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NASCAR Winston Cup Preview

Stock Car Racing Topics:  Winston Cup

NASCAR Winston Cup Preview

Joe Nemechek
January 18, 2003


Q. Joe, you start the 2003 season with a team with a stable sponsor. That must be a good feeling, knowing that stablility is there?

JOE NEMECHEK: I'm looking forward to a great 2003 year. With UAW and DELPHI on board, we've got all of the things in place that it's going to take to make this team run good. Last year I hopped in as a replacement driver and didn't run very good. You were just talking about the equipment in the racecars, I have won races in the past and all of a sudden it looked like I couldn't drive. We worked on cars. We worked on the bodies, and we worked on the engines and at the end of the year we had a shot, we should have won two races, we come real close. You have to have the whole package. You have to have the right people with the right equipment. We all can win races, all of these drivers. But it's so competitive out there, if you are off just a little bit, you are going to be off. And I think we've got some good things going with Peter Sospenzo on board, Ed Guzzo, now the car chief. Peter and Ed have a great relationship. The motor shop, they are working their tails off trying to make more power right now. The hardest thing that I think we are going to have to fight this year is we are going to have to learn to do bodies. Where the Fords and the Dodges in the past have worked with the bodies for a couple of years, it's a new thing for us. So we have to figure them out.

Q. At the start of every year, everybody is saying we think we can be top-10, we think we win races and things like that. What would it take when you get to the end of the year to say you did a really good job with your team?

JOE NEMECHEK: Kenny (Wallace) wants one win. I understand that. Every Winston Cup driver lives for that first win. Our team, we are shooting for multiple wins. I think that our team can win at least three races, possibly five races next year (2003). You never know what's going to happen in these races. Overall, we want to be in the top-10 at points, but I think if we can end up in the top 15 in points it will be a successful year. You look at the past track record of that racecar and they've had a tough time. When I hopped in it, man, I was like holy moly, I can see how they had a tough time. We got the right people in place and at the end of the year we had two seconds and a 4th in the last six races. We were right there. We thought we should have won two of them and we had a great car and, you know, would've, could've should've's, but I think we've turned that team around and we got a lot of momentum going for us. We got some great teammates to feed off of and I think we are all going to run good this year.

Q. Is there more pressure building the team? Will there be more pressure on you personally?

JOE NEMECHEK: I don't think there is going to be more pressure on me. When we get in the racecar, we want to do the best we can. We are there to win races. We are not there to run 39th. When we run 39th we think we shouldn't have even been out here. It's embarrassing when you run bad. We all can win races. The pressure is not -- it's not there. I put pressure on myself to win but at the end of last year we wanted to win bad. We had to prove that we had turned this team around and we had worked really hard. Everybody at the Hendrick complex did and it was pretty cool having Jeff Gordon and Jimmie Johnson and those guys coming up to you and asking you questions on what are you doing here and there because we were a lot faster than they were. So I think if we can do what we need to do, we are going to try to step the whole complex up to the next level and it's going to make all of the teams -- it's going to make them open their eyes and look at things differently because they have another guy hopefully that they're competing with them.

Q. You have been in a situation where teams you were on were decimated by sponsorship issues or lack of sponsorship. Is that something that's always in the back of the driver's mind, given the economic state of things right now or do you let other people worry about that and just race?

JOE NEMECHEK: I just got finished signing all the different stuff for the fans. I have been driving Winston Cup since the first time that I replaced -- I had to take over when Ernie Irvin moved out of that car, I drove the Kodak car in '93 - 10 years ago. But getting all of the different sponsors that I drove for and signing autographs on all of that stuff, the sponsor is the most important part of this. It's getting so competitive out there to get the people and to have all of the things you need, you've got to have these big budgets. And the sponsor is what makes it go around. NASCAR is stepping up the purses but without that sponsor, things don't happen. I know Hendrick Motorsports, they are constantly renewing their contracts with their sponsors all the time. They know what it takes, they have some great products to sell. And I know I have been in on a few of the meetings talking to new potential people and it's interesting. When you get into the racecar, you don't think about that anymore. Without them, what can you do to help that sponsor so they are going to make them happier so their business is better and it's going to help you in the long term because you're going to be racing.

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