Green knew he had a great situation in the Busch Series, but says the opportunity to drive
Green drove for Teresa and Dale Earnhardt in the Busch Series in 95 and 96, an
Greens performance in the NesQuik Ford led to his offer in Winston Cup, and that buc
A pole-winning run at Bristol in 2001 showed that Green and the AOL Chevrolet will be read
Jeff Green was in a great situation as the driver of the No. 10 NesQuik Ford Taurus in the NASCAR Busch Series. He won races and a championship, and was home with his family on Sundays. The he left all of that to try his luck a second time in the Winston Cup Series. With the type of equipment he's racing, he's an instant threat to win.
SCR: What made you decide to leave ppc Racing and a championship winning Busch Series team to drive in Winston Cup for Richard Childress Racing?
Green: I think every professional athlete wants to win his or her Super Bowl or NBA championship. The Winston Cup Series is the next step in our sport. I wouldnt have left what I had in the Busch Series with the people of ppc Racing and the NesQuik Ford to drive just anything. RCR is, I think, one of the top teams. There are only two or three other teams I would even think about driving for. Plus, we have a great sponsor with AOL. It is committed to being with us for a long time. All the ingredients are there to win championships and win races. To be able to race at this level, this is the next best thing I could ever get. That is why I decided to move up to the Winston Cup Series.
SCR: Many drivers are content in the Busch Series because they can go home on Sundays and spend time with their family. Did you feel the same while you ran in the Busch Series?
Green: I felt that way exactly. I pretty much had the world. I had a great race team and a great sponsor. Why would I want to go work twice as long and not have Sundays off? I think if I didnt do this, personally, when my career is over I would have thought, What if?
SCR: Were you looking to go back to the Winston Cup Series?
Green: No. If I was going to go back, it had to be the right thing. If Dale Earnhardt were still here this opportunity wouldnt have been there. When he was killed in Daytona, that moved (Kevin) Harvick into the No. 29 car. Kevin was supposed to be driving the No. 30 AOL car. I wasnt looking for this. It basically came looking for me. What we have done the last couple of years in the Busch Series had my name at the top of the list of drivers who could get the job done. That is why RCR picked me and gave me the opportunity.
SCR: Speaking of Earnhardt, you drove for Teresa Earnhardt for two years, and now you are driving for Earnhardts former employer. Childress has a reputation for picking exceptional drivers. How do you feel about him picking you?
Green: I think driving for the Earnhardts in 95 and 96 gave me the opportunity to become friends and get acquainted with Childress. Again, what we did in 99, 00 and 01 in the NesQuik Ford is what got me the job. I dont think it reflected back to those years driving for Dale and Teresa. It is what we did the last couple of years.
SCR: You will be driving the No. 21 car in the Busch Series as well. Was that part of your original deal with Childress?
Green: Not at first. We thought driving the Busch car on Saturday would help our performance on Sunday. I will be sharing the car with Jay Sauter. I will run about 15 to 20 races on the tracks we are racing on that weekend in the Cup car. We think having my crew chief, Todd Barrier, and the guys from the AOL team working on the Busch car on Saturday with me driving it will help us perform better on Sunday.
SCR: Technically, this is not your rookie year in the Winston Cup Series, but are you approaching it like it is?
Green: Virtually the only rookie status I will have is not running a full year in a Winston Cup car from February to November. I have run at almost every racetrack other than Sears Point. I have a lot of experience from running in the Busch Series over what I did in 97 and 98 in the Winston Cup Series. I am probably more of a veteran than I am a rookie.
SCR: Do you feel this is your time to come back?
Green: Oh yeah. I think so. I think we have proved that through the first five or six races we ran with the Cup guys last year. I think the guys accept me a lot more than they did in 97 and 98. I think they trust me more. Hopefully, what they have seen me do Saturday in the Busch car and what I have already done on Sunday with them, they trust me more and accept me a little more.
SCR: I am sure there is some talk about you coming back to the Winston Cup Series at the age of 39. How do you feel about these guys starting at such a young age?
Green: I didnt get into Busch racing until 90 when I was about 27 or 28. Some of these guys are getting into Winston Cup racing at 18 and 19 years old. My experience may just be more mature. Basically it is learning to not let things bother you as much and let things come to you. I think that will help me more than not. You have to be pretty excited to run in the Winston Cup Series. You have to be up on the wheel these days and run every lap like its your last to be able to win these races.
SCR: Do you feel you have to be on top of your game the entire race?
Green: The Darrell Waltrip days of riding around and getting after it at the end of the race are over. Even the veterans, Ricky Rudd and Rusty Wallace, are up on the wheel every lap of the race now. I think the cars, the tires, and everything in our sport has changed where you can do that every lap. You used to have to conserve your tires and your car to make it to the end of the race. Now the motors and the car are better where you dont have to conserve everything to make it to the end of a 500-mile race. It is a credit to the teams and all the guys putting these motors and cars together.
SCR: After an incident at Bristol with Kevin Harvick in the Busch race, you said, If he wants to win races like that, thats fine. But, that is not how Jeff Green does it. Ill finish second before I do that. Do you still feel that way?
Green: Oh yeah. I won last year in the Busch race at Dover and I didnt touch a soul. I guess, when it gets right down to the last lap, it all depends on who is in front of you. If Kevin Harvick is in front of me, yeah, I am going to turn him sideways to win. If it is my brother or someone like Elton Sawyer who races me clean every week, I am not going to do that to him. He doesnt do it to me.
SCR: What kind of goals have you set for this year?
Green: Really, just being competitive every week is my goal. I think we will have a Top-10 team every week. I will be disappointed if we arent in the Top 15 in points at the end of the year. I believe this is a goal we can meet, and I think RCR and AOL want it to be even better than that. I want to set my goals high, but I don t want to be disappointed at the end of the year. This is a tough, tough series. It is a lot tougher than the Busch Series. The Busch Series is tough, but you are dealing with 10 or 15 cars you have to beat every week instead of 30 in the Cup Series. The odds of winning races go down. We are just going to try to do the best job we can and hopefully win our share of races. We have three great teams at RCR. The No. 29 has already won a couple of races. There is no reason why we cant run as good as those guys. We have all the same stuff. It is all about working together and being consistent every week.
SCR: You have won three track championships in Late Model stock cars in Kentucky and you have a Late Model championship at Nashville, along with your Busch Series championship. When do you realistically expect the Winston Cup championship to come your way?
Green: I think if we are as successful as we think we can be, we have a shot at it in these next three years. It is not going to happen next year and we are not going in thinking that. That would be a stretch of the imagination to think we could come out the first year and win a championship. It is tough to beat Jeff Gordon and his team every week. They have been doing this a lot longer than we have. They are going on 10 years. We are not going into next year thinking we are going to set the world on fire, but we are going to do our job and do it the best we can and hopefully that will put us in the Top 10 when the season is over.
SCR: In 2000, you won the Busch Series championship by a record margin. Do you feel that every time you get into the car you have to drive as hard as you would if you were last in points?
Green: I drive race cars because I want to and I want to win. When I take the checkered flag it is not about points or money. It is about being competitive and being the best that particular day. In 2000 we could have taken the last three races off. It is about winning that trophy and bringing it back to the shop. There are some who run just for the money. I wont fool you; I have to make a living and I want to make a living for my family and for what I want to do when I retire. Growing up racing bicycles in the street, I wanted to win and it didnt pay any money or points. That is the way I still feel 30-some years later.
SCR: Your two brothers, Mark and David, race as well. How did all three of you get started in racing?
Green: We all started racing go-karts. I was around eight and they were about 11 or 12. The Southern Indiana Racing Association would block off the town and we would run through the streets. That was an every-Sunday event through the summer. One thing led to another, and we were racing for trophies and pretty much all of my mom and dads money was going into go-karts. I traveled to California, Oklahoma and other places to race. It was fun, but it was just getting more experience. I raced go-karts all the way through high school graduation, then I started racing stock cars. It got to the point where I had to start making a living. I was driving a car with four wheels and a steering wheel, so that gave me the seat time I needed at that early age to do what I am doing now.
SCR: Of the three brothers, who is the better driver?
Green: I am. You wouldnt want me to say anything different would you? I think we are all as good as the next one, but I have had some better opportunities the last couple of years with the race teams I have driven for. I think Mark would do the same job I am doing in my car, and David would do the same job. It is all about the team. If all the guys are not pulling, or you dont have good guys period, you are not going to be good.
SCR: There is a well-known superstition with the color green among race car drivers. How do you get over that?
Green: I dont think about it too much. The only thing I dont do is drive a green rental car. I have a green marble that a lady gave me in California back in 2000. I kept it with me at each race that year, but I think I wore it out. I used it off and on in 2001. Sometimes it worked, sometimes it didnt.
SCR: Any other superstitions?
Green: My NesQuik uniform wouldve probably looked better with blue shoes, but the first time I wore them was in Daytona in 2000 and I flipped. After that, blue shoes were out and now I wear black ones. A lot of the (green) superstition comes from Earnhardt. My wife, Michelle, wore a green shirt one time when I drove for him and he wore her out. But he was one who would wear you out about something just to be wearing you out. And you had to listen to him!
SCR: Do you feel the competitiveness has changed from when you were in Winston Cup in 97 and 98?
Green: Now there are more teams that have better sponsors and enough money to do it right, so that makes the racing more competitive. As far as better drivers, I dont know if that is any different. The average age is probably down. I think the biggest difference is the sponsors are giving the race teams more money to do it right and help them win.
SCR: What is your goal for the future?
Green: To me, in racing, there is nothing better than Winston Cup. I want to be able to retire there with RCR and AOL. I want to be like Dale Jarrett and Ricky Rudd. They are competitive every week, and when the day is said and done they are pretty close to the Top 5 or Top 10.