Bill Elliott Aug. 2, 2003, Indianapolis Motor Speedway The Moderator: Joining us in the trackside press conference room is Bill Elliott, defending race winner. Thank you for coming over. We appreciate the time. First of all, you tested here...
Aug. 2, 2003, Indianapolis Motor Speedway
The Moderator: Joining us in the trackside press conference room is Bill Elliott, defending race winner. Thank you for coming over. We appreciate the time. First of all, you tested here about two weeks ago. The Indy drivers say when they test in April and come back in May, oftentimes the track totally changes. Talk about track conditions from your test two weeks ago till now.
Bill Elliott : I didn't feel like we got a very good test in when we were here a couple weeks ago. We came in the Monday after Chicago. We ran some Monday, then we started to run Tuesday, it rained. We got only a very limited schedule on Wednesday. There were several things happening on the racetrack. We elected to run half a day. I was kind of disappointed when I ended up leaving here. I didn't feel like we got much accomplished. We didn't do any qualifying runs. And then you come in yesterday for a late afternoon practice for early morning qualifying, it's hard to, you know, just make a second guess of what you're going to do as far as qualifying goes.
The Moderator: We'll open it up for questions for Bill.
Q: With the speed that you saw today, what does that mean for the race, in your opinion?
Bill Elliott : Not a lot. I mean, you know, the cooler the track gets, the faster these cars are going to go. That's pretty evident with what happened this morning. I was lucky enough to get a good draw. A lot of times I'd rather be lucky than good any day of the week. I was fortunate enough to get an early draw. It worked out for us. You know, it was pretty bad for the guys kind of in the middle when the track temp got up; it kind of hurt them. Then it kind of came back a little bit at the end. It was kind of a hard judge. But, you know, right now, depending on what the track temp is tomorrow, what the conditions are, it's going to judge the speed of the race.
Q: When you guys came here 10 years ago, there was some concern on both sides, maybe from the NASCAR side that Indy might detract a little from the Daytona 500, or from the Indy side that this would drain away from some of the aura of Indy. Seems like it worked pretty good for both sides. What would be your take on it as a veteran who has been here for a long time?
Bill Elliott : I would agree with that. I think we've been able to carve our way into the record books here in a short period of time. And I think the people that were Indy 500 fans have become Brickyard fans and vice versa. I think it's been a twofold deal. I don't know that you're ever going to take away from the Daytona 500 looking at it from that side. The Daytona 500 is always the biggest event because it starts our season. You come to Indy, it kind of is the second half of the season. So it's like the start of a new part of the season. You know, to me, I've enjoyed running here over the last 10 years, at least nine years. I enjoyed coming here for the Goodyear test back in '92, I had some good memories, great memory of last year, great win here. We'll see what tomorrow brings.
Q: Speaking generally, are you happy with the progress the race team has made in the past couple years?
Bill Elliott : Well, there's areas I like, and there's areas I dislike. I can't really sit here and say that I agree with everything everybody does or I disagree with everything everybody does. All in all, it's come a long way. Everybody's got an opinion on a lot of decisions that are made as far as the competitor's side goes. You know, like I said, some I agree with, some I disagree with.
Q: It has always been a reality that the cooler the track, the better it is and the more speed you're going to get. But how much can you actually attribute to the consistency of the driver and the creativeness of the mechanics and machines now? It's always been that if the track is cooler, the cars are going to run better. The drivers are used to the track, there's much, much more improvement in machines. How much of that is responsible for the increase in speed?
Bill Elliott : Well, I think over the last at least nine years of coming here, I think just the evolution of where these cars have come to. You know, Goodyear has made the tires better. The manufacturers have made aerodynamics better. The crews have learned how to turn the engines harder, produce more power. You put all those ingredients together, you're going to come up with faster speeds. It's just an ongoing evolution of refining every part of the race car. That's the key to running faster. It isn't that anything gets better; it's just small improvements in every area.
Q: Three Dodges in the top five. What is it about the Dodge that seems to work so well here, at least in qualifying?
Bill Elliott : Well, I think they all got a lucky draw (laughter). At the time we went, you know, I knew Ryan was going to be definitely a factor, I mean, coming off a win last week. You know, I started second, won the race last year. Looks like he's going to start second. Who knows what's going to happen tomorrow. But, you know, for us, we're just going to have to keep a good, consistent track position kind of day. You've heard that a million times. That's going to be the key. Not have any problems.
Q: Is there any reason to think that slowing down the cars a bit here might improve the quality, sort of entertainment value or show? Does speed inherently make for better racing or is there a point at which speed detracts from racing?
Bill Elliott : Well, the point, I think, you look at the faster you go through any corner, the less raceable it is. I mean, that's true with any racetrack we go to that's freshly surfaced or whatever. You go to racetracks that tend to be really good, and it tends to be a one-groove racetrack. This racetrack, it's been difficult from that side, even the first time we came here, especially for 3,400-pound stock cars. I mean, I don't know. I have my opinions, but a lot of things would have to change. If we took downforce out of these cars, everything would have to change along with that. You just can't go cut spoiler off or raise the air dams in the front and expect everything to be OK. The tire evolution would have to change. We'd have to come back to a common ground as far as everything goes to where it would all work together. That's where I see looking back at the past, you know, the problem that I see, you just can't cold turkey cut everything off because, you know, we tried the five-five rule back several years ago when you had a lot of complaints from the other side. You've got to think through it. You have all these drivers in a realm of reality, that we've got so much downforce on these cars versus what we had, you know, four or five years ago. I mean, when I started in my career, in this business, if you had a couple hundred pounds of downforce in the rear, the cars probably had lift in the front. I mean, it was a whole different game. Today it's all about how you get your attitude of your car, downforce, who can make the most, be able to put the power down. But there again, in the race, that becomes some point of a negative. You know, it gives the huge advantage to the guys out front, less of an advantage to the guys in the middle of the pack, or if you get in the back of a pack. But, you know, like I said, there's no common ground. You know, you've got to be able to put a package together to make those changes and make them work properly.
The Moderator: Driver introductions have begun for the IROC race. We will not be having Kevin Harvick and Greg Biffle in until after the IROC race. Couple more questions for Bill.
Q: From what I understand, the safety workers here are volunteers for the IndyCar Series safety team. Do you find that more comforting that other tracks that use volunteers? Is that something you'd like to see NASCAR adopt?
Bill Elliott : Yes, it's something I'd like to see NASCAR adopt. I feel like it's time this sport goes into a realm of common people coming in every week that know the drivers and understand what values are out there. My hat's off to Tony George and all the guys here because they have been on the leading edge of safety. When we talk about soft walls, all this stuff, they put them up. They've always been -- you know, whatever happens here, everything I've seen in the past, they've been very quick to respond.
Q: Bill, you'll hear some drivers talk about how they don't especially think starting this qualifying session this early in the day is fair, given the weather changes we're going to have. Is there any way to get around that, or qualifying 50 cars, you're going to run into that whenever you're going to try to start it?
Bill Elliott : Well, there might be certain times during the day. Let's say it started at noon today. It started out with a track temperature pretty warm, then the clouds come, it sprinkled rain. I don't know how you're going to make an even playing field. It all comes back to luck of the draw. Ironically, even the last guy didn't have that bad of a draw the way everything shook out today. But, I mean, unless you did it at night, it's hard to really make it totally equal. And still, that's controversial.
The Moderator: The plan is to either after the IROC race, we'll be working closely with NASCAR on this, or after Winston Cup practice, we'll be bringing in the three drivers who were supposed to come in before the IROC race. Thank you.