May 24, 2002
I’ve had a great couple of days recently on the
race track. We had Carburetion Day in Indy on Thursday and qualified
the Winston Cup car for the Coca-Cola Racing Family 600 at Charlotte.
The track at Indy is now closed. When I left Indy Thursday morning,
my car was in good shape and ready for wax. It was a little loose
on entry into turn one so we’ll probably make a change. One nice
thing about Indy cars is we can run lasers and tire pressure sensors
all the time. That’s stuff we can only use on Winston Cup cars during
a test session. So, the Indy car engineers can go back and make
a methodical change on what they think the problem with the car
might be. They can simulate the car running around the track and
tell if it’s going to roll less or more or how it’s going to react
to certain scenarios.
Who’s going to win Indy? I can’t be too confident
and pick myself, but I think we have a very good shot at it. If
you look back at the last five years, you see that I’ve been in
a position to win each time. So have the Penske cars. I’ve been
right there with them and I think Menard prepares very good race
cars. Michael Andretti and Jimmy Vasser are going to be tough. I
think this year is going to be as tough as the toughest year I can
remember since IRL and CART were a united entity. I’m just hoping
we can put Cingular Wireless in Victory Lane in Indy before heading
to Charlotte. We’ve got what it takes to make that happen.
After Carburetion Day at Indy, I headed to the
Indianapolis airport and flew to Concord for the first Winston Cup
practice at Lowe’s Motor Speedway. The first lap I ran in the Cingular
Wireless Chevrolet was very good and we knew we were going to again
have a good car this weekend. We were the 15th-fastest team in practice
and qualified 12th. Not bad. I definitely am not worried about having
difficulty making the transition from the Indy car to the Winston
They are different types of cars, though. We
steer these Winston Cup cars more. They have fatter tires, less
downforce and less grip. For me, it’s going to be important to finish
the Indy 500 and not be completely used up from driving an ill-handling
car all day and being scared to death that the car is going to wreck.
That will mentally ruin me. I don’t really think that will happen
because Menard has a great group of guys working to set-up a great
car for me. I need to concentrate on going to Charlotte and staying
on the lead lap. That adrenaline from staying on the lead lap and
knowing you’ve still got a shot at the win will be important to
run 600 miles.
I’ve done this Double two times before and unfortunately
had weather hang me up both times. We can win one of these races,
if not both. The most important thing for me is to keep my cool
for 90-percent of both races and position myself to be there at
the end. To win would be great for Cingular Wireless, Richard Childress
Racing and Team Menard.
I’m going to kick back and enjoy the day
Friday. I’m signing autographs for my fans at my shop in Mooresville
for a couple of hours and then I’m going to try to get some rest.
Saturday we run Happy Hour in the Cingular Wireless Chevrolet and
then I’m headed back to Indy for what this whole Double is about.