Qualifying really didn't register to me because the second I signed with Penske Racing, I knew I'd be locked into the race. It's an awesome feeling to be in the Daytona 500, but it's a better feeling to know that I have great cars -- and I can't state how strongly I feel that our cars are fairly competitive for Sunday. So, that's pretty exciting.
Well, Daytona's the Great American Race, and there's a reason why. It's the biggest race in America, in my eyes. I have a lot of respect for the Indy 500 and that race is huge. But for me, Daytona's where you go for stock cars to see the best racing in the world. Daytona is also the first race of the season, which adds a lot of luster to the race. Everybody's got brand new uniforms and brand new race cars. It's almost like the first day of school combined with the biggest exam.
I would say the '92 Daytona 500 was pretty cool. (
We're trying to still figure that out. I just talked to Jay and I said, "Hey man, I think we're a top 10 car." And he said, "Yeah, well there's a bunch of changes I want to make -- to see if we can't go up a level." And I said, "Nah, man, don't touch it. I want to make the next progression on my end, and afterwards, you can worry about yours. But right now, let me get the job done on my end."
So, it's stuff like that we try to explain to each other. That's where I'm at -- you try and work together on it. There are obviously other things that make a difference: spending time together and staying objective. Keeping an open mind is very important to the relationship.
No, I think you've got to be friends with your crew chief. Your crew chief is almost like your wife, in a way -- so I'm on the friendly side of that.
We've torn up a lot of cars, that's for sure. Fortunately, it hasn't been any of our cars for the Duels, although Kurt lost one in the Shootout. But the 500 car, that's your gem car, your best car. You certainly don't want to tear it up. I can understand the disappointment a lot of people have when they do.
But I think the only other difference -- this is my early impression -- is that the drivers that have always been aggressive just aren't going to be penalized for it now. There's no way for you to come back and say at the end of the day, "I could have been more aggressive and won this race. NASCAR wouldn't let me." No, that excuse is gone.
I haven't seen a difference in the drivers. I have seen a difference in the way the cars drive around each other. So, from a driver's standpoint, my early impression on that whole deal is that you're not going to see a lot of change out of the drivers.
I think you can get away with a lot of stuff when you're running good and winning races -- sponsors will look the other way because that goes hand-in-hand. But when you're running 25th, you're not going to get away with that. So I don't think it's the sponsors that care so much. I think you have to be running well for them to not get upset. So, guys like me and
Heck, yeah. If I wasn't running well, certainly.
We were nearly wrecking, I will say that. On my end, we made contact because I felt that he slid up in front of me. I don't know his side of it. It seemed like he ran over everybody, not just me. NASCAR is saying drivers are going to police themselves -- we'll see how the other drivers police each other.
You know, he had a chance to make a move on me, and the closer you get to somebody, the worse you make your car handle on both ends. I think I was on pretty old tires at the time. My car got looser and looser. I had a car underneath me -- and rather than force the issue in practice with somebody underneath me, I ran up the track (to let him in) and cracked the throttle a little bit (to back off). He got underneath me after that, but he wasn't going to clear me -- and he decided he was going to clear me anyway. When he did, I was still there. I had to lift -- so when I got back to his bumper, I let him know that I was still there.
I don't think numbers are realistic. I have a goal for a feeling of growth, from Day One to Day 250 or however long the season is. That goal of growth is to see progress from where I ended last year -- and that could mean a lot of things. That could mean finishing in the top-10 over and over again. That could mean winning a race. That could mean making the Chase -- but not necessarily all those things together. So I hate to put an actual number on a goal as much as a feeling of progress.
I wouldn't define it as an either/or. I don't feel like we're the only Dodge team. I feel like we
I don't think it's overrated. I think it's cool. Relationships are cool, and if there's some way of celebrating it and making everybody happy, that's fine with me.
Want advice from your favorite driver? E-mail us at
I'm going to say Kyle Busch. The Gibbs cars are really good this week.