FORD RACING NOTES AND QUOTES Cracker Barrel 500 Advance March 8, 1999 Atlanta Motor Speedway This week's stop on the NASCAR Winston Cup Series is the Atlanta Motor Speedway for the inaugural Cracker Barrel 500.
FORD RACING NOTES AND QUOTES Cracker Barrel 500 Advance March 8, 1999 Atlanta Motor Speedway
This week's stop on the NASCAR Winston Cup Series is the Atlanta Motor Speedway for the inaugural Cracker Barrel 500. Kenny Irwin, driver of the No. 28 Texaco Havoline Taurus, finished fifth in last year's race which was then known as the PRIMESTAR 500. His next trip to Atlanta was equally impressive as he earned his first career NASCAR Winston Cup pole in the season finale.
KENNY IRWIN -28- Texaco Havoline Taurus -- YOU MUST FEEL GOOD ABOUT GOING BACK TO ATLANTA, RIGHT? "Yeah, it's a track we've been looking forward to since the season started. We've taken a different car everytime we've gone there and we're doing the same thing this time by taking a car that we think is better. For whatever reason, we race good and qualify good there. I mean, we feel like we can keep the momentum going and it's nice going to tracks to start the season that we've run good at in the past and, hopefully, really get that snowball going."
IF YOU HAD TO PICK ONE OF THE FIRST TRACKS YOU SEE YOURSELF WINNING AT WOULD ATLANTA BE ONE OF THEM? "Yep, Atlanta and Richmond without a doubt are the tracks I feel like we can go to and qualify up front and be there all day. I don't feel like that at a Rockingham and a Darlington, but Atlanta and Richmond are more suited to my driving style."
HAVING SAT ON THE POLE THE LAST TIME IN ATLANTA, DOES THAT GIVE YOU AN EVEN BIGGER BOOST OF CONFIDENCE? "Yeah. I think anywhere you go and run good at you feel better about going back to. You realize where you have to run on the race track and, for me, that has been the toughest thing. I don't know where I need to be for the fast laps and to be consistent throughout the race. Tracks that we've run good and qualified good at, it's like I can go there the first lap out of the box and we feel like we can be competitive."
GOING BACK TO THE FIRST ATLANTA RACE LAST SEASON, THAT WAS YOUR FIRST TOP FIVE FINISH (FIFTH) AND THE FIRST RACE WHERE YOU GAINED SOME CONFIDENCE AND RAN UP FRONT MOST OF THE DAY, RIGHT? "We qualified good there and it just suited my driving style. It's an on the gas type of place and we ran good all day. Let me tell you, I'll be the first to say I was more surprised than anybody in the garage area at how good we ran there, just for the fact that we ran up front all day long and led most of the race. It felt good and it was almost like, hey, you can expect this every weekend and then reality kind of strikes, but it was good for us to go there and run good."
DOUG RICHERT, Crew Chief -28- Texaco Havoline Taurus -- YOU'RE TAKING A NEW CAR TO ATLANTA AND NOT THE ONE THAT SAT ON THE POLE LAST YEAR. WHAT'S YOUR THINKING BEHIND THAT? "Even though we're taking a new car back I think it's something that's comparable to the rest of the competition. Things were a little more forgiving the last race there because it was so late at night. I think they might have had more trouble if it would have been run during the day versus it being at night, so that lets you get by with certain things. Well, we're gonna be running during the day, so we've got a choice of cars that we're taking back that we feel is the best and that's comparable to everybody else who ran well also."
WHAT IS IT ABOUT KENNY THAT MAKES HIM SO GOOD AT ATLANTA? "If you can run wide open, that's his style. The biggest thing we work on is finessing some of these tracks where using the throttle with the steering comes more into play. We're looking a lot into that as far as maybe not driving in so hard, get on the gas early, just different combinations of stuff like that. Atlanta, you pretty much just burp the gas and, bam, you go. Fortunately, we've got a good motor program here and that makes you really look good."
ARE YOU COMFORTABLE WITH HOW THINGS HAVE GONE SINCE JOINING THE TEAM THIS YEAR? "Yeah, I'm real happy with it. The guys are still learning me and I'm still learning the procedures of Robert Yates Racing and the success the 28 has had through the years. There are 10 different ways to do everything and not just one way is really the right way, so I'm learning new ways myself as to how they've done it. As we work through them, we're gonna work to make things easier, more accessible, quick changes, that's what I'm looking to do."
WITH SUCH A GOOD START I WOULD IMAGINE THERE'S A LOT OF ENERGY AROUND YOUR SHOP THESE DAYS, RIGHT? "I know I'm excited and I think I've got a really good group of guys for that reason. They've been working really hard. We've got a lot of cars put together and we've done a lot in the little bit of time that I've been there, which is very impressive. The energy level I feel is good. We've got some good results and, I tell you, running good fixes everything."
HOW CLOSE DO YOU FEEL YOU ARE TO WINNING A RACE? "Anytime. I feel we can win at anytime. We've got a really awesome pit crew. We were knocking out some really good stops at Rockingham, even though we couldn't benefit from them totally being three laps down, but you have to have all the ingredients for that one day when you run good all day. It doesn't matter how good you run, if you come in under green and you have a bad stop, then running good does you no good, so it's just putting all the pieces together at one time will be the key. We've been able to unload off the truck and run well for the past two races and that is a real energy builder there, so we're practicing pretty good now for race setup and now it's just a thing of how fast you can make it for how long."
HOW IS THE COMMUNICATION BETWEEN YOU AND KENNY SO FAR? "I'm comfortable with it and I think Kenny knows more this year on what he needed to feel from what he experienced last year. That's where you can't beat experience, when a driver has a certain feel that he knows, 'Man, last time I got in trouble and I'm feeling that same way so we better do something.' Well, he had no experience like that last year, but the second half of the year he ran noticeably better than the first half and it's just experience."