This Week in Ford Racing November 9, 1999 Homestead Preview The newest track on the NASCAR Winston Cup Series will debut this weekend as the inaugural Pennzoil 400 takes center stage at the Homestead-Miami Speedway. While this might be new...
This Week in Ford Racing November 9, 1999
The newest track on the NASCAR Winston Cup Series will debut this weekend as the inaugural Pennzoil 400 takes center stage at the Homestead-Miami Speedway. While this might be new to some, a couple of Ford drivers have already experienced victory at this facility. Jeff Burton won one of the closest races in Busch Series history last year when he edged Jimmy Spencer by six inches at the finish line. Kevin Lepage won the first Busch race of his career at Homestead in 1996. Both drivers spoke about their victories and returning to South Florida.
JEFF BURTON --99-- Exide Batteries Taurus -- CAN YOU TALK ABOUT THE END TO THAT BUSCH RACE LAST YEAR AND THE WAY YOU CAME BACK? "It was one of those races you really didn't think you were gonna win. With 40 to go I was really gonna be happy to finish third. With 30 to go I said, 'Well, maybe I can catch Mark.' With 20 to go I said, 'Man, I'm catching Mark and Spencer.' With 10 to go I was on Mark, but he was driving his butt off and I couldn't get around. Finally, he had driven all he could drive and it finally slipped, so I was able to get by him with about two to go. Then I thought, 'Wow, maybe we can win this thing.' Sure enough. I knew passing Spencer would be like trying to knock the Berlin wall down, but he was really loose and I did my best to make him looser than he already was and that strategy worked. It was quite an exciting race for a race that was pretty boring up to that point. It turned out to be a pretty good race."
YOU TESTED THERE WITH A CUP CAR A WEEK OR SO AGO. HOW DID THAT GO? "The test went good. When we were there it was only us and the 88, and I was really happy with our race setup when we left. I'm glad we went and tested because it's a really strange racetrack. It's hard to get going good there and I think we learned an awful lot for our race setup. I believe it was a worthwhile test."
WHAT'S STRANGE ABOUT IT? "It's real flat and the turns go forever. It's a mile and a half flat race track and the turns are just forever long and it's hard to get your car to do the same thing every lap. It's impossible to get your car to do the same thing in one and two that it does in three and four. That's just an impossibility and it just ain't gonna happen, so I think we learned how to get a good balance so it ran good on both ends of the race track. I think what you'll see there is people will be really good on one end of the race track and not so good on the other."
DO YOU THINK YOU'LL HAVE ANY ADVANTAGE OVER THE OTHER DRIVERS WHO HAVEN'T SEEN THE TRACK BEFORE? "I think experience on a new race track is valuable, but I've gotta tell you, I remember the race and I remember qualifying. I remember everything, it's not like I have brain fade, but I can't say I remembered going there knowing how to drive the race track. I mean, it was a whole new learning process for me, but after I got there things started coming back to me. It was the same way at Vegas. When I went to Vegas this year it was like I had never been there before. That stuff goes away pretty quick, it really does. It gets away from you."
KEVIN LEPAGE --16-- TV Guide Taurus -- HOMESTEAD HAS SOME GOOD MEMORIES FOR YOU DOESN'T IT? "Obviously, it was a very special day in my life back in '96 when we won our first Busch race. Unfortunately, they changed the racetrack on me. They took away the four corners and made it just kind of a Loudon-type setup. I think the good thing about Homestead for me is the fact I've been there every race in the Busch car. I think we'll have a little bit of an upper hand maybe on the guys who haven't tested there or the guys who haven't been there and I'm looking forward to it. It brings back good memories every time I roll through that tunnel."
HOW MUCH OF A DIFFERENCE DOES IT MAKE TO HAVE HAD SOME EXPERIENCE THERE? WILL THURSDAY'S PRACTICE SESSION TAKE AWAY ANY EDGE? "I think the day of practice will help for sure, but, at the same time, you look at the guys who go to say Phoenix, for example, every race and then there's a guy like myself who has only been there twice. I kind of struggle trying to understand what the racetrack wants. Fortunately, we've been to Homestead several times and been on the new configuration. We've seen that race track change in the past with sun, clouds, and there are a lot of characteristics that I have in my notebook that when we go down there we'll be able to, hopefully, catch the right break that will put the TV Guide Taurus where it needs to be. We'll have all day Thursday to figure out what it likes in a Winston Cup car. If you look at last year, every time that we had a lot of success in the Busch Series we were able to contribute some of that over into the Winston Cup Series, so we're gonna run the Busch race on Saturday and maybe we can bring something over to Sunday."
YOU HEAR THAT QUESTION ABOUT WHETHER BUSCH SETUPS HELP IN CUP. HOW DO YOU FEEL ABOUT THAT? "I think like in qualifying the Busch cars get through the corner faster than a Winston Cup car, but a Winston Cup car gets there faster. What happens is, if we qualify in the Busch car, you find out how much grip the Goodyear tire really has. I've been able to, at least last year anyway, go out and do a great job in qualifying in the Busch car and then all of a sudden bring it over into the Winston Cup car and, boom, nails it. Then there have been a couple times where I tried to bring it over and it went the other way. But running 300 miles at Homestead, we'll understand the tires. We'll understand the track conditions as far as the heat and how slippery it gets and, again, we'll go back over our notes we've had the last few years there and we should have a pretty good day."
CAN YOU DESCRIBE THAT TRACK IN DETAIL FROM START TO FINISH LINE? "Obviously, it's kind of a lot like Loudon -- long, long straight-aways. You get into turn one and brake real hard, but not hard enough to slow the momentum of the car and let it roll through the corners. You try to pick the throttle up as soon as you can. You kind of go uphill down the backstretch out of the corners and you run a little bit downhill in turns three and four. One of the hardest things with the exit of four is there's an apron right there and, if you get too close to the apron, it'll free the car up. If you don't get close enough, you'll push and knock the wall down. So turn four is probably the worst corner to get a handle on, but with knowledge that I've had with that race track and how to hit that apron I think it'll play into our hands on race day."