BUCKSHOT JONES (No. 44 Georgia Pacific Dodge Intrepid R/T) NOTE: Jones, a 31-year-old Georgia driver, will start 20th in Sunday's NAPA 500. Jones is driving a brand new Petty Enterprises Dodge Intrepid R/T. He qualified 16th and finished...
BUCKSHOT JONES (No. 44 Georgia Pacific Dodge Intrepid R/T) NOTE: Jones, a 31-year-old Georgia driver, will start 20th in Sunday's NAPA 500. Jones is driving a brand new Petty Enterprises Dodge Intrepid R/T. He qualified 16th and finished 19th at Atlanta in March and is looking for another good run on Sunday. "The 44 number has been around for a long time, but the 44 team is all brand new this year. I think our cars have gotten better. The first part of the year all our stuff stayed kind of level. Maybe we made a few gains, but the last half of the season our cars have made a pretty good jump. It's given me more time on the track, and our team has been together longer. I think that's made a big difference. "It was something brand new, and the way we were doing things wasn't exactly right, but you didn't want to make a lot of big changes. About mid season, we decided we were going to redo it again. It's hard on the guys, but you explain to them why you're doing it and they want to go forward. I think one of our problems was communication on who you went to on certain stuff. That's gotten a lot better. You know if you have a problem who you go to. That makes things so much smoother. You get more work done and you don't waste a lot of time. "I haven't been to the shop in about two months, and the biggest reason has been moving and my wife being pregnant. I try to go up there once a week. I don't ever want it to be where I don't go to the shop. That's kind of like you're not doing your part. Your deal as a driver isn't only at the race track. It's also how you get along with everybody on the team. You can learn a lot just going to the shop talking to the guys. Talking on the phone, I can't stand that. "They let me adjust on the seat, and that's about it. I didn't do that. When I first moved to South Carolina in '95, Ricky Pearson was the crew chief and he didn't let me work on the race car. He thought a driver might cut his finger or get his hand smashed or something like that, and that's no good. I'd be around when they were setting up the cars, and I'd rather be a hands on guy, but accidents can happen. Schrader smashed his hand real bad at a truck race. You think it might not affect you, but one way or the other it does. "That's just like riding go-karts. We were riding go-karts at Dover and it was for the Victory Junction Gang. The guys on the 44 were racing and I got beat up pretty good and I felt it the next day at Dover. I don't mess around like that any more. We had a deal here Thursday with the sponsors, and I wouldn't ride with the crew guys. I waited until the sponsor people got out there because I knew that wouldn't be rough. "My wife (Jina) is due on the 21st (Wednesday). I hope it's not when we're at Loudon. I'm leaving for Loudon at 4 or 5 o'clock Thanksgiving Day. This will be our first child. It's a boy and we're going to name him Colton. We haven't picked out the middle name. I'll let my wife pick out the other name. "We've had a few problems with qualifying this year. Qualifying seems to be my biggest problem. I use too much brake. At Phoenix, we were using too much brake. Once we get in the race and get a couple of laps, it's OK. We going to do some testing over the winter and do qualifying stuff. I think Kyle is probably one of the best people to copy for the way he uses the brakes. We can't swap seats. He doesn't use much brake at all. Me and John Andretti wear them out. I can't fit in John's seat, either. I got in his car last December and got back out and told them there was something wrong with the seat. I thought they put it in wrong, but that's the way he sits in the car. He's got a cushion in the back of his seat, but every driver is different with the seat. "I've always like Atlanta. Even when the track was the old way, I liked this place. Maybe some of it is because it's my home track. It's so fast. You really don't use brakes here, so I guess that's why it fits me. It's kind of like Chicago. You don't use much brake there, either. That's what I like. You'll use the brakes a little here, but I don't think you'll ever use it too much. "I just moved back to Georgia. We bought a place in Chateau Elan. We were going to move to North Carolina. I guess we decided to move back to Georgia after the terrorist deal. We're fixing to have a baby, and I'm out of town all the time. My wife needs to be around family if something happens. All her family is from Georgia. It makes me feel good when I'm out of town, plus it makes her feel good if something happens. "We've gotten better this season. I think next year will be totally different. I'm not saying we're going to go out and set the woods on fire, and I'm not saying we won't do that, either. I think all three Petty teams are going to be a lot better than they were this year. Right at the end of the season, everything is nailed down and you know the direction you're headed in. We've got a new engine program coming, and I don't think that kickout they took from Dodge is going to be that big a deal. At some tracks, I think it's better not to have so much. Hopefully, NASCAR won't make any more changes with the Dodges. "I've got more seat time. Some of the accidents we've been in this season couldn't have been avoided and some of them could have, but things have been going better. We've put together a few decent finishes, and we're excited about picking up next year where we left off this season."
LARRY McREYNOLDS (Advisor Petty Enterprises Dodge Intrepid R/Ts) "I think each week the Pettys are getting better and better with their cars, the aero package. Everything they've learned in the wind tunnel is in this new car Buckshot has this weekend. It's the best piece he's had. Atlanta has been one of those tracks that's fitted Buckshot's style of driving. The biggest thing that's thrown Buckshot a curve this year, is this hard tire. It's not driver and car separated. It's we. I've tried to work with Buckshot more mentally than I have with Bryant (crew chief Frazier) on the car. We're going to keep working, but we're not going to be able to make the car feel like it's felt in year's past. The laws of physics just won't let it happen. The tire doesn't have as much grip. I worked hard on Buckshot at Phoenix, Homestead and Rockingham. I've sat for two hours in practice on Fridays to the entrance in a corner. I stood on top of the grandstand in Kansas before it finally dawned on me what we were fighting. It's a necessary evil on a Winston Cup car, but the worst thing on that car is a brake pedal. You've got to have it, but it can bite you. Watching our race car at Kansas, I saw that Buckshot was using too much brake pedal in the corner. You want to use it, but then you want to get off of it. We've worked harder on that the past month than we have anything. I think it made a big difference at Phoenix. Buckshot was not going to make that race. He went out there and qualified 19th. We didn't make major changes to the car. We just worked on him getting into the corner. It's our job to give him what he's looking for, but there's some things we can't give you. They have X amount of downforce and X amount of horsepower, and it's a hard tire. The laws of physics plays a big role in what we can achieve and what we can accomplish. The cars are getting better, too. "I hope as this group moves into 2002 with the things Buckshot has learned the last month or two it's going to be a brighter season. I think on Nov. 17, they're where they should have been about May or June. Going to the Dodges and Dodge engines and starting two new race teams, they were four or five months behind the other Dodge teams. I think they're just now getting caught up. It's not one big thing, but in this sport, if you're off one little bit on one thing, that's the difference between sitting on the pole and qualifying 15th. If you're off on two or three little things, that's the difference between sitting on the pole and shutting that door and going home after qualifying. Look at Kyle. He's made big strides the past two months. They're all getting better together.
"When I sat down and made this agreement, my commitment was through the checkered flag waving at Atlanta. I'm not going to Loudon. I'd love to go, and I'm not worried about the cold weather. We've been planning a trip for eight months to go to Nassau with the kids. I couldn't cancel that trip, and they all understood that. Once we figured out what Buckshot was looking for at Loudon, Buckshot ran with the leaders last time. He actually made up a lap. I wish I was going to Loudon. Goodyear is carrying a softer tire, and I think that's going to suit Buckshot perfect. He runs good at tracks like Loudon. "At the end of the day, whether they paid me a dollar or a million dollars, I've got to feel like I've made a difference with the Petty teams. I don't want to just sit in the lounge and eat cookies. I feel more that way today than I did a month ago. About Charlotte, I felt like dead weight. I think once I started trying to contribute Buckshot, I felt like I was starting to make a bigger difference. Let's get through Atlanta and Loudon and we'll go from there. Can I do this again next year and make a difference? That's the only issue, and we'll just have to wait and see what happens."