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NASCAR MEDIA CONFERENCE
July 27, 2010
DENISE MALOOF: Good afternoon, everyone. Welcome to a special doubleheader NASCAR teleconference in advance of this weekend's events at Pocono Raceway. Joining us first today is David Reutimann, driver of the No. 00 Aaron's Dream Machine Toyota for Michael Waltrip Racing.
David is here ahead of Sunday's NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Sonoco Red Cross Pennsylvania 500. He's one of several drivers trying to crack the top 12 in the standings and qualify for the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup.
Later in the next half hour, approximately 2:20, NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Todd Bodine will join us.
Back to David who won his second career NASCAR Sprint Cup Series three weeks ago at Chicagoland Speedway. He also announced last week at Indianapolis that he will return to Michael Waltrip Racing through the 2012 season.
David, an exciting few days for you recently.
DAVID REUTIMANN: Yeah, we had a great announcement, announcing having Aaron's extension as well as me staying at MWR. Obviously, we had a great start to our week. Didn't really go too well on the racetrack, but we were able to make some good announcements, be able to plan for the future. That's always important.
DENISE MALOOF: We'll go straight now to questions for David Reutimann.
Q. David, I wanted to ask you about your new contract extension. Probably has to put your mind at ease and help you race better. Did your recent win also play a role in that?
DAVID REUTIMANN: I'm sure it didn't hurt our cause any. This is something we had planned on talking about and announcing at Indy regardless. Although I'm sure it didn't hurt, you're right, it does feel good to actually have those things pretty well situated, be able to move on, just be concerned about the racing side of things instead of contract things and stuff like that.
The racing part is my favorite part anyway. The rest of the stuff is just things that are kind of a distraction. We do have that out of the way and we're able to go on and focus on what's important, which is the racing.
Q. Hearing that NASCAR is most likely going to be changing the schedule up a bit, is there anything that you'd like to see on the schedule or removed from the schedule, a track you'd like to race at?
DAVID REUTIMANN: Obviously, I think there are some cool racetracks that we go to, Vegas and places like that, that would be cool to go to a second time. I like the racetrack. Even on the joking side of things, me being a dirt guy, you'd love to see a dirt track come into the schedule, which is obviously not going to happen. That would be something that would be really, really cool.
I think NASCAR is looking at the schedule, looking at what is the strongest and trying to reward racetracks they feel deserve second dates if they don't have them or maybe jog up the schedule a bit, spice things up a little bit.
I don't know what the changes are going to be, how they're going to affect things. I look forward to seeing what NASCAR has to offer as far as the schedule goes.
Q. The Truck Series is going to have a unique qualifying method. Is that something you'd like to see carry over in the Cup Series or see how it goes first?
DAVID REUTIMANN: I think we have to wait and see how it goes. To be honest with you, I'm not entirely sure about how it's going to play out.
Again, NASCAR always looks at things in different ways, whether it be just trying different things to see what's going to happen, raise a little more interest. Again, we'll see how it happens. I think I'll wait and see how it goes down before I decide if we want to change anything or not.
Q. David, I think there's so much attention on the Chase, who is going to be in the top 12, run for the championship, I wonder if people forget the inherent value of winning a race. You look at you Chicagoland two weeks ago, you look at Jamie Sunday at the Brickyard. Does it remind people a little bit that winning a race is sort of a big deal in and of itself?
DAVID REUTIMANN: I think a lot of things do get lost in the fact that there's a lot of focus put on the Chase, and rightfully so. That's what you're obviously trying to do. You're trying to win races. I think people lose sight of the fact that it's all about winning races.
It's not all about winning races. Let me take that back. It's important to win races, but it's also about being consistent and all those things that gain you the most points. Every driver, when he's strapped in on Sunday, you're out there to try to win the race.
For the drivers, I think the most important thing is going out there and trying to win races, doing what you can to help you win your cause. If you win races, that's always the better way to get in the Chase as well. It's a win-win situation if you can go out and win races. I know that's what we're focused on doing.
Q. In terms of confidence, what can one race win do?
DAVID REUTIMANN: I mean, it can change your whole outlook of your entire organization. If you're having a rough year, things aren't going well, you're able to go out and win a race, you automatically kind of forget everything that's happened bad up to that point to you. You can switch things around and make it so you're like, Wow. I mean, no matter how your season has gone up to that point, you win that race, you're like, The sky is the limit from that point on.
It gives the driver confidence. It gives the team confidence. More importantly, it gives the guys back at the shop that aren't able to be at the racetrack with you, but are turning out your racecars, getting your stuff prepared, gives them added enthusiasm, a little pep in their step, so to speak. It makes them see what they're doing at the shop is really important. They're able to see the results on the racetrack. I think that's great for any race team.
Q. David, speaking of the Chase, you're sort of within shouting distance depending on what some other folks do. How does that change what you do the next five or six weeks, or does it? I know you're already racing hard, but can you change directions, change cars, do things differently or not?
DAVID REUTIMANN: Well, you know, I don't know if we can change a whole lot. Our approach is not really to be concerned about the points; just go out there and race and put it all out there. At this point you don't have anything to lose. You need to make up ground. That enables your crew chief to maybe take some chances he wouldn't normally take maybe during the race, whether it means taking two, gambling on fuel. It opens up your window. Whereas if you have to make that ground, you have to try to make things happen. If you're trying to hold onto what you have, you may play it more conservatively.
I don't know in this situation, it will change some things you do, but you have to be out there and be as aggressive as you possibly can. You can't be conservative, whether it be in qualifying or anything else. You need to qualify up front and you need to finish up front, in the top 10, in the top five in order to remotely having a chance of being where you need to be.
We're going to go out there and see what we can do and try to get as many points on the board at the end of the race.
Q. David, you obviously touched upon some of the changes in the racetrack. There's some speculation about changing the format of the Chase. What are your thoughts on the Chase format and would you welcome some tweaks in the system?
DAVID REUTIMANN: I don't have a problem with the way the Chase is structured, the way they do things. Obviously maybe some little tweaks here and there. I don't know what I would be in favor of. I'm not not in favor of them changing things up a little bit. I don't think we need to go in there and overhaul it either.
I think it's a pretty good format. Again, it's not perfect, nothing is. If NASCAR continues to refine it, do little tweaks, I feel like they can continue to make it better, add a little more excitement to an already exciting thing we have going on, I think it will be a win-win.
Again, I'm not sure what changes I would be in favor of, but at this particular time I'm not against some little tweaks if they decided to do that.
Q. David, can you talk a little bit about coming to Pocono this weekend. If you look at your past history there, you seem to have some steady improvement from when you first came to the track. Are you gradually figuring things out there? Talk about what you're hoping to accomplish this weekend at Pocono.
DAVID REUTIMANN: Obviously you got to try to win a race. That's a given anyplace you go to.
Pocono has been a hit-and-miss racetrack for us. We've run pretty well and we've had some races we'd like to forget. We're going to work on being a little more consistent. We had a little body damage early on last year in the race. Kind of messed us up. We struggled the whole race trying to get that fixed. We didn't really get the finish we feel like we were headed for if we didn't have that damage early on.
It's a tough racetrack. It's tough to get your car good on all the different corners they have. Obviously, turn one is pretty rough, so you have to be careful as far as getting your car on the splitter, bouncing off the racetrack. You have the tunnel turn, which is tricky. The strip of pavement in turn three, which is about as wide as a racecar, everybody is trying to fight for that same piece of real estate. You have to have all the things in order to run remotely good there. We've done that in the past. We just need to get back to it.
Q. Last year when you were there, you were in a similar situation, trying to make the Chase. You wound up getting taken out. Is that something, being in the same position with the Chase, do you think maybe the track kind of owes you one a little bit this time around?
DAVID REUTIMANN: I don't know. Racetracks are funny things. I don't think they keep score. Drivers do a lot of times, think this one owes you one. If you look at it that way, it never seems to pay off. It's just another racetrack you got to go figure out with your team and your crew and all those things.
Yeah, I mean, I feel like we've got some unfinished business at Pocono. It's a cool racetrack. Need to go in there this weekend and get after it. We definitely didn't have the run we wanted to have at the Brickyard, so we need to try to go in and turn things back around really quick and get back in the situation where we're within the distance of the Chase we need to be.
Q. David, reports last couple days about drivers being fined for comments, NASCAR saying they don't mind drivers speaking their minds and showing emotion, but they don't want comments that do serious damage to the brand of the sport. I'm curious if you've been watching yourself as far as what you say? Do you think drivers are being more cautious about what they say?
DAVID REUTIMANN: I've always for myself tried to watch what I say because we're all in this deal together. It doesn't do you any good, if you're aggravated at a situation, doesn't do you any good to fly off the handle, regret saying something. It's a privilege to be involved in NASCAR. It's not a right. It's not something that I think you can take for granted.
As far as the fines go and those things, I don't know who or what, if it's confirmed or whatever. I don't follow things probably as well as I should. But with that being said, you know, I think drivers, you know that you're able to speak your mind and you're able to say things. If you have a problem with NASCAR, you're able to go in the trailer and vent and talk to those things. It's an open-door policy. We've been called in the trailer and we've gone to the trailer willingly to discuss things. I think sometimes it's best to do it in that form there.
It doesn't do you any good to go out there and air your grievances to the public when that's not going to fix anything. You need to go in and sit down with Mike Helton, Pemberton, Darby, that's the way you're going to get results. I think guys need to think about that before they go saying something right out of the car when they're frustrated, go tell it to the people that are going to be able to help you through the situation. I think that's what I've always tried to do.
Q. Marcos Ambrose is leaving the 47 team. Do you care who drives that car? Do you view him as a teammate? How do you view that car? How interested are you in who they get?
DAVID REUTIMANN: Yeah, I'm very interested. Marcos Ambrose, until the end of the year, is my teammate. The 47 car, although it is a separate thing with Tad and those guys over there, they're under our same roof. They're a teammate. The 47 car is my teammate. Marcos will be my teammate till the end of the year.
I'm very interested in who they put in the car for next year. I'm bummed out that Marcos is leaving. He's an awesome teammate, awesome individual and a good friend. Whoever they put in the car I'm sure is going to be up to the task.
Obviously, I don't have any input on who goes in the car. That's not my call. But I'll be watching with great interest to see who they get to fill that seat.
Q. David, other leagues do this. If you criticize officiating in Major League Baseball, you'll be fined. Do you feel like it's all right to do it privately? Do you feel these should be announced publicly or is it the right thing to do this behind closed doors?
DAVID REUTIMANN: I don't have a problem with them doing that. I wouldn't have a problem with them doing it publicly. But I don't have a problem with them doing it privately.
I know this. For me personally, if I got up and said something stupid that I wasn't supposed to say, I personally wouldn't want people to know that I got fined for saying something stupid. That's just me. If you go out and say something you shouldn't say, everybody knows you shouldn't say it, you know deep down inside you shouldn't say it, I think maybe knowing you're going to get into a little hot water as far as getting into your wallet, maybe that will make you think about what will happen.
At the end of the day we're all in this together, making it work, and it's not perfect. But going out there and bashing it, saying things you shouldn't say, that's not good. That's not good for the sport.
Again, it is a privilege to be a NASCAR driver. It's a privilege, it's not a right. I think we all have to look at it that way.
Q. David, Marcos Ambrose leaving. The best record, the best finish they've got this year is a sixth at Infineon. Ambrose told us it wasn't about performance, the reason he's leaving. As you look at filling that seat, what about that program is attractive to other drivers?
DAVID REUTIMANN: Yeah, I don't know. I think our organization as a whole, people need to realize, again, that it is completely separate as far as their program. It is owned by JTG Racing. It's not owned by MWR. They're not viewed as a satellite team. With that being said, they're viewed as the same team. I know it's kind of odd for people to put their arms around that, realize that's the way it is. They have access to the same information. We sit in team meetings. The racecars are built, everything is the same. It's a real unique deal.
I feel like for whatever reasons Marcos has for leaving, I haven't talked to him, I don't know, he feels like he wants to do something different. I feel like we'll be able to get a good-quality driver in there. If you look at the 00 and the 56, what the 47 has done in the past, they're having an off year this year. I don't think it has anything to do with the caliber of the team, but sometimes good race teams struggle. I think they're having an issue.
I don't feel like we're going to have a problem finding a good-quality driver to put in that seat and be able to pick up where Marcos left off.
Wherever Marcos does end up, whoever gets him, whatever organization gets him, they will be getting a first-class, world-class driver with an extreme amount of talent. That's just a fact.
Q. David, apparently there was some Formula One guy there at Indianapolis talking about using fuel injection for Cup cars. What is your feeling about that?
DAVID REUTIMANN: Well, I don't know. We've been using carburetors for a long, long time. I don't know that there's anything wrong with what we have on the car. I don't know that running a carburetor is a bad thing. I know that's something that NASCAR has looked at. I don't know that it's going to make a huge difference in the racing. It may be modernizing our program a little bit more with what we're doing, as far as not many cars have carburetors on them anymore. Pretty much all cars are fuel injected. If we can refine it, run it on our cars, it works, I don't think it's going to be a problem.
I don't know that we need to go that route, something we have to do. I think something long-term may show some benefits, but I'm not sure what they would be at this point.
Q. I was with a group of engineers at New Smyrna a couple years ago, and said that today's kids buying cars can tune their cars with their laptop computers because of fuel injection. They feel they threw it out there that maybe that would help bring in this new audience that's more technical minded.
DAVID REUTIMANN: Well, that's a valid point. Again, I'm a little bit behind the times. I know those guys are doing some pretty amazing stuff by plugging a laptop computer to their tuners and stuff, tuning on those things. Anything we can do to catch the attention of the youth out there, bring them into our sport, show them what our sport is about, add interest, I think it's positive. If it takes putting fuel injection on the cars to do that, I'm all for it.
I don't have a problem with the carburetor. I don't have a problem with them going the fuel injection route. As long as I get to drive with it, I'm fine with it either way.
Q. Are you comfortable being called the modern day Harry Gant?
DAVID REUTIMANN: Well, I think that's certainly one of the biggest compliments I will ever get in my career. I don't know if I'm comfortable with it or not. As far as Harry Gant is an exceptional talent and what a cool guy he was. I was a fan of his when he raced. Even to be thought of minutely for being in that same genre, if you will, that's a huge compliment.
Don't know that I'm worthy of that, to be quite honest with you.
Q. He ran for Rookie-of-the-Year at 39.
DAVID REUTIMANN: It shows it can be done, right (laughter)?
Q. I'm going to New Smyrna this week to cover a Tampa Bay area racing. I was hoping that Buzzy was going to be there. Can you confirm he's racing?
DAVID REUTIMANN: I can pretty much guarantee that my dad will not be racing. He'll be up in Pocono with us watching the race there. My dad doesn't race anymore, pavement racing. We have dirt cars, so most of his racing is confined to dirt tracks.
Q. Are there going to be any Reutimanns there?
DAVID REUTIMANN: I don't think there's going to be any. I don't think there will be a Reutimann at that race.
DENISE MALOOF: Thank you, David, very much for your time this afternoon. We appreciate it. Best of luck this weekend at the Tricky Triangle.
DAVID REUTIMANN: Thank you, appreciate it.
DENISE MALOOF: Now we are joined by Todd Bodine. How are you?
TODD BODINE: Good.
DENISE MALOOF: We have a good group of media for you here today on the NASCAR teleconference. We'll dive in and get busy.
TODD BODINE: Okay.
DENISE MALOOF: For those of you who don't know, Todd is the 2006 NASCAR Camping World Truck Series champion. The series will compete Saturday for the first time at Pocono. It's a 50-lap shootout that will be preceded by a multi-truck qualifying procedure. Todd does have one pole and two top-10 finishes there in NASCAR Sprint Cup Series competition. He also competed in Goodyear's tire test at Pocono in May.
Todd, your assessment of what we might see this weekend?
TODD BODINE: Well, I think you're going to see a heck of a race. I know everybody is saying that. You know, the way the trucks are and the drafting that's involved, the way Pocono is, long straightaways with a little bit slower corner, drafting is going to be very large, it's going to be critical.
You know, I think a lot of the veteran drivers like myself and Skinner and Hornaday, guys that have competed there in the Cup Series, we're going to have a little advantage for a while. But I think that the guys in the Truck Series are good enough and the teams are good enough that they're going to catch up.
I don't think by race time there's going to be much of an advantage. I think it's going to be a great race, another good show for the Camping World Truck Series.
DENISE MALOOF: We're definitely looking forward to it.
Let's go directly now to some questions for Todd Bodine.
Q. Question about social networking. I was interested in finding out how much you're involved in social networking yourself and also I wanted to get some thoughts from you on how it's kind of changed the landscape of the sport.
TODD BODINE: Well, personally I don't believe in it. I don't do it at all. I don't believe in it. The idea of what it's for is very good. Its roots are meant to be in a good place. But there's too much bad that comes from it. There's too many people that say the wrong thing on there, hurt somebody's feelings, get themselves in trouble, doing the wrong thing.
I just don't believe in it and I don't do it.
Q. Justin Lofton is a rookie in the series. He's had a tough year. From racing with him, is there anything about him that stood out as positive or negative?
TODD BODINE: Well, I'm very fortunate. I've gotten to know Justin fairly well this season. First of all, he's a really good kid. That's first and foremost in my mind. I think he's a very good racecar driver. He's struggled at times. First part of the year, they struggled, their performance struggled. He caught on, the crew chief got better, and they got their heads together, got the chemistry right. They've been very competitive.
Unfortunately, they've had a lot of bad luck; some of it their own doing, some of it other people's doing, getting caught up in things. I think Justin is a very capable racecar driver.
I think for any sponsor, he's a very good marketing tool. He's a very good-looking boy, very well-spoken, knows how to handle himself. He's got everything it takes.
Tom saw something he liked and decided to take him onboard and do something. I like Justin.
Q. With the race being 50 laps, I was wondering if you have to hit the track and just be perfect or if you're going to have enough time to make adjustments?
TODD BODINE: Well, you're the first one that's asked that. That's probably one of the best questions yet. You're right, 50 laps is short, it's a sprint race. You don't have time to mess around. The guy that hits the setup perfect is the guy that's going to win the race. We're going to have one shot at adjusting the truck. It's a one-stop race. That's why it will be a green-flag stop. The one that gets the setup on the money is going to be the guy that wins the race.
Q. As intriguing as this qualifying format is, do you see any chance of guys sandbagging so they don't go fastest in practice and have to go last in the qualifying order?
TODD BODINE: Well, there's a few guys that might do that. I really don't think that's going to happen. There's a lot of chances you take by getting with a slower group. There are some benefits, no doubt about that. I think everybody's smart enough and I think NASCAR has a handle on it well enough that everybody's gonna do their best in practice.
I mean, you still got to go out and practice and try to get your best lap. You still have to see what you're going to have for qualifying. I just don't think that's going to happen.
Q. I'm sure you heard the story yesterday about NASCAR fining drivers for saying derogatory towards the sport. Has that ever happened to you? Do you feel it's okay to do this?
TODD BODINE: Well, it's never happened to me. I try to do the right things and say the right things. That's not even an issue.
Do I think it was the right thing to do for NASCAR? Well, you know, that's a fine line. The sport needs personality. You need drivers to be outspoken. At the same time those drivers have to understand who's listening. You know, we have a wide variety in our audience. It's not just adults. We have a lot of younger kids, not only teenagers, but young kids, that you have to be careful.
Whether we like it or not, we're role models to children. Not only stick-and-ball sports, they look up to the drivers. It's our responsibility to do and say the right thing.
Yeah, you have to have personality, but you have to have some boundaries in that personality. You know, I think that NASCAR probably did the right thing. There has to be a limit to it. There is law and order. Hopefully they did the right thing; some of these drivers that are a little outspoken will calm down a little bit and realize that we have a responsibility to our fans to be smart with what we're saying.
Q. Todd, over the last week or so there's been a lot of talk about schedule realignment. It has some people up here in New Hampshire nervous. As a guy familiar racing with the northeast, how badly do you want NASCAR to maintain its commitment to this market?
TODD BODINE: Well, you're right. I'm a northeast guy. I spent a lot of time in New England. I know as a New England race fan, it's strong. Loudon is obviously a sign of how strong the fan base is in New England.
I know they're thinking about going back to one race. I think that would be a shame. But at the same time I think our schedule does need realigning. I think there's better ways to go about awarding dates, when those dates are for certain areas of the country.
I really believe - I've said this for years - the schedule is so hard for drivers, but it's twice as hard for crew members. I've always said that it needs to be three on, one off every month, to let the teams have a breather, let them have a break, get caught up, let the crew members have somewhat of a home life. I really believe the realignment is way overdue.
Q. With a 177-point lead going into the second half of the season, does that change your strategy at all? Would you like to see a Chase format in the Truck Series?
TODD BODINE: Well, first, it doesn't change our strategy. Our philosophy is simple: prepare every week to win the race. You go to the racetrack to win the race. If you can't win the race, then you do the best you can. You do the best you can with what you have and get the most points you have. That's how we go about it. Every week we go to win the race.
177-point lead is large, substantial. But when you got guys like Hornaday, Peters, Aric has been having some tough luck, but he's right there with them. If we have a couple of bad races, they're going to be right on it. We can't let up. We have to keep doing what we know how to do, and that's running in the top five, and the wins will come along the way.
Personally, I don't think that we need a Chase in the Cup Series or Nationwide Series. Personally I don't like it in the Cup Series. I understand the reasoning behind it. It's really done a good job with that. If we had the regular format, right now Jimmie Johnson would be a five-time champion because two years before he won it both years they had it going away and just had problems in the Chase.
I believe in earning it through the season.
Q. Todd, I was wondering, do you miss running both schedules in the cars?
TODD BODINE: Well, actually I have found a home in the Truck Series. I love the Truck Series. It's a lot of fun. It's so much like what we all grew up doing racing, like a Saturday night race. The seems to get along. The drivers get along. It's a lot different than the other two series.
But with that said, I do miss cars. Nationwide was very good to me in the Busch beer days. I miss that series a lot. I still feel like I have something to prove in the Cup Series. I've never won a points race. I've been fortunate enough to win two of the Winston Opens. I still feel like I have something to prove.
This day and age, you have to have a boat load of dough to go over there and race and be competitive. It's just really hard to do. I don't want to say that I'm never gonna get back there, but it's going to be hard for me to do it. I think my best shot is with Germain Racing. That's what they eventually want to do, get me to the Cup Series with a great sponsor with Max Papis in a two-car team.
Q. Last week Martinsville announced that they will for the first time award the grandfather clock to the truck driver winner. That's definitely a goal for you, to be able to have one of those clocks and be able to brag to your brothers that you have one, too?
TODD BODINE: You're right. You're exactly right. I didn't realize that till I think the second race last year, somebody told me that thing about the clock. That's not fair. I want to get one. I believe the number, you'd probably have to look it up, but I believe the number is 16 clocks that Geoff had. He won there 16 times. I think Brett has won there four or five times. To keep a family tradition, that's one of my things in my bucket list before I'm done driving, is get a win at Martinsville.
I grew up there. I grew up watching Geoff and Brett, having gone to the track since I was eight years old. I've changed tires at pit road, I've been a crew chief. I've done everything you can do at that racetrack except win a race, so that's definitely in my bucket list.
Q. Todd, obviously this weekend Pocono is the biggest track that you race on that has very little banking. Are you going to be able to compare the racing to a Daytona with the drafting? Are those elements going to play a role this weekend?
TODD BODINE: Yes, certainly the draft is going to be huge, especially since it's a flatter track and the trucks, being down on horsepower with the restrictor plate we have to run, we don't have the acceleration that a Cup car has.
So being that it's flat corners, if you can get any kind of a run on a guy off a corner, catch his draft, that's just going to accelerate the truck that much faster and allow for a pass. I really think you're going to see some of the old-fashioned slingshot passing. It's going to be a great race, it really is.
DENISE MALOOF: Todd, thank you very much for joining us this afternoon. We appreciate it. I know the media appreciate your time. Best of luck this weekend. Should be a fun event.
TODD BODINE: Okay, we'll see you.
DENISE MALOOF: Thanks to all of you media who joined us this week. We will see you next week.
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