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NASCAR MEDIA CONFERENCE
January 31, 2008
THE MODERATOR: We are joined by Kevin Harvick.
Kevin, could you start off, give us an overview of how your morning has gone so far.
KEVIN HARVICK: It's gone really well. I think everybody in the garage is pleasantly surprised with how well the cars drive on the bigger racetracks. I think, as we've talked about before, I think as we are able to focus on one particular car, I think the cars, the handling, will get better and better.
So far everything has gone really good, no issues. Everything seems to be fine.
THE MODERATOR: We'll open it up to questions.
Q. Some of the races here haven't been the most exciting. When Kyle was here, he said he thinks the COT was made for a track like this. From what you've seen so far this morning, will the racing improve?
KEVIN HARVICK: I think as these type of cars -- as the tire run goes on, the cars seem to fall off a lot. That's going to require you to move around the racetrack. I think you're going to see a variety of grooves.
I agree with him on that. I think the racing is going to be better on these types of racetracks for sure because the speeds are a little bit slower and the fall-off is still going to be there.
Q. Of all the testing you've done so far, what is the most difficult about the car of today now to handle?
KEVIN HARVICK: I think as we went to Las Vegas, I think everybody was surprised just how well the cars unloaded. I think the most difficult thing we've experienced probably over the last few days is just the different mindsets coming into the different styles of racetracks.
Las Vegas is very wide open, lots of grip. Here you slide around and there's a lot of fall-off on the tires. So just trying to understand the difference from the setup that you're going to take from Las Vegas to here was a good experience for us. But just the mindset just going into the two different types of racetracks.
Plus I think everybody has figured out why everybody likes to live in California: because the weather today. That's probably been the biggest obstacle for all of us over the past few days. It's been very cold and very windy in Las Vegas. It's nice to come here and get a little bit of sunshine.
Q. Is there anything about the Car of Tomorrow that has you longing for the old Cup cars as far as driving, performance, setup, anything in particular?
KEVIN HARVICK: I don't think so. I think everybody's focused on - we call them Impalas now. We don't know how we're going to get rid of that COT thing. We have to call them Impalas at some point.
I think everybody is pretty focused on just getting the cars to drive better and understanding the package as we go forward to really make strides on that. When you get in and out of these cars you understand the biggest reason that we did all this car swap stuff was for safety. You can get in and out of the cars no problem with your helmet on. You've got plenty of room. Your head's not resting against the window net. You don't have any problems getting the seats mounted in the cars.
It has to be applauded just for the fact that the safety side of it is tremendously better just because the drivers are more comfortable in the cars, able to get in and out of them easier.
I mean, obviously, it's a different beast, but I don't think anybody is worried about what we did in the past. We're all looking to go forward.
Q. Given that, with you being the defending champion of the Daytona 500, how is the complexion of that race going to be different in the Impala compared to the other ones? During testing, there weren't a lot of big-pack drafts going on that we could really ascertain what to expect in two weeks.
KEVIN HARVICK: Well, last year I was part of a three-car pack that was the breakaway pack for three fuel runs. I think if you're looking for a big pack racing at Daytona, it's probably not going to be there unless you have a caution.
There's going to be packs, but I don't think it's going to be much different. The cars didn't drive that bad. They haven't driven bad anywhere.
I think that the racetrack kind of dictates the type of racing that it is because it's a superspeedway, but it also is very rough and the asphalt's wore out. In the past, you know, we really haven't had those big packs at Daytona. We've had them at Talladega.
I think the handling comes into effect. I think that's what you have to concentrate on at Daytona. You're still going to have the packs. The way that the cars draft, there is more pushing and shoving than there probably has been at Daytona in the past. It's always been at Talladega.
The car, it's a lot easier to push the guy in front of you. You're going to be more dependent on who's behind you.
Q. Jeff and Jimmie last year did so well. Do a lot of you guys feel like you're trying to play catch-up with Hendrick?
KEVIN HARVICK: If you go back and look at the sport, we had this conversation this morning, there's always been teams that go through years of things that are going well. Right now they're definitely the team that we're all trying to catch up to and make things better.
They definitely kind of set the bar. I feel like at RCR we've made strides to close that gap. I feel pretty confident that we've done that. You just have to see where you fall when the green flag drops here in a couple weeks and go from there.
But I feel like concentrating on one program is going to help us as much as anything.
Q. You pretty much had this race won last year until your problems. Talk about what happened the last part of the race.
KEVIN HARVICK: You know, if you go back and look at it now, it kind of set the tone for the whole year. I think we had like nine or ten flat tires in races last year. We just ran over a piece of debris under the caution.
I think with four or five laps to go, I felt like we were going to win the race, carry that momentum into the next week. The momentum from the week before stalled. It kind of set the tone for the whole year.
We always seem to run really well here in the first race of the year. We're hoping to do that. We unloaded well today. Just see where it all falls when we come back
Q. What type of racing do you think we'll see when we come back here?
KEVIN HARVICK: I think you're going to see a lot of people moving around. I think this car, even at Las Vegas last week, you could move around and make time. You're just going to see a lot of different grooves develop as the race goes on. The high groove will come in at some point, as it has in the past.
There's still going to be that little bit of an element of surprise as we get into the races of things that you didn't run across at the test. But the only way you can do that is to put all 43 of them out there and drop the flag.
Q. Back to Daytona. Do you think we'll see side-by-side racing there?
KEVIN HARVICK: Yeah, I mean the cars, they're very easy to drive side by side. I mean, the roughness of the racetrack is the only thing that makes them move around. At Talladega these things were like driving a Cadillac.
Still, like I just said, it's hard to simulate how the racing is actually going to be until you put all 43 cars out there and everybody starts pushing and shoving to get the lines going. But side by side doesn't seem to be a big issue with these cars so far.
Q. A question about your truck team. When you started KHI, did you of imagine you'd have the two best drivers in series history driving under your name? What are your expectations for this season?
KEVIN HARVICK: The expectations are to contend for the championship. Obviously there's a lot of teams that can do that, but it's pretty neat to have Jack and Ron both on the same team. I think a lot of people thought that might not ever happen 10 years ago.
Coming up through the Truck Series and being able to race against those guys when I first started, it's pretty neat now to have them driving our stuff.
The expectations are to go out and do the same thing they did last year and hopefully the 2 truck comes along fast. There will be some bumps in the road for that team as we get it started up. Hopefully we can adjust and keep them both in contention.
Q. You're well accustomed to new seasons. What excites you most now as you look at a long schedule?
KEVIN HARVICK: Well, I don't know that -- I'm kind of a week-to-week guy. I like to look to things as they come up during the week. We're pretty well I guess managed as far as schedule-wise. You know, you're kind of dictated of where you go and when you go. You try to put everything else in between.
I think the greatest thing about our sport is you start the season and everybody has high expectations. Some people have new sponsors. You have new uniforms, new cars. Everything is new and the optimism is high.
That's what makes the first week of the Daytona 500 so great, is everybody has a chance at the championship. Everybody is rejuvenated and refreshed from the year before. That's why it's the Super Bowl of our sport.
You can't have every team in the NFL hyped and excited that they can win the Super Bowl when the Super Bowl only has two teams in it. Our sport is unique in the fact that our first race is the Daytona 500 and everybody has a chance of winning the championship. Your biggest race on the first week. There's a lot of hype. That's what I look forward to getting it all started off.
Q. I believe Texas is going to be the first track that you get to where you haven't had either a race experience or a test in the COT. Is that going to be particularly challenging to get ready for that race?
KEVIN HARVICK: Not really. We had the 07 do the tire test there a couple weeks ago. Maybe we'll be on the fortunate side of that.
I think Las Vegas put a lot of questions behind everybody as far as how the cars were going to react on those types of racetracks. The cars drove really good at Texas with the 07 and the 42, and I can't remember who the other car was. All those cars drove well there, too.
Q. Do you feel more prepared for the Daytona blitz? How did that affect you all last year, or did it change?
KEVIN HARVICK: Well, I think the biggest thing it changed, you always hear people talk about the magnitude of winning the Daytona 500 and how it's the biggest race in our sport. I don't think you can really understand that until you get to experience that firsthand.
The week after the race was pretty crazy. That's all anybody ever really wants to talk about is the Daytona 500.
We've been fortunate to win a lot of the big races in our sport. That one takes the cake by a long ways. I think to be able to experience that and be a part of that, put your name next to those guys that have won the 500 before, is pretty special.
I don't think it affects anything during the year. I think that stuff's all going to happen how it's going to happen.
Q. Five years ago did you ever think you'd be in a spot where you could contend for the truck championship as an owner, Nationwide and Cup?
KEVIN HARVICK: I've been fortunate to have progressed a fair amount as the years have gone by. On the ownership side of it, I never really had any intentions of doing that. As we got the opportunity to put the financial backing behind the truck team, start that up, really experience that as an owner/driver, I guess that was neat.
To have Hornaday win the championship last year was pretty special. To have that personal side of it, be a part of that championship, was neat for me, really made it all make sense.
He's been the backbone of our team. He helped build it into what it is today. To be able to compete competitively in both series is something that a lot of people spend a lot of time and don't get to do that. We've been fortunate to have good drivers and good people in place.
So, yeah, five years ago it would have been hard to imagine we would have been competitive in all threes of those series. I don't really have any aspirations to do it on the Cup side. I leave that to Richard. As long as we're competitive week in and week out in all the series, that's all you can ask for really.
Q. With the rules being so strict at Daytona on the Car of Tomorrow, or Impala, what are some of the changes you can make between that track and here at California for testing?
KEVIN HARVICK: The cars, they're still a little bit different. You can still tweak on them thousandths of an inch here and there. But setup-wise, they're substantially different from there to here. You're doing all you can for speed at Daytona, a little bit of handling.
Here it's all about handling, making max downforce, everything you can on the car. It's quite a bit different from one track to the other still. Still have different cars that you race there than you do here.
Q. You brought the same cars from Vegas that you brought here. How interchangeable has that been, and how have you adjusted from Vegas to here?
KEVIN HARVICK: Before you could still race the same cars from Martinsville to Las Vegas. You can still do that. Setup-wise, it's a little bit different package than what we had at Las Vegas here. I think it's going to be the same kind of thing. You can race the cars here. You can race them here. You can race them at Bristol.
I think that's one thing that all the cars in the shop aren't going to be different. But you're still going to have your road race cars, you're still going to have your Speedway cars.
In fact, one of the particular cars we have here is the center section from one of our road course cars last year with a different front clip and rear clip on it. I mean, you can change the cars up a little bit.
THE MODERATOR: Thanks a lot for coming in, Kevin.
KEVIN HARVICK: No problem.
THE MODERATOR: We have our second driver here, Jimmie Johnson, the defending Sprint Cup Series champion.
Jimmie, can you tell us how your first morning testing has gone out here at California Speedway.
JIMMIE JOHNSON: We haven't had any fun yet. It's been a pain in the butt, so we're hopeful that after lunch we hit on some things.
Vegas was difficult. At the end of it we got on the right track and finally found the speed that we needed for the car and the balance, but we're still searching this morning. And have had a long morning already.
THE MODERATOR: We'll open it up to questions.
Q. What's the problems? Speed?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: It's not driving worth a damn (laughter). If I had the answer, we'd fix it. We're working hard on it. The car has had a major push in it. It's early. We've got a lot of time to figure stuff out and teammates to lean on now that were on break and try to figure out what's going on.
I think Casey is in a similar boat. Jeff seems to be a little bit better. Junior will be on the track this afternoon. We get all four teams out there working together, we'll cover more ground, and try to get things working in the right direction.
Q. There's been talk about increasing the age limit of Cup drivers, going to 21. When you got your Cup ride, did you feel you were ready for it, or do you feel you could have used some more seasoning at the Nationwide Series? What do you think about changing the age limit?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: I feel that today I could still use more experience and do a better job where I'm at in the Cup Series. I think that 18 should be the limit. You can vote. You can go to war for your country. Why couldn't you drive a NEXTEL Cup car or Sprint Cup car?
I don't see why that would be of anyone's concern or interest to say now 21 is the legal age. I don't understand that.
Some of our best drivers that are coming along are young and they're in that age bracket. Yeah, they make mistakes, but that's part of being a rookie. You have kids going right out of high school to play in the NBA and to play in other pro sports. I think the age limit of 18 and the format we currently have is fair and works really well.
Q. (No microphone.)
JIMMIE JOHNSON: I can't say that we've had any big issues with the tire. If your car's working well and the tire matches up to your setup, you love it. If it doesn't work out, you're upset, making comments.
So even through the tough times that may have existed last year, there still were teams that were happy throughout all of that. It just depends where you're at.
The things I look at, are the tires consistent? Do they repeat? Are we blowing them out? No, they haven't done any of that. I think they brought a good product. Could I use a tire that gave me more front grip right now? Oh, yes.
It just really depends on where you're at in the scheme of things. But so far, so good.
Q. I know Chad Knaus isn't going to take any time off. Coming off back-to-back championships, how do you think that affects this year, raising the bar for other teams, whether it's you having more confidence? Any impact?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: Yeah, it does build more confidence in us that we're doing the right things, working the right areas, all the pieces are in place. It does build confidence there.
At the same time, we'd be foolish if we let it carry over much more than that. Last year was last year. January 1 we had to close the books on it and leave that there. This is a new year with new challenges.
The Car of Tomorrow is full-time, and there's no guarantees how it's going to work out. It's our jobs to stay focused, and in some ways have the desire and hunger as if we haven't won a championship. Because the hungrier survive in this sport. That's just the way it is.
Q. I've talked extensively to NASCAR about the Car of Tomorrow last year. If you could convince NASCAR to change anything about the car, is there anything would you ask them to change?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: Yeah, the aero balance is really the thing we're struggling with the most. There's been a lot of changes. I understand it it's to slow the cars down. We'll end up with these cars being as fast as the old cars, which is hard to believe.
If you asked me a year ago if we'd end up there, I'd say, There's no way. So in a year's time working with the Car of Tomorrow, we found a lot of speed with it. We're going to continue to do that.
From my driving style, the way we used to build bodies on our old cars, had a lot more front downforce. Right now with the wing on the car, the fenders placed the way that they are, there's very, very little front downforce.
It's been a big challenge for us through the two days in Las Vegas and so far here.
Q. Texas is going to be the first track you get to where you haven't had either a test or race experience. Kevin just said he thought that Vegas answered a lot of questions about how the car is going to behave on downforce tracks. Do you agree with that, or do you think it going to be more challenging at a place like Texas?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: I agree, we did learn a lot in Las Vegas. The one thing we're trying to be prepared for is right now, when you're testing, it's easy to look at the suspension travel of the car, the right height of the car, and to really fine tune that.
The splitter hits the racetrack every lap somewhere. With the old car, we had a very good understanding of when the valance would touch. Was it on the corner? Was it on the straightaway? We just had a lot of experience with it and could science that out and get the car sealed up and around the track.
Well with the splitter heights, just driving in and out of the garage area you hit the splitter. It's very tough for us to know where the contact is being made, where the attitude of the car is, the right height of the car is. Moving into the season, that's going to be the challenging thing: keep the car off the ground so the tires have the weight on them and can work and do what they need to.
We are a lot smarter after these test sessions. I think as we go to new tracks, that's going to be one of the biggest hurdles to get over, is is the splitter on the ground? Is the height right? Then you start perfecting that and getting the car right, and then you start working on the handling characteristics of the car.
Q. What are your thoughts on the sport's moving to an international level with international drivers and Toyota coming into the sport all at once?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: I think it's exciting for our sport to have all these international drivers come in. Diverse backgrounds, different nationalities. NASCAR, in my mind, has been the best form of racing worldwide. To see these guys commit to our sport, come in and compete, says a lot for what we're doing here, the level of competition that we have.
I'm excited to see them come into the sport and the challenges that they're going to face.
Q. You said in the past that you don't like to get comfortable in a race car. Is that cautious approach common at this level, and is it a big factor in winning also?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: It's not necessarily a cautious approach. In the car, it's more of a mental thing that I focus on, that the times in my life where I've been confident, felt like things were going to come easier, I had it made, I had it figured out, I'd go out there and just the opposite would happen: things wouldn't work out; I wasn't fast.
So I try to keep myself mentally sharp with that tool or mechanism that goes on in my head.
But as far as on track, you have to go out and find the speed. There are times when the car has the speed in it, it's comfortable to drive, and you can protect yourself or protect things, protect your equipment at that point.
There's other times where you've got to go and the car is not driving right. You've got to suck it up and drive on that other side of that line of comfort. So it just depends where the car is at.
Q. How much different do you think the February race is going to be from all the rest with this new car? Are we going to see a close race for a change?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: I really think with the experience we've had with the Car of Tomorrow, every track raced the same way. Bristol is still Bristol. Dover was Dover. Loudon was Loudon. You go down the list. Phoenix was Phoenix. Just a different car out there.
I think the racing you'll see will be the same. There's nothing to really change that.
I feel that you may have your hands full in traffic, and I haven't been in a big group of cars. But this car punches a bigger hole in the air. We saw it in Daytona in the draft, where it's really using a single-car draft to handle well and hang on. That the third and fourth cars in line had a hell of a time hanging on.
The cars were really out of control at that point. So that's telling me there's a lot of turbulent air, not much air for the cars deep in the pack to have on them to give them balance.
I feel that one area that we need to look at of moving forward at all the tracks is how do we create more lanes of side-by-side racing. The shortest distance around is always the fastest way. But if you make a track that's really abrasive to where running a wider arc saves the tire, does that put on a better race? Is it progressive-bank racetracks?
I know there's a lot of arguments, a lot of thoughts out there. Some tracks have had success with progressive banking. That seems like the best option as of now.
But we've worked hard on these cars, put a big strain on these teams to convert from one car to the next. The product is still very similar. I think NASCAR has closed up the gap in the garage area. That was a big goal that they had.
If the concern is on the action on the track, I think we got to look in a different direction than the cars. We've been changing a lot. Teams are tapped out. They spent a lot of money, a lot of resources and things just to get prepared for this Car of Tomorrow. We've got to start looking elsewhere now.
Q. What is the difference in this car as opposed to last year on this track?
JIMMIE JOHNSON: Getting the right height of the car, the front of the car, has been really difficult. Probably the biggest challenge that we've experienced so far. I think what we're now getting into as practice wore on there is that the setup that we've had here before, our line of thought here before, we had a lot more front downforce so we were able to do different things with the car setup.
Now we don't have that front downforce, so we're trying to learn that balance of how do we get the car balanced aero-wise, then find mechanical grip. Where before we knew the aero balance we had. It was kind of a given factor. We knew it and we just worked on drivability.
Now it's kind of the reverse order now: we're trying to find that aero balance and then work on mechanical grip. So it's a little out of sequence of what we're used to. It's a new car, so it's not surprising to me that we're going through all this.
THE MODERATOR: Thanks for coming in, Jimmie.
JIMMIE JOHNSON: Cool.
THE MODERATOR: We'll get started with David Gilliland.
David, could you start off, give everybody an overview of how your first half day of testing has gone out here today.
DAVID GILLILAND: It's been real good. We unloaded, we definitely weren't where we needed to be. We made some good changes. I feel like here at the end of practice we're real close where we need to be. I'm very happy with the progress we made.
I think we had a great test at Vegas. Really excited about my opportunities this year with Yates Racing. Feel really good about our chances to be able to be much more competitive than we were last year. Real excited about that.
THE MODERATOR: We'll go ahead and open it up to questions.
Q. How deep is the relationship between Yates Racing and Roush Fenway? What exactly are you sharing, how much information?
DAVID GILLILAND: Yeah, you know, I'm not really a hundred percent sure on that to be honest with you. I know we're purchasing our cars from them, which has been a great improvement to Yates Racing and really helped our team, I feel like.
We've gone to Daytona and Vegas so far testing. I feel like we had two very good tests. The cars drove very, very well. I think we're getting some engineering help from them, which is something that was basically very, very, very minimal with Robert Yates Racing last year.
I tell people, it's funny, when you're in a situation, you know, my opportunity with RYR last year was better than anything I ever had. You always get in and try to do the best you can with whatever you have.
But being on the other side now, getting the engineering support we're getting, the help, really makes you realize what you were up against.
I think it's really going to help our program throughout the year. Last year we were kind of hit-and-miss. We'd go to some tracks and we were good; we'd go to some tracks and we were terrible. I think with the support, for the engineering support, the new cars we're getting, I to really feel like it's going to helped us be a contender week in and week out. It's worked out great so far.
Q. Kind of a complicated question. You got your ride in Cup kind of the old school way. Driver development program; you kind of earned your car. I asked Dale Earnhardt, Jr. earlier this week about his first impressions with Jeff Gordon. One of the things he said was seeing Gordon get to Cup at such an early age kind of motivated him to do it. Is it better to do it the way you did, or do you think the developmental driver programs and having the young drivers get into Cup quickly, is a better way to get into Cup?
DAVID GILLILAND: You know, I don't know. I mean, like you said, we did it the hard way, I guess. I never had money behind me to be able to go and put myself in an opportunity. I feel like I could have done it years ago. I felt like -- I always felt like all I needed was an opportunity, so I think you can go both ways.
I think the more -- like I talked to Jack Roush I think probably six years ago. What do I need to do? He just said, Go out and race as much as you can, win races, get used to doing that, racing.
I don't know. Like you said, I did it the old-fashioned way. We worked our way up throughout the NASCAR, their plan I guess they have laid out, late models, Grand National cars, Busch, then Cup. I think both ways can work. I think the younger you are, the more patient the teams are going to have to be, you know, when you get there.
Q. (No microphone.)
DAVID GILLILAND: I don't know. If you can stumble on that one guy that goes out there and hit a home run with them, it's worth it. There have been teams that have done that. That's why it's going in that direction.
Q. Right now you guys are unsponsored. I understand there's sponsorship in the air with the team.
DAVID GILLILAND: Yeah. You know, they've had some great leads since Yates Racing got started. They're continuing to work on those. We've been close for a while. Hopefully we can get something sewed up here shortly. I feel good about the leads they have, feel great about the marketing team that's working on it for us. I'm confident they'll definitely get something.
Q. What is the difference in driving last year's car as opposed to this year's car on this track?
DAVID GILLILAND: So far we've been fighting kind of tight. That's kind of what I've heard throughout the garage area. I think that's just a characteristic of this car. I think you're going to see that at every track we go to, just a little bit tight.
Like at Vegas, by the end of the test, the cars were driving very, very similar to the old style cars. Once people got time to work through them, have two days of working on it, I think the speeds reflected that also.
Q. Looking at the worst case, have there been discussions of what the team will do if no sponsors are signed?
DAVID GILLILAND: You know, I've asked that question. I ask it every week. They've told us we're going to race. We've just got to get out and perform. We got these first five races to get out and try to do the best we can. I feel really good about our chances.
Like I said, our testing has gone well. They have some great leads and they're very close on some stuff. As far as they've told me, we're racing both cars all year.
Q. You obviously learned a lot along the way to your Cup ride. What have you learned most from your seasons at the Cup level?
DAVID GILLILAND: Just, you know, the biggest thing at the Cup level is the races are, you know, two to sometimes three times longer than anything I've done. You got to learn, when you're racing, you have to take chances and push the envelope.
You just learn that sometimes taking that chance isn't worth it. Just patience is the biggest thing that I've learned and feel like that's going to help me the best this year.
Q. I think you told me before you guys, based on last year, had to take a step back before you can take a step forward. Do you feel this year like, is there any sort of desperation to succeed and do really well, or...
DAVID GILLILAND: No, definitely every year this sport is very difficult. There's a lot of people waiting in line to get here. I think at this level you have to perform.
One of the things definitely I think this year's probably the most critical year of my career. I'm not the 18-year-old guy here anymore. Just got to get it done.
So I feel good. Like I said earlier, with the engineering support we have, the cars, the chassis we've been able to get, I think the performance side of it will come. I feel very confident in that this year.
Q. Last year the two Yates cars were on the front row for the Daytona 500. You were in contention for the win late in the race. This year during the first couple rounds of testing the Fords, as a group, weren't particularly strong at testing. Is that a case of you not showing everything you had, or do you feel a lot of catching up to do with the Hendrick cars and now the Toyotas?
DAVID GILLILAND: I think -- don't think anybody shows all their cards at testing. Like you said, the Fords were kind of in a group. We feel real good about what we're going to be able to take back for the race.
The Toyotas were definitely strong. I know Doug in our engine shop has been working extra hard. I think they got the upper hand on horsepower right now. Doug and all the guys are working extra hard. We feel really good about what we're going to be able to bring back.
But like I said, you know, it goes both ways. I don't think everybody shows everything at testing.
Q. Some of the drivers have said California testing can prepare them for Michigan because the tracks are similar. Other drivers say there's no similarity. With this new Car of Tomorrow, is it going to help or isn't it going to help?
DAVID GILLILAND: I think it's going to help more with the Car of Tomorrow, say, than if we would have tested, you know, with the cars we had last year. I think the Car of Tomorrow, I think it's still new to everybody on these type of tracks, real very new to everybody on these type of tracks.
I think all the information you can gather from a place like this. Michigan is close enough to where you will learn stuff here that you can transfer over to Michigan. I think with this car it makes it even that much more important to gather that information because it is so new to everybody.
THE MODERATOR: David, thanks for coming in.
DAVID GILLILAND: Thank you.
THE MODERATOR: We have our fourth driver for our availability today, Carl Edwards, driver of the No. 99 Office Depot Ford.
Carl, just start off giving an overview how your first half day of testing has gone here at California.
CARL EDWARDS: So far I've been really pleased with our Office Depot Fusion. I was surprised how well the car drove around here. It felt a lot like the other cars we've run here before. I'm really looking forward to testing some more. It's going to get warmer and slicker out there. We'll see how the cars are going to handle with low grip. I think it's going to be pretty fun.
THE MODERATOR: We'll open it up to questions.
Q. You said you were surprised at how well it ran. I heard that quote a lot about Las Vegas as well. Is that an indication that the teams are actually getting more of a handle on the Car of Tomorrow car than they thought they would at this point?
CARL EDWARDS: Personally I was nervous about running these cars on these bigger racetracks. I wasn't sure they'd handle. The engineers have been doing really well, have been doing a great job of getting the cars so that they feel real nice around the racetrack.
All the stuff I was concerned about with the front end dragging the ground, the splitter bouncing off the pavement, stuff like that, it seems that we've got that under control pretty well. I'm very pleasantly surprised.
Q. What are some of the changes you can make to these cars between Daytona and here at California Speedway because the rules are so rigid for Daytona? I heard you can change the wing angle for California and other tracks, for instance.
CARL EDWARDS: That's a really good question. I don't know (laughter). Bob Osborne and I have a real simple relationship. I tell him what the car's doing and he works on it.
As we get closer to the race weekend, we set out a plan and we know what our parameters are that we can work in. I mean, historically Daytona has been way tighter on everyone, the Speedway races have. There's a little more room for adjustment at these places.
It seems like with these cars, it's not as simple anymore as just changing the springs or things like that. The way we were running the old cars it was getting more complex. Seems to be how you set on those bump stops, the front end, that's a big part of it. It's not classic setup any more.
Q. Anything you miss about the old cars that you wish were in the new cars?
CARL EDWARDS: Boy, I don't know. You know, in a way it would be great if we could race cars where we were just changing springs for the spring race and we were making adjustments that were simple and straightforward. But that's just the nature of the sport.
Everybody always looks for that little extra bit. These cars make the window of, you know, the amount that you can adjust the car much smaller. It has to be perfect.
So I can't -- I don't know if I really miss it. In a way, I'm looking forward to these cars because everyone is so close. I believe that opens the opportunity for the drivers to be able to make a little bit bigger difference. I think that's going to be a pretty good thing.
Overall I'm excited about these cars - more than I thought I would be. After running them, I'm real excited.
Q. Jimmie said we're going to see the same kind of racing we've seen here in the past with this new car. Kevin said it might be a little bit more exciting. Who is right?
CARL EDWARDS: I definitely think it's going to be more exciting. The reason I can say that with confidence is all the cars are closer, the field is closer. If you looked at the testing at the end of the day at Las Vegas, the field was so close.
If you ran -- if you were 3/10ths off, you were in 25th place. I think because of that and the way that this track, you can run from the top to the bottom, I believe there will be more cars fighting closer together. I think it's going to be a more -- from where I'm sitting, it's going to be a much more precise race. To be able to win it, you're going to have to be perfect.
I think if you're a little bit off you'll be running fourth or fifth, fighting with somebody who is just a little bit off. So I think it's going to be a better race.
Q. What are your expectations in the Nationwide Series this year?
CARL EDWARDS: What are my expectations in the Nationwide Series? That's to perform the best we can. My hopes are that that's good enough to win the championship. I was real confident going in until we tested yesterday. I'm a little bit nervous how fast some of these other teams that we're going to race against are.
David Reutimann was really fast. Cale, Kevin Harvick and Burton and those guys were all really fast. A little bit nervous about the new engine package and how we stack up using that.
We've got to definitely go back after at least that first day of testing and work on these Fusions to make sure we're as competitive as we should be.
I don't think, you know, right now, the way it looked after that test, we've got some work to do. I want to win the championship. I mean, that's what we're doing. You know what I mean (laughter)?
Q. Has having the same good sponsor like you have throughout your Sprint Cup career done a lot for your confidence and performance?
CARL EDWARDS: That's a good question. Having the same sponsor to me means a lot. I love working with Office Depot. The stuff we've been able to do together with the National PTA, the back-to-school programs, I believe we've given away a total, Office Depot, has given away 1.5 million backpacks to kids that need them and can't afford them.
I've been very proud to be involved in that. And as you go along, you get kind of a comfort level and it gives you some confidence knowing that your sponsor is behind you in the good times and the bad times. Office Depot has been right there with me. I can always call them up or they'll call me and let me know they're behind me, so that has been a good thing for me.
Q. As you go through the schedule, Texas is going to be the first track you come to where you haven't had race experience or an extensive test. Both Jimmie and Kevin said they thought Vegas had answered a lot of questions about how the car was going to behave on the intermediate speedways. Do you think that's going to be true, or is it going to be challenging going to a track where you haven't had a chance to test?
CARL EDWARDS: I was really nervous about this car until we went to Vegas. Like I said, I mean, I was just really pleased with it. I think that Vegas, the way the track drives, the way the banking is, the grip levels, it's very similar to places like Texas or Charlotte. I think that test is extremely important for that reason.
I look forward to those racetracks now, where before it was a big unknown. It's going to be fun. They're going to be good.
Q. I have a question about the Gibbs team. They're with Toyota now, kind of an unproven manufacturer on this level. A lot of money behind it, proven drivers. Is there a feeling among the rest of the field how they're going to fare this season?
CARL EDWARDS: I think the guys at Gibbs are going to run really well. The talent is spectacular. The drivers, they're as good as anyone in the garage. For that reason I think they're going to be tough. I don't believe that Toyota has shown any real weakness or anything. They're going to be really tough competitors.
I'm hoping it will just make it that much more fun to beat them with my Ford. I hope they don't run away with anything. But I think they're going to be tough.
Q. Do you expect or has the team told you to expect that the car will handle differently tonight under the lights?
CARL EDWARDS: That's a really good question. I think that as the grip level goes up, the car -- there are more forces on the car, more vertical load. It will change the way that the front suspension works and the handling will change. This will be a very important test this evening to see how, when the track cools off, how the handling changes, so we know when we come back how to prepare for the race. That will be key.
Q. What are the basic differences running this car and your Ford from last year on this track?
CARL EDWARDS: So far the basic difference is that the old car, when it was perfect, when you had it set up perfectly, was a little bit easier to drive. This car has a little bit less downforce. There's less travel. It feels a little bit more treacherous to drive around loose. Just makes it more difficult. I mean, that's part of what makes racing what it is. It's got to be hard to drive, hard to go fast. That's fun.
Q. A lot of the drivers have mentioned that the testing at Daytona was kind of rough. Is it the Car of Tomorrow that has made it rough or, I hate to put it this way, but does the track need some work done on it? What's the difference?
CARL EDWARDS: NASCAR should implement a rule that makes it completely illegal to resurface the racetracks ever. They should be as nasty, bumpy and rough as possible. That makes it such -- I mean, it makes it so much more fun to drive and race on when the tracks are not perfect.
No, I think it's just the car. Yeah, the bumps, I don't even want to say anything. I don't want to get that started. The track is perfect at Daytona. I like it. I think the car has a little less downforce, moves around a little bit more. I think that makes the racing better. I think that's good.
If it was real smooth, perfect, easy to do, that's not a race, that's just driving down the interstate.
Q. Is there anywhere where you see your Nationwide Series team can improve from last year, not counting fine tuning the new engine package?
CARL EDWARDS: Do I see anyplace that has improved?
Q. Do you see areas where you think it can be better from last year?
CARL EDWARDS: Yes, definitely we can be better in the preparation department. We figured out a lot of ways to lose races the second half of the season last year. I mean, we just weren't quite as prepared as we could be.
I made a couple mistakes that were compounded by mechanical failures on our backup cars, stuff like that. Those are things that we can do a little better at. Maybe some of the strategy on pit calls, many of which were my fault, where I thought we could do something to try to win the race where we could have just gotten some points. That would have been better.
Overall, just better racing preparation and strategy we can do a lot better.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you, Carl.
CARL EDWARDS: Thank you, guys.
End of FastScripts