Does Jeff left-foot brake and how common is that among NASCAR drivers?
Yes, Harriet, Jeff is a left-foot braker and I'd say that almost the whole field is now, although one holdout might be Bobby Labonte. It started with the coil-bound front-end package and now with the bump stops, the front end of the car is so sensitive that you need to be using both pedals a lot of the time. Drivers don't get out of the gas until they apply the brake, and they don't get off the brakes until they're applying the gas – the rolling time is minimal. They're keeping the car balanced with the brake even as they're accelerating. I'd say 99 percent of the successful NASCAR drivers in the last decade have been left-foot brakers. On road courses, people like Boris Said and Robby Gordon will right-foot brake but using a technique called heel-and-toe, so they're braking with their heel and accelerating with their toe, and using the left foot for the clutch. But there's not an oval on our schedule where the drivers won't be leaving it in top, so there's no need for using the clutch, so the left foot can operate the brake.
I've been a fan of Jeff for 15 years now, and it's great to see him get that fire back. Did he change his attitude in the off-season? I can't believe it's all about car setup. He looks like a real aggressive young buck right now – and us fans of 24 are loving it! Keep up the good work. Your day will come.
Roger, I can confirm that he changed his attitude in the off-season, because so did the whole team. I don't know which came first, but Jeff and I had a lot of very honest and heated discussions over the winter about where the team was, where we expected it to be and how best to get there. A lot of those meetings were personal and private and don't need to be discussed, but what came out of them was a new-found desire from both Jeff and myself that has trickled through the team. The team wants to win. We were very good at being consistent, but being consistent is not what this sport is about anymore, it's not what The Chase is about. It's about winning races and leading laps and when we looked each other in the face, and then looked in the mirror, we decided that's what we needed to do. I think both Jeff and myself have found some fire and focus about going out and winning races and not just worrying about running good.
I guess it's no one's business but yours and Mr. Hendrick, but I saw Chad Knaus and Alan Gustafson re-upped their contracts. Have you done the same? I hope so, because I feel this year you've been re-proving yourself, and only bad luck and bad teammates' driving has kept you out of Victory Lane four or five times now. I even think your Vegas call was what many people would have done in your position, so don't listen to the critics!
You were polite enough to say that it's a private matter, Marc, but actually…it is and it isn't! When you become a sports figure, you realize those things are in the public domain to an extent. Chad's contract was done obviously because Lowe's had re-signed and Jimmie had re-signed, so he was the third piece of that puzzle. And Alan's was next because with the Kasey Kahne signing, it was very important for Alan to know that he'd be on the No. 5 car and that he's a great talent who we all want to be there. As for me, I've had phone conversations with Rick and he's let me know his intentions to have me as crew chief for the 24 – and obviously that's what I want to be! So I'd expect nothing to change, and hopefully we can get the paperwork done. I've worked at Hendrick Motorsports since 1995, and that's a long time, so if Rick gives me his word, that's really all I need. My wife would disagree, because she's an employment attorney, so she's a contract type of woman, but I'm a simple kinda guy and I believe Mr. Hendrick wants me to be there and I want to be there. So I'm expecting the paperwork to get done over the summer and that I'll be there for many years to come.
Green-white checker: Good or Bad idea? I think it makes a lot of drivers behave like idiots in the final laps because they know they might get another chance.
Also, if Hendrick was allowed to take a fifth car and you had the choice of who'd be employed, which driver and which crew chief would you go for? In other words, out of the guys not in HMS, who do you most respect in your position and in Jeff's position?
First point: Green-White-Checkers. I'm going to take an on-the-fence answer to this, Terry, because they're the rules! They're not a fly-by-night rule, they're not something that got decided halfway through a race, or in the drivers' meeting one Sunday morning. I think the GWC finish ensures the fan gets his money's worth. He or she is there to watch a good show. It's no different than baseball: When someone has a three-run lead after the eighth, you don't just call it because you assume they're going to win. You play through all nine innings and you never know what might happen. It's the same sort of thing in racing: we want to finish the race under green. The fan has paid good money to watch us race all 500 miles. As a competitor, it's frustrating because it can change the outcome of a race, but we know that from the start so if your car doesn't work on the restart, there's no one to blame but yourself.
The second part of your question, at the risk of sounding like I'm taking the politically correct route here, is that we do already have five drivers, because I think Mark Martin is a fabulous talent, and our newly signed driver Kasey Kahne is absolutely remarkable. I've seen what he can do in a racecar, and I can't wait to see what he can do with Hendrick Motorsports equipment – I don't know if he's driven anything with as much power as Hendrick Chevrolet units! If I had my choice, I'd bring Kenny Francis with him if we were running five programs, because I think he's brilliant and has never had as much help as he would at a place like ours. Unfortunately, for Kenny, I don't know what his situation is for next year, because between Chad, Alan, Lance and myself we have our four crew chief positions covered. But I'm certain a man of Kenny's talents will land on his feet.