NASCAR Media Conference
July 14, 2009
TRACEY JUDD: Tracey Judd good afternoon, everybody. Welcome to today's NASCAR teleconference. It's in advance of Saturday night's NASCAR Nationwide Series Missouri Illinois Dodge Dealers 250, a stand-alone event at Gateway International Raceway in Madison, Illinois. We're joined by two of our series only regulars today. Justin Allgaier, a native of Riverton, Illinois, leads the Raybestos rookie standings, and he's also sixth in the overall driver standings. We also have with us Brendan Gaughan, who is second in the rookie race to Justin, just eight points behind. He's also ranked in the top 10 in the driver standings, currently in eighth place.
Guys, thanks to both of you for taking some time to join us this afternoon.
Justin, we'll start with you. You have a pretty busy week going on as you head to your home track. You have some momentum, too, with that 10th-place finish at Chicagoland last Friday. That was your second straight top-10 finish. Tell us about the week you have in store, especially the event that you have going on this evening, and how you're preparing specifically for this race as a home state guy. Are you feeling any more pressure than usual?
JUSTIN ALLGAIER: Well, you're definitely right. Last weekend, having a 10-place finish, when so many of the other guys really seemed to have kind of an off night, other than obviously the guys that ran up front. You know, coming home to Gateway is great. From Chicago, you jump on 55 south and you come right to where I live. We get to spend a couple of days at home.
You're right, we have a big event tonight. We're actually going to a Verizon store here in Springfield, which is just outside -- Riverton is just outside of Springfield. We're going to try to give back to the fans a little bit. In the ARCA series we had a race here in Springfield on the dirt track. Unfortunately, Gateway is kind of the closest one we get to home for now.
We're giving back to the fans that have supported me for a long time. We're selling souvenirs, going to the Verizon store to sign autographs, just spend some time with some of the people that have been around and have been a part of our racing for a number of years.
It makes it nice because this weekend at Gateway, they said there's over a thousand tickets sold of people that want -- they made a Justin Allgaier section, there were over a thousand tickets sold in that section. We do have a lot of people coming down to the race at Gateway. It's really cool as well, because it is the Missouri Illinois Dodge Dealers 250, which being a Dodge in the series, having a few of us that are running, it's nice to go to a race that is supported by the manufacturer that you're running, especially being from Illinois.
We're excited about this weekend. I think we've got a really good car. We're just building points and doing everything we can to run as well as we possibly can. I think we've been able to do that. We've had a lot of fun with it. We're going home.
I don't think there's any more pressure. I think we try to run well each and every week. I think that's what we've been doing. So it's good just to have friends there to support us in however we run this weekend. So I'm looking forward to it.
TRACEY JUDD: Thanks, Justin.
Brendan, you come off your best finish in four races. You were 13th at Chicagoland. Gateway is a track that has been good to you. You won there in '03. Do you feel like there's some momentum there coming into this event?
BRENDAN GAUGHAN: We needed to get off our little bad set of runs we had. When Bryan began his suspension, Shane came in and did a great job in Kentucky, finished fourth, led a bunch of laps. After that, we hit a little bit of a lull. Unfortunately, they were on flat tracks, just like St. Louis. Milwaukee we struggled with a little bit. Shane did a good job of getting it straightened out. New Hampshire we never got handle on. It was good to have Bryan back last week at Chicago and salvage a 13th-place finish.
While he was gone, he spent a lot of time on the flat track program, spent basically like probably a week doing some engineering stuff, what I always call a Bryan Berry science project. Usually when he does a science project, it works out well for me. He's basically coming with some new geometry that he wants to try for us at Gateway, similar to what we did at Phoenix where we had a top-10 run, and change a few things around because of how tight Gateway's one and two is. I'm excited. When Bryan Berry does his science projects, I get excited. We're staying at the Casino Queen right down the street. This weekend is a special weekend for our sponsors. Both Steven Wallace and myself will be -- I'll be in the 62, he'll be in the 66, but both USFidelis paint schemes.
TRACEY JUDD: We'll go to media questions.
Q. Justin, currently you're sixth in the points standings with nine top 10s. Are you right where you think you were going to be maybe at the start of the season, setting goals for yourself?
JUSTIN ALLGAIER: Well, I think in terms of the finishes, we feel the finishes that we've been able to put together, we're right where we wanted to be at. We've had a couple of races where we've had some unfortunate finishes, not finished where we wanted to.
I think those are the ones that we're more aggravated on, we actually feel we got a full effort in. I think where we're at in points is great. We'd obviously like to be farther ahead. But we feel like we've been able to put the finishes together and get the spots we wanted. We just can't seem to do it week after week.
You know, it's a little frustrating. Chad and I are both kind of the same personality in the fact that we both want to run well, we both want to win races. We're really hard on ourselves. I think that makes it tough to try to get yourself back out of that.
So far we feel like we've done a good job of getting the finishes we wanted to get. We just got to be able to put them together more than one or two weeks in a row.
Q. Brendan, it was recently announced you have a partnership, Rusty Wallace, with Kevin Harvick. What is involved with that partnership? Is it paying off just yet?
BRENDAN GAUGHAN: Yeah, I mean, it's still brand-new. You can't really read too much into it so far. Last week Steven drove a KHI car that they built for our race team. You can definitely see a lot of differences in the aerodynamics of it. We're excited about it. Rusty, we had a big meeting the other day. We're enthused doing something with Kevin. Look at how great his team has been running, no matter if you put Kelly Bires, Kevin, Ryan Newman, every guy that drives it, they end up being in the top 10, qualifying top 5. They've got great stuff. Kevin has worked with Richard Childress, has all their information. It's only going to be a benefit for us at RWI.
Q. Brendan, are you really a rookie at 34? Curious how Justin feels having to fend off you in the Rookie-of-the-Year race. Brendan, about Rusty Wallace, he's a legend in St. Louis, what kind of pressure is there to do well particularly in his hometown?
BRENDAN GAUGHAN: Well, first the rookie thing. We've been joking all year. I finished second in the Sprint Cup Rookie-of-the-Year in '04, won the Camping World Truck rookie in '02. I killed the curve in the Nationwide Series for age this year. I think the average age at the beginning of the year they told us was 23 or 24. Would be a whole lot younger if I wasn't there.
I'm just having a great time being allowed to race. It gives us a little more press. Raybestos sponsors the program, so it gets me on here to answer some questions.
I have to give it up for Justin. Really proud of what he's done. With a great organization after years and years of working his tail off with the Mittler brothers, all the groups he used and tried to drive to get to anything. He has himself with a great organization. As far as rookies go, Justin is a premiere rookie, doing a great job this year.
JUSTIN ALLGAIER: Thanks, Brendan. I think Brendan made it fun for all of us. Just his personality, his driving ability. I think for me he's driven us to drive harder. We all want to win Rookie-of-the-Year. That's our goal. We're fighting for it. But at the same time it seems like at the beginning of the year we got a little bit ahead and here comes Brendan. He blows right past us, gets up on us on points. I think it makes you work harder.
I'm glad that age isn't a deterring factor on whether you can run for rookie the year. We still love you, Brendan, don't worry. At the end of the day, I think for all of us we enjoy having Brendan as part of our rookie group. I don't think any of us are really rookies in racing in general. Most of us have a lot of experience. So, you know, I look at what Brendan has done. He's been with the Penske organization on the Cup side. It's all just laps. Who's to say that somebody else doesn't have a lot more laps in some other series of car that wouldn't 'em more.
I think NASCAR is right in what their criteria is for Rookie-of-the-Year. This is the first season that Brendan is running for the Nationwide cars. So we all look at it as he's just another one of us rookies. We'll beat up on him just as much as if he was 18 years old.
Q. Brendan, can you talk about running for Rusty in St. Louis.
BRENDAN GAUGHAN: We're looking forward to that a lot. Like I was saying, USFidelis, that's their home turf. We have a paint scheme that the employees came up with on my 62 car. Going to Rusty's home, any time you go to St. Louis, I remember going there right after I left the Penske organization, was Rusty's teammate, I remember going back there and everybody coming up to me trying to get Rusty stuff signed for them. We know what it means to that town. What was it called, shoot, the Wallace Family Memorial 200 a couple years ago. It's a big deal there. To represent the Wallace family, hopefully I can do a repeat of 2003.
Q. Justin, obviously going into the season you're an accomplished racer. In February people were calling you 'all gear'. What has it been like this whole year and how do you feel you're progressing so far?
JUSTIN ALLGAIER: Well, I have to tell you, you are right. Not many people have gotten the last time correct before the start of this year. My grandfather would be proud. That was always something that he felt was really important, was trying to get people to learn how to say our last name. So I think he would be smiling now and pretty proud of that.
I think going into this season I knew it was going to be a step up. I knew it was going to be a learning curve. There's probably not a better team than Penske Racing. Trying to teach me how to do that, last year I had great teammates in Kurt Busch, Ryan Newman and Sam Hornish. With Ryan leaving, bringing in David Stremme, that was a big thing for me as well. David was in the 62 car last year actually. He's been able to help me with things that I can do as a driver to make the Nationwide program better.
I think we've struggled a little bit in the fact that this is the first season that Penske Racing has had a Nationwide program full-time. They've always come out and run well in the select number of races they've run in in the past, but they really -- most of the equipment had kind of fallen behind a little bit. They really hadn't kept the Nationwide program up like they should. So basically when Chad came on, he had to revamp everything that was there and really focus on getting a really good program going.
I think we're doing that. We're working week in and week out to try to make it better. Obviously I'm getting better. I'm starting to understand these cars. Even though we've had experiences on bigger racetracks, we still have not been to a lot of the racetracks we're going to. So it's definitely been tough. But I'm loving the challenge, and I think week in and week out we're only going to get better.
Q. Obviously the question everybody wants to know, what does the future hold for you? Do you have any ideas?
JUSTIN ALLGAIER: You know, right now I basically put everything in Roger and Tim Cindric and Mike Nelson's hands and said, you know, I love being at Penske Racing. Hopefully I can be there for a lot of years. I just don't want to move up too quickly. I've seen some of the things that happen when drivers move up too quick. I don't want to ruin my career by trying to do that.
This is kind of my one shot, if you will, of trying to make everything work. Obviously I want to make it to the Cup level. I would love to be a Cup champion and win Cup races. But that's a tall order. It's a tough feat.
I think right now I just put everything in their hands and say, When you think I'm ready to go, I would love to move on, and I'm open to whatever you guys want to do. But Roger seems to be pretty good at knowing when a driver's ready to move on. I've heard it said before, that a driver is never ready to move to the Cup level, but you just have to do it.
I talked to Tony Stewart a long time the other night about the Nationwide cars, the horsepower differences. I told him I like the horsepower, I like to be able to drive a car that's got horsepower. That's one of the biggest concerns I have right now with the Nationwide car, is not being able to drive the car with the throttle. He said that he fought the same problems. The Cup car really fit his driving style better. So hopefully, if that's the case, we can go on to the Cup level and be competitive, as well.
Q. Brendan, drawing on your veteran experience, as well as your rookie experience, cameras can ride with you, fans can't. Can you describe what cameras can't convey, what fans might miss about racing at this level.
BRENDAN GAUGHAN: The main thing is, one, you can never really convey speed. It's tough to be able to give that you rush of speed through a camera. When the car next to you is doing 180 miles an hour, it looks like we're both going zero. So it's very difficult for us to be able to convey that speed through the cameras.
The biggest thing though, which is what NASCAR drivers get asked a lot, are we athletes. We can't convey the physical factors that for on in our sport. In Daytona, it was ambient temperature on my seat, we put a sticker on the side of the seat that basically tells you how hot things get, my seat was 160 degrees ambient temperature. That's how hot the conditions are in these racecars.
The stress factors that go along with the heat and the speed that you're doing, beating and banging, it's really difficult to convey to these people all the stressors that go along in our sport. So if there is any way we could do it, things like the Richard Petty Experience, get in, do a couple laps, it doesn't give you the full effect. It gives you a great effect. You can finally see the speed, but you don't get to see the full effect of all the racecars out there, the heat that gets generated. That's what the folks at home don't get to see. We may be sitting in a chair all day, but there's a lot of stress factors that go in it.
Q. Justin, you mentioned you didn't want to move up too quickly. Wasn't that long ago that I was interviewing you at Lakeland and you moved up. What about your expectations about moving up? What has been the toughest challenge for you to get to this level?
JUSTIN ALLGAIER: Well, I think that what has met my expectations is the competition. I knew it was gonna be tough. I knew with the Cup guys coming over, with the Nationwide Series regulars that have been around, just everybody that attempts to run a Nationwide race, I knew it was gonna be tough. Just trying to understand the cars has been probably my toughest challenge. You know, the horsepower being low like it is, that's a big deterrent for me. Driving in other series, I had horsepower to be able to drive the car. I've lost the ability to do that. That's made it tough on me. I think everything comes with time. I think the more laps we're getting each and every week, I think that's definitely helping.
You know, I'm excited to be able to say that I'm a Nationwide Series driver, that I've made it to this level. If I never get to go any farther, I would be content with running here. Obviously, like I said, my goal is to move up to the Cup level. I would love to do that. But I think that moving up is definitely a challenge. It's just like going from middle school to high school. You don't ever really know the challenges that lie ahead of you. And once you get there, it's probably easier than you thought it was gonna be. But you're always worried about what's in store and what's ahead.
I think that's more what I'm worried about. I want to be competitive. If I'm not competitive, I don't want to be out there and just ride around trying to make a paycheck. I'm a racer at heart. I told people in the past, if things get to where they're not fun or if I'm not competitive, I'm gonna reevaluate where I'm at. If it takes moving down a couple of series, then that's what it takes. I'm gonna stand behind that because, like I said, I'm a racer at heart and when I go out to race, I want to be competitive.
TRACEY JUDD: Along the lines of the last question, talking about from a fan's perspective, I have a couple of questions that fans have sent in to us. This one is for both of you. The fan would like to know if you have to have any type of a special license to drive a stock car or NASCAR. They know some of our drivers, you as well, began driving at a very young age, maybe even around five, six, seven years old. Their question is, what type of license or training do you have to have to be able to get to this level and how did start out to get to this level?
JUSTIN ALLGAIER: Well, I started when I was five, like you said. There really isn't a license, per se, that you need to drive. I think the biggest thing that we go off of is experience. The more experience you have, obviously the easier it is to move up. That's not to say that a guy couldn't have been racing for 20 years and not have the talent to do it.
Hopefully people would say I have enough talent to be in the situation that I'm in, but there have been drivers in the past that have come in and they've raced for a lot of years and never had the aspirations or the talent to move to that next level. So there really isn't a set license.
But I will tell you that you do have to your driver's license. I've seen a couple situations where drivers have done things, lost their driver's license on the road, and unfortunately their racing career is no more on that.
I think NASCAR does a great job of screening the drivers. We have to start out on a short track, move to an intermediate before they allow you to go to a speedway, then speedway to superspeedway. They have a good way of moving drivers up. Obviously they take past history into account. But there really isn't a special license, per se, you have to have to drive a racecar.
TRACEY JUDD: Brendan?
BRENDAN GAUGHAN: The only license they require is you have to have a NASCAR license. It's about the money. You have to pay NASCAR to have the right to play in their sandbox. But driver's licenses, you must have a valid driver's license. I found that out a couple years ago when somebody thought that I didn't have a license and they actually went to NASCAR and tried to get me kicked out saying I didn't have a license. You do have to have a valid driver's license, at least it's hidden in the fine print. I wasn't one of those guys that started racing when I was five years old. I started racing in the desert when I was 15. I was fortunate enough to go to college, play sports, do fun things. The best thing if a guy is looking to get into this, if you want to race go-kart, Bandoleros, NASCAR has a steppingstone with the weekly racing series, street stocks, there's a million ways to skin the cat to try to make your way to a racecar driver, find a level you enjoy, that you have fun at, that you can afford, do it there and just have a great time.
TRACEY JUDD: Brendan, one last fan question for you specific to your time in the Truck Series, now being in the Nationwide Series, wanting to know if you are enjoying your time now having moved up to the Nationwide Series and maybe the difference from being in the Truck Series.
BRENDAN GAUGHAN: I've always enjoyed being with quality race teams and great race organizations and people. My old south Point team, I loved it to death. We didn't have a lot of success in the end of it, but we had a lot of success early. Circle Ball Racing, had a great time being with Rick Crawford, the Mitchell family. They're great, great, great people. I wish more people could meet Mr. Mitchell, he is an absolute crack-up.
I'm having a fantastic time I'm with a great organization. I enjoy the heck out of Rusty, his whole family. Patty works at the shop, Katie works at the shop. Greg Wallace is our market guy. Steve. It's a family organization. I'm having an absolute fantastic time. The biggest deal is we have great equipment and we have great sponsors, which makes life so much easier.
Q. Brendan, as far as working with Rusty Wallace, really have quite a bit of experience in the last few years of working with different personalities, could you comment on what you get from Rusty, what you respect most about him.
BRENDAN GAUGHAN: I respect how hard this man works to get sponsors and keep sponsors. A lot of owners, you have a great organization like Hendrick, sponsors seem to go to him. You just wish you could have that. But Rusty goes out there to energy meetings, meeting with Kroger, meeting with Valero, tries to ask what the race team can do for their vendors to make it better. This man works so hard day in and day out to keep money flowing into this race team. It impresses me every day. Really, I mean, after owning my own team for years, running it into the ground, having no sponsors a few years of it, it is amazing to watch, and something I didn't expect from him. Being his teammate, he's great with sponsors, but I didn't expect him to be that committed to trying to keep this thing going that way. Man, I'll tell you what, he is absolutely amazing when it comes to making his sponsors happy, keeping them happy, trying to find more sponsors, helping sell it. He's just absolutely amazing at that.
Q. Are you fearing being overshadowed with all the baseball, the All-Star Game, there might be some letdown in St. Louis, or do you think they'll be ready for racing?
BRENDAN GAUGHAN: Definitely be a little bit light. Home run derby, St. Louis is a big baseball town. You got to respect it. It's another sport that you battle against. There's still plenty of race fans in the Midwest. Justin is from that area. There's plenty of tracks around there to draw people that are more interested in racing than baseball, but there's also guys that like both.
JUSTIN ALLGAIER: The biggest thing about this weekend, it is a stand alone event for us. Cup has an off weekend. I think you'll see some of the Cup fans come over and participate or watch. I think, like Brendan said, the Midwest has a lot of race fans. Even though a majority of them are baseball fans, I think it's going to be a great weekend. Gateway always promises to deliver great action. I think if you watch the races there in the past, I don't know there's been a boring one.
I think the fans recognize that. They enjoy coming out to the racetrack. I think even though there was baseball this week, I think there's only so many seats at a baseball game, and there's probably a lot of fans that want to do both. I would say you're gonna see a lot of people at the racetrack this weekend. Brendan is right, it may be a little bit light, but the fans that are gonna come out, I think they're really gonna see an excellent race and we'll be glad to have 'em there.
TRACEY JUDD: With that we'll turn you loose. Justin, thanks so much. Good luck with your event tonight and have fun at home. Brendan, we appreciate you taking the time to join us, as well. Best of luck to both of you guys this weekend. We'll see you at Gateway.
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