BILL ELLIOTT TRANSCRIPT PREVIEWING FIRST RACE IN NO. 00 BURGER KING NASCAR NEXTEL CUP SERIES ENTRY AT CHICAGOLAND SPEEDWAY Question: You've been successful at Chicagoland Speedway in the past and have collected two top-10 finishes in three...
BILL ELLIOTT TRANSCRIPT PREVIEWING FIRST RACE IN NO. 00 BURGER KING NASCAR NEXTEL CUP SERIES ENTRY AT CHICAGOLAND SPEEDWAY
Question: You've been successful at Chicagoland Speedway in the past and have collected two top-10 finishes in three starts at the 1.5-mile D-shaped tri-oval. Talk about your past experiences and what are your expectations for this weekend behind the wheel of the No. 00 Burger King NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series car entered by Michael Waltrip Racing.
Bill Elliott: It's been a few years since I've been there. A lot of things have changed with the aero packages from the time I was there in 2003 until now. We've run other places with other packages. Hopefully, we can get a handle on it. It's going to be a hit or miss deal. You have to go through inspection and work through that to get going for practice. Practice in the No. 00 Burger King car is going to be key this time. You have a limited amount of practice and then you've got to go right into qualifying. At least now, since they've changed some of these races to where it's not an impound race, it helps you. You can concentrate on a qualifying set up and on race set up. We're going there to give it our best shot. Larry Carter (Crew Chief for the No. 00 Burger King car) and all the guys have worked really hard to put everything together. Hopefully, we won't have any hiccups or problems. That's the one thing you really worry about going in with no points. In that type of situation it makes it tough. As far as expectations, I really don't know how to look at that. We are optimistic in what we can do. I feel like Larry and the team have the knowledge. It's just knocking the edges off. We've tested the No. 00 Burger King car some at different places recently. We've now got to get to a racing scenario and get some races under our belt to figure out what we need.
Q: Where have you tested the No. 00 Burger King car to prepare for your first race at Chicagoland Speedway?
Elliott: We went to Kentucky Speedway to prepare for this weekend's race at Chicagoland Speedway and then we went to the Milwaukee Mile to test for Loudon (New Hampshire International Speedway). You can't get down to the nitty gritty at a test because each race track and each tire compound is so different. It's so specialized with each track you go to. It's hard to fine tune everything until you get to the race track you are competing at. Hopefully, you are close enough to get things going in a good direction. The tests have been great because we are trying to knock off the rough edges so that we can get everything working.
Q: You are racing the No. 00 Burger King car at Chicagoland Speedway, New Hampshire International Speedway, Indianapolis Motor Speedway, California Speedway and Homestead-Miami Speedway. How did the five race deal with Michael Waltrip Racing transpire for you?
Elliott: Ty Norris (Team Manager at Michael Waltrip Racing) called me and asked me if I would be interested in running five races in Burger King car for Michael Waltrip Racing. Now, with me only doing limited stuff with Ray (Evernham), it gave me the opportunity to do the deal. In 2003, I said I wanted to run 12 to 15 races a year and that was my goal. It just never materialized. Ray worked hard to put some stuff together, but he had a lot of other things to concentrate on. Then a full-time deal came together with Valvoline. I just wasn't ready to run full-time at that point and time.
Q: Do you have anything set for next year with Michael Waltrip Racing or anyone else?
Elliott: At this time, I don't know where I'm going to end up. I'm just going to go ahead and get a few races under my belt. I'm going to see how things go here and then make a decision. Once I get going here, I'll know where I need to be. That's my biggest deal.
I'm not sure how much is going to change next year. This deal is a five race program that will be Chevrolet and then next year they are racing Toyotas. So, it will change for them a lot.
Q: It's surprising you have one start this year. Why is that?
Elliott: Nothing ever came up until this point. I've got eight races to do. I've got my work cut out for me. I was hoping to spread them out a little more.
Q: What have you been doing in your off time away from the sport?
Elliott: I've been helping Chase and my nephew go-kart race and I've playing with my dirt car some. I've just been doing odds and ends. I've still kept my feet in it and tested some. The opportunities never really came about. Everybody said to me that I thought you retired, but I said no I never said I was going to retire. I said I wanted to run 12 to 15 races a year. It just never came about.
Q: Do you think Michael Waltrip can juggle being a team owner, a driver, working with a new manufacturer, etc.?
Elliott: Michael said he thinks he can do it all. If anybody can, Michael can. He's pulled off some amazing stuff already. So, we'll see how everything goes. It's going to be a tough road. Here it is in July and he's got to continue putting people together. Then he's working with a new manufacturer coming in. It's not an impossible task, but he's going to have his work cut out for him.
Q: Since you stepped back a couple years ago has anything occurred that would make you reconsider moving up to more than just a limited schedule? We here your name tossed around for a full-time ride every now and then. Has anything happened to make you rethink that and actually run a full schedule?
Elliott: It depends on the opportunity. You have to remember I stepped out of a pretty good deal in 2003. Kasey Kahne was coming along and it gave him a great opportunity. I'm very proud of where he is at. Looking at what I did, I made the right decision. Whether I will do a full-time deal next year or not, I don't know at this time. I'm still playing my options as far as what is available. I won't say yes and I won't say no. I still enjoy the race and racing has been a part of my whole life. It's hard to get it out of your system. If you look at one side of it, you probably need a transfusion to get it out of your blood. There again, I still enjoy it. I still enjoy the people. I like where I have been at for the past few years. I've been able to watch Chase and my nephews race go-karts. It's been fun to be a part of that with those guys. It's also fun to do the Cup stuff and hang around with the guys you spent so many years with. I see it in a different way now than I did two or three years ago. People get caught up and so tired and you run every week. It wears on you. People don't really realize the grind of the week in and week out and the pressure that's put on you. Now that I am out I can look at it and appreciate it from a different perspective. I just wouldn't come back just to come back. It has to be the right situation. From the standpoint of looking at what the future is. You've got the car of tomorrow. Things are changing with the NASCAR industry. You've got a great group of young guys that have come along that have made a mark in racing. For me it would be for the love of the sport. I do enjoy it and I have been around it for so many years. It's hard for me to let go in a lot of ways. In this sport there's too many "ifs". If the opportunity doesn't come along then I'll be satisfied with running a limited schedule or whatever. We'll have to see what cards are laid out in the next couple of months and make a decision from that.
Q: How interested is your son Chase is in pursuing a racing career?
Elliott: He thinks he is. I don't know if he realizes how hard it is. He's done well. We ran over at Grand Junction (Motor Speedway) this past weekend and he won his first shifter kart race and he's only 10. He runs in a restricted class. He did a really good job. He runs also a little TaG car. He won both classes. He ran well last year and won several races. This year the competition has been better and we've been hot and cold. Where he goes from here, who knows. I guess we'll have to wait and see.
Q: There have been a lot of misconceptions about Toyota coming into the sport. Please give us your perspective.
Elliott: I really don't know the nuts and bolts of everything as far as what dollars they do have to spend or what they are trying to spend. Everybody has a budget. I know it's going to be tough for a new manufacturer, but Toyota came into the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series as a new manufacturer and ran really well and won races. Other than that, like I said, I don't really know the ins and outs of the business.