, you think about it even more.
But, I mean, earlier in the year, each week, we had a pretty good car. The thing is, that's where your team comes into play. You got to rely on your team. Everybody relies on each other to keep everybody pumped up and going because it is a long season.
But going to the Chase, our odds of making the Chase are very slim - like very, very slim. We just look at what do we have to do to get better. What has gone wrong to get us out of that position to where we can get back in it and we don't have them mistakes next year.
Q. If you could script a finish for the race on Sunday, how would you like to beat Ryan Newman and Tony Raines at the finish line?
DAVID STREMME: It's not just beating them two guys, there's about 30 some other guys you got to beat.
I mean, it would just be nice to win at Indy. For me just to win, period, would be awesome. I felt like we've been in good position at times and something's happened.
But, you know, any time you go to, again, around your home area, and like I said, I grew up about two hours from Indianapolis but it's still home, it's just something where anything could go there for me.
Q. Is it a lot of fun to race against those guys? You have a history with those guys in particular.
DAVID STREMME: Well, Ryan and I have grown up only three miles from each other. He was open-wheel racing, I was stock car racing. We went to school together and that.
It was something where when we talk, I mean, we don't really talk about what's going on in our sport or our teams. We kind of talk about maybe stuff going on around home. I'm all the time telling him I wish I -- there's a pizza joint back home, that I could have some pizza from or just something like that.
You know, like Tony Raines, he actually raced with my parents when I was a littler kid running around the track. Got to watch him race. He moved on. We have a lot of mutual friends in other divisions of racing and that. We'll talk about that.
But, I mean, Tony and I, we got together a couple weeks ago, we sat down and talked about it, we have a lot of respect for one another. We all do. But I think the one thing that it's brought attention to is that area is strong for racing. It's always been known for Notre Dame football or basketball, whatever it is. Auto racing in that area is strong. You can go race different tracks and it's tough. I think that's what's helped me be able to move on and get the experience I needed to compete at this level.
Q. All you guys from the Indiana area, you think of the Indianapolis 500 when you think of Indiana. What was the determining factor for you to follow the stock car trail rather than the IndyCar trail?
DAVID STREMME: That's a pretty popular question all the time from people asking me why didn't I go open-wheel racing. Sprint car and everything is big throughout Indiana. Growing up in the northern part of the state, stock cars was always pretty big. Probably one thing is I always seen a lot of wrecks in open-wheel racing. They were pretty bad. I was like, I don't really find much interest in that.
The stock car, NASCAR, just how the competition, you have 43 cars out there rubbing and grinding on each other, yet still competing and going on.
Obviously Indianapolis, the 500, is a very historical race. I think anybody would love to compete in it. As far as the NASCAR side, I can race 36 times a year compared to the open-wheel side.
Q. The fact that Indianapolis added a stock car race 14 years ago, do you think that may have turned some of the open-wheel guys towards stock car racing?
DAVID STREMME: I think it did a little bit. I remember actually what I was doing that whole weekend when NASCAR come to the Brickyard. I was following it. I was running around home local racing. As a matter of fact, I won that weekend which I thought was really cool.
I was always like, Man, I'd love to go down there and race at Indianapolis. Always wondered what it was like, how the speed would give you a sensation down there, just everything.
But, I don't know, I would hope to think maybe it's taken some of them guys to the NASCAR level. I think talking with my teammate Juan Montoya, he was a big open-wheel guy, won there at Indianapolis. I think just the NASCAR side of things, you can race a lot more. We can do it 36 times a year. I think that's what makes it fun.
Q. You mentioned you were at Bristol, but it's raining. Visually what do you think you'll see different in the race? More side-by-side? More grip?
DAVID STREMME: Yeah, I mean, I think definitely you'll see more side-by-side racing. They're just starting to get going now. It's something where you can see the difference in the entry and exit of the corner. As far as everything else, like in the center and that, it's not like you can tell they've added or taken away banking. It looks the same. Before you used to slam down into the banking. Also pit road is really nice. They've made concrete boxes, which will be nice for getting in and out of pit road. They've done a really good job here.
It kind of needed a resurfacing here. It was really rough. That's what made it fun, too. It's going to be interesting to see how this goes.
HERB BRANHAM: First of all, thanks to David Stremme for joining us today in advance of the Allstate 400 at the Brickyard. David, best of luck racing in your home state.
DAVID STREMME: Thanks. I definitely look forward to going back there, getting to smell some air from the Midwest.
HERB BRANHAM: Thank you, again, as always, for participating. Everyone at NASCAR here appreciates the coverage.
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