Closing the sale
Mobil 1 team has a good shot in Charlotte
Somebody asked me one time since we go week-to-week-to-week with the schedule if all tracks start looking the same. I kind of laughed and told them, "Only once a year."
The tracks are so different and the approaches to each track are so different, you don't have to worry about putting one track behind you and getting ready for the next. The only time that changes is this time of year -- from The Winston weekend to the Coca-Cola 600 weekend. We run on the same track.
Looking back over the last several times we've run there, and especially this past weekend, we kind of feel Charlotte owes us one. That's our thinking going into this weekend. We know we can run well there. We know we have run well there. Now we just need to "close the sale" on the place and win this race.
Our Charlotte cars last year were pretty good. Things just didn't work out for us the way we hoped they would. In some ways that's frustrating but in other ways, that's the sign of not just a good race team but a hungry race team. When you're mad over finishing second, that's got to be a good sign.
This past weekend, we had a pretty good car too. Things didn't work out the way we had hoped but we know we were a real factor in The Winston, and could have been a major factor there in the end. All I know is I would have liked the chance to be sitting there on the front row for those last 10 laps, two tires, four tires or running on the rims. I think we would have had something for them.
One real positive is we saw some things this past weekend that we can use to be even better for the 600. We're pretty excited knowing we had a good car last week and can make it even better this week.
I don't see this coming down to Bobby Labonte and me. I wouldn't be surprised if it does, but there are going to be 41 other guys out there who are going to want to have a pretty good say in things. When you look back at last year, even in October, he really came on strong right there at the end and we did everything we could to hang on. He passed me late (seven laps from the end) and pulled us the rest of the way. Those guys had a really good car.
If it came down to the end of the 600 and I passed Bobby with seven laps to go to win, it would be pretty cool, but passing anybody to win would be pretty cool. Charlotte is one of those tracks and the 600 is one of those races that every stock car driver dreams of winning. Passing Bobby late to win? Yeah, that'd be great. Passing anybody late to win? Yeah, that'd be great. Winning the thing by a lap or two? Yeah, that really would be great. Winning the thing any way we can win it, that's what we're looking for.
I'm not going to be looking at Bobby any more than Bobby is going to be looking at me. Everybody starts off even Thursday for practice and we'll take it from there. Win the pole, practice good and win the race. That's what everybody is looking to do. You start from that first practice on Thursday and take it from there.
Charlotte is probably one of the trickiest race tracks as far as the changes in the weather. A cloud can come over and it'll get fast and then, all of a sudden, the sun comes out and it gets slick. The changes sometimes are more consistent for the 600 because you go from the afternoon to nighttime but you can't depend on consistent track changes. For some reason, the track changes just like it wants to.
I think that's one of the reasons you see a lot of guys winning at Charlotte for the first time, and especially the reason you've seen so many in the past few years. I think they hit on the setup and, when somebody does that, they usually dominate. A lot of times you can gamble a little bit and make it work for you.
I like Charlotte. I love Charlotte. It's one of those tracks that has been really good to me, like Pocono and California and Darlington. Our whole team goes in there with a really positive attitude and a real feeling that we can do something great. When you go to any track with that kind of attitude and that kind of feeling, it carries over a lot of times to your performance.
That's our goal -- to win. That's our goal every single week. We feel good about what this Mobil 1 team can do at Charlotte, and we're pretty excited about heading back there. It already seems like it's been a long time since The Winston.
Jeremy Mayfield is in his fourth year driving the Penske Racing / Mobil 1 No. 12 Ford. His diary will appear weekly on CNNSI.com in 2001.