WE’RE HALF WAY THROUGH THE RACE TO THE CHASE WHAT DO YOU THINK HAS TO HAPPEN IN THE NEXT FIVE RACES OR SO FOR YOU TO GET INTO THE CHASE?
«I think name of the game is consistency. At the end of the day it’s all we’ve got to do. Last week was a heart break for us but at the end of the day you look at it and we finished 11th. Of course we want a top-10 but to finish 11th is not a big deal. If we finish 12th or better every week we should be good enough. That’s the way we see it and that’s what we’re trying to do. We’re trying to make ourselves better every weekend and make sure we’re there at the end of every race. Try to stay out of trouble and so far so good.»
DO YOU NEED SPEEDOMETERS IN YOUR CAR AND CAN YOU CLARIFY WHAT YOU SAID ON THE RADIO ABOUT NASCAR APOLOGIZING TO YOU ABOUT PHOENIX?
«I think the way we do it good. We checked ourselves after the race and it seemed okay and everything seemed to be in the right place. For some reason they said we were speeding and that’s what it is. I’ve moved on and that’s it. I think the Phoenix incident is a past incident and it happened already. Things like that whether you’re right or wrong or they’re right or wrong, today we can’t change it. I can’t. At least we show to everybody how much potential this team has, everybody, Earnhardt, Ganassi and the Target team is doing an amazing job. We’ve just got to keep doing it.»
YOU SAY YOU CAN’T CHANGE IT BUT GOING FORWARD ARE YOU COMFORTABLE COMING ON PIT ROAD HERE FOR INSTANCE AND FEEL LIKE YOU CAN TRUST YOUR TACH?
«Yeah, we’ve done it from the beginning of the year and it always worked. I think 90 percent of the teams use this same tach that we use. So it’s okay. I’m good with it and we’ve just got to keep doing the same thing and it’s worked every week.»
SO DON’T YOU WONDER WHAT HAPPENED LAST WEEK?
«Do I gain anything by wondering or saying or thinking was the speedometer right or the tach right, was NASCAR right, was I wrong? Who cares? I moved on, can’t change it. Even if they came to me today and said you know what we made a mistake it wouldn’t change anything. It is what it is. I’ve moved on and we’re here. For our team our focus is this week.»
YOU SAY IT WOULDN’T CHANGE ANYTHING BUT IT MIGHT GIVE YOU MORE PEACE OF MIND.
«Other than more than the performance we had there nothing would give me more peace of mind to tell you the truth. We had the fastest car by a mile there and it was nice to see.»
THERE’S BEEN 75 TIMES THIS YEAR WHEN SOMEONE HAS BEEN CAUGHT SPEEDING ON PIT ROAD, THAT’S ALMOST FOUR TIMES A RACE, SHOULD SOMETHING BE DONE TO MAKE THE SYSTEM BETTER?
«A lot of times people do make mistakes coming in. There are two parts on pit road where you make mistakes. It’s either come in too hard or leave too early. There’s the line and you’ve got to wait until the line to get on the gas and you’ve got to make sure you’re down to speed at the line. I think that’s where most of the people get caught, they just come in too hard.»
CAN YOU TALK ABOUT THE BALANCE BETWEEN PUSHING IT AND THEN HITTING YOUR MARKS TO HIT THAT SPEED AND TALK ABOUT HOW HARD IT IS TO ACTUALLY HIT IT?
«I think there’s times you’ve got to push but I think when you’ve got a five-second lead with thirty laps to go you don’t have to push it and I wasn’t pushing it but it didn’t change anything. I don’t know. The slower the pit road is the harder it is for me. The reason why is because the gear is shorter and the car just bounces a lot. When you’re running faster it’s a lot more stable. The RPM’s are a lot more stable. Some weeks we can just hold the throttle, you put the throttle in a certain position and it just rides along pit road. Some places you’ve got to ride the hell out of the brakes just to try to stay in touch with it.»
AS YOU KNOW YOU WERE THE DISCUSSION ALL WEEK LONG AND YOU COMING FROM F1 AND THE TECHNOLOGY OF THOSE RACE CARS.
«Get over it. It’s been three years. It’s not like I did it yesterday.»
HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE THE OVERALL RANGE OF EMOTIONS?
«At the time it was really frustrating especially when you believe you didn’t do anything wrong. I don’t know. It was frustrating. But to tell you the truth, something that was good is we kept racing and we had to still race for like 20 more laps or so. So my head went into race mode again. You’ve got to make up some places, we’ve got to take some points home. Once you do that, it was okay. It’s frustrating because the team really needs a win like that. I think we’re really showing everybody how much potential this team has and where the team is heading. It’s easier and nice when you get the hardware home.»
HOW WILL SCHUMACHER DO IN HIS RETURN?
«I heard he is testing today already. Physical he’ll be fine. With all the testing he’ll do before that, will he do a lot more than the current Ferrari drivers are doing, I’ll be surprised but you never know. I’m sure they’re going to make sure they come up with something new for his arrival to make sure he looks good.»
HOW BIG WOULD IT BE FOR YOUR TEAM TO GET INTO THE CHASE?
«That’s our goal. If you make the Chase with the current NASCAR rules, you’ve made it. You’ve proved to the people you’re one of the best teams out there. Week in and week out we’ve been doing it and I think we can. I think right now is a realistic possibility. I think when I said at the beginning of the year to a lot of you guys our goal is to make the Chase probably 90 percent of you guys were laughing. Realistically I think we can and we’ve shown everybody the car has a lot of potential.»
THIS IS YOUR THIRD YEAR HERE, WHAT IS THE BIGGEST IMPROVEMENT FOR YOU AS A DRIVER AND THEN SECONDLY YOU AND YOUR TEAM TOGETHER?
«I think the biggest thing is the consistency. In this sport you need a lot of consistency, a lot of team work. From myself driving better to the crew chief doing a better job, engineering doing a better job, we’re building better cars and we’re getting better motor. It’s just more performance overall. You can’t expect just the driver or just the engine you need the whole package. If you don’t have the whole package here you’re not going to perform. I think we’re doing that. It was nice to see the performance we had in Indy but moving here this is one of our worst race tracks. Yes, we finished eighth last time here but it was I would say it was pure luck because it was a fuel mileage race. You know I got lapped here. It’s a 50 something second lap and I got lapped. That’s how bad we were. To actually have a result like that it was very encouraging. We’re trying new things here this week to try to make our run a little better and see what happens.»
JUST WONDERING WHAT BRIAN PATTIE HAS DONE TO REALLY HELP YOU OUT NOW THAT YOU’VE BEEN TOGETHER A YEAR.
«I think it’s just consistency. I think he’s a really smart guy. I think the most important thing that I’ve found in Brian is he wants to run hard every week and he wants to run good every week. He wants it as bad as I do. That makes a big difference.»
THIS TRACK IS SO SIMILAR TO INDY, DOES THAT GIVE YOU CONFIDENCE HERE? ARE YOU RUNNING THE SAME CAR?
«We actually brought the same car because the car we were going to bring here we’re not as happy with it as we thought we were going to be. The Indy car was in one piece so we brought it here. Does it mean we’re going to run as good as Indy, I really doubt it. I would hope so but you know this is very bumpy. I don’t know what people see similar between this and Indy.»