ELLIOTT SADLER --21-- Motorcraft Taurus -- (Qualified 2nd) RICKY RUDD --28-- Havoline Taurus -- (Qualified 3rd) WERE YOU HOLDING YOUR BREATH THINKING THIS WOULD BE YOUR FIRST POLE? ES: "That was tough. As everybody knows, the Wood Brothers...
ELLIOTT SADLER --21-- Motorcraft Taurus -- (Qualified 2nd)
RICKY RUDD --28-- Havoline Taurus -- (Qualified 3rd)
WERE YOU HOLDING YOUR BREATH THINKING THIS WOULD BE YOUR FIRST POLE?
ES: "That was tough. As everybody knows, the Wood Brothers haven't had a pole since 1984 and I was like nine years old. We were so close, but when the 26 wrecked I looked at Eddie (Wood) and said, 'It's over now.' When we tested here, the rain held us up and we got to test on into the night and the track gets a lot faster when the sun goes in. That helped us going as late as we did, but it really helped the 9 car out a lot, I think. It was tough. I'm pretty upset about it right now, but I think I'll be happy tomorrow. I kind of wanted to qualify in the top 15 and we ended up with second, so I can't be disappointed with that. It's my best ever career start in the NASCAR Winston Cup Series, so I'm pretty happy with that."
WHAT ABOUT THE CLOUD COVER, HOW MUCH DID THAT HELP?
ES: "I think it helped a lot. You could tell that the guys who went later in the round, the cloudier it got they got faster than when Jimmie and all the guys had to go out pretty early. I think they were at a little disadvantage. It definitely helped my car -- the cooler the temperatures got -- so I knew it helped the guys after the 26 wrecked. It had to help a lot as far as grip, but we're gonna be satisfied with that. We're not gonna throw that back in and try another one."
DID TIME GET YOU TODAY?
RR: "I don't know if we can blame it on that, really. We had a really good run. This car is sort of a reconstructed car that our guys put together in a pretty short period of time, so I'm real pleased with the way it's run here. This Texaco Havoline Taurus was fast when we tested and it's been fast today. I'd say guys like Bill that ran real late, the track should have gotten a little quicker, but that's not always the case. Those guys just ran good. Elliott (Sadler) did a good job. I'm just glad to get through qualifying without tearing up something."
HOW IS THE TRACK DIFFERENT THIS YEAR FROM LAST?
RR: "They have done an excellent job resurfacing this race track and not only did they resurface it, but they must have changed the transition into the corner -- especially turn one. The cars like the race track a lot better than they did -- even since the inaugural race out here. That was sort of a problem -- the shape of the entrance to the corner wasn't designed correctly and I guess the third or fourth time they got it right. It's really good. As a matter of fact it's so good, the race cars are running around here so good and they're sticking so good, that I don't think there's any race track on the circuit that we go to that we pull as much g's in the race car -- the g-meter on the data acquisition shows close to three g's in the corner which is unheard of. That's a lot more than we normally pull, so they've done an excellent job with the race track. Now we just have to wait and see if we can race on it."
ES: "I agree with Ricky 100 percent. The pavement job they did here is unbelievable -- how smooth it is -- it's got to be the best feeling asphalt as far as grip that I've ever felt in a race car. It's unbelievable how much grip is in this place. You can even tell when you leave pit road on the old asphalt and when you get on the new asphalt going in the corners and going up through the gear box -- it just really grabs, so it's a big difference. It's gonna be fast Sunday. It's gonna be tough. I think a lot of guys are gonna have good handling race cars, which is gonna make track position very, very important I think, so I'm glad we're able to start up front. Hopefully, Ricky will let me down going into turn one and everything will be fine (laughing)."
WERE THE SPEEDS HIGHER OR LOWER THAN YOU EXPECTED?
ES: "I actually thought it was gonna be faster than it was today, to be honest with you. From the way we tested -- I was down here by myself, but I know Ricky came in here with a bunch of cars last week and I think even a bunch of them ran some very fast times, so I actually thought it was gonna be in the sixties or something like that. We actually talked about it last week that it was gonna be in the sixties, but it might be there was more rubber on the track or it's a little bit warmer than when I tested here, which takes a little grip away from the track, so maybe it's slower -- if you can call 194 miles an hour slower."
WERE YOU CONCERNED NASCAR MIGHT PUT A PLATE ON?
RR: "I didn't really think that was gonna happen. I think NASCAR knew where the speed was gonna be based on testing. Like Elliott said, I predicted the pole was gonna be a seventy and I guess it ended up being an eighty. The track does seem to be a little bit slower than we maybe had figured, but as far as the restrictor plate deal goes, I don't think that would have been the answer because I think the corner speeds would have probably been just as fast. We would have been running around here without lifting at all and we're nearly doing that now. The big question is, can these race cars sustain this amount of stress for 500 miles here. There's as much stress on these race cars and these tires that I have ever felt since I've been racing. When you go in the corner, if you didn't have your seat fixed up with the right side head rest, I mean, it would probably snap your neck -- I mean it would stick that good. We were out here testing the other day and I'm not sure who it was, I think it was Jerry Nadeau, but we went out and ran about five laps and he was winded. At Bristol, you go out there and usually go out there for a couple of laps and you're huffing and puffing, and then you come to this place and you're not used to it -- it's a tremendous amount of load. I know the Indy car guys wouldn't race here because the g-load was so high that they were blacking out. We're nowhere near that extreme, but it's very, very physical inside the race car. When you have a car that sticks that good in the corner, the first thing that comes to mind is, 'What's gonna break' because the thing sticks so unbelievably good."
WHAT IS TOO FAST?
RR: "Don't get me wrong, the cars are fun to drive around here. To me, they're fun because they stick, they drive, you point it and they go in that direction. It's fun to drive. The other side of it when you've been around long enough you say, 'Well, everybody has a flat tire occasionally. Somebody is gonna drop some oil and you're gonna get into it.' What's too fast? I don't think you really know until you get in the race. I saw a couple of guys today bounce off the wall and, from what I saw, nobody got hurt. They hit it a ton, but all of their safety gear held up. It's probably the best time in history to be racing a track like this with all the improvements that we've had in safety the past year. I'd hate to think I was running around out here without a HANS device or seats that are reinforced like they are today."
HOW DOES THIS COMPARE TO THE DAYS AT DAYTONA AND TALLADEGA WHEN THERE WAS NO RESTRICTOR PLATE?
RR: "That's probably a better comparison. At Talladega and Daytona, we run 190-195 now and these guys can tell you, it's pretty uneventful. By yourself, it's pretty much boring. You've got to have something to hold your interest. This place is not like that at all. From the time you leave pit road and you go down the backstretch and hit turn three, it has a way of demanding 100 percent attention because you know there's no room for daydreaming. As far as those days when we used to run, I think Bill has the record at 212 or 215, those were different days. The cars then didn't have the grip, so you would drive it down into the bottom of the corner at Daytona and you would slide all the way to the wall. At about that time the car would get a grip and you'd go on. It's just a different feel. Certainly you knew you were running fast, but I'd say that running around here at 193 feels faster to me than it did at 210 or 212 when we were unrestricted at Daytona. It's just a different feel. Your body feels that pressure and I've never felt that at Daytona and I don't think you ever will."
WHAT G-NUMBER DID YOU SEE?
RR: "These other guys that tested, as far as the g-number that we saw, I'm thinking it was in the real high two's and real close to three. If it wasn't three, it was right at three g's."
ES: "We might see two if we're lucky (at some other tracks) if we're lucky. I think we saw like 2.8 on ours or 2.9 when we tested down here. We made long runs here during our testing and I had to put extra padding in the right side of my seat for my head. I'd run 20 laps here and my neck would feel like it was gonna fall off. I go to Bristol and run 500 laps and it doesn't bother you. That's how much different this track is than anywhere that we're gonna race this year."
WILL THE MECHANICAL PARTS HOLD UP IN THE RACE?
RR: "Hopefully, these parts are designed to take this type of a load, but I will say this, there is no other track that we run that even compares close to the stress that all of the mechanical parts are gonna be seeing here on Sunday. You definitely want to get rid of any titanium parts if you've got any on your race car. You definitely don't want to have them on there this weekend (laughing)."
HOW DOES IT COMPARE TO DOVER?
ES: "We're trying to put it in words for you but it's hard. There's no track like this race track."
RR: "Where is the baddest, meanest rollercoaster you've ever ridden in your life and imagine the corner load that you took in that rollercoaster where you slid to the other side of the car you're riding in. That's probably the best way to describe it because it's a tremendous amount of side load here. There's no vertical load, it's all side load. Everything is trying to go out the right-side window, but there's nothing that comes even close to comparing it and there's no way to put that into words as to what that's like."
IS THIS TRACK SURFACE TOO GOOD?
RR: "I can only say it's gonna get back to the race. I think sometimes speed doesn't always translate into meaning good races. You can go to Richmond, Virginia, and run around there at 130-140 miles an hour and see one of the best races you ever want to see. I don't really know how to answer that. I don't think the answer is building bigger and bigger speedways. That's just a personal taste. I mean, it's fun to drive here by yourself, but I'm not so sure, I can't answer that when we go out and go racing. Faster is not always better. It doesn't necessarily mean you're gonna see better racing."