Elliott'S Outlook Sunny For Tropicana 400 JOLIET, Ill. (July 8, 2001) - Bill Elliott thinks Chicago might just be his kind of town. Elliott, in the No. 9 Dodge Dealers Intrepid R/T, is one of a handful of drivers who have had an opportunity to...
Elliott'S Outlook Sunny For Tropicana 400
JOLIET, Ill. (July 8, 2001) - Bill Elliott thinks Chicago might just be his kind of town. Elliott, in the No. 9 Dodge Dealers Intrepid R/T, is one of a handful of drivers who have had an opportunity to test at the new 1.5-mile speedway. He gives the track high marks for its smooth, quick surface and unique design, and predicts the race will be really fast. The veteran driver, who has seen numerous new tracks during his career, compares the Chicago track to Las Vegas and Michigan. This gives him confidence for the race, since he had good runs at both tracks, finishing ninth at Michigan and 14th at Las Vegas. He tested his Michigan car at Chicagoland Speedway and will run it in the Tropicana 400.
Bill Elliott, driver of the No. 9 Dodge Dealers Intrepid R/T
What is your outlook on Chicago?
"I hope we run good up there, after this past weekend. I felt like we had a good test there, and so did Mike Ford (crew chief) and the guys. You can't tell what it will be like in race conditions, but it's fast for a track this size.
"When you go to a new track like this, you've got to use the base of data you've got from other similar tracks. Watching what they do in the Busch race will help us sort out what we're doing. It's not that much different than Las Vegas or Michigan. I like the curve in the back stretch. It gives you a better angle into turn three. I do think passing could be a challenge, with just one groove, but it is a fast track. When I was up there people were practicing qualifying and running 29s. I'll bet speeds will be in the 180s in the race.
"The track is really nice. They've done a good job with it. It's a carbon copy of Kansas City, the only difference is that the back straight has a curve in it. It's pretty typical for a new race track in that the surface is real smooth. It's a pretty fast race track. It's as fast as Charlotte without the banking. If somebody gets really hooked up, they'll be able to go on. If they don't get hooked up, it'll be tough.
"We ran the Michigan car and it was pretty good. We were pretty close on our setups right off the truck. But, you can't really tell from testing at a new track. The only thing you need to look at is the race. We'll have to see how many grooves there are going to be out here. I'm not sure if we'll have a second groove. I don't think we'll see a lot of three wide racing yet. But, I think the competition is going to be fast."
Mike Ford, crew chief of the No. 9 Dodge Dealers Intrepid R/T
What do you think of the new Chicagoland Speedway?
"Chicagoland is a great race track. It's definitely fast. It takes a little different mindset, because it's a lot of aero, not just chassis. It's along the lines of Texas and Vegas, where the speed's up and the grip is up. It's a real nice facility. The aero package will really come into play at Chicagoland. You've got to tune the chassis with aero in mind. And, you're on the throttle so long that you'll need a lot of engine.
"I don't think we'll see three wide racing this summer. It'll be a one groove track until people run high and wear a second groove. It'll be difficult to pass until that groove is worn in the top of the track. Running three wide might be a little tight. The entry to turn one sends you up against the wall and the entry to three can make you give up speed if you miss your mark."
What did you learn in the test?
"We took the same car we ran at Michigan and finished ninth in. It's a good car for higher speed tracks - that's the reason we brought it. We were close off the truck and picked up three quarters of a second during the day. Bill felt really comfortable in the car. We stayed in race trim the entire time. First, we worked on getting comfortable, then we worked on finding speed. I really liked the track. One of the unique things is that there is nowhere on the track that is exactly straight. There's not a back straight - it's all on a curve. You're always turning the car, which will raise the speeds. The surface is really smooth. There simply weren't any bumps you'd have to drive around."
Bill Elliott By the Numbers
* Bill Elliott has been strong on similar racetracks this year. He had good runs at Las Vegas, starting 16th and finishing 14th; California, finishing 14th after a 22nd place start; and at Michigan, where he started sixth and finished ninth.
* Elliott will run one of his favorite cars - his Michigan car - at Chicagoland Speedway. In its last appearance, it sported the Muhammad Ali paint scheme to raise money for the Dodge Motorsports Diversity Scholarship program, but it will return to Dodge red for this race.
* Elliott and the No. 9 team have earned two top-10 finishes in their last four races. He finished 9th at Michigan and Sears Point. He is currently 19th in the points standings.
* This will be Elliott's 641st start in a NASCAR Winston Cup points event. If he makes every race, his 650th start will be September 16th at the Kmart/DuraLube 300 at New Hampshire International Speedway.