What would you say are some fundamental differences between you and Ray Evernham? You were a member of his championship team during the late 1990s. After seeing the success he enjoyed on top of the pit box during that time period, do you try and model the way you lead the team on the way he did it, or do you utilize your own unique approach?
Good question to start with, because, yes, I'm very different from Ray. I hope I'm doing some of the fundamentals similar to Ray, given how successful he was, but you have to manage according to your personality. If you try to manage like someone else, you're never going to be as good as they were, because they were managing to their own personality and you're trying to copy them without having that same personality. I believe you should learn from everyone and then incorporate that into your own management style.
He was much more of a car guy than I am, and I'm much more of a people person than he was. But he led by example: he was the first one in the shop, and the last one to leave and had a lot of devoted people to work with him – and I hope I have the same.
But when Ray was calling the races, there were between five and eight strong teams to race against; now there are probably anywhere between 15 and 20! There are more cars on the lead lap these days. So, I think racing has changed a lot since he did it, but I can assure you I took a lot of mental notes while I worked for him, and I've tried to be as much like him as I can be.
The great thing is, we're good friends and he's still a sounding board that I use. I talk to him on the phone, or he'll come up to me in the lounge and ask how it's going. He's a very big supporter of the team and me personally – a very good mentor for me to have.
Is there any track that NASCAR doesn't go to anymore that you wish it did? Or a track that you've seen used by IndyCar that NASCAR's never been to but you'd like to try out? (I'm from Iowa so I'm dreaming!)
Alison, if I were king of the world – or at least of NASCAR's world – I'd race everywhere once per year. We'd have 36 different tracks. I love most of the tracks we go to now, and we definitely don't need more races than we have already, but I would be a big fan of the idea of going to every racetrack one time. So we could go to – using your example – Iowa Speedway and maybe some of the beautiful road courses in this country, including Laguna Seca, maybe a cool street circuit – Long Beach, perhaps! However, I realize that it costs so much to maintain one of these venues that they probably need two races to keep up their maintenance. If we went international, I can think of even more venues I'd like to go to – Motegi, for example, was great for that exhibition race we did. Nice and flat and challenging.
Jeff looks like he's gotten more aggressive in his driving this year, and I was sorry to see him miss out on the final restart at Martinsville. Is being a harder guy on-track something you've decided to do?
I agree. I think Jeff is more aggressive with his style on the racetrack as much as we're getting more aggressive with our pit calls and race setups. I feel that, overall, we have a very good race team, but if we want to contend for the championship, we need to convert into the “great” category. Right now, we're not quite there, and that transition comes with race wins. When you only have a 10-race schedule, it means you can be much riskier in the first 26 races and try to get the bonus points – and I think we were a little slow in coming to the table with that theory. So, in order to deliver more results on Sundays, now you'll see a more aggressive No. 24 team overall, and yes, that extends to Jeff's driving.
I've always thought to improve the racing it would be good to totally change the points system, and only reward the top 15, and have big gaps in between. So, you'd get 200 for a win, but maybe only 100 for second. And do the same with prize money. Too many drivers seem to just go for consistency and don't look hungry enough. Your thoughts please (although I realize consistency has helped the No. 24 over the past couple of years!).
Thank you Andrew: another question involving me creating my ideal scenario! I think that the points system could definitely be revamped. I would love to see them stop giving points (or give the same number of points from 26th place backward). That would improve the racing by not having a car that gets wrecked early riding around trying to finish more laps than another wrecked car. It would save the teams money because we wouldn't have to bring people and parts for repairing crashed cars midrace. So having a rules system where, if you were four or five laps down, there'd be no point in continuing would be a big help. Right now, from 35th to 40th is worth 15 or 18 points, and those are valuable – so patched-up cars come back out.
I definitely agree that you could have bonuses for wins, although you'd have to be careful that the bonus isn't so big that the championship is decided before the last race. One interesting thing they might consider is a knockout system like drag-racing where maybe you start with 12 drivers in the first race of the Chase, but maybe knock one out every couple of races, so you only have two or three guys in it by the time you get to Homestead. You normally only have three or four in it by then, anyway.
However, if we did that, I think you should diversify the tracks that are in the Chase. You need a Bristol or Martinsville in there and maybe a road course. There are a few too many similar mile-and-a-half tracks in there currently. They did a good job of putting Loudon and Phoenix in there but maybe switch out one of the mile tracks and put in a half-miler.
Overall, I think the Chase was a great idea though. Our seasons were starting to get a little monotonous, especially for the fans. So maybe a points system change could arouse further interest.