KYLE PETTY (No. 45 Sprint Dodge Intrepid R/T) "I didn't make the race here last year. I've never raced here. That should get us in the race. When you're at a point and you have a shot at the pole, you go for it. If you don't have a shot for the...
KYLE PETTY (No. 45 Sprint Dodge Intrepid R/T)
"I didn't make the race here last year. I've never raced here. That should get us in the race. When you're at a point and you have a shot at the pole, you go for it. If you don't have a shot for the pole, you just get a good, basic lap. We unloaded and we were pretty good. Our engines are really good. I think we made a couple of shock changes and we got better and better, so I can't complain. That was a good run for us. I felt sorry for some of those Busch guys qualifying. They practice at 8 o'clock in the morning and then have to qualify at 2 or 3 in the afternoon. It's a totally different race track. That's tough enough for a veteran driver. That's a bad deal for a guy who doesn't have as much experience. I didn't get up to speed as much as I should have in three and four on my qualifying lap. That wasn't a good way to come to the green flag, and that kind of killed it on the first lap. The guys worked hard."
SCOTT WIMMER (Siemens Dodge Intrepid R/T)
"We've got to make the race here, and in Busch we can rely on points, so there's a little more pressure. We slowed down a little bit from practice, but the Siemens Dodge is running good and hopefully we can get it in the race. It's going to be close."
HUT STRICKLIN (No. 23 Hills Bros Coffee Dodge Intrepid R/T)
"We made a lot of adjustments before qualifying and picked up about a tenth. We just ran out of time. We needed some more time to adjust, but I think we're going to be all right."
RON HORNADAY (No. 49 BAM Racing Dodge Intrepid R/T)
"I'm happy with the lap. The car drove great, but the speed just isn't there. We might have pulled the wrong gear. We didn't put the right tires on for the banzai run, so it's our own fault. Whatever happens, hopefully the BAM Dodge gets in the race. We need to do it by time. We don't need to take a provisional. My Busch car was looser than this one and we qualified 14th with the Busch car. It's close over here. A lot of these guys might pick up because it's going to get cooler, but hopefully we can make it in the show."
JEREMY MAYFIELD (No. 19 Dodge Dealers Dodge Intrepid R/T)
"We ran hard. We're trying to dig ourselves out of a little slump. Bill ran good, and I hope his time holds up for the pole. We're getting our deal back where it needs to be. I love this track, and hopefully we'll have a good run on Sunday."
STERLING MARLIN (No. 40 Coors Light Dodge Intrepid R/T)
NOTE: Marlin qualified fourth fastest for Sunday's race. He started ninth and finished ninth at Chicagoland last year.
"We got real loose coming to the green to take it and just didn't get a run up off the corner. We got hooked up in one and two and came back through three and four good coming to the white flag. We're going to qualify better the second half and race better. We picked up a lot from practice and didn't really change that much on the car. We tuned up the motor a little bit and got the tires hooked up for the second lap. You've got to hit your marks at this track. If you miss them, you could fall off a couple of tenths. We hit all four corners good on the last lap and it paid off."
BILL ELLIOTT (No. 9 Dodge Dealers Dodge Intrepid R/T)
NOTE: Elliott will start third Sunday. Elliott started fourth and finished 10th in the inaugural Tropicana 400 in 2001.
"Everything went well today. We kept nipping away at it in practice and we seemed to get better and better on each run. We just came up a little bit short, but I'm real proud of the way the guys worked. We've worked well together this year. It seems like our communication is getting on line where we need to be. If we just keep working on that, I think the second half of the year should go well.
"It (track) hasn't seemed to change a lot. The second groove looks like it's going to come in better than it did last year. It seems like every year the pavement gets more age on it, the higher you can run on the race track and the more grooved the race track becomes. We'll know more in the morning after our practice and after the Busch race tomorrow afternoon.
"They've run well, and they've been around a little bit of time. They're starting to put things together as a team. They've made a few racing mistakes by being young, but as they've come along they've done really well. Both Kurt Busch and Ryan Newman, they're the contenders to beat each and every week. I just like to be close. I've been way back there before. I've been riding that roller-coaster man.
"I feel like this race track will accommodate a second groove a little better being a year older. It seems like every time we go back to race tracks that have been resurfaced or new facilities as the years progress the higher the grooves move. That's just the way typical race tracks are. We'll know more after the Busch race tomorrow.
"You can't compare the era I came in and today. I was doing all my own stuff, working on my own car, had no money. These guys have come in and got good equipment. I'm not saying anything negative about that. It's just a different era, but they have come to the top of their deal. They've run good. They're the guys to beat each and every week."
"When we came into this deal we didn't have any money. I don't take that as being a negative. I learned what I had to learn during my era. I've been able to adapt throughout the years. I'm very happy today. That's evolution. Guys are going to come in here and push you out. That's part of it. That's the part we've got to understand.
"You couldn't be put in the environment I was put in in the mid 80s today and handle it. You couldn't do both. They've been able to find the right people around them. They've been very good at what they do and they've been able to put it all together. Look at it from the money side of it, there's a lot of money being spent. When I started racing, probably a heck of a sponsorship was $100,000 a year to run the whole season. Now you're looking at $15-$17 million a year.
"It's all going to be a change. You look at it throughout the years, and I've been here long enough to look at it and analyze this deal, the tires are going to change, the cars are going to change, NASCAR is going to change the rules. You're going to have your deals where you're running good and you're going to have your deals where you're not running so good. You're going to ride that roller-coaster. Right now, looking back on the last 10 years, I'm in the most stable environment that I've been in the last 10 years. I went through the first year with Junior (Johnson) and then Junior went through a divorce. Tim Brewer went one way and the team went the other way. It took me two years to struggle through that.
"Then I went to my own deal and I struggled throughout all that. I never could find the stability within the team that I needed and the confidence to make it week in and week out. I've got so many good guys on this team now, and we keep growing and getting better. That's what we've got to do as a team, forget about what everybody else is doing.
"I feel like at the end of the day we're going to make less mistakes because we've been there. These guys if they hit it right on the afternoon are going to be hard to beat. If everything stays constant, everybody will probably catch up and go different ways depending on the way the teams stay. That's the point I'm trying to make. If you can keep your stability in the deal, you're going to be OK. If you start having problems, then you're going to ride that roller-coaster."
NOTE: This is Elliott's seventh top five start of the season and his 10th top 10 start.
STERLING MARLIN (No. 40 Coors Light Dodge Intrepid R/T)
NOTE: Marlin will start fourth in Sunday's Tropicana 400, and that's his best qualifying effort of the season. He started on the pole at Pocono, but qualifying was canceled and drivers lined up by points. Marlin has had only one other top 10 qualifying effort this season, a sixth at Rockingham in February. He finished second in that race, assumed the points lead and has held it since. The 45-year-old driver from Columbia, Tenn., will make his 557th NASCAR Winston Cup career start on Sunday. He has 11 career poles, 10 victories and 77 top fives.
"We found some stuff when we tested at Kentucky that's going to help us in qualifying. We went to Richmond and tested for two days and Kentucky and tested for two days and found some stuff. We worked on some different packages, and I think it's going to help in qualifying and in the race. The way the chassis stuff works now is just nuts. The stuff that's working shouldn't be working. I don't understand what's changed. It's the same tire we had last year, but the same setups don't work. I don't know if it's the tracks changing over the winter or the aero stuff changing on these cars, getting more downforce on 'em. I just don't know what it is.
"We've got some pretty smart people at Chip Ganassi Racing. Andy Graves and Tony Glover don't know what to make of it, either. Two years ago if you had under a car what's under it now, there wouldn't be any way you could drive it.
"You run real fast here, but you've just got to get in the car and drive it and not worry about getting hurt. You can get hurt at Martinsville. You can get hurt going down the steps.
"We'll know more after this morning about what to expect on Sunday in the race. We'll just go out and see what we've got. It's still too early to dwell on the points. We've just got to go out and do our deal and try win every week. If we can't win, then we'll shoot for a top five. If we can't do that, we'll go for a top 10. You can't run 12th or 15th every week and win the championship.
"I thought we could keep getting top fives every week. We started out pretty strong (five straight top 10s), and then the chassis started changing on us. I really don't know where we are compared to the Fords and other makes right now. It looks like the Fords might have a little bit of an advantage. I guess we need to go back to the wind tunnel and see what we've all got. We're supposed to have the same car as the Ford and we go to Daytona and they have three inches less spoiler than we've got. I guess we need to start fighting harder for some changes.
"We're prepared for this 20-race stretch. We've got cars ready to go and motors ready to go. We'll slip off and go test a couple of days during that stretch. We've got two tests left. I'm not sure where we'll go to test. I'd like to go to Richmond and test under the lights. There's no need to test in the daytime. Maybe they'll let us test at night if we pay the light bill.
"You've got to test to learn stuff. If you want to win, you'd better do it. You've got to do a lot of things you don't want to do to win. That's what we're in it for. We've got a shot here. We'll wait and see how practice goes, but I think we're going to be all right. The two times we've started in the top 10 this year we've finished in the top five (second at Rockingham and fourth at Pocono).
"We've got some good tracks coming up. We had a good run at Indy last year. Pocono, Michigan and Darlington are just around the corner, but we're looking forward to all of them. It's going to be interesting to see what happens. This 20-race stretch should favor the bigger, more experienced teams, but you never know what's going to happen. We'll just get all we can get every week and see where it stacks up after Homestead. There's a lot at stake, but we're just going to do all we can do and hope that's enough. Everybody is working hard, but the competition is tough. There's no room to take a break. When it's all said and done, we'll know we gave it 100 percent."