RICKY RUDD --28-- Havoline Taurus DO THE FORDS HAVE A CHANCE ON SUNDAY? "I'll be real honest, I cannot answer that question right now. It's kind of like the other day when we had a quarter-inch cut before the 125s. It didn't seem to help ...
RICKY RUDD --28-- Havoline Taurus
DO THE FORDS HAVE A CHANCE ON SUNDAY? "I'll be real honest, I cannot answer that question right now. It's kind of like the other day when we had a quarter-inch cut before the 125s. It didn't seem to help matters, and I guess we ended up being the best Ford finishing fourth, but we could not hang with the GM cars in a straight line. They just drove away from us. So, if you go back and duplicate that race again and took a quarter off our spoiler at that time, certainly it would help, but would it be enough to let us keep up and race with those guys? I don't know. Somewhere along the line you're gonna get to the point that it is enough, but the other thing about it is that everytime you keep cutting these rear spoilers, it changes the aerodynamic balance of these race cars. So, what you gain in straightaway speed, you could be giving up in corner speed. It's a fine line. We went out there and practiced with the extra quarter-inch cut (on Friday) and it's hard to tell in practice if it helped. The cars are running two-wide and three-wide, but when you get in race trim they end up going more single-file and that's when it shows up. We could not duplicate that in practice. We couldn't get enough good cars to get lined up single-file to find out if we had enough to stay in line or not. I think we'll find out in Sunday's race. That's the only time we'll know for sure."
IS IT A CASE WHERE YOU REALLY DON'T KNOW WHAT YOU HAVE THEN? "Qualifying was pretty much easy to predict. We had enough laps by ourselves to predict what we were gonna do. We missed our qualifying prediction by maybe one-tenth of a second, so we pretty much knew what we were up against. We knew the Chevrolets were holding back. We knew they were gonna run about a .40 and they did run a .40, which is over six-tenths-of-a-second better than the next-best Ford. So, as far as Sunday's race goes, you cannot simulate race conditions here. You can go out and run and be very happy with your car in practice. We were pretty much happy with our cars when they had the bigger spoilers and you're out there running two-wide and three-wide because there's such a big hole being punched in the air. What happens like the other day in the 125s, we were running on the outside two-wide, back and forth from second to third while leading the outside line but we could never get to the front. As soon those GM cars got to the front and got in line, I tucked in behind them but they just eased away and we never did simulate that in practice the other day. We're still out there in those big packs and in those big packs you could put a spoiler on any car twice as big as it is and they could still probably keep up because there's such a big hole in the air. It's like having those big roof spoilers on. Time will tell. We know it will be better, but will it be enough? I don't know."
DO YOU NEED A PRACTICE SESSION TODAY? "No. It gets back to what I said earlier about simulating race conditions, but that's not gonna happen. If you could get Gordon and Earnhardt and all of those fast Chevrolets in a line and go out there in about a six-car breakaway like it was in the 125, and get lined up behind them, then I could see if we could keep up. That would be the only way to simulate that, but those guys are too smart to do that. We haven't really lost anything by not having this practice, other than running our race motor. The cards have been dealt and we're as ready as we're gonna get considering the rules we've got."
RICKY CRAVEN --32-- Tide Taurus
ARE YOU STILL UNSURE OF WHAT YOU'VE GOT FOR THE RACE SUNDAY? "Perhaps. I think from a driver's perspective or a car owner or crew chief, you have to be careful you don't come across complaining about any of the circumstances because since we've been here we've gotten a half-inch. I commend NASCAR for making the effort and we've got a shot. We've got a shot to win the Daytona 500. Everybody on this team knows that. We're certainly not the favorite, but the fact I've got such a good team and we're in the race means we've got a shot."
IS GETTING OUT FIRST ON THE FINAL PIT STOP THE WHOLE KEY TO THIS RACE BECAUSE BEING OUT FRONT SEEMS TO BE THE PLACE. "It certainly was the other day. Track position was critical in the 125s, but over the course of three-and-a-half hours, 200 laps and 500 miles, there are several scenarios. I think always, always, always a premium is put on good handling race cars. That's our objective. Whether we have the straight line speed or not may not be that important. It was very important last Saturday and pretty important in the Bud Shootout and maybe in the 125s, but in the Daytona 500 the premium is still put on a great handling race car. The guy that can make 50-lap runs without lifting will have the greatest chance of winning the race."
DOES LOSING A PRACTICE SESSION HURT AT ALL? "It probably affects us more than Jeff Gordon, Michael Waltrip, Tony Stewart -- the guys who have sort of perfected their car. At this point they know where they're at, but it probably affects the teams that didn't run as well. My attitude is real good about the 500. Nobody on this team would surrender and it's not a scenario where we feel beat up. I think it's the same attitude we demonstrated all of last year, which is, 'what's it gonna take and whatever it takes, we're gonna do.'"