RAY EVERNHAM (Car Owner Evernham Motorsports Dodge Intrepids) "He (Bill Elliott) did break three bones in his foot, and what we've got to do is stop his foot from going like that (bending). Otherwise it could separate the bones and certainly...
RAY EVERNHAM (Car Owner Evernham Motorsports Dodge Intrepids)
"He (Bill Elliott) did break three bones in his foot, and what we've got to do is stop his foot from going like that (bending). Otherwise it could separate the bones and certainly make things worse and possibly force him into having an operation to pin it. Dr. Terry Trammel from Indianapolis came up with some insoles to go inside his boot, which he is wearing in his regular shoe now. We kicked around some ideas at the shop and we've got some motorcycle, flat track guys, and we thought he needed something to protect his toe and something that would keep his foot flat and not bend. Obviously steel was too heavy, aluminum, we were afraid of the heat, so Kenny and Keith Koldsbach who work for me doing carbon fiber and things like that came up with this design that does protect Bill's toe. He does have a broken toe on top of everything else. He used this yesterday. What he's struggling with right now, these cars are so sensitive, the handling is so sensitive getting through the corner on how you lock the rear end up on what we call the locker. You do that by how much gas and how much brake you apply. What you run for right rear spring and spring split really depends on how your driver does that. Bill's struggling a little bit right now because he really can't feel how much pressure he's putting on the brake. He felt bad about qualifying yesterday because he really couldn't get his rhythm.
"This morning they're trying some different master cylinders to give him a little bit more travel in the brake pedal and a little bit more sensitivity. Our biggest issue we're going to be fighting this weekend as far as speed is whether or not Bill can have some feeling on how much braking he's using. Our biggest concern is going into tomorrow with him, my biggest concern, is vibration. Six hundred miles worth of vibration in one of these cars going through some broken bones is going to be a lot of pain I think. Hopefully he'll be all right. Ted Musgrave is still standing by just in case and Bill's got a touch of the flu. It's not been a great week for the No. 9 bunch.
"I don't really have a choice. He's driving the car. It's what he wants to do. He's a racer. We don't feel like we're putting him in danger. It's what he's done his whole life. As soon as we got the X-rays back last Saturday night he was sure he was driving the car. Bill knows that's his car to drive if he wants. It's his decision to drive it. I certainly wouldn't force him to do that. I would stand by him whatever his decision is. He wants to drive that race car, and we're going to do everything we can to make sure he's comfortable in it.
"It's got to go both ways. I really believe in his heart if he believed the team owner could get any more points he'd step out of the way, but I know in Bill's heart and mind he believes he can do a good job and he can do a better job in that car than anybody else we could put in it right now. I support him on that, and I believe in him.
"It didn't hit anything. It's not that kind of an injury. What we think is that the foot was hyper extended. When he hit the wall, it pushed the brake pedal down and folded his foot back and broke the bones across the top. That's our speculation and Bill feels pretty confident that that's what happened. This is the second time it's happened to him. It happened in California also.
"As far as switching pedals, you always think about anything you can do there, but these guys are so trained and so many years with the pedals being in the same spot. In a panic situation, something crazy could happen. The best thing to do is try to keep as much normal in the cockpit of that car as you can and then work with the problem. As I said, they're looking at different pedal lengths, they're changing master cylinders, there's so many things we can do with the car mechanically to give him some sensitivity. You are still sitting in the seat, you're strapped to it. We're just going to have to figure out how much he's slowing the car down by using other parts of his body rather than his foot.
"It seems like I learn something every day that I didn't know, and when you don't know how much you don't know that's when you're the most vulnerable. Just putting this thing together has been a much bigger job than I thought. I can't be as much hands-on on the competition side. I set out when I learned about business and learning about the structure of putting teams together. I feel like I worked pretty hard and I've gone to school a good bit on that, but our competition side is behind because I've left a void over there. What I underestimated is the time it would take to get the right people in the right places and then get them the experience as a team and gel together. The other thing you never count on are the lightning bolts that hit you like rule changes or people getting hurt or people leaving and going to other teams and things like that. I feel like we're on plan, but certainly the amount of time it would take to get this thing going smoothly really caught me off guard.
"It could be as many as four weeks (to heal). A lot of it is determined by how the swelling goes down. The bones are definitely broken and a lot of it is determined by how Bill heals, but it's a standard four-six week type broken bone. You'd have to ask him that because Bill is the type of guy who would never tell you (how much pain he's in). He won't show it. He's not walking on it all over the place, so that tells me it's bothering him, but here's a guy who's broken his knee and he's broken his femur and has had all kinds of nuts and bolts and screws in his legs and never complained. When we left here the other night and went to the hospital, he kept saying he was fine. He just wanted to get out of there and get home. He's not the type of guy who talks about pain a lot, so I don't know."
"We've had so many changes over there on that 19 that some days I feel like I don't know where they should be. I believe that's top 15 equipment. We've been struggling and searching to find Jeremy something that makes him comfortable. We've not been able to do that. Kenny Francis is over there now and he used to be the guy who was second in charge of the 9 car. I know both cars are using similar setups. The bodies are being built very similar. I feel like our motor program has been stepped up and we're working on our pit crews. We're just going to have to wait. I know Jeremy Mayfield has won races before and he's run good. He's got several top fives, so we've just got to find out what it takes to get that combination. If you look at what goes on with certain people and you go around and you give up on 'em, I'm sure a couple of years ago people were ready to give up on Joe Nemechek. Then he got in a situation where the cars and the setups are suiting him and Joe is running good again. Terry Labonte went through the same thing. Jeff Burton is struggling a little bit right now. I just think these guys go through a deal where you've got to get them back in something they're comfortable in. We haven't done that for Jeremy yet, but I believe he can drive the race car.
"There's been talk, but we were going to wait until we got through here and see exactly what kind of shape he felt like he was in the next couple of weeks. That's something we're really concerned about. We're concerned about Pocono in the next couple of weeks because they've got to shift there. Tomorrow's race will really give us a lot of answers or a lot more questions.
"I'm going to go back to Wall Stadium for the first time since 1991 and drive a tour modified. I did drive a modified around Loudon a little bit a couple of years ago, but I've always loved the open wheel cars and with Dodge sponsoring the NASCAR Weekly Racing Series now, Wall Stadium has gone NASCAR. That being my home track, I grew up around there, we're going back and have a little fun. I guess I'm going to race Martin Truax. It's pretty bad when you go back and say, 'I used to race against your father. Now I've got to race against him.' We're going to have some fun. I'm going to take a few laps in a TQ Midget there, too. I used to love those things. It's going to be good to get back and see some family and friends and go around Wall Stadium again. I hope I can still remember how to do that. That's going to be next Saturday night before Dover.
"I've said this, and again, I'm not turning anything into a whining deal or anything like that, but the bottom line is I think all the rule changes finally caught up with us. We've had so many rule changes on the Dodge program. Every year we've had major body changes and this year we had a major body change and everybody had to cut the bodies off. We did that. Some of the teams are still fairly new, and I think we're still paying the price. We got a little behind with the motor side with the bore rule, and I think we're catching up now. The Dodges are coming together as a whole, and I think a lot of cards stacked up against them. Hopefully you'll see a better second half of the season out of the Dodges. We've got a good motor and we've got a good car. We lost our aero balance and I think we got just a little behind on the horsepower side. I feel really good about my engine program with the addition of Mark McCardle. He's come on board in the past three weeks and our program is certainly going up. My partnership with Mr. Penske on the restrictor plate side, so I feel good about that. We just need a little bit more time. I think the newness and rule changes finally caught up with us.
"We look at them (Toyota) as another competitor. Certainly NASCAR is a tough sport. As long as the rules are kept the same for everybody, I think they're going to find it as tough going as everybody did. I think Dodge did a great job coming in. They've won 11 or 12 races, got a bunch of poles and had some success. I suspect Toyota will have some success, but they're not going to come in and take over this sport and dominate it. That's just not going to happen."