Q&A: Jeff Green After Taking Pole For Daytona 500
Posted February 11, 2003 1:18 a.m. EST
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — Jeff Green bumped fellow Chevrolet driver Dale Earnhardt, Jr., off the pole Monday to earn the top starting spot for the Winston Cup season-opening Daytona 500.
It was a stunning victory for the often overlooked 40-year-old driver, a former Busch Series champion still seeking his first Winston Cup victory.
Here is what Green had to say at a post-qualifying question-and-answer session with the media.
Q: ARE YOU SURPRISED TO WIN THE POLE?
"I really expected it. A lot of people, I think, looked at me like I had four eyes when I said that.
"We knew we had a great race car. For the work that's been done at Richard Childress Racing the last two and a half months - even last year - getting to this point, I'm pretty proud of guys - the fab guys, the engine guys, Richard (Childress), what he's given to us.
"(Crew chief) Mike Beam is a blessing for all of us - not just my team, but for the 29 (of RCR teammate Kevin Harvick) and the 31 (of RCR teammate Robbie Gordon) both. He knows what he wants in a race car, and he's able to give it to me. That's what we've got to have to be able to win and to sit on poles like this. I'm just very proud of him."
Q: DOES THE UNDERDOG ROLE FIRE YOU UP A LITTLE BIT?
"I enjoy people not talking about me a lot. When you slip up and win one of these things and slip up and win poles like we did, it tends to make a better story. Things like that make me go, and, hopefully, it will keep going that way."
Q: WITH THE CAR BODIES SO EQUAL, WAS THIS AN ENGINE BUILDER'S DAY?
"I think it takes all of it. You've got to have a good slick race car. You've got to have a great motor. The guys working on the car have got to do the right things to make it go through the air.
"There is no one thing that makes it happen. Everything has got to happen. I don't know how many pieces are on a race car, but every one of them has to work to get where we are today."
Q: DID YOU HAVE A POKER FACE ON THE LAST COUPLE DAYS, KNOWING HOW GOOD YOUR CAR WAS?
"Yesterday (Sunday) in that rain was the longest day of my life because I knew how good a car we had. I kept telling Michelle, my wife, how good a car we had. She was just shaking her head, you know, but we made a believer out of her.
"It's just that when you have Mike and those guys working as hard as they work, I want to go out and do the best job for them each and every week, and this is just the first weekend of this season. I think at the end of the year, we're going to be noticed."
Q: HOW TOUGH IS IT GOING TO BE TO BEAT THE DEI (Dale Earnhardt, Inc.) CARS (of Dale Earnhardt, Jr., and Michael Waltrip) THIS WEEK?
"It's going to be tough, but there are 40 other guys out there that you've got to beat, too - not just the DEI cars.
"My philosophy is get in front of the 8 (of Earnhardt, Jr.) and let him push you all the way to the end. That's what I'm going to do. I'm going to block my butt off to keep him behind me.
"He's got a great race car. He's got a lot of experience here. He reminds me of Dale, Sr. I think he reminds everybody a lot of Dale, Sr., on these racetracks.
"They (Earnhardt, Jr., and Waltrip) have got a great combination. But I think RCR is right there with them now. Hopefully, we can just hold our own, get to the end of the race and, again, if I can somehow keep myself in front, it's going to be a wide car come the end of the race."
Q: IS YOUR TEAM COMING TOGETHER?
"I think last year we had a lot things that pulled our attention away from the races. We moved into a new 80,000 square foot shop mid-season. Richard added my Winston Cup team to his roster, so there were a lot of things.
"We were just getting to the race track basically, what I've seen - not gelling together like we should have. I was basically a rookie in the Winston Cup Series - I'd had some laps under my belt, but not in a competitive race car like I've had. Todd Berrier was a first-year Winston Cup crew chief, and I think we all learned together.
"But, Mike Beam has just brought so much experience to our race team. He knows what he wants when he leaves the shop. We don't have to get to the race track to figure it out. I think at the end of the day that is going to pay a lot of dividends and get us a lot of wins and a lot of poles.
"The fab shop has been working so, so hard this winter to get those 2003 Monte Carlos where they need to be, and the tests that we've done have proved it. We've been very fast every place we've gone to.
"I'm just like a little kid in a candy store. I want to go to every race track right now and get it over with. But, I think Thursday and Sunday will tell dividends for us - how really good we are."
Q: COMPARED TO YOUR CHAMPIONSHIPS, WHERE DOES WINNING THE POLE HERE STACK UP?
"I think it tops them all.
"The championship in the Busch Series is definitely a great accomplishment for me as a race driver for me in my career. But, to come to the hub of racing at Daytona the first race of the year, and we're the class of the field - that's saying a lot in this sport."