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Sterling Marlin & Joe Nemechek Preseason Thunder Q&A

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Q: This looks like a heck of a team, can you comment on that?
Sterling Marlin: Yeah, it is, I won a couple 500s and Joe has won races here, two guys that really get after it and really work hard. It's been a long time since we've come in here, been fast in practice and all hard working guys, Hendrick Motorsports, the whole deal.
Joe Nemechek: Well, I'm definitely looking forward to the year having Sterling on board as a teammate and to have Bill Elliott as a teammate down here at Daytona. The 500 is going to be fun. We've been talking about that. We have got two experienced guys that hopefully we can get hooked up and make some noise when we come back. Yeah, going fast down here at Daytona it's about the team. As they say, anybody can get out there and drive these things around there when you're doing qualifying runs, but it's getting back to the motors and all of the guys at Hendrick Motorsports have worked hard on the engines and as always the MB2 guys can build a whole bunch of cars that run fast. So that's a good thing.

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  • Jan. 17, 6:30 p.m. ET: Nextel Cup testing from Daytona
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  • Jan. 22, 7 p.m. ET: Busch testing from Daytona
  • Feb. 1, 7 p.m. ET: Nextel Cup testing from Las Vegas
  • Q: The speed, Sterling, you were the fastest in the afternoon; and Joe, you've been up there real high throughout.
    Sterling Marlin: Well, we got just a little bit of help, we run a 48.12 by ourselves. Seemed like the track slowed down, we slowed down about 2/10ths and everybody else had a pretty good head wind on the back straightaway, so it hurt everybody's speed. It's probably warmer I guess than it was last week, from what I heard. Again, we've got six race cars and they are probably set up a tenth of each other. Just shows how good the guys in the shop are putting stuff together. The car that's fastest is not supposed to be the fastest, so I mean, Bill last week. We'll see 8 car a little bit more tomorrow and see what we come out with.

    Q: What do these numbers mean in testing? And what do you do when you have a fast car to make sure it's fast in the 500, a fast testing car and be fast in the 500?
    Sterling Marlin: I think inaudible you'll see spoiler back three or four degrees, cut some good laps. Nobody does any more than what you've got is what you've got. We've got some fast race cars. The key is do good in the qualifying races and get your car handling good for the 500 where you can just hold it wide open the all day long and never have to lift and then with the tires, get driving good, we should be in real good shape.

    Q: Some of the data acquisition guys said they are just scratching their heads because the headwind was so strong they are going to be nuts with the numbers today. When you are trying to keep your line on the track testing and they are taking care of their job, how hard is it for you today just to keep on your line with the wind this afternoon?
    Joe Nemechek: Well, the wind definitely tried to make the cars move around. But as drivers when you're testing, the most important thing is to run the same line all the time. First lap, get up to speed lap in the first lap, second lap. When the wind blows, it tries to make your car push or loose in different spots whether it's turn two or turn four and you just try and compensate for it. You know, right now all's we're doing is trying to evaluate changes and evaluate engine stuff and we're just doing testing.

    Q: Joe, would you mind going over your schedule, your full schedule for this year? And also what does it mean to have all three of the MB2 cars running fast, potentially in the qualifiers and the race?
    Joe Nemechek: Well, as far as having all three cars running fast, I think that's a good thing. You know, both the 10 car and the Army car were fast last year when we were down here in testing, and when we came back for the race, we qualified very well. I think we both ran decent in the race. You know, having three fast cars, I think that means that if you can get hooked up on the racetrack, you guys can run together. As far as my schedule, I mean running the full year with the Army, we've re signed with MB2 last year for two more years and still working on trying to get our Busch Grand National sponsor. Still don't have a sponsor for that Busch car, but we'll be down here for the 300 and trying to get more races and run with that car.

    Q: Can you guys talk about the technology involved in putting a race car on the track?
    Sterling Marlin: Joe probably could tell you more on that. It's just you used to come down here inaudible no computer in the car and you just go, just hand held stopwatch, didn't know if it was any better or not but they tell you, now all of a sudden, it's like just all car. It goes as fast as it does and if it don't, it don't. It's just a lot of technology to it. And just talking about the wind a while ago, you go back out and you might get change that should help you lose 2/10ths, you have to go back and look at computer and you had a gust of wind up the back straightaway that slowed you down. So they have to just put all that on computer and figure out if it was any better or if it wasn't.
    Joe Nemechek: In the old days when you made a change like that and you slowed down, as drivers, the wind might have blew a little bit more and guys they kind of look at you funny. At the end, they had say, well that, change was worse; it was actually better. The data guys, they have as far as the technology and race cars, as far as the computer and data acquisition, it's important the way our testing goes when we have not as many tests any more, all that information is more important, because we have to study that from now till the last restrictor plate race before we get to do it again.

    Q: How many miles an hour does your experience and your age count for?
    Joe Nemechek: Yeah, I am the youngest guy on the team, aren't I? You know, I don't know. To me to me, I'm looking forward to this year. Sterling used to be my teammate when we were at SAVCO (ph), and he stayed there longer than I did. But we ran good together, we communicated well, and both of our cars ran well. I'm looking forward to that this year. Sterling knows what he needs in a race car. He's won races on big tracks, small tracks; he knows what he needs. I know what I need in a race car, and I think between the two of us, the information that we learn from the test and at the racetrack is going to make both teams better.

    Q: I know last year was very challenging for you on several levels, can you reflect maybe a little bit on with your father passing and the injury, was it hard to get through the year, just the emotions you went through.
    Sterling Marlin: Well, last year we started off really good, points after six or seven races and the old saying, whatever could go wrong went wrong with us. Didn't finish real good in points. Went off inaudible at the Watkins Glen race up there, makes me inaudible road courses that week, anyway. You know, it was a tough year going through all the stuff, and we had some good runs going toward the end of the year and things happened to us that knocked us out of the Top 10. Just things happen for a reason and got signed up with MB2 and been talking to the guys for a good while and made the best choice I could. Had some offers out there and Jake called one day and said hey, let's do it. And didn't have a sponsor at the time and I knew that they had a great race team. I worked with a lot of guys on the team before, all the from Junior Johnson, some of our guys come over from Ganassi, and just a mix in there of guys that I worked with before.

    Q: Inaudible?
    Sterling Marlin: Oh, yeah, still confident to come in and win a race. We've got fast cars, and just if I can drive good and not make any mistakes.

    Q: I don't want to throw anybody under the bus necessarily, but was there a point last year, the last couple of years, where you felt like, man, this ain't worth it anymore; did it ever get that bad?
    Sterling Marlin: No. I mean, you go home sometimes, ride home thinking about whatever you've done, could be worse. Then again, you come back next week and run good inaudible six, I've been driving race cars 30 years and never had that happen. So went from 750 horsepower to 450 horsepower still finished 20th. Stuff like that went on all year. And like I said, got re energized have a great race team, Hendrick Motors, and got some good stuff. So looking forward to it.

    Q: Since you've been the person with the most experience, what are some of goals you're looking for the Army team and the organization?
    Joe Nemechek: Well, as far as for the U.S. Army team, we're here to win races. Last year we had a finish of 16th in points which was kind of it was definitely disappointing for myself, and I think for the team, too. You look back on your career and there's so many races that we had on the car, something happened to us. We had Top 3 finishes going and something happened to us whether it's we only had one engine problem, a radiator fail, something inside the radiator broke, never happens. We lost a couple tires. There was a lot of crazy things happened. Before the Chase started, give us one of those races back, we'd have been locked in the Chase. So, you know, there's a lot of woulda, coulda, shouldas, but we didn't get in the Chase and we ended up 16th in points. This year, our goals are to win. We're there to win. As they say in the Army: You don't get any points for second place when you're fighting these battles out there. So I'm proud of driving the Army car. My team and myself, we're proud to represent the soldiers out there. The Army uses this for a recruiting tool, but also I think it's definitely a big morale booster. When that Army car is running and out front, I know the soldiers wherever they are around the world that makes them feel good and that makes me feel good.As far as the team with Sterling on board, the goal is we're here to win. I think we can both finish in the Top 10 points.

    Q: What advice would you give to the seven rookies coming up to the NEXTEL it up in 2006?
    Joe Nemechek: I don't think we're going to give them any. Fair game. Go out there and learn, right?

    Q: Does the Daytona 500 make a career, and would you trade a three time Daytona 500 winner struggling for a NEXTEL Cup Champion struggling?
    Sterling Marlin: The 500 is good but the NEXTEL Cup sure pays a hell of a lot more, so I believe I'd take it. Yeah, I don't know, I think it goes a long way. We won I think in '94 and '95, but, yeah, I mean back then it was the Daytona 500 Championship, and the sport has grown and got bigger and bigger, more fans, more fans. It's got more attention now than it did then. You know back then we're racing before I think it was good money back then, but it's about quadrupled now. And the fans probably, 50,000 more fans than it was in '94, or 64,000. So the media hype then in '95 to now has really stepped on up, so just makes it bigger.
    Joe Nemechek: I would have to say any NEXTEL Cup race you can win is I think something you hang your career on because it's so hard to do. There's not that many people that have won races. But if you can win the Daytona 500 that's definitely a special place for myself being 100 miles down the road growing up and being over here as a little kid watching races, winning here would definitely mean a lot. But anywhere you can win, it's tough.

    Q: Earlier Mark Martin was asked about getting serious, making it be miserable, he says he goes over the miserable factor, and trying too hard kind of thing. And Sterling, you never really seem to do that, change of operations now, where you kind of agonize can sometimes make it worse is it fun, can you still just go out there and have a good time and end up doing well?
    Sterling Marlin: Well, I mean come race, race hard and race as hard as you can. When you go home Sunday meaning, I know my heart I've done all I can do, if you finish 15th, you 15th or you run fifth, you run fifth. I still enjoy it a whole lot. I've been coming over here since '64 with my dad when I was that tall and came back in the 70s full time and been here ever since. It was fun watching him race Childers, all that bunch, Baines, just growing up I wouldn't take that now for growing up the way I did and just coming in as a 20 year old now. And then seeing what you've got now, I think it makes you appreciate more what you've got now than I think them guys will ever realize what the old guys do, and not to talk about myself but Richard and Bobby, Donny, all that bunch, they didn't make a lot of money but they had a lot of fun.
    Joe Nemechek: I look at it now as I didn't get into the sport until after Donny Allison (ph) was getting out by the time I was coming in. And you would look back at how many races they used to run a year, they were serious, hard core racers. I know what I went through and, now you look at the new guys coming through, it's different. They are used to hopping in an airplane and going everywhere. When I started racing, we drove in Texas, we drove to Illinois, we drove everywhere and just how times change and you think about what they went through back then. What we do now to what it's going to be like in 20 years, going to be interesting.
    Sterling Marlin: My driver developed inaudible was cut towards a stick wheeler. You know, like I said, growing up like that, Joe was working with his own stuff, too. A lot of guys coming in now, just hop in and go and don't make nothing.
    Joe Nemechek: I'm trying to teach my son to do the same thing. He's learning how to work on his own race cars and motorcycles and just teaching them how to do it. And I think you've got to teach them young, you get starting and he's getting the five year head start or ten year head start over myself. So hopefully he'll be one of these guys in the future.

    Q: As veterans, have you been able to get comfortable with the fact that as drivers you're not able to do as much or not called on to do as much as you had in the past? Now with the engineers and shock specialists and everything; you're drivers now, are you more comfortable?
    Sterling Marlin: I mean, for me, I live in Tennessee and I don't get in the shop as much in Carolina as I want to, but I always enjoy working on race cars. I enjoy building them and just trying to make it go fast and doing whatever it takes to work. I never much get on the motor side of it, but as far as the chassis side and the fabrication, I love working on them. You really kind of miss it, you get around the racetrack you want to snatch a pair of inaudible. Obviously do enjoy it.
    Joe Nemechek: As far as myself, I only live about two miles, two or three miles from our new MB2 shop in Mooresville. I get by the shop quite often. They don't let me work on anything. If I want to work on something, I've got to go to my own Busch shop.

    Q: Have you gone around and told all the other drivers that you're driving with the 4 team and not the 40 and, can you comment with so many driver changes, being able to remember who is in what car and who you're drafting with?
    Sterling Marlin: It's wind of weird walking in and seeing just different drivers, Dave in the 42 car and never darned on me he was driving 42 sitting on pit road one time. Who is driving 18? The guy who was driving his. So it takes two or three races to figure out.

    Q: Do you have another sponsor lined up or along with race management?
    Sterling Marlin: They are really focusing on we're going to race all year regardless. I don't think if one pops up inaudible all year I guess. But they are a great bunch, group of guys. I've been around then all at Homestead and had a ball with them. I think there are close to two or three deals to closing out.

    Tagged: Bill Elliott

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