FORD RACING NOTES AND QUOTES TRANSOUTH 400 March 21, 1999 Darlington Raceway
RICK MAST -98- Yarborough/Burdette Motorsports Taurus -- WHAT HAPPENED IN TURN ONE? "Me and Kevin (Lepage) got together. We just got together. It was just one of those deals. It's a narrow race track and both of us were just trying to be careful and we just hit enough that his right-front cut my left-rear valve stem out and the tire went flat. I was coming down the front straightaway and the tire was flat, and then the caution comes out because they're wrecking behind me, so that saved us from going down a lap. Then, we missed our setup here this morning big time for some reason. I don't know if it's the rain that caused it or whatever, but we missed it. We adjusted it big time during that first stop, so we'll see what we've got." WHEN YOU GOT THE FLAT, DID YOU JUST TRY TO GET TO THE BOTTOM OF THE TRACK AS FAST AS POSSIBLE? "Here if you go into this turn in the high groove and you've got the whole field behind you, you're gonna get run over so I was just coming down the straightaway trying to get out of the way."
DALE JARRETT -88- Quality Care Service/Ford Credit Taurus -- NOTE: JARRETT STARTED 21ST AND MOVED UP TO SEVENTH WHEN THE RACE WAS RED-FLAGGED. "There's nothing we can do about this. You just make the most of the situation. The car was pretty good in the first run, it was a little bit loose off so we're gonna try to remedy that to where I can get after it a little bit more. We were able to make up some time in that first run and that's what was important, that we were able to pass some cars on the race track. The guys did a good job in the pits and, hopefully, the adjustment that we made will be what we're looking for and we can get up and race in the front." IS THIS SOMETHING WHERE YOU JUST GET INTO A RHYTHM AND THEN THIS HAPPENS? "It doesn't take long. Once you get some practice around here, it's not too bad. Like the start of the race, when I was back in 21st, it's a little more exciting back there than what I'd like for it to be, but now I've got the opportunity since we've moved up that I can kind of bide my time and be patient and work back into that rhythm. This race track is not gonna change that much with the rain. There's no rubber that can get down on this surface anyway, so it's not gonna matter too much."
KEVIN LEPAGE -16- PRIMESTAR Taurus -- WHAT HAPPENED WITH RICK MAST IN TURN ONE? "It was my fault. I got underneath him going into one and the car just wouldn't hold and I shoved up into him. I actually thought we hit wheel-to-wheel, but, obviously, my right-front fender must have got his tire and cut it down. I hate it that early in the race, but he got loose getting in there and I got underneath him, but the car just wouldn't hold."
KENNY IRWIN -28- Texaco Havoline Taurus -- "The 36 car just lost it off turn four and that just started it. I tried to go under him, but when I did the 58 came down. He didn't have anywhere to go either. Everybody was just trying to clear the 36 when he spun, so it's a bad deal because we thought we were gonna end up in the top 10 which is what we needed today." WAS IT WET OUT THERE WHEN IT STARTED? "It had just started to sprinkle, but everybody was on old tires and I think that was the cause when he spun."
DALE JARRETT -88- Quality Care Service/Ford Credit Taurus -- "I would have like to have seen it go on, especially after everything that took place there, but we'll take that. We didn't have a good qualifying run, but the car was awful good. We made it a lot better, but still needed to work on it a little bit more and I would have liked to have gotten that opportunity. The car was really good and after the green flag pit stop that we made, we made it even better right there. I just started to get a little bit loose again, but we had a great pit stop that got us out in front of a lot of guys. Unfortunately, the 24 and the 12 caught us back and got by us, but a good run for us. We needed a good top five." I KNOW YOU WOULD HAVE LIKED TO SEE IT GO ON. "It would have been pretty good to see. You had the 99 and 24 going up and it could have changed things a lot in a lot of ways, but that's the way things go. You can't do anything about Mother Nature. NASCAR did all it could do to get this in."
JEFF BURTON -99- Exide Batteries Taurus -- WHAT HAPPENED IN TURN FOUR? "I saw some cars off turn four and saw the smoke and I thought I had it missed easy. I headed for four and the car just went straight. It's possible I got out of the groove. It was so dark I couldn't see. It's very possible with the smoke and the darkness I just drove it out of the groove and got it in the wall, I don't know. The car drove great. We did a great job during the caution to make the right calls on the car." YOU'RE HOPING FOR MORE RAIN, RIGHT? "I need about another 30 minutes of rain because we're either gonna win or finish dead last. There's not gonna be anything in between."
MARK MARTIN -6- Zerex Taurus -- "I'm glad to see Jeff Burton win the race. The guy's a master here and those guys earned it. They ran awfully good. We did the best we could today. I'm pretty happy with the Valvoline/Cummins team. They hung in there and we got a fifth out of it, even though we were off just a tick. If it had gone longer we might have had a chance to do a little bit better, but we didn't so we'll take fifth and go on." WHAT CHANGES WERE YOU PLANNING? "Actually, we had gotten better. We were better at the end. We got by the 20 car and were lapping pretty good. We were looking forward to the next to make a couple more adjustments."
ROBERT PRESSLEY -77- Jasper Engines Taurus -- "We had to work for what we got today, but this Jasper team does not give up. The pit stops were awesome today. The right things happened all day long, except after 30 laps we were just on pins and needles. That's when it's nice to have that little extra Jasper horsepower because we had to slow down so much and then get a good run off the corners. This whole team, a lot of people were looking at us, but we're gonna come around. We got a top 15 finish today and top 10s are next."
JIMMY SPENCER -23- Team Winston Taurus -- "Everybody's frustrated with this weather. The good Lord does whatever he pleases. He's the one who controls this. I'm just glad we got it in. We had a pretty good car. We made an adjustment on it and got it better, but didn't get it as good as some others. I felt like we had a top 10 race car, but nothing fell our way today. It's a bad deal because we got up in the top 15 at one point and then the rain came. They couldn't dry the track. They did the right thing."
JOHNNY BENSON -26- Cheerios Taurus -- "We qualified good anyways, but we didn't finish where we wanted to. I don't know, this car is real hard on the tires and it kind of hurt us in the long run. We'll just have to keep working on it." WAS IT HARD TO CONCENTRATE WHEN YOU START AND STOP LIKE THAT? "No, everybody's gotta deal with the same thing so it's not a big deal. It's rained out, it's done, we don't worry about it now. It changes the track a little bit, but it gets right back to where it was pretty quick."
JEFF BURTON PRESS CONFERENCE JEFF BURTON -99- Exide Batteries Taurus -- TODAY WAS FINALLY YOUR DAY. "We've certainly disappointed ourselves here quite a few times. I don't feel like the track owed us one or anything, we owed ourselves one. All the things that had happened to us in the past to keep us from winning came back for us today. I wrecked that car. It's tore up. I mean it's tore up big and we were gonna finish last if it hadn't of rained, so when it's your day it's your day. We had a great pit stop, a great call in the pits to come in and pit early, and then we got on and off pit road better than anyone else. It was a true team effort to win this race and add that with a dramatic wreck and all that stuff, it's hard to top that." WHAT HAPPENED WITH THE WRECK? "I saw the wreck. It didn't surprise me when I got there, but I had to turn. It was really dark just because of the weather and then there was a lot of smoke and stuff. I thought I needed to turn down to get in the middle of the race track and somebody said I got into the 9 car. I don't know what happened, but I went to turn and it went straight and I got in the wall. I got in the wall hard. That car needs a front snout and a rear clip and a lot. It's tore up. I didn't have any brakes. I rode around the last lap on the wheel, sparks flying all over the place and I was just praying for rain at that point." DO YOU FEEL LUCK HAS EVENED OUT HERE AT THIS TRACK? "Well, I think we're one up on luck at the moment. I think Frank and Buddy and I would all agree that we didn't have bad luck to lose those races that we lost here. We didn't do what we needed to do at the right time. I made a mistake or we made a mistake on pit or we made a mistake on what to do with the car and that's not luck, that's preparation. Today, we put ourselves in position so that if it rained, we were gonna win the race and that's thinking ahead. Buddy and Frank did a great job. I just drive and they made the call. That's why we won the race. The rain was coming and it just came at the right time."
FRANK STODDARD, Crew Chief -99- Exide Batteries Taurus -- WHAT WAS YOUR PIT STRATEGY? "We could have gone to like 124 on fuel and Buddy and I both looked at each other. I already thought about coming in around 115 and trying to short stop because everyone was telling me it was gonna rain. We were just thinking about the race ending at 147 as far as we were concerned. Buddy looked at me, he heard something on his radio and he looked at me and said, 'We need to come,' and I said, 'Yeah, we do.' So I jumped down off the box and while I was grabbing my air wrench he was telling him to get on pit road and down we came."
JEFF BURTON -- GORDON FELT THE YELLOW SHOULD HAVE COME OUT THE LAP BEFORE, WHAT DO YOU THINK? "I would have been comfortable with it thrown a lap before, not because of where we were running becuase it was raining pretty hard, but in NASCAR's position what happens is everyone is getting ready to go a lap down. The leader, the guy that's running fifth that should have run 20th, they're all yelling, 'It's raining, it's raining, it's raining.' They don't believe you. Normally you're lying to them. Not me. Normally everyone fibs to them and says it's raining or there's oil on the track or there's debris on the track, so they have to evaluate it. It takes them a little bit longer than it does for the drivers because of that. They want to make sure they're making the right call." TALK ABOUT YOUR LAST PIT STOP? "About 50 yards from the Unocal ball is where pit road speed starts. If you beat a guy from there to past that Unocal ball, you just did a better job. From that tower all the way around, the track was wet. I guarantee you nobody beat me out because you couldn't have gone faster than I was going. Yeah, we did get down pit road better and we got off pit road better and, by the way, we had a better pit stop. That's just the way it is." DO YOU REMEMBER WHEN YOU SAW THE RAIN START? "I couldn't see for 10 laps. I wear a dark visor, even at night time when I'm racing at night I wear a dark visor. There are no lights here so it's really, really dark getting into turn three and then when it started raining it makes the windshield even worse, so the minute it started raining I started to complain because I couldn't see. But I was complaining before that because it was so dark. Really, I thought when this wreck happened over here that I may have gotten it out of the groove because I couldn't see and add the smoke to it, I didn't know where I was." YOU WAVED YOUR HANDS WHEN YOU GOT OUT OF THE CAR. WHERE YOU WAVING FOR RAIN? "Hell yeah I was waving for the rain to come on. First of all, I was mad because I knew that it wasn't gonna rain very long. I just knew it wasn't, but I knew it didn't have to rain very long. The first thing that went through my mind was that we had the best car, we had the best pit stop decision, we did the right job, and I wrecked. So I was mad at myself." "I knew that it takes a long time to dry this race track. I knew it would take a long time to dry it, but I don't ever believe we're gonna win until it's over and you're in victory lane, you've gone through inspection and all that stuff. I was pretty convinced that it wouldn't rain long and we'd get going back. I knew that it would be hard for NASCAR to call the race because we're sitting there wrecked. If everybody wasn't wrecked, it would have been an easier decision because you hate to give a guy a win with a rain delay when you know he's gonna finish last. So I knew NASCAR was gonna do everything they could to get the race going." WERE YOU SURPRISED TO SEE IT CALLED SO QUICK? "Not after seeing the radar. There will be people who say they could have gotten the race in and everything else, but it would probably be getting dry right about now and it's too dark to race." WHAT DID YOU THINK WHEN THE HALFWAY POINT CAME AND WENT? "We never thought it was gonna rain exactly on lap 147, but what we needed to do was get ourselves in front for that lap and beyond. Again, it kept getting dark so I thought something was coming I just didn't know how much rain. I don't think we ever believed we were gonna catch the caution that precisely. We were gonna run until it rains and if it rains so much we've gotta stop, and that's what happened." HOW DOES IT FEEL TO WIN THE RACE THE WAY YOU DID AND BE THE POINTS LEADER? "Well, we'd certainly rather be the leader than not. You can't win a championship this early in the year, but you can sure lose one. I think that's the best way to look at it. We're in the best position we've ever been as a team with points, we're in the best position we've ever been with personnel, with cars, we're just very prepared. It's a long year. There is a lot of racing left, so we're not gonna get too overwhelmed about leading the points. As a matter of fact, we're not even gonna worry about it other than to just be proud of ourselves for doing it. That 24, and that 6 and the 88 and all those guys are shooting to get where we are, so we've gotta race aggressively the way we've been racing, we've gotta race smart the way we've been racing and continue to do what we've been doing and improve on it. This is our second win real early in the year, but we've gotta be better because the 24 is gonna make a charge at us, the 6 is gonna make a charge, the 88, the 18. They (the 18) had a good finish today and I'm glad for them because I think they're a championship contending team. We have to be better than we've been and if we're not then they'll all come at us and get by us. Our focus has to be on being better and maintaining what we've been doing well and be better in a lot of other areas."
JEREMY MAYFIELD PRESS CONFERENCE JEREMY MAYFIELD -12- Mobil 1 Taurus -- "We had a great car. Yesterday morning we were struggling a little bit and we got it better in Happy Hour and made a couple changes last night on some shocks and stuff. We just had an awesome car, it was right on the money. After last week we needed something like this because Rusty and I both ran terrible (at Atlanta). We really worked hard all during this week trying to figure out what went wrong and what we had to do to make it better and they showed that this team can come back and work hard. We led laps and ran up front. My hat's off to the 99 team. They did a good job of pitting early. We had a shot to win and that's all you can ask for." IF THE RACE WOULD HAVE GONE THE DISTANCE DO YOU THINK YOU COULD HAVE WON? "I think we definitely had the car to win. The 99 was tough, the 24 was good on long runs and we got a little loose at the end of that run just because we ran so hard trying to catch the 99. We feel like we had a great race car, we just came up a little short." WHAT DOES THE WEATHER DO TO A DRIVER AS FAR AS STOPPING AND GOING? "I think it messes with you a little bit mentally, but you've gotta put that in the back of your mind and be open-minded about. Each time the green comes back out and you go racing again, you just get back in your race mode. It's a little bit disturbing, but it's not that bad." ARE YOU DISAPPOINTED THE WAY THIS RACE ENDED? "A little bit. Myself and Dale Jarrett are definitely disappointed at the way it happened because, not saying anything bad about Jeff (Gordon), but him and the 99 kind of got in that last wreck and kind of felt that if it went back green again, we had a good shot at it."