JIMMY MAKAR, CREW CHIEF, NO. 18 INTERSTATE BATTERIES PONTIAC GRAND PRIX: HOW DISAPPOINTED ARE YOU WITH NASCAR'S ANNOUNCEMENT REGARDING RULES CHANGES FOR THE FORD AND DODGE TEAMS AT TALLADEGA "Disappointed. I don't think they needed any help. ...
JIMMY MAKAR, CREW CHIEF, NO. 18 INTERSTATE BATTERIES PONTIAC GRAND PRIX:
HOW DISAPPOINTED ARE YOU WITH NASCAR'S ANNOUNCEMENT REGARDING RULES CHANGES FOR THE FORD AND DODGE TEAMS AT TALLADEGA
"Disappointed. I don't think they needed any help. It's hard for me to believe that the Fords got worse this year than they were last year. I don't think they needed any help at all. I don't think there was enough data gathered to substantiate the fact that they needed anything."
CAN YOU EXPLAIN WHY THE FORD TEAMS WOULD HAVE GOTTEN AERODYNAMIC HELP?
"No. No, other than they have obviously convinced the right people that they need help somehow, or somebody is thinking that their performance needs to be enhanced. And what better way to do it than a rules change? "It just doesn't seem like what is good for the goose is good for the gander anymore. It depends on how you work out the politics of this business and that's unfortunate."
WILL YOU CONSIDER CHANGING THE WAY YOU "POLITIC" WITHIN THE SPORT?
"No. I'm not going to stoop to the levels that I think some people do to get this done around here and I'm never going to do that. Before I do that, I'll leave. "I think we just need to get smarter and figure out a way to make sure that we don't get put at too much of a deficit. Right now, if Ford thinks they are at a deficit from what the wind tunnel results showed at Lockheed, then it must have been amazing for how Pontiac even made a race let alone win a race last year at the size of the wind tunnel deficit that we were in compared to what they think they're in right now."
ON HIS TEAM'S START IN 2001
"We just haven't had a spectacular start. We've had a couple little things [happen]. But the good thing is that most everybody else that we expected to be in contention for the championship by the end of the year is also having some level of problems, also. There is nobody sitting here having a flawless season so far, so that's good. "We need to get our performance up a little bit. We need to get our tire situation figured out. I think we have our engine thing figured out, so that shouldn't be a problem anymore."
HAS IT BEEN A FRUSTRATING START TO THE SEASON?
"Certainly. It's not what you expect, so you do get frustrated a little bit and certainly angry - all of the emotions that go with some type of failure. It's not what we wanted. But we're also looking at it like we're in it 'one for all and all for one.' Through thick and thin, good and bad, we're going to all pull together, help each other out and figure out what we need to do to keep our team going forward and be a championship-caliber race team. We've talked about it. Mark [Cronquist] feels real bad about the motor situation. But hey, it happens. I'm not going to sit here and say that Mark is doing a bad job and Bobby's not going to say that, just like Mark wouldn't say anything when the car doesn't handle well or Bobby doesn't do a good job driving. We're all in it together. When we all are on top of our game, that's when we shine and you have a championship-type year like last year."
ON THE IMPACT OF THE NEW TIRE THIS YEAR
"The tire takes away a lot of feeling that the driver gets back through the steering wheel. That has been one of Bobby's strong points is he has been able to really feel the car and know exactly what it's doing. Now with the harder tire, the tire is sliding a lot more and you just don't get the feedback. "Some people have hit on it quicker than others. If you look, it's sort of like guys that weren't really on top of it last year, now are, and the guys that were on top of it last year sort of slid back a little bit. "Everybody has got a certain feel that they like. This tire probably suits certain driving styles a little bit better than others. This tire doesn't like to be driven hard. You can't overdrive the tire - try to force the car to do things that it's not wanting to do. It won't react. The guys that drove that style [in the past] are probably having a lot of trouble changing their driving styles to be smoother, less abrupt with the steering wheel and less hard on the gas, so that is certainly part of it, too. It's as much of a problem as trying to get the chassis to be right to get the drivers to drive the tire right." DO YOU FEEL LIKE THE TEAM HAS LOST SOME OF THE CONSISTENCY IT HAD LAST YEAR?
"Not really. I'm bad about doing this - I showed Bobby this the other day. Daytona you throw out because it's Daytona. But if you take the two races that we had engine problems, we were a fifth place car. If we just finished fifth where we feel like we would have run, we're fourth in the points, 100 points out of the lead with two fifths and a second. "No, we're not where we want to be right now, but we've had two mechanical failures that cost us more than anything. Am I surprised we had mechanical failures? Yes - very, very surprised. But in this business, sooner or later, you run across those kinds of things. You can't expect to be immune from them all the time."
BOBBY LABONTE, NO. 18 INTERSTATE BATTERIES PONTIAC GRAND PRIX:
ON THE RULES CHANGE FOR TALLADEGA
"There are things to look at with this deal. One is they (Ford) obviously have figured out that if you complain long enough that you will probably get what you want. But you have to complain long enough and you complain to the media before you complain to the big truck. "Now, the second thing is, if they're going to do it for Talladega, that is the best place they can do it at. If they're going to do it for Talladega, then I don't think it matters. I'd rather have it for those four races than everywhere else because it's not like they're going to pull away from the field there. And if they are at the end of the race, there is a 50-50 chance that there is going to be a big wreck and knock them all out anyway, so I'd rather have it there. If they're going to make a change I'm glad they did it there. "But, it's obvious that complaining is the right way to go."
GREG ZIPADELLI, CREW CHIEF, NO. 20 HOME DEPOT PONTIAC GRAND PRIX:
ON THE RULES CHANGE FOR TALLADEGA
"People didn't go home and work on their cars over the winter and make them worse. That just doesn't happen. Come to find out, they (Ford) were the ones that were crying about wanting a wind tunnel test, so 'hat off' to them. They whined enough and they got what they wanted. I don't know what to tell you. "Now the Chevrolet and the Ford have a smaller spoiler, and where does that leave us? Right back where we were -- and we didn't have the best car. We're still way off of the Dodges and the Chevrolet was every bit as good as us. They were better in Talladega than we were and we didn't get anything. They didn't do anything to the Dodge, other than add an eighth of an inch to that top roof rail. That doesn't mean anything. If anything, it may help them. It's a little more drag, but at the same time it's probably keeping a little air off the rear spoiler, so in race trim it may be better. "It's just frustrating. Here we are, we're worrying about speeds and they're cutting spoilers down to make cars faster. We should, if we're going to do something, be doing it the other way so that we're working towards a safety thing. To me, that was just not the right thing. But that is why I do what I do and they do what they do. Obviously, it's what they thought was the right decision. I would have done something different, but that's the way it is."
IS THERE ANYTHING YOU CAN DO TO COMPENSATE FOR THE DEFICIT?
"I don't know what to do about it. We can't make our car much better than it is. We've been working on it for so long. We're talking about splitting needles now. "We had a real good car that is out in the truck bay [at the shop] right now because of the rules that we have now. When I say it's in the truck bay I mean that it's on a dolly, it's junk, it can't be raced. The whole thing is real frustrating for me. I don't know that I have the answer to fix it. I just know that going back to Talladega the way we were - I don't think that is the right thing. Here we were running fourth, and we landed on top of our teammate, who was running 25th, so we were up in the air an awful long time. Thank God it just wasn't worse than it was. But how easy could it have been worse? "I don't believe that there is any easy fix. We've just got to make the cars drive worse. We've got to take spoiler out of them. We've got to raise the front air dam and make them drive like they do at Atlanta and Texas and places like that where you've got to get out of the gas. We need to separate them, but when we do that it won't be as exciting of a race. You're not ever going to get both. "We've got to decide what our main focus is. Mine is driver safety. These guys risk their lives every week to get in these things and go out there and put a show on. We need to consider what they're going through. By going back the way that we are, I don't know that we're considering that. But then again, I also know that there is not easy fix. "I'm not criticizing NASCAR. I just wish somebody could come up with a good solution." WHAT ARE YOUR EXPECTATIONS FOR THE RACE WITH THIS PACKAGE?
"Who knows? I'm not going to get all bummed out about it. We're going to go home and work on our car, do the best we can with it and we're going to go and race. It's probably going to affect us more in qualifying than it is the race, but we can only do so much. I don't want to say that they're tying our hands, but they are surely not making it any easier. "Pontiac hasn't won a race yet this year, so I don't know what to say. It's frustrating that we're five races into the year and this is all everybody is worried about. They're just worried about what somebody else is doing rather than just working on their own stuff. We're going to just stay focused on our car and keep doing what we're doing. We're not winning races because we're at a disadvantage in aero. We're in the ballpark. We haven't won a race yet because our chassis hasn't been as good as it needs to be, so that's the area we're going to work on. Nobody is going to give us anything there." -GM Racing Communications