had worked with Rob Downing the year I worked
with Mark and I knew we would get along, and
Jeff, I had known him from when I was at Warrens.
So I brought in those two and I brought in Jason
and Joe full time and a couple of other part-time
people and that is when it all took off. The
chemistry was all of a sudden there and we went
and won the championship and won 12 races last
year. Hopefully, well do better this year.
Since we started this team it has gotten better
and better, and hopefully it will continue.
The chemistry is the main thing.
got his first ride in your second car toward
the end of last year. Was that part of the deal
in him coming to work for you?
That wasnt part of the deal in the beginning.
The only deal I had with Jason was that he would
come over in the evenings two or three nights
a week and dyno the engines. He was the head
dyno operator at Gibbs, so thats what
he did and he was having a ball with it. Hes
a drag racer; hes not a round tracker
but a drag racer. He had a great job over there,
great opportunity. He had access to all this
high-dollar equipment, a $2 million dyno he
ran over there. It was a dream job. But he loved
drag racing and he had raced door cars all of
his life. Most people like that, their ambition
or goal in life is to some day drive a Pro Stocker,
just like your alcohol dragster driver someday
wants to drive a Top Fuel dragster. The door
car guys stay with the door car guys and the
dragsters stay with the dragster guys.
He just never thought he would have an opportunity
and when he came over here, well you know they
do real well in the round-track world; they
get paid a lot of money and drag racers just
dont have that budget. We just cant
go hire people away from Winston Cup teams by
paying them more money.
So I didnt steal Jason; I had to have
him want to come over. We hadnt really
considered adding a second car yet, but we finished
third in points and said, You know what?
For the last several years in a row no single-car
team has won the championship. Theres
Jegs two-car team, Warrens two-car
team, and so forth. Yates was the last one that
did it, but even he had several sorta
team cars helping him, if youll recall.
No single-car team had done it recently, so
we decided that maybe we needed a second car.
So I offered Jason, if he were willing to leave
Gibbs and come full time I couldnt pay
him as much or more than they were paying him,
but I offered him the ride and thats what
it took. That was the carrot it took to get
him out of there and over here full time.
Thats where it all started and the bottom
line is the guy had already won Stock Eliminator
championships and Im a firm believer that
if you can win in one class, you can win in
another. There are people who seem to separate
themselves from the pack and I was sure he could
win in this class. It would just take him a
little time to learn the ropes and get adjusted
to the speed, but I knew eventually he would
be a good driver.
DRO: But his
debut race didnt turn out so well
Yeah, we started it last year and his first
race was Columbus in a brand-new racecar and
we only had four or five test laps on it and
we thrust him into the seat right away too early.
We got to the worst racetrack weve ever
raced on and he flips the car. It was just bad
circumstances. It was our fault for putting
him in the car, a brand-new untested car. It
was NHRAs fault for the track being that
bad, and it was his fault for being inexperienced
and not knowing he had to get out of it when
he had a situation like that. He didnt
know you had to have a lot of respect for these
things. He figured you could steer it out of
anything, but you cant. You dont
drive these things; they drive you.
It all ended up a catastrophe, but who knows?
Maybe it will turn out to be the best thing
that ever happened to him because most people
dont get that lesson right away and they
push it and push it until finally they do something
and go over the edge.
DRO: Did you
have any second thoughts about Jason then?
It didnt shake us up. We just went back
and had another car built. We tested it better
this time and we started at a track that we
knew would be safe and a little slower for him
and then we went to another good track and kinda
eased him up this time. We only let him run
four races so he would still be eligible for
rookie of the year this season. Were geared
up for the full deal this year and weve
progressed at every race with him, way ahead
of schedule and hes already winning.
a big guy to be driving a racecar. Did that
give you any concern?
He is a big guy. When he came in he was 20 or
30 pounds heavier, but you need that weight
in these cars for balance to move around. So
he went on a diet right away and he did what
it took and he got down in weight. If he wants
it that bad, that showed me he'll do whatever
Part 2 coming July 23.