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Jeremy Mayfield Preseason Thunder Q&A
Q: What's the outlook for you?
Jeremy Mayfield: Everything is going good. We had a good test here. Cars are really, really good. Really excited about it and feel like this is the best I've been here at Daytona testing in a long time, as long as I can remember.
Q: What does it say about the pressures of racing the NEXTEL Cup when you make the Chase twice, and yet, the pressure is still on you from the team owner and the sponsors to be even better?
Jeremy Mayfield: Well, I mean that's what we're here for is to want to be better. We didn't win the championship and that's the only goal. This year the goal was to get in the Top 5 and we didn't; we come short of that. Still better than having a goal of us making the Top 15 in point, let's make the Top 10. The good thing about our owner is he puts pressure on us, but he's got pressure on him just to win, just ourselves. It's not about anything other than just wanting to do the best out there. I've got a lot of respect for Ray for that. He stays on the guys and he's not afraid to change things up in a heartbeat to make it better. So far, we're still searching for what we want in racing, and so far he's made the changes.
Q: We talked awhile ago the perception is maybe in some camps that the team that got you into the Chase twice has been given to Casey to give him a chance and left you high and dry, and I know you don't feel that way, you feel like your team is better than it was last year, can you talk about that?
Jeremy Mayfield: First of all, from the outside looking in, it may look that way, that, okay, here is a team, the guy made the Chase and I'm sitting here being criticized, oh, you made the Chase two years in a row. Casey didn't make the Chase so now maybe he'll make the Chase and give me a shot at doing something different and mixing the chemistry up on our team. That's what it's done. It's by no means a way of taking a team away from the Chase and giving it to Casey or giving me the team that had one races or whatever. We moved some guys from the 9 car over to the 10 car because they were building a new deal over there with rod any and Scott. I got pretty much Chris Andrews, and along the way, that besides that, Casey got all the 19 guys. Along the way this past year, Chris Andrews has done nothing but build brand new race cars for this year, the 2006 season. So we have a shop full right now, if you walk into the 9/19 shop, one on one side, one on the other; as far as you can see is black number red and 19, cars lined up down the shot. There's at least 12, 15 cars race ready and ready to go. He's worked on them the past year. That's what also took place here. It's not like, oh, Casey has got as far as I have. Some of the 9 cars and they are building new cars and the 10 car. I'm saying I've got all brand new race cars, the best that Evernham Motorsports can build, still building new ones and all done and ready to go. So we are more prepared right now as a race team than the 9 car or the 10 car. The 19 is struggling a little bit as far as it's a new deal and we don't know how it's going to work out. But other than that, we are in pretty good shape.
Q: With Bill being a part timer, I don't know what his relationship is, you're kind of the old guy now, you're not an old man, but you're the older guy. Are you comfortable with that role? I mean, Scott is a little bit younger than you, but still you've been doing it a lot longer than him. Have you accepted that role that, hey, you're the guy now that they can come to?
Jeremy Mayfield: I'm trying to. I'm trying to sure enough be in that position. One of the things is that I have been doing this a long time and longer than probably get credit for, I've been here for a while now and I've seen things happen and I've been through a lot of different situations and been through some high pressure situations, so I have a lot of experience in a lot of areas. I've been beat up, knocked down, chewed up, spit out and everything else. I'm hoping that and I've done this with Casey already, talked with him about different things and Scott and that helped me, too. I'm hoping that I can help our race teams by being in that position, whether it's giving them advice or maybe I see them in trouble and I go up and say a few words. And like I say it's already happened a few times, along with Bill coming to us. I hope that I can take that role on and continue on and build what we need to build at Evernham Racing.
Jeremy Mayfield: Yeah, and we all know that Casey struggled a little bit last year. The year before that, his first year out, he took off really good, really great every week. But when that happens as a young driver, first thing that happens besides the girls and that stuff, is, you know, you start getting a lot of things thrown at you, appearances and just different things, different opportunities. And if you're not careful, whoever is managing or whatever or even yourself will commit to even more than you can handle. I think that Casey is realizing now that he does a lot of appearances, not a whole lot, but sometimes that can take away from where you really need to be at. I talked to him and told him, one way or another, give him some of my experience.
Q: Can you tell us where you all are with the new charger, or not new anymore, just the Charger, and will you use it for the '04 Intrepid at some point early in the year?
Jeremy Mayfield: The charger itself, we're working hard every day just like we've been doing, trying to figure out what we need to make it better. I think I've heard NASCAR is talking to them about whatever was planned on or whatever, but we've just got to continue to work hard on it. It's not really one thing. You take the car in a wind tunnel and it doesn't look that bad. Maybe it looks pretty good with the numbers, like you're 0.478 or better. Then you get in traffic and you have all the inaudible what we've been facing all year, and you can't find the balance in the race car. So we got closer at the end of the year, Homestead we had a great run, we did have the '04 car. At the end of the day, neither one of them was very far off each other. I heard talk of I think Penske was talking to Dodge about running them but I haven't heard anything about it. We still have to stay committed to the Charger. It's a new car and it didn't do too bad. We just have to continue on and help Dodge and have Dodge help us figure out what we need.
Jeremy Mayfield: I think it's hard to tell down here. We'll know more in Vegas. I think that might be why NASCAR has not made any changes because there's a lot of different things going on with other manufacturers. I think that we're going to have to race a little bit on the downforce track to see how they all stack up. They are giving us a little bit right now, we are so close. We needed one that worked from from last year, but we really don't know for this year. I'm sure they will wait and figure out what we need to do.
Q: Top 10 going into the season, you know you probably won't be picked by a bunch of us, and that motivates your team; right? And make the case that you made to me earlier about why you should even be in the Top 10.
Jeremy Mayfield: David and I talked earlier and he was telling me and that I says, well, that's cool from the outside looking in. But if you were on the inside looking out, I have a better race team right now than I had last year. Another thing is, too, we at beginning of the year we're picked about 20th in points, all this stuff, whatever. But if you look at numbers, if you took your pick at the beginning of the year and said okay, things are going to happen and you look at all of the numbers, you'd still put us in the Top 10. You look at average finish, average starts, laps completed, we didn't lead the most laps, but we made the Top 10 running like that. So I'm like, if we ran bad last year and made the Top 10, and what's going to happen this year if we just get a little bit better? And that's where we're at. I understood what David said, yeah, you switched teams, people are different and this, that and the other. From my point of view, it's as good or better than it's ever been. The 19 and 9 are closer than they have ever been. They help each other, work together, the cars are the same. The 9 guys inaudible we joke around, cut up and it's just a good, tight night group right now. For anybody not to pick us at least 15th, not 18th or 20th, that's what I was telling him, because that's where we're at as a race team.
I know we're kind of quiet and don't say a whole lot and we just do our own deal. But Ray Evernham and Dodge and myself everyone and on the 9, 19 and 10 car, it not like we're a bunch of losers. We're going to win races and we're going to be in the Top 10 in points. I told David, I've done it two years ago and I aim to do it again, that's what I was telling him. I also said that, I hate seeing you picking the odds for Vegas. If you were working out there picking odds, you would be in big trouble no, I mean, if you were the guy working for the casino picking odds on it. And I was joking with him when I said all this, but just trying to make a point, we're a better race team than we're given credit for.
Q: Along those same lines, is it outlandish to think that they are 20 plus teams that are going to vie for the Chase?
Jeremy Mayfield: Sure, it is. But every year you see it starts out competitive. Every week there's 43 cars that run in the Chase. It's hard to do that. Every year you go, man, there's a lot of good teams that have a shot at it. But then you've got to really look deep into it where you decide who is going to be hot, it's just unpredictable. And it's as competitive or more competitive now than it's ever been, for sure. The thing you have got to do is just be smart about how you race. You can't have a good car and not finish the race and stuff like that. But any given week, there's 20 cars for sure that can win races and win the Chase and really be competitive week in and week out.
Q: What advice would you give the seven rookies coming up?
Jeremy Mayfield: Man, talk about pressure. You know, we talked about it the other night at the Dodge Center being a rookie right now coming into sport. You don't see rookies come in and start out in Jimmy Valen's (ph) car or in Stadler's car and give you a chance to work your way you up. You come in now, you'd better be ready. There's a lot of young guys that come into our sport and there's a lot of young guys that come in and don't stay long. I'm sure all them guys know that going into it that you have to produce and it's not about, oh, we'll get 'em next week, anymore. You have to get them this week, every week.
They have a lot of pressure but there's a great group of guys coming in that seem to be able to handle the pressure very good. That's what it's all about. It's not the pressure of the sport; it's how you handle the pressure of the sport, and whoever can handle it the best, stay strong, usually will survive, that's what it is anymore. But the advice I can give them is you've got to stay strong and stay focused. If you let up, you'll be in trouble.
Q: Going into the season, you think you're better than you were last year, and I'm sure most of these people would say the same thing; it's this time of the year when everybody is optimistic. What tells the tale? Because five races into the season, we'll be looking around and there will be three or four teams that you go, they are not going to go anywhere. How do you get off to a good start? How do you get yourself in a situation like you've managed to stay in for two years where you kind of hang around, hang around, all of a sudden you we look up at Richmond and there you are. What's the trick to qualify that you seem to have figured out?
Jeremy Mayfield: That's something I said about Mark Martin earlier, just talking about Mark, you didn't really see him maybe making it that's would be the first guy I would put on my list. I don't know where he's at, but he would definitely be in the Top 10 in points. He knows how to race to get into the Chase. That's the thing that keeps us optimistic that we know last year wasn't as good of a year as we had the year before. And that's what I mean, we only need to be a little bit better. And when I walk into the shop and I go, okay, I'm optimistic and excited about the new 2006 year coming up, but the years you say that are the years you feel like you mean that. When I walk into the shop and I hear guys saying, man they have been working on pit stops, we're going to have better, more consistent pit stops now than we've ever had. That's another notch right there that's going to be better for us.
I look, I see all the race cars lined up brand new, they drive the same, everything on them is inaudible I've never had that, that's got to be a plus, that's what I've always wanted what we've been working towards, that's better. I guess what I'm trying to say, that's the reason why I'm optimistic about this year and feel good about it is I see all that stuff that's improved that's better. And then I hear, well, you're not going to run good or whatever so that's why I defend ourselves like we do. But that's why I'm optimistic about it. I know there's years I've come in here, and I walk out going, I hope I can knock that out, you know what I mean. I have more confidence right now than I have ever had. And I'm 102 percent, not 10 (110) yet, confident that we can stack up with what we're seeing right now.