Reed Sorenson & David Stremme Preseason Thunder Q&A

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DAVID STREMME: It would probably be pretty wild. I've already started to think about a lot of things of growing up, and right now we'd be working on cars to race locally at home like in my parents' garage, and we'd always -- come Daytona 500 weekend we'd stop and cook a dinner and watch. It was a pretty big thing for us because there was not a lot of racing going on in Indiana at that time.

First time I come down here was in 2003, and I walked around, and I was telling Tony Glover on the way down here, it's pretty neat because I walked in the garage area, like, what are all these wooden tables doing here, nobody is using them and they're kind of in the way. He told me guys used to before they had big pit boxes they'd set their tool boxes up there. I thought that was pretty neat, a little bit of history.

It's a neat racetrack, it's fast. I enjoy it because you slide around a lot. The last two days it's been pretty boring, and I look forward to more of tomorrow, just getting our car driving better.

Q: Reed, how about the same thing for you, just, thoughts on being best Rookie of the Year candidate and Daytona 500 right off the bat

REED SORENSON: Well, Daytona is not just one of the biggest races for NASCAR but in the United States and the world. I'm pretty excited to be a part of it. It's a different kind of racing, it's new to myself and new to David, as well. I've only done three or four restricted plate races, and it's pretty cool to go out here and to be going around the turn and see that Daytona on the wall. I'm just glad to be here and to get the opportunity to start out the season and looking forward to going some of the other places we're going to and having a chance to run well and competing with David and Truex for Rookie of the Year and just giving it a good shot.

Q: For both David and Reed, can you talk about what it feels like to go into the race knowing you're in, that you don't have to qualify, in fact, you don't have to do that for at least your first five? Talk about how that feels, not to have that burden.

REED SORENSON: Well, we had to deal with that this year in the Busch Car because we didn't have any points so we had to qualify for the first five races. That was the most nerve-wracking thing that I've been through in racing, the first five races, and going to Mexico, travel all the way there and we had one lap; I didn't even know until we got there you only get one qualifying lap. You get one lap to get in the show, and that's horrible.

So it's pretty nice to relax a little bit, especially during qualifying time. That's when you're on the edge and you've got to push yourself a little bit further, so it definitely gives you a little bit of breathing room. Hopefully we won't need a provisional and we can make all the races just by qualifying in and we don't have to use them. It's a for sure thing that we're in, and that comforts everybody.

DAVID STREMME: I think one of the things last year when I run the Cup races, it was probably a lot more distracting just knowing you had to qualify in. You're doing more qualifying runs than setting the car up for practice and it probably affects the strategy more of how your car is handling. One of the things my crew chief and myself discussed the last two days, we've been working on the car trying to make improvements, and we haven't made a lot of gains, but more than anything just trying to get the car driving better.

I think what's neat about our organization is Reed's car has made a lot of gains, so when we go back we'll be able to share that within our teams.

I feel really good. I just look forward to tomorrow, just getting the car handling well. I think the first five we've just got to put in solid efforts, just finish and build on this year and make sure after them races that we're still in.

Q: Both of you were still with the same basic organizations that you were with last year. There was a working relationship between your teams. Martin is with the same group he's with. What's going to have to happen with you all to help bridge that gap, the same guy you've been chasing for the last couple years?

DAVID STREMME: I'm not going to lie about nothing. I thought he's had a lot better equipment than I've had the last couple years. I think Martin is a very talented driver, but I've been with two different organizations, working out of house. Now that I'm in-house at the Chip Ganassi Felix Sabates organization, they've brought in a whole new crew, and I think Chip and Felix have really restructured the organization as far as the teams, too. I think Martin and Denny Hamlin and J.J. Yeley and everybody in the rookie crops, I mean, very, very good drivers. I mean, it's going to be coming down to whoever is going to win Rookie of the Year is going to have to make the chase and win races.

I don't look at the first five or ten of like, oh, we've got to go out and beat the rookies; I'm looking we need to build on for later this season and be consistent with myself starting with a new chew chief and basically a whole new team. The 40 team, the only person that is the same is the truck driver. I mean, everybody is different. We're all having to work together, and already I feel like we've been together six months.

I mean, Martin and Reed and a lot of them are going to be tough to beat. But I look at there's a lot of other drivers you've got to beat on the weekend, too.

Q: The fact that you guys have the same car owner, what does that do to the whole scenario?

REED SORENSON: I think the last two years that Martin and his whole team were a championship team and they really proved it last year, where other teams like ours and a couple other teams made mistakes where their team didn't, and they came from behind and won the championship. I don't think you can point the finger at either driver, the crew, the car. I think it's just their whole package was good and they all did their jobs, and that's why they're the champions.

I think that's what you've got to do to be a champion in either Busch or Cup.

I mean, I think if not it'll be very close. That's hard to say. It's a tough series to come in as a rookie and to make the chase; not to say that I don't think one of us isn't good enough to make it, but it's not easy to do. I mean, you look this year and Jeff Gordon didn't make it in, and he's one of the best there is. It's going to be tough, but I think definitely you're going to have to run up front and at least challenge for wins, get some top-5s to be eligible to be close for that battle.

Q: Going back to the question that was asked, it was being Rookie of the Year candidates and on the same team, how that might shake out.

REED SORENSON: If you're asking if it's going to cause a battle, I don't think it's going to. I think when you get to this level, it's almost a deal where you need each other's help to have success. If you start working against each other, that's definitely not going to help anything. I believe this year that myself and David and Casey and the teams are a lot closer together maybe than they've ever been. I think we're going to work a little bit better together. If I can't win it, I want David to win it, and I think he thinks the same way. We're not going to be sitting there picking battles between each other. We've got to work together to beat 42 other cars or 41 other cars out there, and it's going to be a hard job so we're going to need each other to get through it.

DAVID STREMME: I think the same way as what Reed just said. Already this season, just from what we're talking about, what we need to really concentrate on, Reed has brought up situations that I haven't thought about, and I feel I've brought up situations. We're going to be able to lean on each other.

Casey has developed a lot. Casey has developed as a really great driver. I think a lot of people seen that towards the end of the season. I remember a couple years ago when he was a rookie, he come in, didn't hardly have any stock car experience and we were able to talk to him a lot about what struggles he went through going to the Cup level. There's a lot of people within our organization that has a lot of experience, and we're going to lean on them.

I mean, I very seldom think of the Rookie of the Year battle and what you're going to have to do. I look at the series as a whole. It's a tough series, top level, and I look at this as something that we need to go in and be competitive and do a lot for our sponsors and the team. In the organization as a whole, we have such a great group of people there, and we have so much talent that I think the last couple years haven't gone how they wanted to. We've had some success but not what they've wanted.

Q: Given you guys are both fresh off a full Busch Series season last year, I assume you have a pretty fresh perspective on where that series lies, where it is. Do you feel like there should be a Busch Series chase?

DAVID STREMME: I don't know. I like the chase format. It's kind of like the playoffs going on now. It's interesting. I know being an outsider last year watching the chase, I mean, it was great to watch. Every race you didn't know what was going to go on. I think it'll make it exciting. I think there's other things that could make that series better.

I mean, NASCAR is always working on stuff to improve our sport, and I think they're doing a great job.

REED SORENSON: I don't see where it would hurt it. I think it would be pretty cool. I mean, it's been real exciting for the Cup series for sure. I think everybody was worried about it to begin with, but once it came around, it's been pretty neat. The only thing it might do, just because it's a lower level as far as sponsorship goes and things like that, it might be a little hard on some of the Busch regulars and those teams as far as getting sponsors because, you know, if they can't make the chase, then the sponsor doesn't feel like they have a chance to make the chase and they don't want to be in it. That might be the only thing that would hurt it a little bit.

But as far as the standpoint goes of the racing part, I think that it will be pretty cool.

Q: Considering this year has like seven good cars going to rookies, how long do you think it'll be before some rookie is trying to knock y'all out? What kind of career length can y'all expect, both of you?

DAVID STREMME: I don't know. I mean --

REED SORENSON: Does this mean when do we want to retire?

DAVID STREMME: People talk about age and there's an age difference between Reed and myself. Greg Biffle had a heck of a year last year. I think Bobby Labonte will show a lot come this year.

Again, I look at my job is to go out and perform, and I think you've got to have the right people around you. Not one person can do that. I think a lot of owners see that. I've seen stats of where people were being replaced because they weren't winning races and all this stuff. That's kind of BS. It's a team organization, not just one person.

I hope I don't get replaced, but I don't think about it.

DAVID STREMME: I mean, if you go out and run good, heck, you can probably go out and win Daytona 500 and nothing else and probably race for the next ten years. I don't know (laughing). I mean, I look at it, I just want to race. I'm the type of person, I don't look at what kind of money I make or anything else. I want to go out and win. If I'm not happy, it's because I'm not competitive.

I mean, maybe I'll change the older I get, the money or whatever else, but like I say, I enjoy what I do. I think back to when I used to change snowplow blades working for the city, and that sucks, so I enjoy my job now.

REED SORENSON: I'm going to probably retire in three years (laughter). I'm just kidding.

Well, I'll be 20 in February, so you look at some of these guys, they're going into their high 40s. It's a long time racing. If I've still got the physical body to do it, I think NASCAR will probably change a lot by then, but I'll do it as long as somebody will give me a chance to drive their car and feel competitive.

DAVID STREMME: Reed and I, we both got to start Homestead, and it was cool because Ricky Rudd was racing, Rusty, and we were like, hey, we got to race against them guys. If they come back, that would be really neat.

I wish I could go back and race against like David Pearson or Richard Petty. To be able to go out and race against guys that we're going to race against, I feel pretty good. I mean, Ken Schrader going to Wood Brothers, I'm excited for him. I think it's going to be a great year for him. I want to go out and see him do good; but on the other hand, I want to beat him, too.

I mean, I don't think age matters. I mean, I think it's about the people you're around.

Q: Reed, I know you've answered this before. How much did you follow Bill Elliott coming up, and what kind of relationship do you have with him?

REED SORENSON: Well, when I was growing up, during my time period where I started watching a lot of it on TV, Jeff Gordon was winning a lot. He just got into it and started winning. I was a Dale Earnhardt fan. Those were my two favorites by far. I've got pictures with Jeff and Dale when I was just three years old, four years old. Davey Allison, I was a fan of him, and Bill.

I saw him a little bit and I know him now. He was connected with our organization just a little bit. I think he ran the Bud Shootout last year for us. I've talked to him before and he's helped me out a few times. He helped me out at Michigan with some stuff.

I haven't got to maybe spend as much time as I would with somebody like that that's been around for so long and that's gone through so much and has had as much success as he has. But I know him a little bit, and I know he was the Georgia driver that dominated. Some tough footsteps to follow, but maybe I can follow in there and make him proud.

Q: By the time you get to this level, you're really not rookies. Could you describe what you should feel like being a rookie at this level?

DAVID STREMME: I mean, I was thinking about that the other day. I mean, I look at mistakes I made in the ASA Series and even in the Busch Series, and when you come to this level you don't need to make mistakes like that. But instead of maybe having a handful of teams that are pretty good, I mean, here you have like a lot of teams that are good and you've got to stay on top of your game. It's easy to start out strong and then fall off, and that's one of the things my crew chief and I talked about; if we do start out pretty good, we need to keep that going. I'd almost like just start out middle of the road and work from there. Just because, I don't know, you see a lot of guys, it's hard to keep that going, and as a driver you need to really carry your crew as far as just being mentally into the game and behind you and behind everybody else. I don't know, I'll tell you at the end of the season.

REED SORENSON: I think being a rookie in the NEXTEL Cup, everybody in the series is not somebody that just started driving. I mean, everybody has been doing it for a long time, whether they're my age or 40 years old. They've all been doing it their whole lives.

I think the mean thing for myself next year, just being a rookie, is gaining respect from all those guys that are out there and trying to learn as much as I can about these cars. They're a little bit different than the Busch Cars, just trying to absorb everything I can, learn about the cars mechanically, and that way I can gain experience going into next year to be a little bit stronger and get better.

Q: Reed, why did you tackle David at the party, at the New Year's party? We heard you talk about it.

REED SORENSON: Well, never mind. I actually got tackled. He was doing something on the floor trying to fix his stereo, and I thought I could help him out, but I'm not too smart with that kind of stuff. I think I made it worse when I got down there and ended up turning the whole thing off and there was no music playing. I think he just wanted a little help.

Tagged: Bill Elliott, Ricky Rudd, Jeff Gordon

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