Q. When you look at declining TV ratings, and while it can be argued that competition is strong, there seems to be a perception out there from a number of fans that it's not, and that's kind of leading to their waning interest in some of the events. As a businessman, when you see that kind of a downward trend in those particular areas, how does one reverse that? Is it something as simple as getting the word out in a different way? Is it this is not going to change unless changes are made to the car or things like that?
RICK HENDRICK: When I look at it here in these buildings sitting over here in the middle of the woods, I think, man, this is a single-purpose building. It has 600,000 square feet of it. You know, you can't sink half a ship. You want the sport to be healthy and vibrant and growing because, you know, it's better for all of us. That's why I like seeing different manufacturers come in and so forth.
I think NASCAR has made some good adjustments this year. I think the Chase was a good thing. I may not like it some years, but I think it's a good thing. I think the double-file restarts are going to help the fans and the excitement more than anything else. It's just one of those things that you never know how it's going to end up, because when they have a caution with 10 or 20 laps to go, and you've got guys hungry up there and you've got all of the leaders bunched up together, you see them racing each other as hard as you saw down in Florida.
So I think that's going to help us. I think the fact that we're getting ready to start a new year off, the economy's better, I think that we are going to areas that we need to pick up on, and we will. I also think the rivalries are helping. I think having Montoya and Stewart go at it, you know, or Denny [Hamlin] and Brad [Keselowski] go at it, I think that's kind of good. I think it stimulates a lot of interest.
You don't want to see guys out there wrecking each other, but rubbing and gouging a little bit and trash talking, I think that's pretty good. I may be kind of by myself on that, but as long as it's not one of my guys, I kind of enjoy it. Anyway, I think the sport – I think NASCAR has done some things this year that's really helped.
I think the car – there are some things that we might be able to do for downforce that will help it. Hey, I went to a town hall meeting and had half the drivers saying take downforce away. The other half were saying add downforce. So, we can't even agree on anything.
But I think the level of competition here in the second half of the Chase with the Childress cars coming on, with the Penske cars running good…. If Denny Hamlin didn't have the problems he had, he would have been right there. I think it's going to be a pretty exciting year next year. There are a lot of hungry drivers, and the competition is fairly fierce.
As a businessman, I always worry about the health of our sport. But I think we're doing everything we can do to make it better. Hopefully we're going to see it in the ratings and the attendance. At the good racetracks, though, I looked up in the stands at Bristol and it was packed. You know, good crowd at Phoenix. The crowd looked good at Homestead.
Q. It may be tough to judge while it's still in progress, but how do you think Jimmie's run will be considered in the context of the sport's history? How should what he's accomplished in the last four years be judged?
RICK HENDRICK: I don't think people really start looking at where a driver ranks until he's retired or down the road. I mean, I watch David Pearson, and I knew David Pearson was great. And I knew that Richard Petty was unbelievable. But you don't really give them their time in the sun or acknowledge how great they were until after they retire or they quit winning.
I think when you look at Jimmie's stats, I don't think he's through. I think he's better this year than he was the year before. He just gets better all the time, he and Chad both.
So I don't think he's through setting records. I think he got to say, with looking at what he's accomplished, and he was eight points away from this one being number five in a row. He's got to be one of the greatest of all time. And I'm not saying just in this type of racing – I think with big guys like Montoya coming in, and other Formula 1 guys looking at this sport, and IRL people, you know. It's kind of the place the guys want to be.
Q. Why is Chad Knaus able to sustain that intensity level the way he is where Ray Evernham felt like he needed another challenge and had to move on?
RICK HENDRICK: You know, different people respond different ways. Chad loves what he does. He enjoys being in the middle of the team.
Now, the way we work together, he's got input into four teams, not just one team. It really wasn't quite that way when Ray was here. It was more individualized than it is today. So he enjoys the box. He enjoys being the field general. He likes working with Jimmie. So I think Chad really would be bored doing anything else, and he spends about 20 hours a day, seven days a week planning for the future.
He was talking to me by text Sunday night, because I was in the hospital with my niece. He was already talking about 2010 and some things he wanted to do. I thought, “Man, you ought to go celebrate this one!” But it amazed me how the guys are right back in here Monday morning, digging again. Getting ready for next year.