The third day of the NASCAR Sprint Media Tour hosted by Lowe's Motor Speedway started at the Embassy Suites Hotel and Concord Convention Center with a breakfast hosted by NASCAR.com.
During the meal, officials from Turner Sports announced they have redesigned the site in preparation for the 2009 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season with a number of new features including an enhanced video channel. The new homepage design on the site will debut on Thursday, Jan. 29.
Media members then headed to another portion of the Concord Convention Center for an announcement regarding the newly-formed Trail Motorsport team. Owned by Arthur Shelton and led by team President Armando Fitz, the organization plans to field entries in the NASCAR Nationwide Series, NASCAR Camping World Truck Series and NASCAR Camping World East Series in 2009.
Fitz and Shelton also announced that Jarit Johnson, brother of defending NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Champion Jimmie Johnson, will drive the No. 58 Chevrolet in the Camping World East Series, and Chase Austin will pilot the No. 32 Chevrolet in the Camping World Truck Series.
Arthur Shelton, team owner (WHAT ARE YOU LOOKING TO ACCOMPLISH?): "I'm hopeful to compete at a high level. I think we will. With Armando, Jarit and Chase, they're competitors. I want to win every race, but I know we won't. That's the competiveness in me. When we unload we're going to be prepared to compete with the idea that we have a good chance of winning. That's my desire. I'm not a racing expert."
Jarit Johnson, No. 58 Chevrolet (ON WHY HE ENJOYS RACING): "Either way I'm going to be racing something. It comes down to my late model. I always made the time for it. My wife and kids enjoy it too. I'll be driving something."
(WHAT DO YOU WANT TO FOCUS ON IN THIS SERIES?): "The main thing is to go out there and produce solid finishes, stay in the top five in points. If you can stay inside the top five you have a better chance toward the championship. I just want to go out there and have success right off the bat."
Chase Austin, No. 32 Chevrolet (ARE YOU READY FOR DAYTONA?): "I'm approved to practice. That's what is going to prove us. We're really edgy about that. We've got a lot of work to do in a short amount of time just to get to Daytona. After this, I think we're going to keep working on stuff and try to get ready."
For Wednesday's third function, the NASCAR Sprint Media Tour headed to Stewart-Haas Racing in Kannapolis, N.C. There team owner and NASCAR Sprint Cup driver Tony Stewart was joined on stage by teammate Ryan Newman, Director of Competition Bobby Hutchens, and crew chiefs Darian Grubb and Tony Gibson. In addition to talking about the team's goals for 2009, team officials announced that Burger King has signed on to sponsor Stewart in the No. 14 Chevrolet in two races for 2009.
Tony Stewart, owner and driver No. 14 Office Depot/Old Spice Chevrolet (ON THE COSTS OF FIELDING THE TEAM): "I'll be honest, I haven't even looked at what it's going to cost yet. And the reason for that is because it's Bobby's [Hutchens] area. I trust him with the budget. It's stuff I will learn because I'm obviously curious about it. My focus has been more on the people and making sure that everybody is happy and everybody is working well together - that Ryan is comfortable that the crew chiefs are comfortable, just making sure that our personnel is happy right now."
(WILL THERE COME A POINT WHERE YOU, AS A DRIVER, WILL HAVE TO BE SELFISH AND SAY I WANT MY CAR BETTER AND NOT WORRY ABOUT THE TEAM?): "I think the great thing that I'm comfortable with already is the fact that when I get in the airplane on Thursday or when I drive to the track on Thursday, I'm able to switch gears and take that hat off and put the driver's hat on and not think about the owner's stuff for Friday, Saturday and Sunday. That's why we've got Bobby there and that's the good combination of the two of us is allowing him to do what he needs to do. I told both him and Darian [Grubb], 'when Friday comes I work for you guys. You guys don't work for me, I work for you.' I'm really comfortable knowing that when I get in the car I'm strictly in driver mode again."
(SHOULD PEOPLE EXPECT YOU TO BE A CHAMPIONSHIP CONTENDER THIS YEAR?): "I think it's realistic. We wouldn't have taken this opportunity if we didn't think it was realistic to be in the Chase and have a shot at winning races and winning the championship. Now whether that happens or not obviously will wait to be seen. We feel like we have the tools in place to do that. Having Ryan's confidence in that and Bobby's and Tony and Darian - I don't think that all these guys would have come together if we didn't feel like we have the opportunity and the resources to go out and do that."
(HAVE YOU HAD ANY OF THOSE MIDDLE-OF-THE-NIGHT 'OH MY GOD, WHAT DID I GET MYSELF INTO MOMENTS?'): "Absolutely. About every other night there's a moment where I wake up, but I say that with Eldora Speedway still. I say that with my World of Outlaw teams, my USAC teams. But as scary as it probably should be, it hasn't been. I've been really comfortable with everything that we've done so far and I think a lot of that is the fact that I feel like I have good people around me. I have people that I can trust, I have people that everything that they do, they do in our best interest as an organization and they know how I feel about how important family is and how much emphasis I've put on that with this race team. When you have guys around you that understand your philosophy and understand your mindset going into it and adopt that and go out and make it happen, that takes a lot of that fear away I guess. So when you do go to bed at night, you can relax a little bit. Those guys are all comfortable with where we're at getting ready for Daytona. I look out there and go 'there's not enough cars ready yet.' That's what having those guys there saying 'we're alright. Everything's fine. It's coming along. Don't worry; we're going to be fine. That's the stuff that makes it easier each day."
Ryan Newman, No. 39 U.S. Army Chevrolet (ON PLANS IN OTHER FORMS OF RACING): "I had planned to run some modifieds. We'll run a couple dirt late model races, the Prelude and a couple other races outside of that on dirt. Hopefully do some truck racing. We're going to do some Nationwide races for DeLana Harvick and KHI. I'm running a Silver Crown car four or five times next year as well in the USAC Series. I definitely enjoy those types of cars [and] that type of racing. Loudon was a lot of fun last year. That was a lot of fun racing a modified up there! So I look forward to doing that some more."
(HOW MANY OTHER OPPORTUNTITIES DID YOU HAVE TO GO TO ANOTHER TEAM?): "I'd say easily three to four other offers to go to teams. Not all of them made it to paper, but I had more than one of them on paper. I felt very blessed to be in that position. Tony and I grew up very similar, in essence of the USAC racing days and the open wheel racing. I think secondly, we enjoy the outdoors. We enjoy fishing and hunting, and we can both be totally satisfied on our tractors moving dirt from nine in the morning until five at night. We both do it at different times in different states. Those are things we enjoy.
"Going back to our past, we've had our moments on the race track. I feel we've only had those moments because we're hard nosed racers both going for the same piece of real estate. We've resurrected all of that, but in the end we're both hard racers. From now on we may beat up each others door, but we're doing it because we're trying to represent our team and our sponsors."
Members of the media then headed to Hendrick Motorsports in Concord, N.C. At the start of the event's program, racing legend Mario Andretti presented Jimmie Johnson with the SPEED Driver of the Year Award. Johnson has won the award each of the three years it has been presented. Johnson, who was fighting off a cold, was then joined on stage by teammates Dale Earnhardt Jr., Mark Martin and Jeff Gordon for a question-and-answer session with the media.
Rick Hendrick, team owner (HOW DO YOU BALANCE THESE FOUR GUYS?): "Absolutely, these guys really enjoy each other, and we try to do things to try and promote that. Anybody can get along with Mark Martin. If you can't get along with Mark Martin, you can't get along with anybody. He is such a neat person, and gracious and respectful of all these other guys. He fits like a glove. He came into our trailer in Phoenix and has been sharing stuff with our guys. He is going to make us all better. I'm really excited about that. I don't think we have any problem. There is a tremendous amount of respect among these guys. You're going to have problems and you're going to have run-ins at the track. I'm going to do my best to settle them down and talk about the big picture when we have those sorts of problems. It's all about respect and I see us having a great year. From that standpoint, I have no worries at all."
(WHAT SHOULD NASCAR DO TO HELP THE SPORT FROM DECREASING DURING THIS ECONOMY?) "I think they've done everything they can do to manage costs. They built the box pretty tight. You can't do too much with the cars. They eliminated testing and people are going to go to the other end of the world to test. We've had more time off in January. I think they're very conscious of what is going on in the economy and they're doing everything they can. "I've been real impressed with our sponsors. We had a sponsor summit here last night. I expected it to be a small turn out, but it was about the same as last year. We're dedicated to try and make it work for them. I've bumped into a lot of fans at Barrett Jackson in Las Vegas and they were all talking about going to Daytona. The tracks are trying to make packages attractive for the fans. Hotels are going to have to have attractive rates. Everything in this economy has been affected. I think NASCAR has done a pretty good job trying to manage costs. There's no piece of the economy that hasn't felt it. We're just going to have to see how it unfolds going through the year."
(IS THERE ANY SILVER LINING IN THE ECONOMIC DOWNTURN?) "I think it brings us all back to earth. People don't take the vacations they used to take. You're more conscious of things. When the economy is real good, you spend money, you feel good and you think it's always going to be that way. When you go through one of these recessions you tighten up. There are so many people that haven't been through anything like this, so I think it's going to teach us all a lesson."
(HAS LABOR BEEN THE HARDEST HIT IN THE NASCAR INDUSTRY?) "Nobody wants to work for less, so we're not going through an adjustment of people's salaries. You don't have people that are out there baiting the best people with more money. I think that's what it eliminated. All of a sudden at the end of the year you were worried about keeping your good people. Now they're thankful they have a job. That's the difference you see. You're not seeing all the exorbitant prices."
Jimmie Johnson, No. 48 Lowe's Chevrolet (THOUGHTS ON THE POSSIBILITY OF WINNING FOUR CHAMPIONSHIPS IN A ROW): "I know it's crazy and in theory I thought about it. It would be great to win four in row, but there's so much racing between now and then. When we started the season last year we struggled. [We] really had to fight through some things to get our car sorted out. Today I'm sitting here, I have great feelings. I know this team is capable of winning races and a fourth championship. We have to get to the track and get to work and see where we fit. I'm extremely optimistic, but the Chase is so far away."
(ON THE ROLEX 24): "The Rolex 24 is coming up. Hopefully I can get all my energy back for that. It's going to be an awesome event. Last year we finished second down there. I'm hopeful we can be on pace and keep that car on the road all night long and have a shot at it at sunrise."
Dale Earnhardt Jr., No. 88 AMP Energy/National Guard Chevrolet (ON HAVING MARK MARTIN AS A TEAMMATE): "The amount of respect that everybody in the series has for him is really the one thing that sticks out about Mark. Everybody likes Mark and everybody thinks a lot of him. To me he is a role model in that aspect. In that respect he is a role model in that guys should try to achieve and gain that kind of respect from their peers like he has. I am glad he is here. He is an awesome race car driver. He's going to be fast and he's going to be hard to beat, but he's going to bring a lot to the table too. Just like being able to work closely with Jeff [Gordon] and Jimmie [Johnson] last year was exciting, it's going to be exciting to work with Mark on a teammate basis. I am looking forward to that."
(WERE YOU READY FOR LAST YEAR TO END?): "Not really. I don't ever like it to end. When the season is coming to an end it's like a double-edged sword. It's just like it is when the season is getting ready to start: part of you wants to keep going and part of you is ready for some time off. At the end of last year you don't want to end the season on a bad note like we did with a part failure. We certainly would have liked to have gotten a top 10. I would have been able to settle with that a lot more easier than I did with how we finished. It's very bittersweet to make the Chase and to have run well the first half of the season and to have such a struggle especially with the Chase there at the end."
(ON WHAT HE'S LEARNED FROM JIMMIE JOHNSON): "Being around Jimmie and watching him do his job and watching the team work, certainly you can learn a lot from them and they are winning championships. They have a great equation going right now. They are good guys to study and try to improve on what you are doing with some of their techniques. I have always tried to minimize mistakes, but that's really hard to remember when you are in the heat of the battle or the heat of the moment going for position."
(ON THE BUDWEISER SHOOTOUT): "Being in the Shootout is important because we get to work on our cars a little bit. That was always the case whether we had testing or not. Even in the test you weren't able to get a good gauge of what your car's doing in race trim with a lot of rubber on the track and a lot of cars out there. You weren't able to find that out in a test. Being in the Shootout is always a big bonus for those guys. They are going to be able to learn something for the [Daytona] 500. I miss the old format: guys winning poles to get into the race seems to be the reason they started the whole deal in the first place, it's just unrecognizable right now."
(ABOUT SNOWMOBILING IN ASPEN DURING THE OFF SEASON): "It was pretty fun going up the mountain. I had never really gone snowmobiling before, so that was pretty fun. It was a good experience. We got to see some pretty interesting things, some great views and stuff that you really don't appreciate until you get up there and see them. There was just one trail and we were lucky to get down that trail in one piece, it was pretty crazy, it was fun."
Mark Martin, No. 5 Kellogg's/CARQUEST Chevrolet (WHEN DID RACING STOP BECOMING FUN FOR YOU?): "Around 2001, it started to gradually taper off. You have to be happy. I wasn't that. I wasn't as happy as I should have been given all the circumstances. I had a great job, a great career. I loved Jack Roush like a brother. I just needed a break to catch my breath, and figure out what was important to me. I got that for two years and I had the time of my life. It was the best year of my life."
(WHAT MADE YOU WANT TO COME BACK TO CUP FULL TIME?): "I could sit on the couch or I could drive this No. 5 car. There's nothing else in the world I'd rather do than to be behind the wheel of this No. 5 car and doing this. I know that there is nothing else out there that will take the place of racing a great race car and working with a great race team. That time for me is limited and I'm so grateful to have the opportunity to do this at this stage. It's just unbelievable for me to get this chance. I know what I want to do. I was a little apprehensive about driving the full schedule, but I darn sure knew I wanted to drive that No. 5 car. This was what it took to make it work and I'm thrilled. This is what I want to be doing."
(DID MATT MARTIN HAVE ANYTHING TO DO WITH THE DECISION TO COME BACK?) "If Matt would have continued what he was doing and wanted to make a career out of being a NASCAR driver, I don't think I'd be doing this right now. I think I would be consumed with trying to help him do that. There have been twists and turns in my life. Everybody looked at me as a straight and narrow guy -19 years with Jack Roush. Since then there's been a lot of twists and turns. A lot of it I didn't know. It's been a journey that I had to discover about myself and all. Some of it, I couldn't predict. I didn't know that Bobby Ginn was going to step out of it. Then it was great to be involved in DEI. I had a blast there, but after a while opportunity really got to me. The experience that Rick [Hendrick] and I had working together on the Nationwide car really helped that. I can't tell you how extraordinary a person Rick Hendrick is, and how much I want to be near him. He is so much fun. I didn't put any emphasis on having fun back in the day, but it's very important to me now."
Jeff Gordon, No. 24 DuPont Chevrolet (ON COMPETITION AND THE NO. 24 TEAM): "One thing I learned a long time ago, it doesn't matter if you have the best people, the best equipment, everything on paper or from a distance looks like it's just perfect. That doesn't make it automatically happen. Competition is going to be extremely tough. Like you mentioned, we're the bull's eye, the target that they're shooting for and that puts added pressure on us. I think we're capable of living up to that but it's not going to happen without a lot of hard work. Obviously the No. 24 team had a little bit of work to do last year, but I feel really, really good about what we've done over the off season and the things that Steve Letarte and our engineers and the whole team have been working on. It's been nice to have time over the off season to really think and focus about the future for this season, instead of just having to think about rebuilding cars right away to get ready for Daytona test, to get ready for Vegas test and then kind of see what we have with that. They've really been able to pay attention to the details and that's what really matters with the Car of Tomorrow is finding all those little details, that's what separates you from the competition.
"It wasn't that we weren't doing that last year. It's that those things weren't working last year. And you've got to grow with the times, with the competition, and everybody gets smarter and better and makes the cars go faster all the time. Plus, tires change. Even though the cars didn't change that much we were still going to new tracks with it. So it was a huge learning process for us last year and I feel like while we can always learn on what we've accomplished in the past that doesn't mean we can ever go back to that. You've just got to take the philosophy of it and the basics of it, but then use what you know now, today, the technology, the experience and benefit from those things as you go forward.
"I'm more confident in what I'm capable of doing and what our team is capable of doing than I've ever been. Those first couple of years, especially 1995, I didn't go into that season thinking we were going to win a championship. I had no idea we were going to be that strong and have that kind of a year. The performances pretty much set the tone of what we were capable of that year. And I've always kind of done it that way. I know what we have here at Hendrick. I know how special of a place this is. I know how hard our people work and how good everything is. I have confidence in what I can do, but until you go out there and start going through the motions and getting into the races and see what you really have and what you come out of the races with. Until those are positives, I'm always pretty much neutral with what to expect going into the season."
(ON MARK MARTIN): "Mark is one hot commodity, even at 50 years old. He's extremely talented, very committed, and very capable of winning races and a championship. When you look at a guy like that as somebody who is available and that is interested, you are going to go after them very hard. It's going to take a good negotiator and there's nobody better at that than Rick [Hendrick]."
(ON THE ECONOMY): "I think we all have to be very conscious of the economy. It's affected all of us. We've had the new additions of some sponsors, which we're very excited about, but we've also had some that have gone away. For me personally, some endorsements have changed. We're very aware of what's happening in the economy with marketing and with big corporations and I would say that I'm just thinking a lot more about my spending and cutting costs. There's some extravagance of some things that all of us have become accustomed to."
The Red Bull Racing Team hosted a dinner for the media at the Embassy Suites and Concord Convention Center on day three of the NASCAR Sprint Media Tour hosted by Lowe's Motor Speedway. Led by team General Manager Jay Frye, NASCAR Sprint Cup drivers Brian Vickers and Scott Speed discussed the team's 2008 season and their goals for 2009.
Jay Frye, general manager (WHAT'S KEVIN [HAMLIN] DOING FOR YOU NOW?): "As you grow and the team becomes bigger you need depth. Obviously we needed depth last year when something happened to Kevin. He's working on different projects for us and it will be good to have someone with his skill set and ability at the shop that doesn't travel every week, just to keep an eye on what's going on at the shop."
(IS IT STILL SMART FINANCIALLY TO HAVE A SEPARATE PIT CREW IN THE SENSE OF YOU DON'T HAVE THOSE GUYS WORKING AT THE SHOP? OR ARE YOU PUTTING THOSE GUYS TO WORK AT THE SHOP NOW?): "Yes. It's kind of a hybrid of what we originally did and basically what we were doing, which I didn't agree with at the time. There are great tire changers who want to work on cars and we were saying 'no, you can't work on cars. You've got to be a full time pit crew member.' Well, your career span length is a lot longer being somebody who works on a car versus somebody who works on a pit crew. So, in my opinion, we are shooting ourselves in the foot by not hiring people who wanted to work on the cars and pit the car. So, we've redone that whole thing and we have pit crew members now who work in the shop and work on the cars."
(IF YOU HAD TO DO IT ALL OVER AGAIN, WOULD YOU BRING A.J. ALLMENDINGER UP DIFFERENTLY, LIKE THE WAY YOU BROUGHT SCOTT SPEED UP IN ARCA?): "I started in January of 2008, so I wasn't there the first year with A.J. Again, I think the way we did Scott's program was correct. I think the situation with A.J. in 2007 was a different situation. I don't know how it really started. But I think what we did with Scott was we took our time. We graduated him as he succeeded, and he's certainly ready to take this next step. So if we did it again we would do it the way we did with Scott."
(DO YOU THINK IF A.J. HAD BEEN BROUGHT UP THE WAY SCOTT WAS HE WOULD STILL BE WITH THE TEAM?): "I don't know. It's hard to say. A.J. is a great kid. He's got a lot of ability. He did a really good job for the team. Obviously when it all shook out in the summer, he, at that point, had an opportunity to do something that we didn't have for him. Ultimately that doesn't appear like that worked out."
(WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT THE WAY THE ARCA SEASON ENDED WITH SCOTT?): "I think he gained a lot of respect by what he did, with some people. I wasn't there by I was given reports and I talked to them after the race about what happened. He tried for a lot of laps to have the No. 99 car pass him and was pointing different directions for him to pass. The No. 99 car wouldn't pass him so it would appear that the No. 99 had one thing in mind. I don't know. I wasn't there. I haven't talked to the driver. It is what it is and Justin Allgaier won the championship."
(WITHOUT TESTING, HOW DO YOU THINK THE TEAMS NOT IN THE UPPER ECHELON WILL CATCH UP?): "I certainly applaud NASCAR for what they've done with the testing. I think it's going to surprise people that the product might be better. I think it might be more competitive if there isn't testing. Obviously, if you have a machine like Hendrick Motorsports that has four cars and a test team, that now they've been slowed down in that program. It should help teams like ourselves that have two cars, but have a lot of the same resources, technology-wise and engineering-wise, to catch up."
Ryan Pemberton, crew chief of the No. 83 Red Bull Toyota (ON THE IMPORTANCE OF WIND TUNNEL TESTS): "It lessens in some respect because NASCAR has put us in such a box. It's not a bad box, they just limit a lot of the things we can do. Our values get smaller and smaller and the things we can change gets a diminishing return. The more you go [to the wind tunnel] you learn more, but the value and the things you pick up are smaller and smaller increments. Right now it's about verifying and knowing where we're at. It's more important now than it ever was. Before we picked up hundreds of pounds of down force between going to Charlotte one race and you go back the fall race and you picked up hundreds of pounds of down force. Well now it's not like that, you're only changing slightly, but what you'll know, we'll know more about our ride height, we'll know more about what the car is generating at certain attitudes and we'll apply that much better than we used to. That's the difference between two years ago and now."
(WHAT MOST CONCERNS YOU THIS YEAR AND WHAT GIVES YOU THE MOST CONFIDENCE THIS YEAR?): "I don't have really many concerns right now. What excites me is that the team is growing and there's much more to be done. Over the last two years, where we're at now there's another big step to be made. The culture of this team and the foundation of the team is still being built. It's not stagnant at all. When you get to the top it's a little bit flatter curve and now that curve is really steep and that's exciting. I suspect that we'll come out strong and we should be even stronger the second half of the year than we were the first half of the year. I don't expect that to be any different. The teams that have been around a long time, it would be harder for them to be a lot better the second half of the year than they were the first half of the year."
(HOW GLAD ARE YOU TO BE HERE?): "It's really great in a lot of ways. There's a lot of great people here and I've worked with Jay Frye for many years and he's a big part of why I'm here and the reasons he wanted me here. To be with Brian [Vickers], I believe in what he feels and what he sees, he thinks we'd be a good match for each other and that makes me feel good about going into this year. You have to believe in your leaders and that makes it easier to lead others to good things - I think we're right there."
(DO YOU HAVE TOOLS AT YOUR DISPOSAL THAT YOU DIDN'T HAVE BEFORE?): "I've definitely been associated with a team that has the possibility of resources. We always talk about unlimited resources, when you talk about people that have assets and resources that are above average if not right there with the best of them. I've never really been associated with any of that. It feels great when you have a guy like Brian who is fully capable of doing what we all want him to do, the resources to do it and leadership and a great sponsor. Red Bull Racing is a lot of fun to be around. I think with all those things mixed together we can have a really good year."
(DO YOU AND BRIAN VICKERS HAVE A GOOD WORKING RELATIONSHIP?): "I've had the privilege to work with a lot of race car drivers, especially in the last few years, like over a dozen of them in a short amount of time. From Ernie Irvan, to [Jerry] Nadeau, [Dave] Blaney, Mark [Martin], Joe Nemechek - I've worked with a lot of them and you can tell the ones you're going to click with, you can tell kind of quick. It might be as easy as sitting on this couch talking to you guys - you can tell the ones you're in the same game. That part here is all new and I need to learn him like he's my brother or sister, wife - whatever - I need to know him inside and out, but I don't see that being a problem. He's been great to work with so far. We went out to Vegas and I thought we had a pretty productive test right away. I definitely like what I see in him. He's got unbelievable skills and I think that part should make my job a lot easier."
Brian Vickers, No. 83 Red Bull Toyota (HOW DIFFERENT IS THE CULTURE OF THIS TEAM NOW THAN WHEN THE TEAM STARTED?): "It's a lot different. For the most part -- if not all of it - it's in the right direction. A lot of people have changed. I think the culture is still the same. It's still Red Bull Racing. It's still the Red Bull culture - full of energy, excitement and be yourself. Competition is everything. We don't worry about anything else. It's really only about winning. That culture still remains. When it comes to some of the people - a lot of the people have changed. The management has changed. Obviously, Jay Frye coming on board, new crew chiefs this year and a new engineer on the 83. A lot of the same people are still there - a lot of brilliant guys that have been on the team since day one. There are almost 200 employees. But, we've also brought some better talent in as well to help raise the bar."
(DO YOU THINK THERE WERE ISSUES WHEN THE TEAM FIRST STARTED?): "I think when Red Bull originally was founded, we were way too far towards Formula One - where when we were working on something, it wasn't going to be implemented until 2010 and this was in 2007. I don't think that's the right approach, although the things we were working on were brilliant. It was some ingenious stuff. At some point, you have to stop what you're doing and go to the race track. It's about finding that balance. Sometimes it's going to take time. Sometimes it's going to take a little bit of research and some time and some hard work on a lot of people's part. That's okay. It's not a bad thing to verify good ideas. That's not a bad thing. But, in the same token, we have to get in the habit of getting it done quickly, getting it on the race car, and going to win races."
(HAS YOUR TEAM TESTED MUCH THIS OFF SEASON?): "We actually haven't tested a lot. I know a lot of teams are testing a lot, and they're going to different places and traveling a lot. We did a tire test and that went really well. It was good for us, but it was also good for Goodyear. I think they did a really good job with the tire at Las Vegas. As far as we're concerned, we haven't been to a lot of tests."
(HOW IMPORTANT IS HAVING A GOOD TEAMMATE IN THIS SPORT?) "I think your teammate always affects you to a certain degree. In our sport, they can hurt you more than help you, but I think we have a great team over there. Jimmy [Elledge] has been at Red Bull for a while. Scott [Speed] has been in the Red Bull culture for a long time, so he gets it. He knows how the team is going to work and how it functions. He's obviously a talented driver. He's new to NASCAR. The communication between Scott and I is really good and I think the crew chiefs have known each other for a long time. They seem to communicate really well, which I'm excited about. I think that's really important - that the crew chiefs are communicating, sharing ideas and thoughts, and helping the entire team grow and build together. Obviously, Scott is going to have to go through a learning curve, but that's okay. I was there once, too."
(HOW IS YOUR RELATIONSHIP WITH SCOTT SPEED?): "So far it's been good. We haven't spent a tremendous amount of time together, but the time we have spent together has been really positive. He communicates really well with the team and myself. He has really treated me like a teammate on the race track - and I think we've done the same for him. That goes a long way in our sport. I know in open-wheel, the mentality is that you race your teammate harder than anyone else. It's very different in our sport. You try to help each other, because of the structure of our sport and the races, and how they're won and how they're lost, is very different. He has adapted well to that, I think. He's different, to say the least, but that's fine. I don't have a problem with that as long as he is genuine. He's very genuine in the fact that he's very different, and I'm good with it. On a deeper level, I think he's a good guy, and he communicates well, and I think he's a good teammate."
(DO YOU THINK YOUR TEAM HAS A SHOT AT THE CHAMPIONSHIP?): "I feel like we have a shot at it. Obviously, we have to prove ourselves to boldly say that. Based on the past three years I would have a hard time betting against the 48 (Jimmie Johnson) team. If they keep doing what they've been doing, and they keep that team together, they're the best team in the garage right now. That's our goal - to beat them. We want to be a better team than them, but we've got to prove that first."
(WHAT HAS GENERAL MANAGER JAY FRYE BROUGHT TO THIS ORGANIZATION?): "Jay [Frye] obviously brought a lot of experience to the table. There is always going to be an underlying Red Bull culture here, but he brought the team more towards NASCAR. I think that's a positive. We were trying to run plays that we could hardly comprehend, but we couldn't block and tackle. Jay is a football player, and that's what he always says. We need to learn how to block and tackle first, then we can worry about running all of these crazy plays. We kind of had the cart before the horse. So, once we get the basics down, which is the culture that he brought to the table, then we can start doing some other stuff, and I think that's a good thing."
Scott Speed, No. 82 Red Bull Toyota Camry (WHAT ARE YOUR EXPECTATIONS FOR 2009?): "We definitely learned some stuff toward the end of the year. Miami was a big success for us. I think that we improved on that. We've shown to ourselves how far we've come with this test in Atlanta. Atlanta is one of the tracks we struggled the most on. Jimmy [Elledge] and I, we're communicating. He definitely has a better feel for what I want and what I need. We're able to get it. That's definitely encouraging going into the year."
(AFTER SPENDING SO MUCH TIME IN EUROPE HOW DOES IT FEEL TO BE BACK IN THE UNITED STATES?): "Honestly, when I first came back I hated a lot of things about it. It's just nice to be back in America where people are speaking English. The more I'm over here and the more I'm spending time over here, I am certainly enjoying it a lot. I definitely like this part of the world as well. The Charlotte area is a lot different than California where I grew up. I wouldn't go back there to save my life. I hate that place.
"I'm very happy to be in this part of the world. It's definitely one of the nicer areas. People here are very friendly. It's well cultured. There are a lot of different races.
"Where I grew up isn't too bad. It's just very small. There is nothing to do there. You go bowling. And I'm really good at bowling and that's not a good thing. It's one of those things that you don't want to be good at because it means you have too much time on your hands. The whole Los Angeles area is not for me."
(DO YOU FEEL THAT WHAT HAPPENED IN THE ARCA CHAMPIONSHIP SAYS TO PEOPLE THAT YOU WON'T BE PUSHED AROUND?): "That's all relative. It's not that I'm not going to take any crap from anyone, that's ridiculous. I think I've been very respectful in taking a lot of crap from people in my first Cup races. It's my spot to. I'm a rookie by huge standards. I'm learning a lot. These guys all have a lot more experience. They're a lot better than me. It would be stupid to go in there and not take some stuff because some guy cut me off or put me up high. It is my time. I need to learn. When I get good and I'm fighting for championships it's going to be a different story.
"The whole ARCA thing was ridiculous what happened. I could not leave that race like that and have all my guys look at me like, 'are you kidding? That's what happened to us?' It just wasn't going to happen. No one would let that happen. [In] the ideal situation we would have been able to fix the car, kept running and somehow been able to win it. Unfortunately the car was so completely destroyed the only thing we had left to do was make sure he didn't win."
(WHY DID YOU GO BACK AND PUT STENHOUSE IN THE FENCE?): "We did that, like I said, because he wasn't going to win. It was for the team. [It was for] everyone. Myself, Red Bull [and] everyone that's put into this thing all year. You're not going to lose a championship like that. At that point our championship was done. We couldn't have won it anyway. So what do we have left to do? At least we made a cool story and we look [like] 'Days of Thunder' out of it."
(IN A WAY YOU'VE BECOME A CULT HERO BECAUSE OF THAT): "I've been on both sides of that fence. I've had plenty of people tell me the opposite. I mean, ask Tony Stewart. Some people say it's a good thing [and] some say it's bad. It's just how it was. It's just the right thing to do for the people who are around me and the people who supported me. "
(WHAT DID STEWART SAY?): "He sat at Ricky Stenhouse's table at the ARCA banquet so I'm assuming he thought it was crap. He hasn't said anything to me, but that was enough."
(YOU'RE A LITTLE FLASHIER THAN MOST STOCK CAR DRIVERS, DO YOU GET THE SENSE YOU'RE BECOMING A LITTLE MORE ACCEPTED?): "I don't know if I ever filled into that whole system as well as most. I think that out of everyone I've met and everyone I've been around, I've gained, for the most part, people's respect. And that is important to me. I really believe that there is a ton to learn. I'll probably never be as good as a guy like Jimmie Johnson, but just having the opportunity to try this whole new form of racing. It's one of those things where if I go in here and I'm not successful and I can't make it, I'm still okay. I've accomplished enough in racing, but this is a huge opportunity to be able to try this. It's really different and it's completely foreign to anything I've ever done. It's a really unique experience and so far everyone from the driver and guys from other teams have been really helpful and really supportive in trying to help me through that process. That has been very encouraging."
(DO YOU FEEL YOU'VE PICKED THIS TYPE OF DRIVING UP QUICKER THAN YOU WOULD HAVE THOUGHT?): "No. We won a race in a truck at Dover. Were we the best truck driver out there? By no means. I'm way better than I was when I won that. We were in good equipment the whole time. We had really good results. We had really good equipment in the ARCA championship [and] we won some races. Great. It doesn't really account for how much I've learned or how good I am. I'm certainly better now than I was at the end of last year. I'm improving every time by a fair step. Some things have come easier to learn and some things have been more difficult."
Jimmy Elledge, crew chief of the No. 82 Red Bull Toyota (WHAT'S IT LIKE WORKING WITH SCOTT SPEED?): "It's fun. The sport is so serious - and it is very serious. We take our jobs very serious, but you can actually get to a point to where you are so serious that you can make it miserable. It's nice to be around Scott because we kind of have the same view points as far as, I like to be able to have fun but I also like to be able to be very serious and he's able to do that on a very large scale to where more people thinks that he's not as serious and a lot more fun, but he's very disciplined in that area. So it actually helps a lot for the atmosphere. It makes things a lot more enjoyable to be around because he's very personable and very funny."
(DOES SCOTT SPEED HAVE THE ABILITY TO BE SUCCESSFUL IN THE SPRINT CUP SERIES?): "He's got it. He's probably one of the most talented drivers that I've ever worked with as far as he doesn't give himself a lot of credit. He picks up on things really fast and he's probably one of the most disciplined race car drivers I've ever seen in looking at data, looking how he drives cars and looking at his driver inputs. It's pretty impressive for someone who has very limited time in stock cars. Even the element of it being a COT car because the COT car is definitely a lot harder to drive. To see him be that disciplined in this car is really impressive so far. I really think he has what it takes to compete at a very high level in this sport and win at it. It's just going to be our job to get him comfortable in these cars and give him what he wants."
(DO YOU THINK SCOTT SPEED'S ENTHUSIASM WILL HELP HIM ON THE RACE TRACK?): "Yeah, it's definitely fun. Man, we have a grueling schedule and to have somebody who is not afraid to laugh and cut up and be crazy and do whatever and kind of breaks us down because I'm probably the world's worst to be too serious to the point where I make myself miserable and I just keep sitting there going: 'Man, we need to be better, we need to be better.' Then someone that is a driver that way would probably end up driving me crazy, but he can lighten things up. But he's very serious and he's very passionate about what he does. That kind of follows the same things I believe in but I'm probably a little more quiet about it and he's probably a little more vocal about it. It's good motivation because he's very smart and he's very much into data from the forms of racing he's been in. He understands a lot more stuff than a lot of drivers do so it's fun that he's interested in studying that stuff. He's a sponge to that and to hear his feedback from those things really gets me thinking about the cars and that's a good thing."
Following the evening's open interview session, the Red Bull Racing Team hosted a casino night for the members of the media. All proceeds from the event were donated to Speedway Children's Charities.