Darrell Waltrip, driver of the No. 66 Route 66/Big Kmart Taurus, has competed in every running of The Winston, but this will mark his last as he moves to the FOX television booth next season. Waltrip, who won the inaugural all-star event...
Darrell Waltrip, driver of the No. 66 Route 66/Big Kmart Taurus, has competed in every running of The Winston, but this will mark his last as he moves to the FOX television booth next season. Waltrip, who won the inaugural all-star event in 1985 in dramatic fashion when his motor blew at the finish line, spoke about competing in this race for the final time.
DARRELL WALTRIP --66-- Route 66/Big Kmart Taurus
YOU'VE BEEN IN THE WINSTON EVERY YEAR, BUT DOES YOUR IMPENDING RETIREMENT HIT HOME MORE AT AN EVENT LIKE THIS?
"Yeah, it's kind of mixed emotions. It's hard to really realize for me after all these years, it's hard for me to realize I'm not gonna race this race again next year. I really don't think it'll bother me as much right now as it will when I come back here next year in a different capacity. With all the preparation and everything you've got going on right now is exciting. We've got the chrome car and we're doing a lot of neat things, so that's kind of a distraction from the fact that this is the last time I'm gonna run The Winston. I've been in every one of them and I've had the thrill of winning them and the thrill of getting knocked out of them, so I don't know what it'll be like. I don't think I'll be able to really realize what all this has meant to me and what it means to me until it's really over and it's just not really over yet."
YOU'VE BEEN IN THE MIDDLE OF A LOT OF STUFF IN THE WINSTON THROUGHOUT YOUR CAREER. IS THERE ANYTHING THAT STANDS OUT MOST?
"It's the same old thing, if I was leading on the last lap and somebody was behind me I'd be pretty nervous. And if I went into the third turn on the outside of Dale Earnhardt, I'd be pretty nervous. Those are all things that you think about. I've won the thing and the engine blew crossing the start line, so I don't guess I've ever been in one of these things, when I was very competitive, that there wasn't something going on. You can't not get in this thing, a 10-lap shootout, with the way they've got it set up now if you're anywhere in there you're kind of on your toes because you know anything and everything can probably happen. So just start those last 10 laps kind of with one foot on the brake and one foot on the gas. That's kind of how you have to run it."
YOU HEAR DRIVERS SAY THAT IT DOESN'T MATTER IF A RACE PAYS $5 OR $500,000, IT'S ALL ABOUT WINNING. BUT $500,000 IS A LOT OF MONEY ISN'T IT?
"I mean, the thing that makes The Winston exciting for the fans and the drivers is there are no points. As NASCAR has finally figured out, if you want to get guys attention you can fine them all the money you want to, you can fine them a million dollars and it doesn't do a whole lot to get their attention. But you start taking points away from them and, buddy, that's more than a slap on the wrist there. Points you can't get back, money you can so that's the thing that makes The Winston exciting -- no points. You kind of do things in that race that you wouldn't normally do."
YOU HAD A CHROME CAR A COUPLE OF YEARS AGO AND YOU'RE DOING IT AGAIN THIS YEAR. CAN YOU TALK ABOUT THAT?
"That was my idea two or three years ago when we had the silver anniversary celebration. I told my guys when I had my own team then I said, 'I want a chrome car' and they said there was no way to do that. You can't chrome a car. I said, 'Guys, it's almost 2000 you can do whatever you want to.' They said, 'NASCAR won't let you do that' and I said, 'It doesn't matter if it's shiny chrome or shiny paint.' So we went to work and we found this tape -- it's actually a tape. When we did the first one people asked, 'Man, how do you chrome a car?' Well, it's actually just tape and they put it on the car just like they do decals. So it's a very special look. It looks great under the lights and we'll probably run this car more than once this year. This will be just the initial thing and we'll probably run it at most of the night races."
BESIDES THE CHROME CAR YOU ALSO HAD A CHROME DRIVER SUIT. WILL THAT MAKE ANOTHER APPEARANCE?
"Well, you know Kmart is a little more conservative than I was. I had what looked like a space suit. It was a chrome material that was a one-off -- nobody's ever had one before and nobody's had one since. It actually hangs in a NASCAR Cafe over in Nashville because I couldn't race in it. It was like a fireman's suit really and it was just too hot to race in. I changed out of it just before I started the race, but it was pretty impressive looking. I've had the chrome helmet too and it reminds me when I was a kid in Owensboro (Ky.) back in the fifties and sixties. We always had that saying 'if it won't run, chrome it,' so when we're struggling a little bit I chrome the car."
JEREMY MAYFIELD --12-- Mobil 1 Taurus
"That's all we've got. I'm proud of these guys. We had a good car, it ran good and handled great. It's gonna be a good race car. I'm looking forward to The Winston, man. We're excited, pumped up and ready to get after it."
WERE ANY OF THE LAPS BETTER THAN THE OTHER?
"I don't know. We ran a 29.71 and 29.60 the other, that's all I've got. We're good. We're happy."
MARK MARTIN --6-- Valvoline/Cummins Taurus
"I messed the guys up on the pit stop there. I got in a little bit deep into the box, just kind of anxious and I overshot my mark. I didn't overshoot the box, but that kind of cost us a little bit of time. It threw the front tire changer off a little bit there."
WERE YOU HAPPY WITH THE LAPS?
"The laps were real good. We've got a fast car. I really got up to speed big-time. I got up out of the pits and made up all my time that I lost in the box getting down pit road and turned some decent lap times too. We've got a good car here. Hopefully we'll get to use it in the 600."
BILL ELLIOTT --94-- McDonald's Taurus
WHAT HAPPENED WITH THE PIT STOP?
"I don't know, we just dug at it. It's all them, I just drove the car."
THE CAR WAS OBVIOUSLY GOOD ALL DAY.
"Good, excellent. We were quick when we unloaded earlier this morning. We ran some awful good times in the heat even on older tires. They said they didn't want me to make another qualifying run, so I didn't even go out and re-run this afternoon other than just going out and kind of warmed it up. We mainly worked on getting in and out of the pits down here."
DID TESTING LAST WEEK HELP AS FAR AS SETUP GOES?
"Well, we really didn't know what they were gonna do pit-wise until we came in here today, so it was a little bit new and I had a little bit of time to work into that deal -- getting turned in the pits and get going. We had a good, smooth stop. I thought I lost a little bit of time leaving pit road down there, I got pretty sideways there once, but it still came out with a heck of a time."
THAT WAS KIND OF TRICKY ON PIT ROAD.
"Well, we practiced a little bit there on pit road earlier today and it was really awkward the way you started pretty close and had to turn into your pits. I'm glad we practiced several times to try to get where I could get it just right in the pits. I don't think it was as much added as it was the fact the guys pulled off a heck of a good stop. Then, the car really ran a couple of good laps on the race track and putting it all together, that's what it's all about. I've been good here in the past and that's the key to this place is just putting it all together and that's when these guys shine."
DARRELL WALTRIP --66-- Route 66/Big Kmart Taurus
THE TROUBLE WAS IN THE PITS, RIGHT?
"Well, that's the worst part. You give up seconds in the pits not hundredths. You give up three or four hundreths on the track, you give up seconds in the pits. The car was good on the track, but we were a little bit late in the pits. When you talk about a guy making a six second stop and you make a 10 second stop, that's four seconds and if you had John Force's dragster you can't make that up on the race track."
RUSTY WALLACE --2-- Miller Lite Taurus
"It was pretty wild. I had a good pit stop, a really good first lap and I was going for it the second lap and I cut in way too early. I touched the apron down there and it threw me sideways and when it did that I about wrecked it, but gathered it back up and brought it home. That was about it."
DESPITE THAT YOU'RE STILL NEAR THE TOP OF QUALIFYING.
"That's OK. I just threw it all away out there. I don't know, if I would have had a good lap, where it would have gotten me. I think I lost probably three to four tenths doing that. I don't know, if you take three or four tenths off the time, what would it be? So, who knows."
JEFF BURTON --99-- Exide Batteries Taurus
"They (the team) must have had a good pit stop and we must have got in and off really well because the laps weren't very good. We were just way too loose. That cost us a lot of time. >From Elliott, we must have lost probably a good eight-tenths on the race track, so that really hurt us. We had a good pit stop, but I just made a wrong call on the chassis. I got it way too loose. That's OK, though. We learned a little bit for next week and, hopefully, we can apply a little bit of what we learned for qualifying next week."
DALE JARRETT --88-- Quality Care Service/Ford Credit Taurus
"It was kind of a handful. That set of tires just didn't seem to stick as good as what we had earlier in the day and made it a handful to drive. But the guys did a great there on the stop and we'll get to racing tomorrow night."
MARK MARTIN PRESS CONFERENCE
MARK MARTIN --6-- Valvoline Taurus
HOW WAS THE RUN?
"The Valvoline car was fast today and, obviously, most of the time when we go racing that's what's most important so we feel real good about that. We've had good pit stops. The guys practiced their pit stops for this event and they were gunning for the pole. We knew we had a good car. There are so many aspects of qualifying when you throw all this stuff in. There's getting into the pit box, the pit stop, getting out of the pit box, getting down pit road, getting up through the gears and then, really, the speed on the race track becomes of non-consequence because there's such a huge discrepancy in all those other areas. You're only talking about a half-a-second or so between the fastest laps and the slowest laps of everybody in the field and you're talking about seconds difference in all that other stuff. I kind of threw off the front tire changer. I got in, I don't know, maybe a couple feet past my mark or something. I crowed the front edge of the pit box based on getting in pretty fast and they had about a second-a-half slower stop than they might be able to get. Everything else went super. The stop itself was fast and everything else was fast, so that's why we wound up where we were. We had one glitch and I created that by sliding into the pit a little further than I needed to."
DO YOU EXPECT TOMORROW NIGHT TO BE WILD?
"I expect a wreck, if that's what you mean. I hope we don't, but I certainly won't be surprised. You know, there's no right decision in what car you bring here because if you save your best car and your favorite car for the 600, then you miss your opportunity to work with it throughout the different facets which you have here -- which we don't get much night practice -- all the things. So, it's wrong not to bring your 600 car for The Winston and it's also wrong to wreck your 600 car in The Winston and run your second-favorite car in the 600, so anyway it goes from that standpoint it's very difficult to make the right decision until it's all over with and you look back. Yeah, I think you get what you pay for and you're paying for a heck of a show."
BILL ELLIOTT PRESS CONFERENCE
BILL ELLIOTT --94-- McDonald's Taurus
"It's the guys. They have really worked hard and put a lot of effort in to try and make sure the pit stop was just perfect and they cut a perfect pit stop. I felt like I got in OK and got out OK. I maybe could have gained or lost a little bit more there, but you never know. Still, it's all the guys. I'm really impressed. I look around in the garage and if I had to pick a crew, I'd pick them to be on my team and I'm glad they are because they've really worked hard. They've put a lot of dedication into what we're doing week-in and week-out. Ernie (Elliott) got Tonycola (Tony Santanicola) to come on from the motor side and that has been a great effort. Tony has produced a lot of power this year from the motor side. Mike Ford, Barry (Swift), Kevin (Cram) and a lot of the guys that work on the car have really put together a good race car under me week-in and week-out and that's what it's all about."
WHAT ABOUT THE HANDLING OF THE CAR ON THE TRACK?
"It was perfect. I don't know what I could have done any better or any different. We ran two really good fast consistent laps and that helped the total time. We had one really good pit stop and that really helped everything and everything fell together. It's one of those deals that if you have a little mistake as I did last year coming down pit road we ended up losing it, but the two years prior to that we put it all together and made it all work and that's what these guys are all about."
HOW MUCH DOES THE POLE HELP TOWARD WINNING ANY OF THE SEGMENTS?
"I don't know that it really does. I think prior to whenever you had to run down pit road it was a little bit different and you could gain or lose a lot of time when you turned down pit road. The two years I won the pole here by doing that, I had really good times when I turned down pit road and that was really a big help. I didn't run that well in the races, but I do really feel this is probably the best I've been at this race track in a long time as far as car handling, driving, running the whole bit. Tony and Ernie say they've got a really good motor for tomorrow night and Mike Ford and all the guys that work on the car are really pumped up right now. I think one thing feeds off the other and this is what it's all about. If you can get that momentum and get that big ball rolling, then it all comes together and it really looks easy from that standpoint, but I'm really impressed. As quick as these guys have come together and as good a communication line as we've had to this point this year, I didn't expect it to be this good this quick."
BEING ON THE POLE WILL THAT HELP KNOWING YOU MIGHT BE IN FRONT OF THE FIRST WRECK?
"I hope I'm in front of it and not in it. You never know about these deals. You know, it's really competitive right now. There are a lot of good race cars here and everybody seems to be running very close times on the race track and that's a part of it. It's a good strategy to be up front. We've gotten through one part of this deal and the next mission will be how well we run in the first 30-lap segment and then the next one and then the last one, the one that really pays off. So, we'll just take it a step at a time."
HOW MUCH DO YOU GET FROM RAY EVERNHAM?
"Ray has helped a lot in a just a lot of little ways. He doesn't really come to the race track and sit over and coach you. He's helped us a little bit saying, 'Well you need to be a little better here or a little better there,' and he kind of gives you a direction to go in. But I think the biggest key is, I think, between myself, Mike Ford and Kevin (Cram) -- the guys that we've got working on the race car -- have really communicated well. They've brought some really good ideas to the organization. They've made me re-think the way I drive the race car and that, I think, has helped as much as anything. Knowing that at the end of the year knowing I won't be an owner-driver anymore, I think all that burden has been lifted off of me knowing I've got a good place in this. I'm going to work for a great guy in Ray Evernham next year. I'm looking forward to that already, but I still want to give the best effort I possibly can this season."