Because of the two-car draft and the rule changes this year, do you think maybe there is more value placed on tomorrow's races?
“Every year we come down here there is something different. Between not testing for several years, now we've come down here not tested, so that made the 150s real important. A few years ago we came down here with the Car of Tomorrow that made the 150s extremely important. I think the 150s are always exceptionally important.
“I will say that I think we are in a steep learning curve with the two-car draft, trying to make that thing work. We've seen certainly glimpses of it at Talladega, but never before has the entire garage put the effort into it that they've put into this. So we're trying to learn it at a really quick rate.”
Can you talk about the specific challenges of these two-car drafts, in terms of not being able to hook up with the person you might want to hook up with, the lack of visibility, not being able to run three cars in a row?
“When it's just two of you and you're leading the pack or you're not running a pack down at a great deal of speed, there's not a whole lot going into it. It requires a lot of trust by the guy who's doing the pushing, because the guy who's being pushed is leading you into whatever it's leading you into, and literally you cannot see at all. So that makes it very difficult.
“We have to communicate really well. Of course, that's hard to do. You can't see through the windshield; you can't see the hand signals, so there's a certain amount of trust involved. When it really gets busy is when you start to catch people, because again, as the guy being pushed you are making the determination of where you are going to go and the guy who's doing the pushing just has to go with you. If anything at all happens in front of you, it's a little easier to slow yourself down than it is another guy with 3,500lbs pushing you.
“When it comes time to put the checkered down, the pushing gets more intense, the blocking gets more intense, all those things intensify and the guy who's pushing you cannot see it. So there's pretty high pressure felt, to be quite honest. I know it may not look on television as much pressure as a 30-car pack, but when you're being pushed and the guy behind you can't see you and you're catching these people at an accelerated rate, things happen – and things happen quickly. Saturday night [Budweiser Shootout] was a lot of fun, but it was also real tense at times.”
I gather then, since you're talking about working the two-car draft, that the changes NASCAR made are not going to change the way you guys race?
“Well, I didn't say that. We don't know.”
Could you talk about how you think those changes to the car are going to effect how things are? Do you think NASCAR doesn't want you to race this way?
“I haven't had a discussion with NASCAR why they want to make the changes, what's the reason, so I don't want to speak for them. There's no question if you lower the number of square inches you can run in the radiator, the cars are going to run hotter. There's no question if they limit the amount of the pressure relief valve that we run in the radiators, the car is going to push water out quicker. So those two things you would think are going to make it to where you can't push as long.
“Kevin Harvick pushed me for 25 laps the other night and did not have a problem with heating. We knew he could do that but I don't think they knew he could do that. Now they know, so at the end of the day I believe what their intention is, number one – they want us to go fast but we don't need to go 206. There comes a point where enough is enough, so pulling the restrictor plate down, we're still going to go exceptionally fast but we don't need to go that fast. We know what happens when we go that fast and it's not good.
“The quality of races is not going to be impeded by the restrictor plate. And the other two things will obviously make it harder to push longer. That potentially will bunch the pack back up and make it a bigger pack for longer. There will still be an exceptional effort for the last two or three laps of the race for two cars to hook up and try to drive away. That effort is still going to be there – there is nothing NASCAR can do to make it so you can't push, unless they bring the no-pushing zones back – and we know what happened when they did that. They are kind of between a rock and a hard place but, at the end of the day, they are going to do everything they can to limit the number of laps we can push.”
In terms of the visibility, is it time to look at Michael Waltrip's idea of a clear spoiler and would that help?
“Well that idea has been floated around as long as I've been in the sport. It's not a new idea – 25 years ago I had a clear spoiler on my late model car. I don't know how much that would help. When you get behind a car and you try to look through the windshield with as big as the seats are today, the head surrounds, where the mirror location is, the diagonal bar, all those things, I just don't know how much that would help. It may help you see hand signals, but I think that would be it.
“This thing about not being able to see through cars precedes the Car of Tomorrow. I can remember being at Talladega many years ago saying I cannot see. The width with this car got worse. You can see less around the car, but as far as seeing through the car it's really no worse. So the spoiler wouldn't hurt; having a clear spoiler wouldn't be a negative, assuming it didn't break and those kinds of things. I don't think it would have as big of an impact; it's not like you put a clear spoiler on there and all of a sudden you can see completely through the car. There was a day when you could see through the car in front of you and through the car in front of him. I don't care what spoiler is on the car anymore, you won't be able to do that.”
There was some talk following the Shootout about the yellow line rule – what is your understanding specifically of the yellow line rule, and what about the suggestion they just do away with the yellow line rule on the last lap?
“The only people who want to do away with the yellow line rule at any point of the race are people who never race without the yellow line rule. The reason that we have the yellow line rule is because we need a yellow line rule.
“I must confess, when the yellow line rule was first floated, I thought that was the stupidest thing I had ever heard in my life. After doing it for a race, I thought that it was the greatest thing we'd ever done. I'd like to say we shouldn't keep learning the same lesson over and over and over. To learn a lesson and then to ignore it and go back and say we don't need the yellow line rule is absurd.
“Without the yellow line rule, trust me, it's five-wide getting into Turn 3 with people on the apron. It's people on the apron through the tri-oval. Its people on the apron getting into Turn 1. There's no value, no logic other than pure bravado to try to take the yellow line rule out. That theory would be along the same lines if football players didn't wear helmets, it would be really cool because we could see them bleed. It would be that same logic.”