Green brims with optimism as new season ready to ignite

By Jeff Birchfield
STAR Staff

   CONCORD, NC. -- Naming Mike Beam the new crew chief of the No. 30 Richard Childress Racing team has driver Jeff Green filled with optimism as we enter the 2003 racing season.
   "We've got a better opportunity with him than last year," said Green on the annual UAW-GM Motorsports Media Tour at Lowe's Motor Speedway. "We should come out strong out of the gate. Daytona should get us rolling and I know that Rockingham should be good for us.
   "Daytona, you don't have to win there to be a champion, but hopefully we will do the things we have to do and that will be enough."
   Green is also pleased with NASCAR's decision to make the body styles of each brand closer than in years past. He hopes a more competitive car will help to improve his 17th place finish in the 2002 standings.
   "It's definitely a better race car," said Green, the youngest of three racing brothers from Owensboro, Kentucky. "We see where we got beat a lot last year. Chevrolet won some races last year, but we feel we have a much better shot of being able to win each week now."
   He says another improvement is getting to know his teammates at RCR, Kevin Harvick and Robby Gordon, better.
   "We did some stuff with GM together and hung around together at the shop in the offseason," said the driver of the America Online machine. "We had a good time. We're all one team and the more you look at it that way, the better off you are.
   "In the Busch Series, Kevin and myself it seems were into it every week. But, you overcome that. We have had to work hard on that, but now we're all working toward success."
   Combined the three drivers only accounted for one win all of last season, Harvick at Chicago. That type of performance does not bode with car owner Childress, who had grown accustomed to winning championships with Dale Earnhardt.
   "Richard has spoke in a low key way," said Green. "He doesn't say a lot of words. As a driver, I think I am as disappointed as he is. He owns all the stuff putting all the money into it. I think he helps us, but when we don't win, we feel as bad as he does.
   "I think we have three of the best drivers, three of the best crew chiefs and definitely the best car owner in the garage area. When you put all of that together, you should have a winning team. We need to get back to that point."
   Despite winning the Busch Series title in 2000 by the largest margin ever, the best race finish Green has recorded in the Winston Cup Series was a second place this past July at New Hampshire.
   "It definitely built my confidence being able to go out and race like that," said Green. "We were very competitive like that a time or two and didn't get the job done. That day we almost pulled it off. There were races like Darlington and Rockingham that we led that we had a car capable of finishing that well, but didn't get it done.
   "That's the thing we need to work on, making a winning car at the end of the race. That's where I think Mike can help us."
   The combination of Green and the No. 30 team got off to a bang in August 2001 at Bristol, when he set on the pole their first effort together.
   "We had tested over there and when we went back the conditions were the same," Green commented. "It was great to get that pole. We ran great the seven races we run in 2001, so I was kind of disappointed that we didn't start 2002 like we ended 2001. I think moving into a new shop and adding our new team full-time was a set back to everyone."
   Green has had other success on the high banks winning the Busch Series race back in March. While that success on the Busch circuit isn't to be taken for granted, Green figures on Beam being an integral part of getting him to the winners circle in Winston Cup.
   "Mike and those guys have really turned the program around," said Green. "Mike has done a great job organizing the team. I think that will pay off dividends. All of us are ready for the season to start. It's a big turnaround. We might be able to use more time to get things in line, but I think that we are ready to go right now."