Friday, October 14, 2005

Thursday, Oct. 13, 2005 – Lowe’s Motor Speedway – Ray Evernham and Erin Crocker Q&A

Courtesy Evernham Motorsports

Ray Evernham (President and CEO, Evernham Motorsports)
“We are going to run the full (NASCAR Craftsman) Truck Series. We are going to run six Busch races and probably six or seven ARCA races. At this time, it’s the best way for our program. Our ultimate goal is to get Erin Crocker to be competitive at the Nextel Cup level. We are just looking at changing our steps a little bit, and we feel that the plan now is a little better plan than we originally came up with.”

Is this the plan that you talked about at the beginning?
“It is. It’s more like I had originally planned, and sometimes there are a lot of other factors that you have to change, that start you going down a path that you may not want. It’s everyone’s competitive nature to run faster, sometimes, than we originally planned. We are at where we originally wanted to be. We certainly aren’t going down the Busch route. I think we just got ahead of ourselves.

“In general, Erin does a tremendous job. She’s really talented. I know she’s wrecked in the two Busch races, but speed-wise she gets the job done. I would put Erin in a Cup car tomorrow, if it was purely qualifying and speed. Without having raced that much on pavement and without racing in traffic a lot, we feel that this is going to be a much better way to get more experience racing, without having all the pressure.

“In all fairness to her, I want her to learn without people running all over her all the time. It might be giving her a little bit more of a break. I don’t know whether we would be having a different conversation or not, but the point is that she’s not going to get the experience and the laps if people keep wrecking her.”

The two Busch races that Erin raced in already, did that directly affect this decision, or were you already thinking of this?
“I had been thinking about the decision. A large part is what our partners want and if they are committed (to the change). Judging by the two Busch races, which is one part of what we looked at, I feel we went back to the plan that I felt was the best plan. Erin has another Busch race this year and obviously she would have run well at the Richmond and Dover races, and she will in the future as long as no one runs in the back of her again. They were factors, but I don’t want to say it was the determining factor, because it would be unfair to her to judge her off those two races. Parts of the factors were the number of Cup guys that are going to be in Busch next year.

“This year there is already a bunch – right now there are fifty-five Busch cars in the garage next door – and we understand that there are going to be more next year. I just feel it’s going to be best for Erin to split her time between those three series. She will be able to run competitively in the Truck Series and run for the Rookie-of-the-Year title and have some good finishes. We will step up in ARCA where she will gain her superspeedway experience, and with six Busch races she can really get acclimated with the car in that series. So overall, I really think it’s going to be a good program.”

Where are you going to get the trucks that Erin will run?
“I think we can just go get some of those Dodge Rams out of the lot. Don’t they just put roll cages in them? We hired Keith Barnwell, who was the general manager with ppc Racing, and he has experience with the Busch cars as well as running in the Truck Series. Certainly Dodge, even though Dodge is backing away from their factory support in the Truck Series, there still is a lot of knowledge there. We just need to hire the right people, and you don’t need as many trucks as you would Busch cars. It will actually be a little easier to put together than the Busch team would have been.”

Who will the crew chief be?
“We are looking at a few people right now. Keith is going to bring us some prospects and sit down and talk with them. We are looking for someone with a lot of experience over on the truck side.”

How is Erin taking this?
“Certainly, she’s extremely disappointed, because things were moving along and now it may seem like we are backing up. I don’t want her to think that we are backing up. She’s a very confident, very competent driver. And she’s like I’ve said before, a fiery little red head, and she wants to go. That’s one of the reason’s she’s going to make it, is because she’s ready to go, and I would rather have someone that I have to hold back than someone I have to push forward.”

“We were concerned about that, but in reality it’s the plan we think is best. In this business, people are going to say lots of different things anyways, but in the end they can only judge you on what you did. So, what we have to do is, sure take the criticism, but in the end as long as we deliver, the facts are the facts. So I think it’s going to be easier for me because I’ve been on both sides of the business. One day you’re a hero and the next day you’re an idiot. Hopefully, that’s not what everyone thinks, but I always tell Erin and Kasey when they have bad days, that in the end your book isn’t written all in the first chapter. Everyone is going to have their say, but if we go out and do what we set to do in the end, we are going to be well off.”

What are the expectations, now that we decided what we are going to do?
“We are going to sit down as a group, and I want to sit down with the team, and go over what we want from testing. And certainly if we run six ARCA races next year, I think our goal should be to win one of those because we have a baseline. I don’t know where our goals for the Truck Series or Busch Series should be at next year.”

What about General Mills?
“We will be with General Mills on all of our cars and trucks; Erin is a General Mills driver. They will be a sponsor on the ARCA car, the Busch car and the Dodge Truck; it’s actually a really neat program.

“I don’t want to get into the specifics of the contract, but we have a really good relationship with General Mills, and lets just say have not held back any support.”

What are your goals now?
“We – myself, Erin and General Mills – we feel it’s the best thing for her right now and in the long term to make her a competitive driver in Nextel Cup. Whether she’s running Busch or Truck, it doesn’t really matter, what matters is getting her lap time, keeping her confident, getting her experience and to build a team that will surround her and support her. With the overall goal in mind, it’s really not a big change. This should allow her to race more competitively, than to, honestly, go out and run around in the back of the Busch races. With the races next year, we just want to build her confidence.”

Erin Crocker (Evernham Motorsports Developmental Driver) – What are you thoughts about the decision?
“I think we just got a little ahead of ourselves as far as a full year of Busch, but I look at it as one step back, two steps forward.”

How are you feeling? I mean the rib?
“Well, that was almost three weeks ago now, so I’m back to my regular self. I’m not one that complains a lot to start with and I think I have a high tolerance for pain, but everyone tells me there’s nothing you can do about it. And I think when we ran Talladega, there is so much force that it’s pushing me down into the seat that I didn’t really notice it, but then we tested the next week (Kentucky) and I could feel it a little bit more and someone caught wind of it and that went back to Ray. So the next morning it was, ‘What time is your appointment?’ “

Are you concerned about the outside view of this being a step back?

“Not really, but the people that are important to me, like the Ray Evernhams and Jeremy Mayfields and other people that I respect in racing know it’s for the best.”

Will this maybe make your more comfortable?
“I feel like when Ray said I was ready and that he has a lot of confidence in me, I looked at it in a positive way. We started looking at how many Cup drivers are going to run Busch next year and with the testing changes, he asked me if would feel comfortable going to Daytona and California without ever seeing these places and going out there with twenty Cup drivers, the Truck Series wasn’t sounding so bad.”

When is the first time you are going to be in a truck?
“We are going to be going to Phoenix and Miami this year.”

How do you feel about your two Busch races this year?
“Frustrating, I take the blame for Richmond. I got in over my head a little bit and I messed up my qualifying, something that is pretty simple. I just got down too low and made a driver mental error. And from there we were behind the eight ball. We had a big media day announcing General Mills and with everything else going on I just want to forget about that day all together. Then Dover, I felt really comfortable, we qualified really well, and I felt if we could just get some laps it would be so much experience, and to have that happen on lap 12 is really frustrating.”

So how are you in a pick-up truck?
“I’ve never actually driven one on a race track, but I’m sure we will be alright. Everyone says they are fun to drive, they are a little more forgiving with the longer wheel-base, and I’m really looking forward to racing them.”

Not on the race track, but what have you learned this year?
“Where do I start…I’ve learned a lot about the race cars, I’ve learned a lot about people, about media… it’s just been a huge learning curve that I enjoy learning.”

When did you find out about this change?
“I knew we were going to make some changes, and I had an opportunity to talk with Ray at Talladega and then that Monday we went to lunch and talked about it. It wasn’t like he said this is what we are doing, we talked about it, and it was a nice father-daughter chat.”

Isn’t this more racing?
“We will run over 40 races, and I think it’s great. Not only will it give me more seat time, but it will be in different cars for that matter.”

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