January 10, 2000 Talladega Superspeedway The 2000 NASCAR Ford Taurus took to the race track for the first of a two-day test session at Talladega Superspeedway. There were 18 Ford teams that participated in Monday's ...
January 10, 2000 Talladega Superspeedway
The 2000 NASCAR Ford Taurus took to the race track for the first of a two-day test session at Talladega Superspeedway. There were 18 Ford teams that participated in Monday's session, which didn't start until noon eastern time due to rain that hit the Talladega area overnight.
There were only four teams not present -- the No. 11 of driver/owner Brett Bodine, the No. 75 of driver Wally Dallenbach, the No. 90 of owner Junie Donlavey and the No. 98 of owner Cale Yarborough. Mark Martin and Rusty Wallace were also not present. Martin is still recovering from off-season back surgery while Wallace had a scheduling conflict and is attending a recurrent jet flight training program in Tucson, Ariz. Greg Biffle handled the testing for the No. 6 Valvoline team while Buddy Baker filled in behind the wheel of the No. 2 Miller Lite Taurus.
This was also the first opportunity for teams test NASCAR's new rules for shocks and springs at restrictor-plate tracks. Many teams spent time early in the session working with last year's setup to compare the 2000 Taurus with last year's model before practicing with the new shock and spring package. DALE JARRETT --88-- Quality Care Service/Ford Credit Taurus
HOW DOES IT FEEL TO GET BACK BEHIND THE WHEEL AFTER WHAT'S HAPPENED THE LAST MONTH OR SO? "It feels great. It seems like the end of the season was a long time ago. A lot of things have happened in that period of time, but it's nice. It was nice to have the time at home with Kelley and the kids, but it's really good to be back at what I enjoy doing. It's hard to tell if we're good or if we're not good because this is something new for everybody with the new shock and spring rules but the cars drive a lot better and for us old guys I guess that's good."
HOW DID YOU APPROACH TODAY BECAUSE YOU SET THE FASTEST SPEED EARLY IN THE DAY BUT IT WAS WITH THE OLD SHOCK AND SPRING SETUP, RIGHT? "We basically came and ran the fast laps that we ran were on last year's shocks and springs -- just like we finished the race here last year. We had run a number of laps by ourselves in practice last year, so we knew what that car would do then, so we kind of wanted to see how this body was, if it was better and if we did a better job. We knew what the wind tunnel told us, but we wanted to see exactly where we were, so that's why we did that and got those laps. Once we saw what we wanted to there, then it was time to get with what's gonna happen now and from there it was just making changes. There's not a lot you can do and you're gonna have to get creative in some new areas now and that's what we tried to do. We made some gains, we picked the car up a little bit, but as far as knowing if that's good or bad versus other cars, you can change these cars two and three-tenths a second just by adding a little bit of tape to 'em, so we're pretty much with race tape and I think some of the other guys had qualifying stuff, so we should be OK." CAN YOU TELL A DIFFERENCE WITH THE 2000 TAURUS AFTER JUST ONE DAY? "It's hard to tell here at Talladega because handling isn't the biggest thing here, but just by what we can tell, not only by what I could feel out there but as Todd and I talked about what they've seen in the wind tunnel, we have a better balanced car than what we had so that's gonna help everybody out. Obviously, certain teams figured things out to overcome the lack of front downforce that we had with the '99 Taurus, but it looks like maybe everybody is gonna get some help here -- that we do have a better balanced race car which will make it easier to adjust on. I think we have a nice car that is gonna be able to compete. At Daytona and Talladega, even though we won with the Taurus at both of those places, that wasn't the strong suit for it because it had a lot of drag. It looks like with the 2000 Taurus that maybe we've gotten some of that out of it and haven't given up a lot in the downforce package, so it looks like we've got a pretty good car to work with."
RICKY RUDD --28-- Texaco/Havoline Taurus
HOW DOES IT FEEL TO FINALLY DRIVE THIS CAR FULL TIME? "It went good. This is the second time we've tested together. We had two days down in Lakeland, Florida that we tested together so this is actually the third day of a test and I really like what I see. I see everybody getting along good. I see the chemistry blending good. We had quite a few of our guys who came over and went to work and it's not a case where our guys did it this way and there guys did it that way, it's kind of a nice little merger and the cars are running good. We ran good at Lakeland and we came here and we're running well here."
CAN YOU TELL ANY DIFFERENCE WITH THE 2000 TAURUS YET? "I think what you're up against is that we've got these cars basically on race setup right now with the shock issue and the spring issue. With the rules being what they are everybody is pretty much equal and to sit here and say this Taurus is better than last years, it would be hard to do that because everybody is two to three seconds a lap slower than what they're normally used to running here so the cars feel really good. Even in race conditions with the new rules it's gonna be quite a bit different. I don't think there will be anybody here complaining about their car not driving well -- Ford, Chevy, whatever -- with these new shock rules and spring rules."
DO YOU SHARE THE ENTHUSIASM YOUR CREW OBVIOUSLY DOES ABOUT THIS SEASON? "I just feel really honored and thrilled to have an opportunity like I've got. I can't take any credit, those guys are in the shops and working a lot of hours. They're working on Sundays and they're putting in the time it takes and we're starting to see some of the results. You can tell that their hearts are in it, they're not here to punch a clock and pick up a paycheck they're here to win a race and want to win races. I've been around a lot of different groups during the years and it's just nice to be around a group that's so committed to wanting to do well."
ROBERT PRESSLEY --77-- Jasper Engines Taurus
YOU MUST BE HAPPY BEING THE FASTEST OF THE DAY, RIGHT? "It feels good. You know how we struggled last year on the restrictor-plate tracks, but now we've got Ryan (Pemberton) in here and that's made a big difference. This is a brand new car we've got here, the guys worked hard all winter. It's about the only thing we've got ready right now, but we've got to worry about Daytona first."
WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO YOU AND THIS TEAM TO BE FASTEST? "It's amazing. We've had a little bit of wind tunnel time, but the thing is getting Ryan in there to be a leader. All the guys respect him and it's like a family deal. Everybody is getting along so well and we just needed the leadership in there that could be there seven days a week, 24 hours a day to take care of it and, man, I hope we've got it because me and this whole team needs this."
GREG BIFFLE --6-- Valvoline/Cummins Taurus -- THIS IS YOUR FIRST TIME DRIVING A WINSTON CUP CAR ISN'T IT? "Yeah, first time I've ever been in a Cup car and first time I've seen Talladega Superspeedway, so I'm really excited. These cars are ultra-smooth driving machines. All of these Roush guys, I haven't driven anything else, but they built a heck of a car. The new body seems to be testing out real good and I'm just happy I can be a part of maybe helping them along the way in 2000."
IS THE EXPERIENCE OF TALLADEGA AND DRIVING A WINSTON CUP CAR WHAT YOU THOUGHT IT WOULD BE LIKE? "Yeah, I just never dreamed that I'd ever be here and on top of that who would have ever thought I'd get to be able to drive Mark Martin's car. It's unreal seeing my name on that sheet in third or fourth or wherever I'm at with Dale Jarrett and all the talent. It's exciting for me and it's a little bit easier than I suspected it was gonna be, but I prepared myself for the toughest drill and that was having the cars bouncing and moving around some on the race track, but they're just really smooth. What a fun track, it's real wide and I bet it's a blast to race on. Hopefully, some day I'll be here racing on it."
OBVIOUSLY YOUR MAIN GOAL IS TO RACE WINSTON CUP ONE DAY, CAN YOU TALK ABOUT THIS OPPORTUNITY? "When they mentioned it I guess I was just in the right place at the right time. I happened to be in Rockingham and Jimmy (Fennig) had mentioned that Mark was having back surgery and he might need somebody to test, so I just kind of pursued it from there. All he had to do was mention it and I was on the phone with him making sure that I did what I needed to do to get the opportunity. I thanked Mark for the opportunity. Obviously, he would rather be here doing it himself, but anything I can do to help those guys and for me to get this opportunity is spectacular."
ARE YOU SURPRISED TO SEE YOURSELF THIRD ON THE SPEED CHART? "Surprised, yes and no because the talent that's around this Roush Racing group, including Mark Martin, Jeff Burton, Jack Roush and all the engineers they've got, it doesn't surprise me as far as that aspect but it really surprises me to see my name on that sheet."
Ford Test Results 1. Robert Pressley --77-- 50.507, 189.597 2. Jimmy Spencer --26-- 50.665, 189.006 3. Ricky Rudd --28-- 50.799, 188.508 4. Greg Biffle --6A-- 50.820, 188.430 5. Darrell Waltrip --66B-- 50.874, 188.230 6. Buddy Baker --2-- 50.911, 188.093 7. Dale Jarrett --88-- 50.991, 187.798 8. Ricky Rudd --28T-- 51.001, 187.761 9. Robby Gordon --13-- 51.071, 187.504 10. Kevin Lepage --16B-- 51.107, 187.372 11. Jeff Burton --99B-- 51.131, 187.284 12. Jeff Burton --99A-- 51.207, 187.006 13. Matt Kenseth --17B-- 51.265, 186.794 14. Jeremy Mayfield --12-- 51.267, 186.787 15. Derrick Cope --15-- 51.478, 186.021 16. Scott Pruett --32-- 51.479, 186.018 17. Greg Biffle --6B-- 51.481, 186.010 18. Chad Little --97B-- 51.484, 186.000 19. Stacy Compton --9-- 51.487, 185.989 20. Elliott Sadler --21A-- 51.523, 185.859 21. Chad Little --97A-- 51.564, 185.711 22. Matt Kenseth --17A-- 51.603, 185.571 23. Kevin Lepage --16A-- 51.672, 185.323 24. Darrell Waltrip --66A-- 51.992, 184.182 25. Elliott Sadler --21B-- 52.000, 184.154 26. Bill Elliott --94B-- 52.170, 183.554 27. Stacy Compton --9A-- 52.438, 182.616 28. Bill Elliott --94A-- 53.049, 180.512