NOTES AND QUOTES Gatorade Twin 125-Mile Qualifiers Advance Daytona International Speedway February 10, 1999 Note: Hot Wheels Pontiac driver Kyle Petty and Crown Fiber Pontiac driver Buckshot Jones are in very different positions entering ...
NOTES AND QUOTES Gatorade Twin 125-Mile Qualifiers Advance Daytona International Speedway February 10, 1999
Note: Hot Wheels Pontiac driver Kyle Petty and Crown Fiber Pontiac driver Buckshot Jones are in very different positions entering Thursday's twin 125-mile qualifying races. Petty qualified 20th and is in safe position to make the Daytona 500 field should he not get a top-15 finish Thursday. Jones qualified 44th and has no provisional to fall back on, meaning the only way he can make the Daytona 500 field is through his 125. Petty and Jones talk about their very different circumstances.
KYLE PETTY (No. 44 Hot Wheels Pontiac Grand Prix): "I think we're in pretty good shape. I really do. It could drive a little bit better. That's what we're working on. We started with what (crew chief) Doug (Hewitt) had last year. That was good and we've always got that fallback position. If we just start over from scratch and go with what he had, I think we could be comfortable and good with that. I think we're pretty good. I think John (Andretti) is really good. I think his car is really good. I ran with him some the other day. I think the 5 and 18 together as a combination are good. The 33 is good, the 24 is good. It's the basic deal, really whoever you get with. We've been able to lead packs fast this year, whereas in the past we've just been able to hang on, barely hang on. Now we can lead. I'm not saying we're the fastest leader, but at least we can lead."
WHAT DO YOU CONTRIBUTE THAT TO? "I attribute it to Robbie (Loomis) and Doug and (engine builder) Rick (Mann) and (engine builder) Keith (Almond) and (team manger) Chris (Hussey) and all the guys in the fab shop that have worked. I think it's a combination of what Robbie and them had already built at Petty Enterprises and what little bit Doug and Chris brought to the table. When you're in your own little world you can get used to looking at things one way. If you're open-minded enough to take a competitor's idea, and Doug and Chris have been competitors, just check your ego at the door, God, that will help you. I think with them coming in and the stuff they've done on their cars and the stuff they've done to their cars spring, chassis, and body-wise, we're closer to where we need to be. We were close. They put us closer. As far as where we need to be, we still need to be closer. But when you have six heads working at it instead of two heads, you get there a lot quicker."
HOW ARE YOU APPROACHING THE TWINS? YOU'RE PRETTY SAFE SPEED-WISE. "Without a major catastrophe, we're real safe speed-wise. And I'd have to say this is the safest I've been speed-wise since '93 when I sat on the pole. We came down here to race and I think that's the way I'm approaching it. I've probably run harder in practice than I have in the past, just trying to feel what the car is going to do. I think we're just going out to race to see what the car will do. We're pretty confident I'm going to be in the 500 Sunday and I'll do whatever I can to get a good starting spot. It's the same ol' deal, a great starting spot in the 500 isn't critical. I think a great starting spot in any restrictor plate race is not critical, not as critical as it used to be. The critical part is avoiding accidents and avoiding trouble. It's not as critical because the cars are so equal. We're out there in practice and you see Jeff Gordon, who sat on the pole, or Tony Stewart, who sat on the outside pole, Schrader, who's fast, all these guys that are fast and right there running with them is the 58 car of Mark Gibson, who has a 50-second qualifying time. That's nothing against Mark Gibson, that's just saying what the draft does. If the car will drive pretty good, everybody can hang on. You can pass with the same ol' shuffle. Somebody gets impatient and pulls out. You just have to be patient and you can move up. It's not like starting 43rd at Martinsville and when the leader is going into turn one you're coming out of turn two. You're almost lapped. The qualifying position is not as critical. The qualifying position becomes critical for pit selection, so you get a decent pit selection. If we can run good in the 125s and get a good pit, then we can run good in the 500."
DO YOU HAVE ANY SPECIAL STRATEGY PLANNED FOR THE 125? "No, you can pretty much go the distance on fuel. Last year we pitted for tires and it helped us. There's different strategies for different people. It depends on where you're at. If you're running among the top few, obviously, you're not going to pit. If you're running 16th or 17th and the top-10 doesn't pit, you're probably going to pit and try to make the tires work for you the last eight or 10 laps. You'll try and have fresher tires because tires are a factor here now. I don't think a lot of strategy goes into it. It just becomes a typical Saturday night race, you're just running on a two-and-a-half mile track."
AFTER SUCH A DOWN YEAR, HOW WOULD YOU RATE YOUR CONFIDENCE AS A DRIVER? "I thought I was as good as I've ever been last year. I just didn't think we were doing the right things. And let me just say this about last year, I'm 99 percent to blame. I'm not blaming anybody for last year. I think confidence breeds confidence. If you look at the teams that win, the reason why they win the next win is that they've just got a better attitude and they're just higher coming in than you are. You hear announcers all the time say that a particular team has another beat down in the third quarter and they come back in the fourth. It's the same deal here. When you're beat down it's tough to come back. That's the best part about starting a new year, nobody's beat down. You talk to everybody out here and everyone thinks they're going to win the Daytona 500. Nobody's too down and everybody's got a pretty high confidence level. Why should Kyle Petty feel more confident this year than he did last year? I think you've just got to look at Petty Enterprises. It goes back to that core of people I talked about. It goes back to that group of people and the dedication they've shown and what they've put in this winter."
BUCKSHOT JONES (No. 00 Crown Fiber Pontiac Grand Prix): "It's going a lot better. In qualifying there were just problems with the car. I'd say it's more the car because we got out there in the draft yesterday and we were happy with the way it performed. We've got some more things we need to change today that will hopefully make it a little bit faster. I'm optimistic and excited about the 125s. Looking at the past, from what I've heard other people say, it seems like there's always a wreck in the first race. We're in the first race and we're starting in the back. But you don't really focus on that. You may think about it, but once you get out there racing, you may be patient but you've got to go. We're 20th and they're only going to take the top-15. You kind of have to weigh out the patience and aggressiveness out there. If there's a hole there you've got to go. You don't want to make a hole and get in a wreck, but just talking to other drivers, you've got to go when you've got to go."
THAT'S QUITE A POSITION TO BE IN. YOU'VE GOT TO PUSH THE PEDAL, BUT YOU'VE GOT TO BE PATIENT AS WELL. "I'm just going to have to watch it. You definitely don't want the lead group of cars to pull out and check out on you. That would cause some problems. You need to get up there as quick as you can. I'd like to get up there in the eighth spot or so. That way I would feel more comfortable. You can even be first though and go back to the rear. I'm a rookie and hopefully the guys will feel comfortable running around us. We want to run with these guys without causing a problem. We need all the help we can get especially when you're starting in the back like we are."
ARE YOU GOING TO HAVE SOME BUTTERFLIES TOMORROW? "Oh yeah, right before the race without a doubt. I've always had them. I'm not nervous, more excited. You want to get it going. I hope we run good. I think we're going to have a good enough car. These guys have worked really hard. It's been a little more difficult for us on the speedway because the rules from a Busch car to a Cup car are much more different. We get to do things over here we couldn't do in Busch. We don't have any notes to fall back onto, whereas almost every single other team does. That kind of put us a little bit at a disadvantage here."
YOU DON'T SEEM NERVOUS GIVEN YOUR POSITION. "Yeah? Come talk to me right before that race tomorrow. I'm still kind of excited to go out there and see what we can do today. We know we were pretty good yesterday. We think with the changes we'll make, without a doubt, we'll be even better. We're just waiting to see what happens. You can have one of the best cars out there, but if you don't have help you're not going to move up. We're going to try and run with a lot of guys that are going to be in our race tomorrow. That way they'll feel more comfortable running with us and it won't be like it's the first time they've ever run with us in the 125s. We'll just go out there today and do that and get a little bit better."
ANY SPECIAL KIND OF STRATEGY FOR THIS RACE? "The strategy for us is finish in the top-15. It's really hard to plan any kind of strategy because things can change so quickly out there. The biggest thing is move when we can move. I don't want to do anything that puts us in a situation of wrecking or causing someone else to wreck. But it's hard to be patient and lay back because it's not that long of a race. Everybody is going to be running as hard as they can. Everybody wants to get in this race. Some guys that are in my class that didn't get a good enough qualifying speed if they don't make it they're not going to be in the Daytona 500. You kind of have to watch out because some guys will do things they wouldn't normally do in the Daytona 500. You've got to keep your eyes open in front of you, behind you and all around you, all the time."