RUSTY WALLACE (No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge Intrepid) "We unloaded and we were fifth quick the first day, and the second day we picked up three-tenths of a second and got our car down to 49.30. That's where we're stuck now. Some cars have picked up...
RUSTY WALLACE (No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge Intrepid)
"We unloaded and we were fifth quick the first day, and the second day we picked up three-tenths of a second and got our car down to 49.30. That's where we're stuck now. Some cars have picked up and run quicker. They've run some flats. Some of the times you've got to discount because a lot of them were out there in the draft getting a pretty good pull. All our laps were pretty clean. Right now I'm saying if I had three more tenths in the car I would have one of the fastest cars here.
"I know how much horsepower we've got back at home that we're bringing for qualifying, and that's pretty optimistic. I don't know how much the other competitors are brining back. This is our first trip, and these particular cars haven't been in the wind tunnel yet. We got things done kind of late as you can imagine. I still think we're in real good shape. We've got tunnel dates scheduled when we leave here. We'll put all this information in one big basket and see where we're at when we get to the wind tunnel. When Ryan comes back in a week, he'll know everything we've done and hopefully he can help some more with what he learns at the second test. We'll sit down after the two tests, put that together and see if we can come up with something good.
"I used to come to Daytona and have real bad luck. The track's been pretty doggone kind to me. We've had some good runs. We were second in the (Pepsi) 400. I enjoy coming here. We had a bad qualifying run last year in the 500 and made it up to third and second. We ran like that all day long and then with five laps to go we all crashed in the front straightaway on a restart and spoiled our good finish there. It's going to be interesting to see what happens. We've got a big draft session going to start at 1 o'clock. I've got my 2-B car, which is awful close to my best car, within a tenth of a second. The guys have just finished putting it in race form, so we're going to get out there and do a bunch of drafting here in about an hour. NASCAR says they're going to put the spotters up in the stands and we're going to do that from 1-2 o'clock. It'll be interesting to see how these things draft and how they feel. I just put my (Pepsi) 400 setup in the car, which was one of the best handling cars I've ever had here. We're going to start out and adjust it to this new body shape and see how it goes.
"I can't differentiate (the engines) at all. They're all turning about 6800-7000 rpm's. They all sound the same under the hood. If you look at the cars, the Dodges and Fords looked pretty similar last year. The funny part now is when I look out there at all the cars they all look identical. They all sound the same. There's no distinct difference between the cars that you could see in the past. You would see one car going by real low to the ground and one car making much more rpm's, but they all look real close right now.
"Right now the horsepower I came here with last year in testing is exactly to the horsepower what I've got right now. You would hope to gain some, but I was happy to see that right off the bat our guys were able to make as much right off the bat as we were with last year's Ford. I think that leaves room for improvement. I just don't know how much we can improve in the next month before the qualifying date.
"It would bug me if one of these days when I quit driving if I haven't won it (Daytona 500) at all. That would bug me. I feel like it's my time to win, I really do. I think I'm deserving of it. I think I'd make a good 500 champion. I feel real good about my shot this year, but I'll guarantee you everybody is going to say the same thing. I do feel good about our shot this year. I'd love to win the race. It would be a bad feeling if I never won the 500 by the time I decide to give it up. That was a bad deal that I didn't win last year. That really bugged me with all those second places and laps led and all those good runs. We were in the points hunt all year. The Daytona 500 is definitely on my mind. If someone asked me which race I'd most like to win, I'd say the Daytona 500.
"We've got an unbelievable engine facility. I don't think anybody's got a better engine facility. It's world class. It's all brand new, new buildings, new land, new equipment, new everything. We've got a lot of influence from Roger's Indy car side, a lot of cool stuff. I tested at Louisville, Ky., a few weeks ago, and I was really surprised. Actually I wasn't surprised. I was real happy about how strong we ran. I'd been hearing that the Chevrolets were pretty quick at their test at Homestead. I felt good when Ryan and I tested out cars. He was down at College Station, Texas, and I was over at Louisville, Ky., and we both reported about the same results. It left a smile on our face. I 'll tell you that.
"The biggest conversion was in the engine shop. As long as they got the pieces and parts they needed pretty fast, they were in good shape. They got everything they needed quick. They were surprised to see how quick they got the pieces they needed. Dodge really helped us get the blocks, cylinder heads and all the stuff we needed to make this big transition. It's pretty smooth over here right now. Now it's just a quest for horsepower, try to get more and more and more. We're real happy with what we're seeing unrestricted, and we're no better than what we were last year with restricted here with the Fords. We want to try to get our restricted plate motors stronger yet.
"Any time you've got a second year under your belt and you've got more talent, you've got to feel like you're going to be better. Handling has always been kinda left up to me. They always want me to help make the car handle. The pit calls, that's left up to them in the pit area, and we had some mistakes last year that cost us three or four victories, I think. Bill (crew chief Wilburn) and I both know that. We were both kind of involved in the decisions. Robin (Pemberton) and I went through that for awhile, too. Two tires, no tires, four tires, all this stuff. That question gets right back to the aero push. Everybody complained about this aero push, and it's my constant complaint to NASCAR. I'm trying to get them to move quickly on cutting the rear spoilers off and getting Goodyear to soften these rear tires up and get rid of this aero push and get back to four-tire changes instead of staying out there all day long with four tires or gambling with two tires and all this track position stuff. That's happened the last three years now, this track position problem. That gets into all these calls. Sometimes you win the race and really didn't have the fastest cat at all. That's happened occasionally in the past, but now it's just a common thing. There's a lot of guys who win and really it was just a good pit call, it wasn't a fast car or a good-handling car. You stay out on two tires or don't put on any tires and try to get the track position and all kind of crazy things. I honestly think if they react pretty quickly and knock about a half or three-quarter inch of spoiler off the rear, don't touch the front and get Goodyear to soften the tires, I think you're going to see a lot better racing.
"Darby wants to go to Rockingham first for sure without any changes, and go a couple after that. I'm beating as hard as I can. I don't think we need to go to Rockingham. I think we need to change it now and get it over with. The Rockingham tire wears out so bad anyway because the track is so rough and grainy that we could keep the same tire there. I'm hoping they'll just do it quickly. He wants to get a little better idea of what's going on. If it was up to him, I think he'd do it right now. He's got to talk Bill and Mike into it. If he can get those guys talked into it and get Goodyear going, then we can get back on track and get what we need.
"I'm very optimistic about it. It's going to happen. I talked to them yesterday about it. He said we know it's the right thing to do. We just need to know when the right time to do it is. Since everybody's got new cars, they just want to see them run a little bit. Then pop the question and get it done.
"The biggest consensus, and this is talking to Darby, he said the majority of people want it. Everybody that I've talked to says it's what we need to do. We're tired of this front end pushing all the time. A long time ago when we did the 5 and 5 rule, we went too far. Now, if we had a five-inch spoiler on these cars you'd probably have another 200 pounds more now than we had then. We've learned that much on downforce and the shape of our bodies and stuff. If we're at 6 and a quarter right now, these cars can easily come down to five and a half on the rear spoiler and be real good out there. The key is, Goodyear says we've got to the downforce off these cars so our tires live, so we can make softer tires so we don't kill the tires so bad. The key is to get the downforce off it'll allow Goodyear to soften the tires up. We're pushing the front end real bad right now. Why would we want to take anything off the front? Let's keep everything we've got on the front and take it off the back and shift the balance forward and soften up the tires.
"I think it would bring more racing stuff back to it. You hit pit road, put four tires on and get that real good grippy haul butt for six or eight laps before the tires start bleeding off. I think that's what it's all about. For some reason I can't stand when a guy stays out there for 150 or 200 laps and doesn't change tires. Everybody pits and you can't pass the guy. You've got four sticker tires on and you can't pass because the aero push is so bad. It gets pretty frustrating.
"If you make a change early in the season for all, that's great. If you make a change in the middle of the season for one, that's not great. I wasn't real happy that halfway through the year we had a good points race going and all of a sudden Chevrolet gets another inch or inch and a half on their front air dam. I didn't think that was cool after we ran halfway through the year. That happened. If everybody gets it, that's fine. If everybody gets it at the same time, that's fine. If just a couple get it, that's not fine.
"It's much easier for NASCAR to make a change now since everybody's got the same body location and templates. I don't think there's anybody over at that truck with any complaints right now. Darby is sitting over there and nobody is knocking on his door. Helton was over there talking while ago and said it was sure quiet. There's nothing to complain about. I think the Daytona 500 qualifying is going to get right down to horsepower. Eighty percent of it is going to be horsepower and the other 20 percent is going to be how much you're able to slick your body up and pick the right springs and shocks to get qualified. There's nothing we can do in the back of the car. They give you the shocks and springs. All you can vary is the front shocks and springs. Trust me, we've had 200 sets of shocks in that car. We've got it going as fast as it's going to go.
"I'm going to drive for at least three more years. I'm not looking for anything after three. I've always said the day I can't be competitive and I'm just out there running I don't want nothing to do with it. I'm not even close to that. I should have won a ton of races. We had great runs last year. I don't think I'm close to that right now, but there is a time. Everybody keeps talking to me about that for some reason. I guess when you get 46 years old that's the question you get asked. That's OK. It does bother me a bit when everybody groups drivers. Instead of saying they're all Winston Cup drivers, we get grouped into the 20s, 30s and 40s. Here are the veterans and here are the young guns. I wish they'd just quit all that and go back to everybody is a Winston Cup driver. I think that would be cool. I guess it's exciting for media attention, but I wish they would just stop it all and move on to something different.
"I've always encountered here at Daytona that around 35 laps is when the cars start quit handling and the cars get separated. The good handling cars go to the front and the bad handling cars tend to slide backwards and tend to get loose and tend to push or whatever. With the new fuel cell rule, we're probably only get to run about 35 laps, so I think that's going to keep the cars bunched up all day long. The only thing that's going to split them apart is the pit stops. You can run two wide at Daytona, but it's pretty hard to squeeze 'em three, especially with that yellow line rule right now. It's real comfortable to run three wide at Talladega. It's not comfortable to run two-wide at Daytona. If that happens it can get real white knuckle, but I don't look for that to happen a lot. I'm going to reserve judgment on that until we get drafting done. Right now I'd just be speculating."