Crash.Net NASCAR News
Brian Vickers, Michael Waltrip Racing - Q&A
15 July 2013
Celebrating his first victory in NASCAR Sprint Cup competition in almost four years, Brian Vickers was a seriously happy and delighted man as he spoke with journalists at the New Hampshire Motor Speedway media centre on Sunday afternoon.
Vickers was joined by the crew chief of the #5 Aarons car Rodney Childers, and by Michael Waltrip Racing team general manager Ty Norris.
We are joined by our race winner, Brian Vickers, winner of the Camping World RV Sales 301. This is Brian's third Sprint Cup Series victory.
There have been 11 different winners in the last 11 Sprint Cup Series races here at New Hampshire, and Brian, with your win today, you are now eligible for the 2014 NASCAR Sprint All-Star Race. Obviously a big day for you, a big day for the organization.
Let's start with Brian, Rodney and then Ty, we'll end with you. Just talk about what today is what and just try to put it in words for everyone here.
I don't know that I can to be honest with you. I mean, just everything that a lot of us have gone through and everything that I've gone through over the last so many years from the blood clots; and you wake up one morning and you're just not sure - you're just hoping to be around the next to are you ever going to race again to okay I may race again to all right I'm racing; now I don't have a job, to getting a phone call from Ty and him asking me if I was interested in running eight races. And I said, absolutely.
To go through all that, and to have an opportunity, one of the most exciting things - no offense, Ty, for me, was to work with Rodney. I've known Rodney since I was about eight years old. The first time he helped my father and another guy name Cory and some folks put my first go-kart together - at least that's what they told me. I was too young to remember.
But Rodney and I have been trying to work together for a long time. It's taken us 20 years to do it, and nothing could be more special for me and for both of us to have this win.
For me personally I think the biggest thing is just the support of family and friends, my parents, my grandmother, my fiancée, Sarah, and so many others through all of the difficult times and not having a ride.
And then having a select few folks in the community that still believed in me and supported me along the way, and that starts with Aaron's taking a chance off and on me; Ty made the call but I'm sure they had a say in it, and obviously Rob and Michael, Toyota, all this time, all the sponsors at MWR, and it's just when everything is going your way and when you're in victory lane, everyone is your friend.
But when your back is against the wall and everything is down and things are not looking so good, you find out quickly who is willing to vouch for you or not. I learned a lot through that experience personally and I grew a lot as a person myself, thankful for that, and with everything that's happened, I'd like to think that I'll never forget those learning curves. I doubt that's going to happen, but all of that, coming here, sitting in victory lane, just makes it one of the most special events of my life.
Well, I mean, he covered most of our past. Yeah, I can remember the day that collide walked into our go-kart shop in South Carolina and said he wanted to buy his kid a go-kart and we got it together overnight and they came and picked it up the next day, and a good friend of ours, Cory, helped Brian get started.
You know, this means a lot to me. We have been hot and cold over the years with MWR. We got to win our first race together in 2009 and our second race as a company in 2010 at Chicago. You know, it's something that you think about every single weekend, and you know, this weekend, we knew we had a good car.
A lot of people probably saw and said something last night about how I was not going to sleep all night. But when you've got a car that good in practice and you know you can make a small change to make it really, really good, it's hard to sleep at night.
So you know, we made a few changes this morning, and actually what we did didn't work, and we got going along through the race there. First pit stop of the race, we've made a mistake on pit road. We made really big adjustments, a double-adjustment in the year and left a wrench on the deck, and ended up getting a penalty and getting a lap down. We all fought all day, and Brian never gave up and just drove his butt off all day.
We just got the right opportunity at the end, and you know, sometimes days go your way and sometimes they don't. We've had plenty that haven't.
So just very fortunate that things worked out at the end the way that they did. The Toyota horsepower and having great fuel mileage all weekend, we knew this morning if it came down to a fuel mileage race, we were going to be in good shape.
Just happy for everybody and happy for everybody at MWR and the 250-some employees that we have that put all these cars together. Just really happy with Aaron's. They have been a big supporter of myself and this team and everybody at MWR for a long time. You know, have been wanting to get them a real win. Everybody said the win at Charlotte was not a real win because we won it in the rain. We got a real win now. It means a lot to me, and it's good for our team.
Yeah, I just felt like this race was actually sort of representative of the two entities being represented here, which is Michael Waltrip Racing and Brian Vickers. We were both at one point left for dead. We were believed that we wouldn't continue, and his career was in a state of flux.
Our race was very much like that today after the penalty, and we spent probably two-thirds of the races running in the teens to twenties, and we knew that looking at the speed that that was not representative.
But one of the most impressive things that has happened all this season, I think in our entire sport, may have gone a little bit unnoticed. Brian did not get a chance to come to Sonoma, did not practice. Did not get one lap in. Didn't get to qualify. Flew in, dropped into the seat Sunday morning at Sonoma, and at the end of the race, we're 110 laps and the person with the most fast laps of the day was Brian Vickers.
That just doesn't happen. That shows incredible talent, shows incredible confidence in yourself and the equipment, and the communication between these two that they could do that over the phone.
So we always have confidence when he gets in the car that we can run up front and that we can compete for the win, and it's because he's a talented race car driver. Our organization is ready to win consistently, and we have won two of the last four, and so I would say if we can keep that 50 percent streak going, we'll be all right (laughing).
You kind of touched on this, I'm sure at one point, being able to race again was a huge accomplishment in and of itself. Where does winning rank in that, because I'm sure at one point you were not even sure if you might race again, but where does this win rank?
A good bit of both, just racing. I think you said it. Just to be back in a race car for me personally was a big goal and a big accomplishment and a big step. And it was because no one around me would let me give up on myself.
You know, I obviously didn't give up on myself, but when you have so much love and support around you, that makes all the difference in the world. So I've got to thank my family and friends for that through all that.
Obviously being able to win after all that is just almost unimaginable. It's so beyond what I was thinking about in that moment; just getting back into a race car was all I could think about.
But once I decided to get back in, my goal was to win a championship, and along the way hopefully win some races, and that still is my goal. I know it's a high goal, but that's why we're here. You know, I feel like for the first time in my career, and this has nothing to do with anybody else or anyone I've worked with or worked for; sometimes it's just about chemistry, and I feel like the partners and the owners and the management and the crew chief and everything I'm working with right now probably clicks as good as it ever has in my entire career.
Obviously I've grown a lot as a person through all the struggles and I've learned a lot. We all do as we grow older. We all mature. But the chemistry that I've had with Rodney for 20 years, and the chemistry that I have with everyone at MWR and Rod and Ty and Michael, the way they believe in me, sometimes more than I believe in myself, makes all the difference in the world.
I've told them several times, privately, publically, I feel like there's no guarantees in this sport. This is a very, very challenging and very competitive sport in the Sprint Cup Series, but I feel like I can win a championship with this team. That's our goal.
During that phone call when we first talked, the reason why I knew what his situation was, because as friends, we were talking a lot about all the opportunities that can come his way. He would say, what do you think about this or what do you think about that, because he knows I'm pretty blunt and I'll tell him my thoughts.
Then when this opportunity came - at the time it was only six races. He said: I have an opportunity to go run for a full-time team and run all year, probably make more money, but if I get the chance to run those six races, I would rather run at a place where I can win. If I can just get a place where I can win, I would rather do that than run every week.
And he took that whole 2012 season and took that into consideration, ran our six races. We actually rewarded him with two more and now it's up to nine this year. Hopefully it will be way, way more than that going into the future. That's to his credit. He was not going to take a situation just to get back into the car and prove to everybody that he could do it. He came back into the right situation.
Last restart, we saw yesterday, several times today, guys would barrel in there on the bottom and just use up the guy on the outside. I thought Kyle Busch and Tony did everything they could to get to your door without getting into you and gave you a fair shot, they gave themselves every chance to win. Can you talk about what you thought of the way that final restart went and how they treated you, and I'd like to know from Ty and Rodney just what your feelings were going into that restart and what you felt when you was driving away and you didn't want to see it?
You know, it was a bit of a double-edged sword. I know Tony was going on the inside, and I say that with the utmost respect. I've had some fierce battles with Tony over the years. We for the most part agreed and had some great racing and occasionally we have not.
But through all of that, I feel like we've earned a mutual respect. It goes without saying I have a tremendous amount of respect for Tony Stewart as a race car driver. He's been a friend, a mentor at times, an enemy at times. But the one thing I knew is that he was going to race me harder than just about anyone else out there; but I also knew that he wasn't going to wreck me. Certainly not intentionally. He was going to race me clean and with respect.
So it was a bit of a double-edged sword. Gosh, the last person I want to have to battle on a green-and-white checkered is Tony Stewart. That guy, when he digs deep, he finds something that most people just didn't kind and that's not what I wanted beside me.
At the same time, I knew that he was not going to go off there and just hit me. He was not going to run me off the racetrack and he was not going to wreck me, and that's the double edged sword I'm talking about. But I thank him for racing me clean and hard.
Most importantly, it was this car that gave me the opportunity. I mean, man, we had a fast race car. We were - I don't know, it was just unbelievably fast and Rodney kept telling me at the end of the race, you're good, slow down. I'm like, I'm slowing down, I'm rolling out early, and it just kept going. That's thanks to Rodney and the engineers and everybody on this race team. They just gave me a great piece, especially in the race like Rodney said.
We started with a good car. We made some adjustments. Not all of them worked like we wanted at the beginning of the race, and he made some great calls during the race, some great adjustments and some great pit strategy to the car right and to get us the transition we needed, and that's what won us the race narrow.
For me when they went into the corner three-wide, I was just hoping someone didn't make a mistake. And I had not seen the top side of three-wide come out of turn two ahead, ever, here.
And when he came out of turn two with the lead, and those two were jockeying him, it was like he hit a three-point shot at the buzzer to win the National Championship. I mean, I was fist-pumping and pumped up for it, I knew that was the moment.
And lost in all that, Jeff Burton had a great day, as well, and to see him come back, gets beat up a lot, too. I thought it was cool that he had the day he had. So there are a lot of great stories out of this event.
And to Jeff Burton, I have to thank him for purchasing me on that restart. I think the whole field was probably spinning their tyres. I know I was and I know Tony was. We were going through the gears as best and smooth as we could but we were just - old tyres, and we were both just spinning.
And Jeff, maybe he didn't really have anywhere else to go, but nonetheless, he pushed me and gave me the nose advantage I needed going into one.
Truthfully, I don't think I ever lost my confidence one time. Really about 70 to go, I felt like we could win the race. We had better tyres than those guys and felt fine about our fuel mileage and we had got our car better and better all day, and he had found a few things on the racetrack that found us some speed.
You know, with ten to go, all you can think about is, what could go wrong and what if the caution comes out. And then he'll tell you, I was complaining, save some tyres if there's a caution. As soon as that caution came out, I felt like we were in the catbird seat and the only way somebody was going to pass us was if they roughed us up really, really bad.
You know, Tony Stewart, like Brian said, is an absolutely amazing race car driver, and I never thought for a minute that he would take us out or do anything, just like Brian said. So I had lots of confidence going into that last deal.
I wanted to ask Brian a couple things. One, you mentioned your fiancée was already stuck in traffic; had she given up on your chance to win and left, or what happened there? And does this convince Aaron's that you're the guy that should go full-time and you can put it all together now?
No, we were flying home with Denny and Austin had left, so her ride was leaving. I'm pretty sure she is very upset about that decision (Laughter).
I can tell you, there's no bigger fan I have than her and no one has more confidence in me than her. It had nothing to do with that. She was probably stuck between a rock and a hard place, and you know, just did what she was told she had to do. But she made it back -
She jogged back. Was she in flip-shops? So she got to victory lane and he was all sweaty and she was more sweaty. (Laughter) I think she was just as excited.
What was the second part of the question? Actually, you know what let me back up for a second. I actually don't know this, but I'm going to speculate, my dad is what you would call extremely superstitious.
And I'm sure, because she always watches the race with my parents in the stands, and I'm sure when it came time for her to go or stay, and the only reason if she would stay is if we won and we were racing for the win - I'll have to check on, this but I can almost guarantee Dad said, you're leaving - don't do anything different. Because if you stay, expecting him to win, in his mind, that jinxes the win.
So I'm going to go on the limb and say - he agrees, you know my father well. Is this not an accurate statement?
So he probably told her to leave. I'm going to have a word with him. (Laughter).
Aaron's have been an incredible partner of Michael Waltrip Racing for 12 years, with Michael and his garage behind his house running six to eight Nationwide races when he started.
They have gone through a lot of change, and what has been amazing is that they have given us every opportunity to sit there in front of them and talk about NASCAR, talk about Michael Waltrip Racing, the relationship we've had, and they are believers. They are believers in Michael Waltrip Racing and they are believers of Brian.
Michael has made no bones about it; in the last 30 to 45 days, he talks about Brian a lot as being that candidate that we want to go ahead and try to get moving forward with. All I can tell you is wins help a lot of business issues, and so this was a great day for that.
That was part of my question. Brian and Ty, are you confident that Brian will be in the #55 full-time next year?
He's been our focus, and we would love to have him in the car, but we need commercial support. So you can't do - this is true for every race team, true for every probably sports entity, but certainly for NASCAR race teams. You do nothing without sponsors, and that's why we do so much for them.
And Toyota has been a great supporter of Brian, and when we talked to Toyota about Brian being our driver, he's part of the freshman class from Toyota, so of course they liked Brian.
Aaron's has really enjoyed their time with him, and I feel like - we spent a lot of time with them in Kentucky. Thanks to the rain, we got a lot of hours with them and I think we made a lot of progress in that direction. So if I had to have a crystal ball, that's where we'd want to go and that's what I see in the future for sure.
I mean, we have all talked about it, and I think it goes without saying, kind of elaborating on some of the statements I made earlier, I feel very at home here and comfortable and confident in our chances to be successful, so this is where I want to be.
Going to what Ty said, Aaron's has been phenomenal to work with. There are partners that just write checks and there are partners that are partners, and they have been that for MWR and they have been that for me. I haven't worked with them that much but it means the world to me that with everything going on, you know, a couple years ago, that they wanted me in the car. They have stood by me this whole time.
And at the end of the day, like Ty said, until the deal's done, the deal's not done. That goes for Jimmie Johnson or Jeff Gordon - this sport, you have to have commercial sponsors and partners to put a car on the racetrack.
I'm sure that a win helps. But it doesn't mean that the deal magically happens. I mean, we've still got work to do and we have a lot of faith and confidence in Aaron's. I like working with them. I'd love to see the, come back, but that's their decision.
As far as I'm concerned, obviously I have a tremendous amount of confidence and admiration for this whole team and what they have done with me and working with Rodney. So this is where I want to be.
Take us through your thought process on the last pit stop, because I saw something, Addington thought they had enough fuel, just wondering what your strategy was on that final stop and what your thoughts about the competition was.
Yeah, I was actually surprised when the #14 stayed out there. We had just barely got into the wall on that caution before and got just a little right side damage and I didn't want to take a chance on anything with the tyres or anything like that. We got into the #38.
That caution came out, we came in and put two tyres on it and filled it up on fuel. The bad thing about that is it kind of got us behind a few guys, the #43, the #47 and a few guys just splashed on the gas and left.
From that point on, we were about, I guess, four laps short or something like that. We had really good fuel mileage and it got to the point where I wasn't worried about it at all. We were about three or four laps to go when we ended up having that last caution, and felt good about it.
I just want to add one thing. The #18 pitted like right - the #18 pitted, he passed Brian. He was running second. So the strategy put Brian and the #55 in the top with a shot at it.
But we passed the guys, and Brian passed them, and won this race because he had a great race car and he passed those guys, and even the ones with some of the tyres that came in late were right on the bumper and had their shot, took their shot.
So, yes, strategy put him in the position but it was a fast car and what he did in there that got the win.
I don't know whether you know it or not but this puts the #55 car in the wild-card spot for the owner's championship, so I wonder if that's a goal of yours at this point.
Well, I'll answer that. Rodney Childers deserves to run for a championship as a crew chief. About a year and a half ago, we told him that we were going to run Mark Martin in 24 races and Michael in the Speedway races, and we were not even sure who was going to drive the other races at that point.
And Rodney has everybody knocking on his door, always, and we respect that. But he made the choice to stay, and that was a big choice for our organization.
One of the very first things we talked about was racing for an owner's championship; let's shake up the system. We'll have multiple drivers but if we can win some races and be in a situation where we can run for an owner's championship, that can be just as remarkable as running for a driver's championship.
So our team has rallied around that. #55 has rallied around that for the last year and a half, so I know it's something that we are very aware of.
When you reflect back on it, what will be the overriding emotion that you will keep and cherish, and can you describe that scene at the end of the race, were you going to try to execute a burnout and run out of gas?
I don't know what happened. I forgot how to do a burnout, which is possible, or I ran out of gas, or something happened. I did that burnout and just off. And then I spent a few seconds trying to restart it, and I was like, you know what, screw this, I just want to hang out with the fans so I gave up restart being it.
And then just went and got the flag and just - I was actually there when they opened the gate. I don't know, I remember, I go back to my first NASCAR win at Indianapolis and they opened the gate and the fans were there and that was just a special moment for me, because it's the fans that make the sport happen.
By the time I realized the gate was not open, the team was there and I wanted to spend some time with them; and at that point, I'm pretty sure we ran out of gas but either way, it shut off or wouldn't start and it was the end of my burnout but it was a special burnout.
Last year we won three races with Clint Bowyer, and all three times we ran out of gas, so I told Brian, it's just our thing (Laughter).
You went the extra mile, quite literally and figuratively but you also had to walk a few extra hundred feet to get that checkered and even more to get to victory lane. Did that, you know, the steps that you took, did you reflect about how far you would actually come to reach that moment?
Yeah, absolutely. It was difficult not to think about that those last 50 laps or 30 laps or whatever it was. I just tried to live in the moment as much as possible turn by turn and not think about the past or the future or what or couldn't happen.
But once it was over, it was - I think it was a sigh of relief with everything that had happened to finally, you know, to clinch another victory after so long and after so much, and it was a lot of thankfulness. I don't know if that's the best - that's definitely the feeling I have. I just don't know if that's the right word to articulate it.
Just thankful for everything that had happened and everything that didn't happen; that I was able to get back into a race car, and that I had the support of family and friends to get through everything and to get back in the car.
You know, there were some people that still believed many me, namely these guys sitting here and everyone at MWR to give me the chance. I think that was probably the biggest emotion that I had, I have, that I still will have going forward, because they took a chance, in a lot of ways. There was a lot going on and a lot of uncertainty for me.
You know, whether it was health issues or all the drama or just - there was so much. I'm just very thankful for all that. That was probably the number 1 and the main emotion I had and still have.
Happy times at Michael Waltrip racing, winning two of the last four races, Clint is second in the championship; can you talk about the ascension of the team and where things are, and you guys really taking it to the next level and the mood and atmosphere right now?
Yeah, one of the things that Michael harped on, he heard someone say this, so it just locked into his brain. He said we have to get fast, faster, so whatever it takes to get fast.
It's easy for him to say that, and someone has to pay for it and someone has to do that and that's Rob Kauffman. That man has done more to keep people employed, to people us moving forward. He comes from a business that if you are just from the trading floor, if you're just a split second behind the trader in front of you, you lose millions of dollars.
So he doesn't like losing and he doesn't like people who hesitate. So when he comes around, he asks us all the time, what do you need to be better; what do we need to fix issue A, B, C.
So I'm happy - I'm probably happiest for those guys, because Michael's got his whole life in this and Rob's got a lot of passion for it. So it's cool. Michael always tells us, you'd better wake up every morning like you're behind. I know Rodney and those guys will do that Monday morning, we're going to the next race. He feels like we're behind and we have to do more and we have to work harder.
Our organization is still, even though we are 260, 275 employees, it still feels very much family-owned and still feels like a small team who knows everybody's family and business, and when we celebrate, we celebrate with wives, husbands, children; and so it's a really cool atmosphere and to hang more banners off the rafters is the coolest thing in the world.
For the middle third of the race, basically you were stuck around 27th, 23rd, 24th, all of a sudden between laps 210 and 225, you go to fifth; what was the key quality that jumped you 20 places?
The big thing was being off-sequence to the leaders. We kept working on the car all day and got it better and better, and we got to the point there, I think we were 23rd or something like that. We had about a ten- or 11-lap stretch that we were a tenth or two-tenths of a lap faster than the leader when we got clean air. I think #78 was leading at the time, and I told him, you're really good right here, whatever you're doing and all that stuff.
But the biggest key was just being off-sequence. I knew if we could ever get there that we would be in good shape. I told him at one point, it was like we just need something to go right; that we had a lot of things that went wrong in the beginning. A lap down the first time around, and I didn't feel comfortable with doing the wave around. I thought it was going to be green and we run 20 laps and a caution comes out and we have to fight for the lucky dog again.
But it all worked out, and we were fortunate at the end to do what we needed to do. We had a fast car, like Ty said. When you have Kyle Busch and Tony Stewart and people like that, it's a big deal. We were fortunate enough to do that and feels really good.
Michael is so mad, we spent three days together with Pete, one of our sponsors, we had a great event at Heartland Speedway.
So Thursday, he's like, all right let's go to Loudon. He goes: Wait, I looked at the itinerary, it says London; I have to go to London; I'm only off by one letter. So he went to the Goodwood Festival with Rob Kaufmann; so that decision, I'm sure he's having a glorious time there.
But he's probably really upset about missing this because of what all these guys, especially what #55 means to him personally and what Aaron's means to him personally.
You mentioned how important it's been to you to have the support of your family, your friends, your crew. After the race it seemed like there were a few drivers that were acknowledging what you did. How important is it to you, or do you feel anything special knowing that you have the respect of the guys out there that you're battling with the entire day, and they know what you've been through and what this means to you today?
No, it's a great point. It was actually probably one of the most special moments of the win was coming around the backstretch and having so many guys to show your respect.
Every single car that came by put a tyre mark on the door or was shaking their fist in a good way, or gave me a wave and just - and it wasn't just a lazy wave. They really meant it. I'm very thankful for that. I'm sure not everybody in the field, but I'm thankful that most of them and a lot of my peers that I raced with for so long and that I have so much respect for, that it's shown in return in a moment like this.
A lot of those guys know, you know, everything I've gone through, and one in particular, Casey Mears and Jimmie came to victory lane, and those are two of my closest friends in motorsports, and have a lot of respect for both of them, great guys.
But when Jimmie came by me on the racetrack, I think he was shaking his fist harder. He was like jumping out of the seat, I think he was so excited for me. I haven't seen him fist pump that hard since, I don't know, maybe a Daytona win or something. And that meant a lot to me.
Jimmie is first and foremost a friend, but he's probably one of the greatest drivers that have ever raced this sport. He's won five championships. You know, him, along with a lot of others, it just meant a lot.
The first time I met Jimmie was I think 2001, was my very first Nationwide race. I was completely lost and apparently it was clear in my face. So Jimmie, who was racing Nationwide at the time come up and said, "You look lost."
I said, "Yes, I am."
He said, "Come over here."
I said okay. He showed me around. He told me my driver intro; this is where you need to go, this is where you need to be, and that was the first time I met Jimmie Johnson. He didn't know me, I didn't know him. He was just helping me out and we became friends and been friends for a long time. So than meant a lot to me.
I want to say one thing about Jimmie, it's funny, we talked about this. But after Jimmie won last week, I sent him a message and told him congratulations.
He sends me a message back, and it said, "Hey, man, that means a lot to me. I've never told you before, but you have done completely awesome and I'm so proud of what you've done."
And I remember in 2000 and 2001, and we were kids, trying to figure out what we were going to do and not many people know it, but when Jimmie was getting out of that Herzog car, they were talking to me about driving that Busch car. And for him to win five championships and for him to send me a text message back the other day, that meant more than anything probably anything anybody's ever said to me almost. I mean, you can ask my wife, I went on and on about it for a long time.
That dude is completely incredible, and everybody makes rumors whether he's going to be the best there's ever been; and I would have to agree that he probably will be.
When you crossed the finish line, I think your words were: "Hey, career, welcome back, baby."
Those were not mine.
Those were mine (Laughter). I was talking about my career of course, been a rough couple of years.
I think my comments were explicit, and very awesome and extremely excited. And just all of the above. I appreciate him saying that comment, but that's not a comment I would make about myself. I learned the hard way, there are no guarantees in life. So I'm just taking it in.
Obviously the past will always be a part of you and always be a part of the narrative of your story, but a day like this, does it close the door in one aspect? Those experiences will always still be there, but does that close the door in your mind on the last two or three years in some ways?
Yeah, that's a very good question. You know, I guess I haven't thought about it until you really mentioned it. And I suppose in a lot of ways, it does.
You know, I never will, and I don't want to forget those memories and the things that I learned through those experiences, even though they were difficult and challenging.
You know, I think at a certain point it is good to shut the door on some things and look for it and move on. I think to finally have - I don't know if the monkey on your back is really the right expression; but to finally get that victory. It's one thing to get back in a race car; it's another thing to have a good day, but it's a whole another thing to win a race.
This day in a whole lot of ways takes the weight off my shoulders and is a breath of fresh air and very relieving and probably does allow me to live a little bit more in the moment and focus on the future, and not so much in the past and what's happened. Ultimately that's the reason I came back is what's to be, not what has happened. And to start fresh and have a second career and race for a championship.
Did you feel a need to prove something?
I don't know if I ever felt a need to prove it to anyone else. Proving it to myself, when I'm in the race car, I'm probably the hardest on myself than anyone else. Proving it to myself meant a lot, and you know, I - yeah, it wasn't the others I was worried about. It was myself.
I know in the past we've had long green flag runs up here, and today, a lot of cautions; would you explain how your car was? And Ty, it seemed like MWR has come a long way in the last year or two with Bowyer and Truex; do you feel that the hard work has paid off or is there more to come?
Yeah, the cautions, you know, I don't know exactly what all the cautions were for, but the entire field was so competitive, and all these cars were so close, and you're running - the times are so close, you just have to fight so hard for every inch, even in the middle of the race when you're running 20th, you're fighting for a lucky dog and I think that just leads to more cautions.
And this is a track where it's easy to get inside someone but it's very difficult to compete the pass, and while you're inside of them, it's very easy to get loose or hit someone. The last caution I think was to breathe; so that wasn't - I don't know if there were more of those, but you know, I think in general, just having more cautions probably is because of just the competitiveness of the sport and how close everyone is and how I think you feel like you have to just fight for every single inch, every single spot.
To answer your question about the hard work, if we for one second decided to sit back in our chairs and kick our feet up on the desk, Rodney and Brian, Patty, Chad Johnston, all the drivers would be over there kicking them off and saying we have to get busy.
We raced in Pocono, what, a month ago, and we race there in three or four weeks; we won't come back the same. By the time the Chase happens, we'll have another version of our next iteration of our car. We are right dead in the beginning of our third performance improvement plan, which was put in place - the first one was put in place in 2011.
And Toyota continues to bring out more steps on the engine side, so there's absolutely more to come.
Did you feel you needed to win to kind of complete the comeback or cap the comeback since your sickness?
It certainly adds a lot to it. I think, you know, I guess it depends on how you define complete. Coming back there were multiple goals. Typically when you make a list of goals, there's not just one. One goal was to get out of the hospital. Goal two was to get back in a race car, and then three was to win a race.
But ultimately, the goal, the decision to come back to racing, was to win a championship. So when that job's done, then I think it will be more complete.
Seeing some Tweets immediately after the race from Mark and Arlene, reminded me that this is really in this instance a true team win. You mentioned often the drivers that you get to work with, and that there's obviously a lot of work that goes in, having different drivers go in and out of the car. How difficult is that for a crew chief, and there's some who would elect not to take that challenge. Why does it work for you?
I don't know, I mean, first of all, we have three really, really good drivers. And second of all, everybody doesn't treat it the way that everybody thinks it's treated. It's not treated like there's three different drivers and we don't try to set the car up different for three different drivers.
When we talk about setups and which car we are going to take and all this kind of stuff, we don't even think about who is driving it that weekend. We just concentrate on how check put the best car together and the best setup together, and we go to the racetrack that way.
You know, the good thing is these guys have belief in us and have believed in what we're doing. Different people have different things they have done for years and years and years, and not one time has any guy come to me and said, I used to do it this way, I don't think you're doing it right. They believe in what we're doing.
All I ever ask is somebody to give 100 percent, and if I'm never giving 100 percent, I want Ty to kick me and get me going. Our team tries really, really hard and we have got a lot of good guys that have been together for a long time, and like he said, when this deal came about, I've told my guys every day, I told him before the race today in the trailer, look, we are 26 points the out of ten; we can make this Chase on owner's points.
I was like, all we've got to do is win a race, knock out some top fives and top tens and we can do this. And lo and behold, this happened today.
What are you going to say next Sunday or two weeks from now? (Laughter).
You know, and Mark's had some time off and when Mark gets some time off, he comes back like a ball of fire and everybody knows how much Mark Martin loves Indy. We've got a good car we're taking back and some good horsepower under the hood. So hopefully we can keep this ball rolling.
I was going to point this out about four questions ago, but it's amazing that you went to that question because just looked over and I realized that his hat says Mark Martin on it. He has a Mark Martin hat. (Laughter) so Mark Martin, he got sprayed with champagne today. (Laughter).
One thing, Rodney alluded to it, we have not talked a lot about it today, but I just want to thank Mark and Michael as my teammates both for the guidance and mentorship. I talk to Mark a lot over the last couple years and especially a lot right when I first came back and a lot of things I was going through. He's been phenomenal. I've said this several times and I want to say this again.
Gosh, I wish I could have shared a car with him ten years ago. It's been great for me personally and great for this team. He is an amazing man, he's a phenomenal race car driver and I'm honored to be his teammate and nothing would make me happier. I told him at Christmas and I said, man, I said, nothing would make me happier than to win an owner's championship with you; that's my goal this year.
It's in sight. There's no guarantees, but it's in sight.
Transcript courtesy NASCAR. FastScripts by ASAP Sports.