Bill Elliott is back in the No. 21 Air Force Ford Fusion this week after Marcos Ambrose and Jon Wood were in the car for the past three events. Rain cancelled qualifying on Friday; Elliott will start 37th in tomorrow night's race. Elliott, who won...
Bill Elliott is back in the No. 21 Air Force Ford Fusion this week after Marcos Ambrose and Jon Wood were in the car for the past three events. Rain cancelled qualifying on Friday; Elliott will start 37th in tomorrow night's race. Elliott, who won the 1988 championship and has 44 career victories, made the field this weekend one of the past champions (only the most recent past champion is guaranteed a spot when qualifying is not rained out), but for much of this season the No. 21 team has had to qualify on time.
BECAUSE OF THE RAIN, YOU DIDN'T HAVE TO QUALIFY IN THIS WEEK, BUT, BECAUSE IT IS OUTSIDE OF THE TOP 35 IN OWNER'S POINTS, THIS IS A TEAM THAT IS FACED WITH THAT PRESSURE PRETTY MUCH EVERY WEEK. "I've been on both sides of the coin before, but these guys don't realize how well they've got it, these teams that are in the top 35 in points. You know, you've got so many things going for you. You go over and ask the 66 and the 70 now, since they've gotten out of the top 35, how difficult it is, because now everything is against you when you drive in the gate instead of being able to unload and go at the thing in a relaxed pace to work through issues. Like yesterday, for example, most of the guys unloaded in race trim and worked on their stuff, and then the last few runs they'll do a couple of qualifying runs. By that time, they've got such a dialogue on it, and the problem that we've had is we've had really nothing to fall back on from last year, because we're still trying to get better in a lot of ways, and you don't have any notes to turn around to have a starting point to be able to say, 'We'll unload with this, tweak a little bit. It might be good for qualifying, it might not. We'll change what we ran' at the particular race last year. Now, we didn't run the COT here last year, but most of these teams have enough of a dialogue and enough good running to say, 'Okay, we'll use this,' where when you get behind, you're just coming in and you're just thrashing and digging, just to make a qualifying run. Then you get that and lose an hour and a half, just because you're trying to qualify. I just don't think that people understand how difficult it is for the guys out of the top 35. It's fight and scratch every week just to get into the show."
IS THE MARGIN FOR ERROR FOR MISSING WITH THE NEW CAR SMALLER? "Yes. It's been like, instead of a rollercoaster running at a nice gradual up and down, it's more like straight lines: straight up or straight down. There's no in-between. For us, not having everything together, just fighting and clawing to get in the race, that's been difficult."
THIS IS YOUR FIRST RACE BACK AFTER SITTING OUT THE LAST THREE. IS IT MORE DIFFICULT TO RETURN AFTER AN ABSENCE, OR IS IT DIFFICULT REGARDLESS? "I think week to week is difficult for anybody. Granted, you probably need to do it every week to stay up on everything, but until you get everything together on your race team, I don't think that that's neither here nor there because I understand what most race tracks take, but on the COT car, I don't know how to get it, because it's such a different animal -- less travel, less downforce with the evolution of where the travels are versus where the older cars were. It's just a different piece."
ARE ONE-AND-A-HALF-MILE TRACKS LIKE THIS ONE A GOOD BASELINE, OR DOES THAT INFORMATION NOT TRANSFER WELL? "Sometimes, it doesn't translate at all because sometimes you come back with a different tire compound, race surface -- so many things dictate what you end up with the end of the day."
-credit: ford racing