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They’re Talking Racin’ Today Down In Daytona

| Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Thursday, February 16 2012

Dale Earnhardt Jr. says he can't wait to get to Phoenix. (RacinToday/HHP photo by Harold Hinson)

By Jim Pedley | Managing Editor

Media Day for Speedweeks is off and running in Daytona Beach today. Most of the top drivers in the Sprint Cup, Nationwide and Camping World Trucks series are sitting down for, and putting up with, questions from media members.

Here are some questions and answers from the interview sessions:

Dale Earnhardt Jr., driver of the No. 88 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet, when asked for his outlet on the season: “I feel pretty good. I’m frustrated that we didn’t win last year, we came close. I’m ready to get back to that. I’m ready to get chances again. I want to win a race pretty bad but I can’t do that without racing and we haven’t been doing any so it’s been a little frustrating. Daytona, this is probably the worst odds for me all year because of the way the racing is here. This is going to be a fun experience but I’m looking forward to getting to Phoenix and the rest of the tracks to start really getting control of my destiny and trying to make some things happen for me and win some races.”

Earnhardt when asked if the 500 could feature single file racing:  “No. Because everybody is going to be on top of each other. It just won’t happen. The track, it just won’t happen no way. I will be so, so, so surprised if that is what ends up happening.”

Earnhardt when asked if the 500 would again feature two-car drafts: “No, I don’t know. I don’t know if tandem is going to work or not. I know we tested; tandem’s was hard to do. It was doable but it was hard to do and you run hot. Guys went home and studied. I’m sure people did their homework and some people figured some things out. So some people will probably get the tandem to work again and it will be lights out and they will be gone.”

Carl Edwards, driver of the No. 99 Roush Fenway Racing Ford, when asked if he thinks he is due for a win in the Daytona 500: “No, I never feel like I’m owed anything. I go out and do the best I can and if I

Carl Edwards ready for Daytona. (RacinToday/HHP photo by Alan Marler)

win I win, and if I don’t, then at least I know I did the very best I could, but I don’t ever feel like this sport owes me anything. I feel that I owe this sport a lot and I feel I have a huge opportunity everytime I get to put on this driver’s suit and go drive the race car. I’ve already surpassed my wildest dreams 100 times over. I never thought I’d be able to do this, so, for me, it’s a big adventure and I go out there and do the best I can and if we win the 500 and win the championship, then that would be unbelievable.”

Edwards, when asked if he has ever felt like he has not done his best in a race: “Yeah, of course I have. I’ve got done with races that I’ve won and I knew I did something wrong or made a mistake. Every race car driver that’s successful, they know that you have to minimize those things. You cannot make those mistakes. Those are things you have to work to minimize. You have to do your best. You have to get everything you can and that’s really, in the end, what makes you do well. If you do all the things right and you go do your best, it’s only a matter of time – you’ll get the reward. That’s the way I look at it.”

Edwards, when asked if he felt like he did not do his best at the season-ending, championship-deciding race at Homestead last year: “No, I felt like we went there, we sat on the pole, we led the most laps, we were leading when the rain came. If they would have had any trouble, if we would have had another yellow, our pit crew was the best on pit road that day. We were ready to pounce, it just didn’t work out.”

Mark Martin, driver of the No. 55 Michael Waltrip Racing Toyota, when asked if ever hurt him not to have won a Cup championship: “In ‘07 when we were leading the points after five races and everybody

Mark Martin will take another shot at winning the Daytona 500 this month. (RacinToday/HHP file photo by Christa L Thomas)

was thinking it would keep going. I wanted to win that championship when I wanted to win it – when I was young. At that point, I’d already made peace with that. It was not on my agenda. I went to Rick Hendrick and they wanted to win a championship. I gave everything I had, but I didn’t lose any sleep over it. Not like I did — it didn’t bother me like it did when I was young because when I was young in 1990, I came within a whisker of winning it and it didn’t bother me because I knew I would. I knew that I would and I didn’t. It looked like we did and we stumbled around and finished five or six times second. Look out Carl (Edwards). It looks like he’s going to win it a lot of times, but gosh – at least I didn’t tie in points. That’s awful.”

Martin on if he is bothered by not winning the 500: “I don’t know how to answer the question of how important it is — you either do or you don’t and you try as hard as you can.I would have to say unfortunately when I was a teenager, that’s what I thought I was going to do was win the Daytona 500.And now it ain’t happened. It hasn’t stopped me from trying. It doesn’t bother me at all — none. Why should it (bother me)? I didn’t win it did I? If I won it and for some reason didn’t get the trophy then that would bother me, but I didn’t win it yet so why should it bother me?”

Martin on Michael Waltrip Racing: “Really great people there. It’s a really exciting time at MWR (Michael Waltrip Racing). They are poised to make a move toward the dominators in the sport and they are poised to make a move toward that. They have great people and it’s an exciting time there. They have a lot of great sponsors and not everyone can say that. They’ve been winning on that front and they want to win on the race track as well. They’re working hard. It’s a tremendous challenge to do, but that’s what they’re hoping to do.”

Martin on opting to run the entire 2012 season: “No. I did it in ‘07. Don’t forget. If I won the first three races I’d be in the Chase probably so maybe I would run the last 10 races, but that is a maybe. That wouldn’t change a whole lot because I’m running a lot of the last 10 anyway. No, listen, you guys have trapped me in a bunch of stuff before and I’m not going to fall into that trap. I’m just going to say that I’m as confident now as I was in 2007 when we were leading the points and didn’t go to Bristol and didn’t think twice about it. It’s not on my radar screen. I love racing and I want to race and you know what, even though it’s been a long time since people have done it except for me in 2007 and 2008, what I’m doing is old school. It’s what David Pearson did, it’s what Cale Yarborough did. They raced the races that they wanted to race and they didn’t race the races that they didn’t want to. I like them all, but I’ve got to take a certain amount of breaks and the ones that I’m taking make the most sense to me. I really think it makes me a better racer at this point in time, after all of these years. It makes me a much better racer to skip some races and recharge. It makes me more hungry and more excited each time.”

Jimmie Johnson, driver of the No. 48 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet, when asked if he thought the

Jimmie Johnson and crew chief Chad Knaus. (RacinToday/HHP file photo by Erik J. Perel)

media paid too much time eavesdropping on him and his team’s radio conversations last year: “Yeah I do. We through the years have had plenty of colorful moments and yet it hasn’t been to the degree of some guys, but the problem is the decision making process gets hampered when emotions are high. It is a fine line because everyone needs to vent, so when you pop off and vent and you typically feel a lot better after you do that. Chad and I have always been able to do that, but last year and I think a lot of it was due to trying to keep the streak alive and other pressures we didn’t recognize until the championship was gone. Those pressures have conjured things up and they started to affect the decision making process. You need to be able to vent and blow some steam off and put someone in place if need be, yell at your crew chief is need be. They yell at drivers all the time, that kind of stuff needs to happen, but in the end, it wasn’t necessarily what was coming out of our mouths it was a lot of factors that affected the decision making process.”

Juan Pablo Montoya, driver of the No. 42 Earnhardt Ganassi Racing Chevrolet, when asked what he thought when his team owner, Chip Ganassi, called the 2011 season pathetic: “I would agree with him. I mean if any of you think that as a team we preformed last year, you should not be a reporter, or you should not be involved in this sport because it was bad. It was a really bad year for us, I mean on a good day we could finish eighth or something, I mean that is crazy. A team of the calber of Chip Ganassi Racing, you cannot run like that and Chip realized that and that is why so many changes were made over the off season. It took two months to get everyone in place and get the team and cars where they need to be. I am not 100% sure, but I think you put the right people in the right places, they will come up with good race cars and things will get a lot better. I think the initial performance is going to be better, but I think there is going to be a lot to come from the team so it should be exciting.”

Montoya on regretting moving from Formula 1 to NASCAR:

“Yea, I don’t regret it one second. I love being here, I really enjoy it, there are of course good memories in Formula One and everything, but I don’t miss it. I miss some of the guys but do I miss the racing? No, I don’t.”

Joey Logano, driver of the No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota, when asked if he thought he moved into Sprint Cup at too early of an age: “Looking at it now, probably yeah. There’s a lot more to it than I thought. I was 18 years old, I had the opportunity to jump in the Home Depot car and I probably would do it again. Who wouldn’t? It was definitely the right thing to do, but once you get in there and realize how much more stuff actually comes along with that. It’s the off the track stuff and dealing with people and how to deal with certain situations – how to keep a team motivated and be a leader. It was all stuff that when you’re 18 years old – you don’t really know how to do that. You just go out there and race all the time. Some of that came really easy to me – even Nationwide came really quick. It was a lot bigger jump than I thought just because of all the off track stuff.”

Logano when asked if his 2011 was frustrating: “It was very frustrating. Obviously, we came into last season with a ton of confidence and momentum. We thought we were going to go out there and make some big things happen and then we really fell on our faces. Our whole company wasn’t as strong as it needed to be. We had a lot of little problems – we lost that momentum and we got into a hole and never dug ourselves out, so at the end of the season you can’t expect to just keep on doing that. You have to do something different – you have to change something and bring some new life in. Personally, I feel more confidence coming into this year than I did last year even, which arguably, I probably shouldn’t, but I do. I feel like we can go out and do some good things this year.”

Ricky Stenhouse Jr., driver of the No. 6 Roush Fenway Racing Ford, when asked if he could win the Dayton 500 in his first attempt: “This will be our second start in the Sprint Cup Series and our first Daytona 500 start. I think watching last year, it just kind of gave everybody the sense that if you put yourself in the right position that you can win this thing. It wasn’t just luck. He positioned himself in the right spot throughout the race and for the end of the race. You’ve still got to do the right things, but it definitely can be done.”

Stenhouse when asked if he is aware of the history of the No. 6 car he will be driving for Roush Fenway: “I’m very aware of it and I think it’s awesome we were able to bring that number a championship in the Nationwide Series. Obviously, the Cup car has a lot of history with Jack. That’s his go-to car and to be able to be in it and for him to have confidence in me that we can do a good job for that number means a lot. Mark Martin has done a lot of great things in it and won a lot of races with it and, hopefully, we can do the same and keep that going for Jack.”

Casey Mears, driver of the No. 13 Ford of Germain Racing, when asked if the switch to Fords would mean more help from Roush Racing: “It’s a little bit hard for me to understand exactly where we’re gonna be. We’re definitely not at the level of like the 21 and the Petty team is with Roush. We’re strictly getting cars and parts and pieces from them and getting the Roush Yates motors, so we do have a sim program which is gonna be great, but it’s not to the extent that they’re all gonna be working with, so it’s definitely a different level. But the product – the parts and pieces and the stuff that we’re getting is the same on the track – it’s just that we’re gonna have to work a little bit harder on our own to sort through a lot of that stuff.”

In other news, members of NASCARMedia.com picked Jimmie Johnson to win the 2012 championship.

Johnson received 147 votes in the annual preseason poll, just two more than Carl Edwards, who finished second in last season’s championship points. Rounding out the top 12: defending champion Tony Stewart, Jeff Gordon, Kevin Harvick, Kyle Busch Brad Keselowski, Kasey Kahne, Denny Hamlin, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Matt Kenseth and Greg Biffle.

Voting among the top four was especially close, as Johnson and Hendrick Motorsports teammate Gordon were separated by only seven votes. Stewart trailed Johnson by three votes.

“To be honest I’m stoked they did,” Johnson said. “They know racing and know how much last year will motivate us. Now, we need to go out and do our best to make them all look good.”

Media members were also tasked with predicting the final top 10 for the NASCAR Nationwide Series and NASCAR Camping World Truck Series.

NASCAR reporters feel déjà vu in NASCAR’s No. 2 series, picking Ricky Stenhouse Jr. to become the first NASCAR Nationwide repeat champion since Martin Truex Jr. accomplished the rare feat in 2004-05.

Stenhouse, who tallied 74 votes, nabbed two more than Sunoco Rookie of the Year contender Austin Dillon and last season’s runner up Elliott Sadler. Filling out the top 10: Justin Allgaier, Sam Hornish Jr., Danica Patrick, Kenny Wallace, Cole Whitt, Trevor Bayne and Michael Annett.

Johnny Sauter came a scant six points short of winning last season’s NASCAR Camping World Truck Series championship. Instead, Austin Dillon wore the 2011 crown. Dillon’s gone now, moving to the NASCAR Nationwide Series, and NASCARMedia.com prognosticators believe Sauter will take advantage of his absence.

In the closest vote among the three series, Sauter’s 62 votes barely edged Sunoco Rookie of the Year candidate Ty Dillon (Austin’s little brother) for the top spot. The younger Dillon tallied 61 votes from the media.

Rounding out the top 10: Ron Hornaday Jr., Matt Crafton, James Buescheer, Timothy Peters, Parker Kligerman, Joey Coulter, Nelson Piquet Jr., Jason Leffler, Justin Lofton and David Starr.

| Managing Editor, RacinToday.com Thursday, February 16 2012
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